Category Archives: Culture

A Chat With Brita Granström

A Chat With Brita GranstromPhotograph © Diana Pappas via  Brita Granström website

I’m thrilled to publish this interview with the fabulous artist, Brita Granström, whose work I discovered last year (and have been coveting ever since!). I went to Brita’s exhibition at the Tanner & Lawson gallery in Chelsea and was completely charmed by her gorgeous paintings featuring domestic interior scenes, as well as the beautiful landscapes of her native Sweden and Scotland. Brita’s next exhibition is taking place in Scotland at the Open Eye Gallery from 10th-27th March, and she has kindly allowed me to illustrate this post with the paintings that will be exhibited (and available for sale) at the exhibition. I so wish I could see it! If you’re in Edinburgh – please do go and report back!

But on to the interview…

A Chat With Brita GranstromMuscari and Sea View

MN: Could you tell me a little about yourself and your background? Did you always want to be an artist?

BG: I grew up on a farm in Sweden, by a lake, and I always wanted to be an artist and grew up drawing, painting and making all the time. After leaving school I did a 4 year postgraduate course in Illustration & Design at Konstfack in Stockholm. While still studying, I worked as an illustrator for the charity AMREF making step-by-step ‘how to do it’ illustrations for Kenyan and Ugandan bush surgeons, mostly repairing cleft-pallets – this meant a month in Africa and flying in tiny planes over the Serengeti not to mention drawing operations from life! A couple of years later in 1993 I came to Scotland, unexpectedly fell in love, and stayed here.

A Chat With Brita GranstromTulips and Scissors

At first I made illustrations for the Glasgow Herald and BBC Scotland as well as embarking on a career making children’s books. I have always painted on canvas too, but initially found it very hard to find a gallery to show my paintings. Then, one day, I met Mara-Helen Wood, an authority on Scandinavian art, and who was, at the time, the director of The University Gallery in Newcastle. She had enough faith in my work to give me shows in her galleries, first in Newcastle and later at the prestigious Kings Place in London. Since then I have been fortunate enough to show at various galleries, including the brilliant Thompsons Galleries of Aldeburgh and London who stock my paintings, as do Tanner & Lawson in Chelsea. My new exhibition, Dreaming Of Scotland, will be my second show at the wonderful Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh.

A Chat With Brita GranstromBonnard’s Dog

MN: What first brought you to Scotland? What things do you miss most about Sweden, and what do you enjoy about life in the U.K.?

BG: Love kept me here. I fell in love in Scotland 24 years ago. I love the light and the wind and the beaches. I love the contrast between the chilly Scottish winters (nothing compared to freezing Swedish ones where it can drop to minus 30!) and the short, hot Swedish summers. We live in an old Georgian house in the borders with lots of character and a wonderful soft light which inspires many of my interior paintings. We have also built our own wooden house in Sweden near a lake. The vibe is different in both places – but I like them both equally.

MN: I love your interior scenes that often focus on the domestic, but your landscape paintings are equally beautiful. Do you have a preference for drawing outdoor or indoor scenes?

BG: My work follows my life. When I get really inspired by the light and subject it makes me want to paint it. At the moment I have immersed myself in painting interiors as well as tulips and muscari – but three weeks ago, I was painting on the windy beaches in the early spring sunshine. In the summer I painted watery Swedish summer night-scapes with swimmers. In August we were back in the UK and I had my canvasses on the rocks, dodging the tide and painting beautiful rock pools. Quite often someone walks into my picture and I paint them in. You can see lots of these paintings on my website and follow new works as they happen on my Instagram feed @britagranstrom. In my interior paintings I like to paint the beauty in everyday chores; the fleeting moment often ignored or missed. Chopping rhubarb or apples for a pie, a boy drinking tea or beating eggs, someone cutting the ends off tulips or carrying a birthday cake…

A Chat With Brita GranstromGirl Chopping Rhubarb

MN: What is your creative process like? Do you work from 9-5 most days, or are you generally more flexible?

BG: With my book illustration work it’s mostly 9 to 5. The painting is different. Often, after days of building up my ‘painting battery’, I paint and then it takes the time it takes… The light and the subject is all that matters not time.

MN: Your exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh opens on 10th March. What was your inspiration behind the artworks exhibited? Do you have a favourite amongst these paintings?

BG: The exhibition is named after one of my autobiographical paintings called ‘Dreaming of Scotland’. It seemed fitting for a show in Edinburgh. There are quite a few paintings of interiors as well as some big seascapes painted in the stunning all changing weather of the coast up here. You can view them here.

A Chat With Brita GranstromBeryl Teapot

MN: I love the children’s book you illustrated about the Bronte sisters. Do you have a favourite Bronte novel?

BG: Thank You. That was a great book to be working on – about admirably strong women! Wuthering Heights is my favourite with Jane Eyre as a close second.

MN: Which Scandinavian artists do you admire the most?

GB: Helene Schjerfbeck, Sigrid Hjertén and Edvard Munch.

MN: What advice would you have for young creatives starting out today?

BG: Be true to yourself, work hard, have fun and do not give up. I also love Bonnard’s quote: ‘Draw your pleasure, paint your pleasure, and express your pleasure strongly.’

A Chat With Brita GranstromParrot Tulips and Lapwing

MN: Through my blog and podcast, I like to celebrate successful, creative women. Which women do you particularly admire within the Arts industry?

BG: I think the artist/printmakers: Emily Sutton, Alice Pattullo and Angie Lewin are having fantastic and well-deserved success just now. I also admire the children’s books of Helen Stephens and Emily Mackenzie. Recently read Nellie Dean by Alison Case and thought it one of the best novels I have read; Emily Bronte would have approved.

A Chat With Brita GranstromBig Sand Dune

Thank you so much to Brita for taking the time to give me such fabulous answers to my questions. For more of her glorious artwork, check out Brita’s instagramwebsite and current exhibition. To purchase any of the paintings featured, contact the Open Eye Gallery.

Isn’t Brita’s artwork a feast for the eyes? Which painting do you like most?

T&T 17 | A Chat With Lorna McKay of The Perfume Society

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

To round off our February episodes, this week I’m in conversation with the wonderful Lorna McKay, co-founder of The Perfume Society and co-author of The Perfume Bible. As a lover of scent, I’ve been a fan of The Perfume Society since soon after it first launched a few years ago, and I’ve been to several of their fantastic events in London. Lorna is an expert in all things beauty and fragrance related, and so it was a real treat to chat with her. I loved hearing about how she first got started in the beauty industry working for Harrods and becoming the buyer for their international department, before moving onto Liberty.

As well as describing her interesting career, Lorna had lots of fascinating tips to share about perfume, including her suggested list of top 5 fragrances women should try at least once in their life and the up-and-coming perfumers she’s keeping an eye on. I also enjoyed learning a bit more about what goes into creating a perfume and was also thrilled to get some suggestions as to rather more affordable alternatives to my all-time favourite scent ‘Portrait of a Lady’ by Frederic Malle.

Listen for an entertaining discussion on the delights of perfume.

Do you love perfume? Which are your favourites? Do you ever associate certain smells with a particular person or place?  I’d love to know!

Book Club Discussion: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

I’m so excited to be writing a review for the first Miranda’s Notebook Book Club choice! When this post goes live, I’ll be just about to meet everyone attending the London get-together, and I can’t wait to chat about the book in person as well. Here are my thoughts, though, for our online discussion of Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier:

Some Background to Jamaica Inn

At 22 years old, Daphne du Maurier got lost with her friend Foy Quiller-Couch as they set out on horseback from Jamaica Inn across Bodmin Moor. Daphne later wrote ‘we ventured out across the moors, desolate, sinister, and foolishly lost our way, to our horror rain and darkness fell upon us, and there we were, exposed to the violence of the night.’ They took shelter in a barn and eventually made their way to safety, but the dread she felt lost on those lonely moors clearly sparked an idea for what would later become Jamaica Inn.  

Bodmin moor, as described by du Maurier in her novel, becomes a character in its own right in the book, and its malevolent, brooding atmosphere is reminiscent of the Yorkshire moors in Wuthering Heights. Gothic novels were certainly an inspiration to du Maurier when writing Jamaica Inn (the opening scene of the book echoes the beginning of Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and she liked to draw parallels between Cornwall and the Yorkshire moors made famous by the Bronte sisters. Indeed, du Maurier pointed out in her book, Vanishing Cornwall, that the Brontes had a Cornish mother and aunt, inferring that they would have been told Cornish myths and legends as children.

Just as their landscape, as well as stories and legends, inspire the Brontes, so did Cornwall inspire du Maurier, to the extent that her name is forever linked with the area. Jamaica Inn is one of her most gothically dramatic Cornish tales.

My Reactions to the Novel

** Warning! There are spoilers ahead! **

I first read Jamaica Inn as a teenager, so my recollections of it were a little hazy, although it’s hard to forget the brooding menace of the Cornish moors and the rotting inn Daphne du Maurier describes so brilliantly. I found it fascinating to reread the book as an adult, and this time, rather than the plot (which occasionally I found a little heavy-handed), it was the character of the protagonist, Mary Yellan, that I found most intriguing and kept me turning the pages.

Mary’s story begins with plenty of dark foreshadowing: hurtling through the driving rain (so different from the gentle drizzles of her native southern shores) across the Northern Cornish moors in a carriage whose driver urges her to reconsider her journey to Jamaica Inn. ‘That’s no place for a girl,’ he says darkly. Mary has little choice, however, but to continue her journey to her aunt and uncle-by-marriage, who live at the Inn. Having made a promise to her dying mother to go to her Aunt Patience and her husband, Mary is determined to keep her word. On arrival, she is horrified by the appearance of her aunt, who has been broken in body and mind by her brutish husband, Joss Merlyn. Her Uncle is not beyond threatening Mary too, but states he won’t touch her as long as she keeps her nose out of the mysterious business he conducts at the dilapidated inn, that never has any guests. Mary suspects her Uncle to be involved in smuggling, but soon discovers his secret is much more horrifying and deadly when he confides in her after a night of heavy drinking.

Male violence is a theme du Maurier explores many times in her books. The men she writes about are often murderers, with women as their victims. The topics du Maurier touches upon in Jamaica Inn – domestic violence, rape, murder – must have been shocking for her audience at the time (the novel was published in 1936) and many of the scenes are still disturbingly haunting today. In many ways, I feel Jamaica Inn is one of her angriest novels. Reading the book, you sense du Maurier’s wrath against male domination and brute strength on almost every page. Since childhood, du Maurier was intrigued by the differences between men and women (as a child she invented a male alter-ego for herself), and the frustration she felt at the restrictions imposed upon women seep through her writing.

In contrast to the female protagonists in novels such as Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, who are all undeniably feminine, Mary Yellan is quite a different kind of heroine. Described as being like a boy, with a ‘monkey face’, Mary isn’t too delicate to swear in annoyance. She displays a great deal of physical, as well as mental, strength: Mary can walk for hours on the moors; she fights off her would-be rapist and carries out physically taxing domestic tasks. Whenever she’s told she can’t do something (being only a woman), Mary invariably proves her naysayer wrong.

Mary does, however, perceive a weakness within herself: her attraction to Joss’ younger brother, Jem. Unsure whether she can trust him, yet feeling at ease in his presence (whilst still noticing his rather fine hands), Mary riles against herself over accepting Jem’s kisses. In time, however, he is proven worthy of her faith.

In contrast to Mary’s resolute, unwaveringly courageous character, it is the men in the novel who display the most weakness. Joss Merlyn is revealed to be a blustering bully with an insatiable taste for drink. He cannot control his binges or his tongue and at night is tormented by the faces of the men and women he has killed. He is exposed as a mere puppet in the hands of a much more sinister opponent, against whom he is ultimately powerless.

In general, I enjoyed rereading Jamaica Inn, although I do not feel it stands up so well against du Maurier’s later novels. It lacks the depth of Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, and, although I admire Mary Yellan, in the end I felt a little dissatisfied with her character. She is brave and headstrong, yes, but what else? Compared to du Maurier’s later protagonists, Mary feels two-dimensional, for all her toughness and courage. Perhaps my dissatisfaction stems from preferring du Maurier when she writes in the first person, when the reader can become truly immersed in the mind of her narrator. I feel, too, that du Maurier is at her very best when she’s exploring the (albeit it often strained) dynamics between men and women in love. Jem and Mary’s romance feels a perfunctory affair, and Jem barely says more than handful of lines in the novel, so there seems little to his character but superficial charm. Jem ‘rescuing’ Mary at the end is rather a let down; surely, after everything else she’d handled unflinchingly alone, Mary could have managed her escape perfectly well by herself? Mary choosing to hop into Jem’s cart and ride off into the distance with him, facing their future together, lacks any real emotional charge. Jem’s uncharming little speech to Mary where he says she’ll probably live to regret her decision, left this reader at least without hope for much romantic bliss between them.

In conclusion, then, I felt Jem and Mary’s relationship was the novel’s biggest flaw, but Daphne du Maurier’s ability to evoke a sense of place and atmosphere and build up heart-thudding suspense is dazzling, and the descriptions of the desolate Cornish moors, coupled with a strong-willed heroine, make Jamaica Inn very much a tale worth reading.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Jamaica Inn, so please do add them in the comments. Here are a few questions as prompts to get the conversation flowing, but feel free to comment on whatever aspect of the story you wish to explore. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

Some Questions to Prompt Discussion:

What is your opinion of Mary Yellan? Did you warm to her? What did you like / dislike about her?

Mary is repeatedly told she is ‘only a woman.’ In what ways, though, does she repeatedly show she’s more than a match for her male companions?

Do you find the romance between Mary and Jem believable? Did you feel Mary’s liking for Jem was an unfortunate weakness on her part, or were they well-matched?

What types of evil does du Maurier describe in the book? Does she write about one more convincingly than the other?

What did you think of the Vicar of Altarnun? Did you feel there was a supernatural quality to him?

In what ways does du Maurier use the setting to build up suspense?

Did the novel’s ending come as a surprise to you, or did you guess what would happen?

How do you feel Jamaica Inn compares to du Maurier’s other novels?

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T&T 16 | Jane Austen Heroines

Tea & Tattle Podcast - our favourite Jane Austen Heroines

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

I’m especially excited about sharing today’s episode, as this week on Tea & Tattle, Sophie and I are discussing one of our very, very favourite authors: Jane Austen. Having both read Pride & Prejudice aged 9 (after being mesmerised by the BBC adaptation), Sophie and I devoured every Jane Austen novel (as well as her letters and biographies about her) throughout our teens. We still regularly reread the books, and of course Sophie’s teaching at Oxford covers some Jane Austen (apparently she’s just about to start teaching Emma – I wish I could be in her class!).

Our love for Austen’s delightful heroines was certainly one of the building blocks of our friendship, and we exchanged many a letter as teenagers recounting our opinions of each novel. Today’s conversation, then, covers very familiar territory, as we decide which Austen heroines are our favourites (it’s almost impossible to choose!), and the important life-lessons we have learnt from each of them.

Tea & Tattle Podcast - our favourite Jane Austen Heroines

Listen to hear how Anne, Elizabeth, Emma, Catherine and Elinor have influenced our lives and continue to inspire us.

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Weekend Journals | Cornwall

This interview is in celebration of ‘romance,’ February’s blog theme of the month, as well as the Miranda’s Notebook Book Club choice, Jamaica Inn, which is set in Cornwall. 

Cornwall is definitely a county steeped in romance, conjuring as it does haunting and dramatic love stories, such as Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek and the Poldark series. The vivid, beautiful scenery lends itself well to tales of love and adventure, and has long been an inspiration for artists as well, including some of my favourites: Barbara Hepworth and Winifred Nicholson.

Known for its beautiful scenery, cultural richness and innovative food scene, Cornwall still manages to keep its secrets well, with many of its most inviting spots remaining largely undiscovered. Luckily for us, however, the fabulous team behind Weekend Journals dedicated the first in their series of gorgeous guidebooks to disclosing many of Cornwall’s hidden gems.

Weekend Journals was founded by the lovely Camille (Milly) Kenny-Ryder, alongside her husband, Simon, and brother Gabriel (who’s responsible for the beautiful photography). Milly is an instagram / blogger friend of mine whom I met on my trip to Paris last summer, and her blog and instagram account clearly showcase her exquisite taste in all things food and travel related. I love her beautiful Cornwall guide, and I was delighted when she agreed to sit down with me and share about her process in creating Weekend Journals, as well as some of her top Cornwall recommendations. Be warned, though: as soon as you read this, you’ll want to book a holiday to Penzance immediately (I know I do!).

Weekend Journals CornwallCamille Kenny-Ryder, co-founder of Weekend Journals

MN: How did your interest and love for Cornwall begin?

CKR: I come from a very big family (I’m the eldest of 4 kids) so we never had very much money to go far away on holidays. My parents are both artists, so they loved going to Cornwall because of the art scene and beautiful pottery there. We’d all get bundled up in the car and drive for hours and hours to the deepest, darkest depths of Cornwall, right at the bottom near Penzance. I used to go a lot as a child on B&B holidays there, and then when I got married to Simon, his family are from Cornwall so we would go together a lot. I found out that it was quite likely Simon and I played on the same beach as children, which is hilarious!

Writing the book came about because I was getting asked to write about a lot of new things in Cornwall on my blog, and I felt like there were all these things happening there, like new hotels and restaurants, and there wasn’t anything very modern or design-led in the guidebooks section for Cornwall. I thought that was a shame, as it’s such a popular place for people to travel to for the weekend. I saw there was a gap in the market, and I thought I’d shed some light on it!

MN: What was the self-publishing process like?

CKR: Really hard! If I knew now how much work it would be and how many new things I’d have to learn, I maybe wouldn’t have embarked on it. I have to say it is very rewarding, though, and – not having a publisher – we got to have all the creative control. We didn’t have anyone to answer to and could make all the decisions. That also means you can make all the mistakes, but you come out of the process knowing, not only how to write a book, but also how to design a book. Even knowing how to buy a barcode – things like that, that you never would have thought about before. It was a massive hurdle – there were so many things to overcome – but it was really rewarding when we did it.

Weekend Journals Cornwall

MN: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

CKR: I feel Simon dealt with a lot of the biggest challenges! I think having to multitask so much was a huge challenge. The actual writing of the book seemed only about 2% of the work involved, like finding out about distribution, designing the book and so on. Simon taught himself how to use InDesign and created the whole layout of the book, as well as designing our website.

MN: What made you want to create a physical book, rather than an online product?

CKR: I’m a very tactile person; I’ve always loved physical objects, and I love books. As a child I was always making books and diaries out of pieces of paper. I like having an object, rather than something just on my phone, and I felt that I wanted to put my words and my pictures in something that wasn’t just on the internet.

I’ve had the idea to do a guidebook for years, but I wanted to do it about somewhere that is still a little undiscovered. Although everyone knows about Cornwall, I soon realised speaking to the locals there, that, for the most part, places that tourists were going were completely different from the places that locals went. There’s a place called Potager Garden that the owner of a coffee shop we went to told me about, for instance. At first he was quite cagey, and didn’t want to tell us about it, as he said he didn’t want everyone going there, but when he found out Simon’s family are from Cornwall, he warmed up!

So that was the idea: I wanted to put all of these special places I’d found in a physical book, that someone going down to Cornwall for a wedding or something could take with them, and could spend the next day exploring a few places that were still undiscovered.

Weekend Journals Cornwall

MN: Do you have a particular area of Cornwall that you love?

CKR: There are a few areas that I really love for different reasons. I like Penzance because I feel it’s having a moment right now. It’s near to St Ives, which everyone adores! St Ives is like the pretty older sister, but Penzance has also got so much history and so much to offer. Over the past 5 years, chefs have started to see it as a real foodie destination as well, and there are a lot of interesting restaurants in Penzance. The Jubilee Pool has just reopened too, which is this amazing outdoor lido that’s totally stunning and has been around since the 1930s. There are lots of nice little art galleries too.

MN: If you could pick one – and there are so many lovely ones in the book! – which would be your favourite Cornish restaurant?

CKR: It’s so hard to pick, especially as I love eating so much! Everyone knows about Rick Stein and all the big Cornwall chefs, but one place I loved discovering for the book was a place called The Shore, which is actually in Penzance. The whole restaurant is run by only one guy, who’s worked in Michelin star restaurants for the last 10 years, and he uses all the fresh, local produce, and the food is amazing; definitely edging towards a Michelin star. The food is really affordable, though, and does a fantastic job showcasing Cornish ingredients.

I also really love Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, which is the 1 star restaurant run by Nathan Outlaw [there’s a fantastic interview with Nathan Outlaw at the back of Milly’s guide  – M]. It’s absolutely adorable, tucked away in this old, historic house, and it’s quite small so there are very few seats. Eating there is great chance to taste Outlaw’s expertise in cooking fish, but at much more affordable prices and it’s much more low-key and casual than his 2 star restaurant, which is nearby. I always recommend people go there.

Weekend Journals Cornwall

MN: What are the cultural aspects of Cornwall that you appreciate the most?

CKR: I think there is a lot of amazing art in Cornwall, but what I’ve discovered more recently are some of the incredible gardens. We went to the Isles of Scilly, a collection of islands just off Cornwall, which are just magical. There’s an amazing garden there that has tropical plants from all over the world, and it feels so exotic – you could be anywhere in the world! There’s also a sculpture garden quite near to Penzance that is beautiful as well.

I also enjoy spotting literary references – like going to see the lighthouse from Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and seeing why Cornwall has inspired so many brilliantly talented and creative people. Cornwall really has an incredible atmosphere, that is so different from London life, and it’s so refreshing to just sit by the sea and enjoy it.

Weekend Journals Cornwall

MN: What’s next for Weekend Journals?

CKR: We’ve been really delighted by how enthusiastic people are about Britain. My family are from the South of France, so I’m desperate to do one on the South of France, but then I’m also aware that it’s good to appreciate and explore more of Britain, especially as travel abroad is getting more expensive. And I feel there is a need for quality guidebooks about places that Londoners and people like me can visit for the weekend in Britain. Very vaguely, then, we’re thinking of Somerset next!

You can connect with Milly through her instagram account and blog, and the Cornwall guidebook can be ordered here. For more Cornish tips and inspiration, follow @weekendjournals.

(all photographs in this blog post courtesy of Weekend Journals)

Have you ever been to Cornwall before? Are you tempted to plan a holiday now?

P.S. We’re discussing Jamaica Inn a week from today! I’ve been loving the pictures people have put up on Instagram of the book. Have you finished it yet?! 

T&T 15 | A Chat With Carol Dyhouse

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

Happy Valentine’s Day! This week, Sophie joins me for the first time in a Tea & Tattle interview. We are in conversation with the social historian and author, Carol Dyhouse, to discuss Carol’s fascinating new book, Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire. Our chat ranged from Byron, to Mr Darcy and present-day literary ‘heartthrobs,’ and Carol offered a compelling perspective on what the cultural history of the ‘heartthrob’ can teach us about women, desire and social change.

Sophie and I questioned Carol on the subject of male and female ‘glamour,’ the ways in which what young girls watch and read influence their romantic ideals as women, and why romance novels have a long history of being ridiculed. We also united in a shared love of Georgette Heyer, with Carol describing which Heyer novels she loves best (they’re definitely Tea & Tattle favourites too!).

Hit play for a fascinating discussion on the ways in which culture and society influence women’s perception of the opposite sex and what they consider to be a figure of desire.

Happy Listening!

Fun Things to See and Do | February 2017

Fun Things to See and Do February 2017

The shortest month of the year, February always seems to come and go in the blink of an eye. Before the month quite escapes you, however, here are some fun things to see and do:

1/ Head to Tate Britain to see the David Hockney exhibition, which is getting some fantastic reviews. I’m going later in the month with the lovely Alice Stevenson (remember my interview with her?).

2/ Celebrate your girlfriends. Valentine, what Valentine? Apparently it’s all about Galentine’s Day now, and – although you don’t need a specific day to celebrate the fabulous women in your life – it’s definitely worth taking some time this February to acknowledge how much your gal pals mean to you.

3/ Do some match-making. Now, Emma Wodehouse has taught me the dangers of meddling too much in the affairs of others, but a well-meant introduction can never be a bad thing, right?! Personally, I’d consider even Emma’s interventions preferable to the horrors of anything app + dating related.

4/ Pick up a copy of Hannah Kent’s new novel, The Good People, which has just been released in the UK. I loved Hannah’s first book, Burial Rites, and I’m going to her talk about The Good People at the Piccadilly Waterstones tonight. I can’t wait!

5/ Keep on eye open for the first shoots of Spring as you take walks, and fill your home with flowers. Hyacinths are currently filling my living-room with scent, and I have a few sprigs of blossom in a vase that I love to sit and admire when I have my tea in the morning.

6/ Bake your own bread. London is going through a real cold spell at the moment, and there’s nothing quite as comforting as the smell and taste of freshly baked bread to enjoy with some soup for lunch.

7/ See a show. I’m a big fan of Gilbert & Sullivan, and the Pirates of Penzance at the London Coliseum sounds hugely entertaining.

8/ Go out for brunch and order pancakes (note: Shrove Tuesday is 28th February). I’m tempted to try the pancake stack at LLS, a new(ish) cafe in Hampstead (although as they’re gluten free and vegan, I’m not sure they’re naughty enough for a pre-Lent binge…).

9/ Start a journal chronicling a favourite activity: knitting projects accomplished, books you’ve read, exercise goals, recipes cooked, wines bought & tasted etc. It’s a fun way to keep track of your year and honour a favourite pastime. I started a books only instagram account (@mirandasbookcase) to keep track of my recent reads, and I’m loving it!

10/ Invest in some attractive nightwear to make cosy evenings at home that much more pleasurable. I love the Ted Baker for Debenhams collection.

++ A Few More Things ++

Organising the first Miranda’s Notebook Book Club meet-up!! (This definitely tops the list!).

Going on an ‘air bnb experience’ event with the lovely Talitha. Flower crowns are involved, so I’m excited!

Indulging my love for all things Bloomsbury by attending the Vanessa Bell and Sussex Modernism exhibitions.

Trying out the new breakfast menu at The Gate.

Celebrating a good friend’s achievement at The Bloomsbury Club Bar (I’ve been with friends once already this month and am happy to be going back; it’s got a great atmosphere!).

Going to the cinema. I really want to see Hidden Figures and Jackie.

How about you? What’s on your list to enjoy this February?

P.S. Check out my suggestions from last year. Also, a great savoury crepe recipe (definitely naughty enough).

T&T 14 | The 5 Love Languages

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here or on iTunes.

Today on Tea & Tattle Podcast, Sophie and I delve into the topic of The 5 Love Languages, a bestselling book by Gary Chapman. This book is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to make the most of both their romantic and platonic relationships, and Sophie and I had a lot of fun deciding which ‘love language’ we speak (we think we’re actually bilingual!). The 5 Love Languages are: words of affirmation; quality time; gifts; physical touch and acts of service. Listen to the episode to find out which resonated particularly with us, and how learning more about the 5 Love Languages shed light on our relationships, past and present!

Happy Listening!

P.S. Sophie is visiting me in London this afternoon, and we’ll try to post a few instagram stories. If you’d like to see what we’re up to, follow along on instagram: Sophie (@sophie_perdita) and Miranda (@mirandasnotebook)

T&T 13 | How to be a Modern Gentlewoman

Listen to my latest podcast episode here or on itunes.

In this week’s episode, I’m interviewing Navaz Batliwalla on her recently published book The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman.  As well as her work as a freelance fashion consultant and editor, Navaz writes the fashion blog, Disneyrollergirl, which was listed as one of the Top 40 Blogs That Really Count by The Times. In her book, Navaz describes the style of the ‘Modern Gentlewoman’: sophisticated, yet practical; influenced by menswear, but with a distinctly feminine twist. With over 1 million followers of her fashion boards on Pinterest, Navaz has clearly captured a style philosophy that resonates with the modern woman.

I picked up The New Garconne on a whim in Foyles and then had to buy it, as I was instantly enthralled by Navaz’s fascinating interviews with women who embody the ‘gentlewoman style’, such as Bella Freud, Lyn Harris and Caroline Issa.

In this interview, Navaz shares her definition of what it means to be a ‘modern gentlewoman,’ as well as her challenges in bringing the book together and how she managed to pin down such prominent women to interview. I also love her suggestions for wardrobe staples and top fashion destinations in London.

Listen for some fabulous style inspiration!

An Afternoon in Cambridge

Last week, I hopped on the train from Liverpool Street to spend an afternoon in Cambridge. I’d managed to book some £6 tickets in advance, and I couldn’t wait to have the day to myself, doing whatever I wanted and exploring a city relatively unknown to me.

It felt such a treat to just relax and read on the train journey, which went by very quickly as I read another Murder Most Unladylike novel (they’re absolutely brilliant). In fact, it was reading Mistletoe & Murder over Christmas, which is set in Cambridge, that mainly inspired my trip. I couldn’t put off my cravings for Chelsea buns at Fitzbillies (which Robin Stevens’ characters seem to devour at every opportunity) any longer!

I’m much more familiar with Oxford than Cambridge, as I used to visit Sophie (my fellow Tea & Tattle co-host) regularly in my undergrad days and stay at New College with her. Cambridge, on the other hand, is little-known to me, and I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve been in the past (you can read about one of my former visits here). It’s such a beautiful city, though, and so easy to get to from London, that I feel determined to explore it more thoroughly. Happily, too, I now have some friends who live there, providing yet more of an excuse to visit.

On arriving, I decided to pop into the Fitzwilliam Museum, which is home to a beautiful collection of paintings and ceramics. I was especially keen to see their Impressionist paintings and lingered in front of some enthralling works by many of my favourites: Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and Renoir.

As it was a bright sunny day, I resisted the temptation to stay too long at the Fitzwilliam Museum (making a mental note to explore it more thoroughly whenever I’m in Cambridge in less clement weather), and instead went for a saunter along the twisting, cobbled streets. Keeping well clear of the cyclists whizzing past (there seem even more cyclists in Cambridge than in Oxford, if that’s possible), I ambled along, happy to let my feet go wherever looked interesting.

I stumbled across some of the city’s famous bookshops: The Haunted Bookshop, G.David and Heffers, all a treasure trove of delights for the serious bibliophile. I resisted making any purchases, although I’m already regretting some of the pretty Georgette Heyer and Elizabeth Goudge editions I left behind in The Haunted Bookshop. I’ll just have to go back!

After strolling about for over 2 hours, my hands, gloved though they were, started to get very cold, and I decided it was definitely time to find a cozy corner at Fitzbillies and tuck into one of their deliciously warm and gooey currant buns. I’d arranged to meet a friend of mine at the cafe, but got there a little early, so pulled out another book I’d brought with me on the train and happily read (you know that scene in Gilmore Girls when Rory is debating what books to bring on the bus and winds up with a whole backpack full? I’m certainly her soul sister).

The buns were just as good as I’d remembered, and I happily chatted away to my friend until it was time to catch the train home. Of course, I bought some more Chelsea buns to bring with me back to London!

Have you been to Cambridge before? Do you have any recommendations for my next visit?