Having learnt my lesson in the last Summer holidays as I tried to manage fractious children whilst fruitlessly attempting to work, I decided this year would be different and we’d take the summer off. From the Highline to the Highlands, we have travelled far and wide over the past month or so, and as we return to our normal life this week and I am restored to the studio, here are a few things that we found along our way…
“Blizzard (Roxbury Flurry)” (1946) 2017 Calder Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On our last day in New York we walked the entire length of the Highline, 1.5 miles of former railroad high above Manhattan’s lower west side which has been transformed by landscape architect Piet Oudolf’s exquisite planting into a meandering urban meadow of perennial flowers, grasses and trees. This wonder of city planning ends at the new Whitney Museum of Art designed by Renzo Piano, eight floors of the most perfect art galleries I have ever seen (and having spent ten years in the contemporary art world, I’ve seen a fair few). At the very top was Hypermobility, a show of kinetic works by Alexander Calder including my favourite, Blizzard, a mobile flurry of delicate white metal discs oscillating gently before a midnight blue wall. In a city where they’ll charge you $$$ to climb to the top of any tall building with a view, besides everything else it has to offer, the Whitney’s terraces also have incredible views over Manhattan and out to the Statue of Liberty in the distance. In the words of one late, great New York resident, this was “just a perfect day”.
Bryant Park, next to the marvellous New York Public Library, is one of the best places in the city to watch the world go by, They even have a free reading ‘room’ for kids and grown ups alike.
My holiday reading was Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. The kind of book you wish you hadn’t already read so you could have the pure pleasure of devouring it all over again. Odd, funny, and surprisingly modern for a book written in 1932, it recounts the adventures of its’ young heroine, Flora Poste who finds herself living with a strange cast of distant relatives on a rundown Sussex farm.
Very little, in fact, but I finished the first series of The Handmaid’s Tale, the most beautiful, brilliant and brutal thing I have ever seen on screen. I hestitate in urging you to watch it, because it is an ordeal, but something that everybody should see.
There are a million restaurants in New York, but on our one and only evening out, this was our favourite: Cotenna is candle-lit warmth, stylish and delicious, and feels much more expensive than it actually is – something of a rarity anywhere, especially in New York..!
Years ago I spent a summer in Mexico and became hopelessly addicted to leche quemada (literally ‘burnt milk’) ice cream and homemade paletas (ice pops) and so another highlight of the High Line was finding La Newyorkina’s stand half way along it – their amazing Passion fruit paletas were unanimously agreed to be the best thing we had eaten all summer.
Able to liberate just one rainy afternoon away from the kids in New York, I spent it exploring stationery stores: ABC Carpet & Home is far more glamorous than it sounds and a bit like Liberty if it were transposed to New York, with beautifully displayed paper goods from great independent brands, McNally Jackson bookshop and its stylish off-shoot, Goods for the Study are both fantastic, and quirky West Village stalwart Greenwich Letterpress is always fun to visit. After trekking all the way out to Brooklyn to see Knot & Bow, I was slightly dejected to find it closed for much of August, but pressing my nose to the shuttered glass I saw a gorgeous selection of cards, prints and gifts carefully arranged inside and will definitely go again on my next trip. And strangely, on landing in Inverness a few weeks’ later, I stumbled across the incongruously stylish Pencil Me In stationery shop at the airport of all places..!
Once in Edinburgh and possessed of an entire day of glorious freedom without the children, I revisited a few of my favourite old haunts. I’m slightly loathe to tell you about the gem that is Duncan & Reid, but seeing as I can’t get there with any regularity anymore, I might as well be generous – it is by far the best and most special antiques shop I have ever come across, full of small treasures and always reasonably priced. Not always reliably open though, so ring ahead to check with Susie before you set off… (0131) 556 459. And if you go, don’t miss the Botanic Gardens and Inverleith House gallery just up the road. Herman Brown’s is the best for vintage clothes, and not too far from the Fine Art Library, a quiet haven at the very top of the City’s central library on George IV Bridge where, after clambering up all those old stairs, I have passed many a happy afternoon.
I try to govern my wardrobe by the principle of quality not quantity which I decided entirely justified my complete inability to resist Rupert Sanderson’s blue lurex heels at 70% off in Pam Jenkins‘ sale! It’s worth keeping an eye in sales and on Ebay for his otherwise eye-wateringly expensive shoes, you can often find them at bargain prices and they are the only posh heels I’ve ever found that I can comfortably wear all day and night. My last pair are still going strong ten years later and I can’t wait to give these their first outing…
(drinking a can of coke and eating a sandwich on a rock in a Highland stream after a very long walk…)
And now, having spent my first day back tidying the studio from top to bottom, it’s time to get back to work. Some exciting collaborations to finish, and new cards to design for next year before the Christmas rush begins..!