Sunday, 31 January 2016

Review: Alice in Wonderland at the British Library

London has lots to offer if you're short on money but still looking for something entertaining to fill your time. A few Saturdays ago, my friend S came to visit and we decided to go to the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the British Library.

Arthur Rackham's Alice (1907)
image found here
The British Library has put on a fascinating free exhibition to celebrate the fact that it has been 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland. You enter through various illuminated panels, reminding you of key elements and quotes from the story, drawing you down the rabbit hole as you follow signs telling you "don't go this way, go that way".

The highlight, for us, was seeing Lewis Carroll's original handwritten 'Alice' with his own pen and ink illustrations, which seemed to have a very Pre-Raphaelite quality. We saw the original woodblocks and a wealth of gorgeous vintage copies of the story, before continuing on to see all the ways that the story has been re-imagined over the course of its 150 year history - games, prints, tea caddies and sculptures, as well as numerous illustrated versions of the text itself, from the Disney variety to the darkly sinister. I'm sure there'll be a heap of new styles over the next 150 years. Out of the 'newer' images, my favourites were Arthur Rackham's - stunning!

As a free exhibition on such a popular book, it was massively busy when we went (Saturday mid-afternoon) so I'd recommend getting there earlier or during the week to avoid the crowds and enable you to pore over the treasures on display without being jostled from behind. Well worth a visit and it's on until 17 April 2016 so no excuses!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Things I Love Thursday (David Bowie edit)

I'm not a prophet
or a stone age man
Just a mortal
with the potential of a superman
I'm living on...
'Quicksand' - David Bowie (1947-2016)


I didn't discover the music of David Bowie at an early age, rather I was introduced to him (along with several other greats) by my now husband soon after we got together. It didn't take more than a song or two - beautifully evocative lyrics, song writing genius...I was hooked. I don't have the depth of knowledge to comment in detail about Bowie's loss, or how his most recent album was his greatest work of art to-date, almost stage managing his own exit from this life, rather I just wanted to share some of my own (often rambling!) thoughts. 

I remember a moment a year or so ago when one of my young cousins put up a picture of a Bowie album he loved on Instagram, engaging my mister in some lively debate on the subject, and I realised that Bowie's music was not just for my and my parents' generations - it continued to enthral, to attract legions of young fans. This view was only cemented further when I attended the V&A's magnificent Bowie exhibition - where fans (new and old) flocked to see his story told through his music, art and costumes. Tickets sold out quickly and for good reason, it was an immersive masterpiece of an exhibition.

When we were choosing the songs for our wedding playlist, we knew that we wanted 'Let's Dance' to follow our first dance song, to get everyone up on the dance floor for a good boogie. And it really did, our guests young and old rushed onto the floor and threw themselves into the music. The dance floor was full all night and I think that it was the little drop of Bowie magic (or stardust, if you will) that made that happen.

The news that Bowie had died really shocked me. Like some of my friends have said since, I almost thought that he would live forever - the ethereal, alien, goblin prince. I suppose not knowing how ill he was contributed to that, there was no chance to prepare yourself for a world without him. 

But his music and his art will never die, and loved as it is by people of all generations I have no doubt that it will continue to be loved by, to inspire and to give hope to generations to come. 

I wasn't sure whether to write this post but I knew I wanted to record something somewhere, to make a note of how Bowie's death has made me feel this week. In the Things I Love Thursday spirit, I've also collected below some of the links I've enjoyed or bookmarked this week, with a Bowie focus. 


♥ Alexis Petridis' beautiful tribute to David Bowie in the Guardian here.

♥ This song, because it will always remind me of our wedding...and will put the smile back on your face after the previous link.

♥ Bonus Daily Cartoon in the New Yorker on Monday 11 January 2016.

♥ Where Would We Be Without David Bowie?

♥ This link might only work in the UK but Rick Wakeman performed a beautiful tribute to Bowie...one of my favourite Bowie songs, absolutely gorgeous. Same song here but a tribute from an organist in Glasgow. Both brought tears to my eyes - must watches!

♥ Fancy finding out what David Bowie was doing at your age and feeling really inadequate?! Just follow this link. Apparently at the glorious age of 33, Bowie did a three month run on Broadway in 'The Elephant Man'.

♥ Sali Hughes' fitting response to the grief police who have been patrolling social media since the news broke.

♥ And finally, this image...the last professional image taken - look at that smile.

...

Image found here.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Saturdays.

How would you spend your perfect Saturday? Well, mine felt pretty perfect this weekend. A lie-in (of course) but not one that's too long where you feel like you've wasted most of the day. Alas, I'm now of an age where spending the day in bed is not something I want to do - I must do something to avoid returning to work on Monday feeling like i'm owed an extra day. I actually woke up at 6.30 because my body is programmed to wake up extra early during the week but it was absolute bliss to be able to curl up and close my eyes again. In fact, I put on the final episode of the Radio 4's Book at Bedtime's 'The Pursuit of Love' by Nancy Mitford, which i've been listening to on the way to work recently, and snuggled into the duvet accompanied by the soothing tones of Diana Quick reading one of my most favourite books.

I wasn't aware of hubby getting up but I woke up again at 9.30 just before he went to the gym. I listened to a quick mindfulness meditation (don't hate me - I really need to try to relax my brain so the practice is great), before getting up, making a cup of tea and cleaning the flat with Saturday Kitchen mumbling away in the background. I find something incredibly restful about this show and my weekends just don't feel right if I have to leave the house before it starts...

The mister returned just as I was finishing the cleaning...and my slightly cold cup of tea...and after
showering, he made us a tasty brunch - eggs and toast for him, gluten free pancakes and jam for me, washed down with a big pot of coffee. All memory of a stressful week seemed to disappear at that point - perhaps it was the food, the company, or the knowledge that the weekend still stretched out ahead of me and the flat was clean...I don't know, but I just felt very content at that moment.

We then headed out to the Natural History Museum to meet up with my friend H and her new mister, and go to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. I've been to this exhibition a few times over the last few years and, I don't know, it leaves me quite cold. There are some amazing photos on display but, at the same time, there are some photographs that look so over-developed and just like Windows wallpapers...if that makes sense. I suppose going on a Saturday afternoon didn't help the experience either, there were just so many people there that a lot of the time you had to struggle to peer over a wall of people to read about the image on display. Frustrating.

The Natural History Museum though is one of my favourite museums in London and I could happily spend hours wandering its halls, discovering new things. This Saturday, we discovered an area where there are a number of jars with various creatures preserved in formaldehyde - from the smallest insects to rats, mice and birds. Creepy but fascinating. Beside them, you can peep into various private rooms, like archives with shelves and shelves of specimen jars. Not a place where you'd want to find yourself locked in at night.

The four of us then headed to Casa Brindisa near South Kensington station for some drinks and nibbles, and to catch up about the exhibition and our Christmases, and to get to know my best friend's new mister. The streets outside were busy with people rushing around, the rain was heavy and we were cosy inside, in a small nook with some delicious wine, olives and caper berries to snack on. Such a wonderful day. If you go to Casa Brindisa, you must try the olives stuffed with orange - so so delicious! We talked about plans to go back there for a proper meal at some point - it's always good to have things to look forward to, and I'm not the only one who thinks that great plans also involve great food, right?

The week ahead is going to be tough but having a good weekend to look back on and exciting plans to look forward to definitely helps. Hope you all had great Saturdays!

[Pictures taken from my Instagram - come and say hi!]

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Things I Love Thursday (07.01.2016)

Photo found on Pinterest here, which linked to here.
It's been a tough week so far, which made this post difficult but necessary! Back to work on Monday - it was like i'd never been away - and then off on Tuesday and Wednesday for my Granddad's funeral. He died on the weekend before Christmas, which was difficult, but it was peaceful and he was surrounded by family, which doesn't seem like a bad way to go. I'm holding onto that thought anyway.

One more day to go - the glorious weekend is in sight! I'm looking forward to sleeping, catching up with some friends - we're off to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition - and raising a glass or two to people who are no longer with us.

So without further ado, here are some things that i've enjoyed, bookmarked, pined for and laughed at over the last week...

Buy it here, by Huebucket

I adore this Pugtoro print! Anyone who knows me in real life is far too aware of my all-encompassing love for pugs and the artist's page contains links to all sorts of fabulous pug-related goodies which i've exclaimed over this week...like this, this, or THIS!


Grey's Anatomy marathons. I'm nearing the end of season two now and it's so so good - heartwarming, funny and so tragic in places. In other TV news, the first episode of War and Peace was really excellent, loved it!


Love Emma Bridgewater - my porcelain chicken will one day take pride of place on my future dresser of dreams - and i've been hiding my purse near the sale that's currently on (particularly the Christmassy items). If I haaad to choose, I would go with these mugs, or this (oh the Christmassy baking possibilities)...ooh or this. Owls are good all year round!


I'm on the hunt for some healthy meals (and bread-replacing lunches) to replace our usual evening staples. I've bookmarked some tasty-looking options on the BBC goodfood website and ordered a LOT of vegetables for our weekly shop, and am excited to try this Moroccan vegetable stew and this sweet potato dhal with curried vegetables. Should lead to tasty leftovers too...any mealtime favourites gratefully received :)


Make a cup of tea and read this fascinating article about how women dealt with their periods throughout history.


And finally, our wonderful wedding photographer Kat (who we wholeheartedly recommend for anyone planning a wedding...) posted her round-up of the weddings she shot throughout 2015 - link here. A thoroughly beautiful collection of images - we feel really proud to be featured amongst some seriously stunning weddings.

Enjoy the rest of your week, folks! What have you been reading, watching, enjoying over the course of the last week?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Festive TV Treats

The one good thing about being really ill over the Christmas holiday, probably the only good thing apart from the enforced rest, was the fact that it enabled me to watch  A LOT of Christmas television. Like all right-thinking people, I pored over the Christmas Radio Times when it hit the shops and made a mental list of all the things I wanted to watch...expecting that I would have to catch up with some of them in the new year. This Christmas though, I spent a lot of time curled up on the sofa cosily watching all the programmes I marked out, feeling sorry for myself and eating heaps of chocolate, which helped with the blues, watched over by our little Christmas tree twinkling cheerfully beside our window.

Aside from the usual classics (Carols from Kings, White Christmas, The Sound of Music), these were my particular favourites over the festive season, which I wholeheartedly advise you to catch up on while they're still available on IPlayer (noticing that they're all BBC offerings - well played, BBC).

(Also Grey's Anatomy, which I've been marathoning all Christmas because apparently it's 2005. Ahem.)

The Great History Quiz: The Tudors

Ooh this was a real treat! An hour of Tudor history presided over by team captains Lucy Worsley and Dan Snow. It included rounds on food (I think the chap from Hampton Court who concocted the different dishes should have his own show) and identifying artefacts from the Mary Rose. If you loved reading Horrible Histories when you were younger, which I did, you'll find this fascinating (eye-wateringly so in places). I have a couple of books on the go at the moment but i'm planning to pick up some Tudor history after i've finished those...


Dickensian

If you haven't heard of/watched any of this, it's a new drama set within the world of Charles Dickens, but various familiar plots and characters intertwine. It's like a Dickensian soap opera and there are a number of episodes still to go so it's worth catching up from the beginning.

I've seen a fair amount of criticism of this pop up on my Twitter feed, which I don't agree with. I don't see this as a variety of well-known actors simply playing dress-up. Although I don't believe that this will be as good as Dickens' original stories, I'm really enjoying seeing how this new story develops and how some of the back stories that are simply hinted at in Dickens' works are played out on screen. Some of the characters I know and am familiar with but others are not and I'm planning to read some of the stories over the course of this year (perhaps when i'm looking for a break from Tudor history!), and if this series encourages more people to pick up some Dickens, I think that's definitely a good thing.


And Then There Were None

Set in 1939, a group of 10 strangers gather at a beautiful house on a small island at the invitation of their hosts, the unseen Mr and Mrs Owen. There's delicious food, music and wine, but one by one the guests are killed off...

I adore Agatha Christie so I was always going to be keen to watch this thrilling 'locked room' drama and with the array of talented famous faces involved (Charles Dance, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson, Burn Gorman), it looked like an instant classic. But my gosh, it was SUPERB. Chilling, beautifully shot, I was hooked from start to finish.

Found via Google Image search - not sure where!
Also, I didn't want to lead with this but, Aidan Turner. My goodness. (And no, i'm not going to be obvious and post THAT image. If you don't know what i'm talking about, it's time to watch the show!)


Sherlock

No spoilers here for anyone who hasn't watched this but I adored this lavish Victorian Sherlock. It was full of twists, turns and puzzles, definitely television that you had to put your phone down for and pay full attention to - it made me think and when it all fell satisfyingly into place at the end, I almost felt nerdily proud of myself for keeping up and grasping it.

Can't WAIT for the next series...although I think it'll be a long wait - i've heard whispers of 2017?


Dickensian is of course continuing into 2016...and I'm also looking forward to War and Peace, which starts tonight. Have you picked up on the fact that I'm a huge fan of a BBC costume drama? :) I'd love to know if there's anything you watched that I might have missed over the Christmas hols...

Friday, 1 January 2016

2016.

Image found via Pinterest here

Happy New Year! I can't believe that 2015 is already over, I feel like it should only be October...at the very latest. Looking back, I can see that I managed an impressive total of 5 blog posts over the last year - that must be some sort of record!

2015 was wonderful - it was the year that I married my best friend and I will always treasure it for that. The months leading up to our September wedding were a haze of preparation and excitement, and the day itself was simply magical (although if I could state one criticism, it's that it went far too quickly.) We went on a wonderful honeymoon in Sicily a few days after the wedding, which was absolutely blissful. We both took three weeks off to celebrate our wedding, three fabulous weeks which passed like three short minutes - why does that always happen with holidays and yet when you're not on holiday sometimes it feels like a month has passed before Friday finally arrives?

Saving up the annual leave to have three weeks off in a row meant that we had very little time off both before and after the wedding. 2015 was busy - 'busy' doesn't even seem like a strong enough word for work at the moment and, on top of that, I'm commuting almost 4 hours a day. Stupid really. As soon as I came back from honeymoon, I threw myself back into it and it was exhausting.

So it's not much of a surprise that as soon as I stopped for a breather at Christmas, I got sick and I've been ill for the majority of the holiday. Lesson learned!

Rather than make a list of resolutions this year, which somehow I never follow after a few weeks, I'm determined to start looking after myself a little more and have made a little list of must-dos which all revolve around that. I need to eat more healthily and make time to improve my fitness. Actually, the word' improve' implies some level of fitness which doesn't actually exist. I want to achieve some level of fitness (!), taking up yoga again and swimming more regularly. Mental fitness is important too and a good friend of mine (hi M!) recommended a meditation app, which I tried today for the first time and am hoping to fit into my schedule on a regular basis. I know it'll be difficult to stop my brain from stepping in and funnelling a whole range of thoughts into these sessions but with practice I'm sure it'll get easier.

I also want to really focus on some more me time, doing things that are relaxing (crafting, blogging, cooking) and help my brain to switch off from work, and more us time - I have a very understanding hubby but it is not fun that I come home from work every evening, absolutely exhausted, and fall asleep on the sofa an hour later. First step for the new year, we're planning a move to reduce my commute. Hooray!

So 2016, it's time for me to adjust my priorities - look after myself a little more and have some fun and adventures on the way. Let's go!