Sunday 31 January 2010

Illustration Friday - Focused


During the long dreary days – and nights, sometimes – she’d spent in hospital over the last several months she had focused with laser like intensity on transporting herself away from blips and beeps and whirs of those sterile wards to the wild wide spaces she loved most in all the world.


Very dearest blog friends – thank you all very much for being so supportive during my enforced absences from blogging. I’ve missed all of you so much and I’ve hated being away from this wonderful world of special connections, friendship and discovery! Now that the trauma is over for the time being and I’m flying off to the sunshine of Africa once more, I will spend much of that time reconnecting and catching up on your news and views. In the meantime I’m sending you all jet propelled hugs and the warmest of warm wishes.  Talk to you from Mahe in the Seychelles – WOOHOO!

Monday 25 January 2010

One World, One Heart – Life and Love in The Big Smoke


one world


Lifting my petticoats high, I raced down the track and leapt up onto the flying carpet today to join in with hundreds of other bloggers from all over the world who are participating in the One World, One Heart Giveaway. This is an annual event hosted by Lisa at A Whimsical Bohemian  who started the party back in 2007 with just a handful of bloggy friends. It has grown immeasurably since then, and Lisa’s initial premise still holds true. She says, "The blogging world is vast with more blogs created all the time....and through blogging we can learn new things, read about other countries, learn of new ways to promote those vital issues, support causes as well as learn about new artists, writers, photographers, et al. By having a list of those with a giveaway it is like a home tour with a map......going from place to place to see how others "live" and perhaps along the way make fabulous new connections and maybe win a door prize in the process."


twilight2 London Twilight – August 2009


The door prize going to the winner of the Aerial Armadillo draw is this 8” x 6”acrylic/oil pastel painting of my interpretation of a twilight London.  The painting is on 480gsm Fabriano 100% cotton rag and will be double matted, so you just need to pop it into a frame of your choice and voila – it’s ready to hang!

In order to participate, you should leave a comment after THIS post. The comments will close at 9 o'clock UK time on February 15th when I’ll do a random draw and then post the winner’s name the following day. I’ll be celebrating my birthday in Cape Town during February, so I will mail the painting (and a little memento from South Africa) to the winner of my draw from there… it may take just a little longer than normal to arrive with you wherever you are in the world!



 “By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.”

Samuel Johnson


I thought it would be fun to have you all join me on the magic carpet today so that we can explore England together.  More specifically, I felt you may like to know a little more about this country’s vibrant capital from the point of view of someone who lives there, so grab my hand, leap onto the flying carpet with me and we’ll join my daughter Alexandra in London.  Alex knows London far better than I do so I’ll just ask the questions and she can do the talking!


How would you describe London?

Many people see London as the most creative and culturally important city in the world. It’s hard to disagree. The capital is home to some of the greatest museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites in the world. London also punches above its weight in the creative industries and has produced a veritable wealth of artists, writers, musicians, film and theatre directors, architects and designers.


What does London mean to you?

London means the cosmopolitan, multilingual, polychromatic vibe emitted by carnivals, festivals and street markets which is significantly intensified by the silence to be found in some of the nation’s great monuments like the naves of medieval cathedrals, the galleries of the British Museum, the vastness of the Tate. It’s that contrast and juxtaposition that constitutes the excitement of London.


Is it important to have contacts before moving to a big city, or can you ‘go it alone’?

I think it’s vital to have contacts. London, like any major metropolis, can be very lonely if you don’t know anyone. I was lucky in that many of my closest school friends were already based in London when I started University here. They were fantastically supportive when I moved to the city which made everything so much easier for me

How long have you lived in London?

If you include the 3 years I was at SOAS*, I’ve been in London for nearly 8 years now. Yikes – that’s nearly a decade!  (*School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London.)


Working life now?

I work for an independent classical music television company and absolutely love it.

Dream job?

I love what I do at the moment, but I’d like to get back to development at some stage and work for a grass roots organisation helping to empower women in Africa.

Is there anywhere you’d rather be?

Yes on a yacht in the South pacific, but I’ll settle for London at the moment!

Embarrassing story regarding city life that you can bear to admit to?

(Laughs) I’ve endured a lot of publically embarrassing moments in London, but I’d have to say the most toe curling experience involved a bus, a businessman and the Daily Telegraph.

I was on the bus when the driver (all notoriously bad at breaking suddenly – a requirement of the job apparently) simultaneously rounded a corner and slammed on the breaks. Trying to get into brace position in my perilously high heels I trod on a foot, tried to readjust, failed and ended up doing a ballerina-esque twirl into the lap of an elderly businessman who was deeply engrossed in his newspaper. We nodded politely at one another while I remained in his lap until the bus driver swung violently around another corner in the opposite direction at which point I was launched off the nice gentleman’s lap and back into the aisle where I slammed into the broad back of a very friendly Bob Marley look-a-like. Excruciatingly embarrassing, but one way I suppose, of getting to know the denizens of London!


Do you refute Prince Charles’ scathing remark that the London skyline is becoming "not just one carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend, but a positive rash of them that disfigure precious views and will disinherit future generations of Londoners."?

I think London strikes quite a good balance between conservation and development.

There are some buildings I feel aren’t entirely fitting, but most of the more contemporary architecture complements the city skyline and more importantly it hasn’t been at the expense of those historical buildings and monuments for which London is renown.


London is home to many of the most impressive museums and art collections in the world, do you have a favourite?

For me it would have to be The Natural History Museum for it’s sheer size and the quality and quantity of their exhibits. The V & A is another favourite of mine and I love both the National Portrait Gallery and The Royal Academy for their exceptional photography and art exhibitions.


Give us a snippet about the last exhibition you went to?

I went to The Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum. It was quite seriously mind-blowing. I was awestruck – both at the beauty the world has to offer and at the ability of those photographers to capture it on film.

There are new movie releases almost every week in or around Leicester Square – what have you seen recently that knocked your socks off?

In Search of a Midnight Kiss, an independent film set against the streets of New York on New Years Eve and The Visitor, which touches on immigration in Britain and is one of the most moving and beautifully made films I’ve seen in years.

The West End dazzles with its theatre billboards and thrums with the buzz of the latest productions. What is the most memorable/entertaining/shocking/beautifully crafted play you’ve seen lately?

Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain at the Apollo was fantastic, as was Equus at the National Theatre. The latter lived up to the hype, which is rare in my opinion!  War Horse at the New London Theatre is a must as well – take a box of tissues.


London is also famous for its huge choice of venues for the performing arts, which offer the very best of classical music, rock concerts, opera, modern dance and ballet. Any you’d recommend?

I would recommend Ain’t Nothing But The Blues on Kingly Str. It’s an intimate venue which offers the best live blues music in town and The Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington for classical music and opera. Of course there is no beating Sadler’s Wells for the best ballet the world has to offer!

What do you dislike about the city?

Tourists. But I do try and remember that I was one once so I try not to get irritated when they suddenly stop in their tracks to admire something and we collide!


What do you love about London?

I love the variety. London has so much to offer and despite having lived here for years, I’m still discovering parts of the city I didn’t know existed. I revel in the sense of diversity in this city, too. It’s wonderful when I’m on the tube or walking down the street and I see people of every different nationality and colour, speaking in different languages but all rubbing along together fine.

London, like New York, has its ‘villages’. Which part of London is your particular favourite?

I’m a North London Girl and rarely venture South. My favourite parts of North London include Camden, Marylebone, Notting Hill, Brick Lane and the Edgware Road.


The Big Smoke has plenty of green, open spaces and parks. Where would you go for a warm summer’s evening picnic with friends?

Parsons Green is great for a picnic with the girls. Greenwich Park is nice because it’s never too crowded and the views are wonderful.  For people watching and Speakers Corner on Sunday it has to be Hyde Park.


The city still cuts a dash when it comes to global style. As a dedicated fashionista, where do you shop?

As a fashionista on a budget I tend towards Gap, H&M, East, Oasis and Zara.

All the top national and international designers have stores in London so if your daddy was on the Rich List, which couture house would you frequent?

Anya Hindmarch or Vera Wang.

What are the three must-have things you always need to hand?

An umbrella, an A-Z and plastic!

London has a vast miscellany of open-air markets which sell everything from organic produce, specialist food, antiques, art, clothes and general bric-à-brac. Which is your favourite?

Camden for clothes and Borough Market for food and sophisticated pub crawls.


The city is in the grip of a profound restaurant mania, despite the global recession. There are 43 starred Michelin restaurants in London, compared with 39 in New York, and ‘provenance’ (read locally raised”) is the buzzword on every foodie’s lips. Where do you eat out when you want a treat?

I try to take advantage of the fantastic restaurants London has to offer and use Top Table to book some of the more well known establishments because of the meal deals you can get via that site. Normally though, my favourite for brunch is the Wolseley and for sushi the wonderful Haki no Sana. Otherwise, there’s a really funky restaurant I like called Archipelago in Fitzrovia. The menu is a bit strange, you can have a wildebeest stew followed by a chocolate scorpion but the décor is fabulous – it’s like a little grotto full of plants and strange ornaments.

Where do you eat when you’re feeling skint?

At home … or round at a friend’s with a bottle in hand!

Where do you go to be defuzzed, manicured and coiffured?

Prince’s Palace on the Edgware Road – it’s a little ‘hole in the wall’ and the lovely lady who looks after me doesn’t speak English, but is ruthlessly efficient at defuzzing and a genius with coiffure! And it doesn’t cost the earth- and moon and stars - like many West End salons.

The London clubbing scene is reputed to be unrivalled. Tell us about your favourite haunts?

(Grins impishly) No idea, I’m far too old to go clubbing…  If I had to go, it would probably be The Valmont Club in Chelsea or Mo*vida in Soho


London men – how do you rate ‘em?

It depends on where you are in London. The ‘Hooray Henrys’ are agonizingly boring, but I occasionally meet someone I like somewhere unexpected.

Sex in the city – how is it for you?

Well since my man and I parted nearly a year ago, it’s a bit like the Gobi Desert with only the very occasional oasis.

Being practical for a moment, London should be the greatest hunting-ground anywhere in Europe. Concentrated in a few square miles are literally millions of single men of all ages, shapes, sizes, nationalities and predilections. Is it as easy as it sounds?

Because the city is so big, and you tend to move in the same social circle it’s not always easy to meet new people. Therefore dating requires a certain amount of effort.


Any particular women who, in your opinion, have made an impact on the London scene in the last decade?

WAGs* - unfortunately, and Bob Geldof’s children, royal consorts and Gwyneth Paltrow. And lots of women who are regularly featured in gossip mags who don’t appear to do anything in particular. (*Wives and Girlfriends - of footballers)

If you could be some notable London luminary – now or in the past - for a day, who would it be?

Lady Ottoline Morrell. Her circle of friends – and lovers – was formidable!

It's impossible to think of life in London without taking into account what's underneath the city. What do you love, and hate, about the tube?

I love that you can get everywhere in London with a certain amount of ease. I don’t like the stifling heat of the Underground in summer or the ‘accidental’ bum graze when the tube is crowded.

Are London taxi drivers really as rude as their reputation suggests?

London taxi drivers are fantastic! They love to talk on a variety of subjects and are often very funny and almost always informative!


Of all the current movers and shakers on the London scene, who would you most like to have dinner with?

London’s major, Boris Johnson. He may look - and sound - like a caricature, but I think he’d be a great addition to a dinner party!

Your life as a newspaper headline?

African Becomes London Native.

Describe your London in one sentence?

London vibrates!

Hey!  Before you go, don’t forget the door prize!

Friday 22 January 2010

Illustration Friday – Clumsy



“One clumsy teeter in this dress and you’re flat on your face,”  she warned.  I thought about all the clumsy teeters I tottered and decided that it definitely wasn’t for me.

Friday 15 January 2010

Eating The Daisies


Daddy.1946Austria 1946 

Our Papa’s mantra for a rich and fulfilling life was simple.  “All you need, darlings” he would say as he hugged us close.  “Are just three things: someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to.”

I’m lucky enough to have all those things in abundance, but each year I make a point of adding something new to my ‘looking forward to’ list.  So this year I’ve decided to follow Voltaire’s advice and concentrate on my garden.

tigerlilieslrgDay Lily Dreams

Living in Africa I was spoilt.  Not only did we have someone to plant and weed and sweep and mow, but almost anything you stuck in that fertile soil would grow – all of it vibrantly voluptuous, bounteous and exuberant.  Nothing, it seemed, had to be nurtured, cosseted or fed.  Nature did it all – or almost all.  Not so here in England.  I don’t mean that Britain’s gardens aren’t beautiful – they most certainly are.   The British are deservedly famous for their gardens and throughout the United Kingdom there are gardens great and small, formal and informal, private and public, that illustrate the British passion for creating green, growing spaces of their own.   All are different, and all, like their owners and creators, have a distinct personalities.  But it ain’t easy.  Believe me, I’ve tried – with varying amounts of success - over the last couple of years.  Learning to garden in England is much more disciplined and academic than it was in my wild Africa, so it’s a steep learning curve for me! 

But nothing daunted - I love a challenge so I intend to start planning my new garden here in Norfolk right now this minute.  Cosily huddled in front of a roaring log fire, I  shall begin drawing up a plan and doing lots of research in those glorious glossy gardening books while winter howls icily outside.   My one criteria is that I must be able to do more than just admire the flowers in my garden and pick them for the house – I must be able to eat them as well.


Along with the herbs we know and love, I’ve learned that there are all sorts of flowers that can be used in cooking.  Kathy Bown’s book Edible Flowers is a foodie gardener’s bible.  Kathy not only recommends pinks, jasmine and wallflowers for anything from fondants to fritters, but includes some real exotics such as banana, yucca and chrysanthemum flowers.   How about cucumber flowers with mackerel, or pea flowers sprinkled over baby carrots and new potatoes?  Cherry blossom infused cream, anyone?  Shortbread laced with lavender blossom or rose petals in an apricot and pine nut rice salad both sound blissful.  I also want to try marigold flowers sprinkled over a big tureen of chicken soup, as well as elderflower jelly combined with strawberries and lemon balm. You can also use the petals from hollyhocks, bergamot daisies and dianthus in salad – can you imagine how gloriously pretty that would be?  Hmmm….I can’t wait for the gentle strains of Spring’s lilting melody to start digging my new garden – now that really is something to look forward to!

Here are some potential beauties for my patch.  Oh, decisions decisions!











  • Cream infused with apple blossom or elderflower is delicious with fruit salad.
  • Borage flowers have a cool, cucumber taste and work well as a flavour for sorbets or sprinkled over a salad. They are also just as good in Pimms, punches or a gin and tonic.
  • Infuse sugar with scented geranium leaves or line a cake tin to lend perfume and subtle flavour to the mixture











  •  Jasmine tea can be used to infuse rice and is excellent in many Asian recipes.
  • Try lavender jelly with roast lamb or add lavender to your chocolate cake mix.  The tiny blooms add a delectably mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets.
  • In China peony petals are parboiled and sweetened as a teatime delicacy.  You can also add the petals to your summer salad, or try floating them in punches and homemade lemonade. 











  • The lemony taste of lilac blossoms work really well in salads
  • Depending on the variety, tulip petals taste like sweet lettuce or baby peas and some have a cucumber-like texture and flavour.
  • Fill whole nasturtium flowers with  cream cheese and finely chopped chives for canapes which look beautiful and taste delicious.  Their peppery petals are perfect for salads and the seed pods can be pickled and used as a substitute for capers.

** apple blossom, peony, lilac and nasturtium photo credits to The Good Gardener Magazine **

What do you have planned for your gardens, balconies or windowsills this spring? 

Friday 8 January 2010

Night Flight and Pithiviers


Writer extraordinaire Jason Evans of  The Clarity of Night is hosting another of those imagination enhancing Short Fiction Contests – this time the prompt is “Silhouette”.   The limit is 250 words and any genre or form is welcome so long as it is inspired by the "Silhouette" photo on his blog.  The deadline is January 13th so there is still lots of time.  Go on – give it a bash!  Here is my entry……



I fly intransigent
From a past ephemeral day
On a night flight to Paris.
Amongst the starry cosmos
We jet toward the Borealis.
And beneath lie fluid landscapes,
Crests, valleys and nipple hills.
A wild wasted wilderness, the sands
Of that desolate Eastern Erg
Emerging gold against the dawn.
Volcanic plugs pierce crystalline rock
Sand fingers, petrified trunks,
Still dark against the dawn.
Mysterious unfinished places,
In this strange Garden of Allah
With the blue cloaked Tuareg
And the wild colocynth melons
Ripening in coarse tangled leaves.
Bleached bones lie strewn jagged,
A necklace turned to dust.

I ask what traveller, voyager
Pilgrim, migrant, fortune hunter, pioneer
Roamed these Dali-esque dunescapes.
What Mozabite, Bedouin, Berber
Trod these crescent paths,
These seifs, this moonscape?
As camel caravans sail silently
‘Cross ochre seas to Agadez.
And vultures soar on thermals
Satanic black against the dawn.

Here, high above the banded altostratus
Ensconced in airless droning comfort
And safe from stinging sand
I know that my salvation lies
In edifice of structure, those monuments
To history, those bricks of occidental culture.
But I will miss the lonely splendour of
Desert, sea and mountain spaces
Now honey bathed against the dawn
On this night flight to Paris.


And to lighten the mood after that rather melancholy ramble, let me tell you about the first time I laid greedy eyes on a Pithivier!

You know that yucky feeling of airlessness and eye-stinging droopy tiredness after a long haul night flight?  You do?  Me too!  I remember my first visit to Paris – on our honeymoon, many eons ago – sitting at a pavement cafe in Montmartre blurry-eyed and limp with the aftermath of excited anticipation while a waiter listened impatiently to Guy ordering coffee and pastries in his best school French.   Oh, it was a magical moment when our surly waiter brought us large steaming cups of  darkly aromatic coffee and warm, sinfully chocolaty oven-fresh Pithiviers.   We devoured the delicious pastries, drank our coffee…and took off at breakneck speed to explore the delights of one of the most romantic capitals in the entire world!

So if you need a short, sharp shot of energy in the most yumtious way possible, here is my take on those heavenly delights.


Mini Chocolate Hazelnut Pithiviers


  • 50g roughly chopped dark chocolate 
  • 100g hazelnuts roughly chopped
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 egg yolks, 1 whisked with 1 tbsp water to glaze
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp dark rum
  • 2 x 375g ready-rolled puff pastry

Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. To make the filling, whizz the chocolate, hazelnuts, sugar and cocoa powder together in a food processor until you have a fine crumb mixture. Add the butter, eggs and rum and whizz a bit more to make a paste.

Cut 8 circles from the pastry about 3½ 2diameter (cut around a small bowl or plate). Divide the chocolate paste between 4 of the circles, heaping it into the middles and leaving a 1cm border around the edges. Brush the pastry borders with the whisked egg yolk, then drape the other 4 circles over the tops, smoothing them down over the filling. Press and crimp the edges to seal, score the tops lightly in a spiral pattern with a knife, and brush all over with the remaining whisked egg yolk. Chill for 10 minutes, then bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden. 

**When they come out of the oven, have someone there to catch you when you swoon!

Sunday 3 January 2010

Illustration Friday - Renewal


It is at the coast where horizons are infinite

and footprints few under a sky you can almost touch

that the sea, whatever its mood,

never fails to fill me with a sense of renewal.


norfolk coast - holkham


“When you do dance, I wish you a wave of the sea, that you might ever do nothing but that”

William Shakespeare - The Winter’s Tale