Monday, 7 November 2011

BBC London 12th November

I'm thinking about Christmas, I really am. I'm thinking that this year, I won't embark upon elaborate stamped cards that I begin too late, which means I miss last post dates (ref: last year). I'm thinking that I won't start to enjoy the build up too late, so that I forget the actual event is happening really soon, and begin the shopping too late (ref: most years).

 Which is why, in November, mid-November (late for my organised friend Tracy, but early for me) I'm reading Sarah Raven's Complete Christmas, currently £16.42, instead of £25, on Amazon.

(I interviewed Sarah Raven once for The Independent on Sunday, in her beautiful cutting garden. It was around this time of year, I bought a Christmas wreath in her shop, and wanted to buy everything else. So I took an online browse again, and still want to buy just about everything she sells. Have a look at


The V&A have a fantastic Christmas catalogue this year. I usually go to them for cards, when I'm not attempting ill-fated personal designs, and this year, I'm predicting that I'll be getting more than cards from the shop.

'Rainbow Embroidery' pack of 10 cards, £4.75

 Here's a surprise in a cup - the hidden animal in this one is a bear, but the collection includes an owl and a fox. I like.

'Hidden Bear' teacup, £18

Giving a gift of a game at Christmas is a good idea I think - it's bound to be given a go on the day - and even better if the game looks beautiful sitting on a shelf for the rest of the year. This Deer Jar game is a sophisticated version of Jenga: pile as many antlers on the stag as you can...


I'm a sucker for little bird ornaments, especially for decoration at Christmas, and THESE are ONLY £2.50 each. Which, as a fake-bird lover, is a bargain.

On that note, every year (to the despair of my husband), I buy bejewelled birds from Paperchase. Here they are, just waiting to be added to my growing collection:

8 birds for £14

Back to the V&A, and illustrator and typographic expert James Brown has contributed to the Cherry on the Cake: Paper collection -  a screenprint of William Morris' wise words:


Some lovely books too, including this newly illustrated version of Hans Christian Anderson's fairytales:



Donna Wilson, the fabric and knitting impresario, has some great products. Not always a cheap option. But if you're buying for someone who you know you're going to end up spending a bit more on, then have a look. (And there are some bargains, if you keep reading). Some examples:

Fox scarf, 100% lambswool, £47 (also in orange)

Cushions are her big thing. As evidenced by:

Robin cushion. It's £70. So, just for looking. But very cute.


Leaf motif cushion, £72. Also covetable.

Good news is that there's also an 'under £25' section in her online shop, which includes some very cute stuff. She's known for her 'creatures', and has some make your own kits, chiming nicely with this year's DIY atmosphere:

Make your own magpie, for only £16

And here's one of a series of china plates that you'd surely be happy to be gifted:



It's also good to be able to post light things to overseas, and (along with the candle angel wings from Caravan ( which I'm always going on about) my favourite things in this category usually come from Candlestick Press. I mentioned them on the show when they set up a couple of years ago, and they're going strong. The idea is, instead of a card, which is (and I say this despite my love of the things)disposable, send a little pamphlet of poetry. 

There are special pamphlets for Christmas - this one, The Twelve Poems of Christmas, is selected and introduced by Carol Ann Duffy. Really ideal for a post-able present, AND at £4.95, not the most expensive present either. All the pamphlets come with envelope, and a blank bookmark so you can write your own message inside.

It doesn't have to be Christmas themed, either. They have a whole collection, including:

Ten poems about puddings, intro by Nigel Slater

Ten poems about bicycles

Ten poems about London

Also, ten poems about dogs, about cats, mothers, twelve about get the picture. Have a look on Candlestick Press for the whole bookshelf. (


Knoll, the iconic (you know what that means - not budget) design brand are having their annual sample sale on Saturday 19th November. Get there early, and it could very well be worth a visit. (As if the bargains aren't enough to propel us there, they also promise Prosecco, pastries and live music. You probably recognise one of their most famous designs, going strong since 1929 - the Barcelona chair:

Well, a black version of this is going to be the star buy of the day - usually retailing at £4572, it's £899. If you're planning to get a design classic, this is probably the time to bite the bullet. 

As well as that, they promise large reductions on ex-display and sample furniture, many of which are, they say, classic pieces of design history. They'll be selling Eero Saarinen's Tulip tables as well as more recent collections by designer Ross Lovegrove. Have  a look online ( for the products. 

Brilliantly, if you want to order new furniture on the day, you'll get a 15% discount, too. 

Like I say, worth a visit. That's 19th November, from 10am until 4pm (and it pays to be an early bird, in this case), at Knoll International which is 91 Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, EC1V 7EX.


Vintage Wonderland, the last one of the year, is happening this very weekend, on Sunday 13th. From 11am until 4.30pm, in Finsbury Town Hall (beloved of George Fornby), the event that Vogue Italia called 'the most exquisite vintage fashion fair' will be in full swing.

Don't miss it. For an entrance fee of £4, you'll get 50 traders from all across the UK selling the finest picks from their collections, spanning from the 1800s to the 1980s. Expect Christian Lacroix, Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood, and Biba, amongst others. There will be mens and womenswear, cards, baubles, jewellery, vintage film posters, perfume (hopefully not vintage), and shoes.

Have a look here ( for all the details. 


I like this independent toy shop (hard to find) which has a great collection of potential gifts. Hop Toy Shop (, from baby upwards, has a particularly good creative section, which I think is always fun for kiddiwinks around Christmas. Eg:

Containing everything you need to make three owls (and who wouldn't want to?), and at £9.95, the Owl House Family craft kit on my shopping list.


Stackable crayons (non-toxic) from Playon Crayon at £9.95 are another excellent gift, especially good for toddlers and chubster fingers (including mine).


I defy you to find someone who wouldn't want a toadstool nightlight. I'm not even thinking about children here. (£32.95)

Ditto with this marvellous little thing, the Hexbug:

It's a robotic bug (choice of five shapes and sizes)that whizzes its way around, avoiding objects in its way. If you clap your hands or make a loud noise, it will veer away from you - it can hear! Amazing. £10.95, and again, ideal for a post-able present.

I could go on and on, but if I had a scooter or a bike, I might well consider adorning it with this practical bell:

This is the Crazy Stuff cat bell - there's also a bunny and a crocodile, and they're all £10. 

I know I said it was a children's shop, but my over-enthusiasm probably means I never really progressed from the age of seven.   


To quickly re-establish that I am actually very hip and happening, I'd like to point you in the direction of quite a new website called Near to Hear ( Set up by Rich Martin who works in the industry, it's a brilliant guide to everything MUSIC that's happening in Brixton. If you want to go to a gig, or get someone a present of tickets to a gig (which I also like doing), have a look on this website first. 

Rich has weekly gig listings, but what makes this site really interesting is that he also has a fantastic timeline of Brixton's musical history, interviews with current bands, and listening suggestions. 

Rich genuinely lives in Brixton, so is LITERALLY near, and he LITERALLY hears. Definitely worth a perusal. 

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