The Urban Beachcomber

Waking up at the crack of dawn, grabbing my bucket and spade and heading to the beach with my nan, for a beachcombing session, is one of my fondest childhood memories.

Beachcombing – for those of you who’ve never tried it – is the simple process of scouring the beach (preferably after high tide, in the early hours) for all the treasures both visitors and the ocean may’ve left behind. The promise of discovering something mystical and magical was a massive selling point for my younger self.

Just like an early morning run can make you feel at one with whatever path, road or track you choose to tread, beachcombing made me feel very much part of my surroundings; the distant ocean with all the promise of an afternoon paddle and endless sandy beaches, as untouched as freshly fallen snow. Irresistible!

My beachcombing adventures never produced any magnificent finds, but collecting, what at the time, felt like the most glorious pick ‘n’ mix of shells and pebbles you’d ever seen (baby pinks, peaches, mother-of-pearl and jet blacks) were all the treasures I needed. Pieces of worn-down glass always fascinated me; what were once sharp, shiny shards, now muted and in soft focus. I’d relish the post-beachcomb feeling of going back home to create something unique with my finds. Often a simple shell-encrusted frame or delicate handmade card. Again, nothing too adventurous, but my eight-year-old self was pretty satisfied.

Nicola White, creator of, Tideline Art (http://www.tidelineart.com), has taken the ‘art’ of foraging along the coastline, to a whole new level. Using objects found along the Thames or the stunning Cornish coastline, she creates some fantastic pieces that make use of the oceans forgotten treasures. Take a look at Nicola’s, beautiful ceramic vase, complete with ceramic flowers and her brilliant blue fish (one of a skool!), created from glass found along the Thames   – pretty impressive, huh?

Tideline Art

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It’s been year’s – dare I say decade’s – since I last took to the pebbled shores, and as I am not blessed with a seaside location, I’ve taken it upon myself to turn this childhood hobby, into a commuting past-time. Plus, no need for a bucket and spade (and quite frankly, you’d probably rather leave things were you find them, if you’re doing this in the inner city) but if you look beyond the obvious what…treasures lurk on your commuter trail?

Last week alone, I discovered the following:

  • A discarded umbrella: so lovingly shoved behind a phone box and of course, mandatory for this time of year
  • A set of nail polish toes dividers: once used to make someone’s digits decidedly pretty

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  • A giant paperclip: the picture does not do it justice – it was huge

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  • A half-smoked cigar: disgusting habit, but rather glamorously unfamiliar in a London suburb
  • An unused paper label: crying out for that perfect gift to adorn

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  • A babies dummy: the bright blue caught my eye from quite some distance away, I was hoping for better things

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  • Finally, a hubcap, surely the urban beachcombers dream?

I can’t promise you’ll find objects of any worth, but it might just give your daily commute a slightly different perspective.

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My Weekend in Pics

Ok, I regularly bring you stories from my daily commute – the entertaining, touching, romantic and darn right jaw-dropping – so I thought it was about time I shared with you a little snippet of what I like to do when I’m not in full ‘Peak Time Tales’ mode. Enjoy, I certainly did!

An early morning run along the Thames is all I need to start the day off in the right direction

An early morning run along the Thames is all I need to start the day off in the right direction

Running is fast (well, not that fast) becoming one of my new best friends and with autumn in full swing, what better excuse than to lace-up and appreciate the season in all her colourful glory.

Relax Spa, London - does exactly what it claims to do.

Relax Spa, London – does exactly what it claims to do

Fresh, flamboyant & utterly gorgeous

Relax Spa, London, interior – Fresh, flamboyant & utterly gorgeous

A gift voucher had been burning a hole in my pocket since last Christmas, so I thought it was about time I put it to good use and decided to treated myself to a gorgeous manicure. I felt completely at ease as soon as I set foot inside the beautifully refreshing, Relax Spa, London. I opted for a midnight blue shade with subtle gold flecks from beauty salon favourite, Jessica.

I may've just found my perfect blue

I may’ve found my perfect blue

A quick peek at the always impressive display from, The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers, and I was well on my way. Next stop, The National Portrait Gallery, for Grayson Perry’s, ‘Who Are You?’ in conjunction with the Channel 4 TV series. If you’ve not yet seen the programme or viewed the exhibition, they are an absolute must – fast becoming my cultural favourites of 2014.

Always a crowd pleaser - The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers

Always a crowd pleaser – The Covent Garden Academy of Flowers

Perry's, Who Are You? at The National Portrait Gallery

Perry’s, Who Are You? at The National Portrait Gallery

Section taken from, Comfort Blanket, Grayson Perry

Section taken from Perry’s, Comfort Blanket

The Earl of Essex, Grayson Perry

Perry’s, The Earl of Essex

A personal favourite of mine was Perry’s piece entitled, Memory Jar. Depicting husband and wife Christopher & Veronica Devas, it illustrates their changing relationship as Christopher silently battles against Alzheimer’s disease (see previous blog post – https://peaktimetales.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/in-loving-memory/).

Perry's, Memory Jar

Perry’s, Memory Jar

I’m always on the lookout for somewhere new and exciting to eat. Having a mostly vegan diet, I can say with confidence, that the choice is limited. There are occasions, however, when I jump off the vegan bandwagon and this weekend was one of them. I’d heard good things about the Mexican restaurant, Wahaca, and having eyed-up their menu, my tastebuds got the better of me dragging me kicking and screaming…ahem…to their Wimbledon branch.

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Horchata (vegan) heaven – almond milk, rice milk & cinnamon

Result! My tastebuds were well and truly tantalised and I can guarantee, Wahaca, was a welcomed addition to my palate.

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Give a girl a mani & a horchata & she’s happy!

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Worth jumping off the vegan band wagon for – delicious beetroot salad, black bean tostadas & tortilla nibbles

There was only one thing to do on Sunday evening; sit back, switch off and enjoy the beautiful aromas from my newly purchased, True Grace, (Jasmine Tea) scented candle. Devine.

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True Grace candle courtesy of, Relax spa, London

In Loving Memory

I felt compelled to write this following the latest instalment of Grayson Perry’s, Who Are You? Delving into the lives of people who are or who have faced barriers and challenges with regards to their identity, Perry attempts to capture their journeys’ through his own very unique approach to art.

By spending time with each of his subjects, ranging from Jazz, a female-to-male transsexual, to Rylan Clark, of X Factor fame, Perry gives the viewer a very intimate, albeit brief snapshot, into the challenges faced by certain individuals within society.

It was with tears in my eyes that I watched last week’s episode. Husband and wife, Christopher and Veronica Devas, may look like the doting couple. But what lies beneath Christopher’s apparent nonchalant exterior, is the utterly devastating disease, Alzheimer’s. As Christopher slowly becomes a shell of the man he used to be, Veronica – the grey-haired warrior – so humbly fights his battle for him, very much playing the mediator and the victim.

Having experienced the affects of Alzheimer’s, first-hand – I lived with my nan during her battle against the disease – I felt every painful attempt Veronica made to acknowledge, while at the same time, desperately try to ignore, the torment this disease brings. I cannot stress enough how this dilapidating illness eats away at all who come into contact with its relentless character. Harder still, is watching the people you love look on as their mum, dad, sister, wife or brother, become more and more distant, helpless and lacking any sense of identity they once had.

Perry chose to depict Christopher and Veronica in the form of a jar. Beautifully engraved onto what Perry entitled, Memory Jar, it captures the couple sheltering from the demon that is, Alzheimer’s. Protected by a bold red blanket and in each other’s arms, the image almost takes on a role-reversal approach. At first glance, Christopher appears to stand tall and defiant, protecting Veronica from the evil monster lurking overhead. Viewers of Memory Jar, unaware of the background of the couple’s story, could quite easily misinterpret the image, thinking it Veronica who is the sufferer (this was in fact a comment I heard repeatedly on my recent visit to The National Portrait Gallery, where Who Are You? is being exhibited). But what I saw was the hollow eyes of a man, standing tall and lifeless in the grasp of his wife’s unfailing arms. She is the underlying support and strength of this relationship. Also suffering in silence.

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While sitting for Perry, Veronica mentioned how she wished this process could’ve taken place a few years’ earlier, when Christopher would’ve perhaps appreciated the sentiment and experience; leaving her with an ever-lasting portrait of them during times a little more memorable they had no doubt become.

If viewers take one thing from this documentary, I hope it’s the simple fact that on the surface, all may appear fine and dandy, but it’s often what’s going on inside; behind closed doors or within the realms of our own, often daunting thoughts, that make us who we are. The clichéd, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, couldn’t be more apt.

For more information go to:

www.npg.org.uk

www.channel4.com

www.alzheimers.org.uk