This is Wendy Shillam's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Wendy Shillam's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
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
Metafiction and history. How we construct our own life-stories. Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2015 at The Author's Song
Image
Revolution Among the Lettuces In my Germinal bed I am planting Chard (26 March), Round Lettuce (5th April), Radish (8th April), and rocket (13th April). The Floréal bed will contain Burnet, Orach, Borage, Chive and Wild Mustard. Prairial will contain Thyme, Strawberry, Peas and Verbena. Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2015 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Dear Barbara, I thought it was a pretty wild infestation - now I understand! Makes a good image though.
Image
What are beneficial insects - and what are pests? organic, beneficial insects, pests, vine weevil Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2015 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Image
Weeds, Malvern Spring Show, biodiversity, crop diversity Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2015 at ROOF TOP VEG PLOT
Image
weeds, biodiversity, Malvern show. Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2015 at The Author's Song
Image
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 of social media. I admit to her that our meeting in Bath yesterday was meant to be a Tweet-up. A type of social media meeting that is, apparently, all the rage in California. My attempts had been dismal. No-one except Lynn had turned up! She consoles me, I am not alone. We're all learning how to use the medium for our own benefit. Many of us could do better. Lynn thinks that it is important to reveal yourself on Twitter, warts and all. She decries the words-not-pictures avatar that some companies choose. Lynn looks in the flesh exactly like her Twitter image. Thick black hair, smiling round face. A kind, intelligent expression. Lynn has discovered that Twitter, like all the other social media sites, must be social first, networking second. In order to help other emerging businesses through the social networking maze, Lynn has started to offer seminars on the topic. They cover all the various platforms, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on. She briefly considers the suitability of each one of them for my new writing collective, Set in Modern. I tell her that we can't bring ourselves to use Facebook. "I respect that," she responds. "Facebook is saturated."... 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 my fair share of overdrafts in my time! Just at the moment I'm finding that money is, if not quite pouring in, at least available. So when four old fashioned twenty pound notes appeared between the leaves of Colin Thubron's book, Emperor, I was not unduly surprised or even delighted. To me, it seemed like further proof that I'm enjoying a season of windfalls. But the notes were obsolete. I almost threw them away, then, just to check, I consulted The Bank of England website to check if they will change outdated notes. The website told me that all banknotes, however old can be changed for new ones. But you have to go, in person, to Threadneedle Street to do it. I took the rather slow number 25 bus down there, not really believing that they would change the notes. I went in through the gloriously imposing doors, where I was greeted by a liveried doorman in a red frock-coat. He led me across a floor of highly polished marble mosaics, into a quaint banking hall, about the size of my second bedroom. And there a very nice woman fulfilled the contract that has been marked on all our bank... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2015 at The Author's Song
Image
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. So it is a relief to recognise once again the good vibes that started to set in the weekend before last, when we had lunch in the country with Mike's siblings. His sister cooked a delicious lunch, we went for an afternoon walk in the sunshine and we talked about writers and publishers. Then out of the blue this Saturday, Mike received a text. 'Fancy meeting for a coffee?' He was chuffed that a woman had invited him out, but mystified as to who she might be. Cruelly, I concluded that it must have been a wrong number! In fact it turned out to be a friend of mine. We did meet at the Scandinavian Kitchen and had another long talk about writers and publishers. I'd been looking forward to Saturday evening and our local cafe's dining club. Once a month, Gitane cooks a real Persian meal. This month was the turn of Qazvin, a city to the north west of Tehran, known for its sweet and sour casseroles and indulgent deserts. There were no jelly babies in this meal, but instead a delicious cucumber flavoured cocktail, beetroot and yoghurt dips, casserole cooked with preserved limes and a pistachio and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2015 at The Author's Song
Image
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 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. 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 mis-read 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. Even local weather stations only half a mile away from me record quite different temperatures. This is the urban heat island effect. It can be very localised, influenced by the specific arrangement of air conditioning units, massive concrete constructions, heat absorbing surfaces and the lack of vegetation. Our area is typical of a hot-spot. And what a hot-spot! For a gardener the effect can be benign. It means I can grow sweet peas all year round.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2015 at The Author's Song
Image
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. Then I discovered that many of the so-called bargains that I bought at the beginning of the sales, were also available right at the end as well. But they'd be marked down again. I discovered that those patient shoppers, who had waited for the last day of the sale, often saved more money than I had. Now, after years of bargain hunting, I have also learned that next year's sale might be better than this year's. And never going to the sales at all saves even more money. But this laid back, wait and see attitude, does not work for ever. Sometimes in life you just have to get started. Procrastination can strike the best of us. It's a constant issue for me and my writing. I'll do some work tomorrow... Concepts are wonderful, shiny things. They sit perfectly in the mind's eye, glinting like rare diamonds. My writing ideas run into pages of hastily scribbled Iphone notes. But if ideas remain in the mind and are never brought to fruition, they will be like fool's gold. They may glitter very prettily, but until they are realised, they will have no value. The only way that a concept can flourish... 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 publishing model. More and more the interesting and the new is being engulfed by the predictable and the tested. The publishing world has become so razzmatazz, so much money is spent on marketing, that less and less goes to authors, less and less goes into the materials we use to make the books. The makers, printers, designers and type setters are all being eased out too. As big business focuses on the big sellers, so the mid list authors are squeezed out. If no one but the writer of a block buster can succeed, literature might be doomed. We don't think it is. In opening Set in Modern, we are betting on the fact that literature is not dead. On the contrary, we think that our blend of fast-track internet publishing and high quality, small circulation limited editions can achieve many things that the current model lacks. We can get work 'out there' far more quickly. One of our fundamental criteria is publishing work that can make a difference. If a writer writes in the passion of the moment, moved by an item of news or a topical debate, they don't want to wait to tell the world. We will... 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 or Wimbledon we did find new work. But often it did not attract. Would it really be worth venturing out on the tube on a cold wintry night to see, 'a challenging piece about drug abuse', or 'an intricate historical drama, take a cushion'? In the end it was Oscar Wilde that tempted us to break that New Year's resolution. A new production of, The Importance of Being Earnest. First night tickets. Dame Maggie Smith as Lady Bracknell. That production is still referred to as 'notable', so I'm not sorry that we broke our resolution to attend. But what might we have seen, if we'd been prepared to be a little more adventurous? This year, I'm finding that new writing is easier to find than new plays. Growth of the Internet has turned us all into writers. There are thousands of bloggers out there, like me, tapping away. Since Dad died I've found myself thinking more and more about memory. Judging by the number of books, both fiction and non fiction on the subject, I am not alone. When I look at a photo of Dad, I don't see the man I knew. It is as if the dynamic and... 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 the whole procedure with stealth and then gusto. When I awoke, I did not have it on my mind. We rose late and breakfasted in a leisurely fashion. Once the coffee cups had been drained and the last corner of toast donated to the dog, we were ready. By that time the sun was bright and the sky was blue. Mike and I both stood up in unison, as if responding to some distant trump. Mike put a pacey CD into the player. And, we were off. Filing was the principal order of the day. Mike quipped that he only files once every two years. It showed. His desk was surrounded by toppling piles of documents. All of them needed sorting. I am not as bad as Mike, but my desk had become laden with half completed tasks. I think my excuse has been grief. For months I've let things slide. I had other things on my mind. But today some sort of corner had been turned. I tipped my in-tray out onto the table and waded in. Bill Frisell's guitar riffs were sorcerers music to Mike and me. We swished about the place, as if possessed, like the apprentice's... 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 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 lived through IRA bombings, through gulf war extremism and anti-semitic attacks. In a city you get used to the odd street fight, the menace of late night drug dealing, football hooliganism and even the frenzied ravings of shoppers fighting to reach a sale bargain. But the drip, drip infiltration of bad news can not help but destabilise me a bit. Yesterday I enjoyed a productive and enjoyable day. I met a friend of mine, a musician, and we discussed recording equipment for the chapel. I had lunch with Mike in a favourite cafe, sitting in the window seat from where I can watch the world go by, waving to neighbours as they passed. I stayed on in the cafe, meeting a couple of officers from Westminster City Council, discussing the detail of the constitution of my neighbourhood forum. The conversation was pertinent to the goings-on in France, though I didn't... 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 least subdued me a little. Then on the train back to London, I heard the news of the terrorist attack in Paris. This morning my personal content is overwhelmed by the public drama. The mass slaying of an editorial meeting in a satirical magazine would be considered absurd if anyone had written it in fiction. The absurdity of the situation is weird. Pundits are seeing this as an attack against the press. Crowds have taken to the street's. I understand that analysis. But I don't think it helps. I was convinced of this when I heard interviews with people who had congregated in Place de la Concorde. They spoke of this as a Muslim attack. They spoke of Marie Le Penne (the far right politician) as the one to solve the problem. But for years France has been a far more racist society than Britain. While we have worked hard to suppress racism, France had been tardy. I remember, years ago, overhearing white French youths taunting their Algerian brothers as, "Arab". I squirmed at the insult. It's a taunt that young Muslim kids in France still suffer. I don't think we can dismiss these killings as an attack against the... 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 when we went on holiday. My diary is a memory jogger. I might use it to record things that happened yesterday, or things that happened twenty years ago. But like my friends memory jogger, just like a desk diary, it must not stop at the present. It should run into the future too, pinpointing things that I hope or expect to happen. Tomorrow I go to Devon. So I'm early to bed, tonight in anticipation of needing to catch a 7.00am train at Paddington. I'm going to need another type of jogger tomorrow morning - a sleep jogger, or as we call them - an alarm call. 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 able to return home quickly. That coffee shop is the nearest for her. She was excited about her son's wedding. The daughter in law to-be popped in for a while. A sweet shy girl. She's a naturopath. I missheard her profession and started asking her questions about glucise and sucrose, believing that S had said, nutritionist. The poor young woman must have thought me crazy! We have been invited to the wedding, in Israel! But I'm sure the logistics of getting there will make it impossible. Apart from my gaff, we had a lovely chin-wag. Talking with friends must be one of the finest things in life. Undaunted by the rain, I continued on to John Lewis, delighted by the prospect of bargains. But the reality of shopping did not filfil the expectation. I wanted some gloves. I have three pairs of almost identical black gloves, but Rosa treats them as playthings. She thinks that there is nothing finer than pulling the gloves out from my bag and parading them around the room, like the captured booty of a conqueror. She tosses them over her head, taunting me to try and retrieve them. But I never can. Eventually she will... 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 city I know. There are faked-up maps, huge and beautiful, hand drawn in pencil, that might portray aircraft movement across the city., or just as easily describe the routes of ants across the pavement. Many pieces are collections. In fact a lot of conceptual art in any contemporary show will be a mis-en-scene, an installation, an arrangement, creating a little world that recalls our world, but uncannily twists it. I went into blue cells, filled with concrete blocks, I sat inside a porta-cabin listening to a girl reading stories over a loud speaker. I stumbled around inside an installation where felt banners and mobiles like spiders hung from the ceiling and strange things clustered on stands. A sign on the wall said, 'Ideally there should be a window here.' The whole exhibition for me was an uncanny re-rendering of Critchley's novel. It felt as if I was involved in one of those super-vivid dreams that sometimes come when you read late at night and go to sleep with the story still fizzing in your mind. Critchley, an eminent philosopher by profession, does not make the early chapters of his novel an easy read for someone like me, who has always... 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 go the same way? Or do you vary the route according to mood? I like to think I'm a spontaneous type of person. I do vary the dog walk in the park and the walk to the shops. But I'm equally liable to fall into different types of routines, especially if those routines are capable of becoming bad habits. There's the routine of coming home via the sweet shop and snuffling a bar of fruit and nut. There's the routine of turning over when the alarm clock calls, and going straight back to sleep in the morning. There's the routine of piling just a bit more butter than is necessary onto my bread, or filling my wine glass just a teeny bit more than is good for me. Bad habits are a slippery slope that most of us are happy to free fall down for most of the year, only pulling ourselves up-short come New Year. The 1st of January is like the open clean page of a new school exercise book. I can still remember the pleasure. I loved the cheap, brown speckled recycled paper, the absorbent blotting paper covers in lurid colours. In a new book my handwriting... 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 to fulfil all my work commitments, even to the point of running an important workshop the morning after my Dad had died. No, I didn't collapse into a heap. I managed the thing well and people enjoyed themselves. I received a lovely letter of thanks from the organiser, who'd only found out later what had happened. Sometimes doing things has been an important therapy. I've been quite active in my local community. I'm a trustee of our new arts venue - The Fitzrovia Chapel - and I chair The Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum. My colleagues have been wonderful, picking up strands when I've been forced to drop them. Thank you. You know who you are. But despite challenges, we've got through the year in good order. Both organisations are strong. I'm proud of my small contribution to them. Mike and I celebrated (commiserated?) with a little wild salmon pate and blinis, washed down with champagne tonight. We proved by our supper that things are not as bad as they could be. I even felt it was right to break my self imposed alcoholic fast. But I didn't duck the no desert rule! New Year always makes me feel rotten. What... 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 over in my mind for some time. It was satisfying to finally get it all down on paper. My friend Meg and I are starting a new business venture. We've both been beavering away for some weeks. She is wonderfully organised, and sends me fantastically laid out ideas in bold text. I'm hoping I can match her for efficiency and clarity. Today I finished setting up the filing system, everything was in order. There is still some work to do ahead of meetings next week, but I felt in control of my side of the project. I felt I was beginning to breathe again. Unfortunately my afternoon was ruined when I had an argument with my mother! I went to bed feeling auful. Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2014 at The Author's Song