| Explore | The Ommatidium

If you find yourself near Old Street roundabout, keep your eyes peeled for dancing rainbows. It's not  another Hipster thing to do, I promise! The dancing rainbows are the conjurings of The Ommatidium. 'The Ommmamamamama whaaaa?', I hear you ask! The Ommatidium is a 4.5 metre tall installation comprising of 1,500 crystal prisms that scatter thousands of little rainbows across the manky pavement by day. It caused our little boy to squeal with delight as we walked passed  so I had to double back. No way was he going to revel in a curiosity without me!

The Ommatidium is the sparkling work of industrial designer Samuel Wilkinson and neuroscientist Beau Lotto and you can read more about the technicalities of it, including how it engages with an app, HERE. For us though, enjoying a little jig under a myriad of little rainbows in broad daylight in a busy street is enough. This must be what it feels like to be in a kaleidoscope! Perfect.

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| The Magic Mundane | Other People's Plants

I don't want to talk about the craziness of the past few days anymore, so I've been staring at plants.

Other people's plants. I can't help myself. I like looking at other people's plants, especially the ones that they place in their windows. But the ones they grow in their front gardens are nice to look at too.

Hiro says that I might get myself arrested. 

I hope not!

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| Explore | Living Walls

Since London is generally a colossal building site these days, so much so that upholding walls have become a mundane sight in all corners of the city. Most are tedious. Some have taken the opportunity to cash in on extra advertising space. A few have been a little more community minded and tapped into some of the city's talented artists - a true wealth in our opinion.

A mightily fine example of this just happens to be on our doorstep. This is the incredible work of Mark McClure. In a nutshell it is a 210 metre long wooden mosaic that stretches a colourful boundary around the Olympic Park. It features 10 key panels of eye pleasing colour and is created from wood reclaimed from the park and its locality.

The kid and I LOVE the colourful tessellations. What gets me the most however,  is the detail and the amount of work that has clearly gone into this massive work - I am in  awe of the sheer by accomplishment of it. 

I enjoy witnessing how the mural weathers and alters with time, climate and general London life. I wonder what will happen to it after the the works are completed. Perhaps I will ask him -  found him on Instagram!

| Links for the curious |

Mark McClure's website

Mark's Instagram

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| Style Notes | Veritecoeur

It has been so encouraging to hear from other people who share my views on style superseding fashion. I like hearing that other people feel the allure of a more timeless appeal in both wearable style and living style too!

It occurred to me that longevity is an important virtue in clothes for me. Longevity that is not just about how long they will last physically, but it is also to do with how long they will continue to appeal to me as I get older. There are brands out there that do demonstrate this concept really well.  For example, COS and EGG manage to cross the age borders seamlessly. They both create garments that can be worn by and appeal to women across generations and there is something so affirming about that.

With the warmth of these thoughts still fresh in my heart, I thought I would tell you all about another of my favourite clothing brands that typifies my style preferences. Meet Veritecoeur! Sadly my fondness for Veritecoeur and all their lovely, lovely garments is for the moment, from afar and is fuelled solely through me stalking their Instagram account! I do so like their styling that often incorporates items from other brands. They have a masterly way of layering clothes and a playful way of presenting them.

I have no doubt that I will be heading to their shop in Fukuoka when we are next in Japan - till then, I much saving to be done!

| Links for the curious |

Veritecoeur shop (in Japanese)
Veritecoeur Instagram - definitely worth stalking!

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| Photo Diary | Beneath the Kaleidoscope

When I think of when we were last in Kyoto, a kaleidoscopic ceiling shifts to the forefront of my mind. In all honesty, as beautiful and as culturally rich as Kyoto is, I can completely understand people getting "templed-out" after a while. There are so many temples. All beautiful. All fascinating. But soon many. 

Most of my best ideas begin as a rumbling from my belly so with that in mind, I would recommend that you skedaddle down town and find yourself in the wonderful Nishiki market. 

Mainly a food market, it has been running for over 400 years and it is as rich in history as it is in flavour. If you love traditional Japanese food, or want to learn more about it - this place must not be missed.

Almost every shop offers small tasters for visitors to delight their tastebuds with (this is common practice in Japan) and it is a culinary education even for Japanese. Kyoto's regional cuisine is exceptional and varies greatly from that of any other part of Japan. 

My recommendation is that you try everything that you can, but do take an least one onigiri (rice ball) with you. Homemade onigiri is always the best but as far as remade ones go - the best I've had came from here!

| For the curious |

We are massive fans of markets and visit one nearly everywhere we go. See all our market blog posts HERE.

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| Ideas | Why Lab Beakers are Brilliant

About a year ago, I bought a set of borosilicate lab vessels from a local charity shop. It was a £3.00 impulse buy and at that time, I had no idea what I was going to do with them.

>>>>>>Fast forward to now, and I think they are jolly useful things to have. Why? Well.....

1. They have that clean, simple and honest look that is just so appealing.

2. They are non-porous which makes them hygienic, easy to get really clean and they don't retain any funky smells or residues.

3. They are champs at handling extreme heat and cold.

4. They are super-duper versatile.

5. They don't cost much.

Off the top of my head, here's how I've been putting my borosilicate vessels to use at home:

1. Beakers make good planters. They work well with ferns as mentioned previously HERE.

2. Beakers also make good pen/pencil pots and just as good storage containers for bathroom bits.

3. Conical flasks are great as vases. They also make good drinks flasks and are ace for mixing and pouring salad dressings.

4. Lab ware is generally super useful in the kitchen for measuring, mixing, storing, drinking etc.

I'm sure that there is more use and fun to be had from these clever things. I've seen conical flasks used as terrariums and I may try my hand at pouring scented candles into beakers at some point a bit like THIS. But why stop at beakers? Labs use a whole range of weird and wonderful shaped goods just wait to be reinterpreted in our homes.

Lab equipment can be found on eBay at a reasonable cost. There are various shops selling domestic interpretations though they tend to charge a bit more. Keeping at eye in your local charity shops is a good idea too!

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| Explore | Halcyon Hackney

"The most important things for human beings are clean air and clean water.” 
― Akira KurosawaYume

When we are not loitering through the housing estates of inner city London, we are often pursuing a greener shade of vitality. 

There is never enough open, green, uncrowded space in London. Never.  Yet, London is greener than it seems. East London is more verdant than many believe. London is good at surprises and secrets and  I like that about it. 

This Sunday just gone, the little boy had a snooze in a mini meadow, in the shade of some trees, which were in turn in the shade of a tower block. He woke looked up at the tower block and had a little giggle to himself. 

We walked on, skirting by an East London housing estate, affectionately known as the Poppy Estate and strolled beside the Lea beside Hackney Marshes. The marshes are smaller these days but it still is the centre of Sunday league footie. I think 82 football pitches, full sized ones are marked out on the Marsh - there used to be more but the 2012 Olympics took some of the land. 

On we plodded, past the Wick Woodlands where we were met with silent swaying crowds of cow parsley.  I couldn't help myself. 

Socks off.

Shoes off.

Toes sinking into cool, bouncy fresh grass.

It felt so good. 

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| Tower Block Tales | The Balfron Tower

We've encountered lots of London's tower blocks and many of them have moved me in one way or another but none had taken my breath away. That is, till I 'met' the Balfron Tower. One sunny day in January, the three of us scooted down the DLR to the Brownfields Estate and before I even stood infront of its crowning glory,  the Balfron Tower made me feel giddy. I was in awe.

Our story with the Balfron begun like many other of our tower block tales. Hiro talked at length about it and I half listened and now and again, I even glanced at it from a distance quite unaffected by its magnitude. All that changed that January day.

The Balfron is up there with the most celebrated examples of surviving Brutalist buildings. It was designed by Erno Goldfinger and completed in 1967. He actually moved in to a flat on the top floor for 2 months and hosted parties for the tower's residents where he discussed their likes and dislikes of the design. He went on to implement what he learned in the design of the more famous Trellick Tower in west London. Goldfinger shared Corbusier's vision of 'streets in the sky' and so the Balfron is ruled with impressive raised walkways connecting the services tower to the residences.

Goldfinger wrote extensively about the emotional effect of architecture. The Balfron encapsulates much of this emotion I think because it is impossible for a person to stand a the foot of the tower and not feel something. For me, much of the awe I felt was spoilt with a bitter taste.

Murmurings of the council betraying the residents. Lies being told and homes being underhandedly taken are so upsetting to hear about. It is all such a sorry situation and it makes me so cross. So cross in fact that I have been unable to write a coherent venom-less blog post about the Balfron till now.

The Balfron's tale is now turning a new chapter. One that is in stinging synchronicity with the rest of London, and it tells of greed, a housing shortage that has made historically poorer neighbourhoods and even once scorned tower blocks so desirable. Goldfinger would never have seen this coming would he? He designed the tower and much of the Brownfield Estate for people who needed council housing and now his name will be used to attract buyers who can afford the astonishing price tags that they will no doubt demand. 'Astonishing', that's a good word...perhaps we would feel a lot of things but astonished is almost certain to be a primary one.

| Balfron Tower Info | 

- Architect Erno Goldfinger.
- 26 Floors.

- Comprises of 146 homes.
- Completed in 1967.

- Grade II Listed.
- London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

| Links for the curious |

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