Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Half Term, Day One

ED: So, me and my friends have decided that we're going glamping for my birthday.

ME: Really? Who were you thinking of inviting?

ED: Me, Max, Ryan, Liv, Sid, Ella, Mimi, Charlotte, Monifa, Hanna, Jordan, mmm... who else, oh yeah, Fifi and Flo.

ME: But we don't have a tent. You can camp in the back garden... on the trampoline. That'll be fun.

ED: That's for babies.

ME: But if we don't have a tent we can't really go camping, can we? 

ED: We can borrow one. Rosie's got one. Then me and all my friends can sleep in that and you and Daddy can sleep in the back of the Volvo - but NOT near the tent. You can park in a different field.

ME: I don't think it's a brilliant idea... It'll be nice in the garden. We can borrow those pretty, battery-operated night lights from Emma, and we can have a barbecue. I'll rig up a tarpaulin from the trees and get lots of duvets and pillows on the trampoline. It'll be really cosy.

ED: It'll be dead. No-one will want to come. WHY can't we go proper camping?  

ME: Well, first of all we don't have a tent, and even if we got hold of one we won't have a clue how to put it up. Second, the Italia Conti mums will not want their children sleeping in the middle of the forest anyway, tent or no tent. And we don't know WHAT the weather's going to be like: it might be cold and raining. John and Joe wont want to come whatever, and I can't trust them to stay here by themselves. Oh God, and I don't fancy escorting everyone to the toilet block in the dark. Then, you don't know, some people might get scared in the middle of the night and want to go home. You're bound to be really noisy and squeal and annoy other campers. Oh, and I don't like the idea of a camp fire - it doesn't sound safe... What else... they don't allow dogs there...

ED: How do you know?

ME: I read it. Specially not whippets. They chase the deer.

ED: Give me one reason why we can't go glamping. You haven't even got a reason have you?
(stomps off)

JOE: Can I  get a gecko this week?

ME: No, the dogs'll eat it.

JOE: No they wont. I'll keep it in my room.

ME: No it's cruel. I don't want to be responsible for any more little creatures.

JOE: You wont be. I'll look after it.

ME: Anyway, what do geckos eat?

JOE: Dunno..

ME: Well, we'll see but I doubt it.

ED: (wanders back in) WHAAT?! HE'S GETTING A GECKO?? That's not fair. If he gets a gecko, I'm sorry but I'm getting a.... a hummingbird. I want a hummingbird. 

Monday, 30 May 2011

The Art of Shameless Self-Promotion

Seeing all those dreamy negligees floating in the window of Fat Faced Cat last week got me thinking about Brian's lingerie paintings...... 
I think you'll agree they're lovely :)

They're all larger than life and this one's painted in oils on canvas....

                                              ...... and this one is airbrushed on chiffon.

                                                 It was used in a Red Magazine shoot.

He has also created some exquisite shoe paintings. This one is airbrushed on organza....

and this one featured in Elle Decoration.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Copper Wall

Part One of an occasional series - Celebs In Our Bedroom.

This is nice! It's Paloma Faith, posing in front of the copper wall for a Tia Maria ad. 

Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Taste of Spain

Do you remember those kitsch Spanish ice-creams -  the ones where the ice-cream was rammed into the skin of the fruit? We first had them on the Costa Brava in 1967 - I sometimes have a nostalgic fancy for one and think they are due for a revival. Gordon has just been on a business trip to Milan and he texted me a picture taken in a restaurant of a whole tableau of ice-cream filled fruit, extravagantly piled on a silver platter; there were plums, peaches, passion fruit, pomegranites - even an ice-cream filled peanut. I will attempt to recreate this for a future blog - but not sure if I can be ars** to extract a peanut from its shell, turn it into peanut ice-cream, stuff it back into its husk again and reassemble the damn thing. That's nuts.

I made a paella last night and think a citrusy ice-cream is the perfect desert after the sticky, garlicky rice, so got Brian zesting a couple of limes and an orange while I whipped up a carton of cream. Dissolve 175 g of icing sugar in the juice from the orange and limes, add the zest, then whisk into the whipped cream. I have a tray of rosebud shaped silicone baking moulds which are perfect for freezing the mixture. Just dollop it into the flower-shaped cups, smooth the surface with a spatula and freeze. You don't need an ice-cream maker and you don't need to re-beat the mixture to break up ice crystals or any of that palaver. They pop out perfect every-time.

Me and Brian having fun in the kitchen

Friday, 27 May 2011

Short Shopping

Whippets welcome.
Part One of an occasional series featuring whippet-friendly shops.

Shopping for shorts is Brian's least favourite pastime - I won't go into the reasons why - but Hub made the experience far less painful this season by having a really great selection. He had barely crossed the threshold when a pair of Dr Denim's in Army Green caught his eye and the whole transaction, including trying on was completed in under 90 seconds. 
Despite the speed shopping Capri managed to find herself a comfy spot and dozed off, so everyone was happy...

.... except me, so we crossed the road to the ladies Hub where Enzo made himself at home while I had a browse.

ps. The wedding was fantastic fun but the rain and hail stones were so torrential that we all scrammed in search of rum punch instead of posing outside for photos. Lots of sunny colours inside though.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

26 May 1958

53 years ago today there would have been a flurry of excitement in Plumstead, South London as guests arrived for my parents' wedding. May 26 in 1958 was actually a Bank Holiday Monday and it was typical bank holiday weather. Thankfully everyone had proper-serious, black umbrellas in those days.

It wouldn't have been anywhere near such a striking image if someone had whipped out an
M & S cupcake-print brolly.

They escaped drizzly Plumstead and flew to sunny Portugal for their honeymoon. (Unfortunately I wasn't there to say 'lose the mac luv.')

umbrella installation by Alexandre Pachiaudi and Gaetan Kohler

Brian and I are off to Hackney Registry Office this afternoon for the Ceremony of Commitment of our gay Caribbean next-door neighbours. After months of drought it's absolutely pissing it down and we're expecting a far more flamboyant selection of umbrellas outside the Town Hall - I'm taking the camera :)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Only 214 Days to Christmas

I'm sitting in the garden. I can feel the hot sun on my back as I jangle the ice cubes in my glass. A light wind is rustling the leaves. Swallows/house martins/swifts/whatever swoop in the blue sky and the dogs lay flaked out, panting in the shade.
I walk towards the house and press my nose to the glass in the kitchen doors. Through into the living room I see the fires are lit and a hundred candles flicker. I can make out three, fully-decorated Christmas trees surrounded by piles of presents. Swags of ivy and artificial berries are draped across the mantelpiece. There's a roast turkey and all the trimmings on the table. Places are laid, wine glasses are filled and a couple of stylists in shorts and flip-flops are teetering at the top of ladders fixing some fairy lights to the chandeliers. Out here it's May 25th. In there it's December 25th. I want to take a photo and show you but the High Street Christmas is a confidential affair. If I'm caught spying and divulge their hush-hush bauble and tinsel colour theme for Xmas 2011 there'll be trouble. Sorry. You could interrogate the boys but the secret's safe with them too. Last summer we came home from Greece in August and had to tip-toe with our suitcases around a tree that touched the ceiling, covered in twinkling lights. When we went out for a pizza that night I said 
'Isn't it funny to come home from holiday to find a giant Christmas tree in your front room!' They said 
'Is there? - didn't notice.'

Here's two pics from Christmas past - taken at the house, probably around June.


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Hackney Flower Show

If you cba to get down to The Chelsea Flower Show this week why not come for a wander through our backyard instead.....

Monday, 23 May 2011

C'est Magnifique!

I spotted my dream car parked round the corner yesterday. The Citroen SM - It has everything that I love - 70s design, long snout, sleek lines, black leather interior  - it even has my initials. AND if B manages to find me one on eBay we can become members of this exciting club....

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Nice Package

Managed to make the 56 salmon parcels AND photograph Brian's tie and tie clip and arrive only an hour late to the party.

If you haven't made Delia Smith's Thai Salmon Parcels give them a go - they're easy. For 8 parcels use 4 slices of salmon and cut each one in half. Grate some ginger (a 2 inch lump) and zest two limes. Add a spoonful of chopped garlic, 4 spring onions finely chopped, a bunch of shredded coriander plus the juice of the limes. I add a desert spoon of dried cous-cous. It soaks up the lime juice and stops the parcels becoming too wet when cooking. Lay out the sheets of filo on a work surface. One pack usually has 8 sheets - enough for 8 parcels. Put a spoonful of the mixture towards one end of the sheet and place a piece of salmon on top. Fold the end of the filo over the salmon, then fold the sides in and turn the little package over a couple of times to form a neat bundle. Seal the edge with some melted butter.
Line an oven tray with non-stick baking parchment and lay the parcels next to each other but not touching. Brush with melted butter and cook in a hottish oven for twenty minutes. 

It's nice to cut them in half to reveal the pretty green and pink inside.

Party was really good, went on really late and we got really drunk. Woken at 7.30am to take delivery of a roomful of Christmas trees...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Lost and Found

LOST. One tie clip. Approx one inch by a quarter of an inch. Colour, gold. Could be anywhere in the house. Needed by 8pm for Toby's party. Needle in a haystack, tie pin in a chateau. Same thing.
So, off to Camden Passage in search of another one. Dreamtime (13 Pierrepont Row) had a fantastic choice, little more than a tenner each and even had one with a T on for Toby's birthday present (although that one was much more expensive - something like 50 quid I think :))
Then onto the Fat Faced Cat (020 7354 0777) to find a tie. If you haven't been there, it is the most beautifully put together vintage shop I have ever been to - it even smells lovely. Today one window was full of floaty 1960s negligees in fruity acid pastels. 

I tried to photograph it but not very successfully as it reflected everyone sat outside the cafe opposite. 
So here are some pics of the inside,

Angela and Robert are exceptionally skilled at sourcing these delightful garments and it's a real pleasure to shop there. (Memo to Queen of Shops.)
As well as the most glamourous LA day and evening wear, shoes and bags (for women and men) there is a lovely collection of vintage luggage - last week we bought a 1970s carry-on bag in various shades of brown (just the right dimensions for Ryanair and costing less than checking a suitcase in). The place is a stylist's dream. I'm going to try to take a photo of Brian modelling the tie and tie clip before we go out this evening but I'm just off to make 56 salmon parcels so it might not happen!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Quick Sushi Supper

When you're in the mood for Sushi but you cba to make it, this version has all the flavours but none of the faff.
Cook the rice and noodles, slice the raw tuna and flash fry a steak and cut into thin strips. Phoebe showed up unexpectedly, so I added some cold cooked salmon from yesterday as well.  On a large, flat plate make a small mound of rice and assemble a pile of noodles. Place a few pieces of beef on the noodles and drape the tuna over the rice. I added some asparagus spears tonight but often just put slithers of cucumber on the side. Mix a dressing of lemon juice, wasabi and soy sauce and drizzle over everything. To finish just snip the nori seaweed sheets into squares and carefully position so as to make it look incidental.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Converse v Vans

Brian says...
'I prefer Vans anyway, always have.'

Hawaii in Hackney

For twenty long, cold winters we huddled in a drafty Victorian design studio. Our fingers were numb, our toes were frozen but our heads were always in Hawaii as we mixed the miniature pots of liquid sunshine. Vivid, shining greens; luminous, shrimp pinks; hot reds; acid yellows and sparking turquoises were carefully trickled, drop by drop into the airbrush. A little gentle pressure on the trigger and a soft stream of fluorescent colour would emerge to recreate every exotic flower under the sun (and plenty more that Mother Nature hadn't thought up yet - or dismissed as too vulgar). 
The American swimwear market had an insatiable thirst for tropical designs in the 1980s and most of them were painted in our London studio. We have a laugh going into Dirty Blonde on Church Street and seeing all those prints hanging there, that we created. We wouldn't admit responsibility for most of them but there are a few that have withstood the test of time.

Brian painted this years ago and it was reprinted recently for Celine Paris.

I have always wanted to visit Hawaii, imagining it to be a paradise, overflowing with hibiscus, frangipani and orchids. The exceptionally warm spring this year has seen Hackney erupt into flower like never before. Cascades of kitschy roses spill over fences, our hydrangeas are about to bloom - two months earlier than usual, and today, in the park, I noticed an amazing tree that I usually walk straight past. It must have been there for a century but this is the first time I've seen it blossom.
Here's a picture of it swarming with bees..

The dingly-dangly flowers look like upside down lupins.

When I Googled lupin-tree it showed a few sad looking bushes, saying they grow up to 5ft high. This tree is 45ft high. Any ideas anyone?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Olympic Torch

I read on the BBC website this morning that the Olympic flame has set off on its journey from Athens to London. A fascinating illustration of previous Olympic torches accompanies the article and made me wonder how Hackney's design would look....

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Serve With Oven Chips

Street-Cred Street

So, the government have appointed Mary Portas (Queen of Shops) to head a review of the High Street, aimed at halting its decline - she is to present her report to Nick Clegg in the autumn - if he's still there. (You can comment on this at the BBC website.)

Oo, here's Mary with our red sofa (guardian.co.uk)

With so many town centres identical, soulless and boring I'm grateful that Stoke Newington Church Street has always opposed the infiltration of chain stores and can congratulate itself on being pretty close to the prime minister's vision of a 'vibrant and diverse' shopping street. 
I'm sure we'd all give David and Nick a nice big Stokey welcome
if they wanted to come along and meet the vibrant and diverse locals one weekend.

Given N16's resistance to global chains it's funny to think that the WORLD'S LARGEST retailer of natural and organic foods has comfortably established itself in a prime position on Church Street. It's easy to criticise the place; carp on about the prices and dismiss it as only fit for well-off, self-obsessed champagne-socilaist types. 
Well, for a corner shop I think Whole Foods Market is pretty good. I'd like to know where else, locally, I can stroll around listening to cool fusion-soundtracks, sample unusual cheeses, try out a lipstick and buy a tin of dog food and a hang-over remedy from 8 am to 9 pm every day of the week. 

With barrow loads of tomatoes and artichokes....
and buckets full of flowers, it's like a little bit of Provence in Hackney...

...and they even provide whippet shelter.

what am I going to do with this....

Monday, 16 May 2011

Hampstead Heath

Dog walks in Clissold Park can be tricky at weekends, especially sunny weekends when the picnickers set up early. On Saturday, as we had a houseful of photographers, stylists and models shooting a lingerie catalogue we decided to leave them to it and escape to the wide open spaces of  Hampstead Heath. Hoping the comatose teenagers on the top floor wouldn't come wandering downstairs in search of breakfast before we got back, we headed off. 
It was lovely there, blissfully warm and sunny, we laid down on the soft tufty grass looking at the sky and drifted off to sleep..........

Hampstead Heath

I was woken by a few drops of rain. Brian said it wasn't rain, it was dog spit.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A Treat

Apologies if you're one of the 21 million people that have already seen this.

Acne Chateau

The Doctors from Embarrassing Bodies TV show were filming here today. They rigged up a drop in style clinic for members of the public to come and discuss their ailments.... Oo-er.
(Nick! I know that was you in all those disguises).