Rainy day post…. memories of sunny walks

Gosh I hate grey skies. It’s not so much the rain as the dismal colour of everything that makes me feel gloomy. Heck, give me a sunny shower to dance about in any day. But give me a sky the colour of an elephant’s behind, and I’m in an instant bad mood.

Still, despite the rather chilly start to the year, I do at least have some fond memories of sunny days out and about. In fact, since getting the hound, I’ve been feeling very ‘back to nature’ and loving filling my lungs with fresh air whilst stomping around muddy fields, and listening to the sky larks sing for me (yes, for me) in the blue sky. Gosh it sounds so far away and romantic right now, so here’s a reminder of what that all looks like, from my stack of iPhone photos taken on my recent walks…..

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Pretty good for a school day…. Alternative Fashion Week and Old Spitalfields Flea Market

This morning there was nothing I wanted to do less than go outside. It’s been rainy and miserable in London all week and I’ve very much enjoyed being all toasty inside! But, needs must, and with post to post I braved it into the foul grey….

Packages dutifully recorded and posted, I rewarded myself with a flat white from Loves on Gravel Lane. I’ve been wanting to try the little cafe for ages, but it’s not open at the weekends so opportunities have been few. It was busy with the City lunchers but my coffee was served quickly and to perfection.


And next, a drop off at the charity shop (been having a sort out!) before wandering along to Old Spitalfields… I’ve been hearing about the Alternative Fashion Week going on there and so dropped in just in time to catch the daily runway show. Presented by Alternative Arts, the event runs until Saturday with a show every day at 1:15pm and a fashion market featuring some of the designers from 11am to 5pm. It’s free to get in too.

The aim of the event is to showcase the most original and creative collections by a fresh crop of new designers, promoting new talent to the press and fashion industry. It’s an international event, with over 80 designers from all over the UK and the world, as well as showcasing new models too. There’s certainly an emphasis on environmental awareness and ethical sourcing, but each collection was perfectly unique (and artfully soundtracked by the amazing The Mannequins, playing live)….. I’ve found it difficult choosing a few favourites to chat about!…..

Kensington and Chelsea college kicked off with their sculptural red dress collection, with rocky music and plenty of tatooed models. But my attention was really grabbed by George Strood, next up with a ‘Make do and mend’ collection of  40s inspired hand knits. The band beatifully backed the nest-haired models with a 40s swing track, proving their diversity fast. But Strood’s designs were not overshadowed, and the show had me hankering after the pieces on the his market stall afterwards.

George Strood

Francisco Sanchez-Canete followed with a mixture of tribal prints and clashing neon orange and blue, accompanied by a drum and bass number. But it was Rasha Swais’ play-fighting models that really got my interest next, with gorgeously cut tartan and tweed menswear in vivid reds.

Rasha Swais

Rebecca Cochrane’s collection was perhaps the most readily wearable of all those shown, with unisex shaping, drop waists and thick soled plimsoles and boots. Charlotte Smith’s Espionage Collection up next though was very much my thing, taking inspiration from women at work during World War Two, with jet printed leggings and blouses, high waisted and beautifully tailored trousers, red star patches and an awesome jumpsuit printed with “Allie” and “Enemy”.

Chloe Watson showed a witty collection devoted to penguins, with prints onto silk and over-sized fur accessories, before the University of Derby’s third years provided a cobalt blue finale whilst The Mannequins played a great rendition of Blue Monday. The hour the show took up flashed by, and I came out keen to see more (and to hear more from the wonderful band).

Third Year Final Collections from the University of Derby

Virtuously bypassing the free ice cream being handed out, I took a wander around the adjacent fashion market, finding some lovely designers to chat to. Lucky Dame’s ‘Couture Latex’ designs were an instant eye catcher, as were Katherine Tuck’s quirky prints.

George Strood Stall and the Alternative Fashion Market

Having exhausted one market, there was still plenty to see in the market hall next door. I know I harp on about Old Spitalfields Market, but it really is a brilliant place for treasure hunting. We made it to the last ‘Antique Vintage Flea Market’ held at the weekend (it’s there every Thursday from 07:30 to 5pm, plus every last Saturday of the month) but the range of stalls and contents today was far better. It was also much quieter, so I had a really good chance to chat to stall holders, and have a proper root through some of the treasures. I found two stalls crammed with old bits of jewellery at a pound a piece (I bought over a dozen old brooches and huge earrings to use as charms and for some bridal head dresses I’m planning) and another with a stack of old keys, from which I bought some Victorian and Georgian ones to make into jewellery. Oh, and because our next collecting task is for lots of mis-matched vintage cutlery (we already have a brilliant set of random glasses and china) the huge stall full of old cutlery caught my eye and will certainly see me return.

The Old Spitalfields Antique and Vintage Flea Market

This amazing stall full of mis-match vintage cutlery will help us in our quest for a full set

By the time I’d made it round all the stalls, I realised it was far past lunch time and I was ready for a large cup of tea, so it was homeward bound from there. And it didn’t even occur to me to mind that, once I’d stepped out from under the roof of Old Spitalfields, it had started drizzling again….. I was too full of the joys of pottering about my neighbourhood to care!

Something from the weekend….. a rather rainy weekend

This weekend was a wonderfully long one, owing to Adam having to take some days holiday before the end of the month. And so on Thursday evening we trotted off to the station to catch a train up to his home town of Hitchin. It was getting late by the time we arrived so there wasn’t much time to do anything (especially after the catch up chats) other than have dinner. Adam’s Mum had cooked us the most delicious veggie bake….layers of different veg with mozzarella in between and all topped with herby breadcrumbs. Yum!

Our excuse for visiting was that it was actually Adam’s Mum’s birthday weekend. And so I was very excited about giving her the home made gifts I had made….. as well as a yummy banana loaf I had painted two canvases for her, one of each of her dogs. She was absolutely delighted with them too, and we were all pleased to yum up the banana bread over the weekend!

Banana Bread

On Friday morning (trying to remember it wasn’t yet Saturday!) we popped into town to go to the lovely flea market that’s there every Friday. We’ve had some real success there before, having found some wonderful vintage buttons and my incredible 50cm high Victorian Bell Cloche on the last visit. This time it was a darling little white leather flask I couldn’t resist….. I bought it for just £9 from the military stall, and it has a wonderful silver badge on the front with my initials (also the Queen’s!).

Vintage military hip flask from Hitchin Flea Market

We also couldn’t resist the chalk board sign in the window at Halsey’s (the gorgeous little tea room / gallery / deli just off the market square which dates back to 1854) which advertised Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar as the best cheese in the world…..and so in we went to buy a large chunk for lunch when we got home. And we can certainly concur with the judges…..melted on toast in the Aga it was absolutely delicious….just the right balance of creaminess, sharpness and a little earthiness which comes from aging the makers’ truckles inside the famous cave.

Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar from Halsey's

In the evening, it was off to Letchworth and the sweet little Broadway Cinema there. It was lovely to have a change from our usual large cinema in London….the audience were much better behaved and the auditorium is very charming in Deco styling. The film was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and we all loved it….. I’m so very fond of many of its cast (Judie Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith…..) and it really is a very funny and heart warming film. The film’s setting had us all hankering for an Indian meal though and so it was over to Sagar for a curry. All the food was divine…. Adam had an amazing veggie curry in a banana sauce…. and my vegetable Biryani (made with Rose Water, pistachios, coconut and almonds) was lush! And when we’d finished our meal, we were presented with a whole tray full of sweeties, as well as chocolate mint thins with the bill. AND our lovely waiter then made us up his special night-cap (and wouldn’t reveal the secret recipe!) all on the house. Great place.

As the weekend proper started, I decided on three breakfasts to set me up for the day. First breakfast was All-Bran with milk….second breakfast, fruity granola with Rachel’s Organic Vanilla Yoghurt….and third breakfast a lovely slice of granary toast with marmalade and butter. Yummy!

And having yummed this all up we walked down to Gila Timur, a shop on the way to the station, to meet Adam’s Dad for some browsing. From outside, it looks like any other independent furniture shop, but inside it is a treasure trove of gorgeous pieces from all over the world. Adam’s Dad had wanted us to see the Indonesian sculptures there which are absolutely stunning….. I also loved all the gorgeous furniture made from reclaimed boat timber which still has layers of chipped paint on it. Having gotten chatting to one of the owners, he told us about his pride and joy which resides in one of the rooms in the labyrinthine basement….. an enormous (we think at least 9 feet tall) and incredibly intricate wood carved sculpture of Hanuman, the Hindu deity who appears in the form of a monkey. The owner explained how it is common practice for such sculptures (that is, carvings not made for tourists, and of such immense size) to be imbued with a spirit, and we certainly felt a presence about the sculpture like nothing we had ever experienced.

After a jaunt around all the charity shops and a trip to Waitrose for dinner ingredients, we spied a chance in between rain showers to go out for a walk with the dogs around Ickleford Common and Gerry’s Hole. The light was gorgeous as the sun began to set over all the damp trees and grass, and the dogs enjoyed running for sticks (as well as a little swim in the river for Newton!).

Ickleford Common

Walking the dogs

We worked up quite the appetite after our stroll, so we were pleased to be heading over to see some friends and cook dinner for the six of us. I’d made my signature Chilli last time, so it was Adam’s turn to make his wonderful Carbonara. Everyone yummed this up, alongside wine and cider…..and we remained at the table to eat cola cupcakes made by Holly and to play my all time favourite board game: Cranium. We played boys versus girls, and having cheated terribly, the boys beat us by a hair. It was a brilliant game though, highlights including the boys having to roll a length of sculpting clay as long as Adam’s left foot (between them, and using only their left hands)…. Martin’s whistled rendition of Tomorrow from Annie….. and my expertly sculpted toilet.

Cola cupcake

Sunday brought a shocking amount of rain, and so we decided to stay another night to avoid traveling home in it….or from leaving the house at all really. We started the day with a naughty breakfast of Belgian waffles with strawberries, ice cream and maple syrup…. and then settled down to some rainy day activities such as completing the crossword, eating home made fudge and lounging about. I did manage to be a little productive though and wove a few pendants from beads in the shape of snow drops, inspired by our countryside walk the day before. Hopefully I’ll get these onto my Etsy Shop this week. For supper, it was roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings….. gosh it was lovely with a glass of red (and with a pudding of ice cream and chocolate Torte made by Adam’s Mum’s friend for her birthday!). We finished off a slobby day watching the classic no-brainer Van Helsing (hurrah for Hugh Jackman!) before falling asleep very full and contented.

Snow drops next to the river

This morning we lay in before another waffle breakfast (this time without the ice cream so very healthy) and then packed, ready to leave. After a short and tolerable train journey home, we popped to Waitrose for the week’s shop and returned with fresh coffee and Duchy Originals Hot Cross Buns…..which we devoured whilst completing the cross word.

What a wonderfully relaxing weekend!

Hope you enjoyed yours too,

Ems x