Thursday, 24 March 2011

Of Spring Shoes

I popped into Marks and Spencer today to buy some tights, after a visit to the doctor to get the results of my second blood test. He confirmed that I have had glandular fever, but although it's nice to have a definite diagnosis, there is no treatment apart from rest, so he simply reiterated the need to take things gently over the Easter holiday. Luckily the weather in Oxford has been absolutely glorious over the past few days, and apparently it is set to remain this way for the rest of the week. I certainly hope so! The warm sunshine and blue skies are so cheering, and today I slipped into this outfit, which remains as good for seeing in the Spring this year as it was last!

When I was in M&S, my eye was drawn to the shoe department (well, if they will arrange the store so I am simply *forced* to walk past the shoes to get to the tights, it would really be rude to avoid paying them proper attention, wouldn't it?). Not least because it was looking particularly eye-catching this afternoon as the new season's stock had obviously just arrived. I have long been a fan of M&S shoes, finding that they tend to produce several tempting pairs each season, all reasonably priced and relatively long-lasting, and as such they are one of my go-to choices for every-day footwear. I didn't actually buy anything today, but I did have to exercise a certain amount of restraint (yes, I am capable of it sometimes ... just don't tell anyone that I might go back again tomorrow...). Three pairs in particular tested my resolve, but I contented myself (for now) with trying them all on and then replacing them carefully on the shelf.

The sudden outburst of sunny weather this week has reminded me that Spring really is just around the corner (I'm particularly looking forward to the clocks going forward this weekend), and I'm feeling a corresponding urge to inject some brightness into my wardrobe. These would certainly do that! The red suede positively popped off the shelf, and would be a marvelous way to add a bit of colourful fizz to any outfit:

(Autograph Suede Peep Toe Platform Shoes, £49)

I was also taken with the somewhat nautical feel of these heels, which look perfect for pairing with something cool and airy for a bit of relaxed chic:

(Peep Toe High Heel Platform Shoes, £25)

Finally, I couldn't resist slipping my toes into these cheeky platforms, which have a lovely 1950's vibe about them. I normally avoid slingbacks, finding that they have a tendency to sling themselves off, but I paraded around the top floor of M&S in fine style in these to take them for a test drive, and they clung to my heels like limpets. So, who knows, perhaps they could even persuade me to give the style another go. The neutral colours mean they would go with so many things, after all, although I also like the naughty little jolts of red on the soles.

(Limited Collection Peep Toe Flower Platform Shoes, £29.50)

I always think it's fun to update one's wardrobe with a new piece or two every season, and shoes are a good way to do so. I might just pop back into M&S tomorrow, anyway, just to *see* whether any of these look as pretty as they do in my memory (and as they do on the ever-tempting website). After all, if I'm going to be putting my feet up over the next few weeks, I might as well put them up in style!

In the meantime, I'm going to slip my feet into something rather less spectacular, and head out into my garden to make the most of the last of today's sunshine. For, as Sir W tells us in his 1601 essay 'Of Solitarinesse and Company',

'the Sun [is] not carrying his Lanthorne for himselfe but for the world'.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Of Small Pleasures

I'm back in Oxford now, after a week's rest at home, and I'm pleased to report that the penicillin and steroids worked their magic and my throat cleared up very quickly. I'm still extremely tired, and had to have another blood test yesterday to try to clarify whether or not this *is* glandular fever or just another nasty infection. I won't have the results back for another week, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying some of the small pleasures in life while I am forced to take everything very quietly for a while.

As I'm going to be spending most of my time in my flat, I thought I would brighten the place up a little, and yesterday I paid a visit to Daisies, a delightful florist on Walton Street in Jericho, just around the corner from me.

(Image from the Daisies website)

I've peeked through the window several times before, but this is the first time I've actually bought anything there, as usually I frequent another florist in the Covered Market in the centre of Oxford. I decided it was high time I investigated my local flower shop, however, and I wasn't disappointed. The stock in Daisies is stunning, and I've just discovered that it's even possible to order some of their spectacular displays online and have them delivered anywhere across the UK, which is something I might bear in mind for future special occasions!

(Image from the Daisies website)

Although I was tempted by half the shop, I did eventually manage to make up my mind, and bought enough to fill one big glass vase in the sitting room, and a smaller porcelain one in my bedroom. Tulips are always a favourite of mine, and I thought the yellow heart peeking out of the orange petals made these particularly pretty:

I love both the look and the scent of hyacinths, so when I saw the gorgeous deep purple of these beauties, I knew I had to have them. They provide a wonderful dark contrast to the fiery splendour of the tulips...

... and really brighten up the sitting room:

I went for more delicate option for my bedroom, with soothing blues and creams fitting in nicely amongst some of the oddments on my dressing table.

When I was growing up, my mum would always make sure that we had new cut flowers every week, and since I've come away to university this is a habit I've enjoyed turning into my own. It's such an easy way to inject some freshness and colour into a room, and I love the way in which they provide an ever-changing ornament.

For now, I'm curling up on the sofa, admiring my bouquet and enjoying the divine smell of the hyacinths wafting towards me. It's having to compete, however, with the scent of Earl Grey, as I've just made myself a big mugful to go along with this morning's postal delivery: Dandy Gilver & An Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson. This is the latest in the series which started with the wonderful After the Armistice Ball, and I can't wait to read about Dandy's latest adventures!

Sir W warns us in his 1601 essay 'Of Humilitie' that,

'beauty is but a colour, and not reckened amongst the substantiall',

but as I settle down with my book and tea and gaze upon my lovely flowers, I feel content in finding pleasure in the transient vibrancy of their beautiful, colourful petals. And who knows what I'll find in the florist to tempt me next week?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Of The Unexpected

Well, life really is full of surprises, isn't it? I did not expect, this time last week, that I would now be sitting in my bed at home, dosed up to the eyeballs on penicillin and steroids, and awaiting the results of a blood test. But here I am! Last weekend, I developed an incredibly painful sore throat, which resulted in my barely being able to swallow anything, even water, without feeling as if my throat were being cut through with razor blades. I was generally weak and pitiful, and on Monday took myself off to the doctor, who took one look inside my mouth and recoiled, exclaiming 'Nasty!', before diagnosing me with suspected Glandular Fever. I was packed off to have a blood test the following morning, and should get the results tomorrow. In the meantime, my mum shot down to Oxford and whisked me away home to be looked after and pampered as I do my best Wilting Victorian Lady impression, and flit piteously between the bed and the sofa. My health has not been great for a few months now -- always a worry with my history of M.E. (which I suffered from badly between the ages of 14 and 18, with the odd relapse since) -- and obviously I need to be extra careful as I recuperate now. So it's going to be brake pedal on for a while, with regards to work and play. It's difficult having to miss out on the things I want to do, but several years of M.E. means that I have learned the necessity of listening to my body and not pushing myself to breaking point, and the doctor is hopeful that with catching this early, and throwing lots of medication at it, we can keep things contained.

To cheer myself up in the meantime, however, my mum and I have just arranged a couple of London adventures for her birthday at the end of June, by which time I hope to be back to something approaching full working order. We will be having an afternoon and evening filled with the best food and entertainment the capital has to offer, even managing to fit in a little bit of fashion as a matter of course -- in the best frivolous manner.

We'll be starting off with the Pret a Portea afternoon tea in the deliciously named Caramel Room at The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge. I've been desperate to go here since I first heard about the fashionista fancies on offer at the tea table, and I only had to show a couple of these photos to my mum before she was completely captivated too:

(Images from The Berkeley Hotel's website)

Mmm. Doesn't it all look divine? Almost too good to eat. Almost...

After polishing off our pretty platefuls, we'll then be heading off in the evening to the Garrick Theatre to see their forthcoming production of Pygmalion. I saw Peter Hall's brilliant version of this at the Old Vic in 2008 with Michelle Dockery (recently so good in ITV's excellent series Downton Abbey -- if you get the chance do watch this if you missed it before Christmas!) as Eliza and the ever-dependable Tim Piggott-Smith as Professor Higgins. I am still wildly excited about this new production, however, as it stars one of my favourite actors: Rupert Everett. I am really looking forward to seeing what he brings to the role of Henry Higgins!

(Image from here)

For now, however, I am curling up under the duvet and making the most of my unexpected rest by (finally!) finishing my Persephone Reading Weekend book (watch out for a review soon, as well as a belated description of my time in London the other weekend). As well as this, I am (also finally) catching up with The Killing, a Danish crime drama which has been showing on BBC4 over recent weeks. Luckily for me, there is still some of the series to go, and the rest of it is still (just) available on the BBC iPlayer. I've heard so many good things about it, and have been wanting to watch it for ages without managing to find the time, so some enforced bed rest seems like the perfect opportunity. I have mentioned before how Sir W tells us in his 1600 essay 'Of Sleepe' that

'Fame neuer yet knewe a perpetuall bedpresser',

but for now, Fame will have to wait, as bedpressing is exactly what the doctor ordered!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Of Dressing Up In The Kitchen

I'm rather behind on my target for Persephone Reading Weekend, as my very busy weekend and return to Oxford means that I've so far only managed to read the first three of Irene Nemirovsky's Dimanche and Other Stories. I'm pleased to say that I'm very much enjoying the collection so far though, so I hope to be able to bring you a review at the end of next week if I keep up with my lunchtime reading! Once I've sorted out some pictures, I'm also really looking forward to telling you all about my first experience of the ROH, as well as my delightful day in Hampstead (and other places, as it turned out...) on Sunday.

In the meantime, I couldn't help but share these breathtakingly elegant aprons (of all things), which are available for pre-order from the ever-wonderful Natural History. Apparently they've been causing quite a commotion in the States, and the canny people at Natural History decided they couldn't let the opportunity to bring them to our shores slip by. Can you blame them? These look like something I'd be quite happy to wander down the street in (although I assume that I might be in need of a little cover up from behind if I were to try that!). They might be a little pricey at £52, but perhaps such beautiful kitchen ware (wear?) is worth it. After all, I'm sure everything I turned my hand to at the oven couldn't help but come out just that little bit more perfect than it already does (ahem) if I adorned myself in one of these...

Rollings of Cinnamon Apron, £52

Morning Bun Moments Apron, £52

Frosty Tin Marshmallows Apron, £52

Even the names are good enough to eat. Although Sir W, in this sentence from his 1601 essay 'Of Virtue', would caution me against placing too much importance on outward appearance, I have to say that there are some moments I just have to pay him no heed!

'Mee thinkes, this same vanity of clothes hath done vertue wrong, for wee discry great men as much by their clothes, as actions, which is very improper'.