So, this past weekend the girls all came down to Oxford to visit me for a couple of days, and Kay asked me to write a little something about it for her wonderful homey blog.
Let me tell you straight off; this weekend was goddamn awesome. It had been a long time coming; we had to arrange around people’s work schedules and money troubles and family commitments, but that made it all the more sweeter when I saw Kay’s car pulling into the courtyard of my flat on Friday evening, and all the girls piling out trailing heavy suitcases and duvets and generally looking like they’d packed for a year or a stay in the Big Brother house.
Kay had brought me this amazing V-pillow she had made for me, in beautiful floral fabric. I adored it because I’m massively into homeware and design and it fitted perfectly with the general aesthetic of my flat. The girls had never visited me before so there was a lot of exploring of HaJa House, and all I heard was ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ emanating from every room while they took a look around and alighted on things they liked. Kay shares my passion for design and interiors so she went around like the paparazzi taking photographs of everything.
MESSAGE BACK NOW PLEASE
This is the first place I’ve lived in completely alone, so I’ve definitely put my stamp on it. I’ve been collecting various items of homeware and design for over ten years now and seeing it all come together in my Oxford flat has been totally rewarding.
I love colour and patterns and different textures, so I have a lot of variations all over the flat. I’ve got coloured and patterned rugs, a bunch of throws and lightshades and clashing picture-frames. When I moved in the walls were all whitewashed so I went to Homebase & took a load (and I mean loads) of wallpaper samples to add some colour to the porch and around my built in wardrobe. I also ordered some online. I’ve got tons of photographs and graphic design all over the walls – I need to be surrounded by art that means something to me. And one wall in the living room is completely given over to my collection of books.
I like to mix old and new. I can’t think of anything worse than an identikit Ikea house, but likewise I wouldn’t wanna live in a place stuck in the past designed like a bad pastiche of old fashions. So in the living room I have really threadbare old rugs belonging to my uncle, an old chest as a coffee table and typewriters and record players. But I also have a bright purple modern microwave (which I call Barney) and modern designed light fittings.
Travel and location also really inspire me. I have a giant Klimt screen print of The Kiss, which I bought in St. Petersburg, which then travelled with me to Moscow, then Samara, then London, then Liverpool, and has finally settled with me here in Oxford. A lot of picture frames I have are from Tuscany in Italy. The patchwork quilt I have on the bed was made by a guy who has his own stall in India. I have a bunch of other stuff from Russia when I used to live there – my Swarovski Faberge egg is a particular favourite. But I really love my placemats which depict traditional scenes of Oxford, like the Radcliffe Camera, the Bridge of Sighs and Magdalen Bridge.
After the girls had fully explored the flat it was time to get out into Oxford and show them my own personal vision of the city. We spent the first day out and about in the town. We spent a little time on South Parade in Summertown (my hood) checking out charity shops and my favourite design shop, Liscious, before we wandered along the famous Broad Street. The girls dived into Blackwell’s Art and Poster shop and I didn’t see them for about four hours after that. When I did, I was keen to point out the statue of Anthony Gormley on the roof. We passed some of the most famous buildings in the world; the Bodleian Library (which houses every book ever published in the world, ever); the Sheldonian Theatre and the Radcliffe Cam.
I also took them to one of my favourite hidden places in Oxford, which is a vintage clothes shop called Unicorn. It is totally like something out of a book. The lovely woman who runs it is about 95 and if you ever try to buy something she tells you it’s not for sale. It is a true eccentric gem in a country which is now taken over by multi-national companies and identikit high street chains. It’s also quite difficult to get into, because the whole shop-floor looks like my wardrobe on a Saturday night.
The rest of the day was spent climbing up towers for breathtaking Oxfordshire views, pointing out the oldest building in Oxford – which Kay could probably now remember in her sleep – checking out the Christ Church college dining room, (which was the inspiration for the Hogwarts Great Hall in Harry Potter), visiting a sweet shop which could be run by Willy Wonka, having lunch in the Town Hall, diving into the famous Covered Market, whizzing past the Oxford Union, and finally settling down for some warming pints in my regular haunt, The Oxford Retreat.
It was an amazing day and so breathlessly packed that all we had the energy for in the evening was stuffing ourselves with pizza and wine and lounging about the flat gossiping and chatting!
On Sunday, the weather was absolutely stunning. One of those beautiful crisp, silvery, bright winter’s days with a cloudless blue sky. It was exactly what I was hoping for. Fresh for lack of hangovers, we walked through Jericho – my favourite neighbourhood of the city – across Port Meadow, which is just ridiculously beautiful. Here we stopped to take some shadow photographs of us spelling out the word ‘OXFORD’, as you do. My friend Tom helped out and thought we were all absolutely mental.
A walk along the river Isis, and down a romantic trail we arrived at the traditional Perch Inn, to drink mulled wine underneath an ancient tree decorated with wind-chimes and a Buddha! Then it was back across the meadow for our final stop; a roast dinner in the Jericho Tavern (my second home). We were all stuffed and unable to move. There was just about time to indulge in a White Russian in the heated garden and a meet and greet with a couple of my friends and then the girls had to start heading on their way home.
All in all, an absolutely awesome weekend. We had so much fun, and I think the girls really enjoyed Oxford. It was really special for me to show some of my best and oldest friends in the whole world the city which I have come to think of as my home and the place I feel so comfortable in. It meant a huge amount to me, to have my favourite people in my favourite place.
They were perfect guests. Except for the fact I think they ransacked my flat for pretty much everything I own and have carefully collected for over a decade. This aside, come back soon!