It started with a scarf
Welcome to Whistle + Whisper
Having time (and peace and quiet) is often when one is least productive. Covid-19 happened and then lockdown and I half formulated all sorts of plans, things I had been wanting to do for ages and never had the time to do. I baked a bit and planted a bit, crafted and read and wrote a bit, but did none of these to the extent that I felt I had fully committed to any of them. For me lockdown was more a time of reflection and appreciation of family, friends, good food, home and garden, and a time of anticipation for all the things that we'd be able to do again when it finally ended.
And then it ended. I and my family were able to take a short holiday in Ireland. In a small gallery shop in deepest West Cork, I felt compelled to offer support and bought a scarf, some candles and hand cream. The owner of the gallery was so grateful for our custom, telling us just how soul-destroying it was to have no one crossing his thresh-hold from one end of the day to the other. His plight played on my mind for the rest of the holiday and I wondered what I could do to help, apart from buying stuff from people like him who have so many beautiful products to offer but, during these times, so few customers. The more I pondered it, the more I thought "I'll just shout about them. Every time I visit a lovely gallery or see a magical photograph or step into a pretty shop or spot a smart business, I'll talk about it." We Irish are good at that...we love to talk. Actually, I love to write more than talk but it all comes from the same desire to communicate with others.
And so Whistle + Whisper was born, initially as an Instagram page where I could tip my hat to some lovely products and services, share ideas and suggestions. And then I was encouraged to share more of myself, the stuff people tell me I'm good at - cooking, design, stories - the things that having a colourful and cultured family and childhood embedded in me.
My childhood was filled with music, books, art, stories and characters. My family had Irish, German, English and Greek connections and each of these contributed to my education and gave me an appreciation for different cultures and an instinct to look beyond the one-dimensional. I always listened avidly to the exchanges between old relations and friends of the family, devoured the stories, perched in the background taking it all in. My family and friends are always amazed by how much of our family history I know, that many of them do not. That's because I listened, even when I wasn't part of the conversation. When others tired of hearing the same stories over and over, I never did. I always loved those extra little details that often surfaced as different people told a story because, of course, everyone's perspective of an event or a character is different. No two people ever tell the same story. Anyway, listening and observing is in my nature. You'll never find me front and centre in any social setting - I prefer to hang in the background or the wings, watching people and listening to their conversations, their arguments, the characters, and filing them away.
I remember as a child spending summers at my grandfather's home on Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy, one of my favourite things was our weekly trip to a particular newsagent's in the pretty lakeside town of Pallanza, to get the English newspapers for my Dad, who needed his regular fix of current affairs. Those were the days before mobile phones and social media and you'd be lucky to get an English-language newspaper or magazine in a small town in Italy once a week. But while my Dad's treat was a week old copy of the Sunday Telegraph or Financial Times (for there wasn't any chance on earth that an Irish newspaper would make it to Italy), mine was being bought a lucky bag filled with Italian goodies that you'd never see back in Ireland. I marvelled over plastic dolls and little rubber balls and lurid-coloured bubble gum simply because they were different to those that you got at that time back home in Ireland.
After visiting the newsagents, our family would stroll on up the street, window-shopping, or occasionally venturing into some small store to make a purchase. Towards the top of the street, just before it met a small square, an elegant little pasticceria (cake shop) stood out in the line of more mundane buildings like a gemstone among pebbles, and every time we walked past, there, proudly displayed on a stand in the window, was the most incredible chocolate cake, generous, wafer thin folds of tempered chocolate covering its surface, like rolling waves. This cake must have been the bakery's signature product because as far back as I can remember one such cake was always centrally displayed in the window. For years I imagined how it must taste and then, one year for my birthday, my parents bought me the cake. It arrived in the most elegant, forest green, circular box that opened out like the petals of a flower to reveal the treasure within. To this day I can remember opening the box and then cutting through the thin folds of chocolate down into the moist layers of sponge below (it turns out the layers were soaked in a sugar/alcohol concoction). It was almost unnecessary to eat it because I derived enough pleasure from how good it looked both outside and within.
And so I hope that Whistle + Whisper will be like that lucky bag or that chocolate cake. It was borne from the desire to create pleasure, whether celebrating clever or beautiful products, offering suggestions on how to make the most of and enhance your surroundings, showing you how insignificant, everyday objects can be given a new function or beauty when used in a different way or sharing a family recipe or twist to a well-known dish.
Imagine for a moment the whistle of the wind down the chimney on a winter night or the whisper of a summer breeze through the trees. Whether shrill and clear or gentle and hushed, I hope you hear something in what we have to say that makes you want to listen closer.