Mims' Musings

Archive for August 2011

A mainly visual post today. Including highlights of our trip in the Victoria Falls area: the sunset cruise on the Zambezi, the Victoria Falls themselves (note the pretty rainbow!), the walk with Lions we did, Gem squash (if anyone knows where to get these in London please tell me!), the beach in Ballito where we’re now staying, and the souvenir from my Dad’s Aunt Maureen’s birthday celebration!




For more information on the charity which runs the lion walks, please go to:









So, here we are. After a tiny stopover in Paris, we travelled for 10 hours to Johannesburg.  Dazed and disorientated, a gathering of ‘Chefs on Tour’ at the airport didn’t help! Around 50 chefs, all gathered and waving flags, can be quite surreal to the weary traveller.

Pictured above is Johanessburg’s equivelent to the Oyster Card from what I can tell, called the Gautrain. We got the yellow line from O R Tambo airport to Sandton (just about visible in the picture!). As we were riding this cool looking gold train, my dad told me that it was built in the UK. As I observed how clean it was, how incredibly comfortable the seats were, and how fast and smooth the ride was, I couldn’t help but think, if it’s built in the UK why don’t we have anything that good?!

As we were staying overnight in Sandton City, we spent the afternoon in Nelson Mandela Square, where there’s a mighty impressive statue of the man himself! We spent hours going around the Labyrinthine shopping mall, watching a bit of the South Africa vs. New Zealand rugby game, then we all watched a movie.

Today we caught a flight from Johannesburg to Livingstone, Zambia. Then spent most of the day going through border offices, first at the airport to enter Zambia, then at the Zambia border to leave it, then a few minutes later at the Zimbabwe border to enter it! It was quite an experience. But well worth it once we got to our hotel…

This is part of The Kingdom Hotel, near the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. In this building is the Casino and gift shops, then when we’re staying is the pool, about 10 blocks of accomodation and a huge restaurant.

This is what’s known as the ‘Gorge Bridge View’, (not because it’s Gorgeous like I thought….), it’s about a 5 minute walk from our hotel and as you can see, it’s amazing! On the left side there’s a bungee jump, and a zip line that goes all the way across, which I’m actually semi-tempted to go on.

Just behind where this gorge is, we could see the spray from the Victoria Falls themselves. Tomorrow we’ll go see them properly- exciting!!!
And so ends the first installment of our African Adventure….make sure you don’t miss the next installment, subscribe! (enter your email address in the top right)

From the moment the ‘bar lights’ floated down to their position above the Donmar stage, I knew Anna Christie was going to be something quite unlike anything I’d seen there before. Once my ear had fully tuned into David Hayman’s accent, I was completely immersed in the captivating, yet simple, story of a Chris, the  Scandinavian barge captain (Hayman), whose estranged daughter, Anna (Ruth Wilson) comes to visit him. During a storm, Mat Burke  (Jude Law) is rescued by Anna and they fall in love. As neither Chris or Mat realise that Anna had been working as a prostitute, they lock in a battle to ‘possess her’.

Ruth Wilson gives a spirited performance of the protagonist. Portraying her as a strong, ballsy, sassy, witty young woman, who appears to be in charge of herself. However, Wilson also exquisitely shows Anna’s vulnerable side, one that is traumatised by her past. By the end of the show, the audience is rooting for Anna to be happy. A testament to both Eugene O’Neill’s creation of a likeable female lead who is a prostitute, and the way in which Wilson embodied the character perfectly.

Jude Law’s performance as Mat Burke was one of intense electricity and raw physicality, which perfectly contrasted the innocence of a sailor looking to settle down with the pure anger that resulted from the sense of betrayal, as Anna peels the final onion skin off her emotional barrier and reveals her past.  This performance shows Law at his very best, fully shedding any past stigma of ‘good looking leading man’ syndrome and coming into his own with a refined command of the stage.

David Hayman gave a truly endearing performance as Chris Christopherson. Making the audience laugh with the character’s superstitions and personality quirks, and pulling at their heartstrings as he emotionally breaks down.

Although the acting would have been enough to do this play justice, the production and scenery made it perfect. The Donmar stage was transformed beyond recognition. The audience audibly gasped as it rose to an alarming angle, so high that the top of the stage was nearly level with the Circle seats. The storm scene was immense, and not only visually striking but so much rain was used that the audience could even feel the coolness of the water.

This production was the perfect marriage of visual and acting prowess. The perfect execution of an ambitious play, and the like of which I hope to see much more of at the Donmar in the future.



For Christmas 2009, my parents bought me a sewing machine. I’d just had a basic lesson on how to use one, resulting in a cushion cover, and was excited to see what else I could do with one. For a year and a half I had a lot of practice in hemming (as I’m only 4ft8 nearly every pair of Jeans needs taking up), but I was increasingly interested in more ambitious projects, and really wanted to learn to sew my own clothes.

For as long as I can remember, my Gran has always been a genius with a sewing machine. During the time she was teaching me, she used an Elna sewing machine that she’s had since 1964, using it to sew clothes for my Dad and his siblings as they grew up in Zimbabwe, and after they moved to the UK in the 1980s. As a child I always remember the sewing machine being a magical thing that I’d see when visiting Gran and Grandad, and I like to think that part of my interest in crafting comes from Gran, just as my storytelling skills are partly owed to Grandad

Last week I finally had the opportunity to go and stay with my Grandparents for a couple of nights. I not only got to spend quality time with them, but my Gran also taught me how to sew a dress, using a pattern and fabric that I’d chosen

The few nights I spent with them will be ones that I treasure for a long time. I’m overjoyed with the dress that Gran and I made together, and feel that she was the best teacher I could’ve asked for, never taking over and always making sure I understood what needed to be done. I’ve decided to share everything that I learned from her here, partly so I don’t forget, partly so this can help anyone else who might be confused about sewing from a pattern, and aren’t lucky enough to have a patient teacher like my Gran.


  1. Carefully take your measurements (in my case Bust = 39inches, Waist = 32 inches, Hips= 42 inches, Back of Neck to Waist = 15.5 inches) and identify which size you need from the pattern envelope (in my case Size 14)  Before looking it’s best that you accept that it won’t be the same size as the clothes you buy in shops! Just trust it. (My inner voice did wimper slightly as I’m usually a size 12)
  2. Work out which ‘view’ you’re going to use, decide on it and stick with it. Identify which pattern pieces you need. (In my case I chose View B)
  3. Cut roughly around the pattern pieces- just getting the rough shape, nowhere near the lines you’re going to follow on the pattern. Pin the tissue onto the fabric. Don’t worry too much about grain if you’re using cotton fabrics, but it’s always nice to get the arrows pointing in the same direction. Always pay attention to how many pieces of each you need to cut out, and whether you need to cut them on the fold. Nap is the direction furry fabrics go in.
  4. In the absence of lining, you can use another layer of your normal fabric as lining. The lining is identical to the garment, just making it double sided! You can also double up parts (such as the midriff section in the dress) to stiffen them, instead of adding interfacing.

  5. After pinning each piece to the fabric, carefully cut along the lines for the measurement  you’re using, which should leave you with a set of fabric shapes.
  6. Once you’ve cut out the individual pieces, sit down comfortably, get a biro, and transfer the markings, onto the fabric. Two little lines for a notch works well. For a dot put a pin through the middle of the dot through all of the layers of the fabric and draw around it.  For pleats draw on both the solid and dotted lines. Make sure every piece has the relevant markings.
  7. Remove the tissue pattern and follow the instructions to put each piece of the garment together.

  8. When making straps, sew a tube, and then use something like a letter opener, or the blunt end of a knitting needle, to scrunch the tube onto and turn inside out.

  9. When making pleats, bring the solid line to the dotted line, pin them and then either sew across the top, or down them, according to the instructions. If there’s a centre seem, make sure you work the pleats in towards the centre.
  10. The midriff section can be a good place to reduce some fabric if you’re a bit shorter than average. Fold the pattern section to cut out a bit, then make the lines line up nicely again for your size.
  11. When attaching pieces to each other, leave 5/8ths of an inch for seam allowance (unless otherwise status) 5/8ths is the mark after the half inch mark. After attaching you can trim seams down to at least half their size, making them less bulky. For seams that lie flat run your nail down the middle of them, or sew them down pointing towards one direction according to the instructions.
  12. Clip means cut the seam to the stitch, don’t cut the stitches. This technique is particularly useful to mark where a zip should later be inserted.
  13. Along seams of curved edges, like necks or sleeves, clip into them at regular intervals, and cut corners.

  14. To gather, get the machine to the longest possible stitch, leave a 3 inch tail,  sew a line 5/8s away from the edge. Stitch a second line ¼ inch away from the fabrics edge (or the line), leaving a long tail. Pull gently on the threads and gather the fabric evenly. Make sure you gather to between the marks indicated on the pattern, and then sew another line over the gathering.
  15. For notches you don’t need to cut actual tiny triangles. Just marking and matching will do.
  16. You don’t necessarily need to press as you sew, but it will make the garment look finished if you press after its’ completion.
  17. When attaching the bodice to the skirt, if the pattern indicates it should be sewn ‘right sides together’, this means that the bodice will be upside down while pinning and sewing. Before stitching it properly, use the largest stitch possible and loosely tack them together, then try the garment on and make sure it fits.
  18. A good way to take-in parts of the garment is to unpick seams that join pieces together, insert a piece into another, then re-sew them.
  19. When inserting a zip, the easiest thing to do is to separate the two halves of the zip, pin the left side to the wrong side of the garment.
  20. To sew the left side of the zip, the left side of the zipper foot should be the one sticking out; the right side should be clipped into the presser foot. Sewing from the right side of the garment, carefully place the needle as close to the zip teeth as possible.
  21. To sew the right side of the zip, the left side of the zipper foot should be attached to the presser foot. Zip the two halves of the zip together, pin the right side of the zip to the opening. Sew across the bottom of the zip tab a few times, before sewing the zip as for the left side.
  22. When you’re a few inches from the top of the zip, pull the metal tab down a few inches past where you’re sewing so that it doesn’t get in the way. If you’re working with a flimsy fabric, reinforce the opening where you’ll be inserting a zipper by attaching some interfacing first.
  23. To finalise the length of the garment, first pin it up to check the length while wearing it. Decide how big you would like the seam, then cut and re-pin it. If the hem you’re sewing isn’t straight, while hemming you’ll need to sew little tucks into it every now and then so you don’t get a load of excess fabric when you come to the end of the hem. To do this, while pinning create a miniature dart every now and then, and sew over it as you’re hemming.
  24. On hems and parts of the garment which might see more wear than others (such as around the neckline), zigzag stitch over the original stitch line, with the top of the triangle going as close to the edge of the fabric as possible.
  25. Press the garment, try it on for a final time, make any necessary adjustments, and wear it with pride!

Behold!!! The finished dress!!!

Special thanks to my Gran =)

Sunday mornings are usually a slow news day. Almost as if the whole world takes a break for a day, and loose ends from the previous week’s news are tied up.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I woke up this morning to find that overnight major riots had taken place in Tottenham.

I drive through Tottenham to Haringey on a regular basis, so I was trying to work out if I recognised any of the pictures coming through on the news. Although I couldn’t place them I was struck by certain images that are a familiar part of everyday life in London:

A burning double decker bus
Looted high street shops, like JD Sports and Comet
An Aldi dramatically set ablaze.

The riots are said to have broken out after a peaceful protest over the fatal shooting of a local man, Mark Duggan, by the police.

As last night’s events are revealed I find myself having an overall feeling of, ‘i’m not surprised’, as if this was going to happen somewhere in London eventually.

There are many issues that span across several communities in London, which have built up over the last few years to a point where you can see how riots like this can happen.

In this case the main issue seems to be the way in which the police interact with young people. It seems that there is a feeling of ‘them and us’ between the community and the police that is felt strongly, particularly amongst the younger members of sociey.

In communities where these tensions are simmering just under the surface, it’s easy to see how if a small number of people began to riot, it could errupt into the scale of events seen last night.

Part of me hopes that when the investiagtion takes place, the riots aren’t completely blamed on the youth of London. With events like this there will be several people to blame, and in these situations it’s easy to make scapegoats of ‘young people’.

As there started to be a trend of violence during protests earlier in the year, let’s hope that this weekend’s events don’t start a trend around London.

As part of the Summer Play Festival, the Donmar Warehouse hosts a Writer’s Residency, in which an SPF Playwright is selected to spend two weeks in London immersed into the world of London theatre, making connections with industry professionals.  This year the chosen playwright was Ken Urban, whose residency culminated in a staged reading of his play, “The Awake”.

On Friday the 24th of June, I had the pleasure of attending the rehearsed reading of “The Awake” at the Donmar Warehouse, which was directed by Seth Sklar-Heyn.

As I’d never attended a rehearsed reading before, I wondered how it would differ to a fully performed play, and whether anything would be lost by the actors reading from the script. However, within a few minutes I was completely captivated by the plot.

Despite tackling themes which are often difficult to convey successfully on stage, such as dreams and imagination, the play developed at an organic pace. The structure allowed for a sense of shared overlapping between each character’s dream, whilst dipping in and out of each individual’s story, resulting in a piece which was hypnotic and absorbing to watch. 

Michelle Fairley gave a performance which was both highly entertaining, as well as poignant. Her portrayal of Gabrielle, the Eastern-European housewife, provided several laugh out loud, comical moments at the start of the play, and equally poignant moments as her story was revealed.  She held the audience’s attention beautifully throughout and was a delight to watch.

Christopher Simpson’s performance as Edward/Nate was a great combination of contrasts. From a sense of wonderment to utter panic, and apparent innocence to what turns out to be complex.  Simpson seamlessly embodied all of these elements,  providing an engaging performance of a character with several facets.

Hugh Skinner gave a strong performance as Malcolm, the son caught between fantasy and the dilemma he faces in reality. Skinner gave a convincing portrayal of all the emotions involved in his character’s journey; from denial and escapism to acceptance, with a healthy dose of neurosis. The result was a wonderfully balanced performance, bringing the audience through every one of the emotions that Malcolm experiences.  Sorcha Cusack was a great counterpart as Malcolm’s mother, played with a great sensitivity and serenity.

Philip Joseph and Morven Christie executed the contrast between false sickly sweetness and dark sinister undertones with perfection. Christie in particular provided some great comical moments, delivered with confidence and timed perfectly.

Charlotte Beaumont conducted herself with professionalism throughout the play. Although she didn’t have any lines until toward the end, her presence on the stage alongside the other actors left the audience intrigued by the question of who she might be. A factor which would’ve been lost if this had been a full staging of the play rather than a reading.

At the conclusion of the play I found myself asking how one would even begin to think about staging The Awake, and whether it would work as well as a rehearsed reading.

I particularly enjoyed the way in which some of the actors used the music stand as a space which they could move in and out of, to signify a change in either physical or emotional state. I also felt that staging the play might distract from the essence of a strong piece. Minimal staging allowed the audience to focus completely on what was being said and speculate on what might be happening. When it was revealed how the three strangers’ lives were intertwined, I felt I was able to reflect on how intricate and clever the plot was.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I look forward to seeing what next year’s Summer Play Festival will produce.

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