| Explore | Margate Sky/Sea/Streetscape

Beside the sea we wanted to be so, to the sea we headed. The sun was on our side and it hung around with all the gleaming warmth of a perfect Spring day.  Margate was our destination and it was just marvellous.

Isn't it curious what catches our eyes when we are visiting a a place for the first time? The interesting little details that inspire, delight and beguile us into wanting to capture snippets of sights to look back when we get back home? 

People and their preconceptions based on misconceptions may snigger and guffaw at our destination (many did in fact). More fool them! Margate is a place shimmering with energy. The sort of energy that you get in a place resuscitated by the verve of passionate entrepreneurs. 

Aside from what the trend hunters will undoubtedly report, Margate is also a treasure trove of sights for the more gentle observer. Those that have never lost their sense of wonder and find magic in the mundane, will find plenty to marvel at here.

Margate should be on your summer destination lists. Go! Just GO!

“Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.” From Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. 

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| Tower Block Tales | Keeling House

Keeling House strikes a noteworthy pose on the Bethnal Green skyline. Like many Modernist buildings, setting itself apart from from traditional period surroundings is a commitment ingrained in its very foundations. Yet this is a tower block with an interesting tale. One that in years to come, we could look back on and analyse the precedent that it has set.

Originally designed and built to provide high-quality, modern homes for the people of the East End after the war, Keeling House was Denys Lasdun's vertical vision of the Victorian Terrace fused with some very Modernist and Corbusian ideas while maintaining ideas relevant to British lifestyle of the time.  In this 'cluster-block', like in Sulkin House, Lasdun intended each dwelling to have access to air, light, privacy and views. Which is why we have this bold structure with 4 wings leading off a central service tower. The communal areas were purposefully located to encourage a sense of community similar to that which people had enjoyed in their terraced homes.

A mere 36 years after the building was completed, in 1993 Keeling House suffered poor maintenance and begun to crumble and fall into a dire state of disrepair. A Dangerous Structure Notice was served and the residents of Keeling House were being moved out of their homes by Tower Hamlets Council for their own safety. The council estimated that they would require £4 million that they just didn't have to repair the tower and so Keeling House faced a very real threat of demolition. Fast forward to later in the same year and Keeling House was not only saved from the wrecking-ball but became the 1st post-war tower block to be given Grade II listed status. Tower Hamlets Council then sold the block to Lincoln Holdings (private developer) for £1.3 million in 1999. The now entirely privately owned Keeling House, has been extensively renovated. 4 penthouse apartments were added to the roof of each tower and the entrance houses a concierge and a glass entry foyer surrounded by gentle water features. 

To put some perspective in today's money terms on this. The block was bought for £1.3 million. £4 million was invested in the refurbishment. In 2000, a 2 bed maisonette sold for about £370,000. Last year, one of these sold for.......£600,000. I read somewhere that 30 of the 67 dwellings were bought by architects. 

Keeling House is a happy/sad story for us as onlookers and emphasisers of these post-war housing architectural monuments.  It would have been a great loss if the shortsightedness of Tower Hamlets Council had lead to it being demolished. However, it is a sad compromise that in order for these buildings to survive, they have to do so in the private sector. They were never built for the enjoyment of the wealthy but to support the people of the East End. 

We walk around so many council estates and take for granted that we can get up close and personal to so many of London's tower blocks. From here we can smell people's cooking, hear the chatter of the young and the old. We can feel the community spirit that invisibly holds the towers together. We could only look at Keeling House from the other side of a metal divide under the watchful eye of a CCTV camera.

| Keeling House Info | 

- Architect Denys Lasdun
- 16 Floors

- Comprises of 66.
- Completed in 1957
- London Borough of Tower Hamlets

| Links For The Curious | 

Take a look inside one of the recently sold refurbished flats. and another HERE

If your curiosity gets the better of you and you want to really get a feel of Keeling House. You can stay the night (via Airbnb)

Mukenbeck + Partners  ( renovating architects info page)

We visited another of Denys Lasdun's cluster-blocks. Read about it HERE.
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| Adventures | Vitamin Sea

The forecast claims that it will be a rainy day where we are headed today. Screw the forecast, the rain, and the heft of disenchantment they add to our thoughts. We are headed to the sea and not even thunder clouds can dampen my excitement or mar my

Every Londoner and big city dweller needs a good old dose of vitamin sea as often as circumstances will allow and it is about time we all had a good shot of sea air.

We will be back with an SD card laden with photos and notebooks crowded with thoughts and memories to share. Until then, here are some of our most memorable British seaside adventures. We hope they inspire you to plan a coastal escape soon too!

Weybourne in 2011. Take in the timeless coastline here

Brighton in 2012. See the blog post HERE

Whitstable 2015 check out our adventure here.

I feel as though there is something about the British seaside that is close to the soul of the country itself. Something that I can't quite articulate yet, it just fascinates me and keeps me wanting to see more and more.

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| What I Wore | Leaves on my Feet

Bonne Maison socks have quickly become darlings of my daily wardrobe. Its their splendid patterns that beckon me. Such detailed, striking and expressive socks cannot go unnoticed or unappreciated. They are made using high quality Egyptian cotton that has been spun in Italy and manufactured in France. I'd like to say that these socks are comfortable but the truth is that they are more than just comfortable, they feel luxurious to prance around it. So much so, that it feels a bit of a shame to then squeeze them into a pair of shoes! 

The botanical inspired pair that I am wearing below pair well with my passion for plants. I am also coveting the Jellyfish pair because they make me think of Haeckels illustrations.

Plant: Tillandsia Plagiotropica

Plant:Spathiphyllum Chopin 

I've quietly envied Hiro for having the exceptional quality CHUP socks as his favourites. I now have favourite sock makers too. Bonne Maison!

| Links for the curious |

You can buy these socks in UK from Luna & Curious or Hus & Hem

Bonne Maison's website showcases their current collection.

P.S. If you like looking at walls, tiles, illustrations etc, you might just enjoy Bonne Maison's Instagram just as much as I do.

We are not paid to promote any of the above links. We provide them for the convenience and interest of our readers. 

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| Plants + Ideas | Spiked Diptyque

I've noticed a real lack of variety in readily available, off the shelf plant pots. So little out there is pulling on my heart strings enough for me to want to spend my money on them. There is a lot of trend driven cheap stuff about (cheaply made and cheaply thought) that just doesn't have the right feel about it. They somehow look cold, alien and disconnected from the plants that I want them to house. They just don't have the right feel. 

So I've been making do and reusing what I have. Making the most of odds and ends till I find the right pots. I am prepared to wait, save and invest in plant pots that I can reuse and grow old with. Till then, these Diptyque votives are adding an interesting look to my spike-some trio:

Diptyque's candle votives are not the most impressive of the luxury French candle ranges (Cire Trudon and Astier de Villatte could battle for that crown) but my anti-throwayism ways make me determined to repurpose and reuse as much as I can. And so, I kept these with the intention of lighting late evening balcony dinners. I think they serve as cacti holders much better than they would a tea light. I didn't even bother cleaning the soot off them. In fact, I think the soot makes them.

|Links for the Curious |

More plant inspired blogs posts.

How I take care of my Cacti family.

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| Oddities + Streets | Letter Box Lust

A couple of weeks ago, I was up at stupid o'clock with the baby again. Half asleep and in well-trained auto-pilot I was sipping a cup of decaf, pretending that it wasn't decaf, and listening to a bit of banter on the telly.  The presenters on the Beeb were having a semi-sneer/joke about so-called letter box spotters. These keen folks travel up and down the country taking photos of letter boxes, gushing at the rarer ones and looking positively gleeful when they recount the various histories behind each one. I thought that it was a peculiar thing to dedicate one's time and adventure to but, let's face it, who am I of all people to sneer at another's obsession!? 

Anyway, fast forward a couple of weeks later to when I am doing spot of photo spring cleaning and guess what? Blow me down with a feather pen and call me Pat.....I am prone, albeit unintentionally, to a bit of letter box spotting too!

Credit: http://www.lbsg.org

The classic red pillar box is a design icon that's instantly recognised as British. While I have noticed variations in their appearance, I've grown so used to seeing and using them that I've not paid much thought to their design history. Until watching the snippet about their eager fanatics, I had no idea that there were so many in existence today. Then again, the story of the British letter box did begin about 150 years ago, that is plenty of time to accumulate plenty of quirks, guises and fans (including accidental ones)! 

Are you an occasional accidental letter box spotter too?

| Links for the curious |

A brief history of the letter box by the Postal Heritage website

Enter the curious world of The Letter Box Study Group

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| Stationery | Shopping in Tokyo

Stationery shopping in Japan is epic. Take what you experience somewhere like London and multiply it by a hundred. A hundred times more variety, a hundred times more shops, a hundred times more enthusiasm and appetite for it. Japan is nation crazy about stationery. Next level crazy.

Shopping advice in Japan is one of the subjects I get asked about most via email and I am a bit bored/uninspired by the constant default recommendations of Tokyu Hands and Loft. Of course, if you are short on time or not that bothered about the thought processes behind your pen (I know I am odd) then these places are as good a starting point as any. However, if you are a bit more discerning/demanding/curious/obessed than most, here is a list for you to work your way through when in Tokyo:

Another stationery shop that makes most lists, and for good reason too! 9 floors of stationery a lot of it is generic but there are some gems to be found. If you are looking for fountain pens, this is a good place to start. They also have the largest selection of coloured pencils, an extensive array of papers and all the craft items you may be wishing for that I have ever seen in one place.
Address: 2-7-15, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

My personal favourite. I love this place so much that I cannot think of visiting Tokyo without stopping by at least once. My favourite fountain pen came from here. I also blogged about the notebook I had custom made here (yes you can do that) HERE.

Ink Stand
Ever fancied having your very own custom shade of ink mixed for you? Well this is the place to have it done. I visited Ink Stand on our last trip and will blog about it soon!

Begun life as delightful online shop with an inspiring and carefully curated collection of Japanese craft, design and stationery items (you MUST check it out if you haven't already). Today, Uguisu also has a physical shop in Azabudai (nr Roppongi) that is open from Friday to Sunday. 
Warou Flat 4, Room 7. 3-3-23 Azabudai Minato-ku Tokyo 106-0041

This place is mayhem! Honestly, I've never seen such a crowded stationery shop in my life. It is more than just a stationers to be fair though. Sekaido was established as an art supplies shop, today they have 6 floors of all sorts of art and stationery stuff at really good prices.
3-1-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Yamada Stationery 
If you are looking for a shop with a large selection of stationery and desk items but what more character than the bigger shops stock, then go here. I bought THIS from here. I spend hours daydreaming my way through their website.

A chain of general goods stores (think Tokyo Hands only smaller). They can usually be found in Keio or OPA mini malls. I can usually find most of what I need in here and more. Most of my stickers, diaries, ball pens and craft supplies are bought here.

Department Stores
I'd wager that every department store in Japan has a stationery/craft section or at least a few dedicated aisles. Try Ito Yokado, Odakyu, Takashimaya, Mitsukoshi.

Local Neighbourhoods 
I often see small independent stationers on our random walks in Tokyo. These are great to visit because you never know what they will have. There is one near Hiro's grandparents that sells all sorts of treasures alongside real nostalgic treasures. 

Specialist Paper Shops
If you are looking for specialist paper or something with real traditional value then head to Nihonbashi in search of Ozu. Ozu is another shop I have yet to blog about, but in a nutshell, it's been going since 1653 and although they are formally purveyors of 'washi' (Japanese paper), they sell so much more. Pens, calligraphy brushes, ink, writing sets. They also have a museum so it is possible to spend hours and hours here.

100 Yen Shops
If you are more about the cost and quantity that you can get for your money, then maybe you will like the 100 Yen shops. Every 100 Yen shop has a bit of stationery in there. Big ones like DAISO can have unto an entire floor dedicated to stationery and crafts. I've found quite a few cute things here. The great thing about it is that cheap in cost in Japan doesn't always equate to cheap in quality. Another place worth looking in is Don Quijote. It's not a 100 Yen shop, more of a discount outlet selling everything from food, alcohol, beauty goods, electrical items and stationery too!

36 Sublo 
I haven't made it to this great looking shop yet. I do follow them on Twitter and Instagram and that only seems to fuel my desire to visit when next we are in Tokyo. Sublo are located in Kichijouji and specialise in stationery with a more retro feel. They also stock nostalgic ephemera and good that stationery shops in Japan commonly used to stock. 

Bunbougu Café
Would you believe it if I told you that there is a stationery café in Tokyo? Bunbougu Cafe is a café, restaurant, bar, library and stationery shop. Here you can pay a one off fee in exchange for a key that opens the drawers in the tables containing stationery that you can use while you enjoy your drink. 

Wowsers! That's a long list! I don't think I have forgotten anything. Keep an eye on this post or Twitter and I will let you know when I update it :) In the meanwhile, I shall get busy working on my next list of useful stationery links. 

See more of our stationery obsessed blog posts HERE
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| Plant Life | The Conservatory Archives

If you are looking for some plants, go here. You are not looking for plants, still go here! The Conservatory Archives is my favourite shop at the moment. Mainly because I am so sure that the door to some tropical wonderland paradise Elysium is hidden somewhere within its walls, but also because all the plants I've quietly wished that I could buy, all magically live here. But that's not all. Exotic plantae consort with handsome teak furniture pieces and I am hearing murmurings of coffee being served soon too. Argh! Could it be more perfect? 

Before 493 - 495 Hackney Road became the Conservatory Archives, it was once the setting of London's older ironmongers dating back to 1795! I have so much respect for the way that Giacomo and Jin have so lovingly and soulfully breathed life into the shaky bones of the old building to house their plants and vintage furniture.  They have created a place that is honest, beautiful, and inspiring. It is energising and refreshing to be in a place where everything feels so meaningful, hard-won and gently healed into life.

I keep asking Hiro if we can go back and it is never difficult to convince him to. We 
never leave empty handed. Soon, I shall take my sister here. I bet my last rolo that she will love it too. I am beginning to think that we should just try and move in. Just as soon as I manage to find that door!

| Extra's for the Curious |

Take a look and read about the premises at London's oldest ironmongers.

Conservatory Archives Facebook Page

Follow Conservatory Archives on Instagram

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| Eye Spy | Ernst Haeckel

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel, (as his mates may have called him), was a man who wore many hats at the same time. He was a philosopher, a physician, a naturalist and biologist who discovered and named thousands of new species . He was also very handy with a pencil and his published works included over 1000 exquisitely detailed illustrations and these are what have really got my brain doing happy dances.

I've grown a real penchant for Haeckel's visions of jellyfish, rocks and minerals over the other subjects he covered. I'm captivated by the diaphanous depictions of the jellyfish just as much as I am the geometric formations of the rocks. 

I like them so much so that I am verging on doing something that I have aways considered to be an anathema. I am on the look out for original Rocks and Minerals bookplates. Of course I would readily buy an entire book with all illustrative pages intact but the reality is that I will never be able to afford that. 

| Links for the Curious |

20 copyright free downloadable Haeckel's illustration  (Sadly no rocks or minerals)

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