Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

One of the nicest thing about writing a blog is being able to scroll back through the year and be reminded of all the lovely things that have happened. Without the blog I may have almost forgotten about the first day out with my new camera when I ran into Eileen strolling along Upper Street in her Spring outfit...
 or how heavenly the wisteria was - and will be again in a few months...
or what a trend setter my husband is :)...
or Ed's 13th Birthday dance in the rain...
or what amazing weather we had in Holland at Easter...
or all the pleasant evenings we spent just hanging out here with the kids and dogs...

I probably don't need a blog to remind me of the day Rex arrived from Athens...
or the mountains of Turkish delight I made for The Dark Weekend party...
or seeing Ed and his friends on the telly...

or what will probably greet me tomorrow morning after the boys bring their mates back...

Friday, 30 December 2011

Escape to Essex

Ed. There’s nothing to do.
Me. Don’t you have homework?
Ed. I’m so bored.
Me. Don’t mope about – it’s Christmas.
Ed. I’m so fed up. None of my friends are allowed to come into town and watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. It’s not fair. I don’t know what’s the matter with some people’s parents – we’re not babies.
Me. Well I’m not really surprised Ed. It’s crazy in town on New Year's Eve and you’re only 13. I’m not very happy with the idea myself. Daddy doesn’t want you to go either.
Ed. Nothing bad is going to happen at Somerset House for God’s sake.
Joe. It’ll be full of drunken crack heads.
Ed. Shut up. No it won’t.
Me. Anyway, Mathew’s mother has offered to go with you and then hide somewhere out of sight while you go ice-skating. I thought that was incredibly kind of her, especially on New year’s Eve.
Ed. She’s got nothing else to do and we’re not two year-olds.
Me. She said something in her text about ‘not wanting a repeat of what happened last time.’ Was that when one of you was sick in that tent? And she had to drive out to Essex in the middle of the night?
Ed. That was ages ago.
Me. Anyway, I don’t think any parents are going to agree to you heading into town without an adult. It’s too dangerous.
And how would you get home?
Joe. Tubes run all night on NYE – and they’re free.
Ed. See.
Joe. Yeah, you don’t even need an Oyster. Last year we ran in and out of Golders Green station like a million times.
Ed. Sick!!
Me. That doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me…
Brian. Joe, what are your plans for tomorrow night?
Joe. Me? BARE parties like. Trust.
Ed. It’s not fair. Everyone’s status on Facebook is ‘can’t wait for tomorrow night, smiley face’.
Me. That doesn’t mean anything. People just make out they’re doing something exciting. I bet there all staying in with their mums and dads.
Ed. They’re NOT.
Me. Come to Emma’s with us then.
Ed. No, there’ll just be adults.
Me. Why don’t you ask a few friends round here for a sleep over.
Ed. That’s dead.
Me. Well I don’t know then but cheer up, you’ll be back at school next week…. Ed! Ryan’s on the phone….
Ed. Take me to Liverpool Street. I’m going to Chemsford.
Me. Excellent!! It’ll be much safer over there.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Ooo, now is that an Italian Greyhound or a whippet? No, it's a ferret actually.

So, what now?
Holidays of course! Yeah I know I have school fees to scrape together, VAT to pay, tax due at the end of January, credit card bills mounting up, but a teeny little mini-break to Le Touquet isn’t really a holiday… more a necessity after the excesses of Christmas. Running around on the beach with the dogs, kite flying, lots of healthy sea air - it’s just what the doctor ordered. And its so easy now because from 1st January DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) have simplified the rules around taking your pets to the continent (and more importantly, bringing them back into the UK) to fall in line with the rest of Europe - and about bloody time too. There is a possibility of a person dying from rabies contracted from a pet once every 21,000 years in the UK so it's really time they shifted their focus.
Here’s a little clip from last time we went to Le Touquet-

frolicking around on the sand before heading off to the French vet for a seven hour wait while he sees every other animal in the village before ushering us into the surgery for an appointment long enough to give the dogs an over-the-counter tape worm pill and stamp their passports while we count out 150 euros. Then we still have to leave extra time to visit the official at the port before being allowed onto the shuttle. Grrrr...
Now those days are over - we can hop across the channel on a whim, maybe head onto Paris without the headache of trying to locate a local vet that is open at the weekend and has a slot to see us more than 24 hours but less than 48 hours before our due arrival time back at Folkestone. Hurrah!
Right, let’s go and check the DEFRA website for the latest news… blimey this is dry. Here we go "NEW RULES MEAN IT WILL BE EASIER AND CHEAPER TO TRAVEL ABROAD WITH PETS". Great! Never having to see the inside of a French vet's poxy waiting room again! Trying to keep the boys amused for hours by studying the Is Your Dog the Correct Weight poster when they should be playing football on the beach. Struggling to keep the dogs under control in a room full of cats when they could be stretched out on the banquettes in the Sports Bar. I feel a real sense of freedom! How exciting!
Hang on. What’s this? "The relaxation of the tapeworm treatment applies only to cats and ferrets. Dogs will still need to visit a vet in France. A qualified vet must record the treatment in your pet's passport. The vet will charge you for this service. The treatment must be carried out every time your pet enters the UK...." ****ing ****. I'm FURIOUS! And I smell a great big fat rat. Apparently 'exotic tapeworm' is the new threat to civilisation. It's just money for ***k all for the French vets and another drain on responsible pet owners in the UK. 
Oh, mind you, this bit’s helpful. "To find a vet in France consult the French Yellow pages and look up veterinaire, or contact the Consulate” Yeah right, thanks very much DEFRA. Our taxes are clearly well spent on you lot. ****s.
Brian! Bring the sewing machine down from the loft when you put the Christmas decorations back can you?! I’m going to run the dogs up a couple of ferret outfits.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Cracker

I wasn't feeling at all Christmassy until.....
... at Sadler's Wells last night. Every moment of Matthew Bourne's production is beautiful, funny and clever. Tchaikovsky's music isn't bad either. We've been three or four times in the last ten years and I'd happily go again tonight, and tomorrow and the next day.....

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Bangin' Report Bruv

Ed's school report arrived this morning and lifted my mood. 

Jazz: "Ed is the perfect student! He is disciplined. He works hard. He is focused. He interacts well with all his peers. He is intelligent. He is an asset to his class and an absolute pleasure to teach! Well done!"
Ballet: "Has potential to achieve an excellent standard in classical ballet. Neat and careful in his work with good use of feet and legs. A pleasure to teach."
History: "I have been delighted with Ed's history work this term."
Art: A* Excellent progress. Ed is always pleasant, polite and helpful in class - well done Ed!"
Modern Grade 6: Excellent progress and seems to be maturing fast. A good term's work!"
Song and Move: Ed is a very dedicated young pupil, highly motivated and achieving a very good standard of performance. Well done!"
etc etc....

JOE!!! Stop gibbering in patois at the Xbox and listen to this...

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


It was something the three of us always made very clear early on in our relationships with boys: there was absolutely no room for negotiation and if they didn’t like it then tuff, it was over.  We’d happily listen to their music, follow their football team, drink with their mates, watch telly with their gran or visit their dotty relatives. We’d cook meals for them, even go on holiday with them, move in with them, have kids with them, and in some cases marry them but we would never, EVER spend Christmas day round at “theirs”. Sounds a bit selfish I suppose but that was the way it was. No-one else’s Christmas could possibly be as perfect as Christmas at OUR house… well, that’s not quite true… there was probably some room for improvement in the catering department… the turkey being a touch frozen, the Vienetta a touch warm. The decorations were pretty chaotic…the music a little cheesy… my dad’s cocktails a bit too creative - making charades a tad disorderly and Dingbats quite unruly.
And so it was that my two sisters and my little bother (now 38) have always spent Christmas together. After we were orphaned the venue moved from our family home ‘Old Orchard’ (a 1960s house without an orchard) in South London to Lordship Park in Hackney. Of course it’s different: I have never been able to master my mother’s nonchalant approach to entertaining. Vienetta is replaced by a towering baked Alaska complete with artificial fir trees and a down-hill skier figurine searched out on the internet. The decorations are urns full of hydrangea heads from the garden, hundreds of candles and absolutely no tinsel.
I always let the boys decorate the tree though: and then rearrange their haphazard efforts once they’d gone to bed. My brother has taken over the cocktails and we sip sophisticated Caipirinhas with Cachaca and lime instead of a trolley load of lurid liqueurs brought back from Amsterdam – the legacy of my dad’s days at KLM. The one thing that hasn’t changed is all four of us siblings are together with our partners and children and we have a right ball.
But not this year. Right now my sister Nicky is on a plane to Australia. Not because Andy, her boyfriend of thirty years, has lured her away with the promise of cuddly Koalas and white sandy beaches. It would take more than that to get her to miss a family Christmas. His sister Lisa lives in Melbourne. She came to visit in the summer but Nicky was worried – Lisa seemed unwell and on her return to Oz she became increasingly sick and was diagnosed with cancer. It was advanced and the doctors said she had very little time left. Nicky and Andy hurredly made plans to fly out to be with her and her children: hoping to grasp a few, last, sun-filled days in her company, have a few drinks, a few laughs, a few tears, but just as Nicky was getting on the plane at Heathrow last night they heard the news that she had died. All very sad.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Well Dressed House

Darren Black just sent me these pictures that he shot here for Fantastics Mag. Fantastic aren't they!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Something for the Weekend

As usual, Brighton has something for everyone to enjoy. For me the view from the hotel window is one I would never tire of and to see the sun rise over the sea and bathe the regency promenade in pink light was magical...

For Ed and Phoebe ice-skating in the sunshine with the fairy-tale Royal Pavillion as a backdrop was the highlight of the weekend...

While for Joe, getting all his Christmas shopping out of the way in one hit made the whole trip worthwhile...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Somebody's Got To Do It

So, Sarah's gone and left me to run the business single-handedly again. And I'm not even going to mention the fact that I have to cope with caring for two completely mental whippets all on my own. She's sloped off to Brighton with the kids to take in the sea air while I try and cope with the rigours of running one of London's Busiest Location Houses. God knows who we've got in here tomorrow - I bet it's some mega-crazy advertising job with loads of over-sized hired-in props and models with over-sized egos and drug-crazed art directors. Let me have a look in the we are.....Friday....."The Sun Page Three Model Competition Winners".

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Swan Vista

"What are you doing?"
"Just seeing if I can spot Joe in this photo of the crowd at the 125 year anniversary match we went to on Saturday."
"You're joking. Don't you have anything better to do? Where's my paper swan?"
"I just thought I'd have a little break. Those Hungarian origami instructions from 1911 that you found on the internet are quite tricky to follow actually...
...YES! Found him!"

"There, the one with all the scarves."
"Great. Now get on with that swan. These are all useless by the way."
"Okay,okay, (frantic paper scrunching noises) here you are."
"Good - but it's way too small."
"It's only a maquette darling."

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Stormy Chateau

Hackney Chateau felt like the Old Mill last night. We all huddled under our duvets with the dogs while the wind and rain lashed at the windows but in true Disney tradition the storm blew away at dawn and we awoke to a gentle, blue-sky day. Ahhh....

Monday, 12 December 2011

From Russia with Wallpaper

It's been a hectic weekend here with a Russian crew arriving yesterday morning. The British Embassy in Moscow granted them a visa for 2 days, in which time they had to shoot 48 different wallpapers in 48 different room settings, eat fish and chips, catch a show and take in Piccadilly Circus. 

Brian: That reminds me of the Tatlin Tower, you know, the tower that was designed by the constructivist artist and architect, Vladamir Tatlin as a symbol of modernity for the Bolshevik revolution? It was never built but was planned to be the headquarters of the Comintern in Petrograd, now St Petersburg. At 400m tall, dwarfing the Eiffel Tower, a projector was designed to be positioned at the summit to cast propaganda  across the clouds on an overcast day.

Sarah: Give it a rest. It's a roll of wallpaper for Christ's sake.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Coastal Christmas

Brian's lovely portrait of Bonnie is featured in the Dec/Jan issue of Coast Magazine. 
Styled by Portland Mitchell and photographed by Ben Anders at a pretty little hideaway by the sea... but you don't have to live in a cottage at the seaside - Brian's paintings look fantastic anywhere! :)