Monday 30 June 2008

Seaside Sunday

M went to visit his father yesterday who's been poorly recently. The girls and I decided to spend the afternoon on the beach. We drove along the coast, away from the city, out and over the Downs. We turned the car radio on to FIP and imagined we were on holiday. Not such a hard thing to do with the sun shining, the sea glistening in the sun on one side and the green hills and hedgerows of the Downs on the other. Little Sister said that it felt like summer, she wasn't wrong.

Ten minutes later we were sitting on a near deserted beach, listening to the waves lapping against the rocks and eating our sandwiches. I do know how lucky we are to live where we do, the coast and the countryside literally on our doorstep. Fortunately my daughters appreciate it too. Big Sister said to me yesterday that if we ever had to move away she would miss the sea so much. Not that we are always down on the beach, in fact in Summer we rarely go the main beach, preferring the grey somewhat desolate winter months to walk between the piers. We tend to pack a picnic and drive out for our days by the sea.

I'm glad they appreciate the beauty of the sea, how calming and relaxing it can be. How you can just literally lose yourself staring out onto the horizon watching a boat sailing past, when the sun shines you could be anywhere. When I was little days out by the sea seemed to involve days of planning. We would always go with various Aunts , Uncles and cousins. We always had egg sandwiches and we were always stuck in endless traffic jams. It being England we would check regularly to see what the cows were up to every time we past a field. Cows lying down were always such a bad sign - and they invariably were!!! Whatever the weather though we always had such fun.

I remember reading my daughters this story by Shirley Hughes. I loved it and they loved it. It seemed to capture all the excitement and magic of going to the seaside and I seem to remember that a lot of time was spent preparing the food to take as well - I have such vivid memories of the food being packed for our seaside days out when I was little, eggs being boiled, oranges chopped and cakes being made. What a lot of packing was involved ...

It was a lazy affair for us yesterday, some sandwiches, fruit, cookies and crisps which resulted in a very heated debate and a lot of reminiscing over favourite crisp flavours!

We took our books, the girls paddled, held hands (a rare occurrence these days) and discovered that they do enjoy each other's company despite the age gap.

Little Sister brought her drawing book, I remember never sitting on the beach without mine either when I was little. Big Sister was determined to soak up the rays and most of all we chatted. Sitting by the sea it does feel that time stands still, there is time to chat, to laugh and play. Us three girls like Russian Dolls (I am no longer the tallest!) spending time together, making memories of a Sunday afternoon. I realised on the drive home how wonderful our blogs are to record these kind of days, to capture days together when, deep down as a parent, you know it won't be long before your children stop wanting to share sunny Sunday afternoons with you. I hope they remember their days by the sea as fondly as I do my hazy childhood memories. Of course, just like when I was little, we bought 99s on the way home, our noses were pink (you were right Mrs Custard), our clothes smelt of the sea and our bags seemed to take forever to unpack.

Thursday 26 June 2008

Treading water

I think this is my third or fourth week of swimming regularly. I can't tell you the difference it is making to me, it making me feel so much better, physically and mentally. This week at home has felt like I have been, to carry on the swimming theme, treading water. Going nowhere in particular, just keeping my head above the water. Some days it has felt like I've literally been swimming underwater, I have felt so unfocused and slightly disoriented. When I was little I would love to swim underwater, darting across the pool, jumping up and startling people. I'm not enjoying the experience much these days.

Today at the swimming pool, for the first time in weeks , I felt completely relaxed and was able to drift off to somewhere so pleasurable that I almost forgot to count the lengths (so very important to Little Sister) and was surprised now and again to catch the odd tune coming over from the other pool where the women's aquarobics class was being held, I had completely forgotten my surroundings and it was just what I needed. We all need a little break from reality don't we and the thirty minutes or so in the pool today gave me just that.

I go to a women only swimming session at the pool and I can't recommend it enough. Women of all shapes, sizes and ages go along and I have never felt less self conscious. Some of the pool has been sectioned off into lanes but I prefer to stay in the "anything goes" section. After just a couple of weeks faces are familiar, women of my age accompanying elderly mothers for a swim (what a good way to spend some time together), younger women and a couple of very elegant older women who seem to go for a good old chat rather than a swim. Today as I swam around them I caught snatches of their conversations - Jack Russell terriers. Sunday roast lunches, Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret, were just some of the topics. It made for a very interesting, and slightly surreal few seconds each time I swam past them. They started off swimming but after a short while they gave up and walked up and down the pool, sometimes waving their arms in the air as if doing the breast stroke. What was interesting was that every woman in the pool had to swim wide to avoid them and nobody minded. We were all as interested in catching their conversation and gave each other knowing smiles as we passed.
Now if only everyone in life was as kind and generous (well I know you all are in blogland!).

Am I alone in loving that moment when you push off from the side of the pool and literally glide across the water - it's a beautiful feeling. The sun was shining through the glass panelled roof and as it hit the water I remembered long hot sunny days when I was a little girl when my parents would take me to an open air pool in the countryside. We seemed to spend days there. picnics on grassy banks, splashing around, eyes sore with chlorine, never failing to fall into the stinging nettles by the changing rooms and that long car drive home where you were oh so tired and yet oh so happy, with the prospect of what seemed like endless days of the school holidays ahead of you.

Ladies I'll be going next week if you care to join me ...

Monday 23 June 2008

Summer shade

Hope you all had a good weekend. It certainly didn't feel like Midsummer here, any midsummer magic that went on was definitely under the cover of an umbrella. Wet on Friday, grey and dismal on Saturday and gale force winds yesterday. Our poor gardens don't know what's going on.

On Friday afternoon I finished something that had been sitting around for a few months now. I bought this old standard lamp from a junk shop and managed to persuade M that with a coat of paint and a new shade, the new shade being the most important thing as he was not very happy with the frou frou one that came with it, it was just what we needed in the corner of the living room.

Months ago I remember seeing on this gorgeous blog the most beautiful chair made by the very, very talented Niki. It was love at first sight! Florals, colours, pattern and patchwork, serious chair love! It's picture stayed in my mind.

I have been making lots of cushions recently for the living room. I know I'm stating the obvious here, but boy it's so much cheaper to buy some fabric and make the covers yourself and you get to plan what to do with the leftovers. I saved all the scraps, as you do, for a rainy day. This being a rainy day and my heart yearning for a taste of summer, I set to work on my lampshade. It was easier than I thought, newspaper pattern for the panels, quick sewing of seams on the machine and a blast of glue gun for the trims. Thanks Niki and Clare for the inspiration.

I'm happy with it, M's happy with it, the girls love it and the cats are very tempted by those bobbles! Our living room is light and airy and the walls are painted a very soft grey.

We have been slow to put up paintings and pictures in here and I'm happy with the mixture of pattern and florals in this corner - a summer's garden next to the sofa! I'm hoping it's not the only garden we'll be enjoying this summer.

Friday 20 June 2008

Midsummer's Eve

Just wanted to wish you all a lovely, magical Midsummer weekend (can you believe it's midsummer). This weekend we'll be doing some of this and
this but mostly hoping that the fairies bring their umbrellas! Hope you get to see some at the bottom of your garden too.
PS If those fairies are just being a bit too shy, you could watch this - it's wonderful!

Tuesday 17 June 2008

An AB FAB kind of day

This post could have gone one or two ways - it could have been a tale of bad Monday morning blues, grey skies and cat vomit but instead is one of Sunday afternoon grey skies and a trip to the countryside to revisit one of our all time fav places. It was a close call but here was a tale I wanted to share and besides the photos were far prettier!

This weekend M and I both felt in need of cheering up and it being Father's Day M got to choose what we were up to. A visit to Charleston Farmhouse was what he really wanted, we hadn't been for a while and he was having serious withdrawal issues! Readers of this post will know how much we love the work of the Bloomsbury artists and how lucky we are living so close to much of their old stomping ground.

So just a short drive away (and a brief entanglement with the London to Brighton bike ride) we found ourselves at Charleston. M and I use to pootle here in my old 2CV when we first moved down from London and it seems that we were here most Sundays when it was first opened to the public.

What I will always remember is that my 2CV somehow always just made it there before smoke started to come in through the dashboard, how we always came home thoroughly in love with the place and how M just adores the smell of the cow manure that hits you (the smell that is, not the cow poo) the minute you trundle down the little lane into the car park! Unfortunately it is now a smell that we will always associate with the place.

Even after nearly twenty years of visiting this house never loses its magic.

Even the beautiful dove grey paint of the woodwork makes me smile.

From the early days when restoration work was still in process and in evidence until today it has always been much more than a showcase for the work of the Bloomsbury artists, it has been very much a home. You get the feeling on entering that the owners have just slipped out for a walk and rather like Goldilocks you can snoop around this wonderful home undisturbed. What is also wonderful about the place is that the paintings on display always vary, items are donated, things turn up or are loaned and so you are never sure what you might see.

Unfortunately no photography is allowed indoors but if you visit hereand here, you'll be able to see what I'm talking about. No surface has been left unpainted, furniture, doors, tiles all have been painted. Lampshades have been made from wonderful old fabrics, upturned handglazed colanders used as lampshades, handmade crockery, paintings that would make you drool, and the worst thing is that it all looks so deceptively doable!

The garden was planted as an artists" garden.

Forgive the greyness of the photos it was a dreary day, there are masses of wonderful flowers here, hidden corners, areas where you could imagine Duncan Grant or Vanessa Bell sitting with their easels looking out onto the Downs or on their own little patch of beauty.

Terraces where you could imagine Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey and E M Forster involved in some heated debate. The pond where the children would spend hours mucking around on rafts

Beautiful statues made by Quentin Bell, perfectly placed

- I wish I could do the place justice!

Not a bad way to celebrate Father's Day eh? A good day, a happy day, you might say a fabulous day.

What made it an Absolutely Fabulous kind of day was a chance encounter with Joanna Lumley - Mr Ragged Roses was a very happy man!

Friday 13 June 2008

The return of the magpie or a spot of rehoming?

Somebody asked me the other day if there were any parts of my home that are my favourites. When the sun is shining and the house is relatively tidy I can honestly say there are things I love about all the rooms in the house. Not necessarily everything in every room, I could live without the remaining dodgy carpets that we've yet to pull up, the horrible kitchen window that we'll never afford to replace, the pile of DVDs and videos next to the TV wouldn't be missed and the rather gorgeous pile of ironing sitting in the kitchen corner does nothing to add to the place, but all in all like most of us I love my home and know that my home will evolve and improve (hopefully) with time.

I have always loved home, being at home, coming home and making my home. I love the way our homes reflect our personalities, our likes and dislikes, and in the case of mine, display our magpie like tendencies! With a magpie's eye I noticed the glint of this silver thread the other week at the car boot. A few days later I spotted the old thread box in a street market, perfect!

I couldn't settle on just the one spool of thread, oh no, these three had to come home with me too. Don't they look pretty sitting on the shelf. A magpie has to have a pretty nest you know!

The other day I remembered that the old enamel washstand that we had in the bathroom of our old house. Three years on and it was still living in the loft with all the other paraphenalia that you acquire along the way. M was reluctant to bring it down as there just wasn't the room for it in our bathroom here, unless you agreed to be airlifted into the shower and allowed the washstand to stand right in front of the shower door. It was bugging me though, I loved my washstand when we bought it years ago, and, fingers crossed, bearing in mind that we won't be moving again, it seemed such a shame to keep it hidden in the attic.

So now it's living in our bedroom, yes the furniture has had to be shifted, but I have my washstand back and it makes me smile every time I walk past the rusty old thing!

I even made a new cushion for my bedroom this week to add to the pile on the bed, pink and green, florally and vintage fabric, just what I wanted. Another home found for something!

Ssssh, I'll let you in on a secret. Can you spot the little bin in this photo? I found it at the car boot, it's an old Worcester Ware bin and I love it. It lives next to the computer so I can see it all the time.

The secret is that most days when I'm wandering around the house, the bin comes with me! The rest of the Ragged Roses no nothing of the secret life of my bin, but now they do... It sounds sad I know but I just can't make up my mind what to do with it. It looks so pretty in every room. I never thought I would find such a pretty waste paper basket!

Am I alone in doing things like this I wonder? I love introducing new things into our home that sit beside things we've had for years, that have stories to tell and reflect us all so well. Isn't it good that our homes are constantly evolving, what would the magpie (no I think I prefer squirrel) inside me do if one day my home would say "that's it I'm finished!"

Before I forget I need to let you know about the PIF. Names were pulled out of the hat this morning and the recipients of my PIF are Twiggy,
Lucy and
AThrfityMrs. I do promise that you will receive something from me at some point, perhaps you could let me know your addresses when you've got the time. Sorry to all of you who were unable to be involved in this one, maybe next time.

A big thank you for all your recent tooth love! I'm glad to know that most of you bloggers are as wussy as I am when it comes to all things dental. Perhaps we should all coincide our next appointments and have a moan about it afterwards. I am feeling happier about things at the moment, not because I've won the lottery or the sky has decided to rain chocolate rather than the nasty cold drizzly stuff it's doing at the moment, but because yesterday I went swimming again for the first time in two years! It was GOOD! Having hurt my leg and back when we moved I have been reluctant to swim for a while but I really needed to stretch again and swimming was just so perfect for me. M says I have a permanent smile on my face when I'm in the water and he's so right. I love it, love the feeling of stretching, love the feeling of being carried along and, most of all, love the feeling of having to concentrate on nothing else but the moment, bliss! Just what I needed.
Have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Father's Day to all you Dads too!