Tuesday, 26 August 2008

A posy of memories

This bunch of flowers sitting on my fireplace was given to me by a friend. They are beautiful bright happy homegrown flowers that have a story to tell, a wonderfully romantic story to tell. The story is not mine to tell but hopefully one day you will hear it.
I'm sure my friend won't mind me sharing these flowers with you, in the absence of any sunshine or blue sky, they will serve as a reminder that it is still summer.

So please come right up to the screen pick a flower, smell the sweet heady scent, shut your eyes and imagine just for a few moments that the promise of summer lies ahead.
And Mr Ragged Roses these are for you too, please put them on your desk and remember the lovely two weeks we've just had with you at home.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Bath sharing with friends - a dream of a day

Today's tale is a story half told. A day that had been planned and looked forward to for months. A day full of anticipation, weather watching, sightseeing, cake eating, tea drinking, chatting and, most of all, friendship.

I visited Bath twenty years ago whilst I was still a student, I remember its beauty, the grandeur of its buildings and very little else. This week I visited Bath with my family, saw once again its beauty and experienced its great charm, this time however, I was lucky enough to share it with lovely new friends. Yes the Ragged Roses got to meet The Custard Clan on their home turf.

Way back in the spring when the sun still shone and summer was a sunny dream on the horizon, Mrs Custard managed to squeeze a few hours with us on a whistlestop trip to the south coast and we had been hoping to reciprocate ever since. This blogging business is a funny thing isn't it, we strike up friendships, we share our daily news and hopes and sometimes, if we're really lucky we get to meet the people who have become part of our lives. I don't know what I'd do without my daily banter with Mrs Custard, how strange to have struck such a deep friendship at the other side of the country with somebody who I have only met once before.

So there we were on a very wet Monday morning being greeted by the very lovely Mr C at Bath station. Five minutes later we're all sitting around the kitchen table, drinking tea, eating the most scrummy cakes and acting as if we'd known each other a life time, conversations continued that started in the ether and ended next to an Aga, how surreal is that?

As we walked around Bath with our wonderful hosts I have to say that whilst I noticed the beautiful golden stone of the buildings, the seemingly endless beauty of the Georgian buildings and my daughters floated around the magnificent Assembly Rooms with imaginary fans and parasols in their hands, it all felt very surreal.

We had been transported into another world, a world that we had had glimpses of through blog posts, a world that strangely resembled the Jane Austen novels that we love.

At the end of the very long day when we returned home, it felt a bit as if it were a dream, hazy beautiful memories, time slipping through our fingers, conversations peppering the day and most of all the warmth and kindness of our hosts and friends.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

We've come on holiday by mistake

Oh I knew that wonderful line from Withnail & I would come in useful one day. I don't do camping, have reached this age without experiencing the joys of spending a night under canvas and until last week I would have happily bet against me doing it now. It's not that I don't love the great outdoors,

I am indeed perhaps at my happiest when I am out rambling around the countryside, it's just at night when all the wildlife comes out to play I prefer to be safe in the knowledge that bricks and mortar lie between me and them. Sharing a sleeping bag with the moon and stars is one thing, creepy crawlies and spiders another. So it was the utmost trepidation and sheer madness that led us to book our pitches last week in the middle of nowhere during severe weather warnings and gusts of winds blowing at 60mph!

We went with our best friends who actually live on the seafront and could see the storms coming in from the sea and battering against their windows. I think they thought it wasn't going to happen, that we would ring to cancel, but having spent three years discussing this trip and building up our children's hopes, gales force winds and rain were not, it seemed, going to stop us. Fortunately (or rather recklessly for us novice campers) we had booked a secluded spot in the woods for our adventure. Just us, the trees, the wind and the rain and a pile of damp firewood!

I wish I could say that I was of much help to Mr Ragged Roses as he struggled with the tent but I have to say that up until the moment the tent was erected I did very little, I had of course made some new cushions for the tent so that I would have something pretty to gaze upon whilst my children grew steadily more and more feral, the rain lashed down, our noses ran and I stood on constant lookout for uninvited insects.

Our friends arrived with a car as laden as ours with food, wine, disenfectant and wet wipes. A strange thing happened, dusk fell, the rain lightened and M and his friend were able to indulge in their latent pyromania. As the wood smoked in our campfire and the wine poured from the bottles, the laughter followed.

Marshmallows were toasted, songs were sung and chocolate was devoured. Our children were in their element, it was too dark to worry about the spiders and the moon, well the moon was just absolutely beautiful.

Within a space of a couple of hours I felt transformed. Relaxed, smiling and happy, I even volunteered to take the children with my friend on a moon walk to the loos (I'm afraid the lure of the compost loos was not that attractive, and so we braved the longer walk to the toilet facilities). Across a moonlit field with bats circling over our heads, children leading the way with their torches, our arms linked, it was fun, exciting and strangely liberating.

I could say that my first night under canvas was equally as beautiful but that would be a lie. What I can say that it was the longest, loudest night I think I have ever experienced. Having secured the tent against any unwelcome intrusion and sealed off any possible access we tumbled into our sleeping bags (I say tumbled, but really mean I threw myself onto the airbed, completely missed it - ending up wedged in the side of the tent completely trapped in a sleeping bag with my legs stuck up in the air). What followed was 8 hours of animal karaoke - owls hooting, pheasants shrieking, sheep bleating, interminable snuffling outside our tent and a noise that we couldn't identify that managed to wake both Little Sister and Big Sister and convinced me that a wild boar was outside the tent. Mr RR poked outside to take a peek and reassure me, he thought it was badgers, in the morning we realised it was the sound of friends snoring! Imagine our despair when we found out that it was only 2.30am and that another 5 or 6 hours would have to be spent like this. And so it was, 5 hours of near hysteria from me and the relief of hearing the dawn chorus and knowing that we could get up.

I could go on, there were tales of exploding gas cylinders, the joy of finding a bottle of perfume, our non stop intake of carbohydrates, me sticking my leg through my sleeping bag in a desperate attempt to get some fresh air amongst all that nylon, achling legs and dirty faces.

However what I really really want to do is tell you that it was pure magic. The rain stopped and the sun shone

We slept amongst a canopy of beautiful trees,

a babbling brook on one side, open fields on the other.

The children paddled in the stream,

played on the hanging ropes, ran off and made camps and we sat and talked secure in the knowledge that they were safe and having fun.

They discovered fairy houses and tree spirits. We awoke to shafts of sunlight greeting us through the trees and stood amongst them wondering at the beauty of it all.

We walked in the woods, amongst handsome, majestic trees,

strolled past corn fields and sat late in the night around fires talking and laughing.

And what's more we finally slept - slept safely, deeply and undisturbed as the moon shone over us. We returned more Rugged Roses than Ragged and I hate to admit it, but we will be returning ... and not just to return all the spiders that came home with us in the car.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Boots, Clogs & Pelican Feet

I saw a patch of blue sky this morning as I lay in bed with my cup of tea (Mr Ragged Roses is on holiday, oh the joys of the first cup of tea of the day in bed!). I watched the blue disappear behind the clouds and traced its course across the sky. After endless days of grey and dreary skies this little blue patch was as rare a spotting as a flying pig. What fun it would be to be able to relax into summer knowing that you could wake up every morning to be greeted by the sun. The greyness that passes for summer here literally colours everything. Aha, as I write the blue patch has filled the sky and my thoughts are filled with ways to enjoy the day.

On Saturday (just like Friday, Thursday and Wednesday) it poured and poured. We spent the day recklessly sorting and sifting through our belongings for a car boot on Sunday. I spent Saturday night awake listening to the gale force winds outside the window and dreading the morning. Well the blue patch returned and we scuttled up to the car boot with a car full of booty. Not the best way to spend a sunny morning but a good way to swell the coffers! It would have been a tad more profitable if Big Sister and I hadn't gone a roaming and rummaging amongst the other stalls with the profits in our pockets!

I found this lovely First Aid kit to sit in the bathroom, perhaps I should trap some of the sunshine inside it and open it just a little on those very grey days.

I don't know if the lack of sun had finally got to me but one of my favourite finds was a clog! Yes, that's right just the one clog, tatty, garrishly painted with peeling varnish. The stallholder gave it to me for nothing. As soon as I saw it it was love. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it (apart from hiding it from Mr Ragged Roses who was seriously questioning the sense of letting me loose with all our hard won earnings).

I painted it a very soft pearly grey, added some pale, pale blue detail and have spent a couple of days walking around the house, clog in hand. It will end its days as a doorstop, but has spent time in the bathroom, bedroom and dining room.

It blends so beautifully with the wooden floorboards that it will only be a matter of time before somebody stubs their toe on it and I shall have to have a serious rethink.

Which leads me to Pelican Feet, this might be what our feet will look like after the said stubbing, but is the name of some seashells that I discovered in my other little treasure. - this King Penguin book of British Shells. I love these books, they are so beautifully illustrated. This one now sits proudly on my bookshelf, with its jacket on show, but it might not be long before it joins the First Aid box as a doorstop and a clog cunningly steals its place on display.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Summer album

Well Little Sister has been off school for a fortnight and it's been a fortnight of contrasts and choices.


and seaside.

Sailing boats

and pirate ships

Blue skies

and rainy days

Lavender in my garden

and in sachets

Uncooked cake mixture

and vanilla and chocolate


and blue

Some choices have been harder than others!

Days by the sea

and days at home. A time to catch up on old films, watching "Rebecca" late at night with Big Sister and "Wuthering Heights" on a grey afternoon.

An evening of sheer terror and suspense and an afternoon of girls crying inconsolably, eating cake and popcorn, cuddling and ultimately laughing. Dreams of Cornwall and the Yorkshire Moors. Good times.