Pictures from the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park, taken on my visit a couple of weeks ago.
• vintage top from Peekaboo Vintage years ago
• old books from my family
• locket from my mum
• images inside locket from old magazines
• crow feather and pigeon feather found on Hampstead Heath
On an unseasonably warm Indian summer’s day in late October, she travelled westwards, to enjoy the bright blue skies and look at brightly-feathered birds.
She sat where Rogers sat and thought about all the other people who had sat in the same place.
She admired the golden roses and green ivy outside the Ice House.
Although she was sad to see find some grapes withered on the vine, she admired their autumn colours.
Nearby, she found some grapes that would never wither.
The strange flowers on the fig tree reminded her of christmas.
She wandered past the playing field as the sun began to go down, and was happy to be right where she was.
(This is a companion piece/sequel to this post.)
I have always loved being by the river in London. There’s something special about a tidal river, especially one that smells of the sea right in the middle of a big city, the sea that’s almost 50 miles away. It smells of adventure and history and the most mundane moments of being human. It’s constantly changing, with the ebb and flow of the tide, and the ebb and flow of the skyline surrounding it, as buildings go up and come down and are replaced by new buildings that go up and come down, it’s no wonder that I’ve found myself continually drawn to its edges.
Last week, I found myself by the Thames again. I had actually planned to see an exhibition at the Tate Modern (the membership a friend gave me last year runs out in a few weeks oh noes I will miss having that), but as the tide was low I decided I’d have a little browse along the foreshore and do some beachcombing. (A lot of people refer to beachcombing along the Thames as “mudlarking” but technically it’s only mudlarking if you are actually digging in the mud, which you need to have a licence to do. Anything else is beachcombing, although the foreshore isn’t strictly a beach, but calling it “foreshore-combing” is too pedantic even for me.)
A couple of minutes on the foreshore in front of the Tate, and I’d already spotted some old clay pipe pieces. These date from the 1700s up until the 1880s, when cigarettes became more popular. Parts of the broken pipe-stems are really common, the pipe-bowls less so, especially intact bowls — so I was quite lucky with that one!
clay pipes, toy dinosaurs, snail shells and mussel shells, spotted on the foreshore in front of the Tate Modern
There’s always interesting flotsam if you look. I like to spot interesting rocks and stones (everybody needs a rock). The egg-like one pictured below resembles one of the ceramic “river eggs” that an artist put into the Thames in 2012 (there’s a picture here for you to compare), but it was actually flint (one side had chipped off). The other one was a nodule of tar I think, but with something of a different texture that has sort of woven itself in. Surprisingly lightweight, but hefty enough to be an interesting paperweight!
A piece of flint that looks like a Picasso dove, and a shell face that’s yawning or screaming — and another piece of pipe-stem.
a piece of flint that looks like a sugar mouse with the tail end bitten off, and a piece of a pocket watch — one side says “watch makers and jewellers” and the other side says “Fehrenbach Bros Strood & Chatham”.
I met some proper mudlarkers in front of the OXO Tower, who were very friendly so we had a nice chat before I wended on my way. One of them dug up the top of a watch-fob while I was there. The fun thing about finding stuff like that these days is it’s so much easier to research — a quick google shows that the Fehrenbachs were quite a famous German clock-making family, with shops all over the place, including Scotland and Manchester. When WW2 came, they changed their name to Fernbank and continued to make clocks and watches, but they also made bullets (for the British side).
The tide didn’t seem to move while I was down on the foreshore, but when any big boats came past they quicky caused a swell. Luckily I happened to be standing on a big rock when this one happened — but then again jumping to avoid getting your feet wet is part of the joy of being by a tidal river. That rather phallic-looking thing is an animal bone of some sort, they’re quite common to find. And that skirt is a new-old find of mine, I actually bought it back in the 90s (!) but it’s been lurking in my fabric stash for years. A little while ago I altered it to make the waist smaller and now it hangs better so I’ve worn it quite a few times lately.
I didn’t have enough energy to wend my way back to the Tate for the exhibition, but I did end up collecting some nice bits and pieces, including about 40 pieces of pipe-stems (I don’t usually collect them, but this time I decided I would!), and some pretty sherds of broken crockery (I recently learned that “sherds” is the name for bits of broken crockery, “shards” just applies to broken glass). I always have a soft spot for those little fragments of pretty plates just for themselves (I find them all over Hampstead Heath, too), but I recently discovered that a lot of the pieces I’ve found over the years are probably a couple of hundred years older than I assumed they were. It’s funny how rubbish that’s three hundred years old somehow becomes special to people, even though it’s still just rubbish. But the rocks and broken plates on the foreshore will always be special to me.
Last Sunday, after visiting the Isokon Gallery with a friend, we went for a walk on Hampstead Heath. Although I do know my way around it pretty well, there are still all sorts of little paths I’ve never been down before, and sometimes they take me off track from where I’m aiming at, which is what happened on Sunday. I was taking him to see the hollow tree, but I went down a new path and we managed to circumnavigate the entire glade the tree is in. Serves me right for getting cocky about knowing my way around.
Anyway, I’d been for a walk on the Heath a few days before, and taken photos then, including the hollow tree, so I thought I’d post some of those.
I love beech trees. At the end of August they started dropping their nuts, and for weeks I spent several peaceful moments sitting alone under the beech tree canopies, just listening to the pop-plop of the nut-cases falling to the ground and splitting open. I thought about foraging for them, but beech nuts only have a good season every 3-5 years, and a bit of internet research led me to find that the last good season was 2011 (which by all reports was spectacular), and this year the nuts have no meat on them. They still make a pleasing crunch when you walk over them, though.
Even as the season dies, there’s always a spurt of new life somewhere.
These trees, opposite the hollow tree, always look to me like they are dancing.
I always know it’s September when I see the michaelmas daisies. I love them.
This is Himalayan balsam, aka Policeman’s Helmet, Gnome’s Hatstand and (my favourite), Love-on-a-mountain. It is very pretty but very invasive because it can shoot its seeds up to seven metres, and bees adore it, which means that native plants don’t get pollinated. They actually have it under control on the Heath, and there aren’t that many plants, so when you see them it’s a nice surprise, because it is so pretty. The flowers and seedpods are edible, which is one way to deal with it (although I’ve not tried it myself), but as with any invasive plant you have to be careful not to tread the seedpods anywhere else. Probably best just to admire it from afar.
And this is rosebay willowherb, aka fireweed (because it grows well on burnt, damaged soil), which is also an invasive and also edible. I actually ate it earlier this year when the young leaves were out, very young leaves have a bit of a zingy citrus taste and were an interesting addition to salads. In my experience it has to be eaten as fresh as possible as the leaves got a bit tough after a day or two in the fridge, but they tasted OK chucked into a soup, so they weren’t wasted (it’s very high in nutrients, too!). I wanted to make some fireweed jelly this summer but again, despite its invasive nature, they keep it under control on the Heath, and I didn’t want to take all the blossoms from only a few plants because then no one else could enjoy them (not that this stopped somebody else from stripping them instead). There’s always next year.