28 Jun 2014

Travel: Monks House, Sussex (Virginia and Leonard Woolf)

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
I recently visited Monks House in the Sussex villiage of Rodmell near Lewes which used to be the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf. The house was purchased by the couple for £700 (!) in 1919 and was initially used by them as a retreat from busy London life before becoming their primary residence in later years after their Bloomsbury residence was damaged in an air-raid. 
When Leonard and Virginia bought Monks House it was in quite a sorry state, but over the years the couple lovingly restored it, decorating it with the help of their artist friends such as Vanessa Bell, whose work can be seen throughout the property - on and above the fireplace in Virginia's tranquil bedroom (above), as well as on lamps, teacups and furniture throughout the open rooms of the house. 
In the 1930s, Virginia's writing lodge was constructed at the far end of the gardens and it was here that she wrote parts of her novels including Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and Between the Acts. Sadly, it was also in the writer's lodge that Virginia wrote her farewell letter to Leonard in March 1941 before drowning herself in the near-by River Ouse. When her body was recovered three weeks later, Leonard scattered her ashes under a large elm tree in the garden - a peaceful spot today watched over by a bust of Virginia, whilst a bust of Leonard, who lived in the house until his death in 1969, is perched further down the wall overlooking a perfect lily pond. 
Above: A bust of Virginia in the living room of Monks House with green walls painted by Virginia herself.
Above: The rear of Monks House leading onto the beautiful gardens.
Above: Garden details. The gardens were beautiful - well maintained in a way that made them look wild, natural and spontaneous but still cared for. Flowerbeds spilled over onto pathways which themselves gave way to wild grass from which two little beehives were peaking out.  
Above: Virginia's writing lodge where she penned many of her great novels, essays and letters and sadly her farewell note to Leonard before her suicide in 1941. To the side is a small patio where Leonard and Virginia used to sit with friends in the summer and a vast lawn where they used to play bowls and entertain the many creative guests who visited them.
Above: Inside the writer's lodge. It was light and peaceful with beautiful views across the expansive gardens. 
We had a wonderful afternoon at Monks House - the gardens were definitely the highlight and visitors are free to explore them as they wish. I saw someone sitting quietly under a tree reading, enjoying the tranquility of the surroundings, whilst two elderly women held fort on the patio outside Virginia's writing lodge, reclining in deck chairs and enjoying the beautiful weather. It's certainly a good place to go if you want to escape from the world for a bit and soak up some inspiration - I can see why it made such a good weekend retreat for Virginia and Leonard all those years ago! As a writer myself it was lovely to visit the home of Virginia Woolf, and I would definitely recommend it - though not many rooms of the house are actually open to the public which was a shame.

Thanks to ArtsEater for info on Monks House.

26 Jun 2014

Fashion: Styling printed trousers

This summer I am embracing jazzy trousers! I am sick of skinny jeans but not 'feeling it' with dresses at the moment, so lightweight, printed trousers are currently offering me the perfect solution. They can be dressed up or down, are thin enough to keep you cool on a hot summer's day and also have quite a flattering fit. I'll admit, I did have to force myself to wear them in public the first time, because if you know me then you'll understand how far from my comfort zone these would traditionally be! But once I got going and stopped worrying that everyone would think I'd gone out in my pajamas, I actually felt liberated! Here I have put together a number of wearable ways you could style printed trousers this season if, like me, you're a little nervous of prints!

Evening Out . . .
TrousersTopShoesBagEarrings (similar)

 Here I have styled this pair as I would wear them for an evening out - with a silky black v-neck top from River Island anchoring the look along with block heeled strappy sandals (a steal at £30 from Next - I've seen exactly the same in other shops for over double the price!), a minimalist black bag with silver hardware and some silver earrings that subtly complement the print of the trousers. 

Day Out . . .

For this day time look I picked a floral print pair of trousers from Monsoon and paired them with a simple, loose-fit sleeveless shirt that I would wear slightly unbuttoned with a nice little cami underneath. For shoes, personally I have a pair of really comfy mint/turquoise flat sandals from Aldo a couple of years ago that I would wear with this, but this beaded pair from New Look are similar and pick up on the colours of the trousers nicely. Add a tan, woven, across-body bag to hold all your essentials, some tortoise-shell effect sunglasses and a simple watch like this one from Fossil and you're ready for summer adventures!

Travel . . .

TrousersTop (similar) \ Hat (similar) \ Rings \ Bracelet \ Bag \ Shoes

For this look I've paied these bluebell print trousers with a denim shirt with its sleeves rolled up for a casual look - I would pop a simple white cami underneath it allowing the option to lose the shirt should you get too hot. For jewellery, a clutter of mixed metal pieces would look nice and add a bit of a twist - I've gone for two embossed, twist-lock bracelets from Topshop and some unusual star-sign rings (Virgo for me, Scorpio for the boyfriend!), but you could just stick to your favourite pieces you've picked up on your travels which I think would enhance this outfit no end. The teal bag is practical and also picks up some colours from the trousers, whilst the hat and shoes mean you'll be sun-safe and ready for the open road!

So there you go, simple summer outfits that avoid dresses, denim (mostly) and having your legs out! WINNING AT LIFE! 

24 Jun 2014

The Arts: King Lear at the National Theatre

"O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven!
I would not be mad.
Keep me in temper. I would not be mad."
... So speaks King Lear, who ends up dressed only in a hospital gown and a flowery hat feeding 'smoked cheese' (a banana) to an invisible mouse. I think it's safe to say, he's mad! But, this being Shakespeare, he's not mad without good reason. Having divided his kingdom between the two most sycophantic of his three daughters and banished the third who refused to follow her sisters' bad example, he's since been mistreated, stripped of his army, home and clothes and found himself wandering the moors rambling about where it all went wrong . . .
Directed by Sam Mendes, this production of King Lear is set in a modern, totalitarian state where the Lear we meet is a dictator-like figure - complete with armed guard and his own Stalin-esque statue. His daughters - the tightly wound Goneril, Regan the sex kitten who seems to get off on punishing others, and the pure of heart young Cordelia - are played with great skill by Kate Fleetwood, Anna Maxwell Martin and Olivia Vinall respectively, whilst Adrian Scarborough's understated fool is a joy to watch. Praise also goes to Tom Brooke's endearing Edgar who disguises himself as a naked mad man to avoid his evil brother Edmund Blackadder - here portrayed as brilliantly slimy by Sam Troughton. Stephen Boxer is particularly affecting as the Earl of Gloucester and the scene where he meets the hospital gown-clad Lear on the cliffs of Dover was a touching highlight of the show. But without doubt the star here is Simon Russell-Beale as King Lear. The slight afflictions he adopts  - the stoop, the rolling hand, the wringing fingers - make his Lear's descent in to madness all the more believeable and though he is physically shorter than most other cast members, when he flies into a rage he commands the vast stage of the Oliver Theatre with ease.
Personally, having not seen a professional production of one of Shakespeare's plays before, I was nervous that the flowery language and three and a half hour length of the production might alienate me. But Shakespeare's plays are so much easier to understand when you actually see them being acted out, as apposed to reading the texts as I had done as part of my studies over the years. So if you are a theatre fan who is nervous of Shakespeare, don't be. Perhaps unsurprisingly considering the director, this particular production was very filmic, with projected backdrops and roaming sound effects on top of a cast of TV and film familiars. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone wanting to see an outstanding piece of serious theatre. I was also happy to finally see a production at the National Theatre - a venue I read and write about so much for work but had never actually seen a show at! I'm glad to have at last put right that wrong! 
Production photos: The National Theatre website.  

King Lear plays at the National Theatre until 2nd July.

Arcade Fire at Earls Court, London

Photos - Copywrite Claire B / Lily in the Labyrinth - DO NOT USE WITHOUT PERMISSION.

I guess sometimes my day-job has some pretty amazing perks - backstage and photography pit passes for Arcade Fire's recent Earls Court gigs has got to be one of them! I was 'officially' there to report on and photograph some new technology being used by the band, but as someone who has followed Arcade Fire since their 2004 debut album, Funeral, this was never going to be just another work assignment! 
When the band came out I fought for my place in the boiling hot photography pit, the 19,000-strong crowd roaring behind me as Win Butler and co emerged onto the vast stage and I had a mild panic attack about getting a good shot on my new camera whose settings I am still finding my way around! Thankfully, the shots came out, as you can see here, and I am thrilled with them! A number of them will be appearing in print, in the magazine I am Deputy Editor of, but I couldn't resist sharing the rest of my favourites here on my creative blog. Because I was there 'with the crew', rather than just with the national press, I was the only photographer allowed in the pit during the encore - so I know I got some pretty unique shots and I'm pretty please with them, despite battling with camera settings and the like. See what you think!

I kindly ask that you do not use these photos anywhere without permission. Please email lilyinthelabyrinth@gmail.com should you wish to use them for any purpose. Thank you. 

Love from Lily

13 Jun 2014

Fashion: Oh So Safari!

- Short sleeve Safari dress - £42 - Cath Kidston sale (was £60)
Tusk necklace - £10 - Orelia
Moon necklace - £10 - Orelia
Evil Eye necklace - £15 - Orelia
Eastern Promise stacking ring set - £12 - Accessorize
Tatum saddle bag - £25 - Ollie & Nic sale (was £55)
Tober sandals - £40 - Aldo  
Brown acetate cat-eye sunglasses - £119 - Marc by Marc Jacobs

Lily says: I've had my eye on this khaki, safari print dress from Cath Kidston for a couple of months, and now it's gone into the sale I couldn't resist imagining how I might accessorize it. As you can see, I've gone with tan and gold toned pieces to complement the khaki of the dress - I also think tan and gold look great with a tan, which you'd surely have if you were on safari! (I know, I know - I'm more likely to wear this dress to South London than South Africa, but hey - a girl can dream!) The leather saddle bag from Ollie & Nic is currently in the sale at half its original price, and is big enough to hold all your essentials for a day out, whilst the Tober sandals from Aldo are both practical and on-trend (that dreaded phrase!). For jewellery, I think I'd go for a few delicate charm necklaces layered up to give the illusion that I'd picked them up on my many travels; I'd also chuck on some stacking rings for good measure - well, why not? Hope you like this collection! Do you have this dress? If so, how do you accessorize it?

6 Jun 2014

Peg Dolls: Lily Labyrinth

It occurred to me that I have never dedicated a post to one of my most prized possessions - Lily, my antique wooden peg doll and the muse of this blog. Well it's time to right that wrong and celebrate the wooden doll that holds a dear place in my heart! My obsession with wooden dolls - or Penny Woodens as they are sometimes known - stems back to my childhood when there used to be a rather gentle cartoon on TV called Pinny's House. For some reason Pinny and her adventures really captured my imagination and - though at the time I wasn't short of a Barbie or two - I always dreamed of owning something a bit more special - a wooden doll just like Pinny. As I grew up, I saw wooden dolls like this trapped behind glass in various museums and stately homes and the prospect of ever owning one seemed slimmer and slimmer - after-all, if they're in museums they must be incredibly expensive, right?! But as time and technology developed (we're talking a decade or so here), some wistful eBay browsing lead me to a few rare listings of antique wooden peg dolls! Some had broken, detached limbs; some were missing their noses; some had chunks of wood missing from their faces - and then there was Lily. The perfect example. Rose-bud cheeks, powder-blue eyes and those signature swoops of painted hair. Needless to say, I bid for her and won. She was actually listed with another doll and as the pair were quite pricey I split the bill with my Mum who also loves a good antique. 
Today, our shared collection includes Lily's sister named, funnily enough, Pinny along with Emily and Jessie who we've found since. But Lily is all mine. My very own beautiful peg doll. She stands keeping guard on my dressing table with a mint-green ribbon tied around her neck and I love her to pieces. If you scroll down you can view a short video I made of these peg dolls - it's nothing much, but I thought it might be nice for you to see the dolls with some movement.
Video of Lily and Friends:

Don't forget to check out my other blog posts on Antique Wooden Peg Dolls:
Peg Doll Jessie
Pinny's House - Coming Soon!
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