It’s no secret I love cooking. For myself and for my friends and often just for the sake of it. I like the time it takes and the love you put in.
A little while back, about a year ago I suppose, I put together a very sweet little zine with my dear friends over at AHD Paper Co (A Happy Death as they’re sometimes known). They were headed off to Melbourne for yet another Finders Keepers fair and wanted to put a little something together for passers by to keep. Some pictures from their amazing artists, and some stories and recipes from, well, me. Ramblings, we called them.
I’d tell you they sold like hot cakes – like the strawberry shortcake I described so lovingly inside – except that they were free and we gave them away to anyone who fancied. We bound them in pink and orange card, and in red, blue, green and yellow too. I was so glad that the whole rainbow of our print run went home with someone different, and hope a few recipes have been recreated in the months since. At the very least the strawberry shortcake. It really is that good.
But we got so carried away with folding and packing for the fair that we forgot to keep a few aside. I have some card left and think I’ll print just a few more, for friends and family and one for my bookshelf.
Don’t mind me, I’m just crushing on some of Backyard Bill’s lady friends. He’s yet another photographer I love – mostly for his choice of subjects. He captures a few beautifully framed pictures of their lives, the homes they build and the things they create.
I love the brilliant Kate Foley (of Opening Ceremony) and especially Caitlin Moicun, whose jewels are my own all time dream pieces, next to my dad’s work of course (he’s a diamond setter). And what beautiful pictures of Sophie Aschauer and Aska Matsumiya, creative dames and total babes in their own right.
I’ve had a long and pretty awful week, one I won’t go into, except to say that Monday’s storm near broke my heart, all foggy and deep and grey with buckets of rain.
But when it broke came this. A bright sky – pink and crisp, with the most spectacular golden light drenching houses and the nearly bare trees. Bursts of tired sun and clouds for miles and I promise it was so beautiful you’d wish Sunday was a Monday every week.
Photographer Stephen J Morgan happens to be one of my oldest friends. We worked together more than ten years ago, at a gallery back in London, but have kept in touch all along, writing emails most every month or so. I send him stories and ramblings and he sends me pictures. I stayed with him in Brighton the year before last and we talked non-stop for three days. We ate fish and chips on the stormy beach front, drank pots of strong coffee and looked through old black and white pictures at his beautiful Danish table. It was wonderful.
Stephen observes things – the way they are and the how they are. He has a way of capturing light in his photographs that I find almost startling. It’s sometimes bleak, sometimes shadowy and golden, framing a moment just so. He is old-school, shoots with film and usually in one take, and on he walks. It amazes me. His work sits somewhere between the personal and the political and captures the complexities of both.
I find his recent work, The Other Side Of Everything, especially perceptive and impressive. In his own words:
Growing up in Birmingham during the 70’s and 80’s with an Irish Republican father meant the St George Cross and to a greater extent the Union Jack symbolised more than a token of where you were from and where you belonged. With the troubles in the north of Ireland the flags were a potent symbol of which side of the divide you stood. In Britain, used by the National Front, they became synonymous with right wing political views and a rudimentary form of nationalism.
Today these flags hang from tower blocks and are proudly displayed in the windows of houses. It is easy to dismiss them as remnants left over from celebrations of what it is to be English and what it is to be British. For me they take on a darker meaning, almost like outposts, the last bastion and one last stand. It was said of the British Empire, “ The sun never set and the blood never dried.” So with remnants of its colonial past still hanging on and its attitudes to multiculturalism, psychologically I think, it can be argued that the English still see Britain as an Empire.
Previously my work has touched on what it was to be second generation Irish in England, realising early on that it was not about being Irish but about not feeling English or more importantly British. For the English I think the two are the same. The heart of the Empire was England and the English. So when a Union Jack is hung in a window of a house, the same feelings of nationality will resonate with the house in the next street proudly displaying the St George Cross.
So with this as my starting point, by referencing dates of notable events from my life growing up in the 70’s and 80’s and by looking at a past where society was more political (even for a 10 year old growing up in Birmingham) I hope it will make the viewer ask questions about where we are today. What does it mean to live in a multicultural society? What it is to be political within that society? The last point for me is especially important, as we seem to be living in a time that is as brutal as it was when I was growing up in Birmingham.
* All images by the brilliant Stephen J Morgan
Today has been miserable and wet. Sydney is putting on a show for these first days of winter, I tell you. I stayed inside mostly, reading, listening to Loretta Lynn and admiring the new Uniform Wares watch I was so kindly gifted last night. It was a belated birthday pressie, and really the first time in months I’d caught up properly with a few of my faves, so I felt very spoilt. We hosted a dinner party at home, with board games and wine and prawn ceviche which was all together lovely.
It was nice today, after the tidy-up, to drink tea and take it slow. The weather broke a little at about 3, and I was able to do some gardening. Re-potted a few things, including my sad looking lavender, which I hope will make it through the ordeal.
* Don’t you just love my Marimekko plate? Three little calves, so doe-eyed and sweet…
There’s a Caitlin Moran quote that I love, along the lines of ‘when a woman says I have nothing to wear, what she really means is, there’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today‘.
This morning, between rather too much of a sleep-in, writing grocery lists, trying to read the paper, and allowing enough time for a latte before my volunteer shift at The Sydney Story Factory, I had a moment of panic. Where were my favourite jeans, was there enough time to iron a shirt, should I just wear my old charcoal sweater, did it really matter, and how come for all the clothes spilling out of my drawers did I not like anything?
Today I would have liked my life to be a little more Sessun. This dreamy French label has long been a favourite, and their recent collection has me swooning. Soft, feminine, detailed and textured, I’d happily take it all. * For the record, I found my jeans, and threw on my old charcoal sweater over a floral Karen Walker tank – seems to be working well enough.
May is one of my favourite times of year in Sydney. I love the change in weather it brings – the chance to dig out coats and boots and woolly scarves. It also brings the Sydney Writer’s Festival, a bustling and bursting-with-culture week of lectures and workshops down at Piers 2/3 at Walsh Bay.
I vounteered at the Writer’s Festival my first three years in Sydney. It was wonderful to feel part of the whole thing. What I love about festivals like this (and Adelaide Writer’s Week) is hearing such a range of different ideas and experiences. I often found myself working on a session that I might otherwise have missed, something that wasn’t immediately appealing to my interests, but that I found wholly amazing and inspiring. I loved finding myself with a break for a few hours, and wandering off to whatever writer happened to be featured at that time. I’ve stumbled upon Andrea Levy reading from her then new release, Small Island, and was blown away by her animated and endearing characters and her beautiful story. I’ve marvelled at Jeanette Winterson for a good hour as she wandered on stage by herself for a session called ‘Ask jeanette Winterson Anything’. She was so composed, so humble, so engaging and witty and kind and smart I went right out and bought her beautiful Lighthousekeeping and read it in a week. I’ve cried quietly at the back of the audience as David Rieff talked openly about his mother Susan Sontag’s work and heartbreaking death.
I didn’t have the time to volunteer this year, but made it down to hear a few sessions. I listened as Chloe Hooper and Craig Silvey talked about their uniquely Australian works in an international market. Chloe’s The Tall Man has been on my mind ever since. I also attended a session sponsored by my very own favourite, The Sydney Story Factory. The session was titled Creative Writing as Freedom, Education as Exploration and looked at the integration and importance of creative writing for young people. We heard from authors, educators and a young Story Factory student who read a beautiful and moving poem.
* Image by Andreas Schimanski
It was, as far as late-autumn nearly winter days go, glorious. The sun was high and full, even at 9, which was when we made the journey north to Palm Beach. An hour or so out of Sydney, Palm Beach is a narrow stretch of land that sees both the coast and the Hawksbury. It reaches north after the crashing waves of Whale Beach on one side, hugging the beautiful and rambling pittwater the other side, near where the Hawsbury spills out to the sea. It’s as scenic as you can imagine, and understandably a drawcard for people from all over town.
I spent a lovely summer’s picnic there a little while back, ducking salty waves and walking in sandy dunes, but today was all about the climbs of the freshwater and a hearty breakfast. Two of my dearest friends are heading home to Adelaide in a few weeks, home for good, having bought a house there and following their dream for an old cottage of their own and, shortly, a garden full of veggies and chooks. They run their own business and I’m certain that this is the right move for them, one that will bring a whole new world of growth and inspiration.
Before they left they took a morning off packing boxes and we had a long (and yummy) breakfast at The Boathouse. We sat out the back on the deck, listening to the water lapping beneath us, talking about books and family, superannuation and travel and cats and jobs and relationships and health. The usual stuff. We drank lattes and ate crunchy toast thick with avocado and creamy cheese and basked in the sun the way you only can in winter. It warmed me inside and out.
I love English Breakfast and of course Earl Grey, but after a few amazing months living in India when I was 19, I’ve been all about chai. I smiled at every train stop and every market stall in Mumbai as soon as I heard the familiar chant of ‘CHAI, CHAI, CHAI’. I really can’t get enough, and aside from my dear old friend Surya who makes an amazing brew, nothing since has compared.
But I spent a week in Paris the year before last and happened upon Kusmi Tea. I found their store is in a sweet lane way in the Marais, my favourite part of Paris, and it was so good I bought a box to take home to Jordy (who is also chai-happy after a few weeks in India himself). We rationed the tea bags for a good month back in Sydney before they ran out. And since he is working hard planting apple and pear trees in the depths of Iowa right now, I decided to order a box online to surprise him. As you might imagine, he was pretty damn happy about it…
* Image via Pinterest, I think originally from Beklina’s lovely range.