Some little bits of what I fancy

London has a lot of museums and galleries and many are free but sometimes it pays to spend time getting to know a particular museum well.

One of my favourite museums in London is the V&A. It bills itself as the world’s leading museum of art and design but what I love is the way that the V&A uses these themes to bring stories to life. Exploring the diverse history of different parts of the world or dissecting the nature of our society and the environment we live in through the lens of human creativity and expression is a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

I’m at the museum every couple of months for the V&A book group and always go early, thinking I’ll pop into an exhibition, explore a specific gallery or take one of the free guided tours to make an afternoon of it. And in ambling around, I’m usually delighted by something unexpected: the view from the top of a newly-discovered staircase or a fascinating item tucked away in an unbidden nook or cranny.

In a place where there’s so much to see, I’ve come to realise that it pays to wander with only the semblance of a plan, to linger and read about the things that simply take your fancy. It also pays to look around – that’s up, sideways, around corners and behind you.

Here’s why.

Dale Chihuly’s Rotunda Chandelier – the Grand Entrance

If you look up as you enter through the main museum entrance from Cromwell Road, it’s hard to miss Dale Chihuly‘s spectacular 27ft (8.2m) sculptured-glass chandelier suspended airily above the information desk.

V+A Blown glass chandelier

The Rotunda Chandelier in the museum’s main reception, viewed from an upper gallery at the top of a staircase I’d never climbed before.

V+A C-up Rotunda chandlier and clock

The view looking up from the information desk on the ground floor. I’m feeling very grateful for the excellent zoom on my camera phone – look at all of that exquisite detail and the individuality of the glass elements.

The chandelier comprises 1,300 blue and green hand-blown and mould-blown pieces – these were made in Chihuly’s Seattle studio and then took five days to assemble – in situ – over the chandelier’s steel frame.

Every time I visit and look up at it, I want to take another photo. It’s definitely one worth lingering over.

Es Devlin’s The Singing Tree

Last December I planned for my visit to include a wander around the Opera: Passion, Politics and Power exhibition near the new Blavatnik entrance on Exhibition Road. However, the tunnel entrance from nearby South Kensington tube station had been closed so I’d been forced to make the 10-minute walk to the museum above ground.

Glad to escape the damp grey day outside, I breathed a sigh of relief as I dashed through the Cromwell Road entrance and tore off my woolly scarf and hat…only to be pulled up short by an hypnotic display of sound and light.

V+A Singing Xmas Tree

As part of the V&A’s annual Christmas programme, set designer Es Devlin combined modern innovations like crowd-sourcing and machine-learning to conceive this Singing Tree. Installed inside the Grand Entrance between 27th November 2017 and 6th January 2018, museum visitors were invited to contribute a festive word or two that became part of this mesmerising audio-visual carol.

The video doesn’t reproduce the carolling voices very well but believe me, being greeted by this after braving a cold and blustery December day was a complete joy.

Rachel Kneebone’s 399 Days – Medieval and Renaissance Galleries (room 50a)

I had arrived a little early for one of the free gallery tours that leave from beneath the Rotunda and rather than stand around waiting (remember peeps, I will never be British enough to wait when I don’t have to), I decided to amuse myself by meandering around the neighbouring gallery.

Rachel Kneebone‘s pillar of legs and arms caught my eye almost immediately.

V+A Sculpture gallery Kneebone's 399

399 Days is a five metre tall column of writhing porcelain figures and it looks pretty interesting from a distance. However it was in getting up close that it became fascinating and I lost the entirety of my 15-minute early-ness poring over the intricacies of this extraordinary piece.

Julian Melchiorri’s Exhale – the Members’ Cloakroom

This surprising gem hangs above the members’ cloakroom desk (which is up the staircase behind you as you come in from the museum’s tunnel entrance). It’s a pretty enough piece but it wasn’t until I read the wall plaque that I really got excited about this one. Peeps, this is a breathing chandelier.

V+A Exhale chandelier

Designer and V&A Engineer-in-Residence Julian Melchiorri combined advances in biotechnology, engineering and architecture to come up with this life-affirming bionic chandelier. The ‘leaves’ of the chandelier contain microalgae: when they are fed with water they remove carbon dioxide from and release oxygen into the surroundings.

(Remember learning about photosynthesis in those high school biology lessons? This is pretty much it peeps.)

Its location is a bit tucked away but don’t be put off. It’s easy to get close to and you’ll be able to spot it as you come up the aforementioned stairs or down the staircase from the upper floor of the European Galleries.

Even as I sit here typing this, I still feel absolutely thrilled by how clever this is – it also makes me wonder how it could be applied more widely in our increasingly polluted world.

Paul Cummins’ Sixteen Poppies – opposite the Members’ Cloakroom

In 2014, the Tower of London marked 100 years since Britain entered WWI with a temporary installation – called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – where 888, 246 of Cummins’ hand-made ceramic poppies were planted in the tower moat to represent each of the British military lives lost. Five million people visited the installation between July and November 2014 after which the poppies were sold and the proceeds donated to six service charities.

V+A Red Poppies

The sixteen poppies on display just opposite the Members’ Cloakroom were purchased by the V&A as a tribute to the sixteen members of its staff who died in the War – their names are also inscribed on a memorial tablet at the Main Entrance on Cromwell Road.

Main Cafe, designed by James Gamble, William Morris and Edward Poynter

And finally, when all is said and done, there’s nothing better than having coffee and cake in the glorious historic rooms of the museum’s main cafe.

V+A Cafe montage

The Gamble Room

The museum’s founding Director, Henry Cole had learnt a thing or two about public refreshment while running the Great Exhibition in 1851 and believed that a museum restaurant would be a way to encourage people to enjoy culture. Well ahead of other museums (that did not invest in catering until the 20th century), Cole invested in the world’s first museum restaurant at the V&A, opening the Gamble Room in 1868 followed by the opening of the Poynter and Morris rooms on either side.

These three rooms form the hub of the V&A’s main cafe and any of them are an especially pleasant place to rest your weary legs after wandering around the galleries. If you are lucky, someone might be playing the piano in the Gamble Room. In any case, I’m  a big fan of the restorative benefits provided by their Black Velvet cake…

black velvet cake 1

Black velvet – that means chocolate Guinness cake with Prosecco frosting peeps.

Oh yes, that’s definitely something I fancy and it’s not for sharing!

In the meantime, if you fancy a cultural boost to your creative spirit, I’s recommend a visit to the V&A. And if you are a fan already, please leave a comment and let me know what little bits of the V&A you fancy…and where I can find them!

Breath taking

It’s Sunday and again, the world seems to take a breath and sleep a little later.

It was quiet just after 8am when I was roused from sleep. I lay cocooned beneath the covers for a few indulgent minutes, burrowing into the warmth while I drifted gently towards the morning. No radio alarm. No noise from the neighbours. No sporadic chatter from passers-by on the footpath outside. No rise and fall of traffic hum in the street. Time to wallow in the quiet stillness, in that sweet, sweet spot – you know the one – before nature calls, the covers are thrown back and the day begins.

I finally sat up, swinging my legs over the side of the bed and into my slippers. There was an unusual stillness in the air and my heart skipped hopefully as I padded towards the window and drew back the heavy curtain.

Before my eyes lay a world transformed: Fat white flakes swirled down from the insipid sky and settled softly over a garden already shrouded in white. It was a scene of such silent and untouched beauty that it was a few seconds before I realised that I was holding my breath.

It was snowing…

Snow on the Gidday patio

Snow on the wall

Snowy trees 1

I stayed by the window for a while, feeling the smile crinkle the corners of my eyes and child-like wonder fill my heart.

The MET office has been forecasting snow in the UK for a few weeks but a fall and subsequent settling like this in London is unusual. Just last week, a flurry of snowflakes wafted around me as I walked to a meeting and I thought that might be as much as we were likely to get until the New Year. But this is proper snow (for London anyway), one that took a deep breath in the dark hours of last night and then covered my Sunday in a blanket of white.

Snowy trees 2

Snowy rooftops

Even the neighbour’s cat has been over to explore…

I know I won’t be alone in my snow-posting today (and not everybody will have such romantic notions as I do) but I can’t help myself. There’s something magical about it, the way it quietly transforms the world. I can see the snow still falling from my spot here on the comfy couch and I keep interrupting my tapping to wander over and gaze out the window again.

Days like these fill me with a quiet, simple joy and there’s always room for a bit more joy in the world.

So stay warm peeps and have a breathtaking Sunday.

Counting down

I was fossicking about on Facebook this morning when Licensed-To-Grill (Mum’s partner) mentioned that I had been unusually silent. He didn’t mean generally – I always have plenty to say and share – but he was pointing to one thing in particular. So this post is designed to address that gap, to fill the space that has been created, ironically enough, as a result of my busy-ness.

There are 38 sleeps to go until my birthday.

My sister, Lil Chicky, and I love a countdown. I mean what’s not to love about a Christmas countdown, (especially when you are smugly/annoyingly organised like me)? And every second Christmas I’m usually heading back Down Under so there’s the additional excitement of seeing loved ones again and enjoying a stretch of warm weather smack bang in the middle of a London winter.

Yep, that’s a pretty great thing to count down to.

But what about the birthday countdown?

Mum, Lil Chicky and I moved to Melbourne when I was ten which put us a plane trip away from a lot of our family. It also meant that the usual day-to-day experiences of girls growing into teenagers were not available to them. As a result, a couple of times a year, Mum would find herself fielding a host of ‘what would she like?’ requests as our birthdays approached. Being a family that doesn’t do ‘here’s some money, buy what you like’, we would be asked for a ‘birthday list’.

As I got older – and I mean into my 20s, 30s and *ahem* 40s – I started to have a bit of fun with this by dropping it into regular conversation. Things like ‘Oooh I’m excited, only 38 sleeps to go!’ or ‘Did you know there are only 37 shopping days until my birthday?’. It gets a laugh but it also does something else.

Remember how excited you used to get about your birthday when you were a kid? (And if you can’t remember that far back, just check out any kids aged up to the age of ten with an impending birthday in your vicinity.) Well, this silliness creates a huge dose of childish excitement…in me. I absolutely love it. I don’t know about you but I reckon we could all use a bit more childish joy in life.

On the practical side, I still supply a birthday list each year that gets built in the weeks leading up to my big day. (I like Amazon Wishlist as I can build it as I think of things – instead of in one go – and I can restrict the list access so it’s not public.)  I treat it as a way of showcasing things I’m currently interested in so loved ones can either purchase directly from it (instead of shipping stuff from Australia) or be inspired by it. Books feature a lot, jewellery gets a regular look in and every so often there’ll be something a bit more random like a fancy lampshade I’ve fallen in love with, a funky kindle case or a pretty summer dressing gown.

But every year I am reminded of the power I have to generate my own joyful moments. And to remember that the day I came into the world was a gift and will always be worth celebrating.

There are 38 sleeps to go peeps.

And I AM excited.I'm excited


The intersection of humanity

There is so much to do and see in London. I love living here and am so grateful for the many reasons I find to be delighted on a daily basis. Most of these moments happen when I go slightly off-piste – when I take a variation of my regular route or sit on the other side of the bus or just look left instead of to my regular right. Sometimes something unexpected crosses my usual path and recently I came across some old photos that reminded me of just how delightful it is when this happens.

Back in 2015, I’d been going to the V&A Museum every couple of months (for exhibitions, talks and a rather fabulous book group). The building sprawls grandly on one corner of the intersection of Exhibition and Cromwell Roads opposite the gingham brickwork of the Natural History Museum and the wedding cake pillars of the Science Museum. During the day, taxis zoom past with gusto and excited school groups are herded about in seething clumps. On weekends and school holidays, a human tide of families – with their flotilla of pushchairs and strollers – ebb and flow through the four crosswalks.

It’s an intersection I’d come to know well – a place devoid of monument yet thrumming with humanity, anticipation and movement. So imagine my surprise when I turned up one November evening to find this…

Continue reading

A taste of Spring

I ate a plum today.


I took it from the fridge

and left it to warm in the sun

as I read on the patio.


When I picked it up, I stopped

 to admire the shine

of its bruise-purple skin

before I took a bite.


I leaned forward

and brought the round glossy fruit

to my lips.


I felt the skin resist

then split under my teeth


its lush golden flesh.


It was firm – “al dente” –

keeping the juice softly wrapped

in the meat of the fruit

as I took each cool, sweet bite

around its stony heart.


In five bites I was done

and the seed tossed casually away

under the rose bushes.


I ate a plum today

and it tasted like Spring.


Timing is everything

The last few weeks has seen my work life taking revised shape under our new owners. There have been calls and meetings with a variety of people as we work together to take next steps – confirming where documentation is available, discussing projects’ status and making a start on connecting the right people across the new organisation.

There’s also been the additional challenge of extracting both the knowledge from being in the business for five and a half years and what I’ve learnt in my role over the last two and a half years. You don’t realise how much you know and do in your job until you are asked to share it.

But just as things were getting on a roll, I was struck down with a stomach bug and have spent most of last week feeling unwell, sorry for myself and a bit frustrated.

My intention in sharing this is not to elicit sympathy (although any offered is always gratefully received). Rather it’s to set the scene for what happened next.

After a couple of especially unpleasant days, I’d managed to get myself to the doctor to confirm that it was just a bug and that it would pass. My first venture out in three days left me feeling shattered and I was just looking forward to lying down in the coolness of my flat again. As I opened the front door and prepared to step over the post, thinking I’d get to it later, I noticed a small yellow envelope on the door mat.

Intrigued, I picked it up and opened it to find a card inside.

IMAG5031 (640x640)

It was from Mum and had travelled all the way from Australia – with its poignant and perfectly worded message – to arrive on my door mat at the very moment I needed it.

It took me back to a post I wrote last year about what I like to call The Butterfly Principle – about being ready to emerge and take flight despite an uncertain future – and it reminded me to cut myself some slack and use this time to restore myself to full health. After all, when the next opportunity comes calling, I want to be ready to make the most of it. And as it’s not clear exactly what it will look like, I need to stay curious and energised as it takes shape.

Because quite frankly peeps, I’m rather feeling partial to something fabulous.

A heavy heart

As you’ve probably noticed, the last few weeks in the UK have been full of the debate between Bremain and Brexit. Even in the aftermath of Friday’s announcement – that the UK had voted to leave the EU – the caterwauling on both sides has continued, the Prime Minister has resigned and no-one seems particularly keen to lead the UK into this next stage of its history. Not even the victorious Brexit camp.

But in the background of all of this, I’ve been dealing with a separation of my own. You see, the company I’ve been working for over the last five and a half years is being bought by one of our competitors and by this time next week, it will no longer exist.

It’s been a very long process – almost a year and a half – so it’s not a shock and work have been enormously supportive throughout, despite not being in the ‘driver’s seat’ so to speak. And different people are being affected in different ways: Some will continue on in their current jobs whilst others will move to take on opportunities in the ‘new’ company. Then there are those who will leave.

This is the case for the majority of people who work in the office where I am based. By the end of next week, there will be significantly fewer of us at our desks – working handovers or waiting to transition to new roles and/or locations over the coming months. The farewells have already started to trickle in as have the packing of desks into boxes to be despatched to whatever new location awaits them.

The office will feel like a very different place.

I’ve felt largely philosophical about all of the ups and downs over the last 18 months. After all I quite like change, I’ve been through corporate changes like this before and I try to take a pragmatic approach, focusing on the things I can affect and exercising a little compassion for myself when the going gets tough (although I often need a little reminder about the compassion bit). The chance to create what’s next is both exciting and scary in equal measure – I’ve been talking to all sorts of people about different paths I might take and some opportunities to learn which has helped to keep me energised and curious over such a long time of feeling like life is ‘on hold’.

Yet in the last week, my equilibrium has been shaken by the prospect that the community with whom I spend a large proportion of my life will disappear. Yes, that is what will happen on Friday. People that I see every day, that I chat with over lunch or at the photocopier, those who I have come to know better through facing this period of uncertainty together – will simply stop coming to the office. And I know that I’ll move on, I’ll keep some friendships going and it will all be a period that I look back on with fondness and a sense of camaraderie.

But in the meantime, the goodbyes will be tough….but also a pause for me to acknowledge what’s been before setting out on what’s next. So while I’m going into next week feeling excited about the future, it will be with a heavy heart and I’ll be reminding myself to be kind, to celebrate and to look for a few moments of joy to get me through…

Kilburn street art 25Jun16 (640x640)

Yesterday’s moment of joy: Street art under the Kilburn Underground Station railway bridge

…so feel free to send any such moments you may find this week in this direction.