Umami Mart

is back again. Follow my culinary infatuation with Hong Kong and check out what other delicacies I unearthed on my trip there at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish. This week is all about Shanghai crab!

In bookish news, I’m dying to see Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (The Royal Tenenbaums is one of my favourites) twinned with the sudden surge in interest in the novels of Stefan Zweig who is Anderson’s muse. I happened to come upon one copy of Zweig’s work, The Post Office Girl, at my library and nabbed it. I also got a copy of Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat as I’d been meaning to read her and it’s short.

The last few months have also seen the phenomenal popularity of Joanna Walsh aka Badaude’s year-long celebration of women’s writing which has swept the country. Read Women 2014 began as a series of cartes de voeux which Joanna drew with names of her favourite women writers on the back. As she solicited recommendations on twitter, it snowballed and showed how much interest there was in women’s writing from both women and men.

I’m compiling books by some of my favourite and often neglected women writers such as Françoise Sagan, Marguerite Duras, Amélie Nothomb, Ann Patchet and more and hope to join in too. Follow the hashtag #ReadWomen2014 on Twitter and check out Joanna’s blog.


What about you?

I’ve been a big fan of writer and illustrator Badaude aka Joanna Walsh’s work since I first stumbled upon her blog a few years ago. Her original style, clean lines and illustrations packed with lots and lots of words was an instant hit. I particularly love her fashion and style illustrations with her witty comments and her murals in Shakepeare & Co. Bookshop in Paris.

So it was with great excitement that I read her new book London Walks! crammed with lots of history, facts and observations about things to do in London, all done in her special style. There are 22 walks, 3 bus rides and 1 boat trip that covers London and lots of places I need to visit even though I’ve lived here for almost 20 years. Oops. But I have been to Highgate Cemetary and its environs and used to live near Tate Britain and Westminster, both lovely places to walk! I’m looking forward to exploring Wapping, the Necropolis, Waterloo and Spitalfields and the East End more.

It’s beautiful, clever, funny and chock full of information. I’ve already bought extra copies for my sister and friends. And I guarantee you will too.

I also went to check her out in person at Foyle’s where she did a talk and walk in celebration of her book’s publication. Here she is standing in front of her artwork.

I took along two of my schoolfriends, S & S, and we chortled our way through Badaude’s talk which was 1) brilliant and erudite, 2) had quotes from one of my favourite books, A Room With a View by E.M. Forster and 3) included a lobster vs. turtle race with audience participation. ‘Nuff said.

And after she explained what a flaneur was (i.e. an idler, someone who takes things slowly, hence the use of a turtle or lobster to set one’s walking speed, and whence she got the name Badaude), she took us on a little tour round the block to show us how to be a tourist in your own town.

Some brave volunteers agreed to dress like tourists (a policeman’s hat, a ‘London’ scarf and an ‘I Love London’ T-shirt were produced) and we began our tour outside Foyles, then down a dark little backstreet towards Soho Square, standing in the way of pedestrians to gawp at buildings and stare into a cafe to see whether we wanted to eat there. Then we took some photos of unusual things that we would never find where we live and then tried to get some GPS action (get out our phone and block out the sunlight) as it’s so easy to get lost in a foreign city.

It was a brilliant event and my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And badaude is as lovely and stylish as I imagined. I’ll leave you with some tourist snaps I took.

You can read Badaude’s post about the event here.

And do check out the mural she is drawing at the Tate Modern shop which should be up all Summer. And she’s sweetly agreed to draw me!

Paris Redux

17 August, 2010

So I went to Paris for four days last week with my family, something we do every few years. My parents met in Paris so it’s their favourite city in the world. We went in August this year so it was nice and empty except for tourists dotted here and there. But compared to London, there was enough breathing and walking space and we were able to get a table in any café and bistro we walked into. Nice one!

We each drew up a list of places we wanted to visit and of course, you’ve guessed mine: the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. Last time we arrived just at closing time and were unable to have a look, so this time, after a breakfast of tartines, croissants and café au lait while taking in the gorgeous view of Notre Dame, we trotted off to the famous secondhand bookshop bright and early. We spent a good hour there marvelling at the decor, the illustrations along the staircase by one of my favourite illustrators and writers Badaude and trying to figure out the sleeping arrangements of the tumbleweeds (aspiring writers who come to Paris in search of their muse and kip over at Shakespeare & Co in exchange for working in the shop and reading a book a day).

It’s a beautiful, cosy and welcoming place with lots of very interesting nooks and crannies filled with books. Lovely. Lucky for me I was born into a family of booklovers, but we had places to go and see, so I left with a copy of the poster (illustrated by Badaude again) of the biannual literary festival Festival and Co (where events are free!) which I sadly missed this year and also a copy of Shakespeare and Company’s literary journal, The Paris Magazine.

We stayed in a lovely hotel near the Odéon and because it’s very close to the Sorbonne and the University of Paris Medical Faculty, the streets were teaming with small bookshops from medical to architectural. Near our hotel we found two other English secondhand bookshops: The San Francisco Book Company and the The Berkeley Books of Paris! I’d heard of them but didn’t think I’d stumble across them.

And of course, how could we overlook my father’s favourite bookshop when he was a student there all those years ago, Gibert Jeune next to the Metro Saint Michel, with it’s iconic yellow signs.

We also had our after dinner coffees at a wonderful literary café, les éditeurs with book-lined walls and comfy red leather chairs:

I think I now understand why my parents are always going on about the Quartier Latin and Boulevard Saint Michel. Naturally we left Paris with a new nickname for my dad: Boule Miche! Vive la France and May 1968!

~  ♦  ~  ♦  ~  ♦  ~  ♦  ~  ♦  ~

On a different note, have you all had a chance to visit the BBC Archive – In Their Own Words: British Novelists site? Interviews galore! I’ll be spending the next few weeks with my ears glued to the screen.