Author: Sarah Slade

Girlfriend is Better

I’ve been writing for Mostly Film again. This time about The Girlfriend Experience. It was intriguing, slightly annoying, but better than Sherlock.


Sarah Slade watches Elvis’s granddaughter go through The Girlfriend Experience


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Christmas sewing project

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…



Other thing I’m doing: an online photography course. This is from b/w week…

My epic history of Chartism in Camberwell has had to take a back seat for a while. I discovered that the OU had put their prices up, and I didn’t have enough money to pay for the course. No matter. It just gives me a little bit more procrastination time.

I’ve got another procrastination aid too: I heard a Purcell guitar melody on Radio 3 a few weeks ago and thought: “I used to play stuff like that.” A quick fossick on the Internet and I found a fairly up to date arrangement for a few quid. Finding (and remembering how to tune)  a nylon-string guitar was another matter, and then there was the tiny issue of me remembering how classical guitar fingering goes.

So, following Viv Albertine’s advice of not going three days without practising and taking things slowly, I’ve worked out the fingering for the first page (there are four). It still sounds bloody horrible, but noticeably better than when I first picked up the guitar, so I’ll persevere. It’s nice to have a project.

I’ve also been learning how to lindy hop at the Ivy House. Apparently we all passed our beginner course with flying colours and now we’re on to stage 2, in which we learn how to do the pulling and pushing stuff.

Just don’t ask me about the cardigan I started knitting last September…

Dry January

Dry January

The lid stays ON…*sniff*…

I’m going alcohol-free for January in aid of Cancer Research.

Those of you who know me will probably remember my little tussle with cervical cancer that resulted in a Wertheim’s hysterectomy five years ago. I’m finally signed off from having to have follow up smears every six months and I can now go back to a bi-annual date with Metal Mickey (or his godson, Plastic Pete). The whole process took nine years from the first dodgy smear test to the final test a few weeks ago.

A month or so ago I was jollying my friend Claire along about some tests that she had to undergo following the birth of her baby. Then the results came back. Less than six months after giving birth, she now has to undergo six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. starting on New Year’s Eve.

For some reason, that made me want to do something positive. Well, I got our girl gang to club together to buy a bottle steriliser and I’ve got plans to start doing freezer packs of squished carrots for little Joe’s weaning, but then I wanted to do a little bit more, which is when I found out about the Dryathalon. So, as of 1 January, in solidarity with the Shep, I will give up all alcohol for the month of January, so she’s not alone when she pokes miserably at a cranberry and soda in the pub.

Again, if you know me you’re probably thinking, “Hang on, Smithsky, you only have to sniff a glass of wine and your face turns an entertaining shade of purple and you suddenly need to take a nap. You have even been known to be violently ill after a mere three pints. So you’re not exactly hardcore are you?” To this I say, “It’s a medical thing, actually. It’s called Asian Flush. So Google it, why don’t you? Oh hang on, here’s a link.”

To be honest, I think it’s going to be quite hard, even if I don’t drink all that much. I rather like a glass of wine to help relax me at the end of a tough commute. When I’m laying waste to the opposition in a pub quiz, a beer helps to stimulate the grey matter. And I have absolutely no idea how I will get through a choir practice without the soothing promise of alcohol at the end.

But you can help in two ways.

  1. Donate via my JustGiving page. Just click on the link or on the fetching pink button in the sidebar.
  2. Email me your recipes for non-alcoholic cocktails. I might even write a feature on them for the blog…

So here it is…

Yep, it takes Christmas and a post-Archers lull to get me to update the blog. Marvellous.

Family news: everybody’s fine. Charlie’s first school report (they do termly ones at Deptford Green) showed straight As for everything except Science (“I went to a arts-focused primary school!”) Art (A B for behaviour?! Who doesn’t muck around in Art? Art’s all about mucking around) and French (“The teacher’s rude, mum”). She has settled down really well and has a little gang of geeky friends to hang out with. She is also a Student Leader and has to check everybody’s homework and uniform. I think the class elected her because she’s nice and they assumed that she wouldn’t be too hard on them. Unfortunately they weren’t to know even the smallest smidgen of power activates the Hard Bastard gene, and she is quite remorseless in sticking to the rules and handing out detentions to wrongdoers.

Our Gap Year guest, Chanelle, made it safely back to New Zealand and starts uni in March. We’re slowly repossessing the spare room, finding the odd discarded garment and wondering what to do with the broken suitcase in the cupboard. But it was fun having her around and Charlie loved having a big sister figure to bicker with.

Courtney pine
Courtney Pine at the Hideaway: our Christmas treat

Christmas was low-key but lovely. This is the first year in forever where I didn’t have to work on Christmas Eve and the first in few years where I wasn’t stressed to the max by work (last year I was frantically rewriting knowledge check questions for Santander’s HR team until midday, signing off a course on project management for LRT and doing final delivery on an intranet training course for a TOP SEKRIT CLIENT). In fact, it was so laid back that Martin and I managed to fit in a visit to our favourite jazz venue to see the legendary Courtney Pine. It was still a school night so we had to leave just as he really got going but still…it was magical.


Oooh another one…

Oooh another one…

Bit of a flurry of activity here. Sorry about that, but after attending the Mumsnet Blogfest on Saturday, I felt inspired to update this place. I’ve got plans to blog my research reading  for my MA project (along with all my malaises and moans about the subject). My Mostly Film writings are also under a separate category and if I find any more interesting family history stuff, it’ll go under Family Stories.

So…Blogfest. I’ve never done a blogging festival before, but my friends Jenny and SouthwarkBelle, both bloggers, persuaded me it would be a laugh (gin may have been consumed during this conversation).

The day was divided into two morning and two afternoon sessions, with a small awards ceremony and a drinks party in the evening.

That’s Margaret Atwood. In her house…

The first morning session was all about motherhood and creativity, with Bridget Christie, Meera Syal, Margaret Atwood and some bloggers (I didn’t really take notes…sorry…). It was interesting to hear people discussing how they negotiated childcare and creative work – something for which you need time and space.

I had a bit of a problem with the event logo. You can’t really see it in the photos, but the logo was purply pink with a slightly offset red shadow. From a distance it looked a bit like the beginnings of a migraine.

Not bad. And I got mints too!

The mid-morning session on photography yielded my first ever goody bag! It was a rather snazzy Western Digital portable hard drive. The label said it was 3 terabytes, but my macbook can only detect 1 terabyte. Still, can’t be greedy. My images, posts, documents and embryo ibooks were all backed up and safe almost as soon as I plugged the drive into the USB port. What more can you ask for?

Just before lunch, we had Think Bombs: three well-known people (Sandi Toksvig, Val McDermid and David Baddiel) gave five minute presentations on a topic that was supposed to stimulate conversations. They were all seasoned (and excellent) performers, but the cynic in me spotted that David Baddiel had a show to promote, Sandi Toksvig was promoting the Women’s Equality Party, and only Val McDermid seemed to be just there to encourage us to silence our inner critics and find space to create.

After lunch, we had probably the most interesting session for me: how the Internet changes public discourse and campaigning. Stella Creasy offered some great practical advice on engaging MPs in your campaign (give them something specific to do, don’t just ask for their support) and Nimco Ali talked of her campaign against FGM. This was a livelier session, with plenty of contributions from the floor and I learned a lot about how people use social media as a campaigning tool, not just to ‘raise awareness’.

I can’t remember much about the next session, but afterwards there was cake…


We were getting a bit worn down by the last (and possibly the most gruelling) session, discussing how much of your private life do you put in the public domain. The panelists had all put something of their inner lives on the internet (and made a living out of it), and I came away not really any the wiser about whether it was a Good or a Bad thing. Possibly I was getting cross and tired by this point and I needed more tea.

But then there was an odd awards ceremony (three prizes, all of which seemed to go to the people sitting in front of us – I was reminded of eLearning awards that seem to circulate around three or four agencies). And then there was wine…


I’m holding a glass of prosecco and a sealed plastic glass of rather smooth Merlot that I snaffled for Mr S. We drank, we raided passing canape trays, Belle and Jen hugged fellow sciencey/health bloggers…then we picked up our groaning goody bags and went home.

Blogfest’s focus seemed to be on writing and creativity, getting published, promoting your ideas. I already write for a living, and I’m happy with doing the odd MF piece or scribbling on my blogs without having to be sold the middle-class writer lifestyle (they didn’t go into the fraught ‘pitching ideas to harassed editors and being paid in magic beans’ side of things much).

On the plus side, the sciency philosophy bloggers were lovely, and I learned a few interesting things, read some really good writing and drank lots and lots of coffee.

And it must have worked because I’ve spent two evenings updating and fussing around with this blog. So, maybe this is a new start, eh?




We went to Venice at half term and I’ve only just got around to blogging the pics (they’re already elsewhere on Google Photos)

It was beautiful. I loved every second, even the rain, the semi-flooded streets, the fog, the mosquitos and the damp. I loved getting lost in the maze of alleys and cut-throughs. Surprisingly, the actual ‘sights’ weren’t as brilliant as just being there, shopping in the supermarkets, having a quiet coffee and watching the world go by, and investigating many many glass shops. We’ll be back.