I’m continually surprised by the amount of history in this underrated and ‘invisible’ spot in Italy. Sure, there’s the Roman origins, but it goes on through its royal presence, its significance in the unification of the country, its entry into industry with chocolate, coffee, and automobiles, and its love affair with innovation.
Innovation is a strange word in Italy, where things seem set in stone. ‘We always do this.’ Tradition is everywhere. I see the people dancing, listen to the Klezmer-like songs at Balon, watch the pageantry of the markets, eat the food that’s been the same for centuries and tastes the same wherever I go. Sometimes it feels quite stiff. And yet there’s also a passion to come up with something new. Maybe this is why Turin has been so immersed in industry – to produce and develop things that led the way.
I’ve watched them building the new Lavazza headquarters over a few years. The company has always been in this area of town, so it made sense that they’d stay more or less put and create the ‘Cloud’ complex. The way it’s all put together, you can really feel the pride. Finally on Wednesday I made the time to go to the museum inside the complex.
So far, Turin museums have been formal and old fashioned. I’ve not felt the need to linger. Even in the Egyptian museum last year it was the size and not the contents that kept me there so long. The Lavazza museum is quite the opposite. Apart from the Ontario Science Centre, which broke away from the traditional when it opened, I haven’t been as immersed or impressed. It’s innovative and so it seems was Luigi Lavazza, the founder. Continue reading “Lavazza – Museo”
This long post is about my hobby of dollmaking. Thanks for looking!
I used to make dolls a long time ago – in the 70s and 80s – but fell out of the habit. I wasn’t a doll kind of child, though. My sister liked them but I didn’t really get the appeal. One day I got a Sindy doll – it was the British Barbie equivalent. First thing I did was take off all her clothes and start creating new ones for her. I loved the Sindy doll, though, and thought her far more fashionable than the Barbie. She came about, after all, when Britain was the centre of fashion.
My dream of being a fashion designer, then a fashion artist, fell by turn. I made a few dolls many years ago and then I just stopped. Life took me in another direction. The early dolls were made entirely from whatever materials I could find in the remnant bins, whatever clothes I could cut up from the dollar bags at Goodwill and other charity places, whatever leftover wool I could find there… and this continues till today. My first place to look are in the remnant bins, and on local searches for donations, and even my old clothing that is too far gone to pass along. There’s a satisfaction in that.
Here’s a photo of a very early doll that I made for my mum. Not the first, but maybe the second or third. There are a couple of old ones at Robin’s place if they haven’t been thrown away – I’ll check. Looking at this one now, I see that it’s far too long, that the head is way too small (although maybe I should return to that shape of head) , that the details are sparse. But I also see that it held promise and I’m pleased I’ve evolved. I rescued this doll after mum died – she’s a good memory. And I’ve stuck to more or less what I created way back then.
I had thoughts of starting again a couple of years ago. My first one was clumsy and I thought I must have lost it completely. I’m a bit ashamed of those first attempts and I’ve shoved them to near the bottom of this blog entry. They are getting better. I’m terrible at sewing, always have been, but I have ideas. Because I’m not a good needleworker, I concentrate on the details – lace and such cover a multitude of sins. After looking through Etsy, I see what others do and I know I could never produce those commercial-looking dolls but I think mine are quintessentially me – moving through life as I do, making the most of what talent I have, what materials are on hand, and what occurs to me might work.
I start with an idea and as I sew, the doll reveals herself to me. She often has different thoughts for how she needs to be than I do. (Well, I am called ‘slightly weird,’ after all!) When someone requests one, I want to know first if they’d like one that crowd my bookshelf and then, if nothing works, I want to know hair and eye colour, preferred colour palette, style, and the new owner’s personal interests.
I have a lot of them now. I won’t sell them, although it’s been suggested. I prefer to give them to people who need or want them, in exchange for knowing what their names will be and receiving a selfie of them with their newly adopted doll. Surprisingly, not many comply.
Another thing I’ve made over the years are hearts. I started when I was married and I’ve begun again. I want to start making more of these so I’ve included a couple that I’ve made and photographed.
Some dolls are missing, not all the photos are here. I’ll add any that show up. My bad cataloguing skills mean I can’t find all the selfies. But there’s enough.
My friend, Virginia (Jinni), and her husband Dave are visiting London. This means a lot of guiding and walking. Most of what I see is familiar but I do sometimes spot something new and that’s always a nice suprise!
On Monday, I met them for a local walk around for groceries. Instead of the fish and chip dinner I thought we might have we went to a pasta place close to their hotel. To my mind, the Italians tend to undercook ravioli. At least, I know that it’s supposed to be al dente and that’s fine but I think I prefer my ravioli and pasta a bit more tender than that. Doesn’t have to be soft but … yes, tender. It’s made me more determined to make a little of my own. After making it with a machine and with a rolling pin, I say the machine wins for the thinner, more tender, dough.
We started our walk near Arnold Circus (my usual route). The middle garden area was looking like Spring was taking hold. A nice oasis in busy Shoreditch.
We aren’t wimps but let’s say we are getting older. We stopped in The London Tea Exchange on Brick Lane. The server comes to your table and asks what you’re looking for and then choose a few options for you to smell and consider. I chose the Green tea with Rose. It was very fragrant and refreshing. I was already starting to feel the warmer weather after the past several wet and cold ones. Five pounds well spent? Hmmm.
I had booked three spaces at Ottolenghi so we arrived and ordered our dinner. The prices have gone up – no surprise – my cold main and two salads was £18.80. I enjoyed it but thought I might have got the end of the roast since it wasn’t as rare as it used to be. Still, I made good choices – with Roasted butternut squash with nigella yoghurt, grilled spring onion and green chilli, Green beans, red endive with miso tahini and toasted sesame, and the fillet of beef.
I had been trying for over a week to get some spaces at Skygarden. It was definitely frustrating me. On Monday morning I was ready to grab spots for Tuesday and stupidly was waiting for something to show up while still on the April calendar. When I figured out what I was doing wrong, it was too late, no spots. Still, I knew that cancellation spots turned up if you keep checking and to my surprise as we left Ottolenghi, five spots showed for 3pm. I quickly selected three spots and prayed I’d been on time. I was! It was 2:20pm.
Every time I go to Skygarden now I think I don’t need to come back, but there I was and, despite the dull sky, I took a few photos for posterity!
Today we went to see an exhibition of Alice in Wonderland prints at the Eames Fine Art Gallery on Bermondsey Street. These prints are from the original woodblocks on which Tenniel made his drawings and the Brothers Dalziel, master engravers, engraved. You can read more about this and about John Tenniel at the bottom of this blog post.
We arrived at London Bridge and decided to walk through the newer part of the station entrance, which landed us right at the Shard. It was an incredibly windy day. I could hardly stand against it. Seems the wind was mostly in some corridors since it wasn’t like that everywhere.
I then promptly got lost trying to find the gallery. Going a different way threw me completely off. I’m a terrible map reader!
After one false start, we found Bermondsey Street, and the gallery was pretty close to the corner. The walls were covered in framed prints so we went right in. I absolutely loved looking at them and reading the bits and pieces that were around. At one point the gallery guide came up and talked to me and explained how much detail was in each engraving, and showed me a couple of her favourites. She also suggested I use a magnifying glass to see them properly. I have a lot of trouble focussing with a magnifying glass but what I did manage was quite incredible.
Above is the gallery guide’s favourite. I really like it too. The white marks in the circle at the front of the picture are apparently scratches that appeared mysteriously and no one knows how they got there.
I’ve never looked at those illlustrations so closely, close enough to notice Tenniel’s signature and that of the Dalzeil brothers. Amazing how beloved these pictures are.
Yesterday I had a plan – in my free time I wanted to go to Hoxton and along Great Eastern Street to check out any new street art. I also thought about having lunch and making the most of the three of four spare hours. But when I got out, the plan collapsed.
From the age of seven, I’ve had agoraphobia. I was twenty-seven before I had a name for it but it was instantly clear that’s what it was when I read a newspaper lifestyle article about it. This was me! It’s too long a story but the short version is that I pushed and pushed to get someone to agree to my self diagnosis, and then I found the doctor who knew how to assess and treat it. It was hard work but I now consider myself recovered. Recovered like an alcoholic is recovered, only one step away from relapsing!
I cope day to day and am generally proud of myself. Then every now and again I have one of those days. Like yesterday.
Standing at the bus stop to go to Hoxton, I faltered. Butterflies in my stomach (which I know now are ectopic heartbeats) lightheaded, shakiness, feeling of fear and doom. I wanted to turn back for home but, after a good talking to myself, I decided to jump on the bus anyway and see what happened.
I made a compromise with myself. I’d go to the Cambridge Heath station stop and walk along Hackney Road. Having a plan (and a parachute in the form of my bus pass, mobile phone, and friendly camera) off I went and off I got at the promised spot. Once out of the bus I knew what I wanted to do – walk down one side of the road as far as Hackney City Farm and then up the other.