The details in the fabric*

This is a decorated piece of discarded chewing gum on the Millennium Bridge in central London; it's about 2cm by 2cm and most people walking over the bridge would just glimpse something colourful out of the corner of their eye and carry on walking, admiring the stunning views of the Shard, St Paul's and the river. But I was curious enough to squat down, take a photo, and look at it more closely (causing a little bit of a pedestrian traffic jam – sorry, folks).

It turns out that there are hundreds of these tiny works of art on the bridge. Once your eye tunes into them you realise they are all over the walkway. Aren't they lovely?

They are made by Ben Wilson, popularly known as Chewing Gum Man; you can find out more about his tiny works of art here.

I was on my way to the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey – a lesser well known gem of a museum, about five minutes' walk from Borough Market, that is well worth a visit if you've not been before. Their current exhibition is Liberty In Fashion, and I was so excited to be going. I have loved Liberty designs since I was a teenager, when I used to buy quarter metres of Ianthe Art Nouveau tana lawn in the red colourway (no longer made it seems), to embellish my denim jackets and jeans. This is still my most favourite Liberty print – in any colour – and I still think it goes beautifully with denim.

The exhibition had dresses, jackets, stoles, scarves, skirts and blouses from the last 140 years – all made from Liberty fabrics, and many of them made by Liberty too. My favourites were the ones from the turn of the 20th Century and the 1930s because the garment construction was as exquisite as the fabrics.

I love the tiny floral prints, and the beautiful smocking, piping and gathering details that make the dresses so glorious.

Tiny things, made with care and attention to detail; I think they're just as enchanting when they're made from old chewing gum as they are when made from silk or lawn.

*I lifted the title of this blog post from the Jason Mraz song of the same name – thank you, Jason Mraz! It's one of my favourite songs – and not just because it has the word 'fabric' in the title.

 

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My local area

What do you think of as your local area? In a huge city like London people often consider their local area to be their postcode (which a few years ago was even identified as being linked to gang violence in London, Sheffield and Birmingham). I've lived in Leyton (E10) for the past twenty years, and if someone asks where I am from I always say Leyton. However, I realised recently that what I think of as my local area is anywhere within walking distance; and walking distance for me means Leyton, Leytonstone, the Olympic Park and parts of Walthamstow and Hackney. My 'local area' is a broader term than 'home' it seems.

These past few weeks I've often been too tired to go into town (what I always call central London – is that big city terminology too?) on my days off, so I've stayed in my local area. We don't have the big museums and galleries which I love so much, but there are still excellent cafés, parks, wine bars, gorgeous views, great pubs, restaurants, interesting shops and quirky bits of local history to enjoy.

It's incredibly resorative to sit in a local pub – just a few minutes down the road – with a friend and a pint, and have a catch up for an hour, before walking home to hang out the washing you put on before you left. Spending a few hours out of the house in my local area is an effortless and easy way of unwinding on a day off. Do you love local too?

 

Daily bread

I find that when it’s tipping with rain outside, and you’ve got to wait in for a delivery, and you’re shattered from a very demanding thirteen hour shift the day before, and everyone else is at work or school, one of the nicest things to do is to spend the morning pottering around the kitchen cooking and baking.

This morning I made yogurt, two loaves of bread, a cake, sweetcorn fritters (for the freezer), tomato pasta sauce (also for the freezer), and bolognese sauce.

I had a pot of coffee in one corner of the kitchen, the radio in another corner, and the back door open so that I could hear the chickens grumbling about the rain out in the garden. Radio 4 had some very interesting programmes this morning: the bishop of Gloucester guest editing Woman’s Hour (I particularly loved the piece by the seamstress who designed and made the new bishop’s cope and mitre), Stella Rimmington doing some detective work about the World War One nurse Edith Cavell’s links with espionage, and then a sweetly old-fashioned dramatised Miss Marple story.

 

After lunch, I retired to the sofa with a slice of new bread and jam to watch a film (Amélie) and do some knitting. Fresh brown bread and jam is one of the nicest things to eat, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

Out of doors

I’m just coming to the end of three days off, and I’ve spent spent most of my time out of doors. On Monday when I came off nights I HAD to have a few hours sleep before I could do anything. As it was sunny and crisp, I slept on the sofa with the window wide open next to me (and a quilt on top of me so that I was still cosy enough to sleep). It was blissful.

Later that day Olivia and I went to a yoga lesson in our local park. This class is put on by Our Parks – an amazing scheme which offers free outdoor exercise classes to local residents in parks across London (you can see which boroughs are a part of Our Parks here). Yoga with my girl was just what I needed after a run of nightshifts. We stretched and bent ourselves into unexpected shapes as the sun set across the park, and I let go of everything that had been difficult and challenging at work over the weekend.

Then yesterday I went for a massive thirteen mile walk along the canals of East London – with a delightful lunch date in Broadway Market in Hackney to break things up halfway through. Canal walks are always a joy – so much to see: boats, houses, bridges, locks, ducks, swans, factories and street art.

Today I went out to Epping Forest to see if I could find any signs of autumn. I am eager for autumn: it’s by far my favourite time of year. I had a joyous walk, even though autumn has barely begun to make itself known here and it’s still very mild and green.

After all this fresh air and exercise I don’t mind going back into the ITU for a few days – and maybe when I go back to Epping Forest at the end of next week, there will be a few more signs of autumn.