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Wendy Shillam
London
An urbanist by profession and a lover of city living by temperament.
Interests: Coffee in any square or friendly coffee shop, eco-living, DIY, vegetable growing on my roof garden, cooking for friends, I write fiction as a serious hobby, Out and about I love walking, sailing, sightseeing, Give me a sunny beach and a thick paperback and I'm a happy sandgirl.
Recent Activity
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Weeds, Malvern Spring Show, biodiversity, crop diversity Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
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weeds, biodiversity, Malvern show. Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Author's Song
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Yesterday I was in Bath and took the opportunity to meet Lynn Keddie. I've actually only met Lynn face-to-face once before, when she came to photograph my garden. She contacted me, cold, by DM, inviting herself to photograph the rooftopvegplot. That's the name I give my vegetable garden, perched on the flat roof of our studio, high above Central London. It’s my pride and joy. So obviously when she asked, I said Yes straight away. Lynn is one of those twitter contacts who has turned into a friend rather swiftly. Lynn @Lynnkeddie is starting to run seminars on the business... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2015 at The Author's Song
I've always had a strangely ambivalent relationship with money. I've never tried too hard to earn it; preferring intellectual challenge and an engaging life, ahead of a profitable one. I put this down to a secure upbringing. Psychologically money and love are mixed up in my mind. If I feel happy and secure, I 'feel' wealthy. Since that very secure childhood, I haven’t worried too much about financial matters. Like Mr Micawber, I’ve always assumed that, ‘Something will turn up.’ Of course, I recognise that a feeling of security can be as dangerous as a feeling of insecurity. I've enjoyed... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2015 at The Author's Song
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I've always been intrigued by that line in the song Cockeyed Optimist from South Pacific. When I was younger I didn't even know what Jell-o was, and instead of a jelly, I imagined a bowl of jelly babies. I couldn't fathom why remarking that life is akin to a superfluity of sweeties would make the girl seem 'more intelligent and smart'. But in contemplating an enjoyable and social weekend, I too can't help but see the last few days in terms of bounty. I recognise that I'm coming out of a type of hibernation precipitated by winter and by mourning.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2015 at The Author's Song
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Hoar frost in Regent's Park early January 2015 I've been expecting ...dreading ... the appearance of the first frost on my rooftop vegplot. Last weekend we went to the country and I was fascinated to discover how much browner it was than our own garden. There was a spinkling of snow on the ground. Even in the park, ten minutes walk away we've experienced frosts. But on the roof - not yet. Not until today. When I got up the temperature guage read zero. I tweeted to all my gardening friends, ’The first frost - 0°C in the greenhouse!’. I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2015 at The Author's Song
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Hoar frost in Regents Park last week I just tweeted to all my friends, ’The first frost - 0°C in the greenhouse!’. I was reading from the automated temperature gauge that gives me a warning if the temperatures are low on the rooftop plot. But when I got up there a different scene greeted me. Nowhere could I find evidence of frost. The sweet peas planted late last year are growing well. The Osteospermum is flowering! Nasturtiums are in bud. There isn’t a limp leaf anywhere to be seen. I’m pretty sure that it was a false alarm. The greenhouse temperature is now 16°C, the sun is shining, there is blue sky. Could it have frosted overnight? Or could I have misread the thermometer? The maximum-minimum thermometer in the greenhouse has gone nowhere near to freezing. Here, in the centre of London I can only go on my own measurements.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2015 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
When I'm busy I have to remind myself that there is time. It's an oxymoron, but I think as we get older we discover that we have more time than we imagine. When I was in my twenties, I never missed the January sales. It helped that my office was opposite Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge. I'd observe the stock being assembled in the window. I'd see the posters go up. I'd wonder at the reductions. Then, at lunchtime on the first day, I'd pitch in with hoards of other wannabe Sloanes. I found some lovely bargains and a few toads.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2015 at The Author's Song
Dear Meg, You always find the right words. Thank you. Draaisma's book says that memory is a palimpsest, a series of engravings traced over the original. Perhaps I am in the process of tracing right now?
Toggle Commented Jan 16, 2015 on The Nostalgia Factory at The Author's Song
Yesterday we launched Set in Modern, an on-line literary journal and an off-line community for writers and readers. Meg and I have been planning it for weeks. Part of me would like to say that we've got it all sussed. But we haven't and I don't really mind. This is a soft launch. We're proposing the idea and we will be flexible according to the response. I'm enjoying the frissant of it. If it were all fixed, it might cease to live for me. On some aspects we are very clear. We have no wish to replicate the mass market... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2015 at The Author's Song
This year I've determined to concentrate on reading new work. This is partly from taste and partly work related, (more anon). Some years ago Mike and I decided to attend one new play, once a month. We live in the West End. You would think that the chances would be high of finding twelve new plays in a whole year. But that turned out not to be the case. On Shaftesbury Avenue the plays were all revivals, or simpering lightweight fluffy things, with pop stars for leads and re-mixes for melodies. Off Avenue, in the 'burbs' of Brixton or Hampstead... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2015 at The Author's Song
Yesterday a brisk wind flurried around the gables and rooflights of Great Titchfield Street. It blew away the clouds, transforming the day into one of those bright and breezy days that are more common in March than January. The sunlight glared unsparingly into our top floor studio, highlighting every unkempt corner, every dusty sheaf of papers, every unshelved pile of books. It was time for a spring clean. Once I actually commence the process of clearing up, I quite enjoy it. But, that does not mean that I relish such days. The secret, if secret there be, is to approach... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2015 at The Author's Song
The disconnect between the extraordinary events unfolding in Paris this week and my own life's modest progression is difficult to reconcile. I don't follow the news as I work. But yesterday, every so often, in checking my Twitter feed, or turning on the radio news, I was reminded of the way that some peoples' quotidian existence has been dramatically and tragically interrupted. The press relish these events. They make a good story. They are the stuff of drama, of suspense, of horror. A banal tune can infiltrate my mind, so that I inadvertently hum it, as I go. In the same way these days of bad news are like an earworm, infecting my thoughts. Logically I know that, even if something equally ghastly were to happen in Central London today, I would be extremely unluck to be caught up in it. I've lived in London since the early eighties. I've... Continue reading
Reblogged Jan 10, 2015 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
The disconnect between the extraordinary events unfolding in Paris this week and my own life's modest progression is difficult to reconcile. I don't follow the news as I work. But yesterday, every so often, in checking my Twitter feed, or turning on the radio news, I was reminded of the way that some peoples' quotidian existence has been dramatically and tragically interrupted. The press relish these events. They make a good story. They are the stuff of drama, of suspense, of horror. A banal tune can infiltrate my mind, so that I inadvertently hum it, as I go. In the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2015 at The Author's Song
Two days ago I was feeling super confident. That's a feeling I don't often have. I'd had a really successful day and a good meeting with Meg, when we'd made loads of decisions that seemed right. I'd had a pleasant lunch with Mike. I'd upgraded my phone, always something I need to psych myself up for. I'd even featured on TV (a tiny snippet about my rooftopvegplot on ITV). My Twitter feed was buzzing. Yesterday I had a long day, working in Devon, walking around windy housing estates in the rain. If the day didn't dampen my spirits, it at... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2015 at The Author's Song
S sent me an email yesterday. It depicted a large wiro bound artists pad. On the open page was a date, a fews days ago, a lovely photo of her mum and my mum both smiling like film stars, sitting on a sunny park bench. Below S had written, in big legible text, Margaret and H in the park. The memory jogger was my idea. S was worried that her mum was getting forgetful. 'Perhaps a scrapbook will help?' I envisioned something like a page a day diary. Something akin to the scrapbooks I used to make as a child... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2015 at The Author's Song
Yesterday dawned late and gloomy. I lingered in bed, until shamed into getting up by a bedraggled dog and Mike, returning from a very wet walk. I'd arranged to see my friend S for a quick coffee and decided to augment my morning treat by going to John Lewis afterwards. I felt in need of a little shopping therapy. It was lovely relaxing with a friend, though the none too salubrious surroundings of Starbucks did put a slight cloud on the meeting. I really do hate chains. But S is here to visit her elderly mum and needed to be... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2015 at The Author's Song
Yesterday I finished reading Simon Critchley's experimental novel, Memory Theatre and today I went to an art show, Mirrorcity at the Hayward. They seemed to dovetail perfectly. Mirrorcity is, on the face of it, about London. It brings together a number of artists whose work is concerned with documenting or interpreting. But the curators warn that the artist's mirror is flawed, often reflecting a fiction rather than truth. There is a wall of posters for outrageous events, the almost-happenings of a city that might be London, but which is in fact too hard edged, too honest to be the genteel... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2015 at The Author's Song
My New Year's resolution is a sort of diet. Nothing unusual there. Everyone I speak to is on a diet, or has resolved to walk further, write more, read more or cycle more. New Year is the time we all try to change our habits. But, why should we choose this time of year to do such a hard thing? The coldest, most depressing time of the year? There's no denying that most of us are creatures of habit. The best way to gauge your own susceptibility to routine is to consider a journey you take regularly. Do you always... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2015 at The Author's Song
I feel a bit like the Queen, when she referred to one the the years of her reign as 'annus horribilis', hoping I suppose that the latinisation would subdue the bite of the critique. 2014 has not been great for me. The year has been overwhelmed by the death of my dad and looking after Mum. My writing just stopped for about six months. I even neglected the garden. And watching things get out of hand in the planting beds, felt like watching my own mind unravel. But I'm a warrior. I didn't give up the battle completely. I managed... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2015 at The Author's Song
It could have been such a lovely day today. It started so well. Mike and I took Rosa to the park and we admired the hoar frost. The benches were laden with tiny icicles, all standing to attention like tinsel soldiers. Every blade of grass was ice-diamond encrusted. The sky was a perfect blue. By the time we'd returned home the brightness of the day had infected us both. Mike set about some electrical work that had been looming. I got down to writing the protocols for the workshops I'll be running in the springtime. The ideas had been ticking... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2014 at The Author's Song
A glorious blue sky day. In the park, as we walked along, Rosa gambolling at our feet, it felt like summer in my head. Of course the reality was somewhat different. The ground was hard with a heavy frost. The clay solid. The paleness of the grass streaked by low winter sunshine made it look blue with cold. My feet knew this feeling. I caught a glimpse of the thermometer in the car, it read 3C. It had certainly tipped below zero during the night in Regents Park, but down in our part of the city, temperatures might have teetered around the zero mark, but I dont think they went far below. We have air conditioning extracts to the west and south of us, not to mention several kitchen extracts that issue from adjacent chimney pots. Our studio is directly below the roof garden. It has to get really cold... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
A glorious blue sky day. In the park, as we walked along, Rosa gambolling at our feet, it felt like summer in my head. Of course the reality was somewhat different. The ground was hard with a heavy frost. The clay solid. The paleness of the grass streaked by low winter sunshine made it look blue with cold. My feet knew this feeling. I caught a glimpse of the thermometer in the car, it read 3C. It had certainly tipped below zero during the night in Regents Park, but down in our part of the city, temperatures might have teetered... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2014 at The Author's Song
I must be the only person who starts their New Year's resolutions on 28th December. But foolish as I am, I do tend to rush in early. At university, I was the only one to hand in projects before time, while my angelic friends continued to fret and tinker until the last minute. I often wondered if I'd have landed a first if I'd bothered in those last precious few hours... Now, thirty years later I am still maddeningly on time. I've made my resolutions and I'm keen to get started, even if that means forswearing alcohol during Hogmanay. I... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2014 at The Author's Song
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Today, for the first time the garden looks really wintry. Leaves have been falling and now only stems remain on most of the climbers. The constant rain of recent days has caused everything to sag and drip, as if the plants are tired of summer, tired of growing. The rooftopvegplot is, fundamentally, a summer exercise. Even though I extend the season with herbs and perennials and even though the greenhouse soldiers on, there is less reason to sit up here now – and on a cold, wet day, only a hardy soul would do so. But there is always some bounty in the winter months; I could pick sage, or parsley, wild celery or thyme. Even the odd Russian kale and chicory are soldiering on. In the greenhouse lettuces and tomatoes are still cropping. But some of my autumn crops have been devastated by slugs. And I, distracted by family... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2014 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT