RIP – Brooks Bag.  2015 – 2018.  

I lose stuff.  Not normally physical stuff; things like dates, peoples names and other vital memory functions.

On Wednesday the loss was physical, though it took me till Thursday to spot it.  My MacBook Pro and the Brooks Barbican Shoulder bag I hoof it around in.   Left at the side of a school gymnasium as I counted the boy’s possessions back into his bag to make sure he doesn’t lose anything.

The irony is overwhelming.

At 8am this morning was at the school bunting through the sports cupboard, filing lost property reports and praying to the galactic spirit.  I visualised myself finding it and floating home with a big smile holding it close, being smothered by my adoring wife and looking into my boy’s eyes and says “That’s how you find something” – “I am the finder!”

Alas, it wasn’t handed in or at the back of the sports cupboard.  It is gone.  Someone else has claimed it and as I type this I am dimly aware that out in the hubbub of the City my laptop and bag have become someone else’s.

Before typing this I say goodbye to my laptop, reporting its loss to the police, insurance company and finally pressing the delete all data button on iCloud.  The loss of my half-finished Stars End novel is, I’m sure to be mourned by the world of publishing.

The loss I feel more is the Brooks bag.  It was perfect.  It fitted a sketchbook, a pair of jeans, t-shirt and laptop.  The perfect shoulder bag.  Obsessed as I am about products ageing and wear patterns I can tell you it was a work of art which over my 3 years of ownership (A gift from Wife before a trip to Italy 3 years ago!) had developed into the most perfect man’s bag.   My loathing of whomever now has possession of it is increased by my awareness of their ignorance of its importance to me……..  Yet I lost it.  Irony again…

The insurance company will want photos as proof of ownership and the only one I can find is my facebook page header.  I remember taking the picture one evening it in a grotty hotel room opposite a jeanswear factory I was visiting.  I know it will sound totally trite but I did so much with that bag, it represented so much more than the sum of its parts or the utility of its function.  After my boy, it was the best ever thing my wife had ever given me.  (Yes that includes my XBOX)

RIP – Brooks Barbican Bag.  2015 – 2018.

Gone but not forgotten.

Mickey Mouse Chewing Stick!

Paint Mixing for Buttons
Paint Mixing for Buttons

Mixing up orange paint for the base coat of London Denim buttons and had to smile at the hidden Mickey I’d inadvertently created.  If you’re a Disney nut like everyone in our house you’ll know that all around Disneyland there are three circle designs known as hidden Mickeys.

Read more about them here.

Mickey Mouse Chewing Stick!

Paint Mixing for Buttons
Paint Mixing for Buttons

Mixing up orange paint for the base coat of London Denim buttons and had to smile at the hidden Mickey I’d inadvertently created.  If you’re a Disney nut like everyone in our house you’ll know that all around Disneyland there are three circle designs known as hidden Mickeys.

Read more about them here.

North Londons Misty Morning

This Mornings Misty Garden
This Mornings Misty Garden

While breakfasting this morning spotted Charlotte the spider sitting in the middle of a dew drenched web.  Wife called out to Boy who instantly popped out to see if there were any messages written in it.  “She’s a hard working spider” Boy commented.

If you’ve read the book or seen the film your life is not complete.

Check out the book here
Check out the film here

Mug Snob

The Abomination!
The Abomination!

I’m a mug snob.  I judge EVERYONE by the mug they give me to drink out of.  Thus I judge myself by the mugs I give my family and friends to drink from.

The mug rules are quite simple:

1.  It must have straight sides
2.  It must be the same width at the bottom and top.  NO Tapering mugs!
3.  Graphics must be plain, stylish and simple and NOT funny (Unless vintage!)

When we picked up Boy from his week with Nanna he greeted us with hugs and a big shout of “I got you presents“.  Inwardly I groan never being one to shield my dislike of a gift I don’t like.   (Even from a seven year old with a great big smile on his face.  I know – BOO HISS ME….  )

So….A bar of chocolate for me – great, inoffensive  it was instantly opened and shared then Wife was given the most revolting mug I’ve ever seen.  Two colours purple with a graphic which I still see when I close my eyes.  It features her name and the following crass little poem:

Wife’s the one whose special
A well cool babe its true
Because she’s such a groovy gal
and funky through and through.

The thought of this abomination on my open kitchen mug shelf turns my tummy.  It sits there amongst mugs I’ve taken a lifetime choosing, gloating and being all purple.  I can’t bring myself to ‘accidentally‘ break it so have resolved to only give this mug to people I’m upset or cross with.  Boys getting it for the next year such will be my revenge for his causing this Abomination to enter my home.

Don’t Trust THEM With Mango

"Things Can only get Worse" says Mrs Tufty!
“Things Can only get Worse” says Mrs Tufty!

Going away for the weekend and we still have Mango the hamster we are looking after for neighbours.   Our first few hours with him were a tiny bit fraught to say the least! (See here) .   What to do?

Cracking Idea – Tufty Club over the road will look after him.  They are qualified:

1.  They used to have a pet Rat.
2.  They have two brilliant young boys
3.  Mummy Tufty is a whizz with animals

I sent a text – Will you look after Mango?  She sent one back Yes?  Don’t think I explained what Mango was but thats Tuftys lookout.  I got the important YES!

This morning I popped Mango over and sat down for a coffee.  Oldest Tufty boy came down for a look and Mango was placed in his walking ball.  Our backs were turned two mins and he was off then the ball lid spilled open and Mango made his dash for freedom.  He was eventually found behind a box of lego and recovered by Oldest but it did scare the hell out of me again.  I left feeling less confident in their abilities.

Then Mummy Tufty sent this picture……with the ominous tag line – THINGS CAN ONLY GET WORSE.

I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight…



My Kitchen

Simons Kitchen
Simons Kitchen

Last year I designed a Kitchen.  Found a carpenter and made it.  Designing furniture is in our family my Uncle being one of the most clever men in reproduction antique furniture you could hope to meet.  I remember helping out at his workshop when I was a kid (Sweeping the floor and goggling at all the naked lady pictures his cabinet makers dressed the walls above their work benches with.  My picture of Madonna – Like a Virgin was still hanging there long after I left! – This one here).  So armed with an Arts and Crafts ethos of no detail is too small, some advice from Uncle on wood choices I sat down with pen and paper and started to draw.  (This after an intense period of web based research).

I live in a flat and I’d lived with how traditional kitchens just don’t work in smaller spaces.  They cramp and overpower their surroundings with their high cupboards and block colours.  The kitchens themselves become the personality of the room rather than having more symbiotic relationship with the home environment.   I don’t like the feel of a kitchen as a sterile white environment    I wanted it to feel more like a part of our family, an extension of our bonded personality.   In essence the kitchen had to look good when empty but had to come alive and look fantastic when it was in use.  A hell of a lot of WANTS and a lot to ask of a kitchen perhaps…..

Practically because of the nature of the space I also needed to create a kitchen that would serve us well for our everyday life. We entertain a hell of a lot I it needed to be versatile enough to transit from family life to dinners with friends to larger parties.

After many scrunched up papers I decided I needed to create four pieces of furniture:

1.  A Main Run consisting of dry food storage, everyday use kitchen paraphernalia, hob and sink.
2.  Utilities Cupboard for the Oven, Steamer, Toaster and Washers and oven paraphernalia storage
3.  Dry food larder
4.  Island with Dinner service storage, veg drawer and little what-not drawers

The Island is key to the kitchens flexibility.  For parties it moves to the side where the table is and becomes a bar.  The table moves to the garden and the hanging lights are hooked up so we can boogie on the  the stripped floor.   It hosts the main food prep area with a dedicated organic waste bin and also acts as the chat around unit when we have dinner guests.

The utilities cupboard holds the oven and has pull out trays with steamer and toaster.  Underneath is the space for the dishwasher and a washing machine.

The main run is half Barraza custom stainless steel sink and hob and half secondary food prep area.  Large drawers hold dishes, pots and pans as well as everyday dry foods.  Pastas, rices, beans and breakfast cereals.   The custom stainless steel run has three integrated hobs and a sink with a sliding cover to provide more workspace when needed.  (Or to cover up dirty pots when unexpected guests arrive!)

Because of the furniture nature of the kitchen installation was only a day.

I learn’t a few lessons along the way namely:

1.  Tell your carpenter to buy in the drawers backs rather than making them from solid wood.  (They are far too heavy) Making the fronts is enough!
2.  Research clever door hinges.  The right hinge can create more internal space
3.  Stainless steel may look warped but when glued down to wood will be fine
4.  Make sure you use heat proof glue when creating splashbacks out of laminated
5.  Painting matt finish kitchen doors with matt finish clear FLOOR varnish makes them wipe clean and virtually unmark-able!

For the appliances I went to Euroline who rep Barazza and Flamec

Simons Kitchen – Suppliers Index:

Main Run Custom Stainless Steel Hob and SInk and Flamec Extractor all supplied by the brilliant guys at Euroline
Stools – By german designer Konstantin Grcic manfactured by Magis
Magis Table – Purchased from Geoffry Drayton
B&B Italia Luta Dining Chairs by Antonio Citterio
Historic Lighting Company – Drop lights, fabric cord, gunmetal factory shades
ADRS from North London did my carpentry – (I drafted the full spec)
Custom handles and Island Inset by Sams Fabrications
Franke Kettle Tap – Franke

Simons Kitchen  - He's A Talented Boy
Simons Kitchen – After Completing he briefly felt like a Talented Boy

My Ten Pence Floor

Ten Pence Floor
Ten Pence Floor

We’re just about to start a new load of decoration work in the flat and after the fun of designing and building a kitchen from scratch last year I decided to breath life into a little idea I had for the bathroom floor before the team arrives to do the main job.

My 10p floor is made up of 3300 ten pence coins glued with Queen facing right to a floor I levelled, grouted and sealed myself.  Four long days of back breaking work but as with all creative works the appropriate amount of effort always yields the right reward.   As our small bathroom floor will if a burglar ever calls with a pickaxe!  Looking forward to seeing Boys face when he returns from his week away.  Thats your inheritance i’ll tell him!

Queues: Tower of London vs. Disney

Crown Jewels Queues
Crown Jewels Queues

When Wife gets it in her mind she wants to do something unless you have jewellery in your hand its hard to deflect her onto something else. The other day she woke and said “Tower of London” my heart sank.  It’s hot, it’sthe middle of the school holidays, the city’s heaving with tourists.  This is not a time to go to any of the main city attractions.  This is a time to hang out with friends, read papers and throw the occasional cup of ice cold water at Boy.  We go to the Tower of London and I know exactly what we will be doing:  Queueing!

In the UK there is no such thing as a fun queue:

We’re born and our birth is registered – we queue
We have school dinners – we queue
We go to the post office – we queue
We go to the bank – we queue
We go to legoland – we queue
We die and our death is registered – we queue

So we go to the Tower of London –  we queue many times:

The first queue 20 mins to get the tickets.
The second queue 30 mins to see the crown jewels.
The third queue 20 mins in the White Tower to see the armour.
The forth queue 1 min for a coffee.

Thats a total queueing time of 71 mins.  Of the 150 mins we spent at the Tower nearly half of them were spent in queues.  Compare that to Disney Florida.  We stayed in a Disney hotel so were in the parks an hour before the mad crowds arrived.  We spent 3 hours in each park, survived all the rides and never queued longer than 5 mins.   In total for a whole week at Disney we probably spent less than 30 mins in a queue.  (There was the 70 mins for the Harry Potter ride but thats Universal not Disney and there was the 30 mins to register Boy for the Jedi Training Academy but that was something exceptional, not a ride queue per-se and we were second in that queue waiting for the registration to open.  We are keen parents!)

Do the math and you find that in the tower of london we spend 47.33% of our time in queue vs. only 3.33 of our time at Disney.

My argument the next time Wife wakes up in August and says lets hit a major attraction in the height of the London tourist season:

You’ll be 44% happier if we just go to Disney.  I’ve got the figures to back it up!