Sunday, 21 October 2012

The yellow and white border - Part 2.

If you look in the bar on my home page under Garden You will find the start of my yellow and white border.  It doesn't look much different now, except for the addition of paved edging, which you can just see in the last pic here.  Now for the second part of that border, which is cleared and ready for the off.   Dull colours, grey day, exposure on camera a bit off but its the best I can do for now. 
Now what you can see is the second half of the border, with fence posts up, wire on and topsoil added.  This has taken a while because we had a 30 year old Escalonia  in this area, which was up 12 ft+ high, and probably 15 ft in across.  It ate up half the grass as well, and was getting to the stage where it was not flowering abundantly anymore.  We cut it back by two thirds last year hoping that we would feel benevolent.... but no.  So out it had to come, and our great gardening jobber, Alan, arrived with a stump grinder, as once it was cut down to soil level there was still a load to get rid of.  The tree stump you see is not it!  That's Buddlia, "Dark Knight" the best and darkest purple.  Yes, I know it's in the yellow and white border, but it's so good each summer it has to stay.  The paved edge at the beginning, laid on sand, has settled in well, and will continue to the end of this border. 

So nothing else happening here until the Spring now, except for bulbs to be planted in various spots in the garden next month, for a good show in the spring.  More news on this next year.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Brooklyn Flea, and two nice guys we met there!

Yes, yes, I know!  this is my third post about New York - so you can tell I was pretty enamoured with it all, and I may have to bore you all with some more.   Now I want to tell you about Brooklyn's Saturday Flea Market - Get off at Lafayette on the C train and it's only a few blocks.  But you really MUST GO!  Not least because at the gate, for $10 only, you can buy a heavy canvas tote bag with FLEA BAG printed on it.  This is likely to be my favourite bag for a very long time.

We went on a Sunny Saturday in early October.  Loads of stalls, interesting mix of s/h clothes, furniture with good food, drinks not owned by a conglomerate (you know what I mean).  Nice craft stuff too, and in the middle of all the loveliness we found Mike and Frank of "Frank Fanzio Designs" whose website is  They are upcyclers (and so am I, so I was more than interested to stop, look and chat), and the day we saw them, they had a good mix of things I would have bought if I was living locally.  In particular, two dining chairs painted in seriously bright colours, with even brighter seat pads which I loved.  I could imagine them in a kitchen cheering me up on a cold rainy day.  I also saw a table that would have gone with them beautifully had it not already had a sold label on it.  Painted shabby chic style, and the thing that delighted me most was that on the long side of the table was one drawer, and, "hey presto!" a pull out preparation block for a bit of extra space.  I don't live in the US, so no chance of me buying either, but they were lovely guys - with some lovely stuff for sale.  I don't sell my own upcycled stuff, but for a look, click on House+UPCYCLING in the bar on my home page.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Rizzoli's - A Little New York Bookshop on 57th Street

My last morning in New York I just had to fit in a bookshop (bookstore to you Americans).  I found that on the same street as my hotel was a small-ish bookshop called Rizzoli's.  So there was just time to pop in there on my way back from seeing Bloomingdales before I got back to the hotel to await my airport transport.

It's a very narrow shop, on three floors.  It seems to specialise in coffee table books of the best kind, so if you like architecture, ballet, theatre, photographic tomes, this may well be worth spending an hour inside!  I was directed to the top floor for paperback fiction, and with only 10 minutes to look round I really didn't know where to start, and was then really confused, as whilst there were plenty of books, it seemed that, with the exception of a small amount of multiples, most books were just singles.  So I knew I would not have time to read along each shelf (and add to that the fact that I'd have to have my head turned sideways to read the spines!).  I did spot a Maeve Binchey there, but my book of choice was a New York Times bestseller, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles which I found in a pile of 3 only on the counter. 

Lovely old built in bookcases, floor to ceiling, and an eclectic selection of CDs also available for sale (1930s dance band music playing whilst I was there).  The ceilings are glorious rococco plasterwork, and they had a great selection of greetings cards too.  I would certainly give this lovely little shop more time if I had longer..... but I was flying home, and it was the only bookshop I had time for!

We visit New York!

We went with friends, stayed at a hotel on Virgin’s list, and found Manhatten easy to negotiate.  Here are our thoughts on the things we managed in case you too get the chance to go.  We found the people we met charming and polite (not only those who were staff in restaurants and in tourist areas either), and many times people just stopped and asked us if we were OK or if we needed directions..... once, a  guy sitting next to us in a square on a hot day when we were tired, not only asked , but used his iphone to look up the time of the next subway train, and what station we could get it from,  in order to get to a shop we thought we might visit!

Top of the Rock and the Rockerfeller Centre) – 70 floors up and a big viewing space giving views all round.  Particularly good for a view of Central Park, but if you have a pair of binoculars too you are going to have a great time up here!  The entire centre well-maintained, lovely art deco panels all over the place if only you look up.  The place where they have ice-skating all winter was just being prepared for that (starts October).  Somewhere on the ground (first if you are American) floor at the east end of the block is a silver, hand-made plane, made by Cartier and given as a gift from France following Charles Linberg’s flight.

Ellis Island – got tickets in advance on internet – good job as we took 5 minutes in the queue and 15 going through security.  Any other ticket you just joined the queue, and when we arrived at 11.00 am the queue was around 2 hours.  The ferry takes you out to Liberty Island so you get a good view of Statue of Liberty, but for us it was not worth getting off for – Ellis Island, however is a must-do – although give yourself several hours.  Great audio tour and extra sound bites in the   smaller rooms (voices of Ellis Island emigrees interviewed many years later were fascinating).

Chrysler Building – Just Wow!  You can only do the foyer as it is a fully occupied working building (go on a working day), but you only need to see this bit.  Covered in marble unlike any I have ever seen, and art deco signage, light fittings and a painted ceiling.  Their own postboxes;  oh, and of course the lift lobbies – if you like art deco – this is a must.

Grand Central Station – If you have never seen “The Fisher King” with Robin Williams playing straight, and Jeff Bridges – try and hire it now.  We went at teatime (around 5.00pm) and the celestial lights in the ceiling were on (constellations with the main stars lit show up on a blue ceiling)  The clock is beautiful, as is every single track door – and they are designed in several different groups.  Food court in the basement,  great food market mall, plus other shops.  In the Fisher King there is a great scene of commuters dancing, and we only just found out that on New Year’s Eve that actually happens – you can go there for the dance!
Maceys – old fashioned and large department store but not impressed.  However, Bloomingdales did impress us.   Still in its art deco jacket of black, white and aluminium, the doormen have proper uniforms of black with silver braid and caps, and if you are lucky enough to be there as they open the doors at 10.00 am you are greeted with “Good morning, and welcome to Bloomindales”  and  you walk through and up 10 or so steps to the shop floor to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York.  Ladies rest rooms have been redone but still retain a line of original black and white tiles, and the lifts are all lined in black glass (although probable original doors of aluminium have been replaced by stainless steel – no matter).  Finest  (and probably biggest) iced yoghurt in NY on the seventh floor in a health food bar called Forty Carrots!  And Bergdorf Goodman? 
 I don’t think they let just anyone in there.  No prices in any of the windows, so I guess it’s a “if you need to ask you can’t afford it” kind of place!  Also Henri Bendell has several  real Rene Lalique glass windows on some of the floors.  Mr Mac says it is a must, although I was in a bookshop at the time.

Brooklyn Flea Markets in two different places on Saturdays and Sundays.  This is a “must do again” kind of place.  We went to Lafayette on Saturday.  Glorious sunshine, and just a market to watch people, eat good fresh food and drink handmade sodas – I had Lime and Shiso – which was so good I want to import it here! New and old clothing, All sorts of food, Secondhand furniture of all kinds – just a great morning.   Just outside the gate is a large Masonic Temple (Freemasons), lovely building.  Bought myself a canvas tote bag at $10, which has, appropriately, “FLEA BAG” printed on it.  Lafayette has a beautiful bookshop, which I promised to go back and mooch, but just no time.
USS Intrepid Museum – the aircraft carrier is the museum.  This was one for the guys, but if you like history and if you have children, loads of stuff to look at and listen to.  You can get to lie down inside an early space capsule, you can go in a G-force simulator.  The best for me was a film show for child groups, but good for anyone, which simulated a kamikaze attack during a battle in the Philippines in WW2.  Off the ship, over near Concorde, which you can walk right up to, there is a piece of dirty metal set up as a memorial.  It’s a piece from one of the World Trade Towers after 9/11, and marks the fact that the FBI set up office inside the Intrepid immediately after the attack, as their office was in one of the towers and of course had been destroyed.

The High Line Park – my most looked forward to, which did not disappoint.  Old rail track above the roads (remember that car chase with Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in The French Connection?) which had fallen into disuse and was going to be removed.  Fortunately, a group of worthies campaigned for its retention and it just is a most fabulous thing.  It runs through buildings, it passes expensive apartment buildings and poor housing.  Every block there is a view of the River to one side and the city to the other.  The plantings vary as you walk.  Some areas of prairie grasses and flowers, some summer perennials, some areas where there are seats in the shade of climbers and creepers, some woodland areas where the trees are already 10-15 feet tall.  Loads of city sparrows,  plenty of places to sit a while, everyone loving it.  Several covered areas (where it goes through buildings) to stop for a coffee.  A truly magic place to be, even for the male of the species – Mr Mac loved it.
A find!  Bryant Square, renovated in the 1990s from a place frequented only by bums and addicts but now an open space for everyone, plenty of seats and an area for another public skating rink (it’s fountains in the summer) just getting ready for the winter.  And, the most fabulous public toilet I have ever been in.  Its own little building – and as you walk through the door, Men to the right, Ladies to the left, you are confronted by a 12 foot high mirror, in front of which is an arrangement of fresh flowers (about £100 worth), and several tiny fresh flowers arrangements in between each sink.   Automatic toilet seat covers.... press the green button and the polythene seat cover moves round for each new user. This is immediately behind the New York Public Library.
Guggenheim Museum – fabulous Frank Lloyd Wright building (one of his last) that lived up to my every expectation.  No stairs, you just wind your way up six floors on a gentle slope, looking over into the atrium at every step.  Toilets on every floor, contained in one cylindrical drum from the top of the building to the bottom, each floor containing two toilets.   At the time it was being planned,  (1953/4) residents of 5th Avenue apartments campaigned against it (it is odd and very modernistic, like a space ship has just arrived on a street corner) but  Mr  Guggenheim had plenty of money and lots of pictures to gift to the city......... so there it is!
Central Park.  BIG!  46 miles of roads and paths, undulating and weaving round trees and rocky outcrops.  Joggers, runners, walkers, cyclists, horse drawn carriages,  bicycle powered rickshaws.  In the Summer I guess it’s manic!  We went on a rainy day and still managed to see loads, including a black guy selling $5 umbrellas (good trade for him that day) and introducing himself as “Prince Charles”!
Bronze Bull at the bottom of Wall Street (walk up from Bowling Green subway entrance outside the North American Museum of Native American Indians)  When we got there, it was surrounded by a huge  party of South American teens, all of which wanted a picture of every single group member individually with the bull.....
Another find – Battery Park.  Right down at the bottom of Manhatten, and the place where the Statten Island Ferry leaves from and where you find the ferry for Ellis Island.  Updated and beautifully done, there is a war memorial of all those who died in the North Atlantic in WW2, it’s centre  is a huge bronze eagle.  Park is lovely, little areas of shingle with seating, couple of coffee kiosks with high calorie cookies (of course), and the find within the find, the Battery Park Urban Farm which works like a UK allotment.... and eight schools are involving in the growing process. 

Carnagie Hall.  Just up there on  57th Street, it is quite small, and another of NY’s treasures that they nearly lost.....  We had a look at the lovely little original foyer, but didn’t go to a concert, as there was nothing for us on the nights we were free.  But it has an excellent programme of all sorts of stuff.
We recommend highly the Penguin publication The New York Map Guide.  Easy to use and easy to see how to link up various places as lots of them are marked on the pages.  Very thin at 64 pages,  can be slipped into bag or pocket easily.  Also the Dorian Kindersley  New York Top 10, which divides things into 10s!
Things we had to miss (no more time) were – Metropolitan Opera House,;  Roosevelt Tram(actually a giant ski lift thing seating 40) over to Roosevelt Island which is just housing;  The Tenement Museum;   African Burial Ground memorial;  Main US Post Office;  and so much more, we really are going again!!

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...