Monday 25 May 2009

Surrey with a fringe on top

On Thursday afternoon, before the beginning of half term there was a stillness and calmness about the house that rarely happens. The hall was free of the piles of shoes, bags, letters, keys, mobile phones etc that usually fill the space. I had been waiting impatiently for the wisteria to trail across our front door and its flowers to bloom in front of the window.

On Thursday it was perhaps at its finest - against a blue sky, a peaceful hallway, its lilac fronds framed my view out and for some reason made me think of that song from "Oklahoma" - " Surrey with a fringe on top". My mum used to love singing that song. I listened to it again on Youtube on Thursday and thought it captured this moment completely. The complete joy of the moment, the optimism of the time of year and my little flowers showing off to as many passersby as possible.

Over the next couple of days the shoes, bags and flotsam and jetsam of daily life mounted up on and around the hall table, the sun came and went but my "fringe" remained,

Sunday morning was perhaps one of the best of the year, a real "Surrey with a fringe on top" morning. Patty's Plum, my favourite oriental poppy, had woken from her winter slumber and added her vibrant colour to the ever increasing blooms in the garden. Isn't it wonderful, this time of year, when we are surprised almost daily by the floral goings on in our gardens?
This riot of colour was a complete contrast to the calmness of my hall and I loved it just as much.

We wandered that afternoon across the city through parks full of families picnicking and toddlers toddling, through deserted roads shimmering in the haze of a glorious day.

The colours of the houses basking in the Sunday sunshine.

We spent the afternoon with friends in their home by the seafront. Played rounders and laughed in the gardens, looked at the view and felt as if were caught inside a painting, framed by the sun, sea and greenery.

Perhaps we had taken a wrong turning and been transported to the South of France - it was that good...

Now if ever there was a "Surrey with a fringe on top" kind of day, this was it. A day of laughter, colour, sunshine, friendship and that feeling you get as you look round at your friends and family and all the other families laughing, playing, lying in the sunshine around you that it is a special day indeed. A day that should be marked with fireworks and fanfares like the ones we saw on the beach that evening, marking the end of the festival and a fitting full stop to a special day.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Two go mad on doughnuts ...

So Emma and I finally got to play hooky and we couldn't have chosen a better day for it. After months and months of planning a day out together - we did it! How many times have we sat over our coffees planning our jolly jaunt onto the Downs? Living just streets away, you would think that it would be a tad easier to arrange than this...

The last time I saw Emma, a couple of weeks ago, was during one of her stints at the wonderful Open House she is exhibiting in. I bounded into the room eager to see my chum again and stopped dead in my tracks, how could it be that the pair of us could both be wearing identical clothes, from top to toe I wonder? Fashion faux pas to one side, it's well worth visiting this lovely house if you're around Brighton this weekend (if not, I know that Emma has a lovely Folksy and Etsy shop too which have the added advantage of not needing to phone ahead to check on what you're both wearing!).

Back to yesterday - we pootled up to the Downs to visit one of the Anish Kapoor scultpures that are exhibited around the city as part of the Festival.

Fresh air, two giggling bloggers with no sense of direction and a touch of culture thrown in what could be better?
Nothing much could have been better about yesterday actually.

The sun was out and shining, the sheep and cows were enjoying themselves and the sculpture was absolutely breathtaking. To see the landscape and sky reflected, magnified like this was wonderful. Luckily for us we went along quite early and were able to enjoy the spectacle in relative peace.

Well I say peace, it was quite calm until we arrived. In fact I think the group of arriving schoolchildren were better behaved than us. In our defence, all we were trying to do was take some photos that didn't have various parts of our bodies reflected in the sculpture, but this was easier said than done.

We finally ended up lying down beneath the plinth, taking turns to poke our heads up at an angle and point and shoot.

I'm sure if you look closely at the photos you'll see various bits of us but you won't hear the giggles (unless you listen very carefully).

Well all this art and culture can be just a little tiring don't you think? Emma had planned ahead - she arrived at my house armed with two of the best doughnuts in town (still warm from the oven), a flask of tea (of course) and because she's lovely Emma, freshly ironed crisp white napkins and tablecloth.

So we sat on a bench overlooking the beautiful Indian war memorial,

The Chattri,

drinking our tea and devouring our doughnuts, planning our next jaunt - secateurs at the ready, we plan a day of elderflower gathering and cordial making and of course freshly ironed tablecloths too.

Thanks Emma.

Monday 18 May 2009

Sunshine on a rainy day ...

Hope you've all had a lovely weekend. Ours was good, somewhat tempered by the weather. Fortunately the sun shone when we needed it to most and it ran away and hid for the rest of the time.

We were able to watch our youngest dance outside during the Fringe Festival and join the heaving crowds of people visiting the city for the day.

We were able to go to a grown up birthday party, dressed in our summery finest but were unable to take our coats off ...

We were able to catch half hours of sunshine in the garden

and drool over the promise of strawberries

the blue against the white.

I picked a posy of white flowers in between the showers. The flowers being at their whiteiest (!) after the downpour and the air smelling the sweetest.

My little red teapot now sits on the kitchen table, a floral fragrant reminder that the sun is just a cloud away.

I was able to pick some rosemary and smell the scent of summer and close my eyes to the sight of dreary winter through the windows.

Whilst sitting at my computer just now, I looked up and saw a rainbow on the bookshelf

and a pot of gold at my side.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

A sense of time and place

Our Friday evenings have been the same for years - a bottle of wine, bar or two of chocolate, curled up on the sofa watching TV, relaxing into the weekend. Recently this little routine has been interrupted by a game of pass the remote control. It doesn't matter how many channels we have, the hunt for something good to watch has been fruitless.

Just as were giving up hope, we spotted this -
featuring Richard Wilson driving around Britain in a Morris Traveller using routes from favourite 1950s travel guides - I was sold. This episode took us across the Yorkshire Moors from Scarborough to Whitby, had the most beautiful scenery and gave the kind of snippets of social history that I love. Nostalgic holidays by the sea sitting beside modern day goths living in Whitby. It was lovely TV, gentle and entertaining, just the kind of thing to welcome in the weekend. (Oh dear am I sounding like a bit of a Victor Meldrew)?

I love to find out more about places, how they were, what they looked like, what people got up to - everyday things really. I love piecing together information and building up a picture. A few weeks ago I was able to find some treasure. Not pretty, pretty, sparkly treasure, something much more personal. An old copy of one of my favourite books The Fortnight in September with a gorgeous dust jacket. I wrote about it here and haven't stopped recommending it to friends to read.

A little while back I found some vintage fabric featuring the very same pier that's mentioned in the story. Another little piece for me to add to my story. I made it into a little pillow to put in my etsy shop. I can almost see the family from the book walking along the seafront together...

I have just finished reading the last of the Mapp and Lucia books. I laughed all the way through them. Having visited Rye, the village in the stories, Tilling, is based on Rye, I had lots of images in my head already of what the streets, shops and houses would look like. E F Benson paints the scenes so vividly that there is no need to visit the place to enjoy the stories.

A few weeks ago I found this little vintage guide to water colour painting. I bought it, not because I wanted to learn how to paint (I know my limitations!), but because the cover reminded me so much of Lucia and George on one of their painting excursions. Daft I know, but my bookshelves are full of little stories like that, pictures that I like to group together to pad out the stories I've read. If you click on the photo you will notice in one of the postcards, a lady walking along with her basket just as they do every morning in the Mapp and Lucia stories - she's on her way to the grocer's for a chat I think ...

I would love one day to take a car journey around Britain in a Morris Traveller with a tartan travel blanket, flask of tea and homemade fruit cake. But of course the roads would have to be completely empty, the shops vintage and the sun always shining! I guess I'm going to have to make do with making up little pictures in my head ...

Friday 8 May 2009

A glass half full kind of morning

It's a grey, wet day here today and I felt the need for pretty.
I felt the need for some calm amongst the chaos
Some peace amongst the piles of paper,
and the angst filled evenings fuelled by the oncoming weeks of exams.

The brighter quilts have been replaced today by softer hues

My sewing has been discarded whilst I play with some pretty threads.

My mug of tea sits to one side whilst I tinker with some pretty china.

I decide not to notice the sticky tape mark on the top of this old tin

To admire some beautiful old handwriting and remember how glad I am not to be back at school...

In short, I take some time to smell the roses.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Those darling buds of May

At the end of April I picked the first peonies from our garden. Beautiful, blowsy blooms greeting every passerby as they walked past our front garden. Heralding in, what I hope will be, a lovely May. Here they sit on a table in my living room enjoying the sun from the bay window.

And then on Friday along came May, perhaps one of my favourite months of the year. A month that is full of excitement, you can almost smell the hint of summer on the horizon, the garden bursts into life. In many ways this photos shows exactly what I love about May, the beautifully soft pink of the apple blossom against the green stems of the angelica and the wonderful angelica heads, perfect in their symmetry yet sitting somewhat higgledy piggledy in the corner of a blossoming flower bed and petal strewn lawn.

There is a sense that things are returning to their natural place,

Little Sister regains her favourite reading spot in the apple tree

and here by the sea the Brighton Festival begins.

Saturday morning bright and early we walked to an almost deserted seafront before the children's parade begins. A chance to savour the very short stillness of the place. Just a few moments later, the city is heaving with visitors, families, schools, samba bands as the children take centre stage and parade through the city to open the Festival.
For us it is always a chance to catch up with old friends. We've had a weekend of fresh air, walking and coming home with friends to eat and chat with them.

With very rosy (sunburnt) faces we drove over to here on Sunday. We met some friends and walked over the Downs, saw plenty of these

More of these than I've seen in a very long time

Walked tentatively through fields of these...

And spotted the reddest, handsomest fox going for a Sunday constitutional, we hope not in search of his lunch.

Picnicked on the cliff tops, took deep breaths and admired the view.

A lazy day at home yesterday, feeling tired but good. I looked over at the somewhat bleached peonies and

oh how they reminded me of those crepe paper decorations we used to have at Christmas when I was little, the ones we would put up in our classroom and watch them fade over the weeks - the rolls of crepe paper that you would still find in the local sweet shop months after the event, sitting tiredly in the corner sunbleached, colour fading and yet still tantalisingly attractive.

I want to thank you, yet again, for all the lovely, kind and supportive comments I've been getting recently, it has made a real difference. I am going to make a determined effort to get back into some kind of normal blogging routine and am so looking forward to visiting you all again. In the meantime, please pick one of my peonies to put beside your computer. the roses aren't yet blooming so I can't pass you a ragged rose to share, just yet...