A Bientot, Mes Oiseaux

La Maison des Oiseaux is calling me back

In an email exchange a month or so back, Gill (Blog-sur-Aude) referred to our house in passing as ‘La Maison des Oiseaux’. I found this fascinating, as I think of it also as a house of birds

Perhaps it was the loft full of pigeons, some living and laying, others fossilised, one of whom – living – ambushed me in the main hallway and made me jump out of my skin while the builders were replacing the roof, and leaving a mountain of detritus for me to clear up (the pigeons, not the builders)

Is it because I am ‘Poshbird’? No, I don’t think so

Anyway, I love birds. So, for whatever reason, I think the name fits our house. I might even find a suitably stylised bird to sit on the staircase in place of the missing bannister finial

And when this unusual winged wardrobe came up for sale I thought it was simply beautiful and I bought it with birthday money

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It sits on the deep bottom drawer, just visible in the mirror (as is my elbow)

It’s been packed up, so all I have are a few photos to drool over for now

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Bird motifs, gorgeous oak grain

‘A bientot, mes oiseaux!’

 

 

Not Everyday – the Wolfsonian

Just getting my regular fix

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We hadn’t researched Miami. Having been there years ago it seemed unnecessary. So when we stumbled upon this sight in the foyer of a building I was frantically taking photos through the glass doors until Baz explained that we were allowed inside. We had found the temple that is Miami’s Wolfsonian Institute

The Institute is apparently 15 years old (yes, it’s obviously a while since we visited!) and holds a small and beautifully chosen selection of items. Artworks include some rather unsettling 20th Century pictures, including a painting which deals openly with suicide. I apologise for the lack of quality in the photo, but I felt I had to include it

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Of course, I found myself mentally furnishing a home with the jaw-dropping selection of home items

IMG_0550Look at these gorgeous nouveau theatre chairs – I could definitely find space for these. And the leather is perfectly patinated and worn

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Cooking technology may have improved but you can’t tell me there’s a more lovely cooker anywhere today. Never mind practicalities, I would happily have this and never cook

And this would in turn mean that I would need the perfect toaster IMG_0569

But why have just one?

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My tea set would be flawlessly simple and silverIMG_0576

And of course I would have a stunning dressing table, with mirrored shelves and a floor-length mirror, in exactly the right shade of green

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.. and the latest beats. Though I would of course never part with my sunburst cabinet

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I realise that the items here might not push everyone’s buttons, but frankly I will never understand why. This post is obviously not for those people

It is for those of you who will feel exactly what I do when I look at these pieces. I want to touch these things and put them into my house context

Only kidding. Of course I mean my house really!

The Black Rabbit Effect

When is a pint more than a pint?

It hadn’t started well. As we waited to cross the start line of the South Coast Challenge on Saturday we heard that the Black Rabbit, the pub that held my dream pint at the end of the course, was now a ‘Harvester’

There were 100km and a sleepless night between me and what was apparently now a terrible pub

My friend and I split up after about 30km because he was struggling with my pace, so I was having to wait so long for him at the rest stops that I was getting stiff. So I quickly fell in with five girls who invited me to join them. All runners, we had similar mindsets, a fast pace, and the shared goal of completing in the target time of 24 hours. We spent the next 50km – definitely the most challenging part of the course – moving along together, much of it in the dark

I LOVED it!

At the 80km rest stop there were lots of problems with blisters and exhaustion setting in, and we had to split into two lots of two, plus two single walkers at various paces to maximise the chances of achieving the 24 hour target. At that stage it was 3am and I was still absolutely enthralled by the walk. My legs felt as fresh as when I started and I was looking forward to seeing the sun come up in a few hours. I did not have a watch or use of my phone, and so I would have to judge my pace if I wanted to finish in time

I crossed yesterday’s finish line at a jog (yes, I did) in 22 hours and 28 minutes. I was elated. I was there to clap for all the girls finishing the course, four of them within 24 hours and one only just after. We all enjoyed a glass of bubbly and had something to eat before partners arrived. I texted Brian to spur him on and he told me not to wait for him at the line, but to go and warm up in the pub with Baz

And the Black Rabbit? Not a Harvester at all, just a lovely place for a couple of pints of Tanglefoot and a meal, before a bath and a quick afternoon nap

Thank you for the supportive messages. I really enjoyed them and we also raised around 1200 pounds for Bloodwise

I feel great. My feet are already recovering from the bruising and my rogue ankle hasn’t troubled me at all

If this is ultra-eventing, bring it on!!!

 

 

Slightly Mad, But Optimistic

It sounds lovely doesn’t it: ‘The South Coast Challenge’, a walk along the cliffs and downs of East Sussex, an area where my mum’s family come from and where I spent many happy childhood holidays

Well, that’s where the nice bit stops

A very silly friend, who is old enough to know better, told me he was doing this for the ‘Bloodwise’ charity who are currently supporting a friend in great need, and when I saw his email it felt very much like I really should join him, as he and I are part of an informal tribe who have already traipsed the West Highland Way together and attempted to scale the 6 Peaks – Snowdon, Scarsdale Pike and Ben Nevis twice each – in 48 hours (we only managed 4 Peaks, but it was worth a shot!). None of the other guys in the random bunch of extreme crazies took up the challenge. Perhaps that should have dissuaded me, but it just made me more determined. Of course it did, so before I could change my mind I signed myself up

The event takes place tomorrow, August Bank Holiday weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

(a) it could be VERY hot

(b) it could be wet

(c) my left ankle ligaments might react very badly

(d) it turns out that we have to get up at 5.00 in the morning to get there before we even start!

Did I mention that it’s 100km long, this walk? Or that my ‘friend’ had decided that we were doing it in 24 hours?

Slightly late, I processed all this information, and Brian (the ‘friend’) added to the mix by saying that there is a nice pub near the finish line. So it was a done deal. A JustGiving page was set up and Bloodwise sent us thank you messages for our prospective efforts

So, think of us as you enjoy the mixture of very hot and very wet weather this weekend (a double whammy!) and please consider donating to this wonderful cause

At least for us by Sunday morning, it should all be over, whereas the path to wellness is long and very hard for those affected by cancer. Ironically, only yesterday I found out that someone else I know has just been diagnosed. We are all hoping for a cure to cancer, but in the meantime, love and practical support are all-important

I will also be thinking of my fellow blogger Spearfruit, whose honesty and positive energy inspires many of us. Here’s to you, Terry …

 

 

Beyond the Pale – Miami Pastels

IMG_0345A business trip brought us here, but it’s good to be back. There’s a special quality about the light, the orange juice (OMG I had forgotten how good it tastes!) and the ubiquitous form of art deco that we almost take for granted when the word ‘Miami’ is uttered

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The first few times we came here C was just a baby and so she has no recollection. One time, we stayed at the Breakwater, right in the hub of South Beach, where the downstairs nightclubs throbbed all night

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South Beach is where she took her early steps, but what she sees now is an exhibitionist’s chaotic paradise where nothing or no-one can be too bright, too loud or too visible. She adores the flashy top-end sports cars – Lamborghinis and Ferraris – that compete for attention, and loves the music emanating from every window of restaurants, bars and carsIMG_0736

Baz and I are not too old to enjoy these things, we’re honestly not

But for us Miami is still all about the art deco. Obviously. Many of these hotels were cheaply built, as is so often the case, and must require frequent maintenance. A few are shrouded in hoardings where major works are taking place, but there’s still plenty to seeIMG_0437

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I think it’s hard to beat these simple perfect curvesIMG_0411

I also adore the motifs featured on so many buildings – often painted in typical Miami-deco styledeco

And the odd bit of glass…

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For me, South beach is not somewhere to come for a rest, but for a change. There is a collision here, where the light meets the pastel colours and the shapes. Miami is a confection that relies on all these elements. In addition, it’s a bustling chaotic hub of a town where the buildings and the beach are an almost incidental background now to the nightlifeIMG_0347 We took a walk before the sun was up, and the only other people on the streets were dozing on the cafe chairs or walking aimlessly, hand-in-hand. Definitely a good time to enjoy it

 

 

Those kittens won’t shoot themselves

encounters on South Beach

The boardwalk provides a 4-mile morning loop on an ideal running surface to the temple of Starbucks at South Beach. It’s an easy run as long as I am back to the hotel before it gets impossibly hot each day (around 7 am)

The distinctive huts along the beach are my landmarks
IMG_0625Enjoying my temporary routine I notice others around me, who also start their day by coming hereIMG_0666

The cats are in all shades of ginger, grey, white and ‘Branston pickle’IMG_0710Taking shade in the sea grape bushes during the heat of the day, they appear each morning to enjoy small piles of kitty biscuits, lovingly placed by dedicated locals

By the second day I recognise several of the cats, and I am on nodding terms with a few people – some of them runners and some ‘feeders’. One lady says she feeds them ‘every day, sixty three of them’. Another man tells me he gives food to ‘about three dozen’. Clearly this is a great commitment and a real passion

As we settle in bed one night, we tell C that we will both be getting up at a time she’s only heard of, for me to run and Baz to find and photograph the groups of kittens that she won’t see during the day. She groans and pulls her cover over her head, unimpressed

‘Those kittens aren’t going to shoot themselves,’ says Baz, but in the morning the kittens elude us, ushered away by protective parents before we can snap them

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The beach walk is popular with runners, cyclists, dog walkers. Many people practise yoga. Many more sleep on the beach – some through choice, some through necessity. I see one man asleep each morning on the same piece of boardwalk, and there are many more adrift here

After a chaotic Saturday night in SOBE a pair of abandoned or forgotten gold-heeled shoes lounge on the beach. There are lovers and revellers not yet returned from clubbing. As I pass two men in their twenties sharing an early morning joint, one shouts out to me: ‘Good morning beautiful lady, you look great’

I am glad of his encouragement. Name me one fifty year old woman who wouldn’t enjoy that!IMG_0481

The initial warm breeze will become a searing heat by 7 am, so I am delighted to see the beach hut we christened ‘half-of-Lisa-Simpson-hut’, signalling that I am almost back at the hotel. It’s now our last morning in Miami, my last run in Miami, and a man shouts gruffly to me: ‘Cold! Eyes! Bitch!’

Just another nutter, this place is full of them …

Stationed at Slough

Is there anything better than a Victorian station with a stuffed dog?

I hate Slough. I love stations

However much I dislike Slough, it provides a fantastic train artery. If I am sitting on one of its station platforms I am either heading off on an adventure towards the countryside of the West, or East into my old friend Paddington, from where I can access the throng of London and the rest of the country

I love adventures, and this is a route steeped in fond memories. In the eighties I used to finish work at 8.30 on a Sunday night and frantically ‘tube it’ from Bond Street to Paddington to catch the 9.10 train to go home to Bath. One Sunday, a passenger called Solomon sat next to me. He spent the weekend with his family and then worked Monday to Friday in Penzance. We got on so well that it became our weekly routine to seek each other out, and sit together drinking gin and playing backgammon

One Wednesday, as my late-afternoon return train from Bath emptied onto a Paddington platform, an announcement came over the tannoy: ‘Would Mr Brown meeting Mr P Bear please go to the Lost Property Department’

On the repetition it was cut short: ‘Would Mr Brown meeting Mr P ….’

Must have been a new guy. Hundreds of passengers sniggered

But, I digress…

Last Sunday C and I headed to Olympia to visit a customer at a trade show. As we waited for our train to arrive at Slough, C asked if Station Jim was still around, and suggested we go and pay our respects

Station Jim was a sick stray, adopted in the 1890s by the station staff. Taught to cross the tracks only by the bridge, he apparently took the occasional train journey but was always spotted by staff at other stations and sent home. For the most part he was happy just to collect donations for local causes, and he seems to have led a pretty good (if short) life. Upon his sudden death at home one evening in 1896 the station staff and local residents paid for him to be ‘stuffed’ and mounted on display on Platform 5, where he remains, proudly dressed in his collection harness station jimHowever gruesome this Victorian behaviour sounds, he must have been very loved, don’t you think?

One hundred and twenty years on he’s still in pretty good nick and he looks very noble. He has a very prominent spot on the main platform to Paddington, so that new people still see him for the first time every day – not something that a simple plaque could have achieved

And those of us who have ‘known’ him for years continue to visit