Thursday, 29 May 2008

“There are no strangers here

....Only friends you haven't yet met.” W.B Yeats

Part one..

5.a.m Saturday morning and I am wide awake ... a miracle that I slept a wink with the myriad of thoughts on my mind.
6 a.m.. stagger with armfuls of assorted luggage as quietly as possible to awaiting as not to wake the neighbours.
Minutes later we are cruising along the M4 eastbound on the first leg of our epic journey.. a journey that I have anticipated and waited for with longing and just a wee smidgen of trepidation.. one I had dreamed about in detail for some time..
It was to be a pilgrimage of sorts and a journey of discovery..
On reaching Reading we came off the motorway and headed south. It was not long before I started to recognise the road signs pointing to my old life in Berkshire.. and then there it was.. Crowthorne.. the place I had lived for 14 years as a child, the village where I grew up and attended the aforementioned primary school..
Mr Custard could sense my desire to drive past my old home.. a place I have re-visited in happy memories many times.. Driving up the small private lane all the houses looked vaguely familiar and the names associated with them.. my mate Joanna's house stood as I had remembered it..Reaching the end of the lane we soon realised with a sinking heart that my old home 'Applecroft' had vanished and in it's place two soulless houses had been built.It was a bitter blow..
Still.. there was much to look forward to and many miles ahead of us so we pressed on to our destination.
Playing our usual hybrid word games along the journey took the edge of my growing sense of unease and excitement and before we knew it we were whizzing past the 'Welcome to Brighton' sign and street names began to ring familiar bells in my mind.
I had scoured the map for weeks to familiarize myself with the area and at 9.a.m we found ourselves sat outside an elegant Victorian house in a pretty tree lined avenue with two hours to spare!
In desperate need of a loo and with no knowledge of the area we started to wander with some urgency on my part, around the neighbourhood in the hopes of finding a cafe open.
In fact we found two cafes open and after a short and sweet cafe crawl we managed to kill off most of the two hours. By now my nerves were jangling and I was running on pure adrenalin.. the long awaited hour was nigh and soon my fears, hopes and dreams would become reality.

I started to pace up and down the avenue whilst Mr Custard sat in the car doing the Saturday morning ritual of the 'Telegraph' crossword..bemused by my antics.
At the 11th hour.. The Ragged Roses Family turned the corner and there began the friendship that had been confined to emails and blog comments for the last six months.
Within seconds of nervous 'hellos' and garbled introductions on my part.. we were walking along chatting and laughing and it was all so easy and effortless.
I knew that dear Kim was just as anxious about our meeting as I was and for all the same reasons.. the fear of disappointment. I didn't want her to feel betrayed by the reality of meeting me in person. We had shared an empathic and warm friendship via the ether, up to this point in time and I suppose my biggest fear was that I would be an anti-climax.. a Wizard of Oz..!
In hindsight I feel most foolish at my unnecessary fears and doubts..

Kim and her delightful family.. graciously gave up their time to welcome us to Brighton and escort us around the various 'Open House' venues where we were introduced to another blog friend ..the talented Emma who was exhibiting her lovely crafts.

Kim also managed to quickly dispel my fears about my participating in the December 2008 Open House events. It was a real treat to see the huge variety of arts and crafts on display in these beautiful homes and to feel that I would be part of it one day. A real privilege.

We came away after a whistle stop tour of Brighton's Open Houses with a firm belief that we had met up with 'old' friends and were richer for the brief time we shared in each other's company. My only regret was that we couldn't stop the clock and spend more time with Kim and her charming family.

When I stepped onto the threshold of Blogdom last October, never did I imagine that I would inherit such a wealth of friendship from my virtual/real friends.. and such is the nature of blogging that it is easy to forget sometimes that there are real people with hearts and souls behind each blog facade not mythical beings.

The next leg of our adventure takes me back to a very special place in my heart.. a place that I visited regularly as a child and have not returned to for some 40 years...

To be continued..
Here is just a sneak preview..

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Best days of our lives...

Do you remember the days of the old school yard.. as Cat Stevens once sang..?
I have very fond memories of my primary school days..
I started at the local C of E Primary School in 1963 in the village of Crowthorne, Berkshire. The school was a red brick affair, built in the late 1800's and had separate entrances for Boys & Girls.. A school hall, numerous Victorian classrooms, a canteen and the all- weather outside lavvies! I remember the dash across the playground to break the ice in order to use these conveniences in the colder months.. and in those days we had proper winters..Does anyone remember the winter of 1964.. it seemed like the second ice age had arrived.
Of all the years of my childhood.. my early school years are the most vivid and memorable.
I walked the mile to school with my older brother who had the dubious responsibility of looking after me each day. My first day at school is forever indelibly tattooed on my memory..Arriving at school tearful and bewildered I was ushered into a large cavernous classroom adorned with pictures on the wall, green tiled walls and tall windows. There was the Wendy House corner with assorted pots and pans, the reading corner with a jumble of books and the crates of small milk bottles on the floor with a box of drinking straws. Why was the milk always tepid.. yeuch!

I had a peg to hang my coat on with a picture of a boat above.
I wore a dark green pleated skirt and had a green v neck jumper embellished with the school badge symbolising three crows for the village of Crowthorne. The school motto escapes me but I think it was probably something like.. 'Keep a clean nose and sharp pencils at all times ' Latin of course!
My crisp white shirt, was far from, by the end of the day.. I was a mucky child and always managed to decorate my clothes with various mediums.. be it crayons, paints or food.
My outdoor wear consisted of a dark green belted raincoat which I flatly refused to fasten and would promptly undo the belt once out of the sight of my disapproving mother.. and a green felt beret which I wore Benny Hill style rather than the Bonny style of Bonny & Clyde fame. I wore Start-rite brown leather shoes with a cut out pattern and grey socks that were forever falling down.
The obvious highlights of the day were 'Play times' which were heralded by the old school hand bell.. rung around the school playground by a prefect. My brother had this honour in his last year at the school and when the bell developed a crack, it was auctioned and my brother and I won it with the highest bid of 10 shillings.. that is 50 pence in today's money.. Gosh I am sounding old!
I still have that bell but alas I could not find it as it is probably in one of the many boxes still unpacked from our house move 2 years ago!!
The games we played in the playground were Hopscotch, French skipping with elastic, What's the time Mr Wolf, Tag, British Bulldog, lots of girly gossip and kiss chase! Sorry Alan Scott..(who asked for my hand in marriage) .... I did play so hard to get!
There were the inevitable crushes that developed amongst the class members and mine was Stephen Skinner.. a dusky, tall legged and brown-eyed heart throb who had many hearts fluttering at the tender age of 11 years old..
Then there was the charming and hilarious Timothy Spencer who had a habit of pushing pencil rubbers up his nose much to the amusement of all except for the teachers who had to retrieve them!

Funny how I only remember the boys names..

I have another treasured relic from those days other than precious memories .. a book that I won for English... English being my favourite subject and I relished the essay homework that we were regularly given.. Why is it then that I struggle so with writing my blog ??

Dear Mr Blore (nicknamed 'Bore') would despair if he could see how my grammar has deteriorated since those days..sorry!
The school dinners were also memorable, not for the haute cuisine .. but rather the lumpy mashed potato, stewed prunes and custard pushed reluctantly around the plate under the watchful eye of the formidable dinner blancmange that always had blue inky specks in it and the mixed fear and pride of being the water monitor for that day..serving up coloured metallic beakers of water with a shaky hand..
Games were Shinty.. a derivative of Hockey.. Playing netball.. badly... and dreading anyone throwing me the ball in case I dropped it and the final indignity of wearing thick, school regulation, green knickers in place of shorts which exposed my skinny legs and knock knees.. (what I would give for those knees now)
I was briefly employed as the school Librarian and wore a green enamel badge so that everyone would know my status. My job description was a little ambiguous and I spent most of my library duties .. re-arranging the books on the shelves and wishing that I had one of those inked stamps that made a delightfully satisfying clicky noise when stamping library tickets.
I was also elected as house captain for 'Buckingham House' one of four school houses, for a year and I still to this day believe I was chosen because no-one else wanted the job.. This however did enable me to wear another enamel badge .. a blue one this time.. in the shape of a shield saying 'House Captain'.. I lived in hope that it would be swapped for a 'Head Girl' badge... but I was not qualified for that heady status!

They were truly happy days and I was lucky enough to re-visit my old school, five years ago, on a trip to my old haunts in Berkshire. The school had changed little in those intervening years..though everything seemed to have shrunk..!.....the step where Alan Scott proposed to me...

I really didn't intend to write about my school days at all on this post.. I was going to say that I had been tagged by dear Dana at Calico Cat Press and my mind just wandered off to the games of tag we played as children.. and the rest is history as they say.

I will return in a few days with my tag post and news of a grand adventure that takes place this weekend.... Ooooooh can't wait!

Ta ta!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

A walk on the wild side....

Don't you just love it when the sun shines..The warmth inspires strong feelings of joie de vivre..

On Sunday.. the sun shone (hurrah) and taking young son by the hand and gently coaxing him outside from the gloom of his bedroom cave into the dazzling daylight.. we set off en famille to
one of our favourite hill tops just outside the city limits..

Kelston Roundhill

There were the usual bleats of despair from my offspring about the length of the walk, the time it would take.. but lo and behold.. within a few minutes of stepping out into the green and blue yonder.. my son started to leap and prance about like a Gazelle on his summer vacation.
The path to our destination was cloaked in a froth of Hawthorn blossom and Cow Parsley.

From afar, the landscape looked as if it had been liberally iced with sugar frosting..

The wind in our hair and a spring in our step we took the familiar route to this very special corner of our fair and green land..Let's face it .. much as we loathe rain.. the benefits of it are manifold.. green green fields for one..

I would love to have heard their conversation...maybe it went like this..
"No I am Buttercup.. you're Daisy"..

Eventually we climbed the summit and gazed out at the beautiful landscape that stretched to the city of Bristol and beyond to the hills of south Wales..One member of the family really got into the spirit of the occasion and took part in a spot of hill rolling.. an ancient custom round these parts !!??
After a very enjoyable jaunt it was ..'last one home's a sissy' and the race to get back to a welcome plate of Sunday lunch and a few sneaky ZZZzzzz's on the sofa...A perfect Sunday in the sun..

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Life's little Mysteries...

I am being a lush today.. lying in bed a la Barbara Cartland style..
I think I once read that she spent the mornings in bed.. writing her torrid romances ..Well there is no-one here to inspire romance today, my boys having departed long ago to their respective schools for the day.. so after the initial flurry of activity at dawn I have retreated to my boudoir to gaze out at the soggy scene below and indulge myself in a little writing..
Today I have time on my side and no deadlines to meet... bliss! I would like to indulge in some of my own projects, a box frame idea that has been nudging me, or... I could just stay put and spend the day pondering and getting bed sores!! No.. not my style.. I am a restless creature and must obey the demands of the day even if that just means hoovering the cat..

Whilst on that subject..

Do you ever wonder at life's little mysteries..I certainly do and here are a few that crop up far too often..

1. Hoovering...

Why is it that when I have a fit of domesticity, pursuing every speck of fluff and crumb with my super turbo charged hoover around the room, unplugging, coiling the flex and standing back to admire my pristine floor.. I turn round to find a belligerent feather or piece of cotton in the middle of the floor... without fail!

2. Time...

Why is it that I fall into a deep, log inspired slumber on weekdays, waking in a complete fug when the alarm shouts at me at the obscene hour of 5.30 a.m.
On Saturdays and Sundays, days of rest, I wake 'PING' at 5.30 a.m sharp without the need for bells or irritating disc jockeys!

3. Postmen...

Why is it that I wait in all day for the Postie to deliver a much awaited parcel and the second I chance a breath of fresh air in the garden.. I return indoors to find that the Postie has left his calling card.. Aaaargh!

4. Snails...

Why is it that we can re-locate our community of slugs and snails from the garden, taking them by car to a local beauty spot to live out their happy retirement in new pastures.. and within days (it seems) they have returned.. No postcard either!

5. Birds...

Why do birds suddenly appear.....? Ha! ... cue the music

6. Shopping ...
Why is it that we do our weekly pilgrimage to the supemarket every weekend to stock up the larder and by the middle of the week we are left with a tin of chick peas and an out of date yoghurt...?

One last thing..

Why did the sun have to go away?

Answers on a postcard please....

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Hearts, flowers and memories....

It is 7.30 a.m and I have reluctantly come in from the garden having spent some precious moments of tranquility in my little garden paradise..
These early morning hours are sublime as the sun wakes up and starts to dress the day with warmth..and I hate to waste a moment so as soon as the cacophony of birdsong wakes me I am drawn to the garden to welcome the dawn. This morning was no exception and I sat on my favourite bench seat and listened to the minutiae of fauna all around me..
I felt as though I had the world to myself for a few moments.. apart from the company of this little frog..

It has been days.. well weeks actually I am ashamed to say.. that I have intended to thank some very special and talented blogging friends. Since I stepped into this amazing labyrinth of blogdom I have discovered some inspiring people. There is a huge wealth of talent out there and a great deal of goodwill amongst this unique community that we share..
So without further ado I want to say thank you to the generosity and warmth of these people..
Out of the blue.. I received this charming collage from dear Kat over at Secrets of a Butterfly....It was sent with love and sincerity and a big spoonful of talent too.. I have found a special home for it on my bedroom mantelpiece where it sits alongside several other gifts and purchases from kindly folk...
As you must have gleaned by now.. I have a passion for flowers..
So I could not resist these beautiful hybrids when I spotted them in Ginny's shop..over at The Flour Loft.
My piggy bank being mostly empty these days meant that I could only afford one .. so much to my surprise and delight.. two arrived !
Just an example of the kindness of strangers that I wrote of before..

When I espied this gorgeous corsage for sale made by dear Kim at Ragged Roses .. I was smitten. Clever Kim must have made this with me in mind as it is exactly the right colours to wear with my summer cardi....
and with it came this scrummy ragged heart that looks perfect hanging from my French chiffonier..
I think you should stroll over the Ginny's and Kim's shops to indulge in some retail therapy and brighten up your summer attire with these gorgeous flowers..
I also have a passion for hearts and a blogging friend close to my heart made me this gorgeous linen monogrammed heart with her own fair hands...
There is quite a story to tell about this beautiful heart and it's dramatic and eventful journey to me..via.. the washing machine, garden lawn and puppy's mouth..but eventually it arrived safely and I was non the wiser until Carol told me the hilarious tale.
I recently won a garden quiz.. much to my amazement.. over at lovely Louise's garden blog..This is my patch. My prize is this charming rustic birdie that arrived beautifully packaged.

Pickles has been licking his lips since this little birdie arrived...

Louise was so kind and thoughtful to remember that yesterday was a difficult day for me.. as I will explain.. and she sent me this very appropriate card of bindweed and fairies.
I am not sure if the implication was that I should become a garden nymph or that I should seek the help of the fairies to banish bindweed from my patch. Not a bad idea!

The reason for Louise's beautiful card was due to yesterday being the anniversary of the loss of my dear mother..
It was a day marked with bittersweet memories. A day to remember her as she was.. so beautiful, elegant, gentle and generous of heart. She had a wicked sense of humour and at times her interpretation of our English language resulted in some hilarious misunderstandings. She made my childhood golden.. encouraging me to believe that fairies lived under the hedge in our garden, making me beautiful clothes with her nimble fingers and embroidering them with love. Baking me Belgian apple cake when I left home and lived on fresh air and a student grant. Saving me from humongous spiders while I stuck to the ceiling..Drying my tears when a boyfriend stood me up. Patiently trying to teach me her native tongue.. French... and biting her own tongue when I railed and tantrum med. Making me an Easter bonnet for the school parade made from tissue paper and flowers and paper tendrils for my hair.. many, many memories..
I adored her ...

Belgium 1938

I do not wish to dwell on the sadness of the day.. Memories are my comfort and companion and though my mother is no longer here with me in person.. the legacy she left me is everywhere ..
a piece of music, her handwritten recipes falling from the pages of a book, the scent of her Chanel perfume.. she is still with me in so many ways..
Cornwall 1973

I will leave on this note but with gratitude in my heart for all of those who have brought happiness and friendship to my life through this blog.. Thank you..xxxx

P.s The music I chose for this post was one of Mum's favourites.. Debussy's ...Clair de Lune..

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Mercury Rising...

Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day.....
Bonjour tout le monde... I am just popping in to wish you a glorious day wherever you may be..
Le solleil brille et les oiseaux chansons... Going from memory that might not be correct.. but the sun is shining here and the birds are singing.. positively shouting !
I have been torn between house and garden these last few days wanting to soak up every moment of sun in case is decides to move on elsewhere..
So forgive this brief encounter... I will return soon with some shamefully belated thank you's to some very special blog friends..
Until then...

Carpe Diem

P.s The photo is of a view we had in Tuscany two years ago.. early morning mist clearing to reveal this magical landscape...Castles in the air!

and.. how could I forget to thank all of you who left such warm and friendly comments on my last post... Gardening is my passion and it is evident that it is yours too...I shall be doing my usual rounds of the estate today.. murmuring sweet nothings to my beloved plants..

Friday, 2 May 2008

Before and aft...

It has been a funny old week.. in more ways than one..
One couldn't fail to notice that the weather has been like a big dipper this week.. warm sun then days where the mercury plummets and I reach for the central heating switch again..
Temperamental in a word!
I have been asked by a client to design some Christmas Cards for a photo shoot next week... I do find the idea of snowy landscapes and holly sprigs a little hard to stomach when I long for the heady days of summer.. when will it come out of hibernation I wonder.. or rather .. will it come out of hibernation ?
Mustn't be pessimistic... onwards and upwards and outwards.. preferably.. in the garden.
I have been flitting in and out of blog world to snatch a few glimpses at what the community is getting up to and it is fairly evident that a great deal of you are thinking of outdoor pursuits .. particularly your gardens. I had some lovely compliments about my small country pile..and a request from Lesley to show the pebble mosaic that we have set in our bottom terrace..So with this request in mind I have decided to do a makeover post.. and show you the jungle that we inherited two years ago and how it has gradually evolved into another jungle but more manageable!
When we first saw this house and garden.. my heart sank to see that the lay of the land was on a steep incline and the garden itself had been badly neglected..
Some would rub their hands in glee to see a challenge and to some degree I did until I realised that we had also inherited the national collection of bindweed and assorted vermin.. weeds!
I am a wee bit OCD about house and garden and like to keep it tickety boo as much as I can.. but it has been an ongoing battle to try and eradicate the weeds that have been long established. Little by little I will win this one!
The first task was to clear the jungle.. and oh boy.. what a tangle of plants it was..
Hard not to believe that there was a lost tribe of Bath pygmies living amongst this lot..
One man and his scythe came in and chopped it all down in a day...Then we could see the lie of the land and the space that had been obscured..
Looking up the garden to the top of the ski slope with the crumbly stone walls held together with sheer willpower and little else
The bones of the garden were skillfully rebuilt ...

This one is for you Lesley.. the pebble mosaic was the finishing touch to the last terrace and my favourite part of the garden..
The best part of any gardening project for me is choosing the paints to apply to the canvas .. and after digging in copious amounts of compost, grit and manure to improve the soil I relished the planting of my new garden..

These little tiddlers soon grew.. in a matter of weeks into this ..

The last terrace to be finished was delayed for a year due to .. the piggy bank being empty..
The top corner of the garden under the study window was a sad and sorry sight a few months ago but after putting in a few bulbs and forget me nots..

ta da!
My dear beloved professes to love gardening so I graciously allowed him to have his little plot at the bottom of the garden to grow his fern collection..
His idea of gardening is to sit in a chair sipping a cold beer and strumming his guitar whilst I flit around pruning, digging, weeding and eventually sitting back to admire..
So there we have it.. I don't think there is a corner of my garden that I have not shared with you.. oh well.. maybe the compost bin area and a few determined weeds..
I hope to get out there again this weekend and continue the tweaking and maybe enjoy a glass of something cool..
Have a wonderful weekend ..XX