Category Archives: London

Emery Walker’s House, Hammersmith Terrace

Please note: tickets for my tour of Emery Walker’s House were complimentary. All opinions expressed are my own.

Emery Walker’s House at 7 Hammersmith Terrace makes claim to being the most authentic Arts and Crafts home in Britain, and certainly it is an extraordinary example of the Arts and Crafts era. Situated in a cluster of seventeen Georgian terrace houses huddled on the banks of the Thames, Emery Walker’s House looks almost exactly as it did in Walker’s lifetime.

Sir Emery Walker lived at 7 Hammersmith Terrace from 1903 to his death in 1933, and the house was then occupied by his daughter, Dorothy Walker, and later too by her live-in companion, Elizabeth de Haas, who bequeathed the house and its incredible contents to the Emery Walker Trust. The house is now a museum and has offered guided tours to the public since 2005. After a recent renovation, during which crucial conservation work was completed, the house is once again open to the public, and I was delighted to be invited to join a guided tour one sunny Saturday morning at the start of March.

The Drawing Room

Many visitors are interested in Emery Walker’s House because of Walker’s connection to William Morris and the impressive collection of Morris wallpaper, furnishings and textiles that adorn every room. Walker, although quite a bit younger than Morris, was a close friend to the great designer. Morris lived in Kelmscott House, a very short walk from 7 Hammersmith Terrace. It was not, however, their close proximity that introduced the two men, but their similar political interests: Walker and Morris first met on a train coming back from a Socialist meeting in Bethnal Green. They discovered they had similar interests; not only in politics but also in typography. Walker was a talented printer, engraver and photographer, and he collaborated with Morris in developing Kelmscott Press, advising his friend on technical details regarding type design and typography, as well as suitable paper and ink.

William Morris’s Chair

Emery Walker’s House is a touching testament to the two men’s friendship. In the Dining Room is a 17th Century chair from Morris’s library at his countryside dwelling, Kelmscott Manor (you can read about my trip to that house in the Cotswolds here), which was given to Walker after Morris’s death. The cushion on the chair was embroidered by William Morris’s daughter, May Morris, who lived for a time next door to the Walkers at number 8 Hammersmith Terrace. May Morris was a highly skilful designer, embroider and jeweller, and it was a treat for me to see some exquisite examples of her designs at Emery Walker’s House. In Dorothy Walker’s bedroom, a bedcover originally belonging to her mother, designed by May Morris and embroidered by Dorothy, is laid out on the bed. I loved the delicate floral design and beautiful colours of the threads.

Bedcover designed by May Morris. Photo credit: Anna Kunst

After Morris’s death, in 1900 Walker established the Doves Press (named after the nearby pub, The Dove) with the bookbinder T. J. Cobden-Sanderson (who is said to have coined the term ‘Arts and Crafts’). Walker was instrumental in designing the lovely Doves Type for the books printed under Doves Press. Unfortunately, he and Cobden-Sanderson did not agree on the future of the Press, which led to Cobden-Sanderson destroying the type by throwing it into the Thames. Astonishingly, some of the original type was recovered from the bottom of the Thames in 2014 and reproduced digitally (it’s even available to purchase here).

I must admit that it was the Morris connection that sparked my initial interest in 7 Hammersmith Terrace, but I soon discovered that the house is a treasure trove of curiosities and stories that are unconnected to Morris. Emery Walker was a great traveller, and he enjoyed bringing back souvenirs of his trips, which add a great deal of interest and appeal to each room.

Pottery collection from travel abroad

Although Emery Walker House is now a museum, it has a charmingly lived-in, comfortable air to it that makes it feel as though its famous tenants have simply popped out for a walk and will be back any moment. Looking around, you wouldn’t be surprised to catch the lingering whiff of tobacco from a pipe, or see a teacup left standing, its dregs still slightly warm. The fact that the house has changed so little over time makes such remarkable figures from history more alive; it is easy to look out the window and picture Cobden-Sanderson surreptitiously throwing the Doves Type into the Thames from Hammersmith Bridge, or to envisage Walker and Morris bent over designs for Kelmscott Press at the Drawing Room table.

Teapot originally owned by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

If you are keen to experience a unique slice of London history and learn more about the Arts and Crafts movement, then you can do no better than booking a tour of Emery Walker’s House. The house is open for guided tours on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am, 1pm and 3pm until the end of November. Due to the delicate nature of the furnishings and the small rooms, a maximum of eight people may join the tours, and it’s essential to book tickets in advance of your visit. See more information on booking here.

Dorothy Walker’s bedroom

I recommend making a day of it and exploring a little further afield as well. The museum of the William Morris Society is small, but still worth a visit. A good lunch may be had at The Dove (I recommend the fish & chips), and do note the plaque commemorating The Dove Press at Cobden-Sanderson’s former home next to the pub. Finally, a walk along the Thames and through some pretty backroads to Chiswick House and Gardens would make a lovely end to your outing.

Liz Schaffer Shares Her Secret Seven London

An Insider’s Guide to London

This post is part of my Secret Seven London series, where I ask my favourite London instagrammers to share their top seven London locations that are a little off the beaten track.

London is full of beautiful destinations to explore, and I’m always so excited when I uncover a new gem, so I hope my readers will find this series as inspirational as I do! Get ready to fill your Little Black Book with some of London’s best kept secrets…

Liz Schaffer’s Secret Seven London

Liz Schaffer, editor of Lodestars Anthology

Liz Schaffer is editor of the travel journal, Lodestars Anthology. Created for ‘curious travellers who long to be inspired,’ each Lodestars Anthology issue focuses on one country, sharing beautiful stories, illustrations and photographs from each destination. The most recent publication was a new edition of their England journal (a lovely read for any Anglophile!), and the next issue, due out in April, is on Portugal (you can pre-order it here).

Over a year ago, I interviewed Liz on Tea & Tattle Podcast (you can listen to our conversation here), so I’m delighted that she’s agreed to share her Secret Seven London with Miranda’s Notebook readers. Although originally from Australia, Liz is based in London, so she knows the city back-to-front and has some terrific recommendations.

1. Maltby Street Market 

This used to feel like a lesser-known secret but in the last few years Maltby Street Market has exploded onto the London culinary scene, which only proves just how brilliant it is. Unfolding beneath the railway arches approaching London Bridge, and taking place every weekend, this market is made up of an ever-changing assortment of street food stalls and British suppliers who dish up the most wonderful fare. These appear alongside a string of bars, restaurants and the Jensen’s Gin distillery. I love it here – an open-air celebration of local flavours and Bermondsey’s quirk.

If you arrive early on a Saturday you can stock up at the nearby Druid Street Market, which has fruit, vegetables, pastries, wine, cheese, flowers and preserves aplenty. You can also shop for vintage wares at Lassco or, if you visit on a Saturday, stop by the Eames Fine Art Studio on Tanner Street for a little inspiration.

2. Libreria Bookshop

This dream of a bookshop off Brick Lane is perfect when you’re in need of an unconventional literary escape. They offer a wonderful cultural programme but I tend to visit to do little more than browse. Libreria has a unique sorting system – arranged by theme more than anything else – meaning you never really know what book you will walk away with, although the staff are never without a recommendation. The design is wonderful too – cave meets bookcase meets gallery. Perfection.

3. Temperate House, Kew Gardens

This may be more well known, but it has a special place in my heart. Architecturally astounding, I come to this newly reopened glass Victorian marvel because, as an Australian, I regularly seek both warmth (and this is a very warm spot indeed) and plants from my homeland – which thrive in here, blooming alongside some of the world’s rarest species. Visit on a blue sky day and it feels like a time slip, no less delightful now than it was when it first opened in 1862.

4. Noble Rot

Found on Lamb’s Conduit Street – one of the most wonderful walkways in London – Noble Rot is a restaurant and wine bar that is decidedly good for the soul. Here there is a story behind every glass and whether you order the most affordable tipple or something truly extravagant, you’ll be regaled with wine-making tales and given the very best pairing suggestions. It’s the work of the duo who created and still run Noble Rot magazine – a publication I highly recommend.

5.  Kyoto Japanese Peace Garden, Holland Park

I discovered this spot when I first arrived in London and spent days wandering the city trying to figure out if moving halfway across the globe was indeed a smart thing to do (eight years later I’m starting to feel confident that it was). Holland Park is a wonder in its own right, its woodland paths make you feel like the city is very far away indeed, but it’s the Peace Garden that calmed my mind in those early weeks. Utterly soothing and lovingly maintained, it’s made even more brilliant by the fact that Holland Park’s Daunt Books is just a short walk away.

6. Brunswick House

An antique-filled Vauxhall joy, this revered restaurant and bar is found within a Georgian mansion, originally constructed for the Duke of Brunswick in 1758. It’s the sort of place you discover and then have no desire to share. The fare on offer is faultless, the history fascinating, but I return time and again for the interiors, which brim with salvaged museum pieces, given new life, that will take your breath away.

7. Earl of East London

I became obsessed with the hand-poured, sow wax candles of Paul and Niko after joining one of their candle-making workshops back in 2017. Their scents are inspired by their travels and it’s amazing how you tend to be drawn to one of their creations in particular. For me it is Viagem, a blend of coconut, oregano and fig that smells of Portugal.

They run their workshops in a glass studio attached to their lifestyle store, Bonds. Hackney (there is a second location now in Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross). I adore the Hackney location for its proximity to E5 Bakehouse (home of the best sourdough in London) and London Fields Lido, and the wares it contains – upstairs is a ceramics studio so there’s always something new to admire. It smells heavenly too. 

~

Thanks to Liz for her brilliant recommendations! Earl of East London is new to me, so I can’t wait to check it out.

If you’d like to find out more about Lodestars Anthology, check out their website and instagram.

Love London? Subscribe to my newsletter, London by the Book, which explores an area of London through a work of fiction each month.

First Signs of Spring in London

Inspired by this week’s Tea & Tattle episode, where I’m chatting with one of my very favourite floral photographers, Georgianna Lane (you can listen to our conversation here), I took an early morning walk in London to seek out signs of spring.

The spell of warm weather has meant that spring has sprung a little early, and I was delighted to discover daffodils already blooming in Green Park and St James’s Park.

During the spring, more than 250,000 daffodils planted in Green Park open their yellow faces to the sun, making it the only time of year you’ll see flowers blooming in this park. The legend goes that Queen Catherine, wife of the womanising Charles II, caught him picking a bouquet for his mistress in the park and ordered all flowers to be removed. Since then, only daffodils appear once a year in this London oasis.

As I walked by Buckingham Palace, I was delighted to witness a carriage pulled by two prancing horses travelling between the Palace and the Royal Mews, most likely on its way back from delivering mail from St James’s Palace (which is done daily by horse and carriage!). The continuation of ancient traditions that permeate London is part of the reason I love the city so much.

After my stroll through the parks, I set off towards Bond Street to visit two of my favourite florists: Wild Things and the Wild at Heart Liberty branch.

Wild Things always have the most beautiful bucket of blooms outside their front door, and I can never resist snapping a photo whenever I stroll by. I loved this display of pale pink, white and burgundy roses – such an old-fashioned, romantic colour combination.

As I made my way towards Liberty, crossing New Bond Street, I saw a tree hanging over the gates of Hanover Square, scattering white petals over the ground.

The blossom is only just starting to appear in the city, and I love tracking its progress through London. North London is always a little behind the rest of the city, but I know that clouds of pink and white blossom will start appearing in Hampstead soon too.

Liberty never fails to live up to expectations; I can never tire of its beautiful entrance way that showcases spectacular flowers in old zinc buckets. The hyacinths and ranunculus particularly caught my eye. The smell of hyacinths always heralds spring for me, and I love the soft delicacy of ranunculus and their tutu-like petals.

Thank you so much to Georgianna Lane for inspiring such a delightful morning walk in my home city. Georgianna is so talented at capturing florals in the city, and I’m very excited by her latest book, New York in Bloom (a follow up to Paris in Bloom). I am going to New York in the summer, and I’ve been using Georgianna’s book to help plan some excursions for when I’m there.

Georgianna will also be publishing London in Bloom next year, which of course I’m very much looking forward to! To hear more about Georgianna’s work and her advice for individuals wishing to pursue a creative career, have a listen to our chat on Tea & Tattle. I hope it inspires you to seek out the earliest signs of spring as well.

Connect with me on instagram: @MirandasNotebook and @MirandasBookcase

Subscribe to my newsletter, London by the Book, which explores an area of London through a work of fiction each month.

P.S. You may also enjoy my blog interview with Georgianna Lane from a couple years ago, which you can read here.

London by the Book

I’m so pleased to announce a new project of mine, London by the Book, which is a monthly newsletter that explores an area of London through a work of fiction. I know so many of my readers are London lovers as well as literary anglophiles, so I think you’ll enjoy these monthly letters.

When I first stepped foot in London aged 16, it felt like a homecoming, as I’d traversed the city so frequently in my imagination. I’d walked the streets in company with Holmes & Watson, Bertie Wooster, Mrs Dalloway, the Fossil sisters and so many others. What amazed me was how well the city lived up to my imagined expectations.

My aim through these newsletters is to show you the parts of London immortalised in literature, not only by contemporary novelists, but also by such classic authors as Charles Dickens, Evelyn Waugh and Virginia Woolf. Along the way, I’ll also recommend the best cafes, shops and museums to see in each area.

If you’d like to receive these newsletters, please sign up here. An introductory letter will be sent out this evening, and the first proper ‘London by the Book’ instalment will be delivered to your inbox in March.

London Culture: Come From Away Theatre Review

Please note: I was given free tickets to see ‘Come From Away’ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

‘You’re writing a show about giving people sandwiches? Good luck with that!’ was what Reg Wright, President and CEO of the Gander International Airport in Newfoundland told Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the Canadian writers of the remarkable, surprise-hit musical, Come From Away.

Come From Away tells the story of the hundreds of passengers who were flying to the USA on September 11th, 2001, and who were diverted to Newfoundland in the chaos following the terrorist attacks. We all remember what we were doing that morning the actors hum as the show opens, and a shiver goes through the audience, as we too remember. I was 14 years old, living on Long Island, New York, when my Dad called home from work early in the morning and told my Mum and me to turn on the TV. I’ll never forget that day and those immediately following the attack, where everywhere you went the news was blaring from a radio or TV screen, and shock and horror reflected in every face you met.

Everyone has a story to tell about where they were that terrible day, and in Come From Away, Irene Sankoff and David Hein explore the incredible true story of the 7,000 stranded passengers in Newfoundland. When 38 airplanes were diverted to Gander airport after the 09/11 attacks, the 10,000 residents of the Newfoundland town rallied to welcome the frightened and confused travellers. The Newfoundlanders opened their hearts and their homes to strangers for five days before the planes could fly again, and in the face of violence and terror showed compassion, humanity and respect that would never be forgotten by those stranded so far from their loved ones and their homes.

Come From Away theatre review
The cast of Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre, London. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy. Photo source.


In Come From Away, a cast of twelve switch roles seamlessly, playing parts as the local Newfoundlanders, as well as the stranded travellers, which heightens the sense of easy integration between the two groups. Although this is a musical very much about the importance of community, a few individual storylines emerge: a divorcee from Texas (Helen Hobson) finds herself drawn to a British oilman (Robert Hands) who takes a seat next to her (in real life, the couple ended up marrying); a mother (Cat Simmons) confides her overwhelming anxiety about her son, a New York fireman who is missing, to a sympathetic and caring Newfoundlander (Jenna Boyd); and a veteran pilot who blazed a path for female pilots (Rachel Tucker) reflects on her feelings about flying in the wake of 09/11.

Despite the heart-wrenching storylines, Come From Away never crosses the line into saccharine sentimentality. There is an honesty to this production that surely stems from Hein and Sankoff’s dedicated research. They distilled the dozens of interviews they had with both the Newfoundlanders and the airplane passengers into Come From Away, and each song and speech is shot through with the voice of authenticity. Harder subjects aren’t dodged: at the end of the show, the terrified mother learns her firefighter son died, and another passenger, travelling from the Middle-East, is treated with suspicion and subjected to a full-body search before being allowed to finally board his plane.

Come From Away theatre review
Robert Hands and Helen Hobson in Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre, London. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy. Photo source.


Come From Away shows how simple acts of kindness in an extraordinary moment can make an incredible impact. It highlights the power of community, as well as the importance of individual acts of compassion. In their article about writing Come From Away, Sankoff and Hein quote Shakespeare: ‘how far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.’ As well as offering a heartfelt homage to everything that was lost on 09/11, Come From Away offers a vital message for the present: individual actions can impact in the world, and we all have the ability to show a little more kindness to those whose lives we touch, albeit fleetingly.

Both my Mum and I so enjoyed seeing Come From Away, which we agreed is the best musical we’ve seen for a long time. Judging by the enthusiastic standing ovation the cast received on the night we went, the rest of the audience loved it too!

After huge success on Broadway, Come From Away is now showing in London’s West End. Tickets to the show may be purchased here.

London Culture | ‘Caroline, or Change’ Theatre Review

London Culture | 'Caroline, or Change' Theatre Review

Please note: I was given tickets to ‘Caroline, or Change‘ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I was excited to see the revival of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s  musical Caroline, or Change in the Playhouse Theatre last week, as I’d read several spectacular reviews. The show did not disappoint, and I was also surprised that it’s an appropriately festive performance for December, as a Hanukkah supper is a memorable scene from Act 2, and Christmas carols mix with blues, Motown and klezmer in a truly dynamic musical performance.

London Culture | 'Caroline, or Change' Theatre Review‘Caroline, or Change’ at the Playhouse Theatre. Photograph by Alastair Muir. Image source.

Caroline, or Change is set in Louisiana in 1963. The Civil Rights Movement has been gathering momentum for years, but change is slow to come to the sleepy Louisiana town where Caroline Thibodeaux (played by Sharon D Clarke) is the black maid of a liberal white Jewish family. Kushner in fact drew on his own memories of his childhood in writing the musical, which explains why Noah Gellman (Isaac Forward), the young son of the house, has such a prominent part within the piece. Noah, grieving for his dead mother, turns to Caroline for a friendship that she, in her role as employee, finds hard to give.

Tensions mount as Noah’s step-mother, Rose Gellman (Lauren Ward), in an effort to teach Noah the value of money, tells Caroline that she can keep any spare change that she finds in Noah’s pockets. The nickels and dimes that Caroline saves from the washing machine, although small change to the Gellman family, make all the difference to underpaid Caroline, who is a single mother with three children to feed. And yet being forced to take a child’s pocket money is a soul-diminishing experience that adds to Caroline’s resentment at her restricted world of ceaseless drudgery.

London Culture | 'Caroline, or Change' Theatre Review

Sharon D Clarke as Caroline Thibodeaux in ‘Caroline, or Change’. Photograph by Alastair Muir. Image source.

Sharon D Clarke’s performance as Caroline is truly remarkable. Not only is her incredible voice mesmerising in its power, but even her silences vibrate with unspoken words. Clarke, as Caroline, performs her duties with a brooding sullenness that speaks volumes; her unhappiness and frustration boiling just below the surface until her emotions finally break free and ring out in song. Caroline is shown as incredibly isolated; much of her days spent alone in the hot, steamy basement of the Gellman’s home.

Without any real company beyond that of Noah’s, Caroline personifies her daily companions: the washing machine, drier and radio, which spring to life and act as her alter-egos, both chiding and encouraging her decisions. Many of the most memorable scenes of the musical take place in the basement, with the animated domestic appliances belting out spectacular tunes. I especially enjoyed the performances of Dujonna Gift-Simms, Tanisha Spring and Keisha Amponsa Banson as the ‘radio.’ The women made a dynamic trio brilliantly reminiscent of the Supremes.

London Culture | 'Caroline, or Change' Theatre Review‘Caroline, or Change’ at the Playhouse Theatre. Photograph by Alastair Muir. Image source.

Ultimately, Caroline, or Change is about the hope of change to come, the wish for a better future. Caroline’s daughter, Emmie (Abiona Omonua) is the embodiment of this hope, as she refuses to be seen as anything less than equal to her mother’s employers, and carries utter conviction in her fierce determination to grab hold of a life different from the generations of women that came before her.

I found Caroline, or Change, a thought-provoking musical with fantastic performances, and if you enjoy a music-filled night at the theatre, then I definitely recommend adding this show to your list. Caroline, or Change is running at the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End until 6th April 2019. Tickets may be purchased here.

Tea & Tattle | Skye O’Neill (@georgianlondon) Shares Her Instagram Tips

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m joined by the instagrammer and blogger, Skye O’Neill, otherwise known as @georgianlondon on instagram. Skye’s love for London started when she moved to the city several years ago from Australia. Her fantastic eye for London’s architecture and her knowledge of its lesser known areas makes Skye’s instagram account one of my very favourites to follow.

In today’s conversation, Skye tells me about how she joined instagram only two years ago, after a fluke feature through the VSCO photography app, and how she’s gone on to build an audience of over 130k followers since then. Skye also shares some of her favourite London areas to photograph, as well as how she juggles her family life and career in publishing alongside her photography.

This is an excellent listen for anyone who loves London and who is interested in growing their own instagram following through urban photography.

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

London Culture | The Wider Earth, Natural History Museum

Please note: I was given tickets to ‘The Wider Earth‘ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

If you’ve got children and are hoping for some fun (and even educational) entertainment over half-term next week, then I’ve got the perfect theatre suggestion for you! I was lucky enough to be given tickets to see The Wider Earth, a play about Charles Darwin’s famous voyage on the HMS Beagle, which is now showing (highly appropriately!) at the Natural History Museum.

The museum has installed a custom-built theatre to host this production, which features a cast of seven, as well as incredible puppetry by the Dead Puppet Society. A basic stage setup was brilliantly amplified by the use of watercolour-style projections that made stunning backdrops to the drama.

Bradley Foster, Marcello Cruz and Matt Tait in The Wider Earth. Photo by Mark Douet.

The Wider Earth is written and directed by David Morton, and he shows Charles Darwin as a 22 year-old student in Cambridge, who is delighted when he’s given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to continue his passion for nature and science by taking the post as resident naturalist on the HMS Beagle on its voyage to far-flung corners of the globe.

I felt this play was clearly written with an educational view in mind, so the script is serviceable, but not overly ambitious. Morton, however, does a good job at showing how Darwin’s experiences on the voyage and the deductions he made from his observations of the lands and animals he encountered, led him to write the world-changing On the Origin of Species. Bradley Foster, who plays Charles Darwin, is engaging and perfectly combines an attitude of youthful zeal with a very serious desire to seek out truths.

It’s the visual experience of this production that truly makes it stand out. I was extremely impressed by the painterly projections that were used to add further detail and mood to the various settings. The puppets were beautiful, too, and brilliantly operated by the actors. It was lovely to hear the gasps of appreciation from the young audience when the particularly striking large puppets were used.

Bradley Foster as Charles Darwin in The Wider Earth. Photograph: Maisie Marshall/Rex/Shutterstock

Although much of the action of this play takes place on board ship, I also greatly enjoyed the details about Darwin’s home life, particularly his engagement to Emma Wedgwood. I’d had no idea that Emma Darwin had originally been Emma Wedgwood, part of the famous Wedgwood family, and in fact as soon as I got home, I ordered a biography of her in order to discover a bit more about her life. David Morton did a great job in fleshing out Emma’s character in a short space of time, and his emphasis on her passion for abolishing slavery and involvement in the abolitionist movement definitely peaked my interest. I’m looking forward to reading her biography when I get the chance, and it seemed fitting that I should leave the play on a quest for more information, even if about one of its more peripheral subjects.

The Wider Earth makes for a brilliant afternoon or night out for all the family. I would say it’s most appropriate for those age 10+, as though those younger would love the puppets, the dialogue would be difficult to follow. I definitely had my teacher cap on whilst I was watching it, and I think it would also make an excellent outing for schools for Year 6 and up.

Tickets for The Wider Earth may be purchased here. The play is showing at the Natural History Museum until 30th December, and both matinee and evening performances are available.

London Culture | Pinter at the Pinter, The Lover and The Collection

London Culture | Pinter at the Pinter, The Lover and The Collection

Please note: I was given tickets to ‘Pinter Two: The Lover / The Collection’ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Pinter at the Pinter is an exciting season of Harold Pinter’s one-act plays, which are being performed in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre until February. The plays are being put on as a tribute to Harold Pinter,  one of the greatest British playwrights of the 20th Century, on the 10th year anniversary of his death.

Twenty of these short plays are being produced, and a spectacular lineup of actors are performing throughout the season, including David Suchet, Rupert Graves, Tamsin Grieg, Celia Imrie, Russell Tovey and many more. ‘Pinter One,’ comprising of four one-act plays, and ‘Pinter Two,’ which includes The Lover and The Collection, are currently showing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 20th October.

I was thrilled to be given press tickets to Pinter Two, as I’m a huge fan of David Suchet, and I couldn’t wait to see him live in The Collection. He did not disappoint! Pinter Two showcases two of Pinter’s one-act plays that explore the themes of love, fidelity, truth and fantasy.

Hayley Squires and John MacMillan in ‘The Lover.’  Image source.

John MacMillan and Hayley Squires star in The Lover as a married couple, Richard and Sarah, who are apparently exceedingly open with each other about their respective lovers. The play was first performed in 1963, and it is a play of its time, although the issues of marital happiness, mutual trust and desire that it explores are still very relevant today.

The Lover opens with witty, breakfast table repartee that’s reminiscent of Oscar Wilde. Richard cheerfully asks Sarah whether her lover is coming today, and Sarah replies that he is. Richard asks what time, and says he’ll be back by 6, to allow his wife and her lover a full afternoon. The next day, Sarah questions Richard about his mistress. He denies all knowledge of a mistress, although says he’s very well acquainted with a whore.

As the play progresses, it becomes clear that Richard and Sarah enjoy a complicated game of role-play. They are each other’s lovers, willingly acting out the fantasies of their spouse. When Richard suddenly decides he is tired of playing a part, the lines between reality and fantasy start to blur, and only then does the couple’s real tenderness for each other become apparent.

David Suchet in ‘The Collection.’  Image source.

In The Collection, David Suchet and Russell Tovey join Hayley Squires and John MacMillan in a story that further explores desire, fantasy and truth. Harry (Suchet) and his partner Bill (Tovey) cross paths with another couple James (MacMillan) and Stella (Squires), when James accuses Bill of having slept with Stella at a hotel in Leeds whilst she was away on a work trip. Apparently, Stella has confessed all to James, although her story seems surprising given the nature of Harry and Bill’s relationship. David Suchet steals the show with a hilarious and incredibly camp performance as Harry, and Tovey also adds a great comic touch combined with virile sexuality.

I feel a modern interpretation of this play adds greater nuance to Pinter’s work, as the roles of sexuality and gender are further explored under Jamie Lloyd’s direction. Just as the line between reality and fantasy was blurred in The Lover, so too does sexual preference and attraction remain ambiguous in The Collection.

Russell Tovey in ‘The Collection.’  Image source.

James enters into flirtation with Bill even as he accuses him of being unfaithful with his wife, and Bill’s story of what happened constantly changes. At first he denies ever having met Stella, then he admits to having sex with her and finally he says the truth is that he and Stella only sat in the hotel bar and talked about what they might do together, should they ever go upstairs to bed…. Who is to be believed? And what counts as an act of infidelity? Stella knows the truth of that night, but on being asked what really happened, the play closes on her enigmatic smile, so the audience must draw their own conclusion.

Of the two plays, I enjoyed The Collection the most, mainly because David Suchet’s performance was so incredible. Both productions were excellent, though, and I was also impressed by the simple, striking staging, from the bright pink walls of The Lover, to the clever use of space to portray two couple’s lives in tandem in The Collection.

Pinter Two: The Lover / The Collection is on at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 20th October. Tickets may be purchased here

 

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven London

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven London

An Insider’s Guide to London

This post is part of my Secret Seven London series, where I ask my favourite London instagrammers to share their top seven London locations that are a little off the beaten track.

London is full of beautiful destinations to explore, and I’m always so excited when I uncover a new gem, so I hope my readers will find this series as inspirational as I do! Get ready to fill your Little Black Book with some of London’s best kept secrets…

Brenda McIntosh’s Secret Seven London

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven LondonBrenda McIntosh

I first met Brenda through her former job at the flower company, Bloom & Wild, and we instantly bonded over our mutual love of flowers! Originally from Seattle, Brenda moved to London a few years ago, and I was so delighted when she agreed to share some of her best-loved haunts with Miranda’s Notebook readers.

Brenda recently relaunched her lifestyle blog, Somedays and Sundays, which is a delightful mix of fashion and travel. I always admire Brenda’s terrific sense of style, so I enjoy her fashion and beauty tips (her daily looks on instagram are always stunning!), and it’s a joy to read about her adventures beyond London as well.

Having worked for two floral related start-up companies in the past, Brenda thought she’d share her top seven flower-themed London destinations. Of course, I couldn’t be happier!

Over to Brenda….

1/ The New Covent Garden Flower Market

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven London

This is where the florists in London buy their flowers—I’ve made quite a few early morning trips here! Don’t expect too many frills, but do expect the best selection of blooms in all of London. You’ll find the freshest flowers at wholesale prices, plus plenty of greenery, vases, and floristry tools. Be sure to go early for the very best selection!

2/ Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven London

By far my favourite spot in London, this is a rose lover’s dream. This area of Regent’s park is
never too crowded and there’s always a free bench to sit and enjoy the sight and scent of the roses. I like that each variety of rose has its own section and there’s a label letting you know the name. The best part is the circular centre that’s surrounded by benches and climbing roses.

3/ Vauxhall Lavender Field

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven London

When you think of Vauxhall, a more industrial area comes to mind, and that’s true. But tucked away in Vauxhall Park is a little lavender field. It might not be as large as the more well known Mayfield fields, but it’s easy to get to and scenic enough for a really lovely photo. Plus, the scent is incredible and it’s a great place for a picnic.

4/ Kenwood House Rhododendrons

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven London

This is a relatively new discovery for me, but one that I absolutely love! I’m originally from
Seattle, Washington and our state flower is the rhododendron, so to see such an expansive
display of these brightly coloured blooms makes me feel right at home! Most people might know Kenwood House (and the grassy fields in front) from the movie Notting Hill, but if you’re around in late May, head to the side of the house for a rhododendron display well worth the trip to Hampstead.

5/ Diptyque Westbourne Grove

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven London

You’ve probably seen Wild at Heart’s turquoise island display featured in plenty of Instagram posts, but just down the road is a store that I always love to pop into. It’s Diptyque’s second ever location (after their original boutique on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris) and it’s even more special after a recent renovation. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a Diptyque fanatic—I’ve got quite the collection of their candles around my house! Describe the kinds of scents you like (for me it’s florals) and they’ll guide you to a perfect pick.

6/ The Punch Room at The London Edition

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven London

This is another lesser known spot that’s right next to a more well-known one. Berners Tavern is beautiful, but I prefer the tucked-away Punch Room (both are in The London Edition). It’s an intimate spot for upscale, but not too fussy, drinks. The last time I was there, my choice was garnished with a jasmine flower and it smelled
heavenly!

7/ Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

Brenda McIntosh Shares Her Secret Seven London
This one takes some time to get to from London, but it’s well worth venturing off the beaten path for. This place always feels so magical—crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings of their greenhouses, and their cafe and restaurant both serve incredible (and incredibly fresh) dishes. Head home with some new plants and gardening tools, or just browse around! Richmond Park is a stone’s throw away too, so you can certainly make a day of it! (Miranda’s mentioned that it’s also a wonderful spot to visit in the wintertime, when it’s decorated with Christmas trees! {Yes, it is! You can read my post about it here.- M})

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Thanks so much to Brenda for her brilliant suggestions. I’m definitely adding Vauxhall Lavender Field to my list for next summer, and I can’t wait to to get to The Punch Room for one of those delicious cocktails….

Do keep up with Brenda through her bloginstagramfacebook and twitter.

Note: All photos apart from cover picture provided by Brenda McIntosh. Enjoyed this post? Read my other Secret Seven London articles with Talitha McQueen and Annabel Bird.