Category Archives: Excursions

Pastries from the Past

It may seem that I had given up posting on the blog for Lent, but let me assure you that this was merely a function of not having anything to post about, followed by having lots to post about and then getting overwhelmed at what was an increasing time between posts and then worrying what my “first post back” should be and how I should say it and what my excuse ought to be.  But then I thought I’d just get on with it and type the first thing that came into my head. And the result is this paragraph. Hmm. I think I spot a trend occurring. So moving on…

This weekend I went to a 30th birthday party of a very good friend of mine. Beforehand we’d been told that the party was being put on by Vintage Patisserie. Now I hadn’t heard of them before, but apparently Angel, the founder, appeared on Dragon’s Den and did rather well. The basic concept was a completely personalised vintage tea party experience, including special cocktails drunk out of tea cups and a bevy of beautiful sandwiches. They take over a room in the upstairs of a pub in London’s trendy Shoreditch and set the whole thing up like a post-war celebratory event. Not only do you get food and drink, but there are opportunities for dressing up as well as a chance for the girls to get their hair and make-up done in the style of the period.

Prosecco and jasmine green tea cocktails

Now I’m no style maven and whenever I frequent vintage shops, and frequent is a deliberately ironic word to use, I tend to wander around without the first clue as to which patterns are kitsch fun compared to those which are just kitsch crap and generally wondering why the smell of jumble sales has burgeoned into a big industry. Despite this and having hair too short to be styled (believe me, I’ve tried) – even I had an absolutely brilliant afternoon. I would put the reason for that solely down to the attention to detail that had been lavished on the occasion. There were cupcakes and bunting with pictures of the birthday girl, old school board games littering the table, a gloriously eccentric collection of teacups and china as well as the impeccably turned out waitresses – all seamed nylon and victory curls. But beyond that, I had my own special needs sandwiches and scones (I’m wheat intolerant) and couldn’t have felt more looked after – but in that good service way, not that irritating and ingratiating way. It’s very rare for WF catering to actually taste good, but I can tell you that those scones with clotted cream and jam were like a personal gift to me, something I never thought I’d be able to eat again (if you don’t know, WF cooking usually leads to rather dour, dry and dense desserts).

The best thing for me though, was to see this entrepreneurial individual, making a go of a niche business with passion and obviously succeeding with gusto. There was a great feeling in the room for the entire duration and I’m sure that Angel will receive repeat business from some people who attended. And that’s why brand and “soft” attributes are sometimes more important than the dreaded P/L sheets – if you have a passion and a skill, and you are a genuine person (and don’t let yourself get taken for a ride) there is every opportunity for you to excel in whatever you put your mind to.

And that’s something I really can get behind.

Check out Vintage Patisserie here: www.vintagepatisserie.co.uk

And if you do get in contact with Angel, tell her the guy with the red bow tie sent you!

Pee Wee Herman eat your heart out.

 


Purposefulness & Pyramids

So in order to try and prevent any creative blockages that might befall this nascent blog (although four days in the blogosphere is practically a retirement, right?), I suppose I ought to try and define it a little bit. And seeing as I’m now writing a blog – why don’t I just do it here?

I suppose that’s the first type of thing I’ll be doing. Asking questions that are rhetorical, irrelevant or possibly some combination of the two. The beauty about shouting into an empty space is that you don’t expect answers. I had a manager once who employed the “cardboard cut-out” approach to problem-solving. Often summoning me to his desk so that he could spell out what his problem was and then almost immediately work out the solution for himself. And it’s a technique that I picked up from him over the years and have to say I’m a big fan of. So, dear reader, thank you for being my cardboard cut-out.

The truth is – I’m not sure why I’ve started a blog. I have been meaning to explore this world for a while, and as I’ve now got a lot more time on my hands (more of which to follow no doubt) I really couldn’t put it off any longer. As to what I want to talk about? I’m still clueless. I imagine there will be plenty of thinly-veiled analogies such as the first post, but I would also like to indulge my love of stuff by spouting forth about whatever I happen to be watching / listening to / reading / experiencing / visiting / ignoring / hating / avoiding / denying at any particular time. I also like the fact that I’m starting something that everyone else seems to be saying is dying.

I can hardly claim to be a cultural titan, but the past seven days have already seen a new album from one of my favouritest bands, an introduction to a potential new one from a trusted friend (and blogger) and a visit to the British Museum to see the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. So let’s start there.

The Opening of the Mouth. With carpenter's tools.

To be honest, they should have called it the Books of the Dead, as each one was custom-designed for each person’s journey to the afterlife. Well, it was unless you bought one of the pre-written ones and just filled in your name afterwards (a tradition I saw continuing with a “write your own will” at WH Smiths once). A kind of set of instructions about how the “ba” (soul / spirit) of a living person can make the most successful transition to the underworld.

I was taken by many things at the exhibition, principally the museum itself, which I have (wretchedly) never actually visited before. However, I was certainly not impressed by the organisation of the “special” exhibition which was overcrowded and cramped – and one thing you’ll learn about me as this blog matures is quite how little tolerance I have for the general public.

What I loved most about it though, was the number of parallels that could be drawn between a civilisation existing 3,000 years ago and our own constantly evolving stab at getting on with it. Each book would be different and would contain all sorts of spells that you could use as soon as you passed over. Some of them were fairly prosaic, such as spells to ward off beasties from consuming your mortal remains – in case you ever needed them again I suppose – but some were a lot more interesting. Like the tiny figurines called Shabti that you would have buried with you, inscribed with certain mystical verses that would enable you to command them to perform any arable farming that was required of you in the underworld. Specifically. To this end, hundreds and hundreds of spells were concocted to try and combat every perceivable occurrence from beyond the “grave”. The richer or more important you were, the more spells you had – leading to one extraordinary example on display which was 37m long. That particular priestess was probably incredibly paranoid, very well informed or simply just a show off.

I think I just love the idea of these religious types spitballing new spells to be added to the book:

“Ooh! What if you’re in the land of the dead, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And you know you have one of those bits of hanging skin by your fingernail?”

“Erm… OK…”

“And when you try to pull it off, you always end up halfway to your knuckle?”

“I do hate when that happens but…”

“And it’s really painful, and it won’t stop bleeding?”

“You’re right that it’s fairly inconvenient but do you think it warrants….”

“Listen. Do you want to explain to the princess why it is her fingers are in such a state that Ra doesn’t let her on the sun boat?”

“Well, not really no, but I still think…”

“EXACTLY. That’s why we should do a spell for that!”

“And charge another couple of oxen?”

“Naturally!”

“Naturally.”

I bet there are similar, but more modern, exchanges such as this going on all over the world to this day.