Hampstead Heath

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I first fell in love with vintage shops when I spent a summer in the Kensington Market area of Toronto, where every alley is an Aladdin’s cave of treasures, dresses, bags & shoes, all pre-loved and with past adventures seeping from every stitch. I have an overactive imagination, so I love to imagine who has previously had their head turned by the item I’m buying and where it was worn and what happened to the person wearing it. Then I try to imagine under what circumstances they surrendered the item up to be sold on (… sold on to me!). I still love a lurk around a vintage store, but for me it is something that needs a lazy afternoon dedicated to it. Rummaging through racks and heaps of items is not something that can be rushed, and the best gems always seem to be the most well hidden.  For this reason most of my shopping is done online (I should have shares in ASOS basically) because I barely have time to be surgically separated from my laptop during the week and the thought of clicking my mouse a couple of times Vs queuing up in a sticky Oxford St shop always wins.

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For this reason I did a little yelp of joy when one of the lovely ladies behind Brag Vintage emailed me about their new online Vintage shop. Pre-loved goods? Check! Easy online order? Check! It’s the best of both worlds. Brag Vintage are based in Sheffield, and having lived there for a year when I was 18 I have fond memories of weekly trips to The Forum to spend my ever expanding overdraft on trinkets. After a meandering trip through the various sections of the Brag Vintage website (handily split into men/women and then into categories such as coats/jackets, tops, dresses etc) I took the plunge on a faux fur Stella jacket. I know it’s totally inappropriate for the recent spate of 30degree+ weather we are having, but summer is the BEST time to stock up on winter warmers as they are half the price of what they’ll be in a few months. Plus faux fur jackets are my achilles heel. This is the fifth in my collection, I love how versatile they are – making great practical picks as they are so snug and warm, but they are also smart enough for do’s such as parties, weddings etc.

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I took my new find out for a spin in the early morning dew which is about as autumnal as it gets in London at the moment. I trotted around Golders Hill Park, which is a little-known section of Hampstead Heath and totally worth a visit. Not only is it a beautiful park, with some wild heath-forest sections to get lost in, but they have a menagerie of animals to visit including deer, donkeys and (randomly) capybara! Forgive the poses (especially the one I like to refer to as tree-flasher!) a natural fashion blogger I am not, but I did have fun prancing about as Nick played at being David Bailey. “Now look happy”! “Now look mysterious”! And hopefully you can see what a beauty this is and also in what fantastic condition it arrived in. I’d highly recommend a browse of Brag, I am already being tempted by their endless collection of gorgeous Levi cut-offs in every colour. Nothing beats the smell of memories and must that hits you when you walk into a vintage store, but this is definitely the very next best thing.

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Mice

I swear it all started on Monday when a colleague was admiring my nails. I work in a team of 5 women, and nails are something we take very seriously and in a slightly cliché manner our Monday morning status meetings often end with a ten minute show & tell of our weekend efforts. I had been away all weekend and not had time to jazz mine up into anything other than a basic one coat, but all the same she complimented the colour and said “what shade would you call that” and the only way I could think the describe it was mouse grey.

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The next night I had been asleep for a few hours and was busily dreaming away when I awoke to a strange noise. It took me quite a while to place the sound but I knew it reminded me of childhood sleepovers at a friend who had gerbils… so I soon started to make a rodenty connection. There was  MOUSE in the house! Well in the bedroom to be precise. I didn’t want to wake Nick up as he was so deeply asleep so I just lay there being tormented as the critter scuttered and scampered and chomped away having a party in the bin and the surrounding area for 3 HOURS. I was so exhausted and cranky when I eventually woke up, and walked to work in a complete daze (listening to Modest Mouse, of course!) That night I had my first Spanish class. Giving up caffeine  + mouse tortured sleepless night + learning a new language = bad plan, but I still managed to enjoy myself and learn quite a few words too. Including ratón. After my night school I sloped to the tube and was stood patiently minding my own business when the other people stood around me starting screaming and scurrying away (from me at first I thought…) but actually from this little chap who I hadn’t realised was busily attempting to climb INTO my tote bag that was sat between my feet!

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I guess living on the underground tracks is pretty risky so I can see why he was trying to hitch a ride home with me, and he certainly was a bold brutish mouse as not even the other peoples squealing and my shooing scared him away. Since then, I have seen 3 more mice. Seeing them at the tube stations is nothing too new, but I’ve seen them on the streets eating the grit (yuck) and just strutting around central London in the middle of the day. Am I the Pied Piper (without the sinister child capturing bit)? I’m starting to feel like it. Maybe the snow will scare them off for a while!

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I have never been able to write ampersands the correct way round. It’s something I hadn’t ever actually realised until I met my best friend and she pointed it out. I guess up until that point people had just been politely switching them round in their brain. I have really tried to fix my backwards & but a lifelong habit is quite impossible to fix. Then I spotted this beautiful wooden brooch on my absolute favourite Etsy shop Ladybird Likes and now I can’t wait to use it to help me break my broken & once and for all. If you’ve never shopped on Etsy I really recommend you start with Ladybird Likes, the accessories are so unique and rare and well made, and receiving them in the post just blows all bills/bank statements/junk that might come too that day out of the water as each purchase it wrapped lovingly in little paper bags with hello luggage tags and parcel string. With my order this time I also got sent a bonus extra gift that I hadn’t even ordered. You wouldn’t get that extra love with a high street brand.

Birds

On another morning this week I creaked out of bed at 6.30am to attempt a 5k run before work (don’t worry, it is not some freakish dedication that drives me, it’s the fact I have to be in a bikini in a months time and ate the WORLD over Christmas!) and as I staggered down the street pining for my duvet, suddenly I saw a dazzling flapping of wings and noticed these two PARAKEETS circling me!

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The first time I saw the north London parakeets I was in Golders Hill Park (on the Hampstead Heath extension) and it was a perfect cloudless summers day. I was laying with barefeet in the grass and snoozing under the sun when I saw the flash of green over my head and an exotic squawking filled the air. I thought I was definitely hallucinating, and panickedly looked around to check if anyone else had seen these birds or if I had fallen into some Alice in Wonderland style fantasy world (a genuine life fear of mine!) As soon as I got home I got googling and learnt all about the fact that Hampstead heath is home a flock of green rose-ringed Parakeets, normally native in to India. Apparently this breed of bird were popular pets in Victorian times but the explosion of population in north London is apparently attributed to their release from the set of  “The African Queen” at Shepperton Studios in Surrey in 1950. You aren’t always guaranteed to spot these birds, but it’s definitely worth a trip to Hampstead Heath in the hope that you might. This is definitely the closest encounter I’ve ever had with them and it almost makes it worth getting up so early if they might pay me a visit again!

After the snowfall on Friday, I woke up to these perfect bird claws. It must have been quite a heavy bird to make such pristine prints, but I was relieved to see these over little mouse paws that’s for sure…

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SNOW!

I really wasn’t going to do a snow blog, because my brain is bursting with other things to blog about at the moment and I know you can’t blink on twitter/instagram/facebook without seeing another photo or reference to the cold white stuff but… it’s just SO pretty! And I get the hype, it’s so rare that we get a decent depth of snow to roam around in that it just brings out the sparkly child in everyone and what’s not to like about that?

I’m very fortunate that Hampstead Heath is basically my back garden and after 18 months of living around the area, I know it’s nooks and crannies pretty well. I know the best tree to climb and the secret sledge runs and even the areas you can be guaranteed not to see another soul (not even a shifty character!) But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it looking more beautiful than today. Snow definitely suits the heath. The sky was as bright white as the ground, obviously full of more snow just waiting to fall again. This transformed the winter trees into spindly silhouettes and the hoards of sledgers on parliament hill took on a ghostly Lowry-esque quality.

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When people ask me what my favourite season is, I don’t really have a favourite. I just like proper seasons. I like my spring to be cherry blossom cardigan weather. I like my summer to have long balmy evenings drinking cider on a picnic blanket in the park. I like my autumn to burn through yellow orange and red colours and finally I desperately want my winter to dazzle me with Hollywood snow. So far winter has just been wet in London. Grey, wet, glum and with the occasional chilly night (always at the most inconvenient times when I’ve braved massive heels or left my woolly hat at work) so I knew it was vital to make the most of this fleeting snow day. Nick was a very willing companion as we bundled up in thermals and woollens and started a near-2 hour trek from one side to the other of the heath, stopping to do as much cheesy snow stuff as possible – snowballs, snow men with twig afros, snow angels, nearly falling into the frozen lake…

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I haven’t made many snow angels before and Nick had never ever made one (I think they are quite an American thing? I only learnt about them as a kid from watching Groundhog Day obsessively) so I gave him the patch of snow that didn’t have a single footprint on. I was at least smart enough to wait to the end of the walk to go rolling around in the snow as once you’ve angel-ed it manages to find it’s way in everywhere and suddenly I had damp patches and icy trickles everywhere, brrr! I really liked getting so cold though,  there’s no point being all adult and sensible in the snow.  We soon warmed up with a giant cup of tea and a big wedge of cheese & chutney on toast at home. We also finally finished True Blood season 4 – Did you watch it? What did you think? I have been a huge True Blood obsessive since season 1. I even have a Merlotte’s tee-shirt! I loved everything about it; the southern drawls, the incredible opening titles, the theme tune, the sultry Sookie, the vampires, the concept of true blood itself, Sam… In fact I thought season 3 was the best so far and was so excited for season 4 but wow. What a mess! Half way through the season I just couldn’t care less about any of the characters and the stories seemed to have gone off in a witchcraft weird tangent and there were constant wtf moments. I barely watch TV at the moment so when I do have a boxset feast I want it to be really good! I’ve never been so underwhelmed by a season finale and definitely won’t be watching season 5, I’ll probably just read the episode summaries on wikipedia and continue to be disappointed! The first one I looked up had the phrase “giant blood spraying vampire goddess” in it. Next up for boxset viewing for me is The Hour (which is a bit ridiculous I never started watching as I adore Mad Men and this is meant to be the UK attempt) and Community which my sister is desperate for me to watch and discuss and that’s a good enough reason for me. Ok, end of TV tangent…

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^By far the classiest photograph of me on the internet! Also Nick, despite being a first timer, is certified more angelic than me. We saw lots of sights on our snow mission; like a jack russell being pulled along on an old fashioned sledge, alot of questionable snowboot footwear oh and I absolutely loved creeping up to what I call Hansel & Gretel’s fairytale cabin which is actually the mens toilets (!!
but in typical Hampstead style, super stylish) and Nick thinks my obsession with it is ridiculous as he claims “if you’d visited them, and smelt them, in the height of summer you wouldn’t love it so much”! But look how cute it is…

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Finally, just to fashion up this blog a bit, here is my winter hat, glove and scarf combo. As you can see not a single item matches! Higgedlypiggeldy or what? The hat is long suffering bluey that I bought in San Francisco Urban Outfitters for $2 after arriving there and realising that my hotpants, vests and sunglasses were not going to fly in 7 degree fog (I just assumed it’s in California = it’s sunny. Wrong!) Then the scarf is a snood, I’ve recently discovered the wonder of the snood. I think I’ve avoided them because of the silly name but it’s just a giant extra toasty scarf without the long dangly bits that I always get caught in the tube door/any door. Finally my owl gloves. I know that animal covered knitwear is totally played out, and everyone owns a panda hat or hood with ears, but I quite like clothes that straddle costume/fancy dress so they still make me smile. These are the only version of animal knits I own though, they were a very welcome Christmas gift and I’ve barely taken them off since (except to roll snowballs!)

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It may be grotty ‘summer’ weather, but I still think London is the most beautiful, diverse place I’ve ever lived. These are all photographs taken within one week of each other. I think I walk around gawping and gaping more than any tourist who visits!

 

 

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