Chez l'abeille

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

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Oh, Honey Honey.

Bees feature rather a lot in the world of Chez L’abeille. This is a good thing because they are rather an important part of our world generally and in some cases are in rather a perilous situation. Even today a friend has shared an article about bees going onto the endangered wildlife list in America. I was intrigued then, when I heard about a very local supper club  event hosted jointly by Gosnells Mead and Bee Kind and Dine, who provide sustainably sourced meals, which aim to engage more people in the issues within our food systems. Bees, food and drink all rolled into one evening – why not?

Firstly some info about mead. I have to admit, the first (and last time) I drank the stuff was on Lindisfarne. It can’t have made too much of a lasting impression because I haven’t gone out of my way in the intervening 20 or more years to seek it out. But this is 21st century Peckham, so it came as no surprise that there is an actual mead brewery about five minutes from my doorstep.

This, however, is modern mead – still made from honey and water but blended to make an entirely surprising, light and exceedingly tasty beverage. During the course of the evening we sampled drank several bottles of the current Gosnells’ range. (And admired the exceedingly lovely labels!)

The London mead is a delicately flavoured mead with a subtle sweetness and was a refreshing opener for our meal. Our second bottle was the hopped mead which had more strength but still maintained the honey notes of the drink. My favourite (not least for its fabulous label) was the citra sea mead which will be finding its way into my fridge asap! For this limited edition brew, honey is combined with lemon peel, tarragon and hops then blended with sea water as a surprise ingredient. The lemony, tangy flavour went particularly well with my monkfish main course. We rounded off the evening with the winter mead – not bottles this time, but more measured tumblers. This one is definitely worth savouring over desert.

Our accompanying supper was equally delicious. As we arrived the potatoes were cooking outdoors on a large open grill which whetted the appetite nicely. The flavours of honey were threaded through the menu in our appetiser and desert, but my favourite dish was the perfectly cooked Cornish monkfish in lieu of pork belly. As you will also see below, the cuttlefish, tomato and polenta starter disappeared before I remembered to take a picture!

Information, fabulous food, conversation and mead all combined into a very entertaining meal. I for one will be round to the nearest Gosnells’ stockist (also five minutes away) with a new admiration for this very old drink!

©Chez l’abeille  2016


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Mirror, Mirror

Sometimes things just happen. That, I guess is what constitutes a happening. The arrival of a mirror maze in Peckham for one weekend only is always going to be a happening. Add that it’s in the Copeland Park/Bussey Building’s achingly hip enclave and it is always going to be up there in the zeitgeist.

I’m not going to write a lot about the background to the work – there’s a really decent article by Creative Review, which tells you everything you need to know. Briefly, the work is by Es Devlin who has a background in stage design. It’s exploring scent, memory and identity. It’s created in partnership with i-D and Chanel to celebrate creativity from women in arts and culture aross the world.

What it actually is: a really fabulous, immersive, mesmerising artwork!

I’m glad I went down early on the opening day as I think visitors would be queuing round the block by the end of the weekend as word spread. By the time this post goes out it will all be over, but that I suppose is what makes it the best kind of memory – a transient moment of total magic.

©Chez l’abeille  2016




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


Seeing in black and white #1

36 years ago as a rather penniless student, I made one of the most expensive purchases I had ever made til then – my much loved Pentax ME SLR camera (special edition, brown body, not black). This little camera travelled the world with me and took thousands of photos over the years, until more modern digital cameras pushed it off pole position.

“Black and white are the colors of photography.” Robert Frank

Recently, on a whim I had it re-conditioned and have been testing it out. I have realised how used to instant pictures I have become. The art of slow photography; not wasting a shot, filling up a full roll of film and then patiently waiting for the results, good or bad, has become rather passé. These days we carry cameras on us permanently, taking pictures on our devices in a moment and instantly deciding to delete or keep. With a 35mm camera you set out to look for pictures. So camera in hand I have been taking odd shots over the past few weeks to see how it still works.

First up: Nunhead Cemetery again. My favourite gothic gloom and headless angels. The light was very low as it was damp and dusky when I went there, so they are a bit grainy, but I think this suits the subject matter.


Cornishman Charles Simmons’ grave Nunhead

Angel, Nunhead cemetery

Angel, Nunhead cemetery

Nunhead cemetery

Nunhead cemetery

The second foray was to Broadgate Circus in London for lunch. Here I was looking at the tones, structures and shapes of the buildings. Continue reading

Ghost signs #2: printers, paper and paint.

I was sorting out some old photos recently and this gouping of ghost signs organised itself rather neatly. I can’t claim to have photographed all of them as the Lewes ones were sent to me by a friend who lives there, who knows I like this kind of thing.

I can’t find any information about Cutts and Co, but I like the way the last letter of the Co seems to loopback under it forming an arrow. The sign also seems to be a second one painted over an earlier one. It is a bit of a local landmark amongst all the more modern artwork in the Bellenden Road zone! I recently saw this sign featured in a Photography Graduates show, in a rather good collection of prints focused on ghost signs in London – I’ve lost the photographers name however, so can’t give you any more info on that score either.

I like the Lewes signs, especially the painted one partly because it creates a capsule around the words, just as I do when highlighting important notes in my diary! I’d love to know what could be used instead of genuine turpentine, if anyone has any ideas let me know! White lead was pretty ubiquitous in Victorian times and a cause of death for those working in the white-lead factories. The descriptions I read here sound pretty gruesome indeed.

The Thomson Bros sign is less fancy and easily missed as you wander down Bermondsey Street SE1. It tells us the company was establised in 1857 but little else than the enigmatic word “paper”. I can only assume they did exactly what it says on the sign!

©Chez l’abeille 2015

Walking the line

Peckham coal line walk routeThere’s been a lot of talk about lines recently. Mainly red ones, drawn metaphorically by politicians, marking the extent of their policies in the recent General election. There is however a newer line being discussed down in SE15: The Peckham Coal Line Walk.

Historically, the space between the twin railway lines which connect at Peckham Rye Station formed a coal yard – run by a company called Rickett Cockerell & Co Ltd. The railwayline sidings were used as a coal drop, where coal would be stored before being sold on. A rather grandiose royal warrant and a sign over the doorway to their office in a photo held by the Museum of London indicate their status as “Coal Merchants to the King” (enlarge the image to see the detail). It would also appear that they were involved in an interesting lawsuit involving the sale of goods act. From this I learn, as consumers, we are not expected to test the entire contents of a sack of coalite, just in case of rogue detonators.

On then to the big idea of the Coal Line Walk : There are so many little pockets of green space around the railway lines which hold the centre of Peckham in an interlocking embrace. Why not link two Peckham stations and the communities around them, by creating a walkway which would use Victorian high level sidings and existing green spaces to create a greenway within our urban sprawl? Continue reading


Ghost signs #1: Milk, bread and tea

I love a bit of current street art, but sometimes you glimpse signs of businesses past, etched into the walls and gable ends around us. I’ve been “collecting” these ghost signs for a while, there are many lurking amongst the older buildings of SE London. In the late 1800’s, as food items became more standardised the use of advertising was important to ensure the public knew about the products.

Daren bread has intrigued me, I have discovered it was a branded whole wheat flour, but is clearly a brand which has disappeared from our lives. Hovis and Liptons tea, on the other hand, are still very much available!

©Chez l’abeille 2015