Thursday, 28 January 2010

Collar necklace combo

Since MAKING my way around Britain for BBC Newsnight, I've become more and more interested in creating things other than hats. Of course hats will always have a special place in my heart, but sometimes you're not in the mood to put something on your head! I've been working on this idea of collar/necklaces for a while, and I made this sample up the other day. The base fabric is an old 60's dress from Deptford market (of course!) and it's trimmed with all sorts of magpie treasures that I've collected over the last few months. I'm doing a simple version as a pack - so people will be able to buy the pack and make up their own collar. This is a more crazy couture version - great fun and not tricky to make - just a bit time-consuming! I'd love to hold a workshop for people to make these. Do you think it might catch on? The great thing about them is you just add them to a T-shirt, jumper or dress - and you've got a completely different outfit. Great for that day to evening transformation!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Philosophy of life down at the launderette

So - I go to the launderette to do my post-Morocco washing. Some readers will know that I don't have a washing machine, having never got around to getting one installed, and now I feel like it's maybe a good thing that I don't needlessly wash things every day but have to stop and think about it. Anyway, I'm greeted by a guy who starts talking about the New Year and then says " well of course we're only going to live till we're about 60 or 70 - so my philosophy is that we might as well make the best of every day." Now I agree with that in principle, although of course like most people, I fail to really appreciate each single day, especially when there are bills to pay, proposals to write and rats to get rid of. But as a 42 year old woman, his words also gave me a bit of a jolt of the "my God - that only gives me another 18 years" variety. So I told him that hopefully I'd have a bit longer (barring tragedies). We started discussing what makes a good life. He said he felt that it was living simply, without lots of debt, and most of all believing in God. Well..I agree about the debt, I'm figuring out how to deal with mine at the moment. But the God thing is a tricky one for me. I said that I wondered at nature, and marveled at the examples of creativity I saw around me, but that I couldn't necessarily make the step to God. He tried convincing me, and we ended up chatting for about half an hour, other people doing their washing joining in too. It's quite something when you set out to wash your knickers and return having discussed the meaning of life. It's a shame the Launderette is up for sale to the tune of £200,000. No doubt it will be taken over by someone trendy or turned into a swish home. I'm going to have to buy a washing machine and stop talking about God!

Monday, 18 January 2010


I bought a little rug/ bedspread during my hols - lovely - cream, textured and glittering with sequins. I was pleased to knock it down to £50 from £130. I felt a bit bad bartering to be honest. As someone who makes things by hand, I know how time and skill should be rewarded, and I didn't want to get away with a ridiculous price (mind you - I don't think that happens these days!). However, I was really pleased to hear that exchanging skills and goods is alive and well in Marrakesh. A friend was offered a Moroccan pouffe for his jacket, and another guy I met traded his hat in part exchange for a carpet. Next time I must bring some titfers of my own!

Monkeying around in Marrakesh

Majorelle Gardens Marrakesh

First the facts.

The artist Jacques Majorelle came to live in Marrakesh and opened his beautiful gardens to the public in 1947. In 1980 Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé purchased the garden and restored it.

Then the feelings.

Even on a chilly January day, the gardens are stunning. I was reminded of a particular time a few years ago when I was browsing through the paintings at The Tate in St Ives. I'd never really "got" modern art before, but that day - something maybe to do with the light and the sea - I suddenly felt a shift in my comprehension. A hitherto hidden door swung open, and I looked at the pictures with new understanding and excitement. That’s how I felt a few days ago in the Majorelle. I’d never really “got” cacti before either. Previously, when I looked at them, I saw deserts and cowboys and small dusty things sitting in plastic pots on peoples’ windowsills! But the Majorelle presented these plants in a totally fresh way. They were magnificent. Cacti as sculptures and survivors, prickly, devastating and dashing imposters. I loved the colours, the textures, and the contrast with the bright hues and straight lines of the buildings.

Another door swung open. Revelation!

The madness that is Marrakesh

OK - I have a prediction for you. Later this summer, all things Moroccan are going to be "de-rigeur". I can say this with confidence, as I've just come back from a trip to Marrakesh, where I discovered that S.J.P (as in Sarah Jessica Parker) has been filming a third Sex and the City film. So stock up on stuff from the souks and get yourselves some Moroccan style, because where S.J.P goes, fashion tends to follow. Marrakesh will certainly look stunning as a location. The main square (the Djemaa el-Fna) is probably one of the craziest places I've ever been. Everywhere you look there is something unusual happening. Last week, I'd just stepped off the plane, and headed to the Fna to get a sense of the city. I was immediately grabbed by a woman who thrust what I thought was a syringe towards my arm. I tried to pull away, but before I knew it, she was painting my hand and wrist with henna. Now back in Britain, I might pay a couple of quid for the privilege, but I found myself being ripped off to the tune of £10! Needless to say I learned my first lesson in Marrakesh - say NO and mean NO! Henna hoars aside, the square is amazing. Fire jugglers, donkeys, snake charmers, monkeys, story-tellers, witch-doctors, plumes of smoke from makeshift snack huts, fresh orange juice by the gallon and pedlars plaguing you for cash. Night-time it comes alive. It feels like a cross between an open-air circus, Islamic burlesque, and a little shop of horrors.

Saturday, 2 January 2010


Well, it's arrived - the New Decade. Here in London it was greeted by blue skies which is a positive beginning. But I'm never quite sure what to make of these imposed fresh starts. Last year I had possibly my best NEW YEAR ever - when I joined friends at a cottage in Loch Tay, Scotland. It was stunningly beautiful, and we cooked, talked and sang our way into 2009. On the 1st Jan, with frost on the ground and ice at the waters edge, we ran screaming into the Loch, and washed away the old. It was exhilarating and symbolic. This year, there's been nothing so significant. So today I'm holding a little tea-party for local friends just to galvanize myself into action and lever myself out of the back-end of the year. I've made heart-shaped scones, and pretty cakes, and the savoury note will come from cream-cheese and cucumber sandwiches. To decorate the table I've sprayed some seed-heads from the hedgerow gold, and hung them with little crystals. In the centre, I've wedged my old candelabra, bought some ten years ago for £25 from a junk shop in Lyon. I used to think I'd restore it to work on the mains, but I've actually come to prefer it with real candles. So this year, no symbolism, but a simple celebration of friendship, and the art of making a little magic out of nothing. Here's to a Happy New Year.