Tuesday, 13 December 2011

'Tis the Season

...for loads of DVDs to start piling up in our postbox! Since Astrid was born, we don't get to the cinema much anymore (like, actually never) and last year was pretty chaotic so we didn't actually get around to watching very many of Matthew's BAFTA screeners, but this year we're really trying to get stuck in. Sadly, we've only seen one film so far, but it was a really good one: The Guard. (Okay - it's really good if you liked In Bruges, which was directed by this guy's brother, and you don't mind a lot of swearing, good-natured racism, prostitutes and casual violence. So, not your cup of tea, Mom!)

So we're trying to be conscientious BAFTA members but this year's film-makers aren't making it easy. A lot of the films they're sending are challenging, to say the least. This is the batch they sent yesterday, along with my thumbnail reviews. My analysis is based, as usual, on a mish-mash of things I've heard on the radio, headlines of reviews I haven't read in full, and posters I've seen on the Tube, usually as my train is speeding past the platform.

The Deep Blue Sea - based on a Terrence Rattigan play and starring Rachel Weisz as the ruined woman. Looks dreary, though I'm sure the art direction is very good and she looks amazing in period costume.

Melancholia - Lars van Trier. Ugh. Kirsten Dunst. Double ugh. About the actual destruction of the world, unlikely to be a real upper.

We Need to Talk about Kevin - School shooting and associated parental guilt. Although every review I've read quotes the hilarious line, "Mummy used to be happy. Now Mummy wakes up every day and wishes she were in France," I can't imagine this will actually be very funny.

Wuthering Heights - Andrea Arnold's gritty, realist interpretation of an overwrought Romantic novel - now with added race issues! Apparently, her tactic of using non-actors is not as successful here as in her earlier film Fish Tank (which really was very good).

Archipelago - according to the Guardian, this film is "subtle, mysterious, murky and utterly distinctive". Note that the word "entertaining" is not used (though the Telegraph does say it is "hilariously uncomfortable". Okay).

Fire in Babylon - a doco about West Indies cricket in the 1970s/80s. Might actually be fun to watch.

Knuckle - a doco about bare-knuckle boxing in the Traveller (Gypsy) community. Likely not as much fun to watch. The Guardian calls is a black comedy without the comedy - ouch!

Sleeping Beauty - weird, Australian psycho-sexual drama, rumoured to be quite arty. Bleurgh.

Snowtown - an "often unwatchable" Australian serial killer movie about "a twisted family and a blighted community", a "social-realist horror show". But based on a true story! Good times!

All I can say is bring on Arthur Christmas, Tin Tin and The Muppets.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Our basement is in total disarray - as in, there are no walls left. Our very nice builder Paul (I'm not just saying that to butter him up; he is genuinely very nice!) spent all day yesterday hacking off the plaster to reveal some very iffy looking brick walls underneath. He's coming back tomorrow to plaster and then on Sunday to finish it up. So. Very. Excited.

Of course, the basement/bedroom won't be finished on Sunday. There are still the stairs to do. And the floor. And the cupboards. And the painting. Only then can the decorating start, though I've already got ideas. Actually just the one idea, since it's a very small space and so it has to stay really simple to keep from being too junky. So far all I've planned is making a curtain for the little window - a single panel of unbleached linen with a light lining. Woo-hoo, huh?

Since I'm putting my brick-and-mortar decorating on hold for the moment, I've been finding alternative outlets for ornamentation, like these lovely wallpapers:

Frankie magazine - an Australian fashion/lifestyle mag with a wispy, ethereal, retro kind of aesthetic. I'm currently rocking the embroidered kitten on my laptop.

Fossil - very retro, sporty/nautical, sort of Team Zissou vibe.

V&A Shop - and just one more reason for Facebookers to "like" the V&A shop - lovely vintage fabric wallpapers.

The Graphics Fairy - Not wallpaper, but another place to find pretty things for your computer. Who wouldn't love an old timey engraving of, say, a long-tailed field mouse?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


We have so much stuff going on at the moment and in the immediate future, including some actual "work" on the house coming up very soon. In fact, I'm supposed to be clearing out the basement at this very moment - so, of course, I finally feel moved to write a blog post. Funny, huh? I don't actually mind clearing the basement; I have already made very good progress and boxing things up is a lot like playing with my fabric and craft supplies. But blog posts take place upstairs, which means that I can be a) playing on the internet, b) eating chips and salsa, and c) watching Ace of Cakes, all at the same time. Multi-tasking is fun!

I am very excited about impending home improvements. We've been doing bits and pieces in the garden and it's really gratifying to see the change - there's a very good "effect to effort" ratio. I spent £20 at the garden centre up the road and a month later everything is still alive and flowering. Nice! And it's been agreed with the other freeholders to paint the front of the house! I am so happy about this, because lots of other houses along the street are freshly painted while ours...has a plant growing out of the 2nd floor window ledge. I think the new paint will smarten things up, so that the exterior gives a better indication of the cuteness inside.

The biggest project (from our point of view, since painting the house is obviously a pretty big undertaking but not one in which we will have any direct involvement) is getting our basement sorted out. It's damp, so a very nice man named Paul is going to chip off all the plaster, treat the walls with a liquid PVA and then re-plaster with a mixture which includes another damp-proofing agent. Then everything will be painted bright white. Sometime after that, we're going to put down a new floor, possibly a laminate as it turns out that the rubber flooring I wanted is not only difficult to keep clean but also really expensive. Then we're having the stairs re-done - at the moment they're just open steps with no risers - and having cupboards built in underneath. When all that's done, we're going to move our bedroom down there and turn the upstairs bedroom into an actual nursery. Granted, it will be a nursery with a futon in it. I would have hoped that by the age of, well, nearly 40, I'd be living a futon-free life, but sometimes things don't work out the way you imagine. And it'll be somewhere to sleep when we have guests and the rest of the time, a nice place to read stories.

But enough of my unrealised furniture-related ambitions. In addition to the home improvements, we're also just generally busy. I've gone back to work two days a week, while Matthew stays home with Astrid. She is getting very active and very sociable, so we have activities almost every day, which she really likes and which I am finding exhausting. She is growing, hitting lots of developmental milestones, and eats well - I never imagine I would peel and chop so many apples and pears. I don't really mind, though.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Girard Strikes Again

The poster on Craftzine writing about these wooden dolls by Mark Giglio thinks they look Scandi-Japanese, which they do, but I think they're more than a little reminiscent of my beloved Alexander Girard dolls:
While the Girard dolls are essentially two dimensional, Giglio's figures are turned on a lathe and so have very solid geometric forms. They are hand-painted, which makes a nice sort of contrast to their very precise shapes.
Giglio says his next project is quilting - which makes me instantly start daydreaming about awesome Girard-inspired quilt designs. Note that I say "designs" rather than "actual, completed quilts", since it is an awful lot easier to measure, draw and colour in designs in my graph-paper notebook than to actually do any sewing.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Local Colour

Well, in the end we had an eventful, joyous and tragic 2010. Astrid was born, but we also lost a close family member suddenly and shockingly just a few months later and our family seems so much smaller without him. There has been a lot to think about and try to process, so I don't have anything particularly pithy to write about the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one. But here are some things I've seen (fairly) recently:

We walk past the Gaff every time we go to the grocery store. It used to be a heavy metal pub. Back then, I'd always see anemic-looking mulletheads hanging around outside wearing t-shirts that read "Evil Death" or "Kill Me". They weren't scary; I felt sort of sorry for them. Then it had a revamp and emerged with a punk/rockabilly vibe. We haven't been, because Astrid never lets us do anything fun, but as you can see, they have lots of interesting sounding bands. Matthew had his birthday party there last year and was going to have it there again this year, but as of Sunday, it was closed and is being converted to a Costa Coffee. Boo hiss, indeed. I love the idea of naming a band UK Vomit - it's so simple yet so aggressive, and informative. Is that the band Vomit from Germany? No sir, this is the UK Vomit.

In October, I went with my book group on a tour of Highgate Cemetery. I'd been to the western side before, as Matthew took me there on our first date. (I asked him about this once. He said he thought I'd be impressed to see Karl Marx's grave. When I asked why, he said, "I don't know - but it worked, didn't it?") This time we toured the East Cemetery, which is beautiful but actually quite spooky. This is the Rossetti family grave. D.G. isn't there - he's buried in Kent, for some reason - but Lizzie Siddal and Christina Rossetti are. It kills me that Christina Rossetti, who was a very gifted poet, is almost literally a footnote on her own grave.

And this is something I saw the other day walking home from the shops. The sunset turned the con trail the same brilliant pink as the other, wispier clouds and it was just so very pretty. It just goes to show that, while it's important to watch where you're going (to avoid dog poo if nothing else), it pays to look up now and then.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Ad Astrid Per Aspera

As I think many expectant parents do, I had a lot of ideas about how things would be with my baby, the birth, the blissful first few days and weeks at home, my speedy recovery and all the fun outings we'd go on. I did a lot of nesting in the run up to my due date, decorating the nursery corner of our room, as seen below:

We put up two picture ledges and I arranged and re-arranged the pictures on them. I hung up little dresses (including the two I made) and put all the neatly folded receiving blankets underneath. I arranged her toys and books on her little white shelf. I bought a kit and started trying to teach myself to knit from a pamphlet.

Then the due date came. And went. And then two more weeks went by with no sign of baby. The natural water birth at the birthing centre was abandoned for an induced birth in the labour ward. Then that turned into a forceps delivery in an operating theatre. But in the end, we got our baby. I also got stitches in a tender area, but that's not the point.

The point is that Astrid is here. She is lovely and sweet and very pretty and somehow contains all the love, hope, passion, faith, integrity and goodness that can be found in me, in Matthew, and in our families going back into the mists of time. She contains all these things and yet somehow magnifies them back to us. She is small and pink. Her mouth is a perfect rosebud and her head smells like heaven. She is a flower and a star and I love her very much.

Monday, 14 June 2010


I've heard a lot about the nesting instinct and, from my own experience, I'd say it's real. In our case, it's taken the form of actual baby preparations like acquiring all the equipment (crib, pushchair, bouncer, carrier, etc), clothes, packing the hospital bag, etc, but also making some home improvements. It's sort of like how having a party can be the impetus for a good house cleaning and, I find sometimes, doing little decorating jobs you haven't got around to, but much more intensive. We have a new front garden gate, which is very similar to the old one but is better because it has a latch, swings open and closed, and isn't made of disintegrating rotten wood that breaks off whenever you touch it. Matthew and his friend Steve painted the shed, which was flaking pretty badly and looked grey, even though closer inspection showed that it was actually painted green. It's now a beautiful sage green that looks so pretty and fresh amid all the plants that I think we're going to have to start calling it the summer house - it just looks too good to be a shed!

Inside, we've rearranged and redecorated the bedroom, which used to be turquoise with red accents. Now it's a colour called "Whisper of Dramatic" - which you can be forgiven for not guessing is actually pale grey with a touch of lavender. Very calm and pretty. To go with the new walls, we've also got new bedding. This set is from Designer's Guild:
(That's not our bedroom - it's the photo from the packaging. Our front garden is looking good, but not that leafy and green.)

Then I went to Ikea the other day to get meatballs and a bedside table. I completely forgot the meatballs, but came back with two new sets of bedding. The first is sort of a Swedish toile and is so light and soft it's like sleeping on a cloud:
The second is a bit more colourful, but still manages to be restful enough to sleep on. Also very soft and luxurious:
We got rid of (i.e. donated to the charity shop down the road, who are probably getting tired of seeing us at this point in our nesting mania) all our other mis-matched or unloved bedding besides these new ones and a paisley duvet set from Monsoon Home. We also got a little chest that sits at the foot of the bed for storing the bedding. Every set has the right number of matching pillow cases and sheets - it's so grown up!