No promises

No promises, no manifesto, no wild claims. Just an update.

I’ve been quietly assessing my online life recently. The recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica farrago that has been chuntering quietly in the background for over a year made me consider what I share and what I click on. Also, MostlyFilm has gone into a permanent hiatus. The reason for that? Lots of things.

Maintaining a blog is hard

Maintaining a group blog is even harder. I spent three months in the summer in the editor’s seat, hustling for previews, nagging writers, writing filler stuff when everybody was too busy to contribute, coming up with something original to say about yet another cartoon blockbuster or sensitive portrayal of rich English folks having a crisis in a gite. Screenings were always on at the wrong time, or in the wrong place, or I just didn’t fancy watching a hagiographic treatment of the life of Dennis Skinner. No really, I love the man, but the thought of watching a load of archive footage, followed by people telling you what you had just seen made me want to break out a copy of Triumph of the Will. In the end, I just gave up and handed the torch to someone else while I spent August whooping it up in New Zealand.

We had seven years as an completely unfunded online publication that relied solely on the goodwill and occasional brilliance of its contributors. A few of us are published writers and academics. We even had the odd director and producer write for us. And we got an interview with Kieran Evans just before the launch of his first feature film (which I watched again last night- Kelly+Victor– it’s really very good you know. And FYI, BAFTAs are surprisingly bulky little buggers). And Nitin Sawhney threatened us with legal action!

Writing and editing three articles a week was great, but it was also fucking hard work for very little reward.

We were all burned out after seven years and I think we were afraid of repeating ourselves, of becoming tired and cliched. After all, we don’t have to do this: we’ve got jobs and families and other stuff to do.

The landscape has changed

When we started, the idea of a bunch of online randoms writing about screen-based entertainment wasn’t exactly new, but the blogging universe was full of happy amateurs doing the same thing. Now there are hundreds and thousands of professional bloggers, marketising their clickbait content and optimising their search engines for fun and profit. I’ve nothing against them – we’ve all got livings to make – but our funny, thoughtful, sweary articles were drowning in a sea of cut-and-paste…blearh…and the only way out would have been to join them.

Trouble is, I’ve still got a transcript of a Q&A with Ben Wheatley (hosted by the brilliant Paul Duane in Dublin last year) with nowhere to go. We never got clearance from Mr Wheatley’s office to publish and, you know…it’s a fucking brilliant conversation between two wonderfully grumpy old gits about the mechanics of film production, and I have absolutely no idea what to do with it.


A Quiet Passion


Terence Davies’ biographical film about Emily Dickinson, starring Sex and The City’s Cynthia Nixon as the reclusive American poet, was released on DVD earlier this month. SarahSlade sees how the truth has been slanted.

I first found Emily Dickinson thanks to my English teacher, a very proper Southern Baptist from Alabama, who thought Cleopatra was no better than she should be and that we should be studying Dickinson’s poetry instead of Hardy’s. She was half right.

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I’m rebalancing and refocusing right now. The MA had to go by the wayside (too expensive – thanks Govey!), and I’m casting around to find something intellectually stimulating that will drag me away from my iPad for a while.

That means I’ve minimised the Facebook action to the stuff I do for The Bloomsburys, MostlyFilm updates, plus the odd general update for family overseas. You’ll have more luck finding me on Twitter or Instagram.

Christmas sewing project

To be honest, I’m more likely to instantly blog something on Instagram or Facebook these days. I don’t get much time to do long posts. But then occasionally I do, or I read something a friend has written and I think, “really should update the blog…” and then the feeling passes.

Still, we’re in the new year and I thought I’d share one of my Christmas presents with you.

The Knitting and Stitching Show has become a bit of a thing with me and mum over the past couple of years. Charlie and Martin couldn’t think of anything less like fun, so we get a pass for a day of pottering around Alli Palli, getting trampled by little old ladies with surprisingly sharp elbows and wishing we had brought our own picnic lunch.

We’ve got our favourite stallholders. One of them is Euro Japan Links, a small company specialising in Japanese fabric and sashiko embroidery supplies. Our kitchen table runner is made up from one of their kits.  I fell in love with the Japanese boxes kit at the October show, and Mum bought it for me for Christmas.

japboxcushionThis is what it’s supposed to look like. I loved the Escher-ness of it. Escher isn’t usually my thing – he’s too precise and mathematical for me – but there was something in this fabric optical illusion that really appealed to the unexplored tidy part of my consciousness.

You’ll find the kit on the website or at the Knitting and Stitching Show. They don’t ‘do’ ecommerce, so you’ll have to order it the old-fashioned (well, 1990s -it’s an AOL account!! ) way, by emailing them a request.

The Kit


The packaging is pleasingly simple: a plastic bag containing a selection of pretty Japanese fabric squares, a fat quarter of the one of the box colours, and a large piece of each box colour. The instruction booklet is nicely laid out with good illustrations.

The instructions are nice and clear too. The design is based around two basic shapes (that’s one more than I usually work with). Piecing together was  doddle once I got the hang of it.


The next step is to sew the patches into diagonal strips. Easy enough, as long as you get them the right way round.


The really hard bit is matching up the corners. I had to do a lot of unpicking and repositioning at this stage. Though being me, there was a point where I decided, “f*** it, that’ll do…”


Not perfect, but it still looks nice.

Once the piecing together is done, you’ve got the full front panel. The kit supplies enough fabric to make a border. After that, it’s up to you to do what you want with it. I wanted to make a cushion cover but decided that the front piece was too fragile to withstand the attentions of two cats, so I used the fat quarter piece supplied with the kit, plus a bit of spare wadding, to make a quilted piece.


Basically stitched in the ditch along the outside of the squares. I considered making it more detailed, but stopped caring about halfway through the first few lines of stitching. This is my usual approach to quilting, tbh; lots of big ideas that melt into nothingness when it comes to actually doing it.

I dug into my stash to find some denim fabric for the cushion back. It’s a simple envelope fastening, but the shape is a non-standard cushion shape, so I’m going to have to dig into the stash again to find some disposable fabric (and stuffing) to make a cushion.

Still…it was fun to make and the finished product makes me look cleverer than I actually am, which is always nice.

Bowyer Place in 1841

I’m slowly getting back into this research lark. Today I decided to dip back into the census for 1841 to take a look at Bowyer Place, where the Oldroyds and Buchanans lived, to see if I could get an idea of what sort of street it was. Who were the inhabitants? What did they do for money?

A little background to Camberwell. According to Old and New London: Volume 6, Camberwell was  mentioned in the Domesday book as a large village with its own church, populated mainly by lower class cottagers and farmers. The manor attached to Camberwell was passed around various minor royals and the Buckingham family until the Duke of Buckingham was beheaded in 1521. It was bought by Edmund Bowyer in 1583. There may have been a spa or well somewhere about, since St Giles, patron of the parish church, was also patron saint of cripples and mendicants. John Evelyn talks about Sir Edmund Bowyer’s “melancholie seate” in 1657. Bowyer House was pulled down to make way for the railway in 1861, but in 1841 it was  still in use, possibly as a home for the Camberwell Literary and Scientific Institution or as a school for young ladies.

Old and New London stats that Bowyer Lane was the “abode of questionable characters of all sorts”, and a family living in Bowyer Lane around 1836 were exhibiting the body of an executed horse thief for a shilling a head. Lovely.

Bowyer Place, on the other hand, appears to be a new development in 1841. I can’t find any reference to it on Cary’s New Plan of London (1837) or on a map of the parish of St Giles dating from around 1834-ish that I have knocking about.

It was built a few hundred yards south of the rather elegant Addington Square on what appears to be Southampton Street in Cary’s map. There are eleven houses in the row, from what I can tell from the census. Unfortunately the 1841 census just lists each household, with no house numbers or whether the dwelling was an apartment or a separate house. Whatever buildings were there in 1841 aren’t there any more, so I’m going to assume that they would have been townhouses rather like the slightly shabby ones in Walworth Road, only with no shops on the ground floor.

Question marks indicate that I couldn’t read the census-taker’s handwriting.

The households in Bowyer Place were:

The Parkes family

John (?) Parks (55), either a publisher and professor of music, along with his wife, Mary, adult daughter Emma, a teacher called Ellen Bentham (?) and a teenage maid, Charlotte Lawson (?)

The Cox family

Robert Cox (30), a builder,  his wife Elizabeth, and small son Robert, and Mary Ray (?) another teenage maid.

The Ball family

Hosiah (?) Ball (40) a professor of languages, his wife Maryann, and children Thomas and Louisa. There is also an Elizabeth Ball (30) and a two-year-old child called Henry Goodwin. The census indicates that Elizabeth is the mother (hmm). The servant is Elizabeth Tooley (30).

The Belliston (?) family

George Belliston (47) works as an upholsterer. His wife, Harriet, is 12 years younger than him. They have seven children; the youngest is seven months and the oldest (Sarah) is 16.

The Elliots

Sophia Elliot (60) is of independent means and has a 25-year-old daughter, Maria. Also resident are Edward Appleyard (60) and Mary Hurrell (20). These last two appear to be servants.

The Buchanans

Aha! Rellies! James Buchanan (70) is of independent means, though that could mean he’s retired. His son William Buchanan (30) is a nurseryman. Ellen (5) and Arthur (3) could be James’ grandchildren. It looks like their mother is no longer alive, but censuses aren’t too good on that sort of detail. Eliza Mayer (25) is the household servant.

The Fishers

Good name for a preacher, which is what Henry (38) does for a living. If he is a Methodist, then he would have been living in the middle of his parish with his wife, Ann (39) and daughters, Selina (12) and Mary (4). There are no resident servants.

The Oldroyds

More rellies! Henry Oldroyd (55) is a nurseryman, like young William. His wife Anna (40) is James Buchanan’s daughter. His son, Henry (20) is also a nurseryman. William Lord (30) is a mariner and Elizabeth Burgess (20) is the household servant.

 The Wests

Stephen West (50) does something with furniture, but I can’t for the life of me work out what. His wife Hannah (35) has eight children; the youngest of which, Henry (20) seems to have been born when she was 15, but she may be his stepmother. I’m not sure if they have a maid. There is a young man called Edward also living her, but I can’t figure out his profession.

The Laum (?) family

Cornelius (40) is an appraiser. Doesn’t say of what. His wife Sarah (35) has  six children between the ages of 15 months and 14 years. They have no servants, but the eldest child, Emily probably has to help run the house.

The Barnes family

Edward (38) is a bricklayer. His wife Elizabeth is 35 and they have seven children between the ages of five months and 16 years.

So, the Oldroyds are living in a newish development with the middling sort. Nobody is utterly poverty-stricken, but with so many mouths to feed, life must be a struggle for the West, Laum and Barnes families. Yet we also have some more middle-class residents. Mrs Elliot and her daughter living in relative space and comfort. In the middle of that the Oldroyds and Buchanans; inlaws living a few doors apart, suggesting a close-knit family, possibly in and out of each others’ homes all day and night.



There is a good reason, honest!

Very few updates recently because…well, things got a bit intense. Good intense, not bad intense, I promise.

The first good thing is that I’ve got a new job…and it’s back with Thomson Reuters. Not only back with Thomson Reuters, but back on the team I left. There have been a few changes over the past few years and the team’s focus has expanded: they’re doing some really good stuff, and it’s an opportunity to share my experiences (good and bad) to make the cool stuff we were doing even cooler. It’s not Google, but it’s home. And I like it.

Charlie did her first school trip away from home, a ski trip in Switzerland for just over a week. We mooched around the quiet, tidy house and got phone calls complaining about the cold, the ski instructors and another school party that decided to pelt them with snowballs . But she had fun, made some friends, hurtled down icy mountainsides on a pair of planks…

When she came back we decided to deal with the cat issue. Joey passed away about a month and a half ago and Ringo was going a bit stir crazy without someone to annoy, so we went to Celia Hammond and found this young lady. IMG_0475

Her name is Missy. She was found wandering around a block of flats. The Celia Hammond staff reckon she’s around two years old, but I think she’s a bit younger than than. She is pretty, charming, clever and extremely mischievous with a hair-trigger temper. Ringo hates her. I’ve just had to chase her out of the study where I’d taken Ringo for a bit of a cuddle, but he won’t be in the same room as her and ran off as soon as she came near him. It’ll calm down eventually, I know.

We also did ChoirFest at Dulwich Hamlets in March. I took some photos…

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