Wednesday, 16 December 2009

the really big apple...

I found this little story via Treehugger and I just had to share it with you all.

Can you imagine the amount of food thrown away every day by New york residents? Can you imagine 270,000 lbs of grub?

Many of us can't, and so to illustrate the point City Harvest of New York filled an empty subway train with the equivalent amount of green apples and flooded the otherwise empty platform.

The images are quite amazing - click here for the video.

It would have been magic with stacks of people on the platform though. I suppose that was a little too far to stretch the Health and Safety regulations, and if London's Victoria Line is anything to go by, people would have just climbed in on top of the apples anyway and waited for the train to move on.

Visually amazing and shows exactly what could be utilised for many in need. City Harvest aim to rescue and redistribute 25 million pounds of usable grub in 2009. Amazing.

(and as Treehugger pointed out, no apples were harmed in the making of the event - here is how it was done)

Up the Freegan generation!

Friday, 11 December 2009

the return of the lesser spotted paper lover...

My love / guilt relationship with paper has been covered previously here, but I have realised that it literally does come to a head at the Yuletide season.

If I am being a hard core greenie, I should shun all crimbo cards and send out email versions instead. But I can't. There is something truly lovely about returning home to a little pile of greetings sitting on the door mat. People we haven't seen in ages, spoken to in a while - they are all there waiting with happy tidings for us on a dark afternoon. And if I love returning home to a little stack of cards, how can I deny the joy to someone else?

So, if the electronic version is out, how do I justify the black mark of sending a card - both in manufacture, transportation and deconstruction?

Firstly, I try and get cards which are made from a significant amount of recycled content. This is harder than you may think, but there are some available, including some beauts from Oxfam. This makes me feel a little better. FSC accredited cards are also a possibility and easier to find.

Secondly, I try to get cards which can benefit another person with my purchase - this is the charity card once more, but do not forget that your precious squids can go to both the large international charities or the hospice down the road - most have a card range at this time of year. Whose pockets would you like to line, however small? (it is worth looking at the amount that goes to each charity, which is usually stated on the back of the card)

Thirdly, I think about how the card will be disposed of. If it has any bright spangles, glitter, foil or fancy bits it can be impossible to recycle. These sort of cards can contaminate whole bundles of card, so I avoid them like the plague. AND if you receive any from distant well wishers or Mavis down the road make sure you only place the 100% card bit in the recycling bin after crimbo.

Fourthly, can I incorporate a gift with the card, thus doing two jobs in one (surely this will act as a plus against my guilt???). Some you buy ready done, but how about fashioning your own - a gift card slotted in (do you really need another card and envelope for this?), a pair of earrings, a book token, a charm - nothing too delicate or expensive, but there are a myriad of possibilities.

And lastly, does it say something about me? Now this is not as self centered as you may think. Cast your mind back to the last time you bought a card - I can bet you chose one that was most appropriate for the person you were buying for but also one which you liked or said something about your own likes and character... And so it is with my cards - they never say 'merry christmas' (I am not christian) but usually 'seasons greetings', they never have spangles (see note three above), are mostly nature based or fifties in appearance and are quite graphic. This is me.

So - send your cards and spread a little love, as green as you can manage.

Friday, 4 December 2009

the full monty...


Seasonal activities - (presents and general consumption of)

Sort of go hand in hand don't they? I am sure that not many people get through the Yuletide season without some degree of consumption.

But if you are to consume, chocolate is one area I think you should afford to be very particular about. Bad chocolate is, well, bad - not to say a huge waste of your daily kcal intake. But good chocolate can make your eyes sink into your skull with ecstasy and the calories seem insignificant.

Maybe it is because we are a city of gluttons, or maybe because we are so particular, we are blessed in Brighton to have quite a few little chocolate shops of varying specialities, sizes and prices.

Plus, a few seem to have sprung up in the same area of the city in a place I now like to call 'the calorific quarter'.

choccywoccydoodah sits here, with the most magnificent confections in cacao you will ever see. Opposite, you can enter the clinical perfection of Hotel Chocolat.

But my favourite, and the destination my taste buds waft towards is always the fantastic Montezuma's chocolate.

A Sussex enterprise, the story began in good old Brighton in 2000 (and I remember going to the opening and tasting my first chunk of chilli chocolate. I was converted and it is now one of my favourites). Since then they have gone from strength to strength and have won a smattering of awards all over the place for their delicious, innovative and responsible chocolate.

Organic chocolate is a huge hitter here, with many of the offerings being certificated, but the combination of flavours is incredible.

As well as the chilli choc, you can choose from butterscotch, geranium, nutmeg and sweet paprika and strawberry. Amongst others. And that is just the bars....

So if you find yourself in Duke Street, nip into Montezuma's, grab a treat and wander off to get lost in the Lanes...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

holidays are coming, holidays are coming...

Someone told me the other day that they do not consider it to be Christmas until they have seen a particular television ad from a particular red and white branded soft drink company.
I do not agree, but I did hear myself chanting the 'holidays are coming, holidays are coming' mantras from the very same ad today. hmmm.

Plus, it does seem to be a bit of an urban myth that they invented Santa himself (well, the red and white version anyway).

So the coincidence was quite uncanny, when I stumbled across a couple of very interesting little pieces about Coca Cola recently - and a couple of positive eco ones. For a change.

Firstly, the announcement that they are introducing recycled material bottles based on plants into the US very soon. The 'plantbottle' is based on the by-product of the sugarcane industry in Brazil and each piece will be 30% sugar founded. The bottle that is. Not the content. I am sure that is more.
Secondly, and much more impressive in the short term, both aesthetically and eco wise, is the lush and beautiful concept can by Harc Lee.

The naked can is stunning, and loses the probably trademarked red and white branding whilst keeping the swoosh and font. I (personally) think this is nothing to worry about, as the iconic design is still there and massive amounts of toxic inducing ink would be saved.

But would this mean that Santa would become a silver only wonder? hmmm.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

well, if your going to buy something...

My last posting was about buying nothing on the UK's 'Buy Nothing' Day. Did you manage it? Did you do something creative? I hope so.

But, on this, the first day of Christmas, I have succumed to the perils of gift buying and planning.

I am planning to make a lot of presents this year (including the once yearly gift to my sister of a strangely constructed scarf - this Yule based on a pattern of chains), but there are always people you end up buying stuff for.

And with this in mind, I thought I would make a little list of nice places to visit on the internet to do your shopping - some creative, some ethical, some interesting and some beautiful, but all green in some way or another.

I hope you find some inspiration for your own loved ones (and even not so loved ones) here. Have fun kiddlywinks.

Inhabitat - green gift guide - US based, but fantastic for inspiration

Nigel's Eco Store - really local for me as he lives down the road. but on the web too. great.

Ethical Superstore - massive amount of stuff, so loads of shopping possibilities

The Green Store - nice variety of nicely priced things

Oxfam - get a goat or coat or a goat and a coat here. you know what I mean. really. you do.

Soil Association - what about a gift membership?

EcoCentric - part founded by the lovely fellow Brightonian and eco designer Oliver Heath.

My Eco Store - says it all really?

Love Eco - again - says it all!

ECOutlet - lovely things, from face cream and man candles(?) to vintage bits and bobs. lush.

Ecotopia - again, a great variety of bits, including a voltaic laptop bag. which I HUGELY covet.

Friday, 27 November 2009

buy nothing...

It may go against the grain given that we have very little shopping days until the seasonal festivities (or so the goggle box continually tells us) but tomorrow, Saturday the 28th November is National Buy Nothing Day.

I have written before about the perils of being a consumer, ethical or otherwise, and exactly how difficult it is to not consume anything.

Or is it?

With the fantastic slogan of 'shop less, live more' the wonderful website of BND encourages you to spend a day without spending and find other life enriching things to do instead. It even has an events section where you can go and spend a day with other people who are also not spending but doing something creative and nice.

Or stay inside and clear out the wardrobe to give to charity, go for a walk in the woods (or anywhere for that matter), bake a cake, visit a relative or neighbour (with the afore mentioned cake if you are really organised) or make something for someone for Christmas.

Once you put your mind to it, there are loads of things to do for free.

Enrich both your pocket and mind...and have fun in the process.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

green apples, fondant fancies and earl grey tea...

Have you ever done something and immediately forgotten about it as you never thought anything would arise from the seed?
I have.
But every now and again, something does spring up and makes you so happy your head goes light and excitement and pride fills your every thread of being.
And so it was with a section of our week - Tuesday was the day we were heading to London to pick up an award I never even thought we would be shortlisted for.
We were going to London to pick up our Green Apple 2009 for Environmental Best Practice.

This award was based on our efforts at the Royal Horticultural Society London Plant and Design Show in February 2009 - our little eco front garden - 'the electric urban orchard'.

So in true eco fashion and dressed in some of our finest, we boarded a Southern train and rolled up to London Victoria to attend the awards ceremony which was held at the awe inspiring House of Commons.
Once through the very intimidating security system, we wandered through sections of the House (occasionally interrupted by security personnel who asked if we knew where we were going - we didn't a lot of the time). At one point we ended up by the Parliamentary florist, who is housed in a bottom section of one of the gate arches, and I could not resist the urge to pop my head around the heavy oak door and ask further directions.

'If you get to the river, you have gone too far' was the reply, 'so turn left before you get there!'.
We did, and found where we were all congregating - a lovely little section next to the House alongside the River Thames.

Greeted with tea, sandwiches and cakes, we instantly regretted the horrible plastic offering we had bolted before we entered. But, so as not to be rude of course, we had a lovely cup of Earl Grey tea (with milk) and a couple of perfectly cut finger sandwiches and one of the tiny, Alice-in-wonderland style cakes. The looked beautiful and tasted even better.

Once we had all congregated, the awards began, and it was truly humbling hearing the size, scale and commitment of many of the projects who had also gained an award. We felt very proud yet as if we didn't deserve to be there.

One project had saved £750,000 and thousands of tons of CO2 by adapting a few changes, another organisation had planted 50,000 broad leaf trees and another had created a whole toad habitat in wales to prevent them needing to cross a main road.

It was incredible to see and hear about all of the inspiring projects, and it was fantastic when people also wanted to hear more about what we do at the office.
After we had been presented with our award, we did a little more networking and ate another posh sandwich or two, then wound our way back to the south coast with our Green Apple nestled in our bag.

Well done to everyone who was presented with an award and thank you to the Green Organisation for putting it all together. We met some wonderful people and came away inspired and enlivened by all of those we met.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Doug the third...

Meet our new addition to the family - Doug the Third.

He is not residing with us just yet, and is currently sitting in his field nestled in the Sussex High Weald, but come early December, we will trundle over to Hadlow Down to ceremoniously dig him up and bring him inside.

Yes, last weekend we went and picked out our 2009 Christmas tree at the fabulous Wilderness Woods.

A chilly day, and after rain (which always seems to happen, and I spend most of my time trying not to fall on my arse on the wet and compacted chestnut leaves), the sun was trying to shine and life was good. We wandered down the very beaten track to the tree field, joined by other families and dogs and passed through the (chestnut) rabbit gate and into the mass of spruce and fir.

The view is always stunning (I wrote about it last year here) but people really seem to have gone to town with their identification decorations this year. Tinsel, baubles, laminated signs, toy robins (I did worry about these, given that the real thing are so territorial), and other assorted highly visible bits and bobs adorn the trees - both to act as an indentification aid, and a sort of 'ownership personalisation' I suppose. We did not bring anything and just stuck to our tag and zippy tie instead.

There were a few contenders for Doug the Third this year, but ultimately we plumped for a beautiful fellow who stood slightly alone (very important when planning the logistics of digging him up), was the correct height and was well compacted. A real beauty.

It is very stupid, but I always feel a slight panic when in the field until we have got our tag secured around our Chosen One. What if I see a contender, then leave him only to return and find another tag on him? It feels like a race with everyone else in the field - who will get their perfect tree first?

Of course, this is all tosh, as all of the trees are beautiful in their own way, and there will be always a perfect example for every visitor. We even saw a most odd tree - about 12 foot tall, completely denuded from the ground up to about 4 foot high, with a mohican type crest of branches from then on. It was definitely a looker, and low and behold, had been reserved by a happy visitor.

We then had the task of finding and reserving a tree for my Mum and Dad ( a blue spruce this time - we prefer the Douglas Fir as they transplant well after Christmas). This was harder than finding ours, but after a little hunt, Bluey the Third was found.

And as we had spent out so much effort and energy, we had to award ourselves with tea and cake, so we sat in the pale afternoon sun on a bench under the trees eating Coffee and Walnut cake, Elderflower and Gooseberry cake (using locally made cordials and jams) and good old Sussex tea.

Whilst there, we sat and watched a children's party who were trooping off into the woods to build bivvies and cook sausages and marshmallows. I was very jealous and wished I was six once more.

So, with the woods full of whoops and shouts, and our tums full of home made wonders, we wandered home to cook chestnuts and look forward to December, safe in the knowledge that Doug the Third is sitting and waiting patiently for our return .

And yes, we listened to the Rat Pack Christmas album in the car there and back - singing at the tops of our voices out of my open window and into the chilly air.

Want your own locally grown tree? Contact these guys to see where you can find one near you...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

component structures...

My last posting talked about 'touching the earth lightly' and some of the different forms this can take.

Components were one of the things that I highlighted - items that can be readily dismantled and remantled are excellent in many ways as they can reduce transportation costs as well as being adaptable. They can be re-used for different projects and therefore have a fantastic 'cradle to cradle' profile.

So it was with great joy that I watched James May's Toy Stories last night, which focused on upscaling and updating the age old toy, Meccano.

With (mostly) regular parts, James, Atkins Bridge Engineers and a handful of students from Liverpool University constructed a full size, single person tilting bridge - all from Meccano.

It was a wonderful watch, and demonstrated fantastically what can be built from little components and how component design has been utilised in the Industrial World.

And (I believe) the Meccano was to be stripped back down after the project.

Just a shame it is now made in France instead of Liverpool... it could have been a really local project.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

compostable structures...

Green architecture and design usually entail 'touching the earth lightly' in whichever form is relevant, be it a reduction in materials, using items which are local to the project, the utilisation of traditional techniques or the use of renewable energies and intelligent building / product form.

But life cycle analysis is also a highly important aspect of the design process - not only where does something come from, but how will it perform, last and eventually, end it's life? Can it be re-used? Can it be broken into components for re-use or recycling? Can it be composted?

Composted? I hear you cry. At the end of it's life, can we compost a building?

Well, some architecture students have been very busy trying to find out how.

The result (in my opinion) is absolutely beautiful.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Iconic Monday...

'Design icon' is a phrase that is bantered about far too often for my liking, but tends to relate to items that stand out for a particular reason - be it representative of a time, a place, a successful solution to a problem or even a particular feeling prevalent at a point in history.

The London Routemaster bus, a phone box, the Le Courbusier lounger, Katherine Hamnett logo T-shirts, the Olympic Rings.....

All of these items, in their own way were created in response to a problem or an issue, and as history has worn on, they have been adopted as stylised logos which represent the foundation of the design itself. This is what an 'icon' is - it is iconic of a time and a place and can be recognised across the world as being itself and as a logo which represents related issues.

So all design is about communication - whether internal and external spaces, graphics, fashion, photography etc etc etc.

The very best design can communicate on many different levels - some obvious and some subtle, yet be accessible to people across different lifestyles and cultures - this is part of what 'iconic design' really is.

Plus, successful modern design also takes the wider issues of sustainability into account - a design can no longer be labelled 'iconic' lightly. Form does not need to follow function, but surely in times of responsibility and frugal thinking, functional design takes priority lest an object be frivolous and surplus to creation?

So - if a design is sustainable, can be read across cultures and lifestyles, communicates loud and clear, is functional and beautiful, can it be labelled as 'iconic'?

Well - today I found this, and it ticks many boxes. Would this be a (tiny) iconic design? It has my vote...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

to tax or not to tax...

Births, deaths and taxes.

Three things I was told you can be sure of in life.

Of the three, only one could be described as even vaguely positive, so when someone pops up to recommend an increase in taxes, well, they are not going to be popular.

But what if it is argued that these taxes could decrease our carbon emissions, thus aiding our environment? Would we agree? Would only the staunch dark greenies agree, or would we all be up in arms screaming that we cannot pay any more for our energy as we can't blinkin' afford it in the first place?

Would people be afraid to keep themselves warm in the winter for the fear of the letter plopping through the door with too many noughts to be funny?

But on the flipside, would we have increased renewable energy development and a strengthening of the whole green energy market through larger consumer support and increased tax breaks and government grants?

A very large argument with many different points. Read a little more about it here.

Friday, 23 October 2009

a birthday in brighton part 2...

And so my birthday continued in the weak autumn sunshine in my beautiful Brighton.
After exiting the surprise street art exhibition we crossed the road (easier now the area has been landscaped to prioritise the pedestrian), walked past the Corn Exchange, the old Brighton Library, and through the heavy gates into the grounds of the Pavilion.

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery (Hove has it's own museum actually)- once small and dated, is now much larger than I remember it being in my youth, and holds an impressive variety of collections from local studies to Ancient Egypt.
We started off in the ceramics room, and looked at the history of salt and pepper pots and oddly shaped teapots and vases, including once which was a tiger eating a man.

Then we trotted into the Brighton room - a whistle stop tour of the history of Brighton, landmarks that have come and gone, those which still survive and those which have been appropriated for another use. An interesting mix of histories are told, from the Regency foundations to Pride, Fat Boy Slim's notorious party on the beach when the whole of the UK descended onto the pebbles to dance till they twisted their ankles and the Mods and Rockers affairs.

Across the hall the history of Brighton continued but in a much more personal and everyday way - clubs, football teams, dairies and even a rescued shop front from the old arches which sold cork and closed in 1983. I felt a little bit of nostalgia when we came across an old turnstile from the old Goldstone Ground - the former home of Brighton and Hove Albion. The little card told the story of the last game played and the result - I remember because I worked at the Goldstone in the catering areas at the time and I could not believe the stuff that people were ripping up to take home as a souvenir. I even got an offer for the tea urn I was carrying across the pitch.

Ancient Egypt next where I wrote my name in hieroglyphics and was transfixed by the beautiful blue scarabs and mini mummies which turned out to be cats, ibis and a crocodile leg. Incredible.

The centre of the museum told a (very) brief overview of design, and I was sad to see that the Mae West lips sofa is no longer there, along with the Salvador Dali lobster phone.
I had also forgotten how beautiful the tessellated tiles and stairs are. Wonderful.

Upstairs we visited a very interesting collection of costumes and stories from people of Brighton and further afield before entering the main exhibition at the moment - The Land Army Girls.

I have a particular love for the forties and fifties - the pain and suffering I can of course never understand, but the pride, resourcefulness and adaptability of people is beyond inspirational.
The new found loves of thrift, baking, growing your own, knitting etc is nothing new, with the forties and fifties being the foundation of much of the current trends.

I have often said that if I was in my twenties in the war I would have either flown a plane (unlikely though given that I am female!) or been in the Land Army.

The new exhibition examines the progression of one lady from typist to land girl and features many Brightonians who worked the fields on the Downs - photos, diary entries and video interviews. One lady I know, and it was incredible to see her story and images from her youth. It was truly inspiring and humbling.

The Land Girls exhibition is on until March 2010, and is completely free - please visit if you can.

The last visit was to the Fabrica Gallery in Ship Street, which is bang in the centre of town. 'Chameleon' is an installation by Tina Gonsalves and examines emotional transference between people in a crowd.

A darkened space, you enter to see a series of hanging double sided screens filling the void - each one with a projection of a still face. Periodically, these faces awaken to portray an emotion to the viewers, but the REALLY clever bit is that these awakenings are triggered by the viewers own emotions. Highly advanced face and emotion recognition software has been developed to let the installation 'read' you, then alter according to your own emotions. Incredible.

I made a man start to scream, which was a little worrying - did I look like I needed to scream? Did I look frustrating? I then of course looked worried, which made someone else smile to make me feel better....

An amazing exhibition, which I am sure will be heightened if there are lots of visitors - we were two of only four people at the time, and I felt a little uncomfortable with the 'team' in the depths of the shadows on the perimeter of the room - was I being watched and recorded by them as well???

But again - great - and free once more. Visit until 29 November.

So, after feeling very cultural, I went home, had a fantastic and immense Mexican meal with my family and celebrated the turn of my next decade.

Monday, 19 October 2009

a birthday in brighton...(part 1)

That's it. Gone. Goodbye sweet twenties. Hello thirties, which I am told is the new twenties.

Now, I try not to get myself too bothered with the whole 'age' thing - I never feel any different, and don't think I really will change too much more (character wise) for the rest of my days, but it was quite nice being in my 'twenties'.

No more.

So to celebrate the supposed passing of my youth, we spent the day in my wonderful home town of Brighton, doing the sort of thing you never do as a resident - visiting art exhibitions, galleries and museums. It was fantastic, so here is the first in two installments of how our day panned out...

First up was the wonderful and highly sentimental The Booth Museum of Natural History. Situated on the outskirts of Brighton, The Booth is a Victorian based collection of taxidermy animals, birds, skeletons, butterflies, moths and insects. It is dark, smells a bit musty and is very old fashioned - no high tech interactive displays here.

But this is exactly why I like it. I remember spending hours as a child sitting on the floor sketching the birds captured in mid flight and gazing at the drawers of butterflies.

It may seem cruel now, but The Booth is a piece of history that is to be treasured, as it shows the basis of much of our natural history knowledge. The fact that such a large collection is still together is wonderful, and truly is awe inspiring, if not a little nostalgic.

Next, we headed into Brighton and had a wonder around the lovely Jubilee Library in centre of the city - the best piece of contemporary architecture we have had in a very long time...

The third visit of the day was an incredible and unexpected find - a temporary exhibition in the old music library. Once a gloriously regency styled building, the old music library fell into disrepair as more music was available online and the collection was finally moved and integrated into the Jubilee.

Once divided rooms were knocked through into one large space, with paint, paper and fittings gradually falling onto the bare timber floor as time progressed. It was very sad to see this lovely building decline, as again, I remember fondly trips into town to borrow classical music scores and tapes when I was studying music and playing in orchestras.

But it is now occupied once more.

A temporary exhibition of graffiti and street artists has taken residence in the sad old space and given it a new lease of life.

It showed the very fine line between what people would consider art and what people would see as vandalism - massive spraypainted dead crows and cockroaches, multicoloured panels and sculptures made from bits of dead furniture.

The main street level had a good 'get people in' view, but it was the upstairs and basement space that really got me excited.

On approaching the stairs you are confronted by a massive recycled timber arm and hand, punching through a hole in the ceiling to greet you on the top handrail. Then you see the immense rat and the giant dead crow, perfectly framed in the curved recess of the room. (ROA is a genius and definitely wins the face off with BestEver, which is the basis of the ground and first floors)

The basement was a little less impressive with its contents, but the atmosphere was incredible. Dark, bare and secret, with illuminating punches from bare bulbs and an oddly fitting chandelier - a nod to the grandeur of the past with the reality of the current disrepair.

Please go and see this exhibition if you are anywhere near Brighton. It is wonderful.

Next time - faces, the land army and mummified cats.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

poetry of my youth...

As it is National Poetry Day, I thought I would share my favourite poem with you all.

This poem I had to learn off by heart when I was young for a recitement in a school assembly, and I remember it all - word for word - to this day.

Here it is in full...'jabberwocky'

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe he sought --So rested he by the Tumtum tree, And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy!O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!' He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.
The most wonderful assortment of nonsense and whiffling is still a favourite word of mine. Thank you Lewis Carroll.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

good grief - how remarkable...

I have covered the wonders of recycling and upcycling in a series of other posts, and I promised that I would complete a raft of articles highlighting fantastic and innovative examples of upcycling at its best.

This promise has taken a little while to come to fruition, but, as I try to be true to my word, here is another posting in the series I like to call upping the upcycling.

I always loved going back to school in September every year (yes I know - how sad), partly because we were given the opportunity to visit the local art and stationery store to purchase a new pencil case and fill it with a bunch of jewel like pens, pencils and other office and school consumables.

As a budding designer and artist from a very young age my pencil case was always crammed with different grades of pencil, thicknesses of pens, rubbers and types of ruler.

Looking back, this was not the greenest way to go back to school.

But now, there are many green options for the yearly pre-school stationery shop (and office for that matter). Pens can now be easily found which are made from a high percentage of recycled plastics, many refilling options are available, and even the iconic Post It note is available in a 100% recycled format.

But there is one company who really would have made my eyes pop in excitement had they been around when I was at school. They really are Remarkable.

Not only do they create a brilliant range of stationery from a variety of recycled objects, they tell you what they were in a past life, thus educating and reminding you of the waste we create and the possibilities for the most unlikely of candidates.

Creative upcycling to allow us to create further. Remarkable.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

greenpeace, wine and naked French people...

I love the way the French deal with a problem as large as climate change - especially when it threatens wine...

Would us Brits do the same for something so close to our heart?

Monday, 5 October 2009

back to the future...

September was a very busy month.

As well as the wonderful period we spent in Malvern at the Autumn Show, we also spent a fantastic (if not very short) spell back in the last century...

Goodwood. As a Sussex lass, a place very close to my heart, and the setting for the immense undertaking that is the Goodwood Revival Festival every September - a celebration of classic cars, engineering and fashion.

As a self certificated eco obsessive, many of you will wonder why I adore a festival that praises the motor car, and motor racing...

Well, the sheer fact that a lot of these beautiful cars are still running is testament to the fact that THINGS WERE BUILT TO LAST. Our own 1962 Morris Minor has her grumbles, but she looks stunning and does the job she was built to do - nearly fifty years after her birth. How many of the new cars rolling out of the factories will be able to do that, whether they are well maintained or not?
Also, a lot of the cars had small engines and ran incredibly efficiently - the Morris Minor again being one of them.
Ok - a lot of them have taken a massive amount of work and cannot be put into the 'efficient' category (the cobras for starters), but we should celebrate our design and engineering history, lest we forget how good we were (and indeed are) at making thing in the UK.

History is also something that can be learnt from - the ideals of thrift were of course brought about by the needs of the war and are as important now as they were then, albeit in updated manners.

Another element that I love about Revival is the intricate attention to DETAIL - something that I am also passionate about as a designer. Tea wagons were not those terrible plastic affairs that you usually get at shows but beautiful, original vehicles and service transporters, security people were dressed in vintage Police uniforms and even the contractors emptying the bins wore brown overcoats reminiscent of 'open all hours'.

Visitors are also encouraged to dress up and the crowds wore a throng of vintage outfits, service uniforms, prom dresses and sharp suits. It really was a sight to behold - a 40's serviceman talking to a bare footed hippy. Plus, those who had NOT dressed up were in the minority.

I wore my full circle 1950's dress I had made to an original pattern last year, a cardi and pearls, topped up with matching shoes, bag and gloves and back seamed tights. A slick of eyeliner and I was complete...

Entertainment was period based and varied, and I enjoyed shopping for vintage dresses whilst listening to a fantastic lady singing Vera Lynn and playing a ukulele.

There was also a man dressed as a comedy dog, who made me jump then laugh so hard I nearly fell off my heels. Fantastic.

My little meeting at the festival went well (hopefully more of this at a later date and thank you to those at Vintage), and I had a wonderful afternoon people watching.

Stick it in your diary for next year - believe me - it is really worth it.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

growing urbanism...

Growing food in the city is thankfully no longer an alien concept, with huge nationwide waiting lists for allotments, guerilla gardener escapades and tomatoes springing off balconies and windowboxes in abundance.

This is to be celebrated in all forms, and we at the ecospot were delighted to find a link to the MetaboliCity site recently.

The little description on the site is short and sweet, but sums up the aims wonderfully:

'A vision of a city that metabolizes its resources and waste to supply its inhabitants with all the nourishment they need and more'

Who can possibly argue which this as a mission statement (regardless of whether you agree with 'mission statements' or not)?

And in celebration of the current London Design Festival, you can do a little tour of some of the urban growing sites - have a look here for more info on times and locations.

Friday, 2 October 2009

an Autumn abundance...

Firstly, apologies for the incredible lack of bloggage over the month of September. Despite how much I prepare, plan and pack, the showgarden upheaval always renders me somewhat unable to blog

So - what occurred over the bright and sunny month of September in the studio?

Well, amongst other things, we went to Malvern. As there is SO much to report, this will take the form of a series of posts...

Even though Autumn is my favourite season, I have a particular love for the wonderful Malvern Autumn Show at the beautiful Three Counties Agricultural Showground, and it was here that we tootled in the middle of the month to create two projects for the event.

The first was our small and quite conceptual showgarden, The Honeybox. Based on a series of concepts around beekeeping, the garden took its form from bee communication behaviour, its planting from good bee stock and featured a modern beekeeper's folly based on the idea of a large 'exploded' hive (three modern National hives were also included).

We were quite happy with the garden, although I was not happy with the planting at all. I had one of those nightmare times when you get completely fed up and try and find something else to do instead of tackling the problem head on. After a rejig I was happier, but I was the first to admit, it was not my favourite scheme at all. This is probably because the colours were a lot brasher than my usual palette, but 'taste' was somewhat secondary with the scheme - the needs of the bees and educating the viewers being more pressing in my mind.

That said, there were some combos that worked really well, and ones that were duly photographed for future use. The wildflower turf against the neat turf path was one element I really was pleased with - the rawness of the long grass with our perception of a 'perfect' lawn was very interesting. The beautiful oak fencing also set the garden off fantastically - thank you to Quercus...

The second project we were undertaking at the show was the Good Life Pavilion stage itself. We discussed at great length the concepts we wanted to base the stage on, and we were delighted when the Three Counties Agricultural Society approved our ideas.

As the concept of the 'good life' is pretty broad, we wanted to include many elements on the stage rather than concentrate purely on the grow you own side, but the stage was awash with fantastic plants from both Hooksgreen Herbs and Rebekah's Unusual Veg.

So, the stage itself was the hub of container growing, with an island unit sprouting from a raised cabbage filled bed and apple crates and florists buckets filled with herbs and edible flowers. The next 'ring' was a small reclaimed brick wall which mirrored the shape of the stage (an expertly built by James Steed and his crew) and represented 'plot' growing, being filled with veg and herbs. The final ring was the foraging area, where wild turf was interplanted with readily available and recognisable UK wild herbs.

Apple crates filled with fresh bread, apples and vegetables, beautiful knitted and corn dolly sculptures, a beehive, hops, a 'wine' demi john water feature and reclaimed glass bottle screens completed the scheme. Seating was also linked to the stage, with two rows of straw bales being placed in the pavilion for visitors to park themselves on.

We were REALLY pleased with the stage and were delighted when we were presented with the Best in Show Award for a Feature from The Three Counties Agricultural Society.

And the garden? We got a Bronze, which was a little frustrating given that some of the key concepts were not completely understood by the judges, but hey ho, I agreed with a lot of the comments on the planting...

A massive thank you goes out to everyone who assisted with both the garden and the stage, for those who came and helped, and to those who came and said hello.

Now for the recovery - and planning for Spring...

Thursday, 3 September 2009

toot toot...

I have never been comfortable with blowing my own trumpet. I can talk for England, but I actually despise talking about myself and what I do, have done or achieved. And the bigger the thing is, the worse it can be.

When I had to do my 'speech' on stage in front of the public and the panel at the Malvern Spring Show I tried desperately not to talk directly about myself, but about something I am passionate about.

Poor James Alexander-Sinclair practically had to surgically remove the microphone from my steely grip as I got on my soapbox and talked about sustainability and responsibility.

But, when it comes to running your own business, and the monster that is PR, you have to blow your trumpet, trombone and tuba until you are red in the face.

If you do something, you have to tell all and their dogs as soon as you can. Purely to inform. Never to brag. But it is blinkin hard.

But all of this aside, we have some very nice news.

We have won a Green Apple award for Environmental Best Practice from the Green Organisation. Chuffed? Doesn't even come close. Blinkin fabulous.

AND it was for the very controversial 'Electric Urban Orchard' project that was installed for the RHS London Plant and Design Show in February this year.

So there you go - a little toot on the PR trumpet. And now I have an excuse to get a posh frock and some tasty shoes as I have to collect the award from the House of Commons in November...

Monday, 31 August 2009

the true price of a posy...

I love to receive flowers. Not only do you have the thought that went into getting them, but the wonderful colour and scent they bring to the darkest corners of the house. They are fleeting, but I enjoy every minute of them.

But, what is the true cost of a bunch of flowers? In monetary value, anything from free up to the hundreds, but the environmental cost? The truth can be a little hard to stomach.

The UK cut flower industry is worth about £2billion – almost the same as our music industry, and yet we are responsible for growing only 10% of them on UK soils. The remaining 90% is imported from areas as far flung as Colombia and Kenya.

In an age where ‘food miles’ are on the tip of everyone’s tongues, surely it seems a bit contradictory to have lovely local cheese, milk and meat in your basket alongside a bouquet of Kenyan roses?

But there are some who argue for the case of buying a Kenyan (or other imported) posy.

It has been widely published that the carbon omissions of an imported bouquet are lower than those of a northern hemisphere grown rose, as less lighting and heating is required in the growth period. But what about the travel, pesticides, packing, even the omissions from decay – the complete life cycle of the flowers – does this still ring true?

And even though the carbon omissions are a very large part of the argument, there are also the issues with worker welfare, wider environmental impact (draining of water from lakes to feed the floriculture industries), and the use of pesticides long banned in the EU countries.

Fairtrade flowers do try and address some of these issues, and of course you are given the reassurance that your pennies are not going to feed some fat cat whilst the workers suffer, but there are still a very low percentage of the imports registered under the scheme.

So, if you are not going to buy an imported bunch, where can you get your hands on some of the 10% that we do actually grow here, and why should you?

The first stop for many will be at the supermarket. Despite how I tend to bang on about how I detest the whole supermarket experience, there are a few that are least trying to support our UK growers.

Waitrose has a great raft of UK suppliers that it works directly with to produce a range of seasonal blooms over the year, and they are so proud that you can read all about it on their website.

Tesco, Sainsburys and Marks and Spencer also have a reasonable selection, and most are marked by a Union Jack or similar. Some even have the county that they were grown in marked on the wrapper.

Otherwise, there are some fantastic suppliers that you can purchase your scented and seasonal lovelies from – mostly directly from the farm itself. Check out Wiggly Wigglers, Country Roses and Scent from the Islands.

So why should we buy British blooms?

It stands to reason that the shorter the time between the picking and the displaying of the flower, the longer the vase life will be. Also, the large scale overseas growers tend to ditch scented varieties of flowers as they are not as productive, so lovely flowers, no smell. The UK growers also tend to be on a much smaller scale than their overseas counterparts, and so are hugely affected by market demand. If we want them, the supermarkets will get them. And, in times of hardship, we are keeping our own economy going. Never a bad thing.

Please don’t just sling a bunch in your basket next time you are shopping. Take a few seconds to look, and see if you can buy British.

Friday, 28 August 2009

a tale of a Brighton terrace...

We all have spots in our gardens, balconies, plots and pots that can be a real pain. What you want to grow won’t grow there, what you want to sod off stays around happily. Too dark, too light, too dry, too wet – you know the spots I mean.

And so, we were full of intrigue that we went to look at the rear terraced area to Jamie’s Italian in Brighton a week or so ago.

As a Brightonian, it is always fascinating to see how the buildings I know and love so well sit beside, amongst and within each other from a different viewpoint to that you see from the street.

This building was no exception. The new building that Jamie’s Italian occupies in Brighton is nestled between some wonderful old buildings. The front view is cramped, yet the rear opens out into a huge internal light well between the new and the existing spaces.

It is a real shame, however, that the terraced area is tucked right in alongside the new and the existing, thus offering a nice enclosed albeit shady spot for alfresco dining. An overhead covering of trellis and reclaimed oak timbers provides even greater shade and makes for a tricky little area.

The whole ethos of the restaurant is on fresh and tasty, local and authentic food, but given the orientation of the terrace (no sun till about 3 and none in winter) the obvious herbs wouldn’t have fared too well.

There was also the problem of maintenance and ongoing care – nothing too needy could be used lest it put a real burden on the staff.

So – easy to care for, can cope with semi shade or a bit of sun (in areas), and will provide year long interest with minimal ongoing costs. Solution?

We were not going to go the same route as a few other restaurants around the area and put in PLASTIC plants (shame on you – you know who you are), so what did we come up with?

Well – our final planting list comprised…
An assortment of Bergenias – evergreen, will grow like the clappers and can cope with a bit of sun or shade.
An assortment of ferns – British of course – for the really stubbornly shady bits.
An assortment of honeysuckles – both evergreen and deciduous, to provide shade when required in summer, but to open up the light in winter, nice smells and lovely flowers.
And for the structure – no plastic, but a few clipped box spheres.

When we had finished, the terrace was awash with lushness, that hopefully (with a little care) will flourish into a right proper jungle over the next year.

I will keep you posted on the progress – just another excuse to nip out for a sneaky meal…

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

the eco home...

There are many ways to a green home. Some are a great deal easier than others, some are quick, some take patience, but all combine to create a space that is as green as the grass outside.

But, when faced with a redecoration project, where do you start to ensure that you are being as green as possible?

This little series of introductory postings will look at different elements of the ‘eco’ home, how and why should and where you can get things from.

This first post will look at…….wallpaper.

Now very much in vogue, the statement wall and the mix of patterns is back. The ‘white box effect’ is long gone, and over the past few years, we have been reacquainting ourselves with the wallpaper section of our local DIY stores.

But regular wallpapers are not particularly inspiring on the eco front – most use virgin wood fibres, chemical inks and plastic wrappers to tempt us. Textured blown vinyls are another beast of the wallpaper world, and should never be considered for the green home. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) are rife with the use of solvents as well. Plus, there are the adhesives…

But if you are looking for good eco alternative to the regular wallpaper on offer, fortunately there are many to choose from, and they are not heard to find. Some are probably sitting right next door to the usual suspects above.

Things to spot include recycled paper content, FSC approved sources, water based and vegetable based inks and compostable packaging.

And wallpaper also comes in guises outside of the large DIY sheds – many young craftspeople are now coming to the fore with beautiful hand printed papers, also bearing FSC marks and using vegetable inks.

Of course, patterns, taste and price will pay a great influence on your final choices, but expect to pay anything from £7.99 to £45 a roll from the DIY stores and specialist decoration centres up to £100 or more a length for a hand printed covering.

Remember to use a water-based adhesive, and you are well on your way to creating a green papered wall…

Have a look at these for some ideas…
Focus DIY - FSC and recycled content - reasonable and good, solid colour range
B&Q – FSC paper, water based inks and biodegradable packaging - nice patterns with an expanding range at a good price.
EcoCentric – machine and hand printed - great pattern range and ticks the eco boxes.
Biome Lifestyle – wonderful patterns using water based inks, so no VOC's.
Graham and Brown - plains and patterns - all responsible with water based inks, compostable packaging and FSC content.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

the feet of eco...

I have blogged before about the perils of consumerism and whether it is better to consume and support fair trade, organic and responsible suppliers or to stick your hands in your pockets and save the valuable pennies.

But, eventually, we all have to buy things - some useful, some practical, some necessary, and some just because.

And, all of us have our weaknesses when it comes to consuming - bags, seeds, plants, books, shoes...

I have a distinct weakness for seeds, plants and books, but shoes and bags sort of missed me as a collection. I wear the same boots every day (except when it is REALLY hot, when I revert to nothing at all), and I love them to bits. They are comfy, worn in, and are made so they can be resoled for ever more. They are not footwear to me - they are part of me. I feel as odd without my clompy boots and knee high socks on as I probably look with them on.

But even I have my girly moments, and there is one company who I adore for their beautiful, elegant footwear. They are responsibly made from recycled materials and if I had enough money I would buy a pair in every colour.

So imagine how excited I was when I was waffling through Brighton town centre the other and found a new store dedicated to the glistening heels...

I swiftly found my little sister and educated her in the ways of Terra Plana and converted her to the precious as well.

It is also a joint store with the responsible clothing label People Tree (who also made my favourite dress in the world, but more of that in another post), so now there is another location in Brighton where you can find a whole green outfit in one place.

Fantastic. Just need an event to warrant a posh frock and heels now...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

food for free...

Not many self respecting eco foodies are without the bible of hedgerow tasties, Food for Free by Richard Mabey.

As I have an obsession with books, I have two copies (different editions and different covers) which move their way around the house, into the car, out and about and back again.

If you have not come across this book before, please seek it out - it really is a classic - full not only of the descriptions and pictures to correctly identify your dinner, but the history of uses and a smattering of other wonderful, mastermind type gems of information.

But, despite the title of this post, I am not going to talk about the book of the same name.

I am going to talk about other food for free.

It is quite right to say that the current recession has left a great deal of people at odds with the super technological, remote and automated world. People are now wary of invisible investments and appear to be reawakening the sense of self responsibility.

Because of this there has been a boom in the crafts trades - knitting, making, mending, thrift. Eco cleaning - scrubbing your taps with a lemon and some bicarb instead of a luminous pink spray bottle with a name fitting a cartoon punch up sketch. Staying in is the new going out, and good clean (and cheap) fun is being made - flying kites, walking, foraging.

And of course, growing your own.

From free seeds given out with magazines, to television programmes and the lifetime wait for an allotment - the grow your own bug has bitten and most of us have been nibbled in one way or another.

Maybe I have never noticed before, but as I was walking the dog the other day I spotted a lone tomato plant in someones porch. One. But the care and attention given to this sole specimen was incredible. It was smothered with tasty looking fruits.

And as I wandered along the road, other edibles sprang up - runner beans up a side wall, lettuces in the front garden, strawberries in hanging baskets, artichokes to die for - all grown on a small patch.

We are all growing our own, and we love it.

But what happens when we grow too much? Well, this is where the title of the post kicks in.

Go into the country and you readily see little roadside stands with produce on and an honesty box. Do you ever see this is in the city? Probably not. So imagine my delight when, on walking the dog once more, we came across a box at the front of a house labelled:

'lettuces. grown organically. free - please help yourself'

The box was full of freshly pulled, wet and tasty little gems. A few slug holes, but hey - free and succulent.

When things are offered for free you do not have to ask me twice, so we picked up two of the little gems to have with some mackerel for tea. Perfect.

This got me thinking - if we are all growing a bit too much, how fantastically we could minimise our food miles by going back to our old swapping, bartering, or, as displayed by a resident in Wish Road, Hove, giving away for free?

Community spirit would be reintroduced - people would talk to one another once more and share not only stuff but conversations. Imagine that.

To waste any food is criminal (apparently we throw away a third of all the food we buy?) but to waste food that you have grown yourself seems to be the worst type of food crime.

So - give it away - have a chat, and just think - you could gain a new chum as well as a free feed.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

and the carnival swayed in the sun...

It is not until you are actively involved in an outdoor event that you really take notice of what our weather system has up it's varied sleeves.

We all know the weather has been described as 'changeable' over the past week or so, and therefore it was with distinct trepidation that I looked out of the window on a sunday morning a little while ago (at 5.45am) to see if the sun was out.

It wasn't, and my heart sank.

Why? This particular sunday was the Brighton Carnival.

A day of whistle blowing, massive costumes, rum and fresh coconuts was planned to be a day basking in the seaside sunshine, and instead it looked as though it was going to be washed into the gutter with the remnants of the saturday night revellers.

But, as I believe that everything comes right in the end, I trundled up to the workshop where I had been making green bunting until 1am the same morning to finish off the 33m I had set to achieve. I also made a green union jack to add to our stand (and on that front, look here for the most ridiculous and infuriating story I have heard in a while).

After an hour of bunting making in the grey halflight cast inside by the drizzle, I looked up to see a single shaft of light piercing through the window. All was to be well...

The day ended up being glorious, if not a little breezy (which we Brightonians are very used to - the sea gale we call a 'small tidal breeze').

We had booked a stand on the Madeira Drive strip in the eco festival section - The Green Wave Festival, and we had wonderful neighbours, including Herbal Haven, The Eco Garage and Nicola Thompson Architects.

Our stand was showcasing our little eco teardrop trailer, The Green Bean on it's official launch in the sun, and was a picture of green and eco loveliness on the beach, bedecked with my bunting.

We had a massive amount of interest in the Green Bean and were rushed off our feet from around 12 midday until we closed up shop at about 8pm, collapsing back at home too tired to eat.

The day was wonderful - busy, sunny, with fantastic live music, brilliant costumes and the eclectic mix of characters that fill our brilliant city. If you did not come this year, save the date for next year - you will have a ball...

PS - the green bean now has it's very own website - AND blog - campfire stories! where we will be posting our adventures, tours, trips and tips, recipes and hidden UK gems...come with us as we reclaim the Great British Holiday, the eco way!

Friday, 17 July 2009

eco design - all hair shirts and sandals...?

we live in a world of labels, perceptions and stereotypes. comedy sketches are written on them, arguments are fought on them and we are all subject to them in one way or another, in some point in our lives. some you can let wash over your heads whilst others strike a nerve.

one label that follows me around is 'eco designer', and please do not get me wrong - this is a label I happily apply to myself in part of the reply to the eternal question 'so, what do you do?'

what winds me up slightly are the preconceptions of some people to the phrase 'eco design'.

'oh - hippy stuff - all hair shirts, sandals and dirt eh?'
well quite frankly, no.
therefore it is nice when something pops along to reinforce the real meaning of a phrase and I was over the moon when I was given the new book 'Experimental Eco Design' (architecture / fashion / product) by Brower, Mallory and Ohiman.
for someone unsure as to what eco design is all about, this book is a revelation as it shows a section of the true scope of the subject.

so, what is eco design? well, from prefabricated, easily transported emergency housing to backpacks made from flour bags, stools made from cardboard pulp and bioluminescent lighting processes, the book is full of the wonderful ideas that designers have created to tackle one of the myriad of problems that eco design seeks to ease.

fantastic case studies are split with short essays, making the title both educational and inspirational. for any budding eco design student (and lets face it, all our design students should be concerned in their own ways) the book is essential reading, but this does not exclude it from the office shelf of a seasoned professional.

great for a flick through or a proper sit down and study, and at only £15, a bargain.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

oooh - p, p, pack up a picnic...

Sometimes I see things and turn in wonder to whoever I am with and proclaim - 'that is just genius.'

It does not happen very often, but I let rip a 'genius' whilst watching a very rare moment of TV this week.

'What to eat now' is another seasonal television programme that aims to educate us in the sustainable and low carbon seasonal plate, and is presented by the sparkly, childlike and very lively Valentine Warner.

The programme, which was based on creating the perfect picnic was rambling along nicely when the genius moment struck me and made me choke on my pasta.
Valentine hollowed out a split tin loaf of bread (organic I hope), and used it as a fully edible and protective lunchbox for a mini picnic - a jar of homemade mayonnaise, carrot sticks and other bits were piled in the cavity before the lid was stuck back on top and the whole thing was tied back together to resemble the unadulterated loaf once more.

Old Val used an elastic band, I would have used string, but there you go - my string obsession strikes again.

Fully edible, minimal waste and great to look at as well as eat. Genius.

So - go and have a bread picnic, and if it rains, have an bread based carpet picnic inside. Happy picnicking...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

mud, thunder and a smattering of flowers...

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show was almost a wash out for me. Not because it wasn't a great show, but because our lovely weather decided to dump a considerable amount of rain on my head.
but, this is what boots and an umbrella were designed for, so we trooped off to discover the treats on the sprawling site of the show last week.

As last year, I was distinctly impressed by some of the conceptual gardens, which were pulling the crowds and challenging the idea of a 'show' garden.

A particular favourite was the sunken garden 'hard to see' which had a wonderful sunken pit edged with mirrors and filled with a plethora of lush planting. The pit surround was black rubber shreds which, even though they seem to be a defining feature of a HCPFS conceptual garden, worked extremely well.

A lot of the other gardens were nice in a lot of ways, but my other votes have to go to the wonderful Tony Smith with his Quilted Velvet garden and Sarah Eberle who created what I felt to be the most exciting element of the show - the sustainable 'hub'.

The floral marquees were stuffed to the brim once more, but it was the edible pavilion that really got me excited. Fantastic exhibits and I am in love with the beautiful lablab bean. Simply stunning.

The floral marquee was complimented by the floristry marquee, which we toured during one of the very many thunderous downpours. As expected, one of the busiest stalls was that of Jane Packer, who had chosen the British 'tea party' as her theme. Densely packed roses looked the part as cupcakes on oversized cake stands, but I was both shocked and amazed at how much they were charging for a vintage teacup containing a rose and a bit of florists sand. I'm in the wrong business.

Met up with some more chums who were actually working and not on a jolly, including Toby of HME, BioTecture, Ian Gill and the ever lovely James Alexander-Sinclair.

All in all a good day, but would have been soooo much better in the sun...