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Wish I was here...

Postcard courtesy of The John Hinde Collection
...but I'm at home in London. However, I am away – kind of, as I'm taking a blog holiday for the rest of August. 

Among other things (like getting finishing painting the door-frames I began four years ago, getting some pictures framed that have been waiting about three years, and picking up an eBay wardrobe from Dartford) I shall be working on the blog behind the scenes. It needs some love and attention. And I need some time to put my focus elsewhere, work-wise, for a short while. But I'll be back in September, just in time to get excited about the London Design Festival.

Meanwhile, if you like this 1970s Cornish postcard, you can read all about the story behind it in this earlier post, and on the other website I edit, Below the River. Or check out the John Hinde Collection (link in caption). Or just have a good old rummage around the site via the little "you might also like" preview boxes below this post.

And if you're away – have fun and holiday HARD.

x Kate

Egg-head stationery from the School of Life

I have never been to London's School of Life, and though mildly pretentious and Alain de Botton-y as it is, I am always drawn to its unusual philosophical seminars and events, in theory at least if not in practice (yet).

Indeed, some of them are more than intellectually diverting: right now, the summer school is hosting How to Find a Job You Love – though plain old How to Find a Job might get more punters in the current climate. There are also talks on Commitment, the regular Bibliotherapy sessions, How to be Creative and thought-provoking themed tours of the capital, plus much more. It's kind of seductive.

But if you don't have the time, funds, loved-ones or geographical convenience to become a big-brained entrepreneurial super-couple with a stack of nurturing tomes on your bedside tables: you can now buy the stationery instead.

Yep. School of Life stationery is the affordable way to get a bit of Botton and pals in your life. And it's way prettier.

Above is the pleasingly hued Twenty Aphorisms; Cards with Short Sentences and Large Truths, £18. The boxed set of "short, pithy statements designed to provoke a thrill of recognition at valuable, amusing, dark and perhaps awkward truths", each printed onto stiff, grey A5 card in this good font (type nerds will I hope be able to quickly identify which... do share if you know).

The Key Word Pencil Set, £12, is a box of six embossed pencils with one of three themes: Psychoanalysis, Literature or Art.

As TSOL explains: "The School tries to find answers to life's big questions through the use of culture, which includes academic disciplines like literature, art and psychoanalysis. These disciplines often work with some rather complicated words; beautiful, useful but perhaps slightly forbidding terms (like BATHOS or PROJECTION). We thought it would be helpful to emboss a selection of these words elegantly along some finely crafted pencils so that we'll get them more clearly in our minds while we write." Good colours too.
School Of Thought Notebooks, £15 set of three, feature "Three notebooks, three thinkers" – and you can choose from three themes: The Stoics, The Pessimists or The Existentialists.

I'll let TSOL elaborate: "The history of philosophy is filled with some fascinating 'schools of thought' dedicated to tackling life's big problems in distinctive ways. We're especially keen on The Stoics (who know how to suffer), The Pessimists (who know how to sigh) and The Existentialists (who know about angst)."

Each notebook carries an introduction to a great thinker on the inside front page, his name beautifully printed on the cover, with otherwise blank pages for you to fill with shopping lists and scribblings made during conversations with the gas board/your mobile phone network/the bank etc. Which could kind of be philosophical...

All of this and more in the range is available from the Southbank Shop.

Seventies gardens

This was possibly both the most excellent and the most impractical garden furniture invention of the 1970s.

So unsuited to British weather – think of the mould and rust potential – but so garishly, decadantly glamorous. All that's missing is an artificially tinted drink in a tall plastic glass with a curly straw, a dainty bowl of Skips to snack on, a wafty house-coat with massive batwing sleeves, and a vast suburban garden in which to erect the thing.

The very well curated Winter's Moon in Chichester has found this pristine-looking beauty (it can't have been living in someone else's vast suburban garden all these years, surely?).

It's a little out of the usual price-range, at £325 – but it's such a joyful thing to fantasise about lounging on on a Monday morning, it seemed wrong not to share. Find it at Winter's Moon.

I tracked down a few other 60s and 70s garden accessories if this has got you in the mood. This glorious parasol is £55 from Vintage Actually.

This pair of 1970s floral deckchairs is for sale on eBay. The chairs have three bids on them already – but are only up to £26.01. The auction ends tomorrow.

A totally necessary canary yellow picnic jug set: for all those times you've yearned for your tea from a brightly coloured plastic pot, and served in plastic cups. It's even got a thing to put your milk in. You won't have to leave that rocking lounger all afternoon... It's just £8 from the Goodnight Prudence shop on Etsy.

No garden? Bring the 1970s outdoors vibe indoors, with a classic macrame plant hanger. This one is around £19 from the Odd Bin on Etsy (based in the US but they ship worldwide).

Shipping forecast fondness

The British fondness for Radio 4's Shipping Forecast is a comforting thing.

And thanks to E. Annie Proulx, even American readers (and I know there are a lot of you) will know what I'm on about. It's why this tiny little pin dish – depicting the evocatively named sea regions surrounding the British Isles – is pretty much my favourite thing in daily use in my house.

It's a bit knackered, and it only cost about £1, but I have used it every day since I found it – gleefully – in a magnificently bulging Isabel Hospice Shop (I think) in Potter's Bar, where I'd been to interview someone for a story.

I use it to put used tea-bags on (shamefully, as you can see, despite my scrubbing it quite hard for the photo its use is quite clear). I almost thought it was too good to use for my teabags – precisely because it was likely to get stained, and also because I liked it too much to want to give it such a prosaic purpose. But then I'd have been denying myself the daily pleasure I get from looking at it.

I hadn't looked at the back for the manufacturer until today (I bought it a little while back – prompted to write about it now for a reason I'll get to shortly): Britannia Dartmouth, it says. I Googled them and found that eBay is very well stocked with partner pieces.

There's the exact same dish currently going for £3.99 (and stain-free!), as well as the variation you can see above, for £1.99. The eBay search also threw up a few other Britannia designs of this ilk – one depicting London, one of the county of Devon, and a rather odd one with an illustrated Teddy Boy on it... Anyways – if you like the style, have a browse.

Now for the afore-mentioned prompt. I stumbled across this, below, which also feeds the warm fuzzy feeling we have for the Shipping Forecast.

It's a screenprint from the Calm Gallery and is by the prolific illustrator, James Brown. It's titled Viking, after the first region on the map, and costs £35 unframed.

Another bear...

Yesterday I wrote about a nice antique bear I'd seen at a friend's house (and then hunted out on eBay). Now I'm writing about bears AGAIN. 

I even wrote about another nice bear, I've just remembered, only a couple of months ago too. Lordy, have I no imagination? Come on. They're good bears. Enjoy them! These bears are the work of illustrator, Sandra Dieckmann.

Sandra is a 29-year-old German-born, east London-based illustrator who owns a cat called Little Crumb. She sells her work via a well-stocked Etsy shop in the form of prints of various sizes, as cards and as the occasional bag. This bear, above, costs £14 as an A4 print, a card for £2.50 or on a tote bag for £8.

This one also comes as an A5 print, for £5, as well as in other sizes.

Sandra also draws other animals too: like robins, left, zebras, below left, and, of course, a cat woman, right. I came across Sandra's work via Cut and Paste, a temporary shop recently co-hosted by the Crafty Fox and Brixi, a little shop near my house, stuffed, as its owner puts it – "with largely unnecessary but beautiful things".

In her Etsy profile, Sandra says: "Being somewhere silent and green with the sky above me makes me wonder why I put up with living in a large fast city... but in a strange way, living in an urban environment helps perpetuate my theme of nature and animals."