Monthly Archives: March 2017

It is only Wednesday afternoon and already it’s been a busy week. Well, busy for two retired people, that is! 

On Monday morning I had my hair appointment in Totnes.  I have been visiting this salon for the best part of ten years, since it opened.  It is situated in an area known as The Plains in Totnes and in summer (see collage, above) it is a very pretty place to be, with one or two cafes with tables and chairs outside.  The River Dart is close by, with yet another bistro/café beside the river (main photo, above – this is a small ‘cut’ off the main river.)  My hairdresser, the proprietor and her staff, are excellent stylists and colourists.  Not only that, they serve the most wonderful coffee!

After my appointment, although it had started as a fine morning, rain set in the for the rest of the day and so we went home (husband had driven over with me to the hairdresser’s and enjoyed his coffee while I was being attended to). 

I spent the rest of the day attending to housekeeping, just nice things such as refreshing the flower water, polishing some furniture, just general keeping-on-top-of-things. And my latest scent arrived while we were out, so that was something lovely to return home to …

Hermes’ Un Jardin sur le Nil.  

Yesterday, Tuesday, we met friends for lunch in Le Bistrot Pierre (www.bistrotpierre.co.uk) in Torquay.  We really enjoy our meals in Pierre’s, it’s inexpensive but very good. Put it this way, we’ve not had an inferior meal there. OK, now and again they get an order slightly wrong, or someone’s order is forgotten, but they are swift to put things right, and the staff are always pleasant and welcoming. This counts for a lot in my book, and on the more recent occasions we have eaten there, everything has been absolutely fine.  I forgot to take photos of the food before we started noshing and, therefore, as I didn’t think you’d wish to see photos of half-eaten plates of food, I shall show you some of the interior, some taken yesterday, some on other occasions …

The photo immediately above was taken on another occasion.  But even so it would appear from the two other photos above that the place was deserted.  This was far from the case and had our friends not booked a table, we’d not have been able to get in, it was absolutely packed!  But as we finished our meal, we found that tables to our left and right had been cleared and re-laid, so it appears as if the restaurant is empty! 

As you can see from the photo above, there is a balcony where you can sit outside for meals in fine weather.  The main restaurant is on the first floor (the ground floor is mainly a bar area and for coffee).

And this photo (above), taken yesterday, shows the sea looking rather choppy and, indeed, how close Torre Abbey Sands are to this lovely Art Deco-style building (but only built in 2014) named Abbey Sands.  The headland in the far distance is Berry Head, just a few miles around the coast from Torquay. 

I’ve been reluctant to show pix of myself but I’ve bitten the bullet and here I am a year or so ago on the veranda at Le Bistrot Pierre, hair more than a bit ruffled by the sea breeze. 

Today, we have been to our doctor’s surgery.  It is a group practice with four general practitioners, a nurse practitioner, and many other ancillary staff.   Our GP, who started this practice in the early 1990s as a very young man in his early 30s, is retiring today, and this was his farewell event.  When we arrived, there was something like a royal ‘receiving line’, patients queueing to have a chat with him.  At 57, he seems almost too young to retire, but if he is able to, why not?  He has served the community well and now deserves some time with his wife, family, and several grandchildren.  Not only has he been our GP but also he was GP to my mother (who died in 2000), GP to our sons, and also to our daughter in law and grandson, so he’s cared for four generations of our family. 

When we returned home the sun was – momentarily – shining and I took a photo of a little bunch of daffodils in the study …

It isn’t always easy photographing flowers placed on a windowsill as there is reflected light and also as our study window faces a row of townhouses, it is difficult taking photographs without also including the neighbours’ cars in the photos.

In our bedroom, the tulips I bought over a week ago are now on the point now of collapse, but just before they do, they look so pretty, their petals like taffeta.

And to end this post, just a photo of the sunlight pouring into our hall through the front door on the rare occasion when the sun actually shone during these past few days …

I hope the sun has shone for you this week, and that you have been having as enjoyable time as we have been having.  And our social week is not yet over as on Friday we have been invited to lunch with another couple of friends in their home – “just home-made soup, crusty bread, and cake” they tell us … which is just our kind of lunch food! 

And finally, the view from our sitting room this afternoon …

And a kind offer …

French Soaps Offer

www.frenchsoaps.co.uk

When I started my blog I bought my website so that I was in total control of it and readers wouldn’t be pestered with pop-up adverts.  I do not advertise but when I have used something which I find good, I like to share that information but I must make it clear I am not paid to do so.  As I’ve mentioned French Soaps (www.frenchsoaps.co.uk) on my blog, from whom I’ve bought room sprays, pillow sprays and scent, the company has kindly offered a 10% discount to my readers who purchase items from the company.  To take up this offer, use the discount code MARGARET10

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I was up earlier than usual this morning as I was meeting my friend for coffee in our favourite local hotel.  It’s so nice to have this place in which to meet and it is popular with so many women who meet for coffee, lunch or tea, it’s almost like a club but without the subscription! 

The hotel used to be home to Washington Merritt Grant Singer (2nd son of Isaac Singer, Founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Com).  Washington was born in 1866 and died in 1934, but lived at what is now the Palace Hotel between 1887 and 1909.  His father, Isaac Singer, lived at the nearby Oldway Mansion (below, now empty, awaiting redevelopment.)  There is talk of it being made into an hotel but I don’t think a firm decision has been reached.

 

The Singer Lounge in the Palace Hotel where my friend and I met is extremely ornate (apart from the more ordinary chairs and coffee tables for guests’ use) and is a very pleasant room in which to meet and enjoy morning coffee or afternoon tea.

 

After we finished our coffee and chat, I drove off to a local supermarket and stocked up with flowers.  I had bought some a couple of days ago, just two bunches of what I then thought were ivory-coloured tulips as they were just in bud, but as they have opened out they are more pastel yellow, but still very elegant.  I also treated myself to a magazine.

Today, I bought apricot roses  for the kitchen table, and dark wine-coloured alstromeria (photo at the top of this post) …

If you think we’ve gone overboard on oranges, they are for juicing.

When I returned home I found that the delivery man had called with some things I’d ordered – new indigo denim jeans, new indigo non-denim jeans, a long-sleeved white T, a long-sleeved black T, and some new cream-coloured lacy underwear.  All staples in my wardrobe, but refreshed, ready for summer.  Fortunately, everything fitted perfectly so nothing has to be returned, all are keepers.

I also took delivery of a jumper which I’d seen on someone’s Instagram page.  I don’t ‘do’ Instagram myself, but I like to look at some of them and this person had just bought a jumper and I thought it looked really pretty.  Now, I’m not one for ditsy prettiness.  I like elegance and I have not worn sequins since I was eight years old and my Aunt Nancy made me a gorgeous party dress in pale gold satin with layers or gold net over the top, a pretty satin sash and embroidery finished off with gold sequins.  I loved it!  But I was eight years old, what eight year old wouldn’t love something like that?  

Indeed,  I’ve always been a bit sniffy about women who dress (to my mind) like children in pastel pinks and blues, their garments embroidered or smothered with logos, and are then embellished with beads or sequins.  I mean, what man (apart from Liberace or Elvis)! would wear such things?  Would Mrs May or Mrs Merkel or Madame Lagard wear such things?  How, I have always thought, could women ever be taken seriously wearing SEQUINS, for heaven’s sake, and in the day time?

So, what have I bought? Only a  jumper with embroidered budgerigars and flowers on the front, and the flowers have been constructed … wait for it … from SEQUINS.

And I love it!

Ok, the sequins don’t look particularly shiny here, but I assure you, they absolutely GLITTER.  But it’s pretty and looks great with black jeans. I shall now seek out some pretty pink nail polish (I only wear various shades of red, or that deep pink that has a hint of brown in it.)  Next I will be wearing pink shoes!  Then I  will know I’m ready for the funny farm! (With apologies to anyone reading who loves anything pink and sparkly!)

As well as the clothes which have arrived today, the latest Jacqueline Winspear novel has arrived.  I must be mad – I love these novels about psychological Private Eye, Maisie Dobbs, but I have three still to read before I embark on the one that arrived today.   But I will have a Maisie read-a-thon in due course. 

These are the four latest Maisie Dobbs novels, I have three to read before I embark on the latest, In This Grave Hour

And finally, on what started as a sunny day but which has now turned chilly and windy, my dressing chest with some of the tulips I bought.   Soon, my latest scent will join this selection, Hermes’ Le Jardin sur le Nil.  Unfortunately, I love all Hermes’ fragrances.

What have you been doing this Friday? Working, shopping, housekeeping, or just putting your feet up and enjoying a quiet read?

Have a lovely weekend.

 

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Today I thought I’d return to a favourite subject of mine – scent.  I have loved scent since I was a child, being taken to one of our town’s department stores by my mother, and being introduced to the scents she loved, such as Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Lanvin’s Arpege. 

Over the years I acquired my own favourites – and yes, Mitsouko is still there, but Arpege is now, sadly, a shadow of its former self.  

My ‘taste’ in scent changes with the seasons, so that in the autumn I use Hermes’ Caleche , Hermes’ 24 Faubourg and Jour d’Hermes …  However, I was wearing 24 Faubourg in the summer of 2015 when we were in Stourhead Gardens in Wiltshire …

 

An elderly gentleman, one of the National Trust guides, came up to me and mentioned that as I passed by he smelt the lovely floral fragrance of my scent, and what was it?  as he’d like to buy some for his wife!  The last time I had my scent remarked upon was when I used to use Worth’s Je Reviens (and still a fragrance I love.)

As the days lengthen and thoughts turn to summer, so I change my scent accordingly …

 

Here you will see ‘O’ de Lancôme and several other floral scents:  Rose Exquise (by Plantes & Parfums) has a very light rose fragrance, as is Rose Regenerante by Panier de Sens.  (Both of these I bought from www.frenchsoaps.co.uk)

Roses in the rose garden at RHS Rosemoor, Torrington, North Devon, UK 

What surprises me is how different all the various rose scents I have, including  Acqua di Parma’s Rose and my rose room spray and pillow mist, actually smell! 

 

Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet is an old favourite – this can be used by both men and women – and forever it will remind me of the many lovely visits my husband and I had to Combe House Hotel near Honiton, Devon, which until 2015 was  owned by friends of ours, Ruth and Ken Hunt.   After almost 20 years at Combe they sold their hotel and moved to Australia, and Combe House, a Grade 1 Listed Elizabethan manor house, the centrepiece of the 3500 acre Combe Estate, is now The Pig At Combe, one of the group of Pig hotels.  Our friends chose Blenheim Bouquet as their ‘house’ scent, for the toiletries of the guests’ rooms, and I will forever associate this fragrance with beautiful Combe.

 

My latest purchase, and which triggered today’s post,  is Quelques Fleurs L’Original by Houbigant (right, above).

However, in their book Perfumes A-Z Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez (published 2008) they are somewhat scathing about Quelques Fleurs and say:

“One has to regard with some suspicion a perfume that claims to be the ‘original’ version, much as one does those who preface a statement with ‘I’ll be honest with you.’  It was a 1912 composition, and it is pretty clear that easily half of the materials in the current version did not exist in 1912. I would be prepared to forgive everything in the name of progress if the fragrance were remotely interesting.  But it is as dull as floral can be, an olfactory dumb blond that would work well only as an air freshener.” 

I don’t know what the perfumers at Houbigant would say to that but I find it delightfully floral and sophisticated.  I sometimes think that, as with wine, a lot of remarks are made simply for effect. 

In an article some years ago in The Lady, Kate Shapland says: “1912 was a vintage year for scent. Guerlain brought out L’Heure Bleue which, as the first ever oriental, was pronounced scent of the year; Houbigant’s refined Quelques Fleurs came into being; and Caron unveiled Narcisse Noir, a scent based on daffodils and became Gloria Swanson’s signature (she had it sprayed all over the set of Sunset Boulevard before every performance.)”  Sadly, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez haven’t many kind words for Narcisse Noir, either, but as I’ve never smelt this fragrance, I cannot comment .  But I can say that I have a passion for perfume!

 

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We have had a lovely day.  OK, the weather could’ve been better – it was dull but that didn’t darken our spirits and we  really enjoyed ourselves.

First of all we had a few errands to attend to in Torquay, and then we decided to visit the gardens of Dartington Hall which are just a few miles from the town of Totnes. 

However, as it was nearing lunch time we decided to stop en route and have a light lunch at the Steam Packet Inn which is situated close to the River Dart in Totnes.

It has been several years since we visited this old inn and today we went into the conservatory restaurant which overlooks the river.  Even on a dull day the river view is always pleasant. 

We chose ham hock, pea, and black pudding hash with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce (that is, for each of us) and a cup of Americano.  This was a ‘starter’ course but it was quite sufficient for ourselves for lunch, and it was delicious. 

After our lunch we drove the short distance to Dartington, parked our car and strolled around the gardens.  We were between the crocus going over and the magnolia not quite being in bloom, but nonetheless we saw many flowers including snakeshead fritillary, camellias, and hellebores.   Once the magnolias that border this flight of stone steps (below) are in bloom, we hope to visit again.

I cannot begin to tell you how lovely this flight of steps looks when all these trees are smothered in pink and white magnolia blooms.  For now you will just have to use your imagination!

Here (photo above) is the area known as the Tiltyard. It is reputed to have been the site of an ancient tiltyard (or tournament ground) created in the 14th century by John Holand, Duke of Exeter.  Knightly contests were very likely to have been held here, spectators assembling on the surrounding grass terraces. 

 And here is a small pavilion half-hidden in a woodland glade.

Here is Dartington Hall, from which the estate gets its name. It was in a state of ruination  until the American heiress, Dorothy Elmhirst and her husband Leonard, bought the estate in 1925.  When they arrived  the grounds were neglected and overgrown. The shrubberies were laid out in the Victorian manner and the tiltyard was a pattern of formal flower beds but they could see that underneath all this was what has been described as an “extraordinary dramatic landscape setting – a coombe [valley] with terraces flowing into a wider river valley, whose folds drifted away southwards to the sea.”  And so they set about not only the restoration of the hall, but also the gardens, and today they are a lovely place to visit, especially in spring and early summer. 

Around the grounds you will see various pieces of sculpture.  The bronze donkey is by Willi Soukop (1907-1995) and the reclining figure (known to all as the Fat Lady) is by Henry Moore.

After our stroll around the gardens, we visited the Cider Press Centre, an area of old buildings with some new additions, a lovely area of shops and cafes.  We were on the look-out for a suitable retirement gift for someone, and found just what we wanted in the Dartington Glass shop (and yes, it’s a lovely piece of Dartington crystal.)

We then made our way home, and enjoyed mugs of hot chocolate by the fireside while the England v. Scotland rugby match was on TV.  What a lovely day we have had. 

 

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No, I’m not referring to these lovely double tulips when I say “Naughty, but nice” for they were inexpensive and have brightened the kitchen all week.  I love double tulips when they open up and these are a lovely mix of apricot and daffodil yellow.

The naughty I am referring to is my book habit, for this month (and we’re only the 10th of the month) I have splurged unashamedly on books, but there again, some of them were just a 1p plus postage, that’s less expensive than driving to  and from town, paying for parking, and ordering a book from the Library.  I like to support libraries, but when you can buy a book for 1p plus plus postage, and also have it delivered to your door … well, who can blame me for using this internet facility. 

Already I have read Katharine Swartz’s The Second Bride and The Vicar’s Wife, both of which are similar in styles, not surprisingly as they are being marketed as Tales from Goswell, the fictitious Cumbrian village in which these stories are set.  The Lost Garden arrived this morning, as did the latest Jacqueline Winspear novel in her series about psychological investigator, Maisie Dobbs.  I have read almost all this series with the exception of just the previous one (waiting on my bookshelf).  What I enjoy about the Maisie Dobbs series is not only the superb quality of Jacqueline’s writing, but also how she has allowed her heroine, Maisie, to age and develop with each successive story. 

However, if you are going to embark on this series my single piece of advice is to read the first story first, simply entitled Maisie Dobbs, and then to read each novel  in chronological order (the list you will find, I am sure, on www.fantasticfiction.co.uk) as not only does Maisie develop with each new investigation, but also the ‘back’ story  develops.  And therefore, to appreciate fully these stories, to understand the characters, do read them in chronological order.

How could I not buy the above title?  I have no idea who T P Fielden is, but it says in the book that he (for I am assuming it’s a “he”) is a leading author, broadcaster and journalist.  Of course, it might well be a “she”, but the cover is so eye-catching and so obviously set in this corner of South Devon I just had to have it! 

It is being marketed as “the first novel in the Miss Dimont Mystery series”.  I have only read 37 pages (in bed this morning) thus far, but it has captured my imagination even though it’s very stylised and totally unbelievable, but that’s the fun of a cosy crime, isn’t it?  You know the story is totally unbelievable, but you still read and enjoy it! 

Miss Dimont, our heroine, is a reporter on The Riviera Express, a westcountry local weekly rag.  To confuse matters, The Riviera Express is also the name of the train which plies between Temple Regis (perhaps Teignmouth?) and Paddington.  I confess to having laughed out loud at one rather un-subtle joke by the author, when he says that a sign above the editorial desks, hung there by the Editor,  Rudyard Rhys, says “Make it Fast, Make it Accurate” to which some wag has added in crayon, “Make it Up.”  How topical is that!

Later in the morning a delivery driver brought something quite different (different from a book, I mean) and here is what I’m alluding to when I say “Naughty, but nice” … as well as all those books, of course.

For my 21st birthday my dear husband (for I was already married by then) bought me a lovely powder compact and a handbag scent atomizer (before most scents were sold as atomizers.)  Sadly, this went years ago, and I’ve always wanted to replace it but never have.  And then I saw some compacts by Charlotte Tilbury and thought, well, why not?  Sadly, these do not hold replacement blocks of powder, and I do think they are quite expensive for what is, in effect, a throw-away-when-finished compact, but I am going to trial it … compare this powder with my usual cheapie-from-the-supermarket version.  How I will achieve this remains to be seen (no pun intended) because it might involve powdering one half of my face with the above and one half with my cheapie.  How else to make a true comparison? 

But I think you might agree that it’s a very attractive product, the case is a lovely copper colour, not the usual rather bright ‘gold’, and is something I wouldn’t be ashamed of opening in public (not that I touch up my makeup in public; I refer to the washbasin area of a loo).  The lipstick here is by Lancôme, one of several products very kindly sent to me by the Editor of a magazine.  I have to say, although the red is rather bold, when I wear navy, or especially black/grey/white/red, it’s the perfect shade.  It is L’Absolu Rouge, 122 Indecise, Sheer, and the number is:  62N402.  It is a beautiful, clear red. 

How lovely it is when such attractive things arrive in the post, all naughty (because they are most certainly not essential) but all very nice!

Have you had a naughty, but nice item in the post recently? 

 

Saturday 11th March 2017

This morning I gave my new Charlotte Tilbury powder its trial.  I applied my moisturizer, then my foundation (a very light foundation, Boots No 7 Lift & Luminate, shade Cool Beige) and then, with a brush, applied very lightly my usual Rimmel matte powder to one half of my face and the Charlotte Tilbury to the other.  The shades are remarkably similar even though I could only see a small sample of the various Charlotte Tilbury shades online.

The result was much as I expected. I can’t see any difference, with and without my glasses.   The solid block of Rimmel retails at £3.99 and the Charlotte Tilbury is around £40 on her website but I paid £36 (which included p&p) from the John Lewis website. 

I have thus paid a lot of money (well, a lot to me) for the same effect, but that doesn’t mean I resent this. It was my choice to have a pretty compact for my handbag (ieven though there isn’t space even for a small cotton wool pad with which to apply it when I’m out and about) and in this I am not disappointed.

However, I think I’d have been wiser to have spent a little more and bought a ‘proper’ powder compact, one into which I could insert a block of face powder, such as the Rimmel I usually use.   It would be a once-only expense and then I could continue buying inexpensive blocks of powder which, as I have now experienced,  give the same effect. 

(All this may sound like I  go in for the polyfilla effect, caking on the makeup, but I use both foundation and powder very lightly, simply to even facial colour and to provide a matte finish – a shiny finish when you are past youth simply looks greasy.) 

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I thought today I would write about something completely different from what I’ve written about before.  No local scenery, no coffees or lunches in local hotels or cafes, and no books – well, just two. 

Today I thought I’d talk about our animal friends, but not those we have to take to the vet occasionally, or feed each day, or even take for walks.

No, these are cats and dogs – and other animals – in pottery and porcelain.

Somehow, over the years, I’ve collected just a few, all by default, i.e. they were given to me (except one, which I bought for my mother). None is valuable or particularly handsome, but each holds within fond memories of the giver and a particular time of my life.

Now for a bit of history:  Animals, in particular cats and dogs, have coexisted with man since time immemorial.  In Egypt the cat was originally associated with the got Isis until the new cat goddess was adopted, namely Bast or Bastet.

Anubis was another Egyptian god, this time with a dog’s head.  It comes as no surprise then that we have a penchant for collecting representations of cats and dogs, not only in paintings, sculpture, silver and glass, but also in pottery and porcelain.

Perhaps the oldest animals in my collection are these two representations of Cavalier King Charles spaniels.  Like so many of my things they belonged to my late mother.  One day in my parents’ shop – when we lived in the north of England – a woman customer was going to market where, each week, she would sell various items.  This was around 1947/48.  My mother asked what she had in her basket today, and she produced these two dogs.  “Oh, I’ll buy those!” said my mother, and she did.  I think she paid something like twelve shillings for them, which was quite a lot of money in 1948, but I still have them today, sitting by our fireside. 

The Victorians loved collecting and dogs such as these – especially those in earthenware – for the most part they were inexpensively produced so that even the humblest of homes could afford them.  They were known as ‘comforter’ dogs, extremely popular during the reign of Queen Victoria, their period of highest production matching her reign, from 1837-1901.  From around 1835 they were also produced in porcelain by such factories as Copeland, Coalport, Derby, Rockingham, Chamberlain Worcester, Royal Worcester and Minton. 

Fewer cats were produced, thus they are rarer and can sometimes command higher prices than their doggy friends.

I have only two cats, and they are most certainly not lovely Victorian ones, but produced in the 1950s by a company called Wade which produced miniature animals called Wade Whimsies.  These cat faces are not the Whimsies, but are slightly larger.

Although they aren’t exactly pretty I find them quite appealing.  They were given to me by a neighbour in our village when I was a girl and they hold such happy memories of those times.  They are actually small wall plaques, as they have a recess at the back so you could hang them from a picture hook on the wall.

Several breeds of cats and dogs were depicted by the Victorians, from pugs (which were brought to this country from Holland by William and Mary in 1688 and were originally called ‘Dutch’ dogs) to hounds; and from tabbies to tortoiseshells. Not all the factories are easily identified but for the most part, the unidentified Staffordshire potteries’ wares are markedly inferior to the comparable products of the leading and identifiable factories.

I think we must all be familiar with the children’s  stories of Beatrix Potter.  In the late 1940s, the pottery company, Beswick, began producing some of the characters from those stories and my uncle gave me this dear little Timmy Tiptoes for Christmas when I was five years old.  I can’t imagine giving a piece of china to a five year old child today, but such things were given to me, and I loved it and carefully looked after it, so that I have it today.

A favourite piece, although I never set out to collect animals, is my porcelain pig.  It doesn’t look much here, it really needs to be seen and held, or even looked at from all directions, as it’s a wonderful example of the potter’s art. It is by Royal Copenhagen, and my mother bought it for me as a Christmas present in the early 1980s.  This is on piece I really do love.  Sadly, I have been unable to capture the quality of the glaze or the delightful modelling of this often-maligned animal.

Above is a blue tit  which was produced as one of a series of birds by the Royal Worcester factory in the 1980s.  I bought this for my mother for a Christmas present and of course, it is now part of my collection.  It is in biscuit, i.e. unglazed, and another fine piece of the modeller’s  art.

And finally, a Victorian cow creamer with, on it’s body the legend, “A Present from Teignmouth”. It would’ve been produced as souvenir wares for holidaymakers to take home after a holiday in our little seaside town just along the coast from Torbay.   It’s not pretty, indeed, it’s pretty ugly, but it has a sort of Victorian charm about it and I couldn’t part with it. 

I wonder if you have any animals, ones that you don’t need to feed, or bath, or take for walks? 

Further reading on this subject:

Cats in English Porcelain of the 19th Century by Dennis G Rice

Dogs in English Porcelain in the 19th Century by Dennis G Rice

both were published by Antique Collectors Club.

 

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Even though it was drizzling we thought we’d have a quick walk along Torquay Sea Front this morning.   So, wrapped up in our raincoats, we parked the car and walked through this sunken Edwardian garden (above) which is between the sea front road and Torre Abbey, now the town’s art gallery.  Two of the council’s gardeners were there, also well wrapped up against the elements, keeping this very formal garden in pristine condition.  Although, as is evident from this photo, it was a very dull morning, the white and yellow primulas looked lovely – wallflowers in the central beds will be in flower within the next few weeks.

From here we walked through the Rock Walk where two magnolia trees are just coming into bloom:

 

And some deep red camellias were also in bloom at the foot of the rock face, obviously enjoying their sheltered position beneath some trees:

From Rock Walk we strolled around the inner harbour:

 

The rain was beginning to come down more heavily now and so we made our way back to our car, and drove home, for coffee and cheese baguettes for lunch.

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I needed to give my ‘end’ of our shared desk (aka bench) a tidy up today.  I hadn’t done any filing since before Christmas and it’s surprising how things mount up … newspapers from which I needed to clip features that have been published; old receipts needing to be shredded, personal letters and Christmas thank you notes from friends – to keep or to discard? always a difficult decision for me as some of the cards are so pretty, but I decided all must go – and just the general detritus of three or four months of accumulated ‘things’.

The photo above – which I’m sure I’ve used on this blog before – shows how husband and I have  our twin computers on a long wall-to-wall bench (he has a larger monitor screen as he does Inventor 3D design work).  This photo was taken a couple of years ago when the room was looking especially clean and tidy.   I usually have flowers on my ‘end’ of the desk, but not this week as I’ve not shopped for any thus far.  But this is how it should look!

Below is what my ‘end’ looked like this morning. I’m almost too ashamed to show you!

What a tip!  Both baskets filled to capacity and paperwork piled on top of the baskets.  Not a pretty sight, it is? Not dirty, nothing that was growing mould, just very untidy. 

I had had a busy morning and also made a roast chicken lunch and  I really felt like having a good sit down and read this afternoon but instead decided enough was enough, so I fetched the shredder and the waste paper basket close to the desk and set to work. 

And now all is neat and tidy again …

Or as neat and tidy that the paperwork will allow.  I still have some files to sort out, but I think you will admit this looks a bit better.  The ‘mountain silhouette’ little letter rack was a promotional gift from Farrow & Ball; I have found it very useful and keep my thank you cards and correspondence cards in it.  The little miniature chest of drawers is of paper-covered cardboard, and has faded over the years but I have had it about 30 years and it’s ideal for stamps and business cards and those miniature address labels you stick on the back of envelopes. 

I hope there is a discernible difference between the photo of the messy desk and the photo of the tidy desk as it has taken me the better part of three hours to get it sorted!

Is your desk messy or are you a very tidy person?  Or perhaps somewhere in between, like me – tidy for much of the time and then suddenly you realize you need to have a good sort out?

 

 

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It has been a typical March day here in Torbay … sunshine and showers all day long.  This is the view from the side window (in the bay window) in our sitting room when the rain had momentarily stopped!

I have had another quiet day.  My plan was to clear my desk, to file cuttings, deal with all kinds of paperwork, finish an article and file copy, and generally have a tidy up. Well, it just didn’t happen.  Instead I made a beef casserole for our lunch, using beef skirt, and it was so tender the meat just fell apart, quite delicious.  We didn’t need a pudding after that, but had tea and some amoretti biscuits this afternoon.

I was delighted that an inexpensive 2nd hand (or many-hand) book arrived this morning …

If you have been reading my blog for the past few months, you will know how I love books that show interiors and this book has gone right up there with my favourites.  We don’t have a cottage – our house is 1985-modern – but  if I had my choice of dwelling, it would be a lovely Georgian or Queen Anne style town house, or one set in lovely grounds (you notice I have delusions of grandeur … “grounds” rather than merely a “garden”!) but I also love the idea (rather than the practicality!) of having a cottage and this shows some delightful cottages. 

Indeed, I spent the afternoon imagining what it might be like to live in each of these cottages. I had my favourites right away, those that were more lightly decorated and filled with flowers and pretty china than those that were more ‘rustique’  with heavy beams and twisty stairs.

This is my kind of cottage bedroom … toile de jouy, pastel shades, and lots of books and flowers. 

And then the sun decided to put in an appearance again …

And how the sunshine lights up a room!

As well as this lovely book, I had ordered another novel by Katharine Swartz and that also arrived this morning, and if the one I’m currently reading, The Second Bride, is anything to go by, I think I will enjoy this one, too …

And so I’ve had another quiet day and most enjoyable it has been.  Absolutely no housekeeping done (apart from making the bed and clearing up after meals), only the minimum of cooking, boiled eggs and ‘soldiers’ for our supper, but lots of lovely cups of tea.  I think we all need quiet days sometimes, and rarely do I have two in a row and it’s been absolutely lovely.  I hope you are able to have a quiet day soon. 

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One of the benefits of being retired is having the occasional breakfast in bed. I know some people don’t like eating in bed, they dislike possible crumbs and fear spillages, but I absolutely love breakfast in bed, and even more so if my husband has made it for me.

This is what I was presented with today (plus the morning paper my husband had collected from our local shop.)  Scrambled eggs, grilled bacon and half a grilled tomato, plus freshly squeezed orange juice.  We don’t have a juicer – I have considered buying one but friends have said they’re more trouble than they’re worth, with so much cleaning of the gadget afterwards, so we just use one of those old fashioned manual one.  No matter how pleasant the cartons of ‘freshly squeezed’ juice are, nothing beats cutting oranges in half and having them really freshly squeezed.

After that he made coffee for us, and then I remained in bed, a true lady of leisure, until I had finished reading Joanna Trollope’s latest novel, City of Friends. I admire her skills as a novelist but, that said, sadly there is no lightness in this novel whatsoever.  Well written, yes; strong characters, yes (apart from all the men who are weak, but this adds to the impression of the strength of the female characters); but it lacks even a soupcon of humour, lightness, or fun.   I am aware her books are works of fiction, but I do wonder sometimes whether the style of novel says just as much about the author as it does about the subject.  However, it kept me reading to the end, and it was, even if all the characters had problems, a satisfying read.  

I eventually emerged from our bedroom and, once presentable, made lunch and then, this afternoon was surprised when our elder son called, bringing with him a lovely bunch of flowers which were for me from our daughter-in-law’s mother who is staying with them for a few days.  This very kind and lovely lady always brings me a plant or flowers, and those which our son brought over for me today (we will be seeing her soon and having lunch with the family on Sunday) are especially pretty. 

Also today my latest book arrived, Katharine Swartz’s novel, The Second Bride. I’ve not read this author before, so am looking forward to this.  I put the bunch of flowers and the book together on a woollen throw to photograph them as the cover and the single gerbera were of a similar hue, although the gerbera looks more golden here than the deep orange it actually is. Later, I arranged the flowers – well, “arrange” would be elevating my action too far; I simply put them in a glass vase.

These pretty flowers have brought some spring colour to this corner of our sitting room.

After having had a very good night’s sleep last night, courtesy of our new mattress topper, I have had a restful day.  Every so often we all need a day like this, don’t we?

 

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