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I'm about to go a very long way and I'm getting so excited I can't tell you. Charlie's been home in New Zealand for a few weeks now. As I think I wrote previously, he had been invited for two weddings of close friends, seven weeks apart from one another. So he's been there for a month and on Thursday I'm heading out to join him. At first, time moved very slowly. Now it's rushing by to the minute I'll be jumping on the plane.
What is so strange, after our wonderful, whirlwind relationship, is that it is only now that I'm about to meet all my new relatives on the other side of the world. I'm getting the feeling my right hand is going to be rather crushed in three week's time. I somehow suspect that the New Zealand farmers are going to have rather firm handshakes. And I'm going to be shaking a lot of hands. Continue reading
I haven't felt like moving very far this weekend. And I haven't moved very far at all. I walked down for tea with my landlord yesterday, and across the road for a delicious supper with our neighbours Jim and Nic last night, and across the garden to church this morning. And that was that - no more, no less.
A good thing. Last week was hectic... three long days in Oxfordshire, County Durham and Norfolk in quick succession, each with an earlier start than the day before. It was a weary me that drove down to Dorset late on Friday night, chatting on the phone to Charlie (who was already in Saturday morning) to keep myself awake. I arrived at the Parsonage by the light of a bright moon and fell into bed.
The rest of the country, as far as I could tell, was enjoying warm spring sunshine all weekend, but a thick coastal fog lingered in Dorset. I sometimes find that I'm frustrated if I'm in London pouring with rain knowing that the sun is shining in the West Country, or vice versa. But this weekend, the gentle grey light suited my mood perfectly.
This was this morning, looking out of the dining room window.
Charlie's away. He's in New Zealand (as some of you may have already guessed. Did you work out that Charlie wasn't around last weekend?). He has two weddings of friends to go to... well, one has already been, and the next is in five weeks' time. You can't go all that way and back and out again, in seven weeks, unless you're mad, so we decided he better stay there. And most exciting of all, in less than three weeks now, I'm off as well.
To be honest, I can't wait. Time's going rather slowly just now.
But what he really wanted to know about this evening is how his garlic plants are coming along.
Not too badly, I thought. In fact the veg garden on top of our roof, which I think it is now truthful to call Charlie's veg garden, is doing quite nicely all round just at the moment. It feels like spring might be on its way, didn't you think, in today's beautiful sunshine? Continue reading
It was springtime at Columbia Road.
(that's a little photo from my instagram posts. If you are not familiar with Instagram, may I just tell you how addictive, and fun, it is? Like looking at everyone's visual diary; and unlike anywhere else I've encountered on the internet...with the possible exception of the comments section of this blog... entirely without malice).
Here's Carl Grover, his usual cheery self. Carl only sells "Top Quality" flowers. We sometimes tease him about the inverted commas. Are they really Top Quality, or just "Top Quality"? Well, I'd say the former. You can read all about Carl on The gentle author's post over at Spitalfields Life, here...
".......Oh B, I'd really like to see some snowdrops this year" said Charlie, a couple of weekends ago.
I had a quick think, and called my erstwhile builder Raymond Williams, who seven years ago helped me do up the Old Parsonage. As well as owning a small and very good building firm, Raymond happens to be the latest in the line of an old, old Dorset family who have lived in a beautiful house called Herringston, just south of Dorchester, for many generations.
"Raymond", I said, "could I introduce you to Charlie and could we come snowdrop peeping?". Raymond said they were not yet quite out, but to come in two weeks time. "Come for lunch" he said. So yesterday, we did.
I am sitting down with Melina Blaxland-Horne, newly installed in unit 17a Rugby Street here in Bloomsbury, surrounded by her beautiful silk ikat lampshades and cushions. The first question I have to ask her is “Where did the name Melodi Horne come from?”
A smile spreads across her face “Ok but don’t laugh. No one has ever known this until now. Me. Lo. Di. Melina. Loves. Dimitri.” Dimitri, her husband, is sitting to my left “That’s right” he says "This is all about love.”
There's always a false dawn around this time of year, but I can't help but wonder if winter is turning. I'm noticing how much lighter it is in the mornings and evenings, for one. I'm writing in London at the end of a beautiful day. It's five o clock and the sun is gently setting over Queen Square.
Of course, one day of warm sunshine doesn't mean spring - we all know there is nothing like the harshest winds of March to shock us all (and the garden). But there's nothing like a day of warm sunshine to give you a sense of things to come.
Charlie and I were at Wardington. The morning was sensational... and before breakfast I took my camera for a walk in the garden. There had been a hard frost but it was fast burning off.
The gates were magnificent in the haze, casting long shadows over the lawn.
I walked across from the house to the flower field, where Bridget Elworthy and Henrietta Courtauld run the fantastic Land Gardeners. You'll remember I wrote about the flower field back in the Autumn when the dahlias were at their craziest. It's good to see the structure of such places in the middle of winter.
Tulips are on their way:
In between perfectly pruned rows of roses:
The Land Gardeners provide seasonal English cut flowers to florists across London. In the summer, Bridget and Henrietta cut flowers at dawn and they are in London before the rest of us have woken up. There is nothing as fresh and scented like it.
If you want to get a taste of what they're up to, I suspect you might enjoy the land gardeners' new blog here... even if it makes rather amusing references to the size of my garden fork, and even if Bridget makes false aspersions as to who planted the paperwhites at the Old Parsonage.... it's a very good read and the best way to follow the trials and tribulations of growing flowers at home.
I came inside, freezing cold, to find Charlie and Somers having breakfast. You can't really go wrong with a smile like that.
A perfect Sunday morning. Thank you Elworthys, as always.
Just before I sign off - Zoe and I are looking for a studio assistant in the office. If you haven't already noticed the ad on the right of the blog page, please check out more details here. If you think you've got exactly what it takes to help our busy team, and especially Zoe (who runs the practice), would you get in touch with Zoe? Or if you think you know the perfect person for us, please pass on the details to them. We're interviewing in March.
Also, a technical note. I've seen from a couple of recent comments on the blog that some people are only seeing half a photo when the blog loads up. If that happens, can I suggest pressing the 'refresh' button in your internet browser window, and they should resize correctly. If you have any idea of what I'm talking about, that should work. On my mac, it's a little round arrow on the top right of the screen.
I'll talk to Colin in the technical department to see if we can come up with a more permanent fix.
We had a fantastic weekend. There is not a lot to write, but a lot to look at. Bitterly cold winds swept across Dorset, but accompanied by bright sunshine - the best sort of winter day. We decided to visit Montacute, that fantastic Elizabethan house on the Somerset border, whose garden I thought might be looking rather perfect in the clear austere winter light. We set off, calling into the little town of Crewkerne on the way.
I love Crewkerne, with its perfect combination of sublime classical town architecture in dark orange Hamstone, and the charm of a place that is not over-done up. At all. Continue reading
One of the amazing things about writing a blog is the number of people, who were once strangers, who one gets to know from all over the world. Some I'll only ever know as correspondents on the comments pages; others have visited Bridie and me in the shop and we now count as friends. And then from time to time it's also wonderful to receive a nice letter saying hello. Some letters are a little eccentric (some are very eccentric)... but that's all in the nature of life, I think.
And then others are completely amazing, a bit like this.
I have very much enjoyed reading your inspiration blog over the past year or so - the images together with your wonderful musings really brighten my day. So... when I was clearing the house of my much loved Aunt before Christmas and came across this book that I didn't know what to do with, I suddenly thought that you may like it?
It certainly looks as if it has lived an interesting and exciting life and I thought that you may appreciate it and take it on the next stage of its journey - I hope so!
I also wanted to say how delighted I was to read your recent post with news of your marriage and pass to you my sincere congratulations - wonderful news!
With best wishes
There was a small, ancient paper slip enclosing a parcel. Which turned out to be a book. Faded, worn, and with the first few pages gently scorched - I presume by a candle?
The beauty just of that little glimpse into the pages was something that was as fine as a work of contemporary paper art on its own.