blog loveliness


1. the unicorn diaries 2. the cherry blossom girl 3. treats & treasures
4. the tea drinking english rose 5. blaze danielle 6. wish wish wish
7. wild keikei 8. rose posie rosie 9. (inside) a black apple
10. monmartre's sketchbook 11. scout holiday 12. i'm not antisocial, just shortsighted


Today, for a final blast of 'December loveliness', I thought I would share these blogs - all relatively recent discoveries, which I like as much for their lovely images and overall aesthetic as for their written style.

I especially like the fact that all of these blogs make the most of the potential offered by online platforms without feeling scarily uber-digital or hi-tech: in fact, if anything, blogs like the tea drinking english rose, or the unicorn diaries more closely resemble an old-fashioned handwritten journal that you could imagine you might tie up with a ribbon or lock with a key.

Whether or not the particular aesthetic appeals to you, what really stands out about all these blogs is how defined their individual styles are - visuals, content and prose style all work together to create a particular identity. It’s perhaps for this reason that these blogs feel so personal - reading them is like taking a little peep through the keyhole into the space of the bloggers’ imaginations.

It's interesting to observe how blogs such as i’m not antisocial just shortsighted (a very recent find, which I discovered via jo’s blog) or the cherry blossom girl develop, becoming a broad creative space to experiment with a distinctive personal style, bringing together together many different interests and sources of inspiration - from fashion to design to writing to photography to fine art.

Blogs like these seem to be first and foremost spaces to play with and share ideas, becoming (quite literally in the case of blogs like treats & treasures) ongoing scrapbooks or collages which are always growing and developing. These blogs are little treasure-troves of inspiration.

'twas the night before christmas...

































... wrapping last-minute gifts in red paper and silver string, with the sound of carol singers and laughter outside my window. In the distance, the ringing of Christmas bells.

favourite things: polaroids

I love old photographs, and polaroids in particular. I have recently become slightly obsessed with poladroid, a brilliant free-to-download image maker that allows you to transform any photograph into a polaroid in a mere matter of seconds. You can even watch the picture develop, just like a 'real' polaroid photograph.

I couldn't resist the temptation to capture in polaroid form a few more of my favourite things to add to the ever-increasing list:



















blue skies and autumn leaves



















felt-tip pens



















typewriters: I am seriously coveting this one from three potato four



















sitting in the oklahoma cafe with a hot spiced apple juice



















a very old and special friend

blurry christmas tree (and cat)







































OK, I've changed my mind... I do like Christmas after all. Especially when I'm on holiday, and there are mince pies, and Christmas songs, and sparkly trees with lots of twinkly lights. And most especially when I have nearly (at last!) finished my Christmas shopping.

However, I am a little disappointed that these photographs of our newly-decorated Christmas tree and our cat, Mim (doing her best cute-cat-on-a-Christmas-card impression) are such bad quality - I had to take them on my mobile phone because my camera decided today that the Christmas period would be the optimum time to break. I am especially disappointed about this, because one of my neighbours back in Manchester has amazing fairy lights in their window spelling out 'BAH HUMBUG' and I really wanted to take a picture.

If you are in Manchester this week, the special 'festive edition' of no point in not being friends tomorrow night looks like it will be a good one. Unfortunately I'm not there to go along, but there will be readings from Nicholas Royle, Socrates Adams-Florou (reading from his new chapbook) and the lovely Emily McPhillips amongst others, plus surprise presents AND Christmas cover songs.

I have another little something up over at a handful of stones today, which seems particularly appropriate for the winter solstice.

Right, now I'm off to eat another mince pie.

oops

My plans for daily December loveliness haven't worked out so well this week. Perhaps that's just because it hasn't been a particularly lovely week: I seem to have spent most of it working, or sitting on the bus, or being tired, or walking round town on a fruitless quest for Christmas presents, getting periodically bashed by people with armfuls of Primark bags in remorseless pursuit of the nearest bargain bin, all set to the tune of hyped-up electro Christmas carols.

Bah humbug indeed.

I feel the need to catch up a bit on the 'loveliness' front. Today has been a lot lovelier so far, in spite of the greyness and the rain: it's Saturday, and I've just come back from a nice pub lunch, and now I'm sitting under two blankets because the house is cold, and am contemplating lighting the fire and making a cup of cocoa.

First though, here's some rapid-fire 'good things' to make up for some of the ground I've lost through general apathy this week:

I quite like this new blog. It's full of useful advice and eyeopening insights, mostly in capital letters.

The excellent artyarn will be launching their Shed Jumper project next week. Working with the local community, they have knitted a jumper for a shed! Check it out at the Pool Arts SHED Gallery, Tonbridge Road Allotments in Levenshulme from Thursday.

Academy:academy is a new blog and a very useful online resource, with links to 'free material of educational value' on the web. Go there to check out lectures, interviews, artists film and video and tons of other interesting stuff.

I like this new blog too. It doesn't have a lot of posts yet, but I have a good feeling about it.

The Manchester Craft Mafia Christmas market is taking place at the Whitworth today and tomorrow. Go there for everything from paper shoes to cuddly robots. Check out the information here.

A new exhibition at FACT opened this week called DING>>D0NG (very appropriately seasonal) which I'm looking forward to seeing when I'm next in Liverpool. The exhibition 'closes FACT's 2008 programme with bleeps, bangs and electronic noise' and features new work by Andy McCluskey, Peter Saville, Hambi Haralambous and The Fragmented Orchestra.

And just for a little variety:

I stumbled on this blog quite recently. It is called 'Sea of Shoes' (a good name) and it is penned by a young lady called Jane, who lives in Texas and is 16 years old. Although I can see that her taste might not be everyone's cup of tea (I thought these Martin Margiela 'sandal booties' were fabulous but my boyfriend thought they were horrendous) I can't help feeling deeply impressed that any 16-year old has such a strong sense of personal style, especially when I look back at the kind of things I was wearing at 16 (we won't go into details, but in retrospect, it was Not Good). To be fair to me though, Dries van Noten and Balenciaga were a little out of my price-range, and not really readily available in Lancaster town centre!

Right, that's enough for one day - now it's cocoa time...

or perhaps I'll move to paris...

... and live in this Miss Dior campaign produced by Sophia Coppola.



Balloons, cakes, vintage sunglasses and pink dresses. That's what it's all about. And no green taps to be seen!

today














Pink sky at four o'clock: last night's frost still glitters on the roofs of houses.

and now, in a change to our scheduled programme...

...my house is falling to bits.

Since we moved in here about eighteen months ago,the boiler has broken (twice), the washing machine has leaked across the kitchen floor, the kitchen ceiling has leaked (numerous times), the shower has broken, there has been a wasp’s nest in the ceiling and the TV aerial has broken. Just the other week we discovered a new leak in the kitchen (a pipe this time) on the same day that the kitchen door fell off its hinges. Then the boiler broke (again). Then a whole lot of water came through the kitchen ceiling.

It is just that kind of house. It is disintegrating very slowly. It is the kind of house where doors regularly fall off their hinges, where pictures or mirrors or bookshelves or coat-hooks spontaneously leap off the walls as if possessed by some (otherwise relatively tranquil) poltergeist. It is the kind of house where everything is slightly rickety: the leg of the dining room table is liable to fall off, none of the cupboard doors will close properly, and a number of them always seem to be missing a handle. It is a dysfunctional house: the bathroom window won’t shut, the back door won’t open, the drains in the back yard are mysteriously designed in such a way as to prevent water from actually going down them, so that the back yard is a perpetual swamp. Everything is slightly crooked: it is a house devoid of straight lines or right angles. It is rife with health and safety hazards: my personal favourite is the plug extension crammed dangerously with plugs and various mysterious wires which sits, conveniently, adjacent to the kitchen sink.

I know these kinds of problems are not particularly unique - they may indeed be universal to people renting houses. Believe me, I have lived in some very special houses before. Shoebox-sized flats with dirty carpets and views of petrol station forecourts. Rambling student houses full of endless piles of mouldering washing up and supremely disgusting bathrooms. But there does seem to be something extra-special about this house. Nothing about it is ever quite how it should be. After all, showers are supposed to be a constant temperature, not alternately freezing cold or boiling hot, though mysteriously behaving quite normally whenever anyone comes round to fix them. Skirting boards are not supposed to be slopped with drips of various different colours of gloss paint. Flooring is generally supposed to cover the entire floor, and not to expose occasional areas of concrete, as if someone just got bored when laying it and wandered off halfway through to superintend some other DIY disaster. Bathroom taps should not be stubbornly green, regardless of the quantity of elbow grease applied when cleaning: it is also helpful if the bathroom door closes, particularly when you have visitors. Kitchen counters should not be covered in old speckly grey and white vinyl: whilst the principle of ‘not showing the dirt’ works well enough for say, hall carpets, it is not generally well applied to kitchen surfaces. Bathrooms should not be painted in four different shades of bright blue paint, as if someone got a bit carried away with their child’s poster paints. Piles of dust bunnies should not mysteriously accumulate in corners of the room apparently seconds after extensive dusting and hoovering has taken place.

It is a house behaving badly. Sometimes I feel like this house and I are locked in a battle of wills: my only weapons a succession of J-cloths, furniture polish, the slightly aged hoover, a scrubbing brush. I’m not sure that I am winning.

We keep trying. Today I have been trying to improve the house. I have done some washing and cleaned the kitchen. We have moved our giant rubber plant, which was looking a bit unhappy, to a new, sunnier location where hopefully it will stop trying to pretend it is deciduous.I have made a resolution to go out and buy picture frames for all the things which need framing. At some point, I may even go and cut the hedge, which has not been cut for weeks and is almost reaching Sleeping-Beauty-castle type proportions. But it isn't enough.

We have resolved to move out of our house soon, which in some ways is a shame. After all, it is quite a pretty house. It is on a very nice quiet street with views of trees. It has some good features, like big (draughty) windows, and an original fireplace in the sitting room. It has a jungly little garden at the front where I can watch birds and squirrels going about their business. When people come round they always say “ooh what a nice house”. Some of them even like the freakish blue bathroom.

But I have dreams of other houses. Cool, light, clean beautiful houses. Houses with lovely sash windows and polished floorboards and sunny kitchens and windows boxes full of red geraniums. Houses with perfect white bathrooms. Houses with black cats snoozing on the windowsill. Houses with clean white bed linen and fluffy fresh towels. Houses that smell delicious: of furniture polish and cut flowers and clean washing and something baking in the oven. Houses with proper cupboards and doors that close and ceilings that don’t leak...

Today, I'm looking at dream places to live. I love these pictures of fashion designer Betsey Johnson’s New York apartment (images from an old copy of Elle Decoration) though it’s perhaps a bit on the crazy maximalist side and might be hard to live with on a daily basis. And it definitely wouldn't go down well with my boyfriend who is a true minimalist and would happily furnish our entire house from Muji plus the odd design classic given that we had any money to spend.
























































But I would like to live in a place like this one, or this one... or perhaps in a treehouse, or maybe even this extremely cute 'chicken coop' house designed by artist J Morgan Puett - I'm not sure about the interior decor, but I love the outside though I suppose it might be a little small, and perhaps indeed chilly at this time of the year:


















paraphernalia is good

I really like the word ‘paraphernalia’.

Perhaps coincidentally, I also really like Paraphernalia jewellery which I came across a few months ago via the magic that is etsy.com. These beautiful and highly distinctive designs caught my eye straight away: I love the tongue-in-cheek contemporary spin that Paraphernalia gives to traditional Victoriana.

Amongst my own favourites from the collection are the Fauna Blue Bird, Magpie and Goldfish necklaces, but having said that, who could resist the Sleuth collection or the Vetements collection or perhaps especially these most covetable brooches? It’s just so hard to choose...





















Paraphernalia has recently launched her own shop where you can browse to your heart’s content, and also has a lovely blog here. It was through her blog that I learned that she is in fact based but a stone’s throw away from me here in Didsbury, Manchester - her blog even features some photographs of Fletcher Moss park, one of my favourite places for a weekend meander. How’s that for an unexpected coincidence?

Paraphernalia has just announced a competition for her newest collection, The Victoriana Collection, featuring a number of very elegant ladies who you can see here on flickr. You can enter by writing a short story (one or two paragraphs) for one, or indeed several of the ladies, and if yours is selected, it will be featured in the product description and press releases of the collection (with full credit and link) and you'll also win a $30 gift voucher. Check out the blog for more details.























I also really like the word ‘ephemera’. And ‘gherkin’ though that’s not got anything to do with the matter currently at hand.

put on your red shoes to dance the blues

I’m feeling a little bit jaded today. A little bit monosyllabic. Still, I think half the point of posting something every day is to write even on the jaded, monosyllabic days. I’m probably just feeling grumpy because the 8 inches of snow somehow turned into 8 inches (or more) of rain overnight.

Anyway, time for something lovely. Here we go.


















Yep, it's a picture of a particularly pleasing shoe. Yes, it is red. Yes, it is glittery. Yes, it has peep toes. Yes, it looks like a dancing shoe, possibly a shoe that might be worn on Strictly Come Dancing by someone dancing the samba or the cha-cha in a sequinned 'number'. These are all good things. This shoe is from Topshop. You can see more pictures of it here. I also like it in grey. That's about all there is to say about it, really.

I wish I had had enough energy to have gone along to the launch of the Diary of a Bluestocking retrospective/end-of-residency exhibition at Apartment tonight. In actual fact, I'm on my sofa under two blankets (my house is freezing) but I’m there sipping sherry in spirit.

free encouragement
















I found another interesting web-based project recently, which seems very appropriate for my daily post of goodness. Booooooom! and Design for Mankind have joined forces to create Free encouragement, a project which is absolutely all about positivity and nice things. The idea behind the project is to counteract the negativity that we find “all around us these days... infesting the internet... taking over the big screen... showing up on your bank statement”.

The first part of the project, led by Booooooom!, has been the creation of an online 'gallery of encouragement' - anyone can submit their own personal encouraging messages to the project: “You can use this gallery to encourage a close friend or someone you just happened to pass by on the street. You can encourage a relative who may be ill or the girl who handed you your coffee this morning. You could even use this place to encourage yourself!” You can see the gallery here, which makes very entertaining reading. The images here are some of my personal favourites from the gallery.































The second half of the project, led by Design for Mankind, has not yet been announced - it's veiled in mystery until it kicks off this Friday. I'm intrigued to see what will happen next, but there's no doubt that it will certainly be cheerful.















I went back to work today. It was quite challenging, but I survived the day and made it home, despite the freezing cold, and nearly falling over on the ice about a hundred times on the short walk from the train station back to my house. Here are some other cheerful and lovely things from my day:
  • Frosty hedgerows and sunshine in the morning
  • Steak and kidney pudding, chips, gravy and peas for lunch (which really should have been on my ‘100 favourite things list I think) - greedy but good
  • This monkey
  • A forecast for 8 inches of snow tonight!

of course one needed tea always





















I can't really talk about lovely things without mentioning tea and nice teacups. I like this quote from Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women, which I read over the weekend:
Perhaps there can be too much making of cups of tea, I thought as I watched Miss Statham filling the heavy tea-pot. We had all had our supper, or were supposed to have had it, and were met together to discuss the arrangements for the Christmas bazaar. Did we really need a cup of tea? I even said as much to Miss Statham and she looked at me with a hurt, almost angry look. “Do we need tea?” she ecohed. “But Miss Lathbury...” She sounded puzzled and distressed, and I began to realise that my question had struck at something deep and fundamental. It was the kind of question that starts a landslide in the mind.

I mumbled something about making a joke and that of course one needed tea always, at every hour of the day and night.
This is my favourite cinnamon tea with cardamom, ginger, cloves and black peppercorns. I also like this one which comes in a pretty box. However, my favourite of all is weak earl grey (no milk of course) in a teacup, ideally with a slice of cake on the side. I think Barbara Pym would approve.

I came across Tea Blog, an interesting web-based project by artist Ellie Harrison, via Mark Robinson’s Arts Counselling blog, which is well worth a read - one of his definitions of ‘strategic’ as ‘really, really big and expensive’ nearly made me snort tea everywhere. Anyway, each time Ellie drinks a cup of tea (or any other hot drink) she records a snippet of what she is thinking about on the blog. Since 1 January 2006 when the project started, she has gathered over 1,500 thoughts online in a tribute to tea and thought. Tea Blog is due to end at midnight on 31 December 2008.

ladybird books
































I absolutely love Ladybird Books... but then, is there anyone who doesn't? They whisk you back into your childhood in an instant - suddenly you're there all over again, fascinated by 'The Elves and the Shoemaker', or, my personal favourite, 'The Enormous Turnip' - and don't even get me started on 'Puddle Lane'. Though in fact, I think part of the magic is that actually, they have the power to take you back even further than that, into another, imaginary childhood, where things are priced in shillings, magnets are unaccountably fascinating, lawns are green, policemen are friendly and helpful, and Peter and Jane go Shopping with Mother or have a jolly time with Pat the Dog. All this and the opportunity to hone your skills at reading such essential words as 'dog', 'girl' and 'ball'. I think the other reason I love Ladybird Books is because they also remind me of the sheer, electric joy of learning to read, of devouring whole books by myself.















Someone has obviously caught onto the universal appeal of the Ladybird Book because you can now buy notebooks and mugs and fridge magnets and suchlike with vintage Ladybird illustrations (see here), as well as a book, Boys and Girls: A Ladybird Book of Childhood. I'm not usually a one for novelty mugs or indeed those just-for-the-sake-of-it gift books that people give each other for Christmas and then never look at again, but I have to admit that I can see the appeal of these. But what I really want for Christmas is a real-life Tiptoes the mischievous kitten.

december loveliness

I woke this morning, on the first day of December, to snowfall - a gentle flurry of featherlight flakes. There’s something so magical about snow.

Now it is December, I can start enjoying thinking about Christmas - because regardless of what the shops seem to think, Christmas does not start in mid-October. But now I can start planning presents, and thinking about cards, and contemplating mince pies with brandy butter, and (when I am better) trips to the Christmas market for mulled wine and other good festive things.

I have decided to give myself a small challenge for December. Writing about the things I like over the last week or so has been so cheering. Thinking about the things you love make you feel good (very medicinal), and also in some way reminds you who you are. It’s also made me realise how easy it is to forget about enjoying the small, lovely things in the face of all the negative stuff - the Big Important Worrying Things - when actually I can’t help thinking that it’s the nice things that really matter in the end.

I’m aware that writing about ‘nice’ things perhaps isn’t the most intellectual of pastimes, but it is extremely enjoyable, and to be quite honest I couldn’t care less about being intellectual at the moment. Anyway, lovely things give a fairy-light twinkle, a snowflake sparkle to grey winter days.

So... throughout December, I will be counting down the days until Christmas with my own advent of cheerful, interesting, inspiring or lovely things - festive or otherwise. There will be a little bitesize something that takes my fancy each and every day.

today

.... a lovely frosty morning, a very slow stroll through glittering hedgerows, birdsong and a blue sky. Cocoa and homemade date and walnut cake... my velvet slippers have holes in them.

on being slow

I was quite interested to read this article by Jon Henley in the Guardian the other day about Slow Blogging. Slow Bloggers, apparently, are those who "take the time to think, study and reflect before they post; who do not feel the need to slap the first thing that comes out of their head straight onto the web." The Slow Blogging movement has also recently attracted the attention of the NY Times where the practice is compared to that of meditation, whilst fast, news-driven blogging is "the equivalent of fast-food restaurants". In some ways though, I can't help thinking that Slow Blogging seems almost like anti-blogging: it is described as “a rejection of immediacy … an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly”, an act of “speaking like it matters, like the pixels that give your words form are precious and rare”.

I don't think I would be very good at being a Slow Blogger. I think I am probably a Fast and Sloppy Blogger, but I can't help thinking that maybe that's half the fun.

Sometimes, though, I do think it is good to be slow. Right now, I am moving very slowly. I am being a cat cushion. I am knitting, one row at a time. I am having a cup of tea, and then maybe a bit later, another one. I am watching a blackbird eating orange berries off a bush in the garden, and noticing the clouds move slowly across the sky. I am meandering, dawdling.

I like this example of really, really slow blogging.

I feel like a sloth.

****

I have a little something up on a handful of stones today. You can find it here.

lists are good

I think I have struck on something with this list business. I wrote my list of 100 favourite things the other day, and then my lovely cousin Shona joined in here (Shona likes "Agent Provocateur lingerie," "Christian Loboutin shoes" and "chip butties"), and then today my mum wrote herself a list (my mum likes "red wine", "Chanel perfume", "the National Portrait Gallery" and "peas in pods"). Everyone really enjoyed making their list, and it seemed to cheer my mum up a lot, which is a good thing because she is not at all well at the moment - in fact she is suffering from an extremely nasty dose of shingles, which is not a very cheering illness. Anyway, making a list of things she liked made her feel better. It is undoubtedly medicinal.

Making the list was so much fun that we then went on and wrote a list of our cat's favourite things, which was a bit silly but we have got a lot of time on our hands at the moment. It didn't reach a hundred but we thought of quite a few (Mim likes "ham", "plastic bags", "tinned tuna", "hiding places" and "chewing hair"). I think making lists is good for you - theraputic, and surprisingly satisfying.

I am ill too. What I thought was just a bad case of my usual throat of doom (plus a few extra ‘lucky dip’ symptoms thrown in for variety) has actually proven to be a virus, and my doctor has signed me off work for a week. I feel fairly ghastly, but also a bit bored. I am bored of being ill. Be prepared for lots of unpremeditated, badly-written, slightly incoherent blog posts. And possibly more rabbits.

My mum and I are trying to find things to cheer us up. As well as lists, we have been trying to create an Enid Blyton-style convalescence for ourselves. We have been having nice cups of tea and cakes (and the odd hot toddy) and watching old films and playing card games and reading children's books and knitting, and waiting, perhaps somewhat optimistically, for the doctor to send us off to recover at the seaside for a month.

In spite of all our good efforts though, sometimes I feel a bit grumpy. I feel like I've had enough illness. Instead, I would like to be bursting with health and energy. Instead of pyjamas, I would like to be wearing a stylish, elegant and distinctive outfit. Instead of languishing in bed, I would like to be sitting in a cafe looking interesting and writing something wonderful. I would like to be writing lots of new things - proper things - like a really good new novel and some excellent short stories. I would like to make this blog a bit less twee, and have fewer of what Sally, in her blog post of earlier this week, aptly terms “silk scarf moments”.

For now though, I think silk scarves are really all that I can manage. I’m just going to concentrate on bunnies and writing lists of nice things.

favourite things, tra-la-la















Yesterday I was mainly reclining and enjoying the December issue of UK Vogue - the ‘Fantastic Fashion Fantasy Issue.’ I have to admit to having mixed feelings about fashion magazines, but for me, this issue of Vogue is absolutely what it should be all about. Ridiculous Christmas gift ideas aside (magnum of Moet with bespoke Swarovski crystal lettering, anyone? £175 leather rubik's cube? nope, thought not) it is a delight - an imaginative wonderland of beautiful and inspirational images, showcasing high fashion at its most fabulously outrageous, playful, romantic and whimsical.

Tim Walker’s brilliant ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ shoot is a hugely enjoyable tribute to Roald Dahl, starring a gleefully grotesque Tim Burton, Helena Bohnam Carter and Karen Elson, accompanied with a text by Sophie Dahl. The ‘Unbelievable Fashion’ spread by Nick Knight takes unapologetic pleasure in fashion that pushes the boundaries, celebrating couture at its most experimental (and utterly bonkers). There’s also some beautiful new fashion illustrations, including Karl Lagerfeld’s ‘Secret Ball’ and even a fantasy shoe designed by who else but Manolo Blahnik.

I enjoyed four new ‘fashion fairytales’ commissioned from writers Rose Tremain, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Poppy Adams and Linda Grant - whose twist on the original ‘Little Mermaid’ featured surprise, surprise a pair of strangely compelling red shoes - and was also intrigued by the ‘In My Dreams’ feature revisiting a project from 1967, when Yves Saint Laurent was invited to illustrate a ‘dream wall’ for Vogue bringing together ‘favourite people, colours, ideas, things not yet or ever done... places, sunsets, faces’ (Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue, 1967). In this issue, fashion creatives including Giles Deacon, Rick Owens and Bruno Frisconi were invited to create their own visual representation of their favourite things: I especially liked the response from the wonderful Luella Bartley (you have to love a fashion designer who calls their shows stuff like 'Dial F for Fluro' or 'Daddy I Want a Pony') which included “my 2 sheep”, “Wednesday Adams’ plaits” and “geeky girls like Thora Birch in Ghostworld.”

I got thinking about what I might include on my own ‘dream wall’ and started making a list of ‘a few of my favourite things’ - Von Trapp chorus optional - though once I got started it was hard to stop. This is highly recommended as entertainment for dismal grey November afternoons...
  1. ginger chocolate
  2. velvet ribbon
  3. teapots
  4. libraries
  5. hot baths
  6. striped socks
  7. daisies on the lawn
  8. crayons
  9. mexican food
  10. red shoes (obviously)
  11. rum and ginger beer
  12. 1950s rock and roll
  13. old photographs
  14. earl grey tea
  15. sleeper trains
  16. meadows
  17. french accents
  18. children’s books
  19. sausage dogs
  20. ballet shoes
  21. red poppies
  22. typewriters
  23. snowfall
  24. old records
  25. date and walnut cake
  26. blankets
  27. attics
  28. black ink pens
  29. bluebell woods
  30. vintage illustrations
  31. pecan pie
  32. polka dots
  33. candlelight
  34. piano music
  35. seafood
  36. all hats, especially berets
  37. hammocks
  38. moomins
  39. bonfires
  40. raspberries
  41. penny sweets
  42. stationery shops
  43. wellington boots
  44. leopard print
  45. the smell of the sea
  46. butterflies
  47. victorian novels
  48. bicycles with baskets
  49. line drawings
  50. cherries
  51. breakfast pancakes
  52. knitting
  53. sketchbooks
  54. sushi
  55. fairy lights
  56. eyeliner
  57. cinema popcorn
  58. chinatown
  59. scrabble
  60. pavement cafes
  61. earmuffs
  62. 1940s/1950s dresses
  63. treasure boxes
  64. black cats
  65. amaretto
  66. cinnamon tea
  67. stripy jumpers
  68. red lipstick
  69. bare feet
  70. yellow lined paper
  71. roast chicken dinners
  72. swimming in the sea
  73. coca cola in a glass bottle
  74. black polo necks
  75. ponytails
  76. lemons
  77. radio 4
  78. blue skies
  79. super 8 films
  80. junk shops
  81. country lanes
  82. chandeliers
  83. hot water bottles
  84. peanut butter
  85. satchels
  86. rock pools
  87. woolly tights
  88. drinking through a straw
  89. brown paper
  90. peep toes
  91. bread sauce
  92. red umbrellas
  93. allotments
  94. glass milk bottles
  95. postcards
  96. breton stripes
  97. shuttered windows
  98. cocktail glasses
  99. foreign stamps
  100. secret gardens

beware: this post may be bad for you

...'bad for women' is one of the things someone searched for on google which brought them here. I can't imagine why that should be, but perhaps, unbeknownst to me, this is actually very dangerous and subersive. Perhaps it is a bad influence. Perhaps it should come with a warning at the top in big, scary, flashing red letters: BAD FOR WOMEN. Maybe it is bad for women, or indeed... even men (shock!). Perhaps it's just too pink and there are too many bunnies, you know, in a sort of dangerous and subversive way.

Or maybe it's the red shoes that do it. Red shoes have after all been known to be a little dangerous on occasion.

Now for a few messages to some of the other visitors who made there way here via the magic of google search:

to the person who searched ‘leopard tights’: I really hope you meant leopard PRINT tights, not tights FOR leopards. I don’t think that would be practical. It would also be quite weird.

to the person who searched ‘boeuf bourginnone’: I’m very sorry there are no boeuf recipes here. I bet you were expecting lots of nice beefy, stewy-type things, and then you wound up here where there were mainly just pictures of rabbits, and not even stewed ones at that. Actually, I can’t remember ever having actually written anything about boeuf, but it does sound like something I would do.

And finally, to the person who searched ‘you know what they say about girls in red shoes’: what they say, actually, is that they are extremely stylish and fabulous. And that’s really all there is to it.

And last of all, here's a picture of Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes, just because why not?

bunnies are best for bad moods



















































I am feeling cross today. I am in a bit of a bad temper. There are various reasons for this, but it is perhaps partly just an accumulation of little things. It's been a long week and I have a very sore throat, and someone has stolen my recycling box from my front garden, and I have had a disaster with the blanket I am knitting for my friends’ baby, and my kitchen door has fallen off its hinges and my hair is not looking good today. None of these are especially important, but they are the kinds of small things that do sometimes put one in a bad mood.

There are lots of things I would quite like to be doing this weekend but I am not going to do any of them. Here are some of the things I would like to be doing:

I would like to be going to see the new play Peacock Boy by Crystal Stewart. Described as 'a grubby adult fairy tale of desperation and deception' this combination of live action, music and puppetry is on at Contact Theatre this weekend.

I would like to be going to look at lovely new artist's books and publications at the Liverpool Artist's Book Fair at Wolstenholme Projects this weekend.

I would like to be going to 'Night of the Owl' at A Foundation tonight. This event will offer the chance to see and hear some of the first results of a collaboration between the Owl Project and musicians Leafcutter John, Kaffe Matthews and Thor Magnusson to develop a new range of wooden instruments for live performance. It will also include performances from Philip Jeck, Tim Lambert and Simon Whetham as well as short films from Jacob Cartwright & Nick Jordan. There is more here.

Instead I have been staying inside, nourishing myself with cups of cinnamon tea and a hot water bottle, and reading The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard for the hundredth time, which is always very cheering. Sometimes small things can also put you in a better mood, especially if they are things like small fluffy bunnies.

I have also been looking at some good things on the internet. I have been listening to lovely live birdsong here, which can only be a very cheerful sort of thing.

I have also been reading about this interesting new project from the excellent if:book London, which describes itself as ‘an experiment in close-reading’: seven women, including Laura Kipnis and Naomi Alderman are reading The Golden Notebook by Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing, and will be carrying out an ongoing online conversation in the margins. The project went live on 10 November and it will be interesting to see how it develops: project objectives are to enable a culture of collaborative learning, and to explore the possibilities of carrying out complex conversations ‘messy, non-linear and complicated’ via the platforms offered by the web. I’m embarassed to admit that I’ve never actually read The Golden Notebook though it’s been on my 'to read' list for a long time - this project makes me want to go out and get myself a copy so I can read along.

And for moments when I feel a bit less intellectual, I have also been looking at pictures of other people’s breakfasts (mmm, breakfasts) and oh yes, of course, looking at photographs of bunnies. An orange rabbit is the best antidote to a bad mood. You can also try looking at silly photographs of dogs and videos of cats doing ridiculous things, of course. If a cat getting excited about putting its head in a box doesn't cheer you up, then I'm afraid nothing will. It's a fact.

In case you too are having a bad mood day and the bunnies haven't done the trick, there's some videos of a particularly entertaining cat called Maru doing that very thing here. I feel better already.

handmade nation

...along with the news of a very welcome election result, last week brought a message from America of a different sort to my door - an exciting parcel wrapped in brown paper.

Inside was a copy of a brand new book, Handmade Nation, sent to me all the way from Boston by lovely Meighan.

Meighan is the curator/author of the beautiful blog my love for you is a stampede of horses, where right now amongst many other things, you can find pictures from studio visits, images from artists' sketchbooks, meercat brooches, a q&a with artist christian rex van minnen and temporary unicorn tattoos, plus new work from a huge range of emerging artists.























Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design
investigates today's new wave of craft - a vibrant movement of artists, crafters and designers working with both traditional and nontraditional media to create highly innovative work that's a world away from the traditions of floral embroidery and cross-stitch samplers. Authors Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerel have travelled 19,000 miles across the US to document this new craft revolution, which fuses traditional handcraft techniques with radical thinking, punk and anti-capitalist culture and the DIY ethos, and frequently crosses the boundary between craft and contemporary art. The book will also be accompanied by a documentary film of the same name due for release in 2009.

This beautifully-presented and inspiring book brings together profiles of 24 artists, designers and makers working with everything from embroidery to rug-hooking, shoe-making and paper-cutting, documenting their work, inspirations and methodologies as well as their work environments and processes. The profiles are accompanied by an interesting and thought-provoking selection of texts which explore the 'handmade' phenomenon in more detail, focussing on some of the related cultural and political issues. Essayists include Andrew Wagner of American Craft Magazine, Callie Janoff of the rather fabulously named Church of Craft, Betsy Greer of Craftivism.com and Susan Beal, author of Super Crafty. Particularly interesting is the essay by Garth Johnson of extremecraft.com, 'Down the Tubes: In Search of Internet Craft,' which highlights the role of the online crafting community, emphasising the importance of the web both as a tool to market and sell products via sites like Etsy.com and as a platform to share ideas, network and collaborate.

With lovely illustrations and lettering by Kate Bingaman-Burt (including a beautiful timeline mapping the rise of craft's new wave that evokes Sara Fannelli's artist timeline at Tate Modern) Handmade Nation is a fascinating snapshot of the contemporary craft phenomenon in the US. The book also provides a valuable context for the movement, touching on the political ideologies at its heart; however, I would have been interested to read more critical writing unpacking some of these ideas in greater depth, investigating the potentially revolutionary agendas of craft's new wave, and positing what the possible futures of the handmade movement might be. Altogether though, there's no doubt that Handmade Nation is a hugely enjoyable read, packed with ideas and inspirations. Here's to the continued rise of DIY, art, craft and design!

For more information about Handmade Nation check out the blog and the official website. There's also a q&a with Faythe Levine on my love for you is a stampede of horses, and an interview with both authors in NYLON here. There are lots of other people jumping on the 'craft' bandwagon at the moment, most recently India Knight in last week's Sunday Times with this article on 'credit crunch chic'.

****
Whilst I was checking out the Princeton Architectural Press website, I also spotted this new book, A Year of Mornings. The book documents another interesting blog-based projects, 3191, which has a good story behind it. On the morning of December 7, 2006, Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes each took a digital photo of everyday objects randomly arranged on their kitchen tables and, unbeknownst to one another, uploaded them to Flickr. Noticing a surprising similarity between their images, they decided to continue to document their respective mornings by posting one photo to a shared blog each weekday for a year - 3191, their site is named after the distance in miles between their homes in Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon. This new book brings together a range of images from the original Year of Mornings project, but Maria and Stephanie have already embarked on a new collaborative photographic project, entitled A Year of Evenings, which you can see here.

the intertwining line























The Intertwining Line: Drawing as Subversive Art opened at Cornerhouse on Thursday night. This new exhibition curated by Tereza Kotyk explores the relationship between animation and contemporary drawing, bringing together a selection of short films and animations alongside work by artists such as Melanie Jackson and Catherine Bertola. The exhibition also features drawings by Rachel Goodyear, whose Girl on a chair (2008) is shown above, and Naomi Kashiwagi, who performed her gramaphone DJ set at the exhibition launch. Coincidentally both Rachel and Naomi have recently been shortlisted for the Individual Artist category in the art08 awards - you can check out the full shortlist here.

The exhibition also features Go - a series of thirty short animated ‘road movies’ by artist Rob Bailey following planes, trains, boats and cars travelling across land air and sea.















Check out more of Rob's work right here!

The exhibition continues until Sunday 11 January 2009.

3 things to read online on 3 november

1. Rainy City Stories is Manchester's interactive literary cityscape. Go here at once to read commissioned stories by Nicholas Royle and Jackie Kay amongst others, as well as excellent new contributions from Richard Barrett, Socrates Adams-Florou and Jenn Ashworth.

Jenn's story made me feel ashamed because I frequent Cornerhouse and have been known to lay claim to a 'dairy intolerance'. Thankfully I do not own anything from American Apparel. I did once go in but was scared away by the plethora of neon leggings on display.

2. The Pygmy Giant has been reborn in a new incarnation, hosted by Wordpress. It looks pretty. You can find it here.

3. Flax have launched an exciting new blog project which may have something to do with writers Jenn Ashworth and Tolu Ogunlesi. Check out the brand new blogs Adorna Shine and Desiderus without further ado.

I am already intrigued by the case-book of Desiderus. And I have to admit I am 'adoring' Adorna. It’s the sparkly star cursor that does it. And the pink. And the picture of the dog. And the fact that she likes cheese triangles.

4. Six sentences brings me tiny six-sentence stories to brighten my day.

I tried to submit something to them recently but it turned out that I could not count to six.

Apparently I cannot count to three either.

Oh dear.

november

It’s November, and my autumn literature festival odyssey is now at an end. It’s been a good one. I have heard so many interesting and inspiring writers read over the last month or two that I have accumulated a huge list of new books to check out, starting with Claire Wigfall’s short stories, Sallie Day’s Palace of Strange Girls, Adam Marek’s Instruction Manual For Swallowing, and Anne Donovan’s Being Emily to name but a few. I have been to all kinds of great events, ranging from the Northern Poetry Slam to David Gaffney’s rather marvellous Destroy Powerpoint, to the very appropriately spooky Halloween launch for Comma Press’s New Uncanny anthology, and of course, the Manchester Blog Awards.

Since the blog awards, I have been enjoying reading the many and varied responses to the event, as well as to the shortlisted and award-winning blogs themselves. One or two have been less than complimentary, like this one from Manhattanchester, who dismissed the whole sorry affair as ‘whimsical’, ‘trite’ and ‘woefully middle-class’ and characterised the blog readings as 'flat, ill-chosen and uninteresting' mumbles 'about coffee and home appliances':

They chose the wrong winners... evidenced in part by the reaction of the crowd and the vox pops of the people I interrogated. The few that is who had actually heard of or read any of the blogs. Do your homework people!

...I have to admit, though, that actually I don’t mind much being considered whimsical or trite. In fact, dare I say it, I actually quite like it. I quite like domestic appliances too - they’re quite harmless really, sometimes quite useful for cooking and that kind of thing. I think it’s OK to write about domestic appliances if the mood takes you.

Anyway, other responses have been much more positive, emphasising the exciting possibilities of the critical mass of blogging activity in and around Manchester. I like this one from Adrian Slatcher on the Mancunian Way, which identifies the blog's potential to act as a ‘genuine platform for new writing:’

What was noticeable last night is that there's hardly a hair's breadth anymore between the blog writer and the writer. Follow the Yellow Brick Road or Chicken and Pies could easily be the first chapter of an autobiographical novel...

I’m intrigued by the idea of a blog functioning like an autobiographical (or perhaps even not-so-autobiographical) novel. After all, I think even if you try to be quite honest, there’s something about the nature of this medium which necessitates you to assume a certain voice, a certain character, to tiptoe over into the territory of fiction. I think the ‘character’ or ‘voice’ of this blog is not dissimilar to me as I am ‘in real life’, but is quite a lot more perky. I feel quite jaunty and frivolous when I write this blog, as if I am a peripheral character in a Nancy Mitford novel. There’s a touch of the lashings-of-ginger-beers too I suspect - that’s the bit of me that grew up on Enid Blyton and likes words like ‘marvellous’ and ‘lovely’ and has probably read I Capture the Castle one too many times.

I have to admit, though, that for me, the whole blog awards experience has been quite odd. I was genuinely very surprised to be shortlisted, and especially surprised to win. It was quite a shock to the system to realise that there are actual ‘readers’ out there - I don’t think I had really thought about readers before, having always assumed that very few people would be interested in listening to me happily rambling about things like baked potatoes or tights and sparrows. But suddenly lots of my friends are reading my blog, and the link even got sent around my office. It’s made me feel rather self-conscious: I realise that this blog has been largely a place for me to indulge myself, to play and experiment, rather than a particularly thought-out project. I started it mainly just because, not having much time to dedicate to writing at the moment, I hoped it would keep me going, even if just by forcing me to write the occasional small something-or-other. There’s never been a clear plan in mind: it feels entirely different from a polished piece of finished ‘proper’ writing.

Thinking about it though, maybe that’s part of what makes this medium interesting. It’s inherently organic, and there's always space to play or to move in unexpected directions - to write about stuff you see out of the window, or on the bus, or to post a picture of your shoes if you feel like it - in a way that you would never feel free do in a more formal context. It’s a good way to break down your own barriers, to banish the fear that every piece of writing has to be 'perfect' in some way. And in the end, in spite of all the strangeness, winning the blog award has been an enormous encouragement - just to keep on playing, if nothing else. Perhaps not everything we write has to be carefully considered. Perhaps all these unimportant, frivolous (even trite or whimsical!) words can come together and start to mean something more. Perhaps it's in precisely these kinds of fluid, open spaces, where you feel you can just meander about anything, just like I’m doing now, where sometimes things can happen.

So with all this in mind, in spite of the oddness, I’m going to keep going and see where this takes me. Isn’t it the whole point about yellow brick roads that they can lead you to good places, after all?

urban/ecology exhibition













































The Urban/Ecology exhibition opens in Liverpool today, featuring work from Art Yarn, James Brady, Rob Bailey, Ben Gwilliam Sarah Hardacre, Rebecca McKnight and Tenneson & Dale amongst many more!

Check it out if you're heading to Liverpool this weekend - find out more here.

blog awards! eek!

I was surprised and delighted to be awarded the prize for Best New Blog at the Manchester Blog Awards ceremony this week!

















This is what the judges had to say about Follow The Yellow Brick Road: "It seems honest, and charming. The personality of the blogger comes across well, and I like how varied it is."

The other winners were:

Best Writing on a Blog: Every Day I Lie a Little
Best Arts and Culture Blog: Northernights
Best Personal Blog: Travels with my baby
Best City or Neighbourhood blog: Manchester Buses
CityLife.co.uk Manchester Blog of the Year: Travels with my Baby

Congratulations everyone!

It was a great night - beer, pizza, plus a brilliant selection of readings from Jenn, Socrates, Sally and Maureen, as well as previous years' winners Maria and Chris. It was great to meet people "in real life" - including, of course, the fabulously glamorous Ms Coco Laverne - and to put faces and names to blogs. Thanks to Kate and the MLF team for putting it all together.

I’ll admit I was slightly terrified when I had to get up on stage (partly just because the step up is enormous and I was convinced I was going to break my neck) and I actually missed hearing most of the nice things being said, because I was in a fever of panic at finding myself suddenly standing on a stage in front of a roomful of people who were all LOOKING AT ME. I am not very good at being in the spotlight. There is a reason I am a writer and not, for example, a performing artist. I would be very, very bad at it.

My prize came accompanied by this rather fine postcard with a recipe for Chorley cakes - strangely apt since I in fact come from Chorley and am a bit of a cake fan. I may even make some this weekend in celebration.



















Thanks so much to everyone for all the lovely feedback, encouragement and congratulations, and especially to my friends for putting up with me throughout the evening!

(Check out some photos from the night here, plus more about the event and the winners here, and here.)

review

I have a review of Jackie Corley's first short story collection, The Suburban Swindle up on Bookmunch. You can read it here.

very important plan for weekend

sparrows















It's been all quiet on the western front recently, but that's mainly because I've been busy. Amongst other things, last week I went along to the Buy Art Fair at Urbis. I also took in the preview events for this year's Manchester Literature Festival: Lucky Voice at Tiger Tiger, where poets Patience Agababi, Caroline Bird and John McAuliffe celebrated National Poetry Day karaoke-style; and an audience with Anita Shreve at Dancehouse. And in addition, I went up to Lancaster for the weekend, where I narrowly escaped being poisoned by some dumplings - though that, as they say, is really quite another story.

Today I was over in Liverpool for the North West Independent Publishers' Showcase, which is just one of the many events making up the new Chapter & Verse literature festival at the Bluecoat. It was great to see so many of the region's independent presses and literary magazines represented there, taking in everything from local history to radical poetry. I also enjoyed a varied selection of readings from a number of the writers they have published including Dominic Berry, John Redmond, Michael Carson and Rebecca Goss.

Tomorrow, of course, will be the first day of Manchester Literature Festival, complete with the Manchester Poetry Prize Gala in the evening. Today (when I wasn't enjoying new writing and publishing, of course) I found myself wondering what exactly one wears to a poetry gala. I had a brief flirtation with buying a pair of leopard print tights I saw in Topshop, which I thought might go with my favourite black dress, but then the doubt swept in. Could I really pull off leopard print tights or was it going to be a point-and-snigger situation? Were leopard print tights the kind of thing one really wears to a poetry gala? What shoes would go with them? And was £9.00 just a ridiculous amount of money to pay for tights, leopard print or otherwise? The questions were piling up, Carrie Bradshaw-style. In the end, I came home on the train with boring grey tights - 2 pairs for £4.99 - and no idea what to wear tomorrow night. Tights? Leopard print? What do we think? If anyone out there in the aether has a solution to my sartorial dilemma, I'd actually love to hear it.

But actually, the best thing that happened to me today didn't have anything to do with writing, literature or publishing, or even, as it happens, anything to do with tights. For various boring cancellation-related reasons, I ended up getting the train from East Didsbury to Manchester Airport this morning, and then catching a train on from there to Liverpool Lime Street. Whilst I was waiting for the train to Liverpool in the rather depressing waiting room at Manchester Airport, a sudden movement caught my eye, and I noticed a sparrow hopping around my feet, pecking hopefully at invisible crumbs. I felt a bit concerned about the sparrow: I wasn't sure how it had got into the waiting room, or how it was going to get back out through the automatic doors; but then suddenly I realised that there was actually a whole family of sparrows inside the waiting room. They were everywhere - lined up in a row on the beams in the roof, flitting from table to table cheeping to each other, perched on the back of a chair whilst scrutinising a man eating a Danish pastry. They were quite obviously having a great time. None of the other people in the waiting room (mostly cross-looking commuters, or people who were miserable because they had come back from holidays in the sun to damp, cold Manchester in October) seemed to notice the sparrows at all - even the man with the Danish pastry completely ignored them in spite of their best efforts to charm him into sharing his crumbs - but I sat there very happily watching them for about 20 minutes. I felt as if I had been unexpectedly transported to some tropical paradise where exotic hummingbirds might fly in and out or perch on the table, except of course that everyone looked colder and crosser than they probably would have done in a tropical paradise. But the sparrows were still the highlight of my day.

Lovely sparrow photograph by Rob Wallace via Creative Commons

my superego looks like this:



















I am lying low at the moment. I am under a blanket. I feel distinctly blanket-ish.

I am doing a lot of reading. I have recently been reading William Morris’s very strange utopian novel News from Nowhere and H.G. Wells’ possibly even stranger Tono-Bungay. I am currently reading The Suburban Swindle a new book of short stories by an emerging US writer, Jackie Corley, which I am reviewing for Bookmunch. Next I will be reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell.

What I am not doing much of is writing. My blog has had a lot of extra traffic since being shortlisted for the Manchester Blog Awards, and whilst it’s great to have so many people stopping in for a visit it’s also strangely unnerving. It makes it harder to write things. I think I may be suffering from a case of “blogger’s remorse”. After all, it’s one thing to write a blog when you know that not many people (and certainly not many people you know in real life) are going to be reading it, but it’s quite another when lots of people (many of whom you know) are reading it, and having opinions about it, and you will also have to go out in public and acknowledge it as your own. My superego is going slightly crazy about all this (and ever since watching Slavoj Zizek’s “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” recently, I can’t help envisioning my superego as looking like Groucho Marx, which makes it extra weird). It is barking a lot of words at me in a very loud voice. Some of the words are things like “ridiculous” and “stupid” and “inane” and “twee” and “annoying”. It’s basically telling me that everyone is going to point and laugh at me, and then I’ll do something hugely embarrassing, and probably that all my clothes will also somehow fall off as well, in a general nightmare-type way.

However, I am not going to be defeated by my superego, even if it does closely resemble Groucho Marx. In fact I am going to dare its disapproval, so just watch this space...

advice to sink in slowly







































I really like these "advice to sink in slowly" posters designed by recent and emerging graduates of University College Falmouth for the purpose of passing on advice and inspiration to first year students. A poster is given as a welcome gift to every new student when they enrol, but anyone can buy them on the advice to sink in slowly website. I’ve just treated myself to one of their posters (which arrived accompanied by a beautiful double-sided print by David Mathews and Temujin Doran) but it was very difficult to choose just one from the selection of goodies on offer!

Posters shown are by Jane Laurie ("Be Yourself"), Temujin Doran ("Learn an Instrument"), Carys Williams ("Collaborate") and Jasmine Foster ("Work Outside")







it's autumn

Autumn is really here now. I can smell it in the air. I like autumn. I like crispy early mornings, wearing boots and woolly tights, brisk walks, falling leaves, cosy jumpers and eating sustaining things like stew. I especially like that ‘back to school’ feeling of really getting down to business, a certain sense of purpose that comes along with the new stationery - fresh notebooks and really sharp pencils. It’s a good time of year.

I have to admit though that I’m not such a fan of the torrential rain we’ve been having of late. Or of the particularly unpleasant cold which has struck me down this week - I’m writing this from my sick bed. Still there’s worse things than lying around all day feeling slightly sorry for myself, eating soup, re-reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (the perfect book for chilly autumn afternoons), and looking forward to an evening of watching entertaining TV like ‘Dog Borstal’ in my pyjamas.

In other news I’ve got a review of Taking Pictures by Anne Enright up on the lovely Transmission blog at the moment where there are also lots of other good things. Check it out here.

manchester blog awards

Some good news to brighten up a particularly grey and damp Manchester day - this blog has been shortlisted for the Manchester blog awards! It's been nominated for the categories of 'best new blog' and 'best personal blog'. Hurrah!

And hurrah also to all the other excellent blogs which have been shortlisted for this year's awards, and especially some of my personal favourites - nine chains to the moon, every day I lie a little, chicken and pies, diary of a bluestocking and quit this pampered town. You can check out the full shortlist here or there's also a list here on delicious, though I have to admit I'm still not entirely sure quite what that is.

observed #1

I am an observer.

I like sitting in the window of a small cafe watching the world go by - and noticing people with particularly pretty shoes. I like sitting on the bus in the morning looking out at the rain, the changing leaves, the people just beginning their day, the shops opening, the city coming to life beyond the fog on the window. I like walking home just as dusk is falling, when the lights in the houses are switched on but the curtains aren't yet shut, catching passing glimpses of the warm yellow-lit portraits of other people's lives. I can't resist taking a sneaky peek into other shopper's trolleys at the supermarket checkout just to see what they are buying.

Most of all, I like noticing the smallest things, the things that no one else seems to be noticing (and I also like reading about the small things others have noticed and noted here and here).

Perhaps I'm just very nosy but it's amazing the things you notice when you start looking.

For example, at Carluccio's in Smithfield, London for breakfast on Sunday, I noticed...

... a Roman Catholic priest in full regalia, popping in for a quick cappuccino, presumably between masses. I'm not sure what kind of a priest he was but he had a fancy black hat with a little tassel, which naturally he removed to drink his coffee.

... two genuine pearly kings with 'Crystal Palace' embroidered on their jackets accompanied by two pearly queens in feathery hats perusing the olives in the deli before climbing into a silver Fiat and driving away.

... an extremely small schnauzer having what looked like a very exciting adventure.

... a girl with spiky hair and leggings looking equally intrigued by all this and asking everyone if she could take photographs of them.

... a group of quite silly people becoming a bit uproarious because they had noticed that the description of the mushroom risotto on the specials board appeared to read 'fresh, wild and erotic mushrooms' as opposed to 'fresh, wild and exotic mushrooms'. Actually, that was us.