Chez l'abeille

Culture. Travel. Writing. My world in words and pictures


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The House of Dreams.

Step through this gateway and you will find yourself in The House of Dreams.

Front garden (9)I could try to describe the house and tell you all about Stephen Wright, the artist who has created and shaped this amazing work, but I’m not going to. Instead, as a tiny snapshot of this world apart, I’m going to show you some of the photographs Stephen very generously let me take before the most recent open day got underway.

Then I’m going to invite you to make a cup of tea, take some time out and let Stephen explain his work to you personally. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did. So go on – open the gate and step into the courtyard…

Now go through the front door and into the hallway. Memories surround you: Personal thoughts and immense feelings laid bare.

Peep through the archway – colours and textures draw you inwards. Assembled words and objects create something new from the lost and dispossessed detritus of the world.

The studio floor and walls bridge the space towards the back garden.

In the world of Forensic Science it is often said that “every contact leaves a trace”. The cherished fragments of lives lived and lives living infuse each space and become the very DNA of the house. Challenging, comforting, personal, intimate, human.

This is the House of Dreams.

Many thanks to Stephen and Michael for letting me get in the way while their final preparations for the open day were underway.

You can visit the House of Dreams in East Dulwich on the last Saturday in September or October – Tickets can be purchased via Stephen’s website here.

©Chez l’abeille  2017

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The Streets of London: Frieze Sculpture 2017

Anyone who has read my last post and got as far as The Royal Docks may recall me telling you that there was now only the one sculpture there, where there were previously several. It was a surprise to find one of the missing pieces this week, amongst the 25 works that make up the 2017 Frieze sculpture trail in London’s Regent’s Park. Somehow this event had failed to register on my “what’s currently happening” radar, but thanks to some more in-the-know friends and with a sunny staycation day in hand, I was able to cross from south to north to have a look.

‘From the playful to the political, these 25 works explore contemporary sculpture’s material and technical dexterity, together with its social role and reflection on the human condition and our environment’. (Clare Lilley – Yorkshire Sculpture Park Director of Programme and Frieze Sculpture curator)

See what YOU think!

I was most excited by Alicja Kwade’s piece, Big Be-Hide (2017) – unfortunately it would appear that something (or someONE) has managed to crack the mirror and it had been health and safety – ed to the max. I managed to take some reasonable pictures, but to see it in its full glory you need to head to https://frieze.com/article/frieze-sculpture-2017-0

 

Frieze Sculpture is free and is open from 5 July to 8 October in the English Gardens, The Regent’s Park, London.

 

©Chez l’abeille  2017


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The Streets of London: Pullens Yards

It started with a tweet by a publisher I follow. A mention of Pullens Yards, an open studios and a postcode intrigued me; I like to think I know many of the studios around my area but this was new to me. I had a few hours to spare before an afternoon of volunteering at a local theatre and as I had to pass through SE17 on the way I thought, “why not?”

I already knew that behind the Walworth Road in SE London there are many Victorian streets, full of original housing stock, but discovering some beautiful Victorian artisan workshops was a complete surprise.

Pullens Centre Sign

Pullens Centre Sign

The yards sit within the Pullens Estate. This was built between 1870 and 1901 by local builders, James Pullen and Son. Included in the estate design were four yards, of which three remain, Iliffe Yard, Clements Yard and Peacock Yard. The Yards were purpose-built workspaces, designed originally as a work/live spaces, something that is still seen today in several locations around Southwark.

It was a great day to visit – the sun was out and London was basking in a kind of post-election lethargy. As it was quite quiet when I arrived many of the artists were happy to chat. I spent some time in the studio of David Cowley, who seeks to capture his responses to music and literature in his paintings. His work was fascinating and I could have spent all morning chatting with him about art and synaesthesia, but there were three yards to get round so I had to move on.

The yards are a celebration of everything you know about Victorian building. From the wrought iron gates and the cobbled roadway, to the worn out staircases and arched doorways they are the epitome of the attention to detail that the builder brought to a project. Today they continue to house a wide range of artists, from Royal Academicians to lute makers, photographers, jewellers, potters…the list is endless.

I was keen to visit Tiny Owl Publishers who are based in Peacock Yard. This publishing house focuses on books which aim to bridge cultural experiences, creating the most beautiful books about love, friendship or freedoms. I had a lovely conversation with co-founder Karim, who took time to show me their latest publications and the themes they focus on. If you are a fan of picture books that really say something then have a look at their titles. You won’t be disappointed.

Back in the 1970s the workshops and surrounding flats were heading for demolition. Thanks to the far-sighted campaigners who saved them in the face of bailiffs and police, the area was saved and is now a sought after place to live. As we see the shape of the Walworth Road and the Elephant and Castle changing on an almost daily basis, I hope these small-scale spaces remain as a creative hub, continuing to bring a little beauty to our lives.

Peacock Yard

Peacock Yard

The Yards host an Open Studios event twice a year in the Summer and at Christmas. Details can be found via their website http://www.pullensyards.co.uk/

©Chez l’abeille  2017


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In which I go to Crete. Part 2: Heraklion

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I was a little apprehensive about my time in Heraklion; having finally read my guide book (on the bus), I was expecting a city full of fumes and dirt. Instead  I found a delightful “Old Town” that is easy to walk around and full of  comfortable cafes and bars where I could sit with a glass of cretan wine. It also has one of the best museums I’ve been to in a long while.

Day 3: Heraklion

Arrival in Heraklion from Chania is at the imaginatively named Bus Station A. I’d deliberately picked Hotel Lato for two reasons: proximity to the bus station and the roof top bar. It was an excellent choice on both counts and I was soon checked in and heading back out again to visit the Archaeological Museum before it closed at three.

For someone who loves beautiful pottery, this museum was like being stuck in a veritable sweet shop. From the moment I entered the first room I was hooked: each and every case is crammed with stunning Minoan treasures. It was hard to focus on each one because there was always another, more attractive looking item, glimpsed from the corner of my eye! The main ground floor rooms focus on the Minoan civilization, which flourished in Crete from about 2600 to 1100 BC. Just looking at these finely considered art works gives you some idea of what was important to the people who lived on the island in this Bronze Age world. A few hours just wasn’t enough and closing time came around far too quickly.

Day 4: Knossos.

There was a surprising number of athletic types hanging out at breakfast and some probably not so subtle stalking around the cheese pastry buffet, revealed that Agrotikos Asteras F.C. were in residence, for a Greek football league match against local team OFI. So I lingered over my tea and toast for a bit until only the coaching and physio team were left and set off for the days main appointment.

Bus Station A is also the starting point for bus route 2 , which handily heads directly to the ancient palace of Knossos. This is not so much palace in the traditional Buckingham sense, more a labyrinthine township tumbling down into the valley below. I knew Knossos is bound up in the Greek myths of King Minos, Theseus, the minotaur and the labyrinth but I didn’t know that it was also linked to Daedalus of the wax wings and Icarus fame. He was apparently the architect of the labyrinth before he turned his hand to flying. As in all legends there is probably a grain of truth in the mythology and walking around the site it is not too difficult to imagine how complex this site would have been, layered up on the floors below to create a maze of buildings, rooms and terraces. Highlights were the underground clay water pipes which are very similar to the ones regularly exposed by Thames Water around my street and the “Royal Apartments”  with their hidden doors, designed to give both warmth and ventilation as the user required.

Around the site some replica murals and painted pillars help give some idea of what this site may have looked like, yet so much about the Minoans is pure conjecture. What isn’t in doubt is the sheer size of the place and the sense of culture that existed here nearly 5000 years ago.

20170406_182151Back in Heraklion it was time for some excellent stuffed squid at Ippokambos, some more home grown wine and then a stroll through the old town market area and the El Greco Park gardens back to the waterfront and my hotel where the roof top bar was the top spot for a nightcap.

Day 5: Heraklion and the bus again

The Agrotikas boys were all back at breakfast but they couldn’t hold a candle to my destination du jour – I had time before my bus to go back to the museum and catch up with the rooms I hadn’t seen already! After my day in Knossos I really wanted to see the original murals.Original fresco work from Knossos  Once again the Minoans didn’t disappoint. The ochres, reds, whites and blues which they made from the plants, minerals and shells they found around them, are still as vibrant as when they were painted onto wet plaster somewhere in the palace. Only tiny fragments remain but the restorers have managed to fill in the gaps so you get an idea of just how beautiful these walls would have been.

Time was racing by so rather reluctantly I was tracking back down the hill to Bus Station A and off to the final stop on this trip – Rethymnon.

©Chez l’abeille  2017


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The Streets of London: Postman’s Park.

For years I have listened to Robert Elms on BBC Radio London. His knowledge of things both London and arcane in equal measures is legendary. Many times I heard about Postman’s Park, but had no real clue as to where it was hidden.

So, there I was one day, getting a bit lost whilst trying to get to the Museum of London when I accidentally stumbled across it and of course I had to stop and look!

Postman's Park, St Martin's Le-Grand, London EC1A

Postman’s Park, St Martin’s Le-Grand, London EC1A

This tiny garden in a churchyard acquired the name because postal workers at the old General Post Office would use it as a lunch spot. It also houses one of the most unusual memorials I have seen – the Watts memorial, built in 1900 by Victorian painter and philanthropist GF Watts to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year.

G.F Watts's memorial to heroic self sacrifice

G.F Watts’s memorial to heroic self sacrifice

The Doulton plaques are lovely and tell each story so clearly. The small acts of heroism also give us an insight into how dangerous life in Victorian London must have been – but don’t be fooled into thinking they are all from the 19th Century.

Here are a few I chose because they link to bits of London I live or work in or were just interesting. I shall let them speak for themselves.

©Chez l’abeille  2016

Postman’s Park information can be found here


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Christmas blogger gift swap: my present arrives!

Back in November I stumbled upon the greatest idea – a Christmas gift swap for bloggers organised by Viola. The idea is very simple; you are paired with another blogger, get to know them through their blog/email, then go and find a great present based on what you have found out.

I was paired with Safeera, who has a very engaging lifestyle blog: Habibi lifestyle. We spent a while getting to know our likes and dislikes, before I felt I could go out and find the perfect present!

I had also set myself the challenge of buying presents that were from local’ish places. My first success was at the Hither Green Christmas fair, which although not in my actual neighbourhood, is at least south of the river! I met up with several old friends there and we enjoyed a pleasant sunny afternoon wandering amongst the stalls and buying quite a lot between us. The second part of my present was from the shop around the corner. However, it’s for Safeera to tell you more about her surprises so I won’t spoil them now!

We were expected to post our parcels by December 17th, but we both posted a bit earlier. My parcel arrived safely and I have to say I was impatient to see what I had been sent! I was touched that in such a short time someone could gauge my likes so well and choose such great gifts. I love them and will be making much use of them in the coming year. I’ve actually been after a cake stand for ages and the notebooks are just perfect for all those blog and picture book ideas.

I’m really pleased I was able to take part in this great Christmas event, so big thanks to Viola for organising (whilst prepping for University interviews too!). As well as some great gifts, I have gained a new blogging friend and I look forward to reading more about her adventures in style in the future.

Happy Christmas one and all!

Camberwell Beauty ceramic butterfly


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The history of the Old Kent Road.

I found myself walking down the Old Kent Road today, in search of builders’ rubble sacks (but that’s another story for another day). Heading home I walked past the old North Peckham civic centre, which currently houses a church. Now I’ve gone past this building hundreds of times on the bus but I don’t think I’ve ever actually stopped to look closely at the large polychrome frieze that decorates the exterior of the building. What a surprise it is.

It is called “The history of the Old Kent Road” and does what it sets out to do, depicting the history of the area from the Romans arriving in Kent to the Canterbury pilgrims on through to modern (60’s) times. The piece is constructed from irregular shaped tiles, with well defined and boldly drawn figures and designs. I particularly liked how each figure had a completely unique face and expression! I also liked the use of the locally named Camberwell Beauty butterfly to form the surround to the entire frieze.

I discovered that, at 1000 feet square, it is the largest secular work by the Polish sculptor, Adam Kossowski (1905 – 1986). Kossowski arrived as a refugee from the Soviet labour camps in England in 1943. This work was designed in 1964 and completed in 1965. It now appears to be under the protection of the Twentieth Century Society.

From the bus it looks rather grimy and unloved. Up close you can see the hand of a skilful ceramicist at work and how beautiful it actually is!

I also liked this blog I found which describes the frieze too .

©Chez l’abeille 2014