Six Things my Camera Taught me about Hampstead

Hampstead is part of London that inspires much of my writing. So I set off to take a few photos of this beautiful area, armed only with an iPhone and the belief that I’d discover more through a plastic lens than I usually see just with my own eyes.

One of the ponds on Hampstead Heath

Oh, and a pair of comfortable shoes. Parking is scarce. Besides, there are some places only legs can reach.

The Mount

1 The street signs are rather special.

Like this one, many road signs in NW3 are made of individual ceramic tiles in shiny white on black, often chased into the wall. They’ve been there since Victorian times, and owe a lot to the Arts and Crafts movement. The tiles aren’t just letters and numbers. Some are nifty symbols like a pointing finger leading to places of interest.

2 If in doubt, zoom in. You may catch detail that’s often missed.

Ornamental gate

3 People tend to get in the way. Hampstead is crowded, especially outside certain shops and eateries.

Hampstead Butcher & Providore, Rosslyn Hill

Queuing at the Creperie

4 You may spot celebs such as Emma Thompson, Imelda Staunton, Tom Conti and Liam Gallagher.

5 Some of the celebrities are canine.

Two local residents

6 Even the prettiest parts of Hampstead can turn ugly with overspilling bins, fly-tipping, and uncollected rubbish. Sadly this is set to get worse with Camden Council’s new bin collection schedules.

#CleanUpCamden

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Other posts you may like:

If you want to know more about Hampstead, see my novel Hampstead Fever.

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Visions of Hampstead

I love Hampstead, so it’s no surprise that I decided to set my novel Hampstead Fever there. These are just a few images to give you a taste of Hampstead life if you’re not already familiar with it.

Hampstead tube station

Hampstead Underground Station, first opened in 1907, has the deepest lift shaft of all the London stations.  Here’s the view up Heath Street, towards the, er, heath (photos of Kenwood and Hampstead Heath will have to wait).

Heath Street, NW3

And down Pilgrim’s Lane.

Pilgrim's Lane

These friends are just enjoying breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Perrin's Court

Though some tables outside can be quite exclusive.

Hampstead High Street

Some street furniture (this Victorian postbox is no longer in use).

Victorian postbox

A couple of locals.

Dogs

Constable and his family once lived here too.  He’s buried in St John’s churchyard, NW3.

Tomb of John Constable

It’s not all blue plaques around here. Flower seller Maggie Richardson has this memorial to her name.

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Hampstead is nothing if not trendy. Queues often build up outside the Hampstead Butcher & Providore.

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This is the flower shop in iconic Flask Walk.

Galton Flowers, Flask Walk

And the barber shop.

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There’s a new restaurant in Church Row, where Le Cellier du Midi used to be.

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The Freud Museum – where both Sigmund and his daughter Anna once worked – is down a leafy street.

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Much of this scene will change with the new cycle superhighway. If CS11 is implemented, as looks likely, cars and lorries will be diverted away from the main arterial road and into Hampstead village, choking side-streets and polluting the area. Locals are as concerned about safety for cyclists as anyone else, but believe a better solution could be found.  

Protest against CS11

If you want to know more, click here.

 

Eight Things I Got out of a Trip to Cornwall

How I missed you, Cornwall!

It had been a while since we’d had a proper pasty, sampled Cornish Rattler, clambered over slate cliffs, and stumbled over discarded surfboards on Polzeath beach.  A refresher course was long overdue.

The lessons began before we got there.

1 Don’t take the road past Stonehenge.

Stonehenge sign

By the time you spot this warning sign, it will be too late, because you’ll be stuck on the A303, which has been a single carriageway at Stonehenge since time immemorial, just as the Druids left it. In front of us was a Bedford van spray-painted with hippy daisies and fuelled only by flower power. The guys in the back of the van gave us cheery peace signs as they sat cross-legged in air-conditioned comfort (aka holding hand fans).  We were lucky. Behind us was a broken down Austin Maxi, complete with a couple in 80s style dress trying to get it going again.

As we inched along, we had ample time to speculate on what a henge is, and why, according to popular culture, you get a different number every time you try to count the stones. It may depend on what you’re smoking at the time.

"Stonehenge back wide" by Frédéric Vincent - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stonehenge_back_wide.jpg#/media/File:Stonehenge_back_wide.jpg

2 You always forget something, no matter how carefully you pack.

On one trip, we’d omitted to pack bookends, much to the distress of my eldest son, then 7 years old, who found he had nothing to hold up the extensive collection of Usborne books he had brought. 

This time it was toothpaste, an oversight easily remedied by visiting the Spar shop in Boscastle, where we also chatted to the locals and their dogs. After that, we had some of the local falling-down juice. And left the toothpaste in the pub.

3 It’s always rainier and windier than you remember.

Wind turbines, photo by Martin Boose

The number of wind farms had doubled since my last visit, and the rainfall had gone through the roof. Quite literally, in the case of the Boscastle flood of 2004. On August 16, 440million gallons of water swept through the town, flooding nearly 60 properties and destroying several of them.

This is Boscastle now, which shows how well it has recovered.

Boscastle Harbour from the bridge

4 There are huge numbers of saints.

Like Saints Hydrock, Petroc, Enodoc, Buryan, and of course Austell and Ives. Some of them are exclusively Cornish, while others arrived via other parts of British Isles. There are even more here.

As you might expect, there are also many churches, most of them small, beautiful, and well worth a visit.

5 Don’t wear flip-flops on cliff walks. 

Slate is slippery when wet. On a windy coastal walk you might want to invoke one or two of those saints I mentioned.

photo by Jeremy Grundy

6 Cornwall is the most haunted part of Britain.

There are said to be haunted jails, streets, castles, even hotels

I didn’t see any ghosts in Jamaica Inn myself, or a single smuggler, just tourists enjoying a hearty Sunday roast. We did however stay in one of the haunted hotels. While I am personally highly sceptical, I can report an unearthly noise outside our door early in the morning, around about the time the staff delivered our newspaper. What are the odds, eh?

7 Take lots of coins, because any place by the sea requires money for parking.

And places away from the sea often come with a sign like this.

cheap camping sign

As thriving as tourism appears to be, further inland towns like Bodmin have hit the buffers. Industry has gone and the heart seems to have left these communities, at least judging from the dilapidated houses and bored teenagers hanging around. Sad sights, and I don’t know what the answer is.

8 All the same, some of the most beautiful places are inland.

bridge in Cornish village

No, I’m not giving away the location of this village. All I’m saying is that it’s not by the A303.

 

How to Be a Party Animal

Christmas parties come in many shapes and sizes. This one had four legs. The Mayhew Home’s Tinsel & Tails extravaganza at St Paul’s Church, London W6 was a red carpet affair with candle-light, chilled fizz and celebs galore.  We had a fabulous time. I also gleaned valuable tips on being the ultimate Christmas party animal.

Dress up for the occasion. Ditch the much-loved blanket and get into some glad rags, like Rufus and Bobby.   

photo by Bonnie Baker

photo of Bobby and Rufus by Bonnie Baker

Here’s Evie in a red frock, a classic choice for Christmas.  

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2 Get some humans to volunteer for something eg giving readings and drawing raffles

At this year’s Tinsel & Tails, Sylvia Syms and Beatie Edney did a mother-and-daughter routine, assisted by their Mayhew dogs Bunny and Billie. Peter Egan, fresh from guesting on Downton Abbey, read poetry while his pooches provided vocal encouragement.

3 Have a bit of a sing-song.  Georgian choir Maspindzeli sang a few numbers, while The Great British Bark-Off competed at the back of the church.

4 Don’t invite cats. They always climb the tree and raid the buffet.

5  Make sure there’s plenty to drink. You don’t want to run out of the good stuff halfway through.

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6 Watch out for gate-crashers. Big stars like Bill Bailey get their own bodyguard.  

security

7 Have fun, but remember the true meaning of Christmas.  When CEO Caroline Yates outlined the Mayhew’s work at home and abroad in countries such as Russia and Afghanistan, there was scarcely a dry eye in the house.  

Some less fortunate souls didn’t get to go the ball.

Amaruq (photo from The Mayhew)

You can find out more about 17-month old Siberian Husky Amaruq by clicking here.

Alfie Moon (photo from The Mayhew)

Alfie Moon had to live rough for years. But he’s a gentle boy who likes the quiet life. Find out more here.

Rambo

Rambo (photo from The Mayhew)

Despite his name, Rambo is a sweet 4-year old cat who likes having his cheeks rubbed. Find out more here.

Honey (photo from The Mayhew)

Honey is a 9-month old female Staffy crossbreed who arrived at The Mayhew because her owner was no longer able to look after her. She’s active, with a sensitive side. Find out more here.

Merry Christmas, one and all, and here’s hoping all these dogs and cats find forever homes in 2015.

dog-tired

As you can see, Evie is now partied out, but you’re invited to continue the Christmas Party Blog Hop with my fine blogger friends. Big thanks to Helen Hollick whose brainchild it is.  Now follow on below for more fun. Look carefully. There’s even some party swag in there. 

2014-ChristmasPartyBlogHop

  1. Helen Hollick: You are Cordially Invited to a Ball (plus a giveaway prize)
  2. Alison Morton: Saturnalia surprise – a winter party tale (plus a giveaway prize)
  3. Andrea Zuvich: No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell
  4. Ann Swinfen: Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates
  5. Anna Belfrage: All I want for Christmas (plus a giveaway)
  6. Clare Flynn:  A German American Christmas
  7. Debbie Young:  Good Christmas Housekeeping (plus a giveaway prize)
  8. Derek Birks:  The Lord of Misrule – A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble
  9. Edward James: An Accidental Virgin and An Uninvited Guest 
  10. Fenella J. Miller: Christmas on the Home front (plus a giveaway prize)
  11. J. L. Oakley:  Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907 (plus a giveaway prize)
  12. Jude Knight: Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804
  13. Julian Stockwin: Join the Party
  14. Juliet Greenwood: Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway)
  15. Lauren Johnson:  Farewell Advent, Christmas is come – Early Tudor Festive Feasts
  16. Lucienne Boyce: A Victory Celebration
  17. Nancy Bilyeau:  Christmas After the Priory (plus a giveaway prize)
  18. Nicola Moxey: The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182
  19. Peter St John:  Dummy’s Birthday
  20. Regina Jeffers: Celebrating a Regency Christmas (plus a giveaway prize)
  21. Richard Abbott: The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit
  22. Saralee Etter: Christmas Pudding – Part of the Christmas Feast
  23. Stephen Oram: Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement…(plus a giveaway prize)
  24. Suzanne Adair: The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780 (plus a giveaaway prize)
  25. Lindsay Downs: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree 

Thank you for joining in, and see you in the New Year.

Easy tweet: “How to Be a Party Animal by with & other bloggers”