Sunday, 12 January 2014

Save a Life

I'm not writing, today, about cushions or ceramics or paint colours or Smythson's diaries.  All those things have their place, of course, and I strongly believe in the power of certain things - things that others might dismiss as superficial - when it comes to improving morale in times of trouble.  However, when the chips really are down, one needs more:  one needs people to actually help.

And so, today, that is what I am asking - and I'm not asking for me, but for a little girl called Margot.  She's a month younger than Esmeralda, and she's the daughter of a friend, Victoria Martini.  

Margot and Victoria, before life changed for them.

In March last year Margot and Esmeralda were playing together at a baby shower, Esmeralda trying her damnedest to poach the bow in Margot's hair.  By October, Margot was at Great Ormond Street receiving chemotherapy for a very rare form of dual lineage Leukaemia that she was diagnosed with on the 7th of that month, aged not quite fourteen months. 

Chemotherapy is going well, but Margot, in order to survive, needs to find a blood stem cell donor.  Her father, Yaser, made this utterly amazing and heartbreaking video, which has already had nearly 25,000 views on YouTube.  Please watch it, share it, and please, please act on it.  

It is impossibly easy to register to see if one can be a match for Margot.  One goes to, gives one's details, (and selects 'Team Margot' when asked how one heard about it.)  A pack arrives, one swabs, and sends it back.  It's that easy.  And if one is outside the UK, which I know some of you are, you can find out how to register from whichever country you're in here.

Alternatively, there are donor drives that one can attend.  There's one taking place in Notting Hill on the 1st February.  Another is in Sheen on the 2nd February.  (Full details of both below.)  Please, take friends, family, colleagues - anyone and everyone you know of the right age (under 55) and who is basically healthy - and ask them to register and swab.  

The greatest thing that any of us can do this year is try to help to save a life.  Especially when it is so easy, and takes so little effort.  

Today is Margot's 100th day of being treated at Great Ormond Street.

Notting Hill Donor Drive:  Saturday 1st February 2014, 11am to 4pm, The Tabernacle, Powis Square, Notting Hill, W11 2AY.  (There's going to be a bake sale too, all proceeds going to Delete Blood Cancer.  I'm making chocolate brownies.)

Sheen Donor Drive:  Sunday 2nd February 2014, from 10am, Sheen Montessori Nursery, Palewell Common Drive, East Sheen, London SW14 8RE.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Decorating Disasters, and Reasonable Recovery

Because we set off for Christmas so early - we left London for Shropshire then Scotland then Yorkshire on the 19th - we also got back early, on the 27th.  Which has given both Andrew and me quite a lot of time to sit around the house looking for faults.  Or rather, it has given me quite a lot of time to look for faults, and then point them out to Andrew.

Some are obvious.  Our bathroom, which we started redoing before Christmas 2012, is still not finished.    Our sofa was covered in sticky Marmite fingers, and the Marmite didn't seem to want to budge, even when challenged by Johnson's babywipes, which can usually clean anything.  The ceilings need painting.  The bathroom needs finishing.  The bathroom and ceiling painting are Andrew's jobs, which makes me extra-specially irritable as I can't control when he does them, and the more I mention it, the longer they'll be put off.

Whatever the case with the bathroom and the ceilings, I did not expect Andrew to use decorating as major procrastination to the extent that I tend to.  I went out for nearly all of Saturday, with the children, to allow Andrew 'to work', though he did say that he might 'have a bit of a tidy up' (I thought he meant to do the washing up, and put the lego away.)  I got back to discover that not only had he rearranged all the furniture in the sitting room, he had utterly disastrously dyed the sofa covers.  The sofa now looks like this:

I mean, seriously.  It's sort of tie-dye spectacular meets the press kit for the Comme des Garcons Amazing Green eau de parfum.  (I went to the launch.  It was amazing, and everything was green.)  The cushion covers are a completely different cover to the rest of the sofa cover.  Now, admittedly, the dying was originally my idea.  It all came about because the new cover that I ordered had in fact been discontinued, and this was another option.  I carefully researched the process, ordered the Dylon from John Lewis - four packs of dark green, two packs of brown, the intention was to mix them together to create an olivey sort of colour - and bought the industrial quantities of salt needed from the Coop.  And admittedly, I did tell Andrew that he could start the process, if he wanted to do.  I did not expect him actually to start it, or to forget to add the brown to the first batch (main cover), and so add all of it to the second (cushion covers).  (Although don't my Chelsea Textiles cushions look exquisitely worth every penny?  They're soon going to be available on English Abode, incidentally.)

I think there's nothing for it but to start saving up for this:

The Yanna three-seater sofa in olive green pure cotton matt velvet from, £1,345 - I really hope that the cat comes with it.  (I so want a cat.  To scratch the sofa.)

It's heaven, right?  I keep looking at the picture over and over again, and it was, to be honest, part of the inspiration behind the colour I chose for the disastrous dye job.  And speaking of decorating disasters, did I mention the furniture rearranging?  

We differ somewhat, Andrew and I, in our approach to space.  I like symmetry:  pairs of lamps, pairs of cushions, pairs of tables.  Andrew likes to see a lot of floor.  To that end, he had put all the furniture around the walls, and, when he ran out of walls, he simply stacked it.  Think oversized giraffe on top of Esmeralda's doll's cradle on top of a pile of books on top of a bookshelf.  All our paintings looked wrongly hung, and the overall effect was student house - lived in by student parents - that had just got ready to host a party.  i.e. Awful. And he couldn't see it.  Suffice to say, it's all back as it was . . . 

However, there was some positive to his endeavour:  he agreed that we need a better system for storing the toys.  A toy box is something I've been lusting after for a while; specifically, I'd like the Indian Dowry Box that is on the website:

Beautiful, no?  It also comes in black and white and grey and white, and is currently on sale for £245.

However foolishly, instead of just ordering it, I showed it to Andrew, who looked at the price.  "No way," he said - and he said it forcefully, so that I knew that he meant it.  He's going to buy a plain wooden box, and I am going to paint it.  Hurray!  I've been looking for something on which to practice my new found furniture painting techniques, learnt on the Annie Sloan course at Phoenix on the Golborne Road.  I have grand designs for our bookcases, but I used cataloguing the books as a major procrastination tool of my own, sometime back in 2009 when faced with some article or other - they're organised by category and indeed subcategory (fiction, biography, history, poetry, art, fashion - fashion biography, fashion history -  etc.) and then arranged by alphabetical order of either author or subject, as appropriate - so it's quite a monumental task.  The toy box will be the perfect starting point.  I'm picturing achieving something like this, which is a late 19th Century Central European painted chest, and which sold at Christie's South Ken for £1,063 in 2010:

Andrew suggested that my enthusiasm might outweigh my abilities.  He has no faith.

The thing is,  it's occurred to me that the exquisite chest sold for less than the sofa costs.  Seriously.  And, if I had a spare grand and a half, I know which I'd prefer.  I've got a feeling that we might be living with our Amazing Green decorating disaster sofa for a while.  Fortunately, I know where to go for throws.

The theoretical holy grail (perhaps slightly dull?):  The Hermes giant Avalon blanket.  At £950 it's still (just) cheaper than a new sofa. 

The Missoni Jocker throw, available at Selfridges for £355.  I love Missoni.

However, I think the best solution of all is going to be a length of fabric from Susan Deliss, whose cushions, lampshades and kilims are soon going to be available on English Abode.  Quite frankly, I don't quite know how I'm going to stop myself buying her entire collection.  

Susan Deliss

Susan Deliss

This disaster might well have turn out to be rather a good thing, after all.  (Though not necessarily for either the bathroom or the ceilings, both of which still need attention . . . .)

Incidentally, if anyone was thinking of dying their sofa cover, it totally works.  You just have to make sure that you remember to put the appropriate amount of dye in with each load.  Which, obviously, we failed to do.
And, just in case you missed my plug,