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Hearts and flowers

First thing on a Sunday morning, London is like a ghost town, quietly waiting for its admirers.  A short walk from Old Street tube station, takeaways and bus routes give way to older streets with more historical buildings and over sized greenery seems to be heading towards us, as people struggle home with a new pot plant or two.  Where are we heading?  Columbia Road flower market.

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The flower market began as a Saturday market but was later moved to a Sunday to accommodate a growing number of Jewish traders, for whom Saturdays were a day of rest.  Moving it to a Sunday also allowed traders from Covent Garden and Spitalfields to sell off stock left over from Saturday trading.  Following a demise in the seventies when there were suggestions of demolition, the locals fought to save the market and the surrounding Victorian shops and since then it has gone from strength to strength.  The market now attracts people from around the world and as well as being a great place to pick up a cheap bunch of quality flowers, or a pot plant to transform that awkward corner of your home, the market also appeals to photographers and film makers.

The market is a feast for all the senses, with flowers in every colour of the rainbow available, their sweet scents filling the air, blending with the waft of freshly brewed coffee coming from the many cafes.  The day we visited, the air was filled with the sweet scent of lavender.  The second or third generation market traders call out their deals in cockney accents and there is a general hubbub as people squeeze their way along the stalls.  Music can also be heard from the street buskers.

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When you have had your fill of the plants, the Victorian shops behind offer vintage crockery, gifts and art.  Then it’s time to chill in one of the cafes.  We accidentally stumbled into a vegan cafe and I can tell you a vegan pain au chocolat doesn’t quite hit the spot, but I did feel like a hip east Londoner!

My husband bought me the most gorgeous roses which lasted way longer than your average bunch, despite being carted round London with me for the rest of the day.

It might mean an early start but the market is well worth a visit on a Sunday morning.

This was Valentine’s weekend and so after the historic market, we headed to the modern Shard to experience the view from the top, whilst sipping champagne.  I of course dressed themed for the weekend, in a top with hearts on the collar, paired with skinny jeans – both Oasis and complimented it with red ballet pumps by Mauro Leone purchased in Milan and a red heart bag by Floozie.  I wore my trusted faux leather jacket from New Look as despite the sun, it was a chilly day.

At the beginning of any romance, it’s all hearts and flowers but once you have been together a few years, that all falls by the wayside, only to be replaced with the day to day routine.  It’s important to still appreciate each other, so this year we decided to celebrate Valentines Day like we did in the early days.

The trouble with going out on Valentines is you are usually faced with an overpriced fixed menu and crammed in so tight that you virtually bash elbows with the person next to you every time you lift your fork to your mouth.  Maybe we have just been unfortunate with our choices in the past, as this year we booked our local restaurant, Eight and although it was a set menu – the price was reasonable and we were in no way crammed in.

I wanted to get proper dressed up, just as you do in the first flourish of dates.  I decided to embrace this year’s animal print trend and wore a jumpsuit from Oasis with some red wedge LK Bennett sandals.  I even had my nails themed for the day.

Rather than just cards this year, we also did gifts.  Men being notoriously hard to buy for, I got my husband some clothes from Superdry.  He got me the best kind of chocolate – one that doesn’t get you fat!  Have I discovered the holy grail I hear you ask?  No just some fantastic eyeshadow by Too Faced that is scented with chocolate!

Love comes in many shapes and forms and needs to be nourished.  Many of us spend the best years of our lives searching for our Mr Darcy, just like Bridget Jones.  When we find him though, do we forget to appreciate what we have and take it for granted?

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At the location used as Bridget Jones’ flat in the films

Along with romantic love, one of my other great loves is London.  It is such a fusion of all the cultures and traditions of the world.  It doesn’t matter how many times you visit, there is always something different to see and old and new blend together seamlessly.  I particularly like the creativity it unleashes.  A wander along the Thames from London Bridge to Blackfriars is made all the more beautiful by the entertainers.  This particular day, there was a poet, typing you an instant poem on an old typewriter and a bubbleologist.  A painting by Jimmy C of Shakespeare reminds us that London’s relationship with culture and the arts dates back centuries.

London’s people are what makes the city so wonderful and we all pull together when our centre of multiculturalism is threatened by extremists.  The love Londoners have for each other is perfectly depicted in the street art of hearts created in Brough Market by the artist Jimmy C following the terror attacks there in 2017.  Each heart represents one of the eight people who lost their lives that night.  There is so much hate in the world but ultimately love will conquer all.

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The romance of film noir

Looking for a night out with a twist?  Look no further than the Evans & Peel detective agency in Earls Court, London.

My friend, who has fabulous vintage style and can always be relied upon for a good night out, announced that the theme of her birthday celebrations this year would be film noir. Apart from the obvious translation to ‘a black film’, I’m ashamed to say that I knew little else about this, but Google is always on hand to help.

Film noir is a genre, retrospectively assigned by film critics, to Hollywood crime dramas from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.  The Big Sleep, This Gun for Hire, The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity are a few of examples of classic film noir.  The films tended to be quite pessimistic as was the general mood in post war America.  They are usually saturated with cynicism as well as using stark light/dark contrasts and dramatic shadowing, as a visual style.

 

For the occasion, I wore a black pencil dress from Pretty Kitty Fashion with wartime seamed tights and a cream faux fur jacket from New Look.  I set the outfit off with red Sarah Jessica Parker shoes in a classic t-bar style and a black vintage frame, clip top bag which incidentally, was bought for me years back by the birthday girl.  I styled my hair using a Heidi roll tool also from Pretty Kitty Fashion and topped it off with a burgundy pill box hat from Kiss Kiss Heart.

 

On arrival at the venue, you would never guess in a million years that it was a bar.  You are greeted by a simple door with Evans and Peel detective agency written on it and a buzzer.  After pressing said buzzer, you follow the stairs down to a dark office, where you are asked to state your case.  One of our group stated that their wedding ring had been stolen and they believed the culprit to be someone in our group.  The agency agreed to take the case on, at which point, a bookcase opens to reveal the bar.  Menus in brown case file envelopes are given out which list aptly named prohibition radiator moonshine beer amongst a selection of cocktails and it’s there I’m afraid, that the theme sadly ends.

 

Not for us however, as our case had been thought up, based on prior knowledge of the evening’s events that were still to come.  Suddenly a member of our group pointed at my friend’s boyfriend and said “it was you who stole the ring!”  To this, the smartly dressed ‘doctor’ dropped to one knee and proposed to my friend who was dressed as the classic Coco Chanel.  Her expression was priceless, she was completely shocked and clearly not expecting it, but very quickly that turned to pure joy as she accepted.

 

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It was a beautiful moment between them that I feel very privileged to have been a part of.  I am so happy for my friend as she so deserves the happiness she has clearly now found.  I await their wedding in June with anticipation – I know it will be another beautifully styled vintage event.

Congratulations guys – who says film noir is dark and pessimistic – it certainly brought you guys great joy and happiness.

 

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Love is Louboutin

May was our third wedding anniversary and to celebrate we decided to go away for a week. Having spent the last few years visiting various far flung places, we thought it was time we explored the treasures the UK has to offer and as such headed to Scotland.

We could have driven or flown but we opted to travel by the Caledonian Sleeper train, which booked in advance was very reasonably priced and hired a car once there. Now the sleeper train is not luxury but an experience none the less and it certainly is nice to fall asleep in London and wake up in the Scottish Highlands.

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We were greeted at Fort William by horrendous rain – the main problem with staying in the UK. As we were unable to book into our accommodation before 4pm, we sought refuge at the Inverlochy Castle hotel and indulged in afternoon tea.

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Highland scenery is stunning and by our bed and breakfast there was a beautiful wide expanse of lake which was ironic given that they ran out of water by the Thursday!

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A walk through Nevis Gorge to Steel Falls is well worth it, if not for the faint hearted – it’s a four and a half mile round trip. The ground is rocky and rough with sheer drops but you are rewarded with a beautiful photo opportunity. Just make sure you wear appropriate footwear – my Italian leather ballerina pumps didn’t cut it!

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Glencoe also provides beautiful views and has been used for films such as James Bond – Skyfall and Harry Potter – it’s where Hagrid’s hut was built.

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T-Shirt Oasis, cropped jeans Oasis and ballet pumps from Milan

A great way to see some of the flatter scenery the highlands have to offer is by horseback. I have always enjoyed horse riding and really enjoyed my trek in Tain – not least as I managed to tick off my bucket list, riding on the beach.

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Sweatshirt Joy, Jeans Oasis and rain jacket New Look

On our actual anniversary we boarded the Jacobite steam train for a journey from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct – made infamous by the Harry Potter films. We celebrated with champagne and exchanged gifts. The three year wedding anniversary is leather and as such, we couldn’t have let it pass without him adding to my shoe collection. I was ecstatic to open my very own pair of classic Pigalle Louboutins in black patent! You can read more about Louboutin in my previous blog First Steps.  I bought him a leather wallet with his initials embossed on it from Aspinal of London.  Leather is traditionally used to protect and shelter due to its durability, so as your relationship matures, a gift of this represents those qualities.

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Glenfinnan viaduct

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Butter-brew cocktail

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Harry Potter Charm

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If castles are your thing, Scotland has some fabulous examples. We visited Urquhart castle, overlooking Loch Ness, for a great example of castle ruins which date from the 13th to the 16th century and Dunrobin which is a true fairytale style castle. Interestingly Dunrobin castle was used as a boarding school for seven years – imagine going to a school that looked like that!

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Urquhart castle

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Dunrobin castle

If you are looking for an adrenalin rush, I can highly recommend the Seaxplorer fast boat trip out on Loch Leven. We got to see seals and sea birds as well as our captain doing some elaborate fast turns like they do in lifeboats to add to the thrill.

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We couldn’t visit Scotland without going to Balmoral of course. Having always been a royalist it was fabulous to see the Queen’s holiday hideaway. Balmoral castle itself is beautiful although we saw very little of the inside. The Landrover safari trip revealed how vast the grounds are, with stunning views and we got to see some majestic deer.

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Balmoral

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T-Shirt Zara and leather jacket New Look

 

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Being us it was a mad rush to get from Balmoral back to Fort William to catch the sleeper train home but we made it and got a lovely view of Ben Nevis on the journey too.

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Ben Nevis

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KIP (Krissy is Phil’s) elephant snuggling on the Caledonian sleeper

The UK really has some great sights that shouldn’t be overlooked.  We had a great anniversary and look forward to many more years happily married.  I love my husband because he knows me inside out and loves me anyway.

Ruby Romance

In May this year my parents celebrated 40 years of marriage which is an incredible 14600 days of matrimony. From that wonderful union they have 2 children and 2 grandchildren and they still love each other as much as they did on their wedding day. My brother and I clubbed together and bought them a garden companion seat with a celebratory plaque.

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Sitting on their celebratory bench

What an achievement 40 years is in this day and age where people are all too quick to file for divorce. Marriage isn’t easy and has to be worked at but my parents are testament to it being possible for love to last a lifetime.

How different the world was in 1976 when they married. Technology which we now take for granted was in its absolute infancy. Can you imagine a time when you couldn’t just google the answer to any question that popped into your head and you had to wait in at home if you were expecting someone to call you? 1976 saw Ford release the first Fiesta which was to become in 2014 the UK’s bestselling car, Concorde did its first commercial flight, England won Eurovision and number 1 the week of my parents’ marriage was ‘Silly Love Songs’ by Wings.

Traditionally the 40th wedding anniversary is referred to as the Ruby anniversary. This association is because the ruby is believed to have an eternal inner flame which glows brighter each year just like the passion and love in a marriage.

My parents decided this landmark was worthy of a big celebration so my Mum and I set about planning an event akin to a small wedding reception. Dinner was held at a golf club for family and friends with a DJ after. We decided on a theme of travel which may seem ironic to those of you who know my Dad well as he hates holidays. However I thought the travel theme was appropriate in more of a metaphorical way because of the journey they have made together through 40 years of marriage.

An old suitcase was used for the table plan and we hung a luggage tag for each table’s guests inside. Each table was named after somewhere my parents had visited together – thank goodness we didn’t have more than 5 tables or we would have been stuck on locations with their limited holidays! The table name was stuck on a cut out of a suitcase and a photo of them in the place put on the back. Place name cards featured a suitcase logo. The centre piece of each table was a single red rose – a symbol used to denote total devotion to one person.

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I made up favours for the tables which were love hearts in a ruby coloured organza bag and I made a cake for them with a photo of them cutting their wedding cake on the top.

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For the event I wore a dress from Coast, similar to the style of my bridesmaid’s dress at my wedding and reddish/pink in colour to tie in with the ruby theme. I accessorized with some silver diamanté sandals which I got in John Lewis when I was a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding (see I do wear some shoes more than once!) I also had this gorgeous fan shaped metal clutch with a 1920’s art deco feel to it. I got this from Vintage Styler.  I added a red butterfly clip in my hair.

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At the entrance Mum decorated a small table with old photos from the day, decorations from the wedding cake, along with her garter, which was her something blue, blue being seen as a colour representative of constancy and loyalty; and other trinkets hooked over her arm on the day including a horse shoe and a rolling pin. The rolling pin would have been seen as something useful to give a wife so she could make meals for her husband (often a wooden spoon traditionally rather than a rolling pin) and a horseshoe for good luck going back to the 10th century when horseshoes were used to mark the door of Christians thus protecting them from the devil. Many wedding customs are the same today although the gifts hooked over a brides arm are not so common nowadays – I know I didn’t receive any at my wedding.

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My Dad gave a wonderful speech which detailed how they met as a blind date and how he had always loved her and the speech ended with him presenting her with a ruby ring. I also gave a short speech which included a poem which my uncle composed music to and sang at the wedding but unfortunately he was unable to make the party for a second performance of it. The poem is called ‘The Life that I Have’ and was originally written by Leo Marks in 1943 for his girlfriend who had recently been killed in a plane crash. It was used as Poem code during the Second World War. It was common for secret messages to be passed using a poem as code but was proving unreliable as the enemy could find the original source of the poem – Marks got around this by using his own creations. The poem was famously used in the film ‘Carve her Name with Pride’.

A fantastic evening was had by all and it was beautiful to see Mum and Dad dance once again to their first song from their wedding ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing.’

The month of May also saw my husband and I celebrate our second wedding anniversary. Cotton is the symbol given to the second anniversary symbolic of the couple becoming closer and their lives becoming more intertwined. It is also said to represent the couple learning to be flexible and adapt to each other’s needs as cotton is both strong and soft. I bought him a shirt – which he wore to Mum and Dad’s do and some cotton trousers. He bought me a cotton vintage quilt I had fallen in love with from the shop Kiss Kiss Heart in Rochester. We celebrated with a trip to Port Lympne Safari park (one of our early dates) and a curry in a new Indian restaurant in Rainham.

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My gorgeous quilt

Two years has flown by and I’m sure the next 38 will too. I hope we can be as happy at 40 years as my Mum and Dad obviously are.

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Does Romance have to end with I do?

Congratulations, you’ve made it down the aisle and can now live happily ever after? Apparently not with latest figures showing 42% of marriages end in divorce.  Only having been married myself just shy of 2 years, I do not proclaim to be an expert but I do feel that in some cases people are not willing to work at a marriage, perhaps indicative of our throw-away society.

Of granted legal divorces, statistics suggest unreasonable behaviour is a more common reason for divorce than adultery.  Now unreasonable behaviour of course encompasses a diverse range of things but we all know that after a few years, it’s easy to become comfortable and therefore complacent.  If either partner feels neglected and or taken for granted, resentment can fester which ultimately may lead to separation.  As Carrie says in Sex and the City, you need that ‘sparkle’.

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Romance, as a verb is defined in the dictionary as try to gain the love of; court and as a noun, a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.

To some degree romance has become far less common place in dating with the advent of online dating and apps like tinder, people treat the actual date in the same casual way.  Romance is also linked to chivalry which means courtesy to women and has seen a great downturn, in part due to feminism.  Men are now frightened to give up their seat for a woman or hold a door open through fear of being accused of sexism.

When we first meet someone special, we are all about making a good first impression and this usually involves plenty of romantic gestures fulfilling the verb definition of the word.  Now I’m not talking about the stuff of Romeo and Juliet, nor am I talking spending obscene amounts of money – romance is surely just taking the time to show one another that you care.  Sometimes this can be the smallest of things, like when I was ill and my husband spontaneously went down to Costa to get me a latte.

Romance has long been viewed as something a man does for a woman – however in these days of equal opportunity – do men not have a right to expect some romance in return?  Do men really appreciate romance though?  I bought my husband a watch when we had been dating for 2 years and had it engraved with a quote from Love Letters of Great Men.  Does he wear that watch?  The answer is very rarely.

Romance of course means something different to each individual but most of my friends agreed that whatever the gesture is from doing the chores to writing a note on a steamed up mirror to buying a thoughtful gift – it is the thought that counts.  It’s the fact that your partner has picked up on your feelings and surprised you with something that shows that; romance as a noun.

I recently read a book by Gary Chapman The Five Love Languages which opened my eyes to the fact that romance is not a case of one size fits all.  The book talks of the fundamental need to feel loved and suggests we all have a love tank that needs to be kept full, just like a car needs petrol.  It goes on to describe five different ways of filling that love tank; affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time and physical touch.  The book suggests that each of us have a primary language of love and unless our partner speaks in that language, your love tank won’t be filled.  To put it simply it may be that your husband thinks by bestowing expensive gifts on you, he is showing how much you mean to him when you might be crying out for quality time with him.  Often we will show love in the way that we like to receive it.

I think my language is affirmation and this is probably because it’s the way my parents always showed me love; hence not a day goes by when I don’t tell my husband I love him whereas I would like him to tell me more and compliment me when I have made an effort.  He on the other hand I believe has a language of acts of service as this is how he often tries to show love to me; as in how he worked hard to make the bathroom in our new home, the perfect bathroom for me.  Now I’m not saying I don’t appreciate these sorts of gestures but affirmation definitely makes me feel more loved.

Old bathroom

Bathroom as it was when we moved in

New bathroom

My new ideal bathroom

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The Biba towels really set it off a treat!

In conclusion from a quick straw poll of my friends it would appear that romance is a big part of a successful marriage, whatever form that romance may take.  We all need to work at keeping the flame of love burning and not take each other for granted. Perhaps have a date night, buy a thoughtful gift or just compliment your other half – we all have that need to feel loved.  It is that excitement and mystery that sustains that feeling of love you had for each other when you first met.

I’d love to hear your views on romance in marriage – is Gary Chapman right that we all have a primary love language?