Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Saturday midday.
Right. 48 bottles of wine to chill. A dozen limes to slice. 244 glasses to polish. Where’s the gin? I haven’t even tried that dress on properly – I think it needs taking up. 130 meat balls to fry. 130 salmon parcels to wrap. We need to buy ice. 6 candelabras to replenish. Have we got any matches? 7 vases to fill. 10 kilos of Turkish delight to dust. 67 paintings to label. 400 macaroons to sandwich together and assemble into a pyramid shape. What? Now? You want me to cut you hair now? Bunches of grapes. We need cascading bunches of grapes. Shift all that mess into here. Sit down. Shit! Who left the haircutters on that setting? Someone answer the door! It’s okay –artists are allowed to look eccentric. Turn that machine-gunning down! I can’t think straight. Don’t worry, I’ll even it up, no one will notice. 300 coat- hangers to untangle. Turn that Tchaikovsky up, I can’t hear it in here. There’s something wrong with these, they we’re fine last week when I did the boys' hair. Beers! Stack them in the downstairs fridge. You’ll have to move all those night-lights in the hearth - have you seen what I’m wearing? Turn that Tchaikovsky down! It’s deafening. Don’t eat those they’re not for you. Have you checked the garden? I’m not drinking tonight by the way. What time is it? That needs ironing. 4!! I thought we said 5 on the invite. Bloody hell, whose idea was that? Has anyone seen the tights I bought? Those 2 pictures are too high. What’s the point of spending all that money on scented candles and you're wandering around with a stinking Pot Noodle. What do you mean 'chill'? Is it too early to have a drink?...

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Sunday Night

A quick, last-minute tour before we took all the art down...

...and life at Lordship Park returns to normal...

Monday, 28 November 2011

The End of Dark Weekend

It was so good some people just didn't want to leave......
.... more on Dark Weekend to follow. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Dog's Delight.

The huge box where I have been storing the Turkish Delight felt worryingly light when I reached it down from the shelf last night. When I opened it the top two layers were missing.... 
"BOYS!" No response. Luckily for them Joe was in double music detention, Ed was ice-skating and John was in the shop.
I hurriedly made another batch - doubling up the quantities this time to be sure there's be plenty to go round.
No, I wouldn't leave a whippet to guard a box of Turkish Delight - I'm not that daft. This is an unnervingly realistic portrait of Enzo in his 'pleading for a bit of Turkish delight' stance - there's literally not a surface to set up a photo that hasn't been cluttered with Brian's paintings.   

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Best Not Ask

God only knows what he gets up to in that studio, hour after hour....

Monday, 21 November 2011

Misty Autumn Garden

The garden has decided to put on a fabulous show of colour - just in time for Dark Weekend... how very annoying.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dark Delights

While Brian is locked away in his studio day and night, frantically painting portraits for the show next weekend....

I'm getting on with the really important stuff...
...Creme de Menthe Turkish Delight!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Let The Kids Eat Cake

It was bit of a late one last night - after the crew finished packing up Marie Antionette's boudoir that they'd recreated in the front room. Still, at least I didn't have to cook supper...
Top Left-overs

Monday, 14 November 2011

Hello Capri

Who's that having her piccie taken with Capri?....

 Una Healy from the Saturdays and England rugby player Ben Foden in the Hackney Chateau autumn garden, for this week's HELLO Magazine.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Turkish Delight

Don't worry - there'll be more than just Gordon's to sustain you whilst partying and peering at the portraits...
I've been making mounds of Turkish Delight...

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


JOE.  I beg we go Sainsbury and get COD MWfree.
ME.  What?
JOE.  Go Sainsbury, get shoppin, get £20 off COD.
ME.  What?
ME. What? It's free?
ME. Modern Warfare THree, THREE. Speak properly Joe. Well I don't know about that. You've done no school work, you've got GCSEs coming up. I don't want you sat in front of that thing night after night. I know what it'll be like Joe...
JOE.  Don't worry, it's cajj* I swear. I'm goin art club after school tomorrow.
ME.  So?
JOE.  See, I'm goin art club and I'm goin DT after school as well. It's all under control. Chill.
ME.  I don't know....  

Some hours later we enter Sainsbury's Islington. Joe runs off up an aisle.
ME.  Not up there, that's yogurts and cheese. DVDs and things are over there.
Joe scoots off, then scoots back.
JOE.  It says you have to do your shoppin, pay and then go help desk.
BRIAN.  I'll go and check they've got some before we get a basket of crap.
Joe hops up and down while I peruse the magazine section and mentally tot up the price of Vogue, Elle Deco, Living etc and Tatler to see if it comes to thirty quid. Brian returns.
BRIAN.  Yeah, they've got piles of them.
ME.  Look, there's Nuts up there. Reach it down, we might be in it. 
Brian gets a copy down and we flick through it.
JOE.  You're embarrassing me.
ME. Shhh... look there's our house!
BRIAN.  Look at them two on our bed. What's that she's got in her hand?
ME. I Think it's a riding crop.
BRIAN.  Eh, John should have been an assistant that day. Jesus! Lets get it shall we. Here Joe carry this.
JOE. This is so embarrassing. Can we hurry up please.
ME. We're just having a browse. Ooo look there's litre bottles of Gordon's for seventeen quid. That's good. We could get them for the party.
JOE. Get two of them then and we're done. Bang, let's go.
ME.  I think we should get four.
JOE(laughs).  Have you seen your basket? Four wedge bottles of gin and a copy of Nuts. 
We hurry to the check out and hope the girl doesn't think there's anything unusual about our shopping. 
BRIAN.  We'd like to purchase Call Of Duty Volume Three as well please.
JOE.  CODfree.
CHECKOUT GIRL. That's the way to spend the thirty quid. Booze 'n' porn (laughs hysterically).
* cajj - urban slang for casual ie. OK

JOE.  That was the best shop ever.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Monday, 7 November 2011

Galloping Gourmet Rides Again

I’m feeling a bit melancholic. It might be the time of year or it might be because I made a Boeuf Bourguignon at the weekend. The best and most perfect recipe for BB to my knowledge resides in “The Cooking of Provincial France” from a series of Time-Life publications that my dad subscribed to in the 70s. The recipe books, each focusing on the cuisine of a different country, have sat on my shelf since we cleared my parent’s house three years ago. They bought the books for me really: my mum wasn’t interested in cooking at all and had never followed a recipe in her life. She had a handful, maybe less, of dishes that she had mastered over the years – a pan of macaroni mixed with a tin of condensed mushroom soup would often made an appearance. I would like to be able say that the arrival of the volumes – one every month for a year – was greeted with much excitement but that would be a lie. The first one “The cooking of Scandinavia” predictably featured a lot of pickled fish, pickled vegetables and brown bread; it was a big disappointment. The photos were dreary - lots of Swedes on their way to church; a procession of Norwegians, on their way to church; harvest festival in church. Ooo err, hang-on, what’s this? ‘After their swim, the men eat pork-and-mutton sausages grilled over the sauna’ – and there they are, tucking in. Crikey!
With chapters titled “The Vigorous Diet of Finland” and “Geese and Eels” we put the book in the cupboard, forgot about it and hoped the next installment would be more up our street: “The Cooking of Russia” was followed in March by the “The Cooking of Germany” (steaming sauerkraut served in a pineapple anyone?). April brought “The Cooking of The Viennese Empire” which, needless to say didn’t prove to be an indispensable kitchen bible. May - The Cooking of Japan”– in Bromley? in 1975? And so it went on, until towards the end of the year, The French installment arrived. 
"There MUST be something in here that you can make” my mum groaned. And so in an effort to prove that his investment wasn’t a daft waste of time and money my dad persuaded me to have a go at the BB. Later that afternoon he and I were in the kitchen crushing garlic, peeling shallots, chopping herbs and washing tiny button mushrooms. The radio was on. We were laughing. My sisters and brother sat round the kitchen table watching and waiting patiently while we carefully followed the instructions step by step…
What?!! Leave to marinade overnight!!  Marinade? We had never encountered ‘marinade’ before. Wails of disappointment from my siblings  and a lot of tutting from my mother as the bottle of burgundy was glugged over the meat and the whole lot put in the fridge until the following morning. But it was worth the wait. After years of rationing, followed by the grim gristle and two veg of the 50s and the tinned, frozen and dried convenience food of the 60s and 70s my parents had literally never tasted anything like it in their lives and nor, of course, had we. The meal was legendry and lingered in our memories forever.

Since then I have occasionally made other beef stews, mostly from memory, some times from a funny old cookbook I bought in the 80s. They’ve always been a luxury but it’s never been possible to recreate that original, overwhelming sensation of tasting the combination of brandy, wine, smoked bacon, garlic and thyme for the first time in your life. 
On Saturday I had already bought all the ingredients for BB and was half-way through chopping the onion, carrot and celery when something made me reach up  and take down the Cooking of Provincial France book. It fell open on the Boeuf Bourguignon  page – it was spattered with red-wine sauce from the day back in 1970 something when my dad and I had giggled together in the kitchen making the best meal we’d ever had. It made me quite sad. 

Oh, I know you think I've made up the sauerkraut in a pineapple. I'm going to photograph the page tomorrow and show you. And I'm also going to show you how to serve that deadly Japanese blow fish artistically arranged in the form of a flying crane.   

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Black Cat

SARAH: Have you done anything about that Pastel Society Competition at the Mall Galleries? You need to get a move on - submissions have to be in next week!

BRIAN: Don't worry Darling. All taken care of: I'm entering The Pussy.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Dining in the Dark

I suppose I should be thinking about how to pay my credit card, or what to feed the kids when they get home, or seeing if the artist is OK... and maybe taking him up a bit of toast or something, but I have been whiling away the hours day-dreaming about MY LATEST FIXATION.... a DARK, candle-lit dining-room. There's a sweet-smelling, wood-burning fire. The vestiges of an effortless but elegant meal are strewn over the table - a simple candelabra, linen napkins, graceful Georgian wine-glasses, cracked wall-nuts, pretty crystalised-fruits, an exquisite bone-handled knife left beside a piece of crumbled cheese, a cascade of grapes... I can make out dark, velvety chairs in the dimly lit room. A black cat is curled up asleep on a window seat. All sight and sound of the outside world is muffled by heavy silk swags and drapes at the windows. Decades of candle smoke have turned the ornate plaster-work ceiling a soft sooty grey. The satiny walls are so dark they look black but the sheen on them softly reflects the candlelight giving the room a warm lustrous glow. It's like being right in the middle of a Dutch oil painting. This isn't a scene from a film... or my imagination: it's the beautiful front room at the Dennis Severs House in Spitalfields. We went there last week and I have been lusting after it ever since. 

In danger of being swallowed up by looming, thirty storey office blocks on all sides, the terraced Georgian house is like stepping into another world, where the smells, sights and sounds of life in 17th Century London have been perfectly conjured up. Lots of inspiration for Dark Weekend! Which reminds me... if you haven't received your email invite get in touch sarah@hackneychateau and I'll send you all the details.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

New Autumn Boots

Thank God it was a bit chilly this morning because I couldn't wait another day to try out my new DMs. 
Very dark green actually - Ed wouldn't let me get black. 
Brian says they're Prussian Blue with at touch of Veridian. FFS - give it a rest Van Gogh!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


November 1971: Bonfires, mittens on string, roasted chestnuts, knitted scarves, hot baked-potatoes, seeing your breath, frost, Stone's Ginger Wine, watching Blue Peter - the one where they put Freda the tortoise into her box to hibernate, hot-water bottles, Bay City Rollers switch on Christmas lights dressed in tartan trews, kids asking penny for the Guy. 

November 2011: Pink Camelias in bloom, Pret sandwich in the park, Toy Story sky, cascading geraniums, driving with the sun roof open, TOWIE sun tans, chilled Rose, sunglasses, Saturdays switch on Christmas lights dressed in swimwear, kids asking who the ****'s Guy Fawkes?

Lordship Park Garden on 1st November...