5 on Friday: 5 recent blog discoveries

BloggingThe blog world is a busy place.  There are so many of them, and so many of them are  just so good.  As a blogger, this is wonderful and inspiring.  There is so much clever writing out there,  and you don’t have to look far to find other like minded souls.  Sometimes when I discover a new blog I just want to read everything it has ever published.  My relationships with blogs ebb and flow, there are some blogs I will always turn to.  Others might interest me for a while, I might then drift away, sometimes returning, sometimes not.  There are other blogs that I eagerly turn to throughout the week hoping a new post has been published.

Many of the blogs I find, I find through twitter or through the kind bloggers that choose to comment or like a post on my blog.  Finding one new blog usually leads on to finding lots more. These are 5 fabulous blogs I have discovered recently and wanted to share with you, because blogging is all about sharing the blog love.

  1. Diary of a Londoness  I discovered this lovely London based blog after the author Scarlett began following me on twitter.  I was particularly excited by this particular ‘follow’ and immediately started reading ‘Diary of a Londoness and couldn’t stop.  If you live in London, this classy blog is definitely one for you.
  2. London Kitchen Diaries  Another London based blog but this time a ‘food, travel and lifestyle blog’.  Oodles of gorgeous foodie pictures, recipes and restaurant recommendations.
  3. Page to Stage Reviews is lovely collection of book reviews, theatre reviews, a bit of lifestyle and lovely photographs.
  4. Notes From The Chair I discovered this (as I do many things) through twitter.  Nina is a Hairstylist who blogs about all things bookish.  She is an avid reader and book event attender and often interviews authors who take to her chair to be coiffed.  She also has a great twitter feed.   I actually almost met Nina last weekend at Chiswick book festival.  I recognised her at a couple of the talks I attended, but annoyingly was too shy to say hello!
  5. The Book Keeper I love this unique blog. It is written by the owner of a little book shop in South Australia and is a journal of her interactions, conversations and experiences with books and those customers that frequent her shop.

I hope that you enjoy some of these blogs.  I would love to hear about any blogs you would recommend.  Have a lovely weekend.

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David Hockney 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life

hockney-exhibition-poster-webOne of my most favourite and certainly most memorable exhibitions in recent years, or in fact in all the years was ‘A Bigger Picture’ by David Hockney at The Royal Academy in 2012.  I remember it not only because it was my birthday the day I visited, but because I was simply blown away by the scale, the colours and the beauty of his Yorkshire Landscapes.  So, I approached his latest exhibition at The Royal Academy with much anticipation and excitement.  One thing Hockney paintings guarantee  is  colour.  So a dreary, wet Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to go and have my senses enlivened by his vivid palette.

82 Portraits and 1 Still Life is exactly what it says it is.  In the summer of 2013 Hockney painted the first of what was to become a collection of over 90 portraits, 82 of which feature in this exhibition.   Each portrait is the same dimension and shows the subject sitting on the same chair in his same Los Angeles studio.  Each subject is personally known to Hockney and is either a friend, close associate or family member.  In our social media and celebrity obsessed world, this is refreshingly NOT a celebrity exhibition.  Hockey says “I don’t do celebrities,  photography does celebrities. My friends are my celebrities”  The still life came about when a subject was unable to keep his appointment and Hockney eager to paint anyway decided to paint the bowl of fruit in his studio.  Its an interesting diversion from all the portraits!

There was much to enjoy about this exhibition.  Its order and uniformity and the clear progression as the pictures are exhibited in chronological order.  Initially when entering the gallery I was a little unsure.  Painting after painting of a different person in the same setting.  However as I wandered around I began to enjoy picking out the detail, examining the expression on the sitters faces and even pondering over why they had chosen that particular outfit to be painted in.  Apparently they could choose what they wanted to wear and felt comfortable in. I suspect the closer the relationship the more relaxed they appeared, but I could be wrong.

The curator of the exhibition features in the exhibition and she describes her experience of sitting for David Hockney like this “After an hour for a good lunch and some lively conversation, the sessions continued into the afternoon.  During the morning and afternoon breaks, Hockney would sit in an armchair, studying its progress smoking a cigarette.  He discussed various aspects of the painting during these breaks, but while he was painting there was complete silence”

I enjoyed the vibrancy of these paintings.  I also enjoyed this window into the world of David Hockney where his friends and family are the people he loves to paint.  Were those he painted all pleased with the finished result? I don’t know.  Would I like to sit for David Hockney? Maybe, yes!david-hockney

82 Portraits and 1 Still Life is on at The Royal Academy in London until 2nd October.

Images via The Royal Academy and BBC


Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

what-i-talk-about-when-i-talk-about-runningTheres nothing like a fast approaching half marathon to make me read a book about running.  And this is a book about running I  have been meaning to read for a while.  The jauntily titled ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ is Murakami’s book on his relationship with running.  It is described as equal part travelogue, training log and reminiscence, and is a reflection of the influence running has had on his life and on his writing.  Murakami ran his first marathon in 1983 on his own, from Athens to Marathon, in midsummer.  He has also run an agonising ultra marathon (62 miles), and in 2008 when this novel was published, he was running 6 days a week covering over 130 miles a month. This is the kind of man we’re talking about here.

I am interested in Murakami’s comments on his relationship between running and his creative writing life.  Murakami has three goals for running races. Reach the finish, never walk and enjoy the race.    He applies this discipline to his writing.  When asked what the most important quality for a novelist is.  He replies ”focus – the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment.  Without that you can’t accomplish anything of value, while if you can focus effectively, you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a short of it.”  This can clearly be applied to running too. “After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance” Again, the same can  be said of running, or certainly distance running.

I know that when I am physically fit and have exercised I feel more creative.  There is much evidence linking physical and emotional health.  We know that exercise can improve mental health. Surely that in turn enhances the creative life?  I regularly compose blog posts or ideas for blog posts when out running (or cycling for that matter).  Physical exertion appears to clear the mind and open it up.

This is a short book but it moves at a steady pace, giving great insight into the mind of Murakami the runner and Murakami the writer.  It is Murakami’s discipline and sense of purpose in all aspects of his life that comes through.

“So, like my three meals a day – along with sleeping, housework and work – running was incorporated into my daily routine.  As it became a natural habit, I felt less embarrassed about it.  I went to a sports store and purchased running gear and some decent shoes that suited my purpose.  I bought a stopwatch, too and read a beginners’ book on running.  This is how you become a runner.”

I finished this book feeling more inspired to run and have  thought of Murakami’s dedication and self discipline often when pounding the streets.  Although I will never be an ultra distance runner or even a runner who runs every day, I do understand his need to run.  The pleasure (and sometimes pain too) that can come from being able to run freely and confidently is a joy.  I bask in the after math of those runs, when my cheeks are glowing more from health and exertion rather than sheer exhaustion, and when I know I ran just a little bit further or faster than the last time.  As a caveat though, I have to say its not always like that, often its hard, and limbs hurt and dragging yourself out when the wind is cold or the days are dark is tough.  I guess that leads us right back to discipline, focus and endurance again!

Even if the thought of running is an anathema to you don’t be deterred from reading this book.  It is an insight into the mind of a great writer, a great runner and the a blurred lines between the two.

5 on Friday: 5 From My Week

RHS Wisley

This week I have been….

  1.  READING: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

At almost 1000 pages it’s a bit of a challenge, but you may remember I set myself the task of reading 5 classics this year.  This is only number 3 of  my 5 and the end of the year is quickly approaching.

  1.  WATCHING: Cafe Society

The latest Woody Allen film is beautifully shot and full of old Hollywood glamour.  A feast for the eyes

  1.  RUNNING: 12 miles last weekend

My longest run In preparation for the London Royal Parks Half Marathon in just 3 weeks.

  1.  VISITING: The Chiswick Book Festival

A wonderful first evening of the festival listening to the writer Daisy Goodwin and the historian and writer A.N. Wilson discuss the fabulous ‘Victoria’ now showing on ITV.  I’m glued to this on a Sunday evening.

  1.  COOKING: Fruit Tea Loaf

Nothing like a bit of Great British Bake Off to bring out the desire to bake.

And all of this is in the most beautiful September sunshine.  Have a very happy weekend X

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Book Review: After You by JoJo Moyes

After You‘After You’ is the much anticipated sequel to ‘Me Before You’ by Jo Jo Moyes. I was late to the JoJo Moyes party, only reading ‘Me Before You’ around 18 months ago.  Any one familiar with Moye’s writing doesn’t need me to tell you  what a skilled story teller she is.  It is this skill which has enabled her to cleverly continue the story of Lou Clark.

In ‘After You’ we join Lou 18 months after the love of her life, Will Traynor has died.  Just in case you haven’t read ‘Me Before You’, don’t worry I will say no more about the events surrounding his death.  No spoilers here as they say. But, back to ‘After You’.  In the time since Wills death, Lou has lived in Paris, travelled,  and bought a flat, In fact she has tried to keep the promise she made to will to ‘live’.  Weary and greiving, she  finds herself working at a slightly dodgy bar, wearing an even dodgier ‘Irish’ costume at East City Airport.  Lou is aware life has to change she just doesn’t know how……that is until she answers the door late one night to a girl she has never met before, and suddenly life won’t stop changing.

Throughout the book there are enough references to Will and previous events to make this enjoyable even if you didn’t read ‘Me Before You’, but I suspect it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable.    Part of the pleasure of this for me, was getting reacquainted with characters.  Moye’s has cleverly woven many of the old cast into the story, in such way that they don’t feel unnaturally  placed.  There are also a number of new and interesting characters, many of whom emerge from the bereavement group called ‘Moving on’ Lou has joined.  This group is a clever tool used to explain Lou’s journey and ultimately give her what she particularly needs to move on.   It ties up many loose ends and really does finish the story this time.

This book was good fun to read, not terribly taxing but as I said JoJo Moyes can certainly spin a yarn and I whizzed through it in a couple of days whilst on holiday last month.  For fans of Jo Jo Moyes and particularly ‘Me Before You’, ‘After You’ is one you may not want to miss.

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5 on Friday: 5 Back to School Pencil Cases

September is all about back to school.  Even if like me you haven’t been to school for many years, there is still a sense of new beginnings as the days become shorter, the roads become busier and everywhere you look there is a small child in a large blazer.  I have absolutely no wish to be back at school, but I do enjoy all the back to school stationery on display in the shops at this time of year.  Buying a new pencil case was always an important part of going back to school. It had to be big enough to store that protractor you never used along side the leaky fountain pen and chewed pencil, and roomy enough to hide chewing gum and secret notes.  In particular I  remember a denim one  I wrote all over in dark blue pen,  and a bright yellow fluffy one which soon became ink stained, matted, and really quite unpleasant.  Now I have a red floral Cath Kidston Pencil tin which i’m very fond of but September has once again had me hankering after a new pouch in which to store my pencils.

Below are 5 fabulous specimens to brighten up any desk

  1. Pencil Party from Not on the high street £12.99

Pencil Party from Not on the High street

2. Polka Dots from Paperchase £7,    3. Peanuts from John Lewis £9 (my personal favourite)

4. Flamingo Flourish from Rosa & Clara Designs  £10   5.Captured Flora from Anthropolgie £22   (This one is a little pricey but so beautiful….)


Have a wonderful weekend.

Images,    Not on the high streetPaperchaseJohn Lewis,   Rosa & Clara,  Anthropologie


My Gratitude Journal – Am I Grateful?

Thank you

About six weeks ago I posted about my plan to keep a gratitude journal.  It was born out of a realisation that I had been a little bit grumbly lately.  Also I had read in one or two places of the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal and decided to give it a go.  I’m a keen journal keeper and have been for many years, so I’m interested in different forms of journaling and never adverse to trying something new.

So how did I get on?

‘Okay’ is my fairly underwhelming answer.

I knew when I started it, it would need to be easy to keep, not too time consuming, or a repetition of things I had already written about in my regular journal.

I managed this by keeping to a bullet point format.  At the top of each page I wrote the date and ‘Today I am grateful for…..’  I then listed 3 things I was grateful for that day.  I didn’t go into great detail and sometimes it was barely more than a couple of words.  This meant I was able to maintain it every day.  (well almost, I didn’t take it on holiday with me, as I already had my weighty travel journal).

It seems to me that the most obvious time to write in a gratitude journal is at the end of the day.  To ensure it became a habit I kept it on my bedside table with my regular journal.  Interestingly I rarely struggled for things to be grateful for.  Even on very normal or even frustrating work days I could always find things to say ‘Thank you’ for.

One of the most positive things for me was  reading back over the last week or month and realising how much I have to be thankful for.  At the time those things may have seemed very small, but when put together collectively serve as a useful reminder of how many things in life I take for granted and how many of those things I can be grateful for.  Over the last month I have been grateful for a Saturday with no alarm clock; waterproof trousers on an especially wet cycle ride home from work, and the new Rick Astley song which makes me smile every time I hear it. ( I make no apology for this, have you heard it, its marvellous!).

Will I continue?

I think so yes.  Well certainly until the end of the year or maybe until my journal is full.  This is a particularly lovely  journal after all, (see pic at top of page!) and I don’t want to leave it with lots of unused pages.

Writing has always been an important part of how I express myself, and process things, so in a sense this is simply an extension of that.  When something is written it is somehow more tangible and real.  I like that.

It’s also a good discipline.  It is so easy to take things for granted and barely give them a thought.  Taking time to really think and concentrate on  what I should be thankful for has been a good exercise.  The platitude ‘I have so much to be grateful for’ began to resonate and become more than simply a platitude. I also found it was a good way to focus on what I wanted to thank God for at the end of each day.  So maybe that in itself is reason enough to continue.

Is  a gratitude journal something you keep or have thought about keeping?  I would love to know your thoughts.

Gratitude Journal

Images, Changing Pages


Book Review: Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Eleven year old Harrie is new to London. He, his mother and his sister have come from Ghana and are living on the 9th floor of a tower block in London.  Harrie is also the fastest runner in his year. Harrie’s life in London is very different to the life he had in Ghana where his father and little sister are still living. We are introduced to Harrie at the scene of ‘the dead boy’ .  The boy has been stabbed and Harrie and his friend Jordan decide they need to investigate this and find our who did it.  They take their role seriously believing they can solve this mystery and present their evidence to the police.

This story is told through the voice and eyes of Harrie and through him we are opened to the struggles and excitement associated with adapting to a new school, new life, new culture and new friends.  Harrie’s voice is one I enjoyed.  His naivety and earnestness captures the innocence of childhood.  It is particularly powerful because of the environment in which he finds himself.  A world where carrying a knife is normal, and fear and the need to dominate prevail.  Harrie is anxious to fit in but somehow manages to maintain his individuality despite the pressures of gang culture.  This is perhaps seen in the relationship Harrie has with a pigeon.  I know, it sounds strange, but I thought it worked.  This added almost magical dimension brought a part of the Africa Harrie had left behind to inner city London and to Harrie’s internal world.

Harrie has a love hate relationship with his sister, but ultimately they look out for each other and when it really counts they  protect each other.

“She ran to Mamma’s room and shut the door in my face.  I could hear her crying behind the door.  It felt crazy.  I wanted to turn the crying off but she had to  learn her lesson. Doing something bad on purpose is worse than doing it by mistake.  You can mend a mistake but on purpose doesn’t just break you, it breaks the whole world bit by bit like the scissors on the rock.  I didn’t want to be the one who broke the whole world”

Harrie’s mother is mid wife and spends many hours working at the hospital.  She too lives under threat, the threat of her sisters partner who has clearly had a part in enabling them to live be in London.  This is a world where violence is constantly lurking.

Despite on occasion reading this in some fear of what would happen next, particularly  to Harrie there is so much to enjoy.  It is a heady mix of truth, reality, mystery and magic with an engaging  and believable cast of characters.  This is one I recommend.

Travel Photographer of the Year Exhibition

Travel Photographer of the Year I love to travel, always have and I’m sure I always will.  Travel broadens the mind and opens the world in the most wonderful way.  It does’t matter how far or how near you go, there is always something to discover about this amazing world we live in.  Nowhere is this more obvious right now than at the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition currently showing in Greenwich.

We spent a fabulous couple of hours there on Bank Holiday Monday marvelling at the skills of the photographers and the moments they had captured.  This exhibition is a show case for amateurs, professionals, beginners and seasoned photographers of all ages.  There are images of people, buildings, landscapes animals birds and much more.  Each image is unique but what they all have in common is the ability to make you stop and ask questions.  Not just about how the image was captured, but more importantly (for me anyway) what was the story behind the image?

One of my favourite images is this one by  L y Hoang Long: Fishing baskets, Tat Vien village, Vietnam.  I love the vibrancy, and the sheer improbability of what this man is carrying on a bicycle.  Having visited Vietnam a few years ago I clearly remember scenes like this and was immediately transported back there.


L y Hoang Long: Fishing baskets, Tat Vien village

This exhibition positively encourages you to think about your own travels, and what inspires you.   Visitors are asked to write on a luggage tag memories of their own travels.  These were then tied to railings all around the exhibition.  There were literally hundreds of them all documenting visitors own travel stories.Travel Photographer of the YearAt the end of the exhibition was a white board covered in visitors comments about travel.  I loved  reading what others had written but also listening to folk talk to each other about their own travels.  You were encouraged to stick pins into a world map of where you would most like to visit.  This exhibition certainly had us re-living some of our travel memories as well as planning some future ones.Travel Photographer of the YearThis exhibition is FREE, a suggested donation of £1 is made which is far less than the experience is actually worth, but it does mean it is accessible for all.  If you have a few days of your summer holiday left and you are in London I can’t recommend it enough.  However it does close on 4th September so time is running out.  If you are unable to get to the exhibition you can see some of the other fabulous images here.

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A Postcard from France


DordogneDear Readers,

You may or may not have noticed but I have been absent from these pages for the last week or so.  I have been on holiday! Before I left  I had prepared a typical ‘I’m on holiday post’ but in my usual last minute rush I forgot to schedule it. So this is my ‘I’m back from my holiday’ post.

We enjoyed a sun drenched week in the beautiful Dordogne region of France.  It was our fourth time in the same place and we love it.  We stayed with a group of friends who are very special to us and with whom we have shared many holidays over the years.   Much cheese, wine, ice cream, swimming, reading  and a liberal sprinkling of laughter was enjoyed by all.

After a week or R&R and no blogging I have come back feeling creative and inspired! I have lots of plans for posts and many book reviews to prepare.  It’s good to be back

In the meantime here are a few of my holiday snaps…..Dordogne


DordogneSee you very soon

Love From

Angie xx

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