Isn’t life just full of lovely flowers this week.

Bon Jour to you and you and you and you …

Well into the New Year and the positivity bunny is still sitting next to me.  Admittedly, the Summer weather and daily dips in the Ocean may have something to do with the wellness factor, but there are other natural highs I drip feed into my soul.  Like planning small trips this year: talked about Paris and the Eurostar is booked.  My return to the ‘Grand Tour’ heaven of Lake Como is in the dairy and this time I may spend more time in Milan.  Anyone have great tips on Milan?

Cape Town and the wine lands is incredible.  As I write, I am overlooking the Atlantic from the 8th floor of my friend’s apartment, with a view that will quickly run out of superlatives. South Africa is unique, home from home and so beautiful – despite the problems, she remains feisty, sexy and strong.

Needless to say, the mind is full of flowers – when is it not, she asks, but today especially, it is full of flowers and inspiration around the blooms. Doing the flowers for a special Bridal Shower was like literally, oh leave me alone to just indulge in my passion.  The theme was an Afternoon Garden party, so the floral design was all about whimsical blooms: lots of roses, gypsophila, lisianthus, scabious and cow parsley.  Gentle flowers that create a free flowing prettiness.  Smaller vases filled with garden herbs such as lavender, rosemary and fennel flowers – the scent was perfume perfection.

With Flowers and Paris in mind, and so many other lovely articles I read over the past two weeks, I thought I would share them with you:

Love all things French, so this was a great inspiration for the New Year. We will be having four days in Paris, and though I have been many times, always looking for new ways to show my friends.  Good dining and flowers together, should check this one out. And then there is the ‘how to be a true Parisian‘ and more inspiration. Moreover, I am moving towards a more eco-friendly way of life, and this company really inspires me too!  It is possible if you look for brands that are vegan friendly and gentle with nature.

No trip to Paris would be complete without tasting, at least, a few dozen pastries – I am a sucker for the sweet things in Paris.

Back to the flowers.  One of the more lazy moments I have in the day, are spent watching the ever addictive You Tube.  Tulipina is a favourite of mine, and again, always learning.  Tulipina started her business with a passion for flowers, a website, instagram and true belief in her art of creating different and impactful floral designs.

A recent crush, and if only I were in Versailles the week before our trip, I would definitely join Molly on this course. Adore the town of Versailles, the Chateau and the Jardin du Roi, so a pastry course in the heart of Versailles, close enough to do in a day trip from Paris, would have been perfect.  Perhaps in the future?

Without bees, there would be no flowers – and little else in the future if we don’t take care of them.  As much as I love alternative ‘milk’ in my lattes, a sobering article on Almond milk.  St. Clements no longer offers Almond milk as an alternative, but one can still have soy and oat milk if the real thing is not your thing.

This year is a personal drive to being more conscious of our environment. I should have been all the time, but sometimes even I slip up on the plastic, the easy alternative and the not so great effort at recycling. Climate change is real and terrifying – I believe even the daffodils are coming up earlier, wow! Used to be in March, then February, and now some are popping up when we should be having snow in England.

It has been a fabulous week.  A floral, frilly week.  Going to the suppliers, getting the mechanics sorted, working with pure gorgeousness in petals and stems.  A wonderful Bridal Shower, and of course, always a pleasure to work with and admire, and eat, the delectable creations made by Lulubelle’s bakes, without whom the Bridal Shower would not have been so heavenly.

Till next time, get creative and embrace you life.

 

 

 

All about the blooms. Two very different events.

One of the reasons I have returned to South Africa, apart from the Summer of course, it to celebrate a very special wedding. My best friend’s daughter is getting married on one of the most exquisite wine farms in the country, and the countdown has begun.  A year in the planning, nothing left to chance, this is going to be one of the most beautiful weddings I have the privilege to be a part of. Cannot wait to share the pictures with you.

Not doing the wedding flowers this time, but super excited to do all the blooms and set up for the Bridal Shower and wedding Shabbat dinner.  Two very different themes, and two very important events on the wedding calendar.  So you can imagine, with so much at stake, a happy bride and a happy mum, I have been planning – checking what’s available, meeting suppliers, setting up the mechanics and a very tight timeline for prepping and creating two very different, but sensational events.  To set the tone for the big day.

As a wedding and floral designer, nothing happens, just like that. More that plopping a few daisies in a vase. The Bridal shower is themed around one theme, and the dinner, very glamorous. Been doing the homework, which involves a lot of time finding inspiration, creating a mood board, making sure all is going to transport the guests into an afternoon, and evening, of pure magic. All about flowers this week.  Am eternally grateful to my daughter, Madison, for working with me on these events.

We are blessed in South Africa with magnificent suppliers of these gorgeous blooms. Today I found myself at the local farmer’s market, where Adene’s flowers displayed a fusion of blooms and I was lost in the frilly petals, the strong dahlia’s, floating cosmos and many other shades of prettiness.  Am going to explore a little more on the actual flower farm.  We need frilly and soft for the Bridal Shower, and then the strong stems and dramatic blooms for the pre-wedding dinner. Could not do without Alsmeer flowers who never fails to disappoint.

Adene’s flowers. Until April they have an open day on Sundays and so worth a visit.

My inspiration comes in so many different forms.  And one is never too experienced to learn, just that little bit more.  Been fortunate to travel and see some of the most incredible gardens in the world, all which add to the dream.  Smitten with the gardens of Italy and France, and England for that matter, and Monty Don’s insightful documentaries on these gardens has me at, oh of course, how amazing to bring this into the repertoire. Have visited a few myself and April sees me back at the Lakes of Italy to discover a few more myself.

Another secret crush is Tulipina.  Follow her work religiously. Seems so simple doing flowers, right?  Tulipina has become a major influencer in floral design today. Detailed art. Then there is Jeff Latham, always popping into the George IV in Paris to see his latest work and going ‘wow’ when I do. Many floral designers in London of course, especially Bloomsbury Flowers. there are so many: Flowerbx, McQueens, Wild at Heart and Elizabeth Marsh – one is never at the I know it all.  So much more out there! Sometimes inspiration comes from the smallest things, a vintage tea cup, a beautiful vase, indigenous blooms – one’s one garden. Planted another seven Icebergs last week, they just keep blooming and great to use for a soft touch. They last well in water. They are planted beside my lovely David Austen’s ‘Litchfield Angels’, who never disappoint.

Inspired by nature, here and in the UK. How to take local materials and make them the stars of the show. One needs to work with what is right there in front of you, hone it, incorporate it and make it something special. We draw all the threads together and often, even when walking, I find material that would be perfect, for the right setting of the scene.

So, as a floral designer, the countdown has begun for this special time.  To create a wonderful Bridal shower and then turn all around for a dramatic, sophisticated dining experience. Seasonal drama. A summer setting. Want it to be personal, digging deep to do so – and that’s why it’s all about the blooms this week.

No matter how small or large the event, the flowers will tell the story.

When someone trusts you with their dream, it’s a privilege and lots of work to deliver that dream to perfection.

 

Love what I do.  Love the flowers and the possibilities of what they can achieve. Love their ability to transform the ordinary to the extraordinary.

They will tell their own story. A memorable one at that.

To work.  To doing what I love. To the blooms

Images: Own, Adene’s flowers, Italy tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning for Paris 2020 – a special birthday.

It’s what I adore about a New Year.  All the plans and details and filling the diary with ideals and wishes you want the year to bring. Paris is of course, always uppermost.  Paris has been my ‘other love’ for over a decade, since I moved to London and found the ease of visiting Paris a secret loveliness, all of my own.

When the great re-location to London became more of an early coping in a new world, and nothing like I ever dreamed of, Paris offered me the sanctuary I desperately needed.  The London of tourists experience was nothing to the actual landing with the bump kind of experience my family endured.  Life reduced from the beautiful South Africa existence. We managed, failed on some levels, grew, and changed. In the midst of letting go and embracing a small and often daunting different situation, I discovered the great, and achievable passport, via the Eurostar, to Paris.  We have been in love ever since.

This year, the diary is poised for the return. The love affair has not diminished. With my family, friends or on my own, I have grown to know her small streets and captivating nuances. We know each other well.  In the past years, at least two or three trips a year, it has been Paris in the Spring, the Summer, magnificent Autumn, and always in the Winter ( I think I prefer the latter, just before Christmas when the tourists are gone and the bones of this lovely city still has me in awe.) Love the gardens, the parks, the shopping and side walk stopping for coffee – with Hemingway in mind – and the romance of Paris that still exists.

But, it is a New Year!  And a trip with a special person to celebrate her 60th birthday. The brief is such: Four days in Paris, guided by me, and a hotel with a garden or courtyard to return to in the evenings. A very special occasion.  We have done Paris before, my lovely friend and I, many times, only this time it’s going to be even more memorable.

This is the brief and the gift I can give. Four days in June to remember forever as being a milestone and, enchanting. My usual little hotel in the Opera district does not have a courtyard.  But no matter, the research has begun. Should it be on the right bank, close to the Opera for easy access to the Madeleine and Rue Saint Honoré for shopping, Paris style, or closer to the Place des Voges and the Marais?  Then there is the Left bank and all her gifts, the Café du Flore and Les Deux Margots to people watch? Always have to do the custom people watching from the illustrious vantage points. So important n’cest pas?

A visit to Deyrolle. Must be done for it is the ultimate scene in ‘Midnight in Paris’. Hidden gem, though a little disconcerting.

Any suggestions about the perfect hotel? With a courtyard or garden room?

A day to Giverney maybe?  A day to Versailles – most definitely. Got that covered. Restaurants, sorted.

Want this to be amazing!  Memorable.

What a good excuse to go over earlier – to sort of recce the city again. The deals on the Eurostar in February and March are enticing, so perhaps that is a good reason to visit before we go and celebrate.

This photograph was taken when I was in Paris for my 60th with my family. Captured a perfect moment on the bridge.  Paris is all about the bridges over the Seine – the not there anymore lovelock bridge, the Pont Alexandre 111, the Point Neuf bridge, so many to cross. And the parks – the Rodin Museum, the D’Orsay and the Orangerie. Perhaps a trip on the Bateaux in the evening? So many possibilities.

Last time I was there with my lovely friend, we spent hours in Montmatre. Years ago, my mother had my portrait drawn there, on the Place du Tertre – I took my daughters there to have theirs done and finally, on my 60th, the drawings of my son and son in law – all framed and up on the wall in my home. I think we should do this, to make it official, to commemorate her birthday. Sixty years of being there for each other.

So it is a trip to plan for sure, but a trip that will mean so much more. Sixty decades of having each other’s backs, listening to each others dreams, as life happened and has blessed us both. So you can imagine how important this trip is – it is my birthday present to her.

In Paris.

The dairy looks exceptional this year. This is one of those entries. Let’s see what else 2020 brings – keep you posted!

 

Into the memory boxes.

This photo was taken on the first anniversary of Princess Diana’s death.  That long ago.  Our visit to her grave at Althrop. Found in the box of photographs tucked deep inside a cupboard I keep locked away when I am not here. I am seldom here.  All my family things are here.

Our family home is in the Cape, in South Africa.  I live in London.  Still in the nomadic stage of life, I rent in London but keep our family home intact on the other side of the world.  Times we rent it out, times we just lock it up and return for the summer. It’s when I return, for a little while, that all the memories surround me, time to go back and swim into the past.  Not always easy, much has happened in the interim, but fortunate to find the pieces of self that brings nostalgia, but also a sense of belonging, and inspiration to pack the suitcase and fare out again.  The past will be here, when I am ready to surround myself with it years from now, but some say I am fortunate, and sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

When children leave home, they are not ready to take their lives with them.  To much to do, achieve, races to run.  We are the keepers of their pasts until they are ready to settle and own them. Do you do the same?  Hold onto your children through their chapters with you?  Admit to moments when hanging on seems more of a burden, only to realise how blessed I am, to have the role of keeper of what our lives became, once was, the weaver of the threads, the creator of the tapestry. The gatekeeper.

So I make a quiet time, a peaceful time, to look back.  We need to do that.  When life is fraught with anxiety, and at times pure hopelessness, when the road forward seems dark and foreboding and we are that stage when some of us are alone and despite the courage we all have within ourselves, daunted – it is a good thing.  We owned our youth, silly dreams, too much experimenting – our weddings and first jobs – being the smug mummies and creating homes.  When it was simple and no longer seems so.  The memory boxes remind us of a time of everyday magic, of swimming lessons and toddlers birthday parties.  Beach holidays and freckles on their faces. Our parents who may not be here anymore. Of laden tables and slim waists.

Going through the school days.  The all important, all consuming years of exams (yes, we soothed your fevered brows), the dances and first dates (yes, we listened and were there for you).  The sports games and rugby matches (yes, we closed our eyes in case you got hurt and wanted to run onto the field and box the ears of those you bullied you) and when you brought home your ‘Christmas’ decorations and we swooned over them. All still in the boxes.

A few photos of myself, only back then, photos were rare and not the best, not so? The odd school photograph of badly cut hairstyles and teenage angst. Beautiful wedding photographs. Now my daughter’s also.  All in the boxes.

It is a time of reflection, and a time of … gathering the threads to say ‘ it was good’, and put them back at this time in the new year.  They will be safe and no matter what the future holds, the past was pretty awesome. We are the fabric of how we dealt with the past, and that fabric, that tapestry, is the forever binding to what we do with it, and take it into the future.

Which is looking pretty good, now that I have had a giggle and a sigh at the boxes of memories. I know I keep everything, photographs, toys, slips and receipts and you know why, when I feel lost, as I often do lately, it really helps with the courage, to say, I am ok, I can be proud of where I have come from and even more excited of where I am going.

 

 

 

What I loved this week.

 

This is Big Sky Country – South Africa

Hello from Somerset West in the Western Cape, South Africa.  My other home.  Here until February and plan to enjoy and explore as much as I can.  The Instagram needs some input!

Flying from cold London to intense heat in Mauritius, it is to the summer of South Africa.  Must admit to being relieved at the cooler weather on arrival, even rain, but now we are back to the full on Summer sun.  Unless you are at the beach, or beside a swimming pool, not the best, but the evenings make up for the heat of the day.  Complete opposite lifestyle to the one I live in London, I am in our family home, complete with a little garden and playing at all it entails. Putting my hands in soil, clipping rose bushes and the fragrance of fresh herb bushes is idyllic.  Rather than the sounds of London birdlife, it is the Guinea fowl that chirrup me awake in the mornings.  This is Africa and I am revelling in the joy of being here.

Christmas in the summer is not something I am used to, and it was wonderful.  Double Christmas celebrations!  Shared with friends and family, the eating is done to excess.  Throw in the odd braai (barbecue) and my favourite wine, Tranquil Blush from Haute Cabriere, I am happy to laze the days away.

Last week I took my youngest daughter to George, up the Garden Route.  My car has been cloistered in the garage for six months, so this was most beneficial to ‘clear the pipes’.  Love road trips with a passion and South Africans do them so well.  Though I have done this route a few times, I find the countryside nothing less than breathtaking.  Big Sky, vast landscapes, white washed farm houses all around.  It is a four hour drive and I literally kissed her goodbye and turned around to return home. Nothing like the best company, awesome music on full blast and the open road. A little different to the bus in London, not so?

When I returned to South Africa in April, it was going to be a sort of permanent arrangement.  It did not suit me and I was back to London, on my own terms. Now I return of my own accord and cannot be happier to spend the summer here. This is a holiday, surrounded by our family things and the pace is slow, as it should be on holiday. I have time to read, watch movies, go for long walks and eat healthily. No sad looking supermarkets with sad food in the grey days, and of course I have the best Woolies in the world on my doorstep!  Crush on the freshness of all. Even the coffee is brilliant, which is saying something from this Barrista.

Yeah, it’s that kind of spoiling myself time.  Thinking of the right nail colours is important when lounging.  Spoiling myself to facials and all sorts of body grooming, which on the pound, is peanuts. But, I have not been that idle, still read my favourites and these are some of the links I love to share this week.

A lady in London (one of my favourites) has listed some amazing winter walks to follow in winter in London. The city offers so much, at anytime of the year, so wrap up warmly and get out there, post Christmas, when we all feel a little deflated after the Christmas buzz.

Love my fellow bloggers and these are some amazing women over Fifty who you should follow on Instagram. We all have a story to tell, whether it be our love for fashion, following a divorce, beginning a new business and just living life to the full.  I take huge inspiration from all of them.  Love the fact that we all are able to have a voice now and resonate from each other.

Somehow, in the sunshine, I still need my Country Living fix and this quiz popped up.  Afraid I was dismal at it, but how would you fair?

Being on holiday, and not working seven days a week, this is the time to get those resolutions for the new year in place. I want to update my playlists, begin the new diary, plan my travels, get more technologically savvy and again, sort out the clutter stuff.  Been listening to the local radio stations on my mum’s radio and this song is getting so much airtime  Also the song of an ad in London and so yes, in the mood and love her.

Lizzo. Good as Hell.

 

Being the end of the year, it’s reflection time.  Some of the best books for 2019 – how many have you read?

I have my perfectly pristine diary all ready for 2020!  Though I do use the Google calendar on my phone, having a diary in my handbag is vital to me.  The same type of diary I have had for fifteen odd years – have to have the horizontal diary and I can only get it here in South Africa, so she is here on my desk, all ready to fill with exciting dates and times.  Diaries are a reflection of my entire life, not just meeting times so one can say, the journey is in all the dairies past, tucked away in a cupboard – my life is literally an open book.

Getting back to the garden.  Truth is I am trying to coax my David Austen roses to survive the harsh Cape climate.

Everyone else has better sense and planted indigenous.  The winds are fierce, there is a water shortage but no, I want my Litchfield Angels and have planted four of them.  They have, despite me not being here for six months, sort of survived and I have a bloom – hello girl! I am a fan of the Piet Oudolf idea of roses and grasses combined in a bed – got the grasses and nursing the roses.  Fortunately I have an amazing helper in Dosha, who comes to help me when I am away.

But it is back to the joy of being here in South Africa this week.  There is so much to do, the beaches are packed to bursting, the wine farms are beyond mere words, the sightseeing and Table Mountain is awesome.  Love the shopping, sipping and savouring of it all. So this week, it has been, for me, great to be here. More to come, but this week, the things I love the most, are the people, the climate, the views and the lifestyle of South Africa. Wish you were here.

Hello 2020!

‘What we call the beginning is often the end.

And to make and end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.”

T.S. Elliot

Goodbye 2019. You have been a strange bedfellow. Forever remembered as the highlight of my eldest daughter’s wedding and my fabulous 60th in Paris with my family.  The arrival of George, the multi-talented and genie of love that is possible in a dashund pup. Kinship and kindness in my jobs at St. Clement’s and Coutours, and life affirming beauty in the trips taken over the past twelve months. The unceasing love and support from my children and friends.

No life is all at the top of the big wheel and the chapters of painful loss, feeling small and moving yet again peppered the bright lights.  What the year did bring though, for me, was the ability to face these pockmarked moments with courage, something I barely felt over the past few years; and it is this courage which, in the end, has make 2019 a remarkable year.  

New Year’s resolutions are deep in the folds of my mind and I am sure to break them. 

As we begin the next decade, let it be with resolve to be brave.  About the dreams we see dim, bring them to the fore.  About the confidence we find wavers when we need it most.  About the love we hide for fear of rejection.  Have the courage to change our very core rather than settle for comfort and the courage to act against injustice, unkindness, loneliness and fear.

Courage is not just about brevity in the face of adversity.  It is the blade of honesty.  Admitting your faults, mistakes, regrets.  Being honest with yourself is perhaps the most courageous act – facing yourself and having the courage to admit you are not perfect.  Rather awful at times.  It takes courage to ask for forgiveness, of yourself and others.  Of letting go.  Choosing a different path. 

2019 taught me great courage, and in a silent but wonderful way, opened my mind to so many new things. More delight in what I had, stripped me, smacked me around, and lifted me to new levels of creativity, exploration and many, many avenues of life I had waved on by for fear of stepping off the sidewalk. The year has ended up on a happy note.  There is still many details to determine, knowing changes will happen, but not being afraid of what lies ahead.

So 2020, you are welcome. Waiting for you with my best frock on and the biggest bottle of Champagne!

Wishing you all the most exciting 2020, with love xxx

Image: Forbes

 

 

What I loved this week.

It’s been two weeks since I left the cold and Christmas love of London, bound for a ten day break in the gorgeous Mauritius.

I would not have planned a trip for myself to Mauritius per say – not the sort of place I would have thought to visit on my own, but it was a ‘good morning Kari’ on my 60th birthday from my dear friend Bev, with an airline ticket to the island.  Her present.  Bev is a present to me every day, and this was overwhelming. Landed in Cape Town at 11.40 in the evening, just time to toss the winter clothes, throw in the bikini and off the next day.

A quick thanks to the brilliance of Air France and Air Mauritius for amazing service and getting me halfway around the world in two days!  From four degrees to forty degrees and darlings, the body crisped up in a matter of minutes in the sun. I am now the shade of tomato, from lobster to tomato.  Learning to do absolutely nothing everyday was a bit of a strain in the beginning but swimming again, that was pure magic.

It is paradise indeed. Being with friends who knew me when I still believed I was going to marry Robert Redford and had stayed throughout the highs and lows of my life is something few have in their lives and I do know how blessed I am. I only hope I am as good a friend to them, as they are to me.  With the liberty of taking time out, a slow wi fi and literally just chilling, what were some of the things I loved this week? – other than the gorgeous holiday of course!

Finally got stuck into ‘The Fingersmith‘ by Susan Waters. If there is one book I can recommend or begin reading almost immediately again, it would be this epic novel.  Pulsating, thrilling and brilliantly executed.  Details and imagery of London and the Borough in the 1860’s, just up my street.

Since the arrival of George, I am so aware of dog friendly places to visit.  Sawdays has a great guide to Dog friendly hotels in the UK. This would make a fabulous gift for fellow dog lovers.

 

Watercolour of George by Madison de Villiers

For those fortunate enough to find themselves in Paris over Christmas (I do envy you), Paris Insider has some wonderful tips of things to do.  Still on the subject of Paris, I do try, and never really get it right, but this is a great guide to learning the different bridges spanning the Seine in Paris.  Which is your favourite? Cannot wait to see these early next year when I return. Still on the subject of Paris, good news for all – a face lift for the Champs-Èlysées

Cannot wait too see the results, and Paris again.

Something else I cannot wait to try again, and discover a few more venues for Brunch, is this article I found of the best places to have brunch in London.  Am constantly finding ‘the perfect coffee shop’ or the perfect spot for lunch in the different boroughs of London (St Clements being my favourite, of course) and now I have a handy guide for brunch.

Part of the gorgeous offerings by Coutours is The History of London in Four Drinks, which includes the history of Gin.  We also offer Gin tasting evenings which a so much fun for friends and family to share.  This article gives a great view of the History of Gin and it may just tempt you to join us for a more in-depth exploration of the History of Gin and a fabulous tasting to boot. Everyday I am so enthused by all that is still possible to explore in this silly world of ours.  Not only can we show you a unique part of London in a fun and informative way, we can also help you plan your days when you visit.  Herewith a list from the Londonist, of some of the superb exhibitions we can see in 2020, so get that itinerary on track!

The mind brims with all the ideas of these places to visit, what next year holds in store for me, travel wise and every way otherwise and I do believe it will be a fascinating year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are a few of my favourite things …

Christmas Time, Mistletoe and Wine …’

And oh dear, all intentions are lost, but not entirely lost.  There is a perfectly positive reason for the lapse in the new, weekly story.  And that is the point, it’s ok to sometimes not be on target.  The truth is, I have been lost in the very Christmassy life around me – absolutely, stunningly beautiful London at Christmas.  Officially feeling ‘Christmassy’. 

The past two weeks rolled into one with me working everyday of the week.  Either at Coutours or St. Clements.  I am blessed to have diverse and engaging occupations, meeting new people, ideal ‘office’ environment and the best co-workers one could ask for. My barista skills are coming on and my knowledge of Christmas icons hidden in London has grown.  Let me not reveal all, but if you do wonder by, head down, down Piccadilly – look up at the marvellous Advent Calendar that  are the windows of #fortnum and mason. The Art that is Window Shopping has me at thinking, it’s going to be difficult not to gush and repeat the word ‘wow’, over and over and over again.  Each detail, minute detail, designed and executed to present a scene of ‘wow.’! The story of the Christmas windows at Fortnum and Mason is a great read.

 

Another highlight of the Festive season was attending an evening with Madame Genever and Gent.  The occasion ‘Ghosts and Spirits’, the venue – 38th Floor of the Gherkin Building. The experience, priceless. I have never been up the Gherkin building, though she has been a landmark in London for many years (and the location for many films).  The view of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, that high up, at night, is etched forever.  Emma and Will entertained us with stories of Gin, ghost stories, stories of eerie co-incidence and how to make a Dark and StormyOnly with Black Seal Rum of course. Thank Goodness the night was perhaps dark, but not stormy being up so high in the sky.  

Not only did I finally get to go up the Gherkin, conquer my fear of heights – very creepy – as one walks all around the pinnacle, but had the proper canapés and gin experience with the wise and witty Emma and Will.  Great idea for corporate and special events.  

 

Leaves have fallen now, a few really fisherman’s coat coloured yellow one’s still clutching to feint branches, so natural has been replaced with oceans of fake for Christmas.  It’s all lights, candy stripes and metallics now. Not being an online shopper (the amount of plastic wrapping is heinous), I prefer every little nook and cranny, alley way and big Department store to do my shopping.  Been holding out with the ‘it’s not cold’ but brrrr, it is starting to bite now.  Yesterday, my lovely guests on our Icons of London; Christmas Special, were being extra brave outdoors – it is so worth it when the lights really begin to perform, but I think the Hot Mulled Wine (or Bishop) was most welcome in The Clarence, on Dover Street. 

The gorgeous staircase at Fortnum and Mason.

It’s all about finding the time, now that the year is running at a pace towards the Great 2020.  Office parties galore, lists of presents, and that not so good for you but must have party food – just because it’s all in miniature.  Why do I succumb to these little pastries, the silly crackers, the party hats – because we celebrate our families, spoil our children (and George) and also, ourselves in return.  It is the festive season, it is the spiritual season.  

It is the coming together in peace and goodwill.  The story of the Mistletoe originated as a Pagan custom, where warring opposites, finding themselves beneath Mistletoe in the woods, would lay down their arms until the next day.  From there, the idea of hanging mistletoe, and should on find oneself beneath it, a kiss could mean friendship, true love and perhaps,  the one to marry.

A good sign.  A good sign.  One more week to go.

 

 

Image:  Fortnum and Mason

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I loved this week.

  Love articles and stories about anything beautiful.  A good poem, how to prune a rose, a recipe for a mid-summer Jasmine cocktail.  The pretty, emotive, sustaining, travelling sort of stories that has me at the white picket fence, in the countryside (with a flat in the city), surrounded by dogs, an Aga and holidays at the beach – you know the sort.  Others too clever for words, making me giggle out loud in a coffee shop – weep with envy at their art. I bookmark hundreds articles I read and think, I must get back to that … and they become friends in my computer library, of all the things I love.

There is a type.  My interest type, subjects I gravitate too more often than not, but it is also through fellow bloggers that I find other pieces of interest and inspiration. Want to share them too.  This is going to be fun, I thought, this is going be similar to others I admire who list their favourite links on a weekly or monthly basis and why not credit and share if needed?  We could all do with the support of others – and the world will turn to kindness and learning.

I hope that some of the interesting articles and experiences I share with you, will inspire you also;  to travel, to bake, to make and plant and pluck to your heart’s content.  Forever curious, forever enchanted, forever learning about the good things in life.

Credit here for the idea of this endeavour, must be given to David Leibovitz at davidleibovitz.com whom it has been my delight to follow for many years, and Rebecca Plotnik, a wonderful blogger, photographer and creator of everydayparisian.com . There are so many, but these two first gave me the idea of sharing links that appealed to them, with their readers. Love their work. Both focus on life in Paris and of course that’s my heart gone, right there!

Over the past week I really enjoyed:

  • The coming of Christmas.  Too early to be singing ‘ All I want for Christmas’, but the lights are on in London.  No better way to beat the early darkness that threatens the most optimistic of souls. Could there be a better place to be for Christmas, than London?  Or Paris? Let me know.
  • The Escape to the Chateau.  Season 6.  I am obsessed and for me, Christmas comes early with Jack and Angel. If ever there was a modern fairytale … perhaps France has a little chateau for me.
  • Since the arrival of little George, the beloved Daschund, in our family, have doggie love in big loads of gorgeousness.  Have had dogs for many years, before we re-located a decade ago and now in love again.  They bring such joy and security don’t they?  Find myself looking at all things canine, and Country Living articles on dogs in particular.  You can imagine the Christmas list for George!

 

George.

  • Coutours.  Three different tours this week.  The pubs of Belgravia, fascinating stuff that links pubs to the murder of the nanny in the Lucan household, the secret meetings of the Great Train robbers, why we pin money on the ceiling for the dead soldier and secrets of those little pubs tucked away in the streets of this prestigious part of London.  We tasted cheeses and damson preserves in The Food Lover’s secret market walk and oh, the poor souls, lost to the taste of Gin in The History of London in Four Drinks, last week.  Think about gifting a tour to your boss, loved one, neighbour or as a secret Santa? – you will give them a walk to remember.
  • Eternally in love with Autumn, I indulged with a lie in on Sunday morning and Countryfile‘s Autumn Special, exploring the place that inspired the famous Ode to Autumn by John Keats.  For me, Autumn is always countryside, nestling and nature.
  • Most of the National Trust and Heritage Gardens are closing for the winter, though some do stay open, even if the houses are closed, so please check before you leave.  Happy to announce that Ham House is now dog friendly all year long, yay George, and even allowed into a certain section of the cafe.  We can still enjoy, and plan to visit some special gardens, and I have always been a fan of the National Garden Scheme.  For a last touch of summery joy, their choice of the best gardens for 2019 can be found here.

Hyde Park.  Splendour – plan to be in London next Autumn.

  • Though not to Paris this Christmas, I was fortunate to go in October.  The winter in Paris is amazing and I thought I would share an older blog of our visit to Paris a few years ago.  It may be cold, but like the cafés in London, most have outside seating and heaters and the cosiest indoors depending on your fancy.  When it comes to the Café de Flore, it’s outdoors for me all the way – all about people watching, people!
  • This week ( not that I like all the references to Oldies and Purple hats etc, but a great article on sleeping positions and how they change with age.  This is from The New Yorker Magazine, so let me know what you think?
  • Too early to talk about Christmas Decorations, though I must say, the department stores are full on already.  Including the jingles – too soon, she says, too soon …
  • Not too early to make the Christmas Cake though.  For me, it’s between Delia Smith and Mary Berry, every time.  This is the Mary Berry recipe.

A few of the things I did, read and loved this week.  And I leave you with a thought from Kahil Gibran. A week of reflection, fun, soaked by showers, making the Christmas lists and long walks in the park.  Golden leaves, puppy kisses, tourists and the delight of having a free, Over 60’s travel card in the city.  A week of missing, of waitressing, researching, trip planning, clients and customers.  The journal, the judging, the forgiving and finding the will to remain optimistic and just a little bit unpredicable, all at the same time.

Remember if you want to plan a tour to London or the UK, to Paris or South Africa, you can contact me on karen@mysilverstreet.com

Image;  The Daily mail, Secret London, Healingpetloss and visitlondon.

Autumn in London – The first letter.

Whim Wood

Katherine Towers

into the coppery halls
of beech and intricate oak
to be close to the trees
as they whisper together
let fall their leaves,
and we die for the winter

Am sitting in the pub, possibly one of the most ‘infamous, or famous’ pubs in London for a quick spot of lunch today.  Done the walk through for the actual ‘Belgravia Pubs’ Tour this afternoon.  What another spectacular, Autumnal day it is. We have been spoilt, and possibly going to incur deluge from now on, but I have revelled in this season.

Though not doing any volunteering at Ham House at present, have popped in often to sit in the Kitchen garden and watch the turning of the soil, the squashes stacked like sweetie jewels and walk about to Richmond along the river.  The gentleness of the season quite takes me by surprise.  Hopefully I shall be back at Ham in time.  The richness of the time is so evident in Richmond Park – stags and bambi’s in the bracken. But it is the trees, it is the leaves, it is the colours one cannot quite explain. This is why we English speak about the weather all the time – it changes so radically, is so specific and part of our psyche here.  You had to be here for Halloween, children all of us, shop windows, houses and every available space draped in cobwebs and witchery – nothing unusual to see adults shopping in Waitrose for wine, full Halloween make-up and a cape or two, carrying a carved out pumpkin, before jumping on the tube.

 

 

Have not had the opportunity to get out to see Autumn in the countryside, but I did get to see the King’s Kitchen Garden, and Versailles, before they close for the winter.  A day trip to Vaux de Vicomte, just outside of Paris, was a further treat.  In the Autumn and winter months, the real structure of the gardens come to the fore – the lavish foliage and colour fades to reveal the bones of design, the linear shapes of hedges and box – the starkness of fountains, statues and follies – stripped and strong. This I shall write more about.  Am still savouring my honey from the Jardin du Roi – more special to know the source of the food you eat.

The clearest sign ending the British Summer is the changing of the clocks. We now have an extra hour in the morning but it gets darker, earlier and personally, I would have it as is – I can handle more darkness in the morning, but to find the darkness come early, is usually when the black dog comes lurking out from behind the haunted house, so to speak. It makes for a very long evening and by December, feels as if I am permanently in a thick sludge of soup.  Other than the past years, and so remembering when I first came to live in England, I am determined to be more positive about it.  Don’t quite now how but if you have any ideas, please let me know.

Inspired by the Venetian jewel colours, I have so enjoyed adding a few new items to the Autumn wardrobe. Hobbs is spot on with their rich tartan skirt in burnt orange, I just had to have it, adding a divine matching cashmere polo neck top – the skirt is a statement; block coloured jumpers in a variety of shades and voilá, you are sorted.  Fell in love with their classic, black jeans – in the basket it went. Marks and Spencer’s ‘could it be vermilion? matching trio of scarf, gloves and beanie just has me at ‘Hello Burnt Da Vinci colours’ – loving the new additions.  My heavy coat is still back in Cape Town, but the layer dressing of – Uniglo‘s thinly padded purple jacket tucked under the good old faithful Barbour, really works. 

Country Living would be proud.  And now I have a grand puppy!  One of the highlights of this Autumn in London, is being with my family and little George.  The leaves in the park are almost bigger than him, but going for walks in Bishop’s Park, has opened up a whole new world for all of us.  There is another society out there (we are new to this) of dog lover’s,  more like dog-children lover’s which makes the Universe a  much better place. George has brought laughter and happiness;  he is so little and yet so brave.  So curious and so loyal, and that soft George belly has me at putty in his little paws. 

Another lovely addition to the chapter in My Silver Street, has been a beginning of ‘putting my courage to the sticking place’ and … taking up Art.  What began as a weekend course at The Wallace Collection, an absolute refuge for me, has developed into a fun meeting up of friends at the National Portrait Gallery for ‘Drop in Lates’ and classes with the beautifully talented and ‘very kind to me’ Art lecturer,  Alison Kusner – I am pretty dire, and she makes me feel like my art is unique and wonderful (I think her far too flattering) – I shall endeavour and what better time than this, when the nights draw in closer,  to be found in a gallery, perched on a chair with charcoals in your hand?  Loved the Pre-Raphaelite Sister’s exhibition.
This has been our Autumn in London. The Dutch Masters and Impressionists would have revelled in the glory of the golden time. It has been a golden time.  Living in the room has improved, I travelled to Europe in Autumn, the cafe is still lovely (did you know I was back there) and now I am waiting to take some lovely clients on a walk around the pubs of Belgravia.  The pub I am sitting in now, was, it is said, where the elite and the gangsters sat side by side.  Place of the Profumo affair and the planning of the Great Train Robbery …
Giving tours in London, discovering so much more of this incredible city at every turn, finding the stories, the history and the reasons that we all stay here, is a delicious way of being purposeful and earning a living.  Hard work, lots of learning and walking, but so rewarding.  Perhaps one day you can join me?  Have a look at Coutours – we also do bespoke tours for ten or fifty guests – perhaps a voucher for a loved one for Christmas?  We have plenty of tales to weave through the wonder of London. 

And of course … South Africa won the World Cup Rugby!  Delighted that both the English and South African teams make the final but was rooting for South Africa all the way – the win means more than just the game.  It means hope and injected a little more spirit into a beleaguered country, reminding us of the possibilities of greatness still lying within her midst.  That was amazing. Well done to all of you.

As Bridget Jones would say ‘ must dash’.

Chat soon.

Images: The Guardian, Secret London, Time out

Poem: Katherine Towers