Happy Christmas, happy new year, happy.

If you follow Kirstie Allsopp on Twitter you'll know she's been retweeting photos of Christmas trees.  The trees are so diverse ranging from homey, Skandi, mad to bling.

I thought I'd share mine with you.  There is only one prerequisite for a bauble to get on my tree, it must either have red or gold in it somewhere.  The Christmas pud bauble below is a hand felted one bought at a local farmers market.

When my children were younger I got them to write on a bauble with a metallic pen,  the difference in their writing style was already evident.   Girl -

Boy - 

This is one I purchased this month from Bath market, decorated in Kashmir.
I recommend the market, but go after dark, it really comes into it's own then.

Every year I do a bauble swap with friends, one year I came away with a packet of gold painted fir cones.  They remind me of the ones my grandfather DIY'd back in the day.

Writing this is making me realise how sentimental I am about my decorations.  This one was bought when we lived in Switzerland, and reminds me of times in the mountains.

My son made this snow covered postbox (of course!)  at nursery school

This one I bought last year, it depicts Santa in a gondola, from a glass factory on Murano.

A friend made this one for me, knowing I have a blanket stitch fetish!

The tree in all it's finery!

Happy Christmas, and all good wishes to you and yours for 2014 Xx

October In Pictures

Taken on a morning walk along the banks of the Thames at Henley, not a great angle, but my lens was playing up so it's the only one without a black circle around it.  Shame about the plastic bottle...

I think this is a post with weeds growing on it, an intriguing shape.

The  mansion below is said to be built from the proceeds of slavery.  You can just see a jogger and a rower enjoying the exceptional weather.

                                    Ephemeral Virginia Creeper vines with shadows.

The view below from my bedroom, by the time I had grabbed my camera the glowing autumnal sunrise was fast disappearing, you can just see it disappearing into the cloud above the church.

Just so that you know my life is not all quiet walks and views, my son and his band performing at a gig.

Back to the views...  I have just returned from a trip to visit Haworth.  My daughter and I explored the Bronte countryside and the area around the parsonage that gave a home to the Bronte sisters.  The museum was excellent, it really gave you a feel of their daily life, but amongst the rooms was an exhibit which seemed a little distracting to me, a first time visitor.  Dog head photographs exhibits were in every room, in abundance.  A stuffed giraffe next to the first floor window overlooking the graveyard?
 If I had to describe it in one word, that word would be disconcerting. 

My daughter walking through the Bronte Meadow at the back of the parsonage.  It was a windy and quiet day, not Wuthering Heights weather at all.  More Jane Eyre on a brisk stroll to the church.

I went with moody monochrome for the graveyard and parsonage shots.  There was quite a gruesome fact about the graveyard.  The Rector Patrick Bronte (father) campaigned for more land for his graveyard and for improvement for the village water supply.   The two causes were linked.  Due to the fashion for covering the graves with large stones, no plants grew on the graves, and thus oxygen was prevented from getting into the burial hole.  This slowed down body decomposition considerably.  Then a noxious oily liquid started to appear in the village water supply...  Once the public health inspector Charles Babbage got involved, the newer graves were not covered with a stone but marked with an upright stone or carving instead.

The trees that came along later add an air of menace;  giving a perch for the murder of crows (the collective noun, not my fevered imaginings) and causing havoc with the large horizontal grave markers. Spooky.

All of the Bronte family, with the exception of Anne are buried under the church (it was later rebuilt).  I can see why thousands of people make the pilgrimage every year, the Parsonage is a very special place.  The horsehair sofa on which Charlotte died was appropriately in the front room where the Bronte siblings wrote their stories together.   They would pace round the table in that small but cosy room, reading the stories out loud to each other during the long dark evenings. It made me think, if their mother had lived, if their father had been less strange, if they'd had a telly....  We would not have great novels filled with wild, unforgiving moorland, strong, colourful characters, love and loss.

Swedish Cabin Fever

It's the time of year when this woman's fancy turns to making home cosy again, after the doors-open policy of the fabulous summer we've had. The weather warnings for this weekend have prompted a flurry of activity - digging out cushions, throws and filling the log basket for the first fire, preparing for Autumn.  Note I said Autumn, no W word here, yet.

On my travels this summer I found a book published in 1896 that I hope I will have time to read it before it gets bought from my Etsy shop, it has the fabulous title of Fireside Sketches From Swedish Life - by Mrs Woods Baker, her name sounds so appropriate for a writer of stories about life in rural Sweden.

So in celebration of the weather turning, and my hankering for a cosy cabin in the woods, I've found some images that the book title conjured up for me.  I hope you enjoy.

Thank you to yabbedoowordpress.com for the image

Thank you to Easy Living 

Thank you to Easy Living

Thank you to Tumblr 

Thank you to Tumblr

A cosy reading corner I bagged, whilst on holiday a few years ago.

Art - 140 years apart

Yesterday was the birthday of Emily Bronte - 30th July 1818.  It was also the birthday of Kate Bush, born in 1958.  Wonder what Emily would have made of Kate's performance?

Location Location Location

Whilst out scouting for meeting locations for work, I took some photos.  This first below is actually where we ended up for a cup of coffee, Cliveden.  What a fabulous thing National Trust membership is.  The first photo below is of the 'hot' bed on the front lawn. 

Intrigued to see the blue lupins in amongst the hot spectrum, but they do stand out.

An entrance to lure you in.

A morning coffee, in the shade, on a sunny, work day, what a treat. My cake was fat, sugar and egg free, I also expected it to be taste free, but it was delicious - nuts and fruit, in case you were wondering!

Our first location was Hedsor House. Unlike at Cliveden, which is only 5 minutes away, the silver ribbon of river is hidden, but the views of the Thames Valley are stunning.

Quartet and The Golden Compass were both filmed here. Hedsor House is not open to the public, it's a private house, owned by the Shepherd family. 

Look at that sky!

Preparations for a wedding were underway, the house was bedecked in flowers.  The cool shade of the entranceway was heavy with the smell of stock, which had been tied around the chairs lining the aisle.

With all of the windows open, a welcome breeze blew all the way through the ground floor.

Talking of a breath of fresh air.... welcome to the newest member of the royal family!  

Top Tips For Warm Weather

Order yourself a St Germain Bellini (left in photo) - elderflower being the St Germain part, apparently.  The suspicious looking object in the bottom of the glass is a loganberry, in case you were wondering.  All delicious.  Wassabi peas optional.

Lick your wrists (heard this on Radio 4 this morning).  I looked around, made sure no one was looking and had a go, it worked for about 2 minutes.  Assume you lick and repeat.  Do not attempt this if you have just eaten beetroot - it may make people worry unduly.

Fill a hot water bottle and put it in the freezer for a couple of hours before bed.

I heard the weather girl say this morning, "another very hot day I'm afraid".  How British is that?!

Who Needs Sunshine?

Recently I went to the Bowie exhibition at the V & A.  It was beautifully curated.  Filled with memorabilia of an amazing and eclectic career.  Exhibits included posters, books, exhibits on how he wrote his lyrics, film clips, costumes, voice booths to listen at and a recreated gig room. He has had such a varied career; artist, writer, singer, actor and performer.
This exhibition is a bit like an obituary without the loss, when presented with the grand sum of Bowie's collected work you realise the effect Bowie has had on us.  It revived lots of memories. 

I found this book whilst searching for treasure for my on-line bookshop. This book is a fascinating snapshot of Britain in 1960, just before my time.  Reading the transcript you are transported back to a time of innocence - and fear of what unleashing such powerful words would do to the youth of Britain.  Reading it makes you want to shout; save your breath, the internets coming!  

Daniel Radcliffe strikes me as an intense actor, so seriously wanting to get it right.  He totally nails Billy the cripple in this black comedy at the Noel Coward theatre.  There's still tickets if you fancy being transported to a poor 1930's Ireland, where a boy with a physical disability hears about a Hollywood screen test on the next island and desperately wants to try for it.  The humour is black, the kind you need to survive poverty and adversity.  Looking forward to Radcliffe's upcoming film on the beat poet Allen Ginsberg too now.

And talking of films, I can highly recommend Behind The Candelabra.  The biopic of Liberace, with Michael Douglas as the closeted pianist, and Matt Damon as his troubled young lover Scott Thorson.  A glossy film based on the book Scott wrote after Liberace died.  Rob Lowe's all too brief appearance as a plastic surgeon who has overdosed on procedures himself is hilarious. Michael Douglas was Liberace; camp, caring and callous in equal measure.

Who needs good weather when there's so much else to do?


I was lucky enough to see a new film out in cinemas called Trashed.  Presented by Jeremy Irons and directed by Candida Brady, it is a thought provoking documentary.  Trashed is the story of our rubbish,  what happens to it and what will happen to us - and our children, if we don't change the way we live.  It was sobering, shocking, upsetting but ultimately it was uplifting. 

If more people watch it, more people will become aware of the cul de sac we are boxing ourselves into and maybe each of those people will think about the effects of decisions we make every day that increase landfill, pollute our oceans, air and earth.

I've made changes in the way I shop already.  I always took my bags for life to the supermarket but now I take a bag for all shopping. Considering if the purchase is necessary and how to reduce the amount of packaging in any purchase is now a part of the decision making process. 

At the end of the movie I was lucky enough to be part of a Q & A with Jeremy and Candida, they revealed they had shown this to MPs, and were planning to extend it into schools and colleges.  I hope they are able to.  It's a message that should be heard as far and wide as is possible. 

Never mind an age appropriate warning, this film should come with a message: 
Warning! Watching this movie will seriously affect your consumer conscience.

Have you seen it yet?

News vs views

As a contrast to the terrible events in Boston this week, the photos above are of the beauty in my week.  

The striking white building top left is Danesfield House hotel, so named because of long ago Danes that built a fort on the hilltop.  It has spectacular views of the Thames Valley below.  I took the picture as a tree had come down on the front lawn.  It was only when I downloaded the photos from my phone that I noticed the soft, gray blanket of cloud contrasting so starkly with the pristine, diamond white stone of the hotel.  

Bottom left you may just spot a helicopter coming in to land. It was a very windy day.  On the ground adjacent to the giant white H where the helicopter was to land, was anchored a marriage proposal printed on a large  sheet.  We waited to see if the proposal had been accepted, or whether the would-be-wife was berating her would-be-husband for organising a helicopter trip on a day of such high winds.  The couple dismounted when the blades stopped whirring, both were smiling broadly.

The other two photos are of a walk I do down to the river when I need a quick burst of exercise,  fresh air and a new perspective.  The Magnolia looked elegantly defiant in the sharp, cold air. I was glad to see my favourite Oak tree had survived intact, the winds of recent days. 

Happy weekend.

A Sunday Morning Stroll

My friend Andrea and I set off this morning on a lovely walk in the long awaited sunshine. 

We walked footpaths edged with tall chalk cliffs, besides a clear stream edged with primroses.

Alongside the Thames where trees are still bare and new growth is sparse.

Through a brick tunnel that was a bit like this last winter, long, dark and cold.

Coming out to greet the yellow
(taken another time, at Chatsworth)

The sun has really taken it's time arriving this year, let's hope it stays a while.  I was about to send out a search party.


My cold weather essentials are;

 a good blaze

sheepskin slippers

 'warm' lighting

and last but not least, hot drinks.

Just picking these has warmed me up.