Friday, August 31, 2012

a perfectly good man: patrick gale

Fiction Friday - A Perfectly Good Man

As a child I spent many happy summers in Devon and Cornwall; eating ryvita and sandwich spread on the pebbly beaches, surfing the waves with my body-board and my Dad; wandering the dark lane that led to the farm b&b that we stayed in, wondering at the glow flies; sliding down the sileage and hay piles and taking in the harsh gashes that the Cornish mining landscape offered up.  When I chanced upon a Perfectly Good Man its prose returned me once more to those carefree days on holiday, as Gale returns to his beloved Cornish coastline to weave a wonderful story full of glimpses of the imperfections of human life.

The story begins with the suicide of Lenny, a previously healthy 20 year-old who is paralysed from the waist down.  His wilful act of self-violence is reluctantly witnessed by Barnaby Johnson, the parish priest.  From therein, Gale's characters call you to witness the drama's of their lives, Barnaby's wife Dot, children Carrie and Jim and his lover are all forcible characters; believable in their foibles and Gale positions the heavy sub-plots of adoption, church and faith against a gentle tale of a man and his family.

I loved Gale's Notes from an Exhibition, again set in Cornwall and likewise, this novel had me breathlessly turning pages until the last chapter - leaving me bereft and wanting more.  Gale has the ability to document the small and personal dramas of his characters in a way that makes them more than 3-dimensional, more real than real! Buy , beg or borrow; it won't disappoint.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Days Out (From London) - Rye

Last week I escaped humid London for a mini-break down on the South Coast.  I stayed here and wrote about it here.  But this isn't about the hotel I stayed in, or even the wonderful beach a mere 400m away, but about the picturesque town of Rye.

Rye is one of the Cinque Ports that was established by Royal Charter in 1155 to maintain ships for the Crown should they be needed.  Rye is perched on a hill, overlooking the River Rother and Romney Marsh, so was well placed to perform its role as look-out and defender of the coast. This ancient town is the sort of place you thought existed only in your imagination; with its enchanting cobbled streets, medieval church and beautifully preserved historic houses from medieval, Tudor and Georgian times, Rye is almost suspended in time and has a uniquely unhurried atmosphere. 

Although small, Rye has plenty of attractions for the day visitor, from it's cobbled streets and timbered houses, to small boutiques and historic landmarks.  Down by the estuary as you come into Rye there are  a variety of Antique and bric-a-brac shops, selling everything from vintage kitchen paraphenalia to furniture and garden implements.  I spent a very happy hour down there, coming away with some gorgeously heavy, silver plate cutlery. 

For the literary minded, Rye comes up trumps, for amongst its illustrious inhabitants, once lived E.F.Benson, famous for his Mapp and Lucia books. He resided near the church in Lamb House.  Close by lived the author Henry James.  If you wander round the side of the Medieval church, complete with it's original bell-tower you will find the wonderful Tiny Book Store.  It really is tiny, but well stocked with a wide variety of second-hand books. A browsers dream.

You can do a lovely circular walk, beginning at the base of the town, up the cobbled streets and past the Mermaid Inn.  Take in the old castle and views out towards the sea, before looking round the old church and a browse in the book shop.  You finish your walk with an amble down the main high street with it's coffee shops and independent retailers.  Check out Violetta Boutique, a gorgeous parfumery/apothecary shop on the main drag.

Although I stayed nearby, you can easily 'do' Rye from London in a day.  It takes about an hour and a half to get down there - try the A21, it's not as quick as the motorway, but takes in the English countryside in all it's glory.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

House Envy

My love of white interiors and neutral colours is no secret.  I spotted this house recently and instantly fell in love.  It has everything I look for; calming colours, amazing light, quirky details and a great view.

I could relax here

Sleep here 
and dream away the hours here
 Can you tell that I'm hanging onto summer with all my might?  There's something about the light in this Cape Town house that draws me.  There's also something about that amazing view and the relaxing vibe the decor gives off.  I'm loving it.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Gray Malin's Summertime

It's nearly dark by 8pm!  That means that summer is slowly fading out to make way for the crisper mornings and darker evenings of autumn, but I'm so not ready!  Not ready to say goodbye to lazy starts to the day; blue skies and warm evenings; definitely not ready for warmer clothes, forgoing the bikini and flipflops. Too sad.  So when I came across these wonderful photographs by Gray Malin (no relation of Christian!) I found another way to prolong my summer memories.  Aren't they fantastic?  I want them all.

Bondi, Australia

St Tropez, France

Secret Beach, St Tropez, France

St Tropez
Rio, Brazil

Tiki Beach

All Gray's photographs are shot from a doorless helicopter and snap beaches from all over the world.  He shoots from above as it allows the world to become art, the people and objects become patterns recreating pattern, shape and form.  His photographs are a visual celebration of colour, light and shape - not to mention summer bliss.  I'll take it!

Which one is your favourite? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fiction Friday - Beach Reads (2)

My criteria for beach reads was covered here.  As well as a few light fiction reads, I also want something to think about and takes me out of my comfort zone.  Well, this book, Pythagoras: His Lives and the Legacy of a Rational Universe certainly did that!

Kitty Ferguson's clear-eyed passion for her subject makes this account of the little we know of Pythagoras's life approachable and readable, although why a theorem that had been proposed long before Pythagoras put his name to it was finally attributed to him remains caught in the "hinge of legend and history". (Lesley McDowell, The Independent)  I didn't know a lot about Pythagoras, and throughout school struggled with his theorem.  It might have helped to have read this book then!  It certainly gave me food for thought.

I talked about my love-affair with the films of Nora Ephron here and so decided I should read something she'd written other than her only novel, Heartburn.  I turned to her hilariously poignant collection of reflections, I Remember Nothing and other reflections.  Filled with insights and acute observations that hit hard, it is written in her own inimitable style and had me snorting out loud at some of her more outrageous (but true) reflections on life.

 Ephron writes about falling hard for a way of life (“Journalism: A Love Story”) and about breaking up even harder with the men in her life (“The D Word”); lists “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again” (“There is no explaining the stock market but people try”; “Cary Grant was Jewish”; “Men cheat”); reveals the alarming evolution, a decade after she wrote and directed You’ve Got Mail, of her relationship with her in-box (“The Six Stages of E-Mail”); and asks the age-old question, which came first, the chicken soup or the cold? All the while, she gives candid, edgy voice to everything women who have reached a certain age have been thinking . . . but rarely acknowledging. 

My final beach read for 2012 was If You Want to Write by Barbara Ueland.  This has been recommended to me SO many times over the last year that it was a must.  Although it was originally written in 1938, it contains good advice for would-be-writers, including the mantra that everyone is talented and original and has something to say.  That's a good starting point for any writer I reckon!  She takes a lot of her inspiration from William Blake and ends with 12 points for the writer to keep in mind.  She talks a lot of sense and I know this is one book I'll be going back to over and over, dipping in and out of it as the need arises.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Blowing the Whistle

When I came across this piece of tongue-in-cheek jewellery by Stella McCartney I was practically jumping for joy.  I like a visual joke and this hits the spot for me perfectly as it's only two weeks until school starts back and like any good teacher I'm thinking about my back-to-school wardrobe!

This gold-tone necklace will set off an all-black outfit perfectly; as well as being a sartorial statement it will also be a talking point.  The question is Stella - does it actually work and whistle too?  Get yours here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wednesday Words

This is so true!  Those days when you get out of bed and something goes right straight away, it stays that way.  Those days when we begin grumpy, usually it stays that way too.  What are you loving in your life right now?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

French Shutters

Over the years I've taken an inordinate amount of photos of French shutters and doors.  They seem so much more interesting than the boring windows we have, don't you think? Non?  Well, my recent trip to Antibes was no exception.  It seems that the French have many different styles of shutters, wooden, metal, ones that open in, out, sideways, at an angle.  They come in many different colours, although my favourite are white or blue.  I know they serve a practical purpose by keeping rooms warm in winter and cool in the hot summers, but they just look so nice...
Pink, blue and green...sigh, so romantic

A makeshift library in a backstreet

Lush gardens, tropical blues and greens

My favourite - faded white wood and peeling paint, complete with iron balcony

How I love all these old shutters and doorways - which is your favourite?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weekend Snapshots

When I'm working, one of the things I dream about is time to just sit in a cafe and watch the world go by.  A coffee in hand and sunshine to bask in...heaven.  So, a month into my holiday, I managed just that, getting the weekend off to a great start!  I took myself off for a browse and coffee at Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common.  Home to several great boutique style shops as well as Village Books, a fantastic friendly bookshop, The Hope pub, and the michelin starred restaurant Chez Bruce where I've had several wonderful meals.  Bellevue Road also has a host of little coffee shops to indulge in a spot of people-watching!
It would, of course, have been rude not to have eaten too!

Then, the weekend really got going as we took off for a weekend of sailing in the Solent.  Thanks go to the lovely Birdsong for looking beautiful in the water at all times; but mostly thanks to the competent crew and patient skipper, who more than made up for my incompetance!  The sun shone, the water glinted; there was wine and nibbles, discussion and laughter, sunsets and swimming and best of all, there was friendship; It doesn't get much better than that!

I hope you all had a wonderfully relaxing weekend and have nice things planned for this week too... x

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fiction Friday - Beach Reads (1)

One of the things that gives me the most pleasure in the run-up to any holiday is the anticipation of the books I'm planning to read.  I start browsing potential reads weeks, even months, before I leave; stockpiling titles that I think will hit the spot, then narrowing the list down to about ten titles before I choose my final six.  Until recently, that of course meant that my case was very heavy, but that's where my kindle now comes into it's own; it's perfect for the holiday readathon.
I have certain criteria that have to be met for a book to reach the final six:  There has to be a book that makes me think, gets my brain going; maybe a subject I know nothing about.  There has to be a couple of 'easy-reading' choices for those days when I just want to absorb and be transported without too much effort on my part.  There's always a 'nurturing' book, something that encourages me to look at myself holistically and maybe make some changes to my lifestyle as a result, or just purely feeds my soul.  Then, finally, there's usually a biography; someone to inspire me with their life story.  Here's some of what I read this year, around the pool in Antibes.

Missing You by Lousie Douglas. I've already raved about this writer here and knew she was the perfect holiday read.  A poignant, tender novel about a single mum and her lodger, newly separated.  She manages to capture the complexity of human emotions and the ensuing tangle of events perfectly.

 Another author, whose books I have devoured when I want to transport myself abroad to sunnier climes.  Most of her books are set in Italy and this one is no exception. Essentially it's a story about four girls who have a holiday together, then plan to meet up every few years to catch up.  It's characters are realistic and the nuances of their friendships as they grow up, the highs and lows, are easily identified with.  A great 'pool' read.

My choice this year for the book that would 'feed' me was A Year of Questions: How to slow down and fall in love with life by Fiona Robyns.  I've long been a fan of her joint blog Writing Our Way Home and this book didn't disappoint.  The author splits the book into the four seasons and each season has its own set of questions.  Examples of areas covered include: 'Engaging with Life', 'Slowing Down', 'Inviting Solitude', 'Taking Risks' and 'Fear and Trembling'.  Each section begins with a musing, followed by a question for the reader to contemplate.  I love Fiona's writing style and her humbleness and love of life really comes through.  It's given me plenty to think about and really has made me think about how I live my life and how I can improve the quality of my days.

How do you pick your books for your holidays?  Do you spend hours choosing or take pot luck?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Girl's Poison - Lavender Cocktail

I have a thing about Lavender.  I can't quite get the old-lady thing out of my mind if I'm honest, but equally, I see fragrant bushes around pools in Italy, and fields in Provence, and vintage bowls filled with sweet smelling buds; this goes a long way to dispelling the aged connotations!  Anyway, I came across this company - Monin.  They do a lavender syrup!!!!  (They also do every other syrup you could possibly think of a use for, and many you couldn't. but I'm up for the challenge!!)  I ordered it in a happy moment of madness and when it arrived in all it's glory, I thought, what am I going to do with this?

A cocktail.

Of course.

So here it is

You will need:(to make one glass)

1oz Monin lavender syrup
1 measure Hendricks Gin
juice of half a lemon (per glass)

Ok, so here's how:

Place your syrup and lemon juice in the bottom of a highball glass (I used tall Moroccan tea glasses).
Add lots of ice and pour your gin over the top.  Top up with soda, stir and sip.

Tasting Notes:
I was expecting a real hit of lavender.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I got the lavender flavour AFTER; a real after-shock.  Not a punch in the mouth, but a gentle caress of flavour on the palette.  I tried it out on a friend for lunch in the sun.  She was won.  It's gentle enough to drink during the day if that's what you're after, subtle enough to be elegantly served on a summer's evening in the garden.

PS apologies for lack of photos.  I'm having a NIGHTMARE with Picasa3.  Won't download, won't save; it's throwing all it's toys out of the pram.  I'm not impressed. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday words

It's true.  We've all been in that, shall I? shan't I? situation.  Do you agree?  Have you taken a risk and regretted it, or not taken a risk and lived to regret it? 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Look Lola!

So, that new project that I've been working on?  Take a look at my new header..What do you think?  Do you like it?  It's been a while in the pipeline; a few thoughts followed by some action and this is the result.  I'm so excited to share it with you!  It's been a whole lot of fun getting to this stage but I couldn't have done it without the wonderful Gemma Milly.  She's a super-talented designer/illustrator with some illustrious credits to her name, including Browns Jubilee window, The Sunday Times, Lionheart Magazine and has been featured in Vogue and Grazia.  She took my random well-thought-out ideas and over time transformed them into what you see's a peek at the process..

1.  All my ideas condensed into one - the things that mean the most to me, that define me (answer to your question Kat!), my roots in Newcastle, my home in London, the sea, books, writing, makeup, my cat Geordie - it's all which to choose?!!!

2.  A few tweaks here and there and this is what I went for.

3.  Blog name - I've shortened it to Lifelola.  I took the first two/last two letters of Live and Life and first two letters of Love and Laughter to get a shorter name.  In fact, amongst friends, they've always refered to my blog (and now me!)as Lola.  Obviously meant to be.

4.  Colour.  I wanted pale ombre effects; beautiful, calming watercolours and I asked Gemma to put a wash over the blog name.  I wanted pale pinks and salmons, sea-foam green and corals.

Too many choices!  All so lovely, but you know what I went for in the end.

Thank you Gemma, for all your creativity and input and helping make my ideas a reality.  It's such a pleasure to see my ideas come together and I hope you all enjoy looking at it as much as I do!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mulberry New Season

It's no secret that I hanker after just about every Mulberry bag they've ever brought out and their new season bags are no exception.  My latest lust-have is black with an ostrich effect leather.  May I present you with Hetty Hobo...

Mulberry have taken the idea of a simple tote and made it elegant with it's jewellery inspired handles.  The looped handle fits snugly over the shoulder, or can be removed to create the classic slouchy silhouette.  It doesn't come in cheap at £3000, however, it's an heirloom, a classic, and I know I'd get hours of pleasure just from looking at it!  I want, I want, I want!!!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Feather

It's three o'clock in the morning and I cannot sleep.  My head is whirling with problems and worries that I can't resolve, especially at 3am!  I twist and turn.  I read. I get up and drink some water.  I read some more. Twist and turn, more. Finally at five o'clock, I get up and taking my tea I go and sit in the quiet of my garden.  It's still, the air fresh, the sky turning blue, despite the early hour.  I sit in the silence, smelling the early morning smells.  It is so still that the air almost shimmers with it's own noise.  My brain returns to its worries and then, out of the clear blue sky, right there in front of my nose by an inch floats the softest, downiest feather I have ever seen.  It is the feather from the underside of a bird, the palest grey and white; so soft my fingers can barely feel it's presence.  It is a gift. 

For me.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Five things making me....happy

It's so easy to get drawn into the bigger and better scenario - more belongings, bigger houses, better labels, until the collecting becomes the point and the pleasure is lost because we're drowning under things and expectations.  Stand back.  Stop.  Look.  Here's what I found...

Five simple things, that don't cost money, aren't competative and really mean you live in the moment, just for the simple pleasure of it; because, the simple things are often the best.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Wednesday Words

Before I share today's words - I've got some exciting news...I've been working on a little project over the last couple of months... it's been a very exciting time, with lots of creative decisions to make and working with a fabulous designer/illustrator.  I'm dying to show you all the end result; just a few more days, so watch this space!

Sometimes it's all in the silence...