P&P

Well about a hundred years after the rest of the world (I have a little girl after all and the cinema is but a distant memory), I have finally managed to watch Pride & Prejudice on DVD.

And I wasn’t terribly impressed.

First of all there was the not-insignificant matter of the spectacularly irritating Keira Knightley to contend with. The best I can say is that by the end of the film I was feeling less irritated by her than I was at the start (no mean feat when you consider that I couldn’t watch the Oscars coverage without wanting to throw shoes at the screen). Also she is too thin to make it possible to eat a takeaway king prawn dhansak without feeling very guilty indeed.

Second of all was the not-insignificant matter of the unsexiness of Matthew Macfadyen. Yes, he was sweet and very likeable but also came across as being rather slow-witted and I just kept itching to comb his hair. And no, it’s not because I’m in love with Colin Firth. Unlike every other woman in the UK I can categorically state that I have never been in love with Mr Firth – my ideal Darcy has not yet been cast. (I think Jennifer Ehle may well have been my ideal Lizzie B though).

Other quibbles. The short length meant that Messrs Wickham and Collins were reduced to bit parts – a great shame in the case of the former, since he was played by the not-unattractive Orlando Bloom-alike Rupert Friend; whereas the latter was not nearly as pompous and objectionable as he should have been, merely a bit short. Judi Dench just phoned in her rendition of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is obviously a very close relative of Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, while Donald Sutherland played Mr Bennet as a kindly relative of Santa Claus. (I did like Brenda Blethyn’s Mrs B though). The dialogue was, in parts, atrocious. No, you can’t always use Jane Austen’s exact words (interestingly in her books she describes dialogue more often than actually writing it) but you can at least employ a screenwriter who has a modicum of similar wit and sparkle.

Finally there was altogether too much sunshine. It felt like The Darling Buds of May.

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Tricolore

Today’s post was supposed to be full of images of a gloriously sunny early Spring day at the Princess Diana playground in Kensington Gardens – cutesy photographs of the Minx as she giggled in her swing, or of a tiny little Minx toddling along next to her very tall father. Except I forgot to put the CF card back in the camera.

So here instead is a photograph of my lunch. One of the best things about La Dolce Vita was the charming Neapolitan fruttivendolo (greengrocer) whose stand was laden with all manner of new season fruit and veg from Naples and Sicily. I normally try to buy seasonal produce rather than tasteless green beans which have been flown half-way round the world from Kenya or Peru, so it was wonderful to buy a huge bag of ripely red cherry tomatoes, a bundle of perky asparagus and a succulent, creamy mozzarella di bufala, after a winter of Savoy cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli (much as I love them).

Today we made the first insalata tricolore* of the year. I cannot describe how sweet and fragrant those tomatoes were – a million times more delicious than the wildly expensive imported red bullets which masquerade as tomatoes in the UK.

*Slice up the tastiest tomatoes you can get your hands on (in the UK that usually means halved cherry tomatoes, in Naples they use huge tomatoes grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius which have the best flavour in the whole world.) Add slices of soft, ripe avocado – if you haven’t got a decent avocado then don’t bother and call it insalata caprese instead. Top with buffalo mozzarella or mozzarella fior di latte (just tear it up with your fingers) and scatter on some torn up basil leaves. Season with salt and drizzle with a good quality olive oil. I usually use O&Co’s gorgeous basil oil to add more flavour to the tomatoes available in the UK, but all these tomatoes needed was a peppery extra virgin.

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WTF?

I don’t really like to Madonna-bash as I admire the woman, but I can’t believe she let this photograph see the light of day, let alone make it onto the front cover of a magazine.

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La Dolce Vita

I dragged the Minx and the Husband to the La DolceVita exhibition at Olympia today. Had never been before but fancied a fix of Italian culture and food (am half Italian, haven’t been back in ages and am really missing it at the moment) and thought I might find a few suppliers. The minute we entered the lobby one could sense a subtle difference in atmosphere – the buzz of conversation was louder and more animated than outside, the atmosphere was smokier, the Great Hall was filled with people wearing dark brown padded jackets with faux fur trim and an air of gentle chaos reigned. Every Italian in London seemed to be there.

The exhibition itself was something of a disappointment. Lots of stands encouraging us to buy an Italian property, which is not exactly high on our list of priorities at present (for those who are in the market Puglia is clearly the new Umbria). Most of the other stands were piled high with little cubes of bread and saucers of olive oil for dipping – the attractiveness of which had palled by the time we’d passed the fiftieth such stall.

No useful suppliers either, and I was left to muse on the dichotomy at the heart of Italian design. Here in the UK we tend to think of Italian design as being super chic – all Pininfarina, B+B Italia, Alessi and Dolce e Gabbana - and at the top end it definitely is. But whereas in the UK shops like Habitat, Ikea and nowadays even M&S have taken good design onto the High Street, in Italy the average home is still furnished in what would seem to us to be a rather old-fashioned and even slightly naff way. So instead of the funky small designers using traditional techniques to make cool, contemporary products that I was hoping to find, there were loads of classic-but-boring leather handbags, classic-but-boring leather shoes, and tons of jolly-but-kitsch painted ceramics.

If anyone can recommend some interesting up-and-coming Italian homewares and accessories designers I’d love to know. In the meantime we did manage to score some exquisitely scrumptious truffled salami, so all was not entirely lost.

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The X Factor

THE ‘MIRROR MIRROR’ WOMAN?

Two very thought-provoking articles. One on curated shopping (found via Rare Device) and one wondering what makes certain designers successful on the intelligent new design blog Designer’s Library. The curated shopping article is talking about the rise of the indie shop – shops which carry a carefully edited collection of pieces which reflect a certain lifestyle aesthetic. The blog post on designer brands asks how some designers have successfully created a personality or culture around their business which can be translated across a wide range of products.

I suppose what both articles are talking about is branding.

I know that at mirror mirror I am trying to create a brand rather than just a collection of products. People might come to mirror mirror the first time because they’ve seen a particular product in the Press or something, but the only reason they’ll keep coming back again and again and recommend us to their friends is because they like the personality of the brand and think they’ll find more products they like in future.

Which makes it rather scary for me, the shop ‘curator’. I have a clear vision of the personality which I want the mirror mirror brand to project and to an extent that brand reflects my own personality. There’s a little bit of me in everything we do – the product selection, packaging, customer service, blog-writing, website etc. etc. – which means I lay a little bit of me on the line everytime someone interacts with the company. What I don’t know as yet is whether that brand personality resonates strongly enough with enough people, ie. has that brand ‘X Factor’, which will underpin a truly successful company.

In fact, dear reader, what sort of personality does the mirror mirror brand convey to you ? I’m really interested to find out.

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The street where I live

I am lucky enough to live just around the corner from Portobello Road – home of the world-famous Portobello Market and the heart of Notting Hill.

A good friend of mine edits a number of lifestyle magazines in the West of England and asked me to take some photos of the area for an article she is writing on weekend breaks to London. It was a glorious early-spring day and the colours were just zinging. I think I was having a Mario Testino day-glo moment

VICTORIAN PUB

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE SHOPS

YUM YUM

STEEL DRUMMER

TOILET DOOR

ANTIQUE SHOPS

WINTER TREES

FLOWER STALL

THE WEDNESDAY MARKET DOESN’T SELL ANTIQUES

GRAFFITI ON THE RECORDING STUDIO ACROSS THE ROAD

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Words

Have just skimmed through my most recent posts and realise that I use the words ‘stunning’ and ‘beautiful’ far too often. I need to find me some new adjectives…

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Karin Eriksson

KARIN AT WORK

I loved the glimpse we got in the Decor8 article mentioned below of Atelier LZC’s stunning design studio. At mirror mirror we get enormous pleasure from sourcing products from talented designers and craftspeople who make their products themselves, often fully by hand or finishing them by hand, rather than producing them by machine or in some vast sweatshop in China. It means that you won’t see many of our products on your local High Street and that very often the product you end up buying will be completely unique.

One such supplier is Swedish ceramicist Karin Eriksson. Reading her beautiful and inspiring blog was one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place. She recently wrote a great post showing herself at work making her beautiful Signe vases. I knew that she made her things by hand, but I’d just never focused on just what that entailed (duh!) – the amount of skill and practice and time and patience and effort that has gone into and goes into creating each piece.

THE FINISHED ARTICLE

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