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It’s been a sticky, restless night, punctuated by hourly alarm calls from the neighbourhood cockerel and relentless street noise, conversations that sound like arguments and angry wasp scooters. We are five to one room, with mattresses on the floor and a mouldy ensuite which has a window looking straight into the house next door. Our room has aircon but the only way to cut through the humidity is to freeze, and we’ve just got sheets. They are more grey than white, with stains, but I try not to think too deeply about that. Needless to say we wake up hot and grumpy and not in love with Saigon.

We emerge into the soupy early morning in search of breakfast. Down the narrow alleyway, past the offending cockerel and row of travel agents, one with a golden retriever flopped on the pathway outside. The cafe has tables on one side of the alley and a kitchen in a tiny shed on the other. We sit at a table and watch coffee being made across the path. It’s thick and black, the cafe man pours it through a butterfly net contraption into tall glasses. He adds ice, and a good slug of condensed milk. Sugar? No thank you. He stirs vigorously.

It’s cold and sweet, so strong that I can feel the connections in my brain buzz and whirr, a speeded up time lapse film of traffic in a city. Suddenly the air doesn’t feel so soupy and Saigon seems a little less exhausting. We seize the day.


 

Recently, a friend brought me some Vietnamese coffee. It tastes different to the coffee that we buy here, sweeter, though I don’t think it’s sweetened, chocolatey, it smells as warming as apples and cinnamon. When we had the heatwave a few weeks ago, I was dreaming of that Saigon alley coffee and had a brainwave. Ice lollies! So I made a small jug of very strong Vietnamese coffee, added a good slug of condensed milk and topped up with a little cows’ milk, poured into appropriately shaped rocket moulds and hey presto, the most refreshing, delicious, energy fuelling mid-morning snack ever. *bows*

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I love our daily dog walks. The children often moan about going out but it’s always good. We poke things, smell things, chat in a way we don’t in the house. It’s like taking a deep, healthy, green breath before getting on with the rest of the day.

The Sunrise Walk is organised by a children’s hospice charity. It raises money to support bereaved parents and is a positive way to commemorate a child who has died, whilst making a difference.  By taking part, you can help raise much-needed funds for the charity to continue providing a lifeline for other parents who are learning to live alongside the loss of a child.

With three routes to choose from in a picturesque setting, anyone can take part – whether you’re an experienced walker or enjoy a stroll with your family and friends.

The walk takes place on Sunday 31st May 2015 at 4:30am at the beautiful Ham House near Richmond, Surrey and starts with lighting a paper lantern to remember a loved one.  If you can take part, it’ll be much appreciated.

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You know when something makes you so happy that you want to tell everybody about it? I’m not entirely sure that, given my single figure page views, everyone reads this blog, but anyway, here goes…

Elderflowers, picked from wherever I spotted them, Hampshire, Kent, Clapham Common, a lovely activity in itself has resulted in bottles and bottles of cordial and champagne. The cordial tastes so wonderful compared to the shop bought stuff that it’s like comparing an oozing Christmas Vacherin to rubbery cheese strings. And I’ve cooked up a real alcoholic fizzy drink, which tastes absolutely delicious and has made me slightly tiddly on a couple of occasions.  There’s something deeply satisfying about creating something so exciting out of almost nothing. I feel like an alchemist.

This week I’ve finally finished my acorn brooch, which will no doubt eventually make it into its own post eventually.  Very rarely have I made something that’s turned out EXACTLY how I wanted it to.  The fastening is discreet but in keeping, and the soldering is just so.  The pin is beautifully sharp and springy. The gold plating worked and glistens like gold should, and in contrast with the outside which I’ve oxidised, looks really beautiful. Usually when I’ve finished something, I’m pleased that I’ve done it, but I wish that I’d done this that or the other better. This time I’m just happy. I know it’s not very British to show off, but I think it looks lovely.

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Yesterday we went for a long, rambly walk in Hampshire. An hour from London on the train and we crossed one road and saw four other people all day.  This alone is enough to make me feel joyful.  Meadows humming with bees and butterflies, hedgerows entwined with wild roses, streams for paddling and woods for just well being woods, which are possibly my favourite things.  But the best thing of all was walking barefoot. I’m not sure who started it or why, but early on in the day, one of the children took off their shoes and started walking barefoot. So we all had a go, and it was truly wonderful. The grass was cool and comfortable underfoot, the mud beautifully squishy and the stream freezing but lovely. I don’t know why I don’t do it every time we go for a walk. Putting shoes on at the end felt odd and stuffy.

Life is often wonderful, isn’t it?

I do love to travel, so when I found this little pressed brass plane in a second hand shop, I knew I'd have to make it into something travel related. I toyed with a bracelet then decided to tackle something I'd been putting off for ages, a brooch. I love brooches and wear them a lot, but I'd never tackled a brooch pin, so it was a challenge. The back of the brooch is sterling silver, with a double steel pin. The lovely blue globe stamp is riveted to the front using tiny silver rivets, soldered to the silver plate. I also used glue, just to make sure, and varnished the stamp three times to protect it from water. The plane is attached to the front using four simple silver posts. It's not perfect. I'm particularly annoyed that I didn't clean my fingers properly when I was glueing the stamp, so it's grubby. But the pin on the back turned out very well and it hangs nicely, which is pleasing. I've found a new source of planes and I've got loads of stamps, so I'm going to try again soon. The next one will be perfect.

Do you fancy trying something new? How would you like to make yourself a lovely necklace like this?

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I’m running a silversmithing workshop this month, and you could join me! Together we will make sterling silver tags using traditional silversmithing techniques and tools. We’ll drink tea, eat homemade cake and you’ll go home with a beautiful finished necklace.

“Today was brilliant. My creative brain loves me!”

When – Saturday 28th June, 2014, 1-4pm

Where – Alfriston Road, London (nearest tube: Clapham Junction/Clapham South)

How much – £65 including silver for the tags, sterling silver snake chains £10 extra. Book directly through me or using the Eventbrite website.

Contact – Victoria Wallop vwallop@gmail.com

Have I done something new if I don’t chose my new activity with purpose?

I decided that in Lent I would do something new each day, and I largely have.  But often I find myself retro-fitting my activities to the mould of newness. I’ll be busy all day then as the evening draws to a close, I’ll think about what I’ve done that day that’s new.  On Wednesday I tried a new spicy chicken thing from Wasabi for my lunch, so I decided that that counted.  Except I’m not sure that it really did.  I only chose the chicken because my usual lunch of teriyaki salmon had sold out, so it certainly wasn’t premeditated.  And more importantly, in no way did it challenge me.  #40NewThings doesn’t have to be hard, I’m no masochist, but I can’t see that there’s much point unless the trying of them provokes some sort of reaction in me.

Yesterday I was part of the team that ran the school quiz night.  Although I’d have done it anyway, it was definitely a properly new thing, something challenging, fun, different.  So that’s OK. But I’ve got nothing else planned for the remaining however long it is, and I think that perhaps I should.

What do you think I should do?

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I’ve always been drawn to art created from everyday objects, something that has no intrinsic value other than that imbued by the artist, so I love the Confiscation Cabinets exhibition at the Museum of Childhood. In the earlier cabinets, many of the items confiscated relate to crazes, which sweep through communities of children. I was inspired to make a necklace using my own children’s toys, a collection of some of the many crazes they’ve gone through over the years; a small, portable museum of their childhood.

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Each of the toys is attached to a sterling silver ring using a tube rivet, then hung from a 70cm silver snake chain, so it sits half way down the torso. It’s easy for the wearer to play with the toys, making it a tactile piece of jewellery. The rings the toys are attached to can be taken off the chain and switched around or worn on the finger, so it’s very versatile.  The clasp is a ring and bar fastening with a mini ring attached.  A tiny toy baby bottle is riveted to this mini ring to echo the larger rings on the necklace.

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I’ve entered it into a competition, so fingers crossed!

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