Little lights, shining...

I have this thing about light. We all, do, right? But for me it has all sorts of emotional connections  the way it glances across rust-red Italian rooftops in February, the ache as I watch it soften to indigo from my writing desk, and how it always conjures up memories of my late father.

I'm sensitive to it in interiors, too. In fact, it's become a bit of a joke that each year when the Christmas tree comes down I have to buy a new light source to fill the darkness left by the soft-white fairy lights. So when a friend recently offered me a couple of lamps she no longer needed, I couldn't refuse.


My friend is kind of awesomely steam-punk, so her home is able to rock all sorts of black accessories in a way that my sea-toned flat cannot (these were originally from Ikea). But I love a bit of upcycling. So I headed down to my local Annie Sloan stockist to pick out a tester pot (my nearest stockist has painted wooden spoon heads with all the different shades and it's always a complete treat to hold all of those warm tones in my hands, just like lollipops). I settled on Chateau Grey, a lovely olive-tinted grey that I planned to lighten further with some left-over Old White and that I knew would compliment the existing duck-egg accents in my living room.


Back at home I set about removing the black shades and cleaning all the stubborn remaining glue from their frames  a fiddly but important task  before spray-painting the frames in delicious metallic copper. By the time I'd finished both this and painting the bases, it was, appropriately, dark.


Oh, but then I had to wait! The lamps came with their existing Ikea E14 bulbs, but I knew I wanted lovely vintage filaments to complete the exposed cage lamp look. And here's the thing  vintage filament bulbs with E14 screw bases are actually quite hard to come by. But eventually I found  Dowsing & Reynolds  a divine vintage lighting and accessories store.  And I am not in the least bit exaggerating when I tell you that the day these babies arrived, complete with their gorgeous vintage boxes, felt just like Christmas.


All of which is kind of fitting, given that the pair of newly upcycled lamps now sit on the piano, with one right next to the gap left by last year's Christmas tree... 


A rhapsody in radishes

The last little while has been all sorts of crazy – in the best possible way. I've finally decided to take my life-long love of interior design seriously and Do Something About It. So as a starter for ten, I agreed for my dear friend and creative partner Cathy Pyle to photograph my flat for Apartment Therapy. All of which sounds deceptively easy. In reality it has meant a snag list that has entirely consumed a month's worth of weekends, trying to organise urgent deliveries of upholstery supplies in snatched breaks between patients at work, and generally losing track of which end of the day is up. (But my gosh, I've had so much fun!)

Anyway, what on earth does any of this have to do with radishes? Well, here's the thing: when we're busy it is just so very easy to just shove a ready-meal in the oven, right? And I'm not judging (people in glass houses and all...) But I love cooking, and I love it even more when I take the time to cook after I've been hectically immersed in other things all day. So tonight, rather than settling for something less than nourishing, I dug out one of my old faithfuls, a quick and easy supper, tweaked from Diana Henry's fabulous A Change of Appetite (which you really need to go and buy right now if you don't already have it). And honestly, even just chopping the radishes made me happy. Though unfortunately I ate it all far too quickly and joyfully to even think about a photo. Sorry about that.

Poached eggs with Puy lentils and radish salad (for 1)

2 eggs
100gm Puy lentils
300ml veg stock (or 3x the volume of the lentils)
a good handful of radishes (or maybe three good handfuls), sliced
3 spring onions, sliced
2 teaspoons capers
a handful of fresh mint, shredded
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the lentils to rid them of any remaining husks. Boil in the veg stock until al dente (approx 15 minutes). Meanwhile make the salad by mixing the sliced radishes, spring onions, capers and mint. Make a vinaigrette with the oil, white wine vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Toss half into the radish salad, reserve the rest. Poach the eggs to whichever consistency you prefer (I tend to poach mine in barely simmering water, with a dash of white wine vinegar, for 4 minutes  so that the yolks ooze into the lentils). Serve the lentils, tossed in the remaining vinaigrette, with poached eggs on top, and garnish with the radish salad.

Fresh Beginnings

A dear friend's eldest daughter started her undergraduate degree at Oxford last week. I felt all sorts of fudgey softness at the thought of her just beginning  entering one of those autumn-lit collegiate squares, arms full of books and all the future just there waiting in the long shadows of old oak trees. Of course the reality also looks like a student bar with a carpet sticky with beer and the prospect of completing far too many essays in the shadow of its hangovers. Nostalgia never has a fully fleshed out, evidence-based narrative, after all.

Still, sometimes I wish I had just begun sooner. Instead, I often feel like I am sailing upwind, trying to catch up with people half my age, attempting to squeeze double the amount of stuff into half the amount of time, never quite sure that I've found quite the right tack. That sort of squally breathlessness that can tread close to panic, at times.

I felt a little like that reading the winning poems for the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. Because gosh, they're good. At an age I had yet to figure out friendships and fashion choices in my life let alone my writing, poets like Maud Mullan, and her excellent poem Locket, are already handling complicated decisions about line breaks and metaphor with maturity and wisdom. It's inspiring.

Actually, maybe inspiring is a better way of looking at it all. Because it's never too late to begin, is it? Especially when there's the excitement of such a fresh new wind at your back...

The Family Of Things

As both a writer and a psychotherapist, it was sweetly serendipitous to receive news that my application for provisional professional accreditation had been approved on National Poetry Day.

And so I open with one of my all-time favourite poems, by one of the most gently psychological poets of them all, Mary Oliver.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.