Talking with Andrew Hunter Murray

Andrew Hunter Murray gets up to all sorts of marvellous things on a daily basis and makes us laugh a lot. He's a QI Elf, a co-host of the No Such Thing as a Fish podcast, a writer for Private Eye, a correspondent on The Mash Report AND a founding member of the Jane Austen themed improv-show Austentatious. Below he shares some wise words and a few of his favourite things.

What did you study?

I was an English student, which was extremely good practice for what I do now - frantically reading large amounts of information before trying to explain it to other people. Except now I get to make jokes instead of having to explain the themes of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which is just as well for all concerned.

Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a writer, actor and QI elf?

By complete good fortune. I got a bit of work experience at QI just after I left university - someone introduced me to the producer, comedy legend John Lloyd, and I then pestered him until he caved and told me I could work there for a month. I spent four weeks finding things beginning with G (we were working on the G series at the time) and presented him with a dossier on Giraffes, Gemstones and Gambia. We’re now on P and they haven’t rumbled me yet.

What do you love most about your work?

When I was young I desperately wanted to find a career where I could a) read and b) write, and ideally c) make people laugh. I didn’t really think that people got to do this stuff for a living, so I’m pleasantly surprised every day to find out I’m wrong.

How do you prepare prior to going on stage / in front of the camera?

I worry, intensely, about whether the stuff I’ve got is funny enough.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

For god’s sake, if you’re wearing a suit, make sure the flaps of the pockets are out on both sides. That one’s courtesy of my mother. She did tell me something else, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten it.

Do you have a favourite Fish fact?

After 200 episodes, it’s basically whatever we’ve done most recently. But I do have a long-held soft spot for anything involving animals on parachutes. So, for example: during the second world war, the first allied combatants to parachute into Normandy on D-Day were a few German Shepherds, who were accompanying the first party of soldiers.

Do you have a favourite Jane Austen book?

I have written and deleted my answer to this one about five times. I go back and forth between Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. The latter is just an absolute Austen blockbuster with all your favourite hits: Persuasion is like her later prog-rock phase where all the themes are being played with greater maturity, and on weirder instruments.

Do you have a favourite writer (other than Jane!)?

Douglas Adams. And P.G.Wodehouse. And Terry Pratchett. Any of the amazing tradition of British humourists who create new worlds and then spend their lives roaming around them. But then again, if it’s Christmas and I fancy a nice murder, I won’t say no to a P.D.James, as she’s the absolute master of nasty murders by well-drawn characters.

What are you watching?

I’ve just finished Detectorists. The opening premise doesn’t sound like much - two middle-aged blokes walking slowly across a field with metal detectors, talking rubbish - and it slowly unfurls into one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, brilliantly-drawn sitcoms you’ll ever see.

What are you reading?

I’m flipping between a very weird book of sci-fi short stories called You Should Come With Me Now by M John Harrison, and some Grade A Edith Wharton (The Age of Innocence).

What are you listening to?

The background hum of a washing machine. (A couple of my friends are so cool that they probably listen to bands with names like that. Just to be clear, this is just a washing machine).

What are you drinking?

I’ll have a half of cider, please.

Favourite word?

‘Rumble’, but only when preceded by ‘Let’s get ready to’.

Favourite animal?

My first ever pet, Lilt the hamster (1997-1999). In case you’re wondering, she’s not the answer to any of my security questions for my online banking, so good luck with that one, fraudsters!

Favourite place in London?

The water-gate of George, Duke of Buckingham, which is in the Embankment gardens. I frequently bore anyone unwise enough to walk past with me with stories about it, as my rapidly diminishing number of friends will tell you.

Favourite place in the world?

See above. And one interesting fact about the water-gate of George, Duke of Buckingham, is…no, wait, come back, this is good…

If you could have 3 people to dinner dead, alive or fictional who would they be and why?

I would have Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, and I would make them re-enact all their scenes from The Philadelphia Story until they got angry and left.

Parallel universe career?

If I can pick absolutely anything, I would like to be doing something very very similar, please.

@andrewhunterm

At the Savoy Theatre, London: Austentatious

The podcast on tour: No Such Thing as a Fish

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Natasha Hulse Design

Alice spoke with designer Natasha Hulse about her beautiful floral inspired designs.

I first met Natasha Hulse whilst I was working in a bookshop, she had come in to look for an illustrated book on trees.  We spoke about our mutual love for the English countryside, for plants and flowers, and also for doing things we love, agreeing on the importance of pursuing the things that make you happy.That was January last year, when Natasha was just starting out creating her beautiful bespoke headboards and since then I have been admiring her creations from afar via instagram. And so, this December, it was a real delight to be able to speak with her and take a look at her designs up close.Each of Natasha's stunning floral inspired designs is an intricate work of art, every piece is hand painted on linen, hand-embellished with embroidery and beading, and appliquéd in layers, creating a unique sculptural effect.  Her craftsmanship is exquisite, and the time, care and patience put into each design makes each one even more exceptional.Her bold semi-abstract rendering of plant life is delightfully enhanced by the structural origami-esque composition of each flower, and this unique combination lifts her designs to an almost fantastical level - you might expect to come across one of her flowers in an enchanted forest.  For me they cross the boundaries of design in an incredibly pleasing way, playing with composition, texture and colour. And each bespoke piece differs as her style continues to develop, creating an ever expanding variety, almost as though her evolving designs are imitating real plant life.Her designs, initially, were very neutral, with a timeless appeal, with blues, browns, whites and greens defining her colour palette. But as her style has developed and evolved, she has begun to work with bolder shapes and colours.Natasha enjoys the design generation process the most, and is inspired by nature and organic structures, from the foliage, ferns and mossy carpets observed when walking in the New Forest near home, to the wildflowers found on a trip to the Grand Canyon. She says she endlessly presses flowers, and uses them for design inspiration, her favourite flowers are the Amarylis, big and bold and the Poppy, so delicate yet so strong.  She is constantly discovering new flora, and a recent winter favourite is the bright colour of Barberries.Her first bespoke headboard was created as part of Kit Kemp's interior at the Whitby Hotel in New York, and since then she has worked with Colefax & Fowler on a number of designs. She has most recently branched out into cushions (I love her wisteria cushion) and a wall paper project with Kit Kemp.  Currently all her designs are one of a kind bespoke projects, but eventually she would like to build up a collection of signature designs for clients to choose from. And she is more than happy to branch out, she would love to create designs for covered screens and ottomans at some point.Natasha has been appliquéing garments since she was 13.  She took the BTEC at school, and was initially drawn to shoe design. She went on to study Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts, and took an Erasmus year in New York where she focused on digital design and pattern cutting as well as taking a ceramics class. After graduating she started her own womenswear brand, and went on to freelance for two womenswear textile studios first in New York, and then in London.She says it has taken her a while to find her aesthetic, and although it has been challenging at times, uncertain which direction to focus on as a designer, she feels that the process has been important. Time and experience have helped her understand which direction she is happiest taking. Working with clients and designers has been an important part of this process, and she says she greatly enjoys the direction and influence of others, allowing her designs to continually evolve, although never wavering from her initial concept.I loved speaking to Natasha about her work, it is truly beautiful, so if you get the chance to see it definitely do, she often sells her cushions at fairs, keep an eye on her insta for all updates. Her love for nature and for creating by hand is so refreshing in our fast-paced digital and all too consumerist society and there is so much to be said for beautiful design that is the result of dedicated craftsmanship.

Thank you Natasha, I can’t wait to see your next designs!

Alice xxx

Natasha Hulse

@natashahulse_design

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48 London 💕

For the past couple of weeks I have been helping Sophie and Hope out with prep for the launch of their company, 48 London.And it has been super 😊.The website is now launched www.48london.com and the enquiries are already flooding in 📞📱💻.  If you are in need of some seriously professional lifestyle management 🙋 and want to become a member 👸 they would love to know 😉😘48 London is essentially a boutique luxury concierge company - once you are a member these girls 👩👧 will sort out everything you need sorting - an epic blow dry 💇, a consultation with your favourite designer 💃, finding the perfect party planner 🎂, a dog walker 🐶, booking a spot in the best spinning class in London 🚴  - they can arrange it for you - the world really is your oyster 😃.  They are offering personal shopping 👗👙and lifestyle management ✏️📱, with a focus on well being 🌳❤️💆 - this isn't just an efficient service, it is one in which your health, body and mind are considered in all decisions and recommendations.The ethos behind the company is based on a love of beautiful products 👛, a flair for fashion 👠 and style 💃, a understanding that it is the small details in life that can make or break your day 📝, and the belief that good looks and a calm demeanour 👩 start from within - happy mind, happy body.What they are offering is super because you get to personally work with Hope or Sophie and you know their recommendations are top notch 👌.The thing is Sophie and Hope are not just super savvy and really on it 👸👸, they are both incredibly nice, easy to work with and lots of fun.  They've worked in the personal shopping / lifestyle management industry for over 26 years, they know their stuff, and they know all the best people 👍.  Sophie is a young mum, with a beautiful daughter 👪, and one of the most welcoming people I've met, and Hope always has the best outfits on, with immaculate hair and make-up 💅and has a great love for  Tchaikovsky's 'The Nutcracker 👯🎶 which can only be a good thing.I have been lucky enough to work with them in the most exciting stage - the launch of the website, and the company officially.  This has involved all sorts, from website copy writing✏️ , setting up emails💻, and social mediaing 📱  They have fed me many delicious things  🍫🍰(until I gave up sugar 🍨❌, that was too sad), and we have generally had a riotous time 💃💫.I am very excited for what is to come, and really do have a look at the their website, if only to see the fab photos 😍.Alice xxx@48london.comSophie-and-Hope-e145501884851148-london-style-shot-2

Peter Vaughan - All Over the Shop

Today I am veering from the path slightly, and will give you a detailed update of my weekend activities tomorrow.And instead, I am going back to Peter, musician and writer, who I met up with on Wednesday and to me, in my unemployed status is a breath of fresh air - I think he only asked me once how my job search is going, and instead very kindly allowed me to ask him all sorts of questions about what he gets up to.  For the record, he is completely not 'all over the shop' but he does love to use the expression 😉..So as I am writing this I am listening to Peter Charles Franklin Vaughan’s album 'The Road that leads to Love leads back out again', which is incredibly heart warming.Peter creates his own music - always melody first, lyrics second, and describes his music as 'traditionally folk'. He has recently written a song about the Thames and I really enjoyed listening to his explanation of this process. The song evolved first by creating a melody on the guitar, playing with chords and rhythm, trying to recall the sound of an English river - a recent reading of Jerome K. Jerome's 'Three Men in a Boat' was part of this inspiration. This led to further research on the Thames, and the incorporation of place names along 'The Devil's Highway' a Roman Road that ran from the bridgehead of the Thames. To Peter it is important that his music will 'translate infinitely' - it can be understood by everyone, and he always incorporates metaphors and adds an element of humour to his lyrics.I am not a particularly musical person, although I do enjoy listening (and dancing!) to music a lot, and it was really wonderful to hear Peter speak so eloquently about his process.Peter sings and plays guitar and has started performing his own music with a band - he is thinking of calling it 'Peter Vaughan & sons'. He also currently plays bass for both Lou E and Dregas. For Peter, performing live is an adrenaline rush, a chance to show off, and to make people listen to him - because if you can't say it in a song, when can you say it. I think it is incredibly exciting that he has spent the time teaching himself to create, write, and perform his own music. He only took up guitar aged 16 after hearing a friend play 'House of the Rising Sun'.Peter also writes, and recently won a prize for a short story 'Real Love' which I have just read.  It is incredibly poignant, a love letter to friends, and has a Kerouac-esque feel to it.  To me it is a quiet, but powerful homage to a new generation of artists, musicians and writers, united by a a deep, abiding friendship and mutual respect for each others endeavours.  He himself is very well read, Hemingway, Nabokov and Orwell were mentioned as people who have inspired him, along with the Albert Camus quote ' A novel is never anything, but a philosophy put into images'. We also spoke about Orwell's six rules on writing - I learnt rather a lot!We spoke about a few other things including dressing up - Peter likes to be able to laugh at his own appearance and is often changing his hair style, narcissism - he sees himself as a narcissist; his first tattoo - a memento for being part of the shoot for the band Formation's new single 'Love'. He really enjoys hosting and cooking for people (he is a vegan) and finally that he would like Daniel Day-Lewis to play him in a film about his life.Peter is one of these people who is entirely himself, and does not make any compromises. He speaks very eloquently about things that absorb him, and he is always interested in your point of view. For me it is really exciting to speak to someone who is wholeheartedly pursuing their passion, has veered from the unconventional career path, completely taken it in their stride and I am very excited for what is to come next 😊IMG_0716IMG_0715IMG_009812341547_10153601613585845_5361957211499214468_n