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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Silver Train Glamour under the sea.

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Guilty of ritual governance in my life.  Never been on the Orient Express or Rovos  (oh please one day!), mais have indulged in my halcyon imaginings on the Eurostar that takes me from London to Paris.   Repeat, London to Paris … 

Not going to muddy the fantasy with past tales of stuck the the tunnel.  Not going there.  It is a gorgeous experience, now upgraded and wi-fi, movie and music options.  Indulging time.

IMG_1681 Sleek.  Why the love dream with the Eurostar?   First, the leaving from St. Pancras.  Architectural stage set, one already feels special when you step into this building.  They should give five minute tours on the history of St. Pancras.  Confession that for years before corrected, I did call it St. Pancreas. Then there is the, for me, the tradition of always meeting up with my travelling companions at Le Pain …..  LPQ if one wants less flowery mispronunciation.  To get into the French way of doing, going to Paris, France you understand.  Seduced by Croissants and bread we should not eat, cups without handles and ze french accent in the air.

Secondly, there are these two magnificent cities – Eurostar is the Fixer, bringing the two together without the humdrum and dishevelling of airport security and stress, stress, stress.  Things move rather rapidly depending on the choice of bank holiday, group tour, time of train option you carefully avoid.

Thirdly, you are sitting in a decent seat.  The ‘not plaiting your knees into your hair’ sort of seat – morph seat.  All you need then, is diary, music, coffee (or wine), the dreamy expression and let the Silver Tube take you under.

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The upgraded Silver Eurofish has a few other plus points.  Let’s talk toilets with simple how to for idiots like me who fears the touching of anything in toilets on public transport – take easier reading of coach numbers (I was the one you saw with her nose against the side of the train unable to read the coach number and the same goes for inside) – take more luggage space for those who make a weekend in Paris a removal of their house excursion (hate, hate those coffin carriers) and a few other simple things I forget but enjoyed at the time.

Not so good yet?  One attendant for the dining (spot the ‘dining’) carriage and a snake of people who just look silly.  We lined up against the wall, then had to sort of decide where to stand next and ended up like a group of toddlers hanging onto an imaginary rope reading for an outing.  Not good.

The Internet is unpredictable but she is a novice in this exercise and I am a patient person, for now anyway.

Hell I love that bursting upon French soil with light affirmity.

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Silver Style.  Silver Star – now to wish an upgrade at Gare du Nord please.  Then all is Silver lining.

Images:

outsidepallent