Monthly Archives: August 2016

I’m a spring person. I love it when the first snowdrops appear, followed by primroses and daffodils – especially the small wild daffodils which are a whole world away from the large, blowsy cultivated varieties. I cant’ wait, after the long winter nights for when the clocks go forward and doesn’t get dark at four in the afternoon.  But there is one part of autumn that I do look forward to, and that is choosing the tulip bulbs for our many garden pots.  We have only small back garden and the focal point is a huge walnut tree, more than 150 years old.   When in full leaf its canopy overshadows at least half of the garden but we’re always grateful for the leaf cover and the shade they produce as it allows us to sit in the garden in summer without being scorched.

But before the leaves come – around the last week in May – we are able to have pots of tulips dotted around the lawn, some outside the summerhouse, and some on low steps outside the patio doors from our study to the garden.

My problem is really a rather pleasant one:   it’s simply, which bulbs, which collections, shall I choose?  The pastel shades this year or sumptuous rich colours which remind me of the paintings of Vermeer? Perhaps instead the clashing colours if burgundy and flame, or dark peony-style tulips in dazzling jewel shade, or even a collection of ivory and primrose blooms – I am informed by my favourite bulb supplier’s catalogue that “yellow it THE colour in 2016” .   No, perhaps not yellow.  There is yellow everywhere in spring, I want something just a little different.

Indeed, planting tulips is one of my favourite autumn tasks.  The planting occurs as we put the garden ‘to bed’ for the winter, husband sweeping up the leaves from the walnut tree – they will begin to fall soon – and gathering the walnuts to dry indoors on sheets of paper on the window sills if there are any left after the squirrels have had their fill, some of which they’ve gorged happily on for several weeks, some of which they’ve buried, their winter larder.  Sweeping up the leaves is good exercise and the aroma of walnut leaves is, for me, one of the wonderful natural scents of autumn.

Our back garden is small, just 50ft by 30ft, and therefore it doesn’t take long to give it a tidy up.  Once the sweeping up is done, the walnuts have been  gathered (taking them indoors we take great care not to allow any part of the walnuts, the nuts or their husks to touch any surfaces, especially the carpets, as they leave an indelible yellow stain), and the tulips planted, we reward ourselves with mugs of hot Bovril and anchovy toast (Gentleman’s Relish spread on toast), which we eat in the autumn air or inside the summerhouse before going indoors, thinking about the bulbs which are our ‘promise of spring’.

Do you love autumn? What are the best aspects of autumn for you?

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beside-the-sea

The August Bank Holiday is over.  We stayed at home for the weekend, enjoying our home and garden, reading, doing some housework (but then, making the home look nice isn’t really a chore) and watching a new drama serial on TV, Victoria, about the early life of the monarch.  Enjoying it so far, 6 more episodes to go.

So, having been holed-up for the duration of the  Bank Holiday (willingly, I might add), as it was a blissfully sunny morning we were up early, making our way down to the sea front before 8 o’clock.

It was quiet with just the gentle sound of the surge of the incoming tide.   The sun sparkled off the water like millions of diamonds, glinting.   There were one or intrepid swimmers taking a dip, and a Council JCB  was clearing seaweed and, as it did so, leaving tyre tracks in the sand as attractive as any graphic design.

The only people we saw were early-morning joggers and dog walkers. The former who, to a person looked slightly miserable, huffed-and-puffed along, usually ‘plugged in’ to goodness knows what – I would’ve thought jogging would’ve been more enjoyable to the rhythm of the sea but then, I’m not a jogger, what do I know – each having his or her jogging style as individual as any fingerprint;  the latter, the dog walkers, amiable, invariably saying “Hello!” or “Good morning!”

At the ‘harbour end’ of our walk where gulls were paddling in rock pools, a bit like a nursery before they attempted the larger pool which would take them across the Channel or even the rest of the world.   There we did an about-turn, retraced our steps to our car and, on the way home, stopped to buy crusty rolls at a bakery to have with marmalade and coffee for breakfast in the garden, and all before 9 o’clock.   A simple walk, a simple breakfast.  What are your simple pleasures on a late summer sunny morning, I wonder?

 

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It might still be August – just – but my latest magazine (I have three each month and if you think this is over-indulgent, I used to have eight so I’m actually, by my standards, being positively frugal) is dated October and it is well into autumn mode with wallpapers, paints, rugs and throws in the russet colours associated with this season of the year.  Gardening guru, Sarah Raven’s column shows huge great red chrysanths; the food column, a recipe for loin of venison; and I was asked (for my own column) to write about Fine Wine, rich whites and succulent reds.  Exterior shots of those whose homes are being featured show them wearing coats and boots, while their hedges have turned from spring green to vibrant gold with interior shots showing wood burners and well-filled log basket.

For me, it’s still summer. I want to hang on to summer for as long as I possibly can even though it’s not exactly warm.  But a daytime temperature of between 20C and 22C is ideal for me.  Not too hot, certainly not cold.  The cosmos are still in bloom in the garden and we don’t need a coat when we go for a walk.

I feel magazines – and believe me, I love the monthly style magazines; I wouldn’t write for them if I didn’t – do tend to rush us through the year.  I’m currently writing my Christmas column, deadline early September.

Anyway, lets get to the point of all this.  In today’s magazine that comes with the Sunday paper, the main feature is on Hygge, “the Danish concept of embracing life’s simple pleasures ….” and it poses the question “Can candles, hot chocolate and keeping cosy make for a calmer, happier you?”

I will state straight away that I’m not a huge fan of candles  unless they are used during a power cut.  I find scented ones, even the very expensive ones which I’ve only ever smelt in other people’s homes (for I would never shell out mega money on something I was simply going to burn!) cloying and somewhat sickly.  If I want my rooms to smell nice, I open the windows  – even in winter – for a few minutes and then spray with my lavender or rose pillow mist.  I don’t know the statistics, but I wonder how many house fires are been started by unattended candles?  It’s just a thought as we come into the ‘candle season’ to take extra care with them.

But I love hot chocolate, and other things that make me feel ‘cosy’ or, as the Danes say, “hygge”, such as a soft, woollen throw, lamp light, fire light (although it’s a living flame gas fire and not a real fire), and afternoon tea comprising anchovy toast and then crumpets with quince jelly (for those outside the UK, that’s a preserve, not a children’s dessert.)

I wonder, what makes you feel “hygge”?

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Here in the UK it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, the actual holiday being on Monday.   Such holidays began years ago so the working classes could have an extra day’s holiday.  Many would go on the train or on what was then called a charabanc to the seaside.  Banks closed, obviously, and shops and factories also closed.  Now, for the most part, shops remain open although banks still close.

The problem with Bank Holidays, as I see it, is that most people feel that they ‘must’ use them, ‘must’ do something different, go camping, have a barbecue, go to the beach.  I read on my internet home page that there will be around 13 million vehicles on the roads this weekend, so the chances of being stuck in a long tail back are higher than average.

The enjoyment of such a weekend, if you go away, often depends on the weather which, here in the UK, is fickle at the best of times.  We  prefer to remain at home.  The sun is shining – well, so far – and we will eat out of doors and then rest either under our walnut tree or in the summerhouse.  (The summerhouse will be another post, in due course.)

But to kick start the weekend we went to our local supermarket early this morning in order that I might buy some flowers for the house.  I was in search of pink roses for our bedroom and russet alstromeria for the sitting room.  I have no idea who decides  how flowers are organized into bouquets for supermarkets, but I would hazard a guest that that person is male and that  he previously worked making the children’s chocolate treats, Smarties, because most flowers are now bunched in mixed colours, what I call “the Smartie effect”.

Am I the only person who dislikes bouquets of mixed colours?   Do the supermarkets think we are unable to put colours together for ourselves?  So we came away empty handed when I’d been willing to buy four bouquets, provided I could find what I wanted.  I shall now gather foliage from the garden and use that instead.

SHOE NEWS!

What can I have been thinking of, buying sling-back peep-toe shoes to go with my dress for our elder son’s wedding!   I am not a peep-toe shoe person.  I returned them to the shop yesterday.  In the meantime, I have bought a pair of navy blue suede shoes  with a narrow strap at an angle across the vamp and on which are three small navy blue ‘buttons’ for detail, and with small Louis heels.  They are elegant and comfortable.  Is this a first, I ask myself?

(If you wish to see the style, log on to the Hotter Shoes website, the style is called Charmaine.)

PS  There will be photos posted as soon as I can work out how to do this without causing my new blog to crash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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posting-a-photo

You might be surprised that I’m posting twice in one day.  This is because I’ve been having a go at uploading photos and, yay!  I’ve managed to upload this one of our local harbour.  I took this a little over a week ago when we had a beautifully sunny morning.  Unfortunately, most of my photos, although they have been compressed to send as emails, are over 2MB in size and WordPress doesn’t allow images larger than 2MB, so I will have to alter my camera settings. The risk then is that the quality will suffer. But it’s a learning curve, is it not?  Anyway, I hope you will enjoy seeing one of the areas close to where we live.

 

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the-big-shoe-hunt

This morning I went on the Big Shoe Hunt, that is, looking for a pair of shoes which combine comfort with elegance, but it would appear that the two are mutually exclusive.  You would think, would you not, that after at least five hundred years of shoes that are recognisable as such and not sandals as worn by the Romans, it would be possible for manufacturers to produce something that combines the two, but apparently not.  You can have style (or rather, fashion, which isn’t necessarily the same thing) or you can have comfort.

I do not have badly-shaped feet; indeed, at a glance there appears to be absolutely nothing wrong with them. No crossed toes, no bunions.  But I have arthritis and so my feet do not like anything which presses on the toe joints and most styles cut into the said joints.

I was on the look-out for navy, suede, small heel.  After three shops I ended up with what I didn’t want:  navy leather, sling back, peep-toe.  What could I have been thinking of? This is what happens when desperation sets in. I have to have shoes to go with a lovely new dress (more of that another time) for our elder son’s wedding next month and navy suede are what is called for.  The sling back peep-toes are not my style at all, but they are by back-up plan!  I’ve now ordered a pair (yes, navy, suede, low heel, with a little bar at an angle across the vamp) online which, with fingers (but not toes!) well and truly crossed, will be just right.  We shall see.

So why the photo above?  Well, I’ve not yet managed to master putting any other photo – my computer man downloaded this for me.  I took it in our garden a year or two ago and this is exactly how it looked when, after the morning out on the Big Shoe Hunt,  husband and I had a cup of tea under our lovely walnut tree.  It is a very small garden (more about that another time), the sun was out but we sat in the shade, drank Earl Grey and I kicked off my shoes – not the new sling backs with peep-toes! – and wriggled my toes in the grass.

Is it just me, or do others find getting the right shoe for the occasion as difficult as I am finding it?

 

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I’m not a sporty person.  When I was young I learned how to swing a golf club, but having to trail around 18 holes proved  just too boring for words when I was 12 years old.   Of course, I now love to watch The British Open and the Masters from Augusta each year.  I also played tennis in my teens and, in my twenties, won a trophy for ten-pin bowling (the Ladies High Average) and took up squash in my thirties, until it did for my knees.

But I’ve always thought that running around and jumping up and down and playing football were things that you did as children in primary school, something you eventually grew out of, like last year’s school uniform.   So for the past fortnight the ‘Limpix’ (as our TV sporting gurus insist on referring to them) has been just a little boring for me (with the exception of dressage and yesterday’s endurance test, the men’s tri-athlon which was won yet again, i.e. gold and silver, by the wonderful Brownlee brothers).

I wonder … has the ‘Limpix’ encouraged you to take up a new sporting activity?  I certainly won’t be having a go at Tai Kwando (is that how it is spelt?) or boxing, both of which I consider legalized violence.   It strikes me that there are now too many events, ones that the ancient Greeks, on whose sporting prowess the modern games were based, would have laughed themselves silly over.  So what about the egg & spoon race? The sack race? The three-legged race? They might sound silly, but no sillier than some things I’ve seen.  I wonder what game/sport you might bring to the ‘Limpix’, or, more importantly, any that you would remove?

 

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Here goes with my second post already.  Might as well strike while the typing iron is hot, eh?  But not as hot as London was in 1666, which is what I’ve been writing about today in this anniversary year of the Great Fire of London. What a conflagration that was, displacing more than 100,000 people and the estimated rebuilding of the city was the equivalent of more than £2 billion in today’s money.  It has been fun to research but as I’ve mentioned in the piece, two things have struck me and that is as soon as the embers were cooling (a) the displaced people, unable to contemplate that  the Fire happened accidentally, looked for someone or something to blame and (b) did what we Brits tend to do in the aftermath of some kind of catastrophic event … we formed a committee!

Two books on the subject stand head and shoulders above the rest: Adrian Tinniswood’s By Permission of Heaven, The Story of the Great Fire of London and T M M Baker’s London, Rebuilding the City after the Great Fire.  Both are extremely readable and the latter has line drawings of the Wren churches and other important buildings which rose from the ashes of the City.  It says in the blurb, ” … never before attempted in a single volume, the book re-creates much of the original appearance of London of the late 17th century, in some three hundred pictures.”

Therefore, I recommend these books on the subject of the Great Fire and the rebuilding, in the 350th anniversary year of this event.

Margaret

 

 

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Dear Friends,

 

“You must have a blog of your own!” so many people said.  And so I thought, well, why not?  So here is a trial post.  I don’t even know whether I can manage this.  My computer guru has set it all up for me and now I must simply get on with it.  I’m still unable to change the title from Magnolia (not my choice, an example by WordPress) to what will be my title DEVON DREAMING.

At this stage of the game I’ve no idea what I will be writing about, but I trust that you will bear with me on this very steep learning blogging curve.  I hope that the topics I write about, things which interest me, will also interest you, from books and historic houses and gardens, to clothes for the older woman who doesn’t want to look like mutton dressed as lamb but also doesn’t wish to be togged out in the 21st century version of a crimplene cardie.

So, hang on in there, I sincerely hope there’s more to come.

Margaret P

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