I was really looking forward to reading The Lido when I found out about it last year. It is set in Brixton where I live and features the Brockwell Lido, which is a beautiful outdoor swimming pool which I love. A place I hope to spend more time in now I am on maternity leave this summer (perhaps wishful thinking).

The book tells the story of Kate, a 26 year old, who is struggling to settle into London, who is living in a miserable flatshare. She is lonely and has a rather unsatisfactory job at a local paper.

Rosemary is 86 years old and mourning the death of her husband George. The book reflects on her war years, courtship and marriage with George. Rosemary is also lonely although far more connected to the local community, compared to Kate.  I really enjoyed the descriptions of cups of tea with her friend Hope in Brixton Village and shopping trips down Electric Avenue. Brixton is a really friendly place and Libby Page captures that feeling.

The Lido, Libby Page, Granville Arcade

Rosemary and Hope share cups of tea in Brixton Village, also known as Granville Arcade in the Lido.

However, there are some extremely sad scenes, which includes a heartbreaking scene when she revisits her husband George’s grocery store, now a hipster cocktail bar.

The local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder, Kate sees this is a chance for her to shine. Rosemary and Kate are thrown together and the story of their blossoming friendship is uplifting.

The Lido, Brockwell Lido, Brixton, The Lido, Libby Page

Beautiful Brockwell Lido, where a campaign to save the outdoor pool brings together Rosemary and Kate.

The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how ordinary people can protect the things they love.

With the battles over the Field Day festival in Brockwell Park this summer and the community battling against Lambeth Council to protect the beloved park, it is very relevant. It is also a beautiful portrayal of intergenerational friendship and a telling portrait of a young person feeling adrift in a large city.

I listened to Libby Page on BBC Radio Four’s Women’s Hour this week talking about uplifting fiction, alongside Gail Honeyman, who wrote ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ and she said something that resonated with me. There is a lot of good in society and it was lovely to read a book that reflects that. It is a brilliant debut and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

You can read more about Libby Page here and follow her on Twitter.

Yesterday we gathered at the beautiful  Houzz 2018 pop up, at 19 Greek Street in Soho. We were greeted with coffee and a warm welcome from Lou Archell, who had organised the wonderful Sisterhood Camp event to see out the end of a very long January.

Who wouldn’t want to beat the January blues learning about flower arranging and eating delicious food in a beautiful building. I love flowers and eating and it sounded like the perfect day.

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We sat at long tables and learned about Ikebana from the serene and talented florist, Erin Allison Clare.

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She told us about the background to Ichiban floristy, about consideration and balance. It is important to look at all aspects of a flower as well as considering incorporating dried plants. Look at the beautiful array of flowers we had to choose from.

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We started constructing our displays, using beautiful ceramics from Rebecca Proctor, a ceramicist based in Cornwall. You use florist tape to attach a floral pin holder and then fill a vessel with water.

The pastime of viewing plants and appreciating flowers throughout the four seasons was established in Japan early on by the aristocracy. We learned that ikebana pays attention to the overall line and form of all plant material used. We were told to consider each plant and think about minimalism and asymmetry.

Ikebana also pays attention to  the sacred relationship between humans and nature with the flower arrangement usually practiced in a silent and meditative state. Luckily we were allowed to talk.

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Ikebana pays attention to the overall line and form of all plant material used and emphasizes minimalism and asymmetry. Ikebana also reveres the sacred relationship between man and nature with the flower arrangement usually practiced in a silent and meditative state.

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You attach a floral frog to the base of the shallow vessel and fill it with water. Erin had brought along a couple of Hellabores plants, which were really beautiful. My inner gardener felt terrible cutting them up.

Here was my final arrangement and I was really proud of what I made.

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Whilst Lou and her team set up the room for lunch we went off to explore the Houzz pop up and as it was so sunny outside, I went for a wander around Soho.

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We came back to see the room set up for lunch and it looked rather lovely.

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We sat down at long tables in the cafe for a delicious lunch cooked by chef and food writer, Claire Thomson. She had created a beautiful three course menu using fresh, seasonal ingredients. I was amazed when I saw the size of the kitchen she cooked it in, it was tiny. It was great to hear about her new book – The Art of the Larder.  It was a real treat to eat such delicious food and Clare was really lovely. You can follow her on instagram at 5oclockapron.

I took a photo of the delicious starter and pudding. Plus my customised mocktail, thanks for the addition of the lemon and camomile, it makes all the difference when you can’t drink alcohol.

What was so great about Sisterhood event was meeting interesting and friendly women, I was really lucky to chat to the warm and inspiring Erin Trezise-Wallace, as well as the talented Ariana Ruth and her fascinating mother, Fiona. It was also lovely to meet Natalie Bourne who designs beautiful homes and gave me lots of brilliant parenting advice.

It was a great day, a beautiful space, interesting people and I really enjoyed learning about a new way of flowering arranging.

Thanks Lou and Sisterhood!

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Life lately

It is a cold and wet day in London, I have lit some candles and I am listening to First Aid Kit’s beautiful new album, Ruins. Buying candles is one of the luxuries I have allowed myself in the run up to maternity leave.

I am nearing the six month pregnancy mark and the time has passed really quickly. I am no longer able to disguise that I am pregnant with baggy clothes. Although my love for the fashion label, Cos, has grown greater as their dresses are perfect for pregnancy.

I am conscious that my life as I know it is about to completely change.

I spent this weekend with a dear friend who has a 10 and 6 year old. She is very organised, an excellent cook and a brilliant mother. Someone who I aspire to be like once we start being parents. I am trying to see all my friends before I go into hibernation. I have a weekend in York planned with my uni mates and lots of dinners and catch up. J and I are going to Ghent, because we love Belgium and Rye in Sussex because we had one drink at the Standard Inn over New Year and decided we wanted to come back and stay.

Baby preparation, baby clothes on a line. Being pregnant.

Baby preparation, 26 weeks pregnant

Preparing

Last week I bought my first thing for the baby, four gro-bags from a lady who lives down the road, through the local parents Facebook group (a great source of free/cheap baby stuff). I am trying to not get carried away with all the beautiful clothes and accessories you can buy.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about buggies this week. Checking out the ones I see out and about in London and asking my friends with babies millions of questions. I have been offered a second hand one, which is very kind. But I am really tempted to get a new one. I met a lovely lady at pregnancy yoga, who recommended a Babyzen Yoyo as you can squeeze into cafes and it is really light. However, once they reach six months they face away from you, apparently that is not a good thing! We are visiting John Lewis this week to be talked through the options, my other half is really into his bikes and hopefully this expertise on one kind of wheels will help with this fairly substantial purchase. They are expensive!

On all the other baby stuff, we are really lucky to be loaned lots of things, a moses basket, a Baby Bjorn bouncer, a snuzpod (a cot that slots next to your bed), a baby car seat and a cot. We have been given lots of lovely baby clothes and baby books. Last weekend we picked up a travel cot and a carrier from a family friend. I am lucky to have really kind friends and family.

Reading

When I spotted someone giving away a pile of books on pregnancy and parenting on our local Facebook parents group I jumped at them. I have been dipping into them and my favourite is What To Expect When You’re Expecting and The Rough Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, which is very funny. I have been warned that you should take them with a pinch of salt as every baby is different. This Guardian article says that reading pregnancy advice books can make you a bit miserable and so I will try to not take them too much to heart.

Nursery preparation

Our spare room is currently full of all of J’s records, books and clothes, we need to make some space for all the baby’s stuff. Creating that Instagram nursery of dreams may have to wait a while. We either need to get some storage or move when the baby needs to move into his own room. Storage may be more straightforward.

Scandinavian nursery. Preparing for baby, A hundred days to go.

Scandinavian nursery of dreams.

Pregnancy yoga

I went along to a session last weekend and it was brilliant, I met some really lovely people and it was great to have a proper stretch. It was also incredibly relaxing. I slept incredibly well afterwards. I am going to try and fit in some more sessions in the weeks ahead.

Sleeping, the joys of pregnancy insomnia

Sleeping has been interesting, some nights are fine, others I wake up in the early hours and struggle to get back asleep. The baby likes to wake up about 4am and have a bit of a dance or perform some kung-fu moves. How well you sleep does depend on how stressful work is and how late we eat. Apparently you need to cut back on the caffeine (although I am only drinking one or two cups a day) and everything will be OK.

Mum friends.

I am conscious that I will be leaving my lovely colleagues behind for a while. J only has three weeks parental leave (we are lucky to have an extra week than most UK employers). In order to have some people to hang out with after he is back at work, I’ve made some efforts to make some Mum friends. I put out a request through a local Facebook group and I am having a coffee with someone who lives down the road this week. I’ve had an introduction through a lovely friend to someone else due at the same time who lives five minutes away and I met some nice people at pregnancy yoga, I am sure it will work out. Another bonus of having a baby on board badge is I met two lovely people who were pregnant on the tube last week.

Next week we start our NCT classes, I have another midwife appointment and more planning… We may even decide what buggy to get. I am open to all advice and so if you have any top tips, please let me know. What do you wish you had known before you had your baby?

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Back at the end of September we spent the weekend in a shepherds’s hut on Elmley nature reserve, what could be more romantic. Big skies, a cosy wooden home with a big window overlooking the reserve. The recipe for a perfect weekend.

Elmley is based on the Isle of Sheppey and even though I am born and bred in Kent, I have never explored this corner of my home county.

We stayed in The Saltbox, named after the fact that since Roman times the salt marshes have been harvested for sea salt and salt mounds would have dotted the landscape.

We drove down to Elmley Reserve on Friday afternoon, a fairly easy journey out of South London. When you arrive at the main gate it is a ten minute drive over to the farm and the shepherd huts. Passing herds of cattle in the day and later when we popped out to buy supplies at twilight, hares, hedgehogs and murmurations of swallows.

We stayed in The Saltbox and when we arrived we were really impressed by the way the shepherd huts were set up and all the little touches such as Romney Marsh wool blankets, binoculars and bird books to identify the birds through the huge windows.

Elmley Nature Reseve, Saltbox shepherds box

Elmley Reserve, Saltbox, Weekend Away

Bird watching, Elmley Nature Reserve. Salt Box

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell

We didn’t fancy cooking and ordered a tasty home cooked supper, which arrived in a lovely wicker basket. We put up the table and ate delicious Spinach, butternut squash & feta filo pie. We also ordered egg butties and fresh coffee both mornings.

Later on we took advantage of the fire pit and marshmallows. It was a really lovely and cosy evening.

Elmley Nature Reserve, fire pit. weekend away

The next morning, I attempted to watch the sun rise but couldn’t stay awake! We had a leisurely breakfast and coffee. I particularly loved sitting in the Adirondock chairs and taking in the view. We went off and explored the nature reserve and discovered an unknown love of bird watching. We met lots of bird watchers who told us how much they loved the reserve. I was very impressed by their enormous cameras.

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell, morning coffee

The views were amazing. We also left the reserve to properly explore the North Kent Marshes, an inspirational place for Dickens. We went to see the beautiful St Thomas The Apostle in Harty before coming back for a nap to recover from the early start.

In the evening we ventured out to the Three Mariners in Oare. A really lovely and cosy pub, but very busy. I would recommend going earlier or later to miss the rush.

All in all a brilliant weekend.

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell, A weekend away Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell, Weekend away

 

Elmley Nature Reserve, Laura Bluebell

 

Apologies for the long delay in updating the site. It has been a busy summer/Autumn, with a lot of change. Here are some of my life updates:

Travel

We travelled to the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides in August, which was magical. We stayed with friends on the Isle of Lewis and hired a car. If any of you are thinking of going, my top tip is to book early, to get somewhere lovely to stay.

I also spent a weekend in Helsinki in October, a really beautiful and mellow city. I love Finland and I can’t wait to go back.

Houses

We tried to move house in September and it went wrong, a long and very dull story.

Hopefully we will move in December with a new buyer and luckily our sellers have waited for us. A big move for us as it will be moving from a flat to a house. I’ve loved living in my particular part of London, Brixton, and I love my flat and garden. But I can’t wait to explore North London and live in a new area. I am particularly excited about having a front door and stairs. A chance to put down proper roots.

A baby

One of the main reasons I have been really quiet is that I am having a baby in April. The first trimester completely wiped me out. I could just about get through the day at work, but the thought of updating the blog was slightly beyond me.

Now I am now into week 18 I am feeling very excited about our Spring arrival. This will be the biggest adventure of all. Big changes in Laura Bluebell’s world.

I promise to get better at updating the blog and talking to you more regularly.

Laura Bluebell life update