Saturday 28 September 2013

Random Reasons to Love London #11

Whistler's Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea, 1871 (Image source: Tate)

Last weekend, I was feeling a bit run down so decided to spend a gentle afternoon in the Tate Britain. As I wandered through the permanent collection, I stopped to look at the above Whistler painting, which they have on display. A woman who also stopped to examine it asked me if I knew if we were allowed to take photographs. I said that I thought so, if you didn't use a flash (apologies to the Tate is this was misinformation!).

We carried on our conversation and she told me that she was very excited to see the painting in person as she was president of Whistler House - the birthplace of James McNeill Whistler - in Masschusetts. We then went on to talking about the various artists' residences around Chelsea, here in London, and her plans to go on a walk and see some of them. She was quite impressed by my knowledge of the topic - which has come from a combination of volunteering at the wonderful Carlyle's House for some time a few years ago and recent work advising on listed artists' studio flats in the area... and supplemented by general interest in the period and its people as well. 

Perhaps I ought to do a post on the topic one day. (Did you know, for example, that Dante Gabriel Rossetti had a whole collection of exotic animals at his house on Cheyne Walk, including a wombat?)  But, whether that eventuates or not, it made an enjoyable and stimulating interlude to my afternoon, speaking with this interesting and interested lady at the Tate. Art galleries really are a great place for good conversation with random strangers.

Rossetti's sketch of himself mourning his wombat, Top (Image source: Pre-Raphernalia)

Tuesday 17 September 2013

After Audrey

A few weeks ago, my dear Mama and I went on shopping together on Portobello Road for my birthday. We started out at What Katie Did, getting me kitted out with a full vintage underwear ensemble, which was great fun. We then carried on to browse various shops and stalls at the north end of the market. The day ended up turning into quite the shopping spree as the right things kept cropping up and I let my mother indulge me. (I did also buy her a friendship bracelet as a memento of our fun day, so it wasn't all about me...)

By coincidence, the shopping trip ended up taking on quite an Audrey Hepburn theme. Firstly, my fancy was captured by a print of Audrey by an illustrator called Stanley Chow at one stall. I pondered it for a while, before opting to have a wander and return if I decided I wanted it.

In the meantime, we tried on some clothes here and there, and stumbled across a lovely little black dress  with a rather '60s evening/cocktail feel, at a great price and with a great fit. After buying that, I remembered a fun necklace I'd seen on the way into the market, and wondered if it might go nicely with the dress. People were starting to pack up this point, and I thought we may have missed out, but happily the stall was still there. And the necklace fit perfectly with the dress! I was pleased, as I felt the two together made a sort of nod - without being a patent copy of - Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. The dress was a classic look, while the necklace brought a slightly unusual, modern element to things.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to bring them together for the first time when I went out to Piano, a piano bar in Kensington, with The Cat as part of my birthday celebrations. I teamed the dress and necklace with the amazing vintage Dior gloves my mother got me as another birthday present (ain't she wonderful?), my What Katie Did suspender belt and seamed stockings, kitten heels from Jones Bootmaker and 'pearl' earrings (a Christmas present from my mother years ago).

We had a great night out too, enjoying the jazz and the atmosphere. It was a lovely, chilled Sunday night vibe but we're now planning to go back one night in the week, when there's apparently a pianist who takes requests and a sort of open mic set up. Sounds fabulous!

Oh, and back to the shopping spree... My mother talked me into letting her get me the Audrey print in the end as well.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Love Letter from... Chicago!

Brrr. Autumn seems to have arrived here in London. How strange to think that, less than two weeks ago, I was here:

Oak Street Beach in Chicago, on the shores of Lake Michigan, drying in the sun after a morning dip. Check out the hair - they don't call this The Windy City for nothing.

I absolutely fell in love with Chicago in the few short days I was there. I ended up going as I was in the States for a friend's wedding in Boston and I've wanted to go to Chicago for some time now. I was a bit nervous that it wouldn't live up to my hopes but it surpassed them. It had a perfect city feel with a fascinating mix of architecture, a great buzz, a beautiful location on the lake, green spaces, wide streets, and such friendly people. It did really feel like 'my kind of town', in the words of Frank Sinatra. Like all my favourite cities, it didn't feel frozen in some past period, nor completely new. You could feel and see the history but it felt like it is still alive and changing, still exciting and full of energy. As an architecture geek, I particularly loved all the new buildings butting up against the old. (And I highly recommend the architectural boat tour, run by the Chicago Architectural Foundation, for a great run down of it all.)

Here's just a few shots from my wanderings... There's quite a few here, and yet it's still only a small selection from the many taken...

Bam! Architectural amazingness overload!

The Wrigley Building! (Frank Sinatra sings about this...)

Down at the beach in the evening, I was amused watching the cops, watching the waves 

I spent most of my time in the centre, which is where I was staying, but also managed to get out to Wicker Park, which is one of the inner suburbs of the city. I browsed some of the various vintage/thrift stores there, but wasn't really in the buying mood. I did snap some more pictures along the main street though.

'Don't fret': You're in Chicago, life's good here!

So that's my glimpse of Chicago. I did absolutely love it and didn't have nearly as much time as I would have liked there (only two full days, three nights). However, now I know that it's there and how amazing it is, I can always plan to go back one day, to see all the many places and things I missed this time around. Hopefully next time I will be able to take The Cat as well, as he wasn't able to make it this time (despite wanting to) and had to endure my excited telephone calls and messages as I explored and fell head over heels...

God bless you, Chicago, you beautiful city!

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Happy Labor Day from Chicago!

Yes, I can legitimately wish you all a happy Labor Day (with no 'u' and all) because I am actually in Chicago right now! Yes, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America!

Image source

I'm sure you're dying to hear more but this will be my last post until I get back to London in a week's time. Until then, I'll just say that it's my kind of town, Chicago is!