Keeping faith and those French cafés.

C’est possible!

Saturday afternoon and I am onto my bigillionth cup of tea. Am a viable little teapot of late. Morning tea, blah mid-morning tea, after lunch tea … afternoon tea… it goes on and on and on. Count tea before I can count the wine. Dream of coffee. Dream of coffee on the sidewalks of Paris, which since this week, is possible again. Who would have thought, those tightly packed cafés, a breath from the person next to you, facing forward and viewing the world with a great little noisette, would be back in business? Can’t keep a good thing down.  Drinking coffee at home, during the lockdown, just isn’t the same n’est pas? Paris has come to life again, and plans made, sidewalks widened, tres interesting head gear in place,  the romance may be tainted, but not forsaken. Talking of inspiration, I have my little list this week.

Getting away, when I can get away. It’s to the beaches, the mountains, the cities. Until it actually happens, here’s to dreaming of Europe’s beaches. This of course, may have to wait until next year, and I shall never complain about Easyjet ever again. Much to complain about of course, nothing like the six am flight from Gatwick to lose one’s faith in humanity, big time; having to reduce luggage befitting a sparrow on route to the sun, the security snarls, stripping and apologising for whatever because you are convinced you must be guilty of some heinous crime. Not to mention the lovely louts in airspace, drinking largers in slipslops and the greasy spoon offerings before being shoved into a seatless space whilst the Speedy borders bully their way in front of you. I digress, I will not complain of Easyjet again for she can get me to the beaches of Shirley Valentine and Donna Sheridan. Low Budget airlines do test the faith, but I am keeping the faith to get to travel again. Hold that plane!

Whilst the rest of the world slowly returns to a semblance of what we know, the focus for me, rather than be pessimistic (and I have my moments), is instead on the amazing resilience all around. The last to be allowed to resume to business are the Hospitality, Wedding and Events and Beauty industries. You can imagine what the hair looks like now – think Charles Manson, but even in this faith remains for rescue. Many restaurants have turned to delivery services, setting up shop outside to serve customers. Entrepreneurs are offering online courses, writing great articles and making videos to keep their livelihoods relevant whilst holding out for salvation – it will come.

We will always want to go somewhere special to celebrate, meet friends. Weddings will happen. All will be well, if but in a different form.

We are still here. We have planning and projects to explore. Face realities of what still exists and what we can salvage out of what is not working anymore.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Brene Brown. Keeping the faith is key. Believing that we can rise, change, deliver and drag ourselves up from the floor over and over again, is what makes each of us unique and valuable.

Adding bookmarks of inspiration to daily life, is what it means to plan forward, rather than be stuck in the disappointment of the time. We need creativity, innovation and regeneration now. New careers are out there, it may be a first for you, doing something you never dreamed of.

Think outside the box, if the box of your life has a lid on it. No matter our age, we are all going to have to be inventive – no-one is immune to change and this mother of all change has many of us in the starting blocks, running a new race. I’m ready and impatient to start. And then to the beach and a stop at the Café de Flore.

 

Image: Christophe Petit Tesson

Victory in Europe, travel and resilience. Going somewhere slowly.

Today, seventy-five years ago, Europe, breathed again.  Victory in Europe day.  Enemy defeated, though years of hardship lay ahead.  Survivors remained frightened, mourned, lost incomes, homes, the semblance of normality.  Individuals questioned just about everything, trusted few … had little to hold onto, but, little by little, began again.

The war to end all wars.  Not so much.  We are in the midst of The Third World War, only this time the enemy is an unseen virus.  We will get through this, and most now acknowledge that the world as we know it, and ourselves, will never be the same.  We will take the rubble of life remaining and build something quite unique.  My daughter keeps telling me that the previous war went on for four years, I should be patient after wanting it done within weeks.  We are an impatient lot, are we not?

In this strange time, my thoughts turn to sowing seeds and watching things grow. I can’t remember the last time I planted seeds.  The other day someone spoke of October and instinctively, I thought, that’s months ahead, I won’t be here … and they cancelled my flight to London, indefinitely. The idea of doing the same thing, day in and day out is foreign to me, but perhaps I will learn.  Cancelling all my travel plans today, hotels and Eurostar brought such sadness to my heart.  In the ensuing boredom of mid-lacklustre morning, scratching around the house for want of something to do (apart from the incessant cleaning), I found a wooden box, filled with my mother, and grand-mother’s photographs.  There are oceans of them floating around, these taken on a trip to Europe, a mere four years after VE day in 1945.

First trip to see family in Holland since the war.  Visit other European countries, travelling again.  The moment did not go amiss.  Was is not for my parent’s love of travel, I would not have walked past St. Paul’s weeks ago. During the war, a German bomb pierced the dome of St. Paul’s, destroying the high alter.  In 1945 services given in thanks for the end of the war, was attended by more than 35 000 people – the church survived.  I pop into the side chapel whenever I can. Notre Dame is being rebuilt.  We need to witness these magnificent symbols of man’s ability to create, design, paint, plant and build, to be in awe.  We travel to experience these pillars of man’s resilience under adversity, in and to tame nature, to glorify God or the gods, to be humbled and surprised.

How patient my parents, and their parents must have been back then, waiting to travel again.  To see for themselves how the world has changed.  To re-connect again. How patient must we be?

Today is VE day.  Against the odds, the war ended.  Maybe we will have a VE (virus elimination) day soon.  Pray it happens.

Have a blessed weekend and keep the spirit – it’s been weeks since the Hag meltdown thank goodness … looking back to plan going forward.

 

A strange, but lovely week.

Cannot tell you how enveloped with the pride at managing the second week of ‘Couch to 5K’ and the soothing voice of Sarah Millican, though I think I may require physiotherapy quite soon.  This is the body of the 60 something – there is the fortitude and strong belief, and then there is the reality of wanting to, from sloth to super marathon, in isolation syndrome.

It is a syndrome, like the Stockholm syndrome;  the angst and terror has become an intimate bond of small spaces and the real desire to ‘begin again’ – clear all, delete all and gather the threads.  Finding half embroidered project abandoned years ago – shall finish that.  Open the puzzle (did so with great fever) – if I can manage one piece per day, quite chauffed.  All these things being rather attached to becoming unattached, it is a syndrome.  One good thing though, as the Hag is slowly transforming into Corona Syndrome of coping, calculating and blah, am no longer succumbing to all day and night attire, or flicking the edge of the duvet in an illogical attempt to convince myself ‘what does it matter anyway.’  The hair is now balayage – am not going gray with threads of luscious platinum – it’s murky mordor with follicles of grey on the top and remnants of burlesque blond at the bottom. And I am getting used to it. Go figure, I haven’t lamented about the lack of salon once – except for the waxing.

I digress.  I am doing well, as I am sure you are.  I am also about to run out of wine again and the restriction on that front is a mirage, enough said.  There are ways and then there is always pineapple beer – if I can do the hair, I can ferment something in the garage. Depends of the level of mania.

One of the more fetching activities over the past few weeks, has been the restoration of my slither of a garden.  For want of any garden centre open, I have been talking (yes, we know) and coaxing my roses to what is now a shower of white blooms throughout.  Summer splendour. Was I not too acutely aware of how boring photos of single blooms are (little like some food photos) I would present my pretties.  Gardening and Spring.  Hence Monet’s garden. The book was bought there on my first visit in 2007 and I have been back for more.  Longing for the repeat.

Another, ‘The English Garden’ by Peter Coats.  At least twenty years old.  I have so many gardening books and always dreamed of owning one, with borders and a kitchen garden, how about you?  This has not turned out to be (though I still dream) and it does not lessen my love for visiting others.  It’s about the ethereal beauty of creating and taming nature. Ethereal beauty.  Makes me happy.

What else inspired me this week.  A few links you may enjoy.

  • Of course, a little gardening to begin with.  Love Alan Titchmarsh and Country Life has offers some of his wisdom.
  • Passionate crush on Peonies, and yes, more gardening advice from The English Garden, on how to grow them.
  • Do you know about the National Garden Scheme?  These are private gardens, some offering B&B options and if you love gardens, make a plan to see some in England.  Enjoy the virtual tours of some of the most stunning on show.
  • Longing for Paris? Afar will help you be a Parisian in the lockdown (not so much comfort) of your own home. Viva all those croissants.
  • Talking Paris? David Lebovitz will help you create a bar in your own home.  Look for his virtual classes on his website. Love his journey to Paris and making a new life, his own way.
  • Setting the background to a groundhog, lockup day. Hip Paris.

Is it  all about gardening and Paris? C’est vrai.  These are the happy places, the garden and a memory trip to Paris.  Been a week of real frustration, then feeling bad about being frustrated because so many are worse off, and then being frustrated because, at sixty, life has a few more chapters and I feel as if I am in limbo in one.

We are all in limbo. We are all feeling fragile and lost. Strange times indeed.  But is this not the perfect time to also take stock of that long … yes … long life and go … ain’t done yet, and plan.  Perhaps for the first time you are putting yourself first? Going for the make or break? Changing what you think was a given to a bust up of set things?

It has been a strange week indeed. Angry, annoyed, anxious but so worth buckling down to change.  For in the fear, the lack of fear is the one true thing we can give ourselves.  It is a gift to dream, and not fear if all is still out there.  Take care of yourself, give yourself a break and dream.  No matter where you are now … you owe it to yourself to dream, be it a trip to Paris, a lovely garden, friends and family and getting off that couch. You are worth more …fyi … you are here.  Where to tomorrow?

Let’s see and go there. My homework is done, I have passed (albeit with maybe not the best marks) but nothing like a little lockdown to fuel the ambition.

Take care …

Staying inspired and getting innovative.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Never, for me, have these words been more true.  Where I am in lockdown, we are only allowed the essentials and medicine – no extras.  Tried to buy some Rosecare yesterday no, and Art supplies, also no.  Use what you have, do what you can:  nothing like a make up brush for my online art class this morning.  Brought back the small box of watercolours, avec tiny bitty brush and MacGyver like, innovative use of said make up brush.

Day 10 of lockdown, and dare I say it, things are getting a little easier and only if the end is in sight, which sometimes fades … and then I really have a major anxiety attack.  It doesn’t last too long which is largely due to  the multitude of wonderfully innovative people out there, adapting and delivering on a whole new level. Viewed from my living room. Organisations keeping us entertained with viral beauty, online courses sprouting, literally, everywhere.  Delightful chefs sharing recipes, memes to make us laugh, the list of buzzing ideas makes me quite dizzy – so if my day is spent alone, mostly in front of my computer. I am in a world changed, but also remarkable.  We may all become very lounged and lazy, but bored, never.

When I left London a few weeks ago, one of the many things I miss, is my Art Classes.  What started as a weekend of Life Drawing at the Wallace, has become a group of friends, under the guidance of the delightful Alison – art teacher and lecturer supreme. Alison gives art classes in schools, privately and at the National Portrait Gallery, as well as bespoke tours of the National and Portrait Galleries.  Because of the current situation, Alison is, like the rest of us, housebound.  No longer missing out, for we have gone viral – Zoomers all, and today we did various Japanese Watercolour techniques. Even with my lack of proper tools, spent the morning transported to a make-shift studio dabbling with colour whilst jabbering away.  What soul stuff for me.

Of course we are all reeling and most stressing about our livelihoods.  Never more true then are the words of start where you are, use what you have and do what you can.  What about taking your business virally, or changing your direction all together? Find inspiration around you and always believe that ‘ ‘n boer maak ‘n plan’  – a farmer makes a plan, a wonderful Afrikaans expression.

What else inspired me this week?  A few little bits and bobs of articles for starters:

  • One of my favourite chef’s Janhas come up with a Lockdown meal plan, and it looks delicious!.
  • HiP Paris has a lovely article on how to experience Paris from you armchair.  First stop darling.
  • Country Living shares 8 magnificent gardens you can visit virtually.  How many have you been too?
  • For serious, uplifting inspiration, nothing better than watching Escape to the Chateau and the DIY spinoff.
  • Countrylife SA has some great articles on interesting towns in South Africa.  Uplifting stuff.
  • More Francophile inspiration from The Simply Luxurious life, a favourite of mine too.
  • Good for the exercising all, but ladies, did you know how important that pelvic floor is? Off you go …
  • And of course, my lovely National Trust has a blossom watch list for those going into spring.

Just had to pop the exercise link in there – now more than ever we have to fight the flab.  Inspiring too, to see how innovative everyone is getting for not being able to get out – I work out (all ten minutes of it) on the garage floor.

And there are many, many other places to find inspiration – when the chips are down, the ideas spew forth. Put the music on and pencil in hand …

Don’t know about you but sometimes I get a little iffy if others tell me what I need and should do – is it the ‘grumpy’ thing, I don’t know. Although I fail miserably at times, I try not to tell, but learn from, rather pep myself when things are askew in the world.

The lockdown, and I thought afternoon naps were going to be part of the miserable pattern of inertia and depression, Now I need to make every hour count.  Paint, chat, clean, exercise, cook …(feels a little like living in the last century),  you know the drill. and not justifying wine before the proper wine o’ clock (even after the mouse debacle).  If I had to wait for the first plane to fly over before pouring the cold medicine of the vine, I would be stone.

Hope your day was a pretty awesome one.  Till soon xxx

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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 [email protected]

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

Me, and my money jar. I learn, and I shall earn, and do it my way.

In 1970 … something, a defining turn of events would forever change my course of history.  Mid junior year, the nuns of The Notre Dame Convent, my little school, were instructed to cease teaching arithmetic and begin teaching maths. Babes, us all.

Boxes arrived with green books for the students and a red one for the teacher.  The answers were written in the red one.  No-one, including the nuns, were sent on preparatory classes, understood it quite frankly:  numbers and the alphabet in between, it was simply easier to reveal the answers and let us run, with barely a passmark. I ended up hopeless at maths, and though I loved arithmetic, was left with a deep distrust for anything that made no sense to me.

Rather Pluto than Pythagoras.  By no means ‘ahhhhh ‘ I can’t do it, or understand it, but rather, if I did not need to … I have other things to do.  And so, Belle left the financial investment side of things to darling during marriage – such a cliché now isn’t it?  Darling and Financial Advisor would build the portfolios, pension funds, growth this and risk taking that and I would make sure the children had swimming costumes for the gala, and run the car and diary. Tax was like a distant relative, one I had heard of but never really to meet up close.

Personally, half the reason I didn’t really pay attention, other than I was not required to, is that I was weary of predictions and all that stuff – I mean, every economist in the world, still claims they did not see the Sub Prime coming, and they were supposed to be the experts?  Anyway, I digress:  when darling did decide to leave, and the shock and horror of divorce anaesthetises your very existence, finances are the very last elements you are thinking about.  Yes, you do think you will die, and I did believe that I was going to end up in a council flat, but that was only because I was dealing with a pocket full of not knowing what the hell my future finances were.  I never want to be in that situation again, ever again.

Whilst re-training to breath and a very odd habit of hiding money under the pillow, just in case –  (anyway started the fuck you fund far too late – was never going to happen) also informed by those at the head of the Financial portfolio Information desk, what I would and would not be getting.  No negotiation,  no requests, and honestly, no reason to not accept, so hopeful was I of a turnaround and romantic ending.  I was also told that apparently no-one leaves a relationship without planning it for a long time, so if this is true or not, there would be a few elements to the Financial Portfolio that could well have been omitted for sake of brevity and a swift separation. Besides, I did not even think of challenging or questioning or whatever, demanding an audit whilst flaying myself religiously, I mean, what could I have done about it anyway?  Possibly nothing then, but certainly now.  Some notes:

  • It never ends as badly as you think it will.  It will be bad and you may have less than you imagined, may have to start all over again, but hey, you have control of your life now.
  • Whatever you thought, or did not know about finances, astonishing how fast one learns.  Wunderkind you!  Was that you I saw reading the FT, you go smartie!  Still a trifle boring though,  methinks…
  • Back to the having little left.  That little is like the magic bean, it is going to propel you into many different actions, a job, a career, investing in your own or someone else’s business.  It’s like having pocket money all over again, and remember how so little was all the money in the world!  
  • Cutting down is so in these days. Minimalist everything is sexy and strong.  
  • Nothing like that drive deep in your heart to prove to yourself you can control, and empower your own life, to make you sit up and be the Chairman of your own financial portfolio. Take advice, but let your decision be yours, the person you trust the most.
  • Finally, the learning to say ‘no’ because you are saving money, does not make you a poverty queen, only that saying ‘no’ means it does not work for you, and you have other plans.

When darling told me; ‘ It’s time to take control of your own finances,’ I thought he was kidding.  That’s not fair, I whimpered, mumbling I was too old to learn. Hah, thanks for doing that darling, I am so loving this new adventure, and today, when my Financial Advisor suggested something, I could actually say … it doesn’t work for me and let them know what I wanted to do.  Felt fabulous and something else, my darling was right, he knew I could do it.

When said FA told me would not be able to afford a property,  let alone get a mortgage in the future,  I thought to myself … time was I would have simply believed it, and now, thinking, maybe it’s time I made a plan, or find someone who does believe like I do.

More on The Jam jar, but for now, there are many great women out there with brilliant financial advice, many women who work in conjunction with Divorce lawyers to assist in this transition and make sure you are supported all the way.  I love ‘The Wealth Chef’ and blogs by Mary Waring for inspiration but if you are looking for more details on professional contacts I have to help you, please email me.

We are there for you.

Those darling nuns, no-one to provide some help, but how times have changed – bless them!

 

Images: 123rf,