Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

British Legion

British Legion

We went to the poppy installation at the tower of London today.

waves of red

waves of red

We had wanted to go many weekends before and we bought two of the installation poppies as soon as they were available on line through the British Legion. The thing about today, however, that I liked is that the installation is nearly as finished as it will be when it ends on November 11th at 11am.

a sea

a sea

They were still planting poppies today as we walked along and they are as important as the very first of what is now a huge display.

poppies in a wave over the top

poppies in a wave over the top

It is impressive to see such a big ‘sculpture’ but it is also deeply tragic that this sea of red flowers represents so very many lost lives!

a singing starling

a singing starling

Both JC and I struggled with the selfies and family photo shots that were being taken with the poppies in the background. So many of the people getting their pictures taken in front of it really didn’t seem to grasp the significance of each and every one of the 888,246 poppies and that they represents a life lost; wasted to the wages of war.

A loss that the family of the loved one will never have recovered from!

arching over the bridge

arching over the bridge

We were there for hours walking around the inside of the tower where you see parts of the installation not visible from the public footpaths surrounding the tower and there is a section where the moat space tails off and there are some poppies that are singular and in an open line. That row of solitary poppies really impacted on me, it was very poignant and makes you realise that a lot of the 888,246 not only died but also died alone and in very terrible conditions.

ripples of poppies

ripples of poppies

The entire thing made me feel very emotional and I struggled to keep a check on the tears.

That check became even harder when we got to the WW1 exhibition that shows black and white photos of soldiers training within the grounds of the tower in 1914; then the same photo has a modern day equivalent 2014 person standing where one of the other men had been.

It was deeply moving.

poppies laid on the ground

poppies laid on the ground

I’m pleased that they are to keep the installation a bit longer and I would really like it if they took the poppies away one by one as if reversing the installation so that they flow back to the first poppy and the first loss of life in this great war of wars.

the wind made them sway

the wind made them sway

I would heartily recommend it.

Our future generations need to understand the extent of the devastation.

each one is individually hand formed

each one is individually hand formed

It is a humbling experience that will not leave me.

and each has a different height stalk

and each has a different height stalk

But I am so pleased to have had the chance to see this amazing reminder of so many lost lives.



Brothers, cousins, sisters, dads, sons, mums, dads, the list goes on.

it's quite overwhelming

it’s quite overwhelming

All serving people who will have been terrified and quite bewildered by the events leading up to their death.

each and every one

each and every one

They thought they’d all be home by Christmas



Little did they know.


cascade (single poppy in a space in the foreground)

And we really must NEVER forget!





in muddy water (ironically like the trenches)

in muddy water (ironically like the trenches)


a prickly issue


Love or hate them cactus are amazing!

My gran was an enthusiastic grower and appreciator of cactus and I wish I knew what happened to her wonderful collection when she died.


My dad has his theory on my Gran’s love for these spiked green wonders and it is something along the lines of her being in good company……


I don’t mind admitting that I LOVE a cactus.

I have them (they are practically the only green thing that I have indoors) in my home.

I am drawn to them in garden centre and places like Kew and the Eden Project.


I wonder what it really does say about me and my gran, then?

I’m not bothered about succulents (pah!! pretenders!!), I love the full blown, nasty, needle covered cactus that is impossible to repot and will remind you (in no uncertain terms) what they are capable of if you forget yourself and get too close.


They are the perfect architectural designer’s accessory and even if they are hugely uncool at the moment, this designer loves them.

I love them!!


I love them for their architectural grace and interesting shapes.

I love them for their unforgiving ways (hmmm? some might say…….).


I love them because they work perfectly in our understated london home which is mostly white with grey furniture and walnut floors that is only coloured by the contents of our shelves AND a carefully placed cactus here and there.


They are neat and contained so they also fit in with my deep love of order and tidiness.


It is in complete contrast, I have to say, to the outside which is a mix up of colour (not too much), green, wild stuff, compost and things not necessarily in the right place (rhubarb).


Every time I look at one of my little beauties, my gran comes to mind.

What could be wrong with any of that?

Edible Garden


rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

I haven’t posted anything about our garden in such a long time. In fact not since before I separated this blog from my tinyinc blog in December 2010.

If I was honest, we’ve neglected it because we have been so busy and found no time to spend out there. As a result, we’ve had interesting things growing (without any help from us I hasten to add) but we haven’t really had any veg or produce from the ground behind our home and I miss that.

the herbs and rhubarb survived the new fence

the herbs and rhubarb survived the new fence and are now surrounded veg and salad waiting to sprout and grow

There is nothing more tasty, satisfying and relaxing than harvesting a few salad leaves, tomatoes and courgettes for your supper. Especially after the rigours of a long and stressful working day.

Our fence desperately needed replacing recently so on the back of that, and a bit of welcome good weather, we decided to revamp the garden and do things a bit differently this time. The mess and damage that the new fence inevitably made was the prefect excuse to tackle things differently and set it up in a new way.

the other side still has the creepers but bare soil below

the other side still has the creepers but bare soil below

We’ve tried things in certain spots, we’ve tried things in pots and we’ve tried a raised bed but my sister bought me Alys Fowler’s The Thrifty Gardener which I love. I then bought her Edible Garden book which has so inspired me and talks about exactly the kind of gardening I have been looking for and didn’t have a name for it……

runner beans against the fence which gets a lot of afternoon sunshine

french beans against the fence which gets a lot of afternoon sunshine


It just makes so much sense.

french beans

french beans

We don’t want regimented lines of carrots really (although we have done that) and we don’t actually have time to manage that kind of garden anyway. Plus we don’t really want to see great swaths of precious tasty soil left with nothing growing in it when the weather is rubbish and you are stuck in doors looking out waiting for things to change.

swiss chard

swiss chard

So what is polyculture?

In the true sense of the word, it means ‘growing multiple crops in the same space’. The best example is how the native americans used to grow corn that had beans climbing up the stems and courgettes growing around it’s feet. The three plants develop and produce at different times so the space is very efficiently used to great benefit.

courgettes - one of my favourites

courgettes – one of my favourites

Perfect for a small victorian terrace garden in London.

Alys Fowler follows these principles but not to the letter and the result are stunning and very productive.



Aside from the sight of it being wonderful, the advantages are numerous and there are many publications that explain this.



So with that in mind, we have started out with a nearly blank canvas (I couldn’t bear to uproot my rhubarb and herbs etc so they stay put) and will see what we achieve be it successful or otherwise.

lettuce mix

lettuce mix

There will be some mistakes and I am already undecided about a few plant combinations but it’s very exciting and it has got me making lists, sketching out plans and scanning all my back issues of Country Living for more plant ideas.




the fabric tree at the national

the fabric tree at the national

We are very lucky living in London.

Everything is here and I love it.

the centurion at 'the savoy'

the centurion at ‘the savoy’

There are wide open spaces, incredible amounts of wildlife, galleries that are free to enter, ever evolving architecture, a busy river, a comprehensive transport system, more restaurants than you can shake a stick at and some of the best tourist attractions there are in the world.

I spend a lot of time in London at meetings and on sites but I am guilty, like most London residents, of not taking advantage of anywhere near enough of the amazing things that sit on my very doorstep.

classic scene of parliament from the south bank

classic scene of parliament from the south bank

As usual this is only put to rights when we get visitors who want to take in the sights.

JC’s sister and her other half joined us for a weekend a few weeks ago.

the wonderful london eye

the wonderful london eye

And it gave us the perfect chance to soak in some sights.

We don’t see them often enough and it is a real shame as we get on really well. The boys used to hang around in the same groups when they were troublesome teens and JC’s and his sis have been pretty close in the past.

Both ‘kids’ were bought a weekend away by JC’s mum for Christmas. A great present that took us off to the gorgeous countryside along the Thames in Oxfordshire and theirs brought them down to London to see us.

the under side of the hungerford bridge

the under side of the hungerford bridge

We saw the inside of a few pubs & coffee shops but we did lots of walking. Even though it was bitterly cold, it gives you plenty of opportunities to stop off for something to eat or a warming drink. We had a great time wandering along, chatting, sight seeing and generally catching up while soaking in the surrounds.

London is very small really and if you aren’t in a hurry, you can link up with some fantastic sights and catch a few more besides if you look out.

some urban art (this changes almost daily)

some urban art (this changes almost daily)

There are lots of surprises.

And it is constantly changing (whether through your perception of it or actually changes).

You should look up too, there are some wonders and delights above the eye line that lots of people miss in their mission to get somewhere particular but a wander and a gander is to be recommended.

the courts of justice (constantly featured in the news unfortunately)

the courts of justice (constantly featured in the news unfortunately)

Some of your discoveries may not be quite along the lines of what you expect as I found at the royal courts of justice where some eejit had grafittied my name (nearly). Great fun for a photo but a real shame to see it.

grafitti by one of he doors at the royal courst of justice

grafitti by one of he doors at the royal courst of justice

Especially when there is some incredible graffiti around the city that has become a tourist attraction in itself.

beyond here lie dragons

beyond here lie dragons

We covered miles and caught up loads as well as seeing some bits of london that we haven’t seen for a very long time and enjoyed some of the great things that it continues to offer.


I can’t actually wait to do it again.

some delicious street food in the piazza

some delicious street food in the piazza

Booth Nation

3/4 of the coven

At our fabulous friends Mark and Vicki’s recent wedding, they arranged a photo booth for the reception from Booth Nation.

the coven complete

Apart from being a fantastically fun way to punctuate an evening, it is hilarious to see how buttoned up people are at the start and not so by the end!!!.

new coven member

Each print is the classic photo booth set of 4 black and white shots and they are just brilliant.

the boys and the girls

I have always had photos up on the wall wherever I lived be it student hovel, shared student flat, rented room or anything since and we’ve carried that on in the hall of our london home with a rogue’s gallery of photos. Just about everyone is represented to a greater or lesser extent.

the lovely bride and groom

No matter how long it is since we saw them or how far away they are, it ensures they are right there in front of us. Some are no longer with us and it’s nice to be able to say hello.

more fun and laughter

They also serve as great memory joggers of all the good times, the passing of life stages of all those we are close to and a daily reminder of how lucky we have been with our gloriously mad families and amazing friends.


The 30+ prints we ordered from the night of fun and laughter are now in a huge frame to show off the lovely couple, our lovely friends and a fantastic day.


I have chuckled at each photo while writing this blog and it raises a smile EVERY single time I walk past it.


I proper love you lot!!

ta da!!

love thy neighbourhood


My relationship with london changes daily. I’ve been here most of my life from 18 years old.This has only been punctuated by a short move to the Oxfordshire countryside, an art foundation course in Banbury and then art college in Newcastle but apart from that, London is my adopted home.

During the week when I am suffering at the hands of rude and smelly tube users, I loath London and consider it at best a necessary evil. It is at these moments I really wish I could get away.

Even then, I manage to appreciate it’s multi cultural side, the fact that it has EVERYTHING and it gets it first. This is further eased by the fact that I think where we live has a lot going for it and we have the greatest friends most of whom live nearby.

cheese straw

When I’m not fighting with commuters and take the time to see what is around me, I feel much better about the place and I have time to realise that it is just outright splendid.

Take today.

freerange eggs, salami & vine tomatoes

Today has been one of those special days in London for me. I met 2 of my close friends out walking the dog and stretched my usual hour to two hours so I could spend a bit more unexpected time with them. I bumped into one of them again as she was taking her little son to meet friends while JC & I were striding out to enjoy what was on offer at a local Sunday Market. I saw the other friend again while we were at the market but this time with her husband..

breads etcetera

We hadn’t known about the market until we saw a small notice for it on a nearby ‘for sale’ sign and having asked what people thought of it decided we had to give it a try.

It is set in the playground of a local junior school and although the number of stalls there today were diminished due to half term and possibly the sudden turn in the temperature, it was excellent.

carrot cake

We got a fabulous coffee and mini cinnamon swirl to kick start us (we were at a boozy birthday celebration last night and although we weren’t feeling dreadful, coffee and cake always helps). We bought meat direct from a farm on Romney Marshes, italian sausage from a local italian, some amazing flavoured breads, vine tomatoes, eggs, and cake. There was so much more on offer such as cheeses, baked goods, Thai wraps, fish finger sandwiches (yes, fish finger sandwiches!!), jams, pickles, burgers, curries and much, much more.

eggs and salami

The stall holders were all lovely and incredibly chatty which is as much a part of the experience for me as the sampling and buying; the freshness in the air was blessed with sunshine and it really couldn’t have been better.

We won’t abandon our local butcher or the delights of the Green Lanes shops completely but we will be doing a good part of our main meat and veg shopping here every week now. It makes the job of food shopping so much more pleasant and fun.


salami, vine toms & duck eggs

It is days like today when I remember that I love london, and I love my neighbourhood!!

paralympics 2012

anish kapoor’s ‘helter skelter’

Today is the very last days of the Olympics and the Paralympics in London for the year 2012. It has been incredibly exciting and I feel very emotional about the amazing achievement of the olympians; especially the paralympians!!!

Having been frustrated at not being able to get tickets for the olympics, our friends Caroline & Natalie gave us 2 tickets for the Goalball on Thursday the 6th September 2012.

goalball – china vs finland

The day pass that it comes with meant we could enter the Olympic Park at any time from 9am but I had to go to a site meeting first and couldn’t get there until just before the event started at 1.30pm.

JC couldn’t make it because of last minute work commitments so my friend Sam stepped up when I offered her the ticket (I’d have stood in the park and shouted for any takers rather than waste it).

We met at Stratford and quickly took in the scenes of the park before we headed for the Copper Box to watch China and Finland fight it out in the women’s Goalball quarter final. It is very quiet in the stadium to allow the athletes to hear the rattle in the heavy ball that they pass across the pitch aiming at the goal beyond the 3 olympians trying to stop it hitting the back of the net. The girls have to hurl themselves onto the floor to stop the ball!! Ouch!!

brazil’s blind 5 a-side football team

China won and although we could have stayed to watch the next match, we had seen the LCD screens announcing that there were seats available for day pass holders to go and watch the mens blind 5 a-side football.  So off we went to the Lakeside Arena and watched Brazil beat Argentina on penalties (Brazil eventually went on to win gold on Saturday, yey!!).

argentina’s team making their way to the pitch

It’ remarkable to watch people (it happened to be men) who can see nothing whilst running around a pitch, dribbling a ball and performing tackles with skill and complete control. There are clashes and a few awkward misses but that happens in any game of football. The players have a guide on the sideline who shouts directions to them, the goal keeper is sighted and they also have a guide behind the goal to give them some aiming and positioning tips.

jefinho & ricardihno

Something else that struck me is that there is no stupid egotistical reaction to tackles or a bump. When it happens, it is a fact and they just get over it and get on with it. But better than that is how lovely everyone involved is with each other. I appreciate that they need to help each other for obvious reasons. Aside from the fact that they are playing the game without sight, it is a team sport and team players help each other, that’w what a team is. But watching how far this needs to go, I think we’d all benefit significantly from needing to put our own needs aside and concentrating on the needs of another (and I mean outside the parameters of parenting, marriage, friendship and all of the situations where we might already do that). It was very moving to watch.

brazil celebrating the win

a paralympians celebrating the weird!!

Having become very excited by the mens blind 5 a-side football, Sam & I went in pursuit of another event and hopefully a new venue. As luck would have it, the basketball arena was the venue for GBR vs France’s final stages of ‘Murderball’. We got food and a drink and then settled into our seats. I have to admit to knowing nothing about murderball except that someone made a film about it in about 1978.

The LED score board at tehe paralympics

In the warm up the rules, the players grading and the scoring was all explained and the chairs used for each positions was also described in detail.  It all sounded interesting enough and the team line up was already whizzing around psyching themselves up by this point. It was undoubtedly a charged atmosphere and it was becoming infectious.  We were surrounded by spectators who were clearly already supporters of the sport and new the line up and their obvious excitement was easy to catch.

When the play finally started, I was immediately hooked by it and fell in love with the sport and the sportsmen.

team GB murderball team prepare for the came against france

It is exciting, tactical, fast, skilled and completely compulsive.  I was on my feet, hollering, arms in the airs, wooping and eventually crying. I was completely blown away. Team GB won which was great (there is no doubt that supporting an event for your own country can’t be beaten) and although their final ranking was eventually 5th and outside the medals, I enjoyed watching the play tremendously.

We didn’t leave straight after the joys of wheelchair rugby and sat at the picnic benches outside the athletics stadium and soaked up the crowd’s noise in the ‘field of dreams’.

In all, it was a marvellous life changing experience. I came home feeling elevated and inspired with a few new sporting heroes.

olympic fever

team GB flag

I was worried!

Before the start of the olympics, I really had some grave concerns about whether Great Britain would finally lose the Great and either London would not be ready for the visiting nations or that things would just go very, very wrong and it would be a huge embarrassment.

team GB lion – I love the lion logo so much

The transport links, the notoriously tardy UK construction industry & the sometimes miserable nature of our citizens could see the whole experience be dreadful for all concerned.

As those who exit the city for the summer made way for those who arrive for it, there was a lull of about 2 days where a tube journey or a drive across town was relatively stress free.

john lewis window display

Then those here to spectate whilst the world’s olympians aired their wares started to arrive in their numbers and the tubes got busy again. Dotted amongst them were the tell tale olympic staff and volunteer’s uniforms quietly going about their business and our proud and amazing forces drafted in to fill the gaping wound left by G4s security appointment for the games.

Surely this was just the start of it all unravelling pretty much before it had even started?

especially for Jess Ennis

Danny Boyle’s brilliant film mind applied to the spectacular opening ceremony provided a welcome blanket of comfort and Stella McCartney’s great success in the world of fashion did mean that at least our competitors wouldn’t look like clowns in their official kit.

But would it end there and the humiliation begin.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect any humiliation from our competing Team GB as I know we have a great line up of sporting talent but if the facilities, the security and the organisation of the games themselves was a shambles, they’d never get their chance to shine.

Max doing his bit

The opening ceremony was awesome and I don’t think even the acute precision of every move in the Beijing Olympics or the sun that bathed the Sydney Olympics can compare with how incredible it was as a visual experience.

So, after all those misgivings and worries about how we would cope, imagine my amazed delight to be riding the wave of the London 2012 olympics and its ENORMOUS success?

jaunty Team GB paralympics scarf

All the pleasure has been vicarious as we have not been able to get any tickets for any event no matter that both JC & I have tried since the first release last year, the follow up release and any others since to get tickets (for anything) without success.

We have the flags, the scarves and a reluctant mascot for all the celebrating during last week and especially SUPER SATURDAY but we really would like to have been able to go there.

Cup of Tea for Team GB

So, in the spirit of the games, my lovely friend Caroline has given us 2 tickets for the Goalball semi finals on September the 6th so we are off to the Olympic Park’s Copper Box to see some more of our inspirational sports people at the Paralympics. I couldn’t be more excited and grateful.

Thanks Caroline, Natalie & little Drew


house guests


We have had the pleasure of a house guest for the last 2 weeks and are quite bereft to see him leave.

His name is Hamlet although no one calls him that. He is about 11 years old; but we aren’t sure.  He is completely bonkers; but we absolutely love him. He belongs to my sister and only answers to the name ‘Puppy’!


I suspect that being called puppy all this time is one of the things that has kept him fit and spritely and not at all a dog of 11 years.

He has featured large in Max’s young life as he was the first dog Max met outside of his litter.

‘Pups’ has taught Max a little respect for his elders but he hasn’t managed to kerb Max’s enthusiasm or make him grumpy. ‘Pups’ is definitely grumpy!!.


We have enjoyed our early morning walks with ‘Puppy’ these last  2 weeks, we have met even more nice dogs and nice dog people than usual, we have enjoyed some toasty cuddles and cleared up some mess too (we won’t mention the slightly grubby protest one night!!) and it has been a complete pleasure.

The ‘Pupmeister’ (or ‘Pupinsky’, ‘Pupster’ or any other similar versions) has some typically obsessive terrier characteristics that do make you wonder at what is happening in that little noggin?  BUT, that is one of the reasons why we like terriers!

what’s in there?

He has wonderful ears, breath that could floor a man at 10 paces and big old chocolate button eyes that are not without some wounds from taking on the odd rat or two! He is also a great dog shaped shadow; following me around every second he was able to and risked being squashed when I changed tack.

He also makes THE best foot warmer ever!

Me? I’m up to nothing at all!!

If you sit still for more than about 2.5 seconds, there is a gentle sensation around one of your feet. Nothing much to start with but slowly that gentle sensation becomes more defined and eventually has some weight behind it. Finally, a little tan butt has backed up to your foot and lowered itself down to keep from getting cold.

Can’t say I blame him, he is very close to the ground and it can be mighty draughty down there.

house mates

His biggest challenge these last 14 days or so have been hills!! He is a fit little dog and always has been; there are signs of a little thickening around the waste but I’d say that is all about being relaxed and at ease with yourself when you get to ‘Pup’s’ age but boy does he hate climbing a hill!!

The reason is simple geography!! The ‘Pups’ has spent ALL of his life on the lincolnshire fens and you just don’t get hills there. His greatest challenge when it comes to changes in level are usually

a) can I get on the sofa?


b) can I get into the car?

After 10 days though, he is scampering up those hills after his tatty old tennis ball and not bothering a jot that the hill is probably bigh enough to be 100 of him stacked on top of each other.

My sister is getting a hill trained athlete back into her house.

the three terrierteers!

I wonder if it is too late to enter him for the Jubilympics?

jubilee cool

union jack

This won’t be the only blog post about the Jubilee this weekend, you simply can’t get away from it.

I have seen London transformed in my work travels this week and I have no doubt the same applies to other cities, villages and towns across the uk.  And it is lovely to see.

oxford street on Tuesday am

The coming together of a nation to celebrate something quite remarkable; a sovereign who has reigned for 60 years living her life in the full glare of the public eye.

Undoubtedly difficult at times but she must have seen some amazing things in those 6o years – man on the moon, mobile phones, computers that no longer take up a whole room, her children through to her  great grandchildren and much, much more.

Whether you are a supporter of the royals or not (I happen to think they give more to the country than they take), having such an interesting and traditional institution such as a royal family is one of the things that makes britain british.

We aren’t in london for the diamond celebrations this weekend ourselves but we will be watching some of the footage.  We went for the golden Jubilee and it was great fun so anyone who does go for the celebrations is guaranteed to enjoy themselves.

big jubilee bunting

Whilst we are not there, we are getting into the spirit of the whole thing – I am sporting my favourite pair of union jack knickers and some us have equally patriotic attire!!

the very gorgeous Agnes!!!