The lilies which are now fully open
The latest posy of flowers from the garden, perhaps the last of such posies for this year
A pot of chrysanthemums in the hearth – I love their striped colours
Not quite the shade of pink I like best in the bedroom, but still pretty roses
I have had three lovely few days. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary, and when you get as old as I now am, birthdays aren’t quite as meaningful as when we were children, with lots of toys, games and ice cream. But as I’ve said before, it’s a privilege to get old, and even though I’m almost half way through my 70s now, that really is a cause for celebration, especially when I have a lovely family with which to share the event, and friends who have been kind enough to remember me. And, I might add, lovely readers who enjoy my ramblings on my blog!
My last missive was mainly about visiting Avon Mill Garden Centre followed by visiting Kingsbridge. That was on Saturday. On Sunday our daughter in law invited us to lunch for my birthday as she was working on the actual day (yesterday). She made a lovely meal – and a great chocolate cake with candles (you have to have candles on a birthday cake when there are little ones around) – which we enjoyed in their garden as the day was bright and sunny.
I was also given presents from the family presents then, and so this has spread the event over several days – Saturday and Avon Mill, Sunday in our son and daughter in law’s home, and yesterday my actual birthday. Our dear little grandson met us at the door and right away pushed his present into my hands, and then proceeded to open it for me! He is adorable at age five, but what little one at five isn’t adorable? It was a lovely bar of L’Occitane lemon-scented soap, and then he shoved it under his Grandad’s nose so that he could have a good sniff! Poor Granddad has lost his sense of smell (I think this happens to a lot of males, perhaps more than females). Son and daughter in law bought me a pale green ceramic pot for the garden, with some tulip bulbs, and our younger son and daughter in law gave me a pretty silk scarf and silky bamboo socks.
I just love these socks, they look almost too pretty to wear! And how good they will look with a new pair of shoes that I bought only this morning. I have needed some brogue-type shoes for a while. I have perfectly-formed feet but even though they still look pretty good for an oldie, they are painful because of arthritis, and so although a shoe might fit perfectly, it isn’t always comfortable. But I think the new pair by Josef Siebel shoes might be just about alright. They are not glamorous, but they will look fine with jeans and cords.
How I would love these in tan, polished leather! They already look well-worn to start with, as if I’ve not cleaned them and trudged through a farm yard and then failed to clean off the slurry. But this is what ‘fashion’ decrees and, as you know, it’s very difficult to find things which aren’t a la mode. Choice is limited to what manufacturers have produced this season and what fashion decrees. Husband has now come to understand this when I’ve complained about narrow soles on my shoes. “Buy some with wider soles!” he says. Now he understands that if fashion says “narrow soles” that is what is available and only that.
But back with Sunday, after our lunch we sat and chatted in the garden and then we drove our younger son home (our other daughter in law was using their shared car, she was doing her local radio show that she does in Exeter on the 2nd Sunday of each month and, unfortunately, couldn’t be with us, but it’s very hard – as no doubt many of you will have experienced – to get all family members together at the same time) and on the way home, I managed to snap this view of the River Teign just as we were about to go over the Teign Bridge. I love this view, indeed, I love the River Teign.
I had lots of birthday cards as well as presents, from family and friends. I love to receive cards (21 at the last count) and I enjoyed opening these in bed yesterday morning, with a cup of coffee.
It was a lovely day yesterday, my actual birthday, and we decided to visit to Saltram, the National Trust property near Plymouth. We arrived about 11 o’clock to find the car parking area absolutely packed with cars, which surprised us as it was a Monday – I thought this would be a quiet day after the weekend – and also after children had returned to school. But it’s a very popular place with dog walkers and they are able to park their cars without having to pay to go into the house and garden, and they go for walks by the River Plym.
Anyway, we found a parking space and we decided first of all we’d have a bite to eat and a cup of tea, and then a stroll in the gardens as the weather was so nice.
We know the house well as we’ve visited it many times, so going inside the houese was last on the things to do list.
This is the first view of Saltram, as you round the stable block (where the entrance is) … I won’t show you the front as that is currently scaffolded as the building is being re-painted
We ambled across to the Chapel Tea Room in the grounds, and there I chose a sandwich for us to share (cheese and onion marmalade) and a slice of cake, also for us to share. We had not long since had breakfast so didn’t want a proper lunch, and this, with a pot of tea, was quite sufficient to satisfy us.
There are tables and chairs inside the Chapel Tea Room, but we sat outside in the early autumn sunshine. Inside there was a table filled with lovely cakes, it was difficult to make a choice but I opted for chocolate marble cake.
They use vintage china, none of it matching, but that is part of its charm, and loose-leaf tea, with a strainer.
We then had a walk around the gardens …
The orangery isn’t far from the Chapel Tea Room, and outside are orange trees in their version of Versailles tubs. I was surprised – although I can’t think why, after all it is an orangery, the clue is in the name – to see oranges growing on the trees …
So not only is tea grown in Cornwall (the next county) at the Tregothnan estate, but oranges are flourishing at Saltram in Devon! Oh, I do wish I’d had the cheek to nip one off, just to try it! I’m just too well-behaved for my own good!
Another area, behind the Chapel Tea Room, has this elegant bench and more white tubs. Close by, a small bed of dahlias, many of them now ‘over’ but for this beauty …
We then went in the house. When we visited last year the Saloon was scaffolded so that the ceiling could be repaired. That work has now been completed but before the repaired carpet can be re-laid – a wonderful Axminster carpet, the largest that factory had ever produced at that time – the silk damask walls are going to be washed (I don’t suppose for one moment that involves taking the damask down and putting it in a washing machine with a dose of Persil), and the paintings and the chandeliers re-hung. I think all this work will take quite some time yet and it might well be next year before the room is back looking wonderful again.
Robert Adam’s wonderful ceiling
And what it will look like (only cleaner and with no leaks from the roof) when finished (this photo from several years ago)
We also looked in the kitchen, and some of the lovely bedrooms …
Kitchens were always lofty places, to allow the heat and smoke from the fires which cooked the food to rise up and away from the cooks and the food.
And while I love the 18th century Chinese wallpaper in a couple of the rooms (it really is exquisite) I just love this bedroom (above) … I have serious bedroom envy here! And just look at this wardrobe (below). I don’t think you will find anything like this in IKEA.
I love ‘flame’ mahogany, it’s such a richly coloured wood, and being a hardwood, is suitable for fine carving.
I then went into the National Trust shop and found a pair of lovely soft black leather gloves for my husband (he lost one of his leather gloves last year, and currently only has a ‘chunky’ pair of winter gloves; the new ones are smart black leather and were a very reasonable price. )
I also found a small pair of binoculars which will slip easily into a pocket or bag. We have a large pair which live in the boot/trunk of the car but often while we’re out and about they remain in the car, but with this tiny pair, although not quite as good as the large pair, we will enable us to see distant objects more clearly, and all for just £15.
Yesterday evening a dear friend called with a bunch of white freesias for me …
… a lovely embroidered pochette – the kind in which to keep hankies – and a beautiful, embroidered birthday card. She told me that she had seen the pochette in a brocante while in France this summer and as it had my initials on it – MP – she just knew it was for me!
And I shall have her embroidered card framed for our bedroom, it is so pretty …
I must also show you (below) the very pretty bottle of toilette water that another dear friend gave me, along with snowdrop bulbs for the garden …
As if all this was insufficient to make me a very happy birthday girl, my favourite magazine, The English Home, arrived yesterday, along with the book I had ordered (2nd hand), another book by historian, the late John Cornforth. (I also had a letter published in The Daily Telegraph yesterday.)
The book – which was very inexpensive as it’s an ex-library copy (again, that library’s loss is my gain! Perhaps they are dumbing down libraries now, as well as TV programmes?) – is a sheer delight even though, of course, all the photographs of the historic houses contained therein are in black and white, but they do date to long before 1935.
And finally … another dear friend called while we were out and he kindly left a card and this bunch of dahlias from his garden. How beautiful they are.
Until next time.