I don’t think there can be many people who aren’t captivated by the beauty of butterflies.  I call them Beauty and Beast, not as in the children’s story Beauty and the Beast.  They are one and the same.  Beast when they are hungry caterpillars and Beauty when they emerge from the chrysalis as a delicate flying insect.

In 2009 in an article in the magazine, Country Living, it said that “British butterflies have had a hard time in the last 50 years.  Intensive farming, the loss of open land to housing and changes in land-use have caused dramatic declines in many of the  UK’s 59 resident breeding species.”  It went on to say, more hopefully, “But a growing awareness of the importance of garden wildlife shows that even the smallest plots can attract butterflies.”  Indeed, only one butterfly can be considered a nuisance (the Large White) “It’s speckled black and yellow caterpillars shred nasturtiums and garden brassicas. All others are a delight to behold.”

I am not a naturalist, but I love butterflies.  To different cultures, butterflies mean different things.  I read recently that Ancient Egyptians used butterfly symbols in their tombs and temples and in China, two butterflies dancing together in the air represents love. 

My three photos above were taken in a friend’s garden, in the grounds of Knightshayes Court, Devon (NT) and in Jack’s Patch Garden Centre, Teignmouth.


I have been thinking about butterflies quite a lot since recently buying the children’s book, The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast.  In the Nature Notes in that book it says, “Butterflies are a group of day-flying moths.”  I never knew that.  Indeed, that reminds me of when, more than 20 years ago,  I interviewed  Neil Garrick-Maidment, a seahorse specialist, and from him I learned that seahorses are fish.  I thought they were crustaceans.  I don’t know why, I just did.  I also learned that the males have the babies.  What a tremendously good idea!  Therefore, butterflies are really day-flying moths (moths, or the majority of them, fly at night) and they differ from true moths in having club-tips to their antennae, and no mechanism for hooking their fore wings and hind wings together.  Indeed, there are only 68 species of butterfly, of which [say the Nature Notes, and this was almost 40 years ago, so doubtless numbers have since declined] 10 are rare, compared with over 2000 moths.

This was a good basic guide for our children even though the illustrations are paintings rather than photographs.  My own favourite book on butterflies is Beningfield’s Butterflies, by the late wild life artist, Gordon Beningfield.  (1936-1998)

This book is a joy from beginning to end.  Beningfield shows butterflies in their natural surroundings.  In his Introduction, he says “My paintings try to communicate my feelings about the unspoilt countryside while it is still there to be seen. Perhaps if my pictures succeed in evoking the beauty and delicacy of butterflies, they will help a little towards encouraging their conservation.”



Photo Credits to the three above paintings:  Gordon Beningfield’s Butterflies (Chatto & Windus)

That was almost 40 years ago.  Since then, as we know, butterflies have continued their decline.  Only two weeks ago in the Weekend, a weekly publication by Waitrose supermarket, it says,  “Number of 40 out of 57 butterfly species declined last year.  The Lulworth skipper fared worse, falling by 60% from 2015 to 2016.”

It was Beningfield’s book, I am sure, that led to him being asked to produce illustrations for four postage stamps, which I bought and which I have kept with his book ever since.

While researching butterflies recently for a forthcoming article I came across a book which I promptly ordered and it arrived this morning:

It says that Peter Marren  “is a wildlife writer and repentant collector who has long since turned to conservation.  Rainbow Dust is a distillation of nearly half a century of watching, reading and thinking about butterflies.”

I have already read a page or two and straight away I know I will enjoy this book, the guy speaks from the heart, and from personal experience.  The very best way to write, I think. 

This final photo for today has nothing whatsoever to do with butterflies, I just like it which I think is a good enough excuse for posting it here.

Taken in Hidcote Manor Gardens (NT)

Until next time.





Before I go further with today’s post, I’d like to mention blogs and as I don’t have a sidebar on my blog with others’ blogs, I really don’t know how I might do this (I will ask my computer man) so in the meantime, if you have a blog perhaps you could add the blog address to any comment and then readers of this blog will be able to access it. 

* * * * *

And so to today’s post.  As my title says, it’s a medley of unrelated topics.  I will start with the photo above.  We were in the village of St Marychurch earlier in the week. That is where I lived as a child from the age of six to 17, my “formative” years, starting as a mere child and ending up with my boyfriend who became my husband.  My parents had the village newsagent’s shop and there were several little alley ways connecting cottages close by.  We walked through one of these alley ways from a car park to the shopping precinct and I noticed this little flower bed between a garden shed and an old wall.  It wasn’t particularly tidy, but I thought it was rather pretty, and so took a photograph.  It demonstrates that even in the most unlikely of places there is beauty.

* * * *

Next, the book Historium, another in the Welcome to the Museum series which I posted about a short while ago.  I have to say that this isn’t quite the book I expected but the cover should have been indicative enough for me to assess its contents.  It’s not about the Tudors, the Elizabethans, or even Medieval times.  This book is about ancient history. 

Human beings are astonishingly creative.  For over a million years they  have been making and innovating – not merely functional tools but elaborate objects and intricate artwork.” 

This book shows some wonderful illustrations of items from ancient civilisations, from Africa, America, Asia, Europe, The Middle East and Oceania.  The Curators (i.e. writer and illustrator) are Richard Wilkinson (illustrator), who is self-taught and has worked with The New Scientist, Intelligent Life, and TIME, and Jo Nelson (writer) has studied Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge University and has been researching and writing non-fiction books for 15 years.  This is about the only book in my rather large collection of books which deals specifically with the ancient world.  and I am very pleased that I bought it.

Photo Credit:  Historium, illustrator, Richard Wilkinson (Big Picture Press)

* * * *


A couple of months ago my local branch of a certain supermarket had Cleanolgy products on promotion. They had a large display stand showing all kinds of items in the range, and very nice it all looked. So nice that I bought one of the bottles of spray household cleaner, seduced by the sound of Wild Mint and Green Tea.  It said that this product was non-toxic and made from natural oils.  And what is more, I was very pleased with it, it did the job.

However, when I returned to this supermarket I could not find any Cleanology products. I made enquiries only to be informed that they weren’t going to stock them, they had only been on promotion.  Perhaps they were a trial to see how many customers bought these products?  Maybe they didn’t sell all that well?  But to have them there and then not stock them seemed rather odd to say the least.  But supermarkets’ ways are a law unto themselves.

And then I thought, perhaps these products are available online?   And yes, they are, although I had to spend money on postage; I have been able to locate these excellent cleaning products which do not harm ourselves or the planet.

* * * *

Next, still with cleaning but of the human kind, I treated ourselves to this lovely box of Neste Danti Romantica soaps.  I’ve bought them before and know just how lovely they are. These are a treat in store.

* * * *

Next, after writing the post on Children’s Illustrated Books I rather fancied a copy of Nicola Bayley’s The Patchwork Cat and found a very inexpensive one online, not the original edition one but a nice copy.

Photo Credit:  The Patchwork Cat, illustrations by Nicola Bayley (Jonathan Cape and, this edition, Random House)

This is a lovely addition to my illustrated books collection.

Next, a lovely box of postcards, Botanicum, which are complementary postcards to the book of this name, a box of 50 postcards featuring Katie Scott’s illustrations. 

Photo credit:  Botanicum postcards, Ilustrated by Katie Scott (Big Picture Press, Templar Publishing)


Every postcard is different and each one is a miniature work of art.  They would look lovely framed.  I am thinking of putting some of them on the board I keep for displaying postcards in the summerhouse (applying them to the board with Blue Tack so that I may remove them at the end of the summer.) 

And finally to this morning, when we paid our local garden centre a visit. We were on the hunt for a birthday present for my husband’s brother, and decided upon some blueberry bushes as he loves gardening and best of all, he enjoys growing things to eat.  We had a quick look around but it was very cold, even though we were well wrapped up, wearing our winter coats;  the weather is now different from last week when we were enjoying strolls in the Zoo and in Living Coasts wearing T-shirts.   And so we quickly made our purchase and then enjoyed coffee and scones (cheese scone for me) in the café.  What a pleasant way to spend a Tuesday morning.

As I said, a medley of unrelated topics! 

Until next time.


My goodness, it’s nice to be back!  I have been offline since last Thursday, but here I am again, computer now back working again.  It wasn’t a ‘problem’ as such, my computer guru was  changing supplier, or something like that.  I’m not au fait on technical things, but he did explain I’d be offline for sometime, but it wasn’t then possible to let you all know.  How we have come to rely on computers!  Maybe we should revive …

an appropriate title (this new paperback arrived for me today.)

We woke to a bright blue sky this morning and decided we’d have a walk along Torquay sea front.  We parked the car around about 8.30 am and made our way through Torre Abbey Gardens and then past the sunken garden.

The tulips here are now just about ‘over’ and soon the Parks Dept will be refreshing this lovely Edwardian-style garden with summer bedding.  No idea what they will choose, every year there is a different colour scheme.  By now the sun was high in the sky and everywhere looked so beautiful.

At the end of this sunken garden there is a pretty small pond, bordered with alliums.

We made our way across the main sea front road via the pedestrian bridge and from the top we looked down onto Torre Abbey Sands where the sea tractor was clearing the seaweed. 

This must be a thankless task as seaweed is brought on the incoming tides.  In the distance the two white buildings are the Grand Hotel and the block of apartments next door.  It is close to here that we park our car and then walk along the seafront as far as the harbour and back. 

Once on the promenade we were surprised to see not another person, not even a dog walker or an intrepid runner.  We had seen both species in the gardens, but none along this lovely stretch of promenade.  For the first time we had it all to ourselves. 

We then made our way back to the car via the Rock Walk.  This lovely olive tree is directly opposite the Princess Theatre. 

The Rock Walk has been refurbished in the last decade and is now much more open.  It is only a narrow pathway at the foot of a rocky cliff face, but it has been planted with sun-loving plants, and at the moment the rock face is home to wild flowers, mainly the lovely Valerian, or Devon Pride to give it its common name, as it grows in profusion in Devon.

and at the base of the cliff, osteospermum. 

We really enjoyed this walk, about two miles in total, to and from our car, and then we drove home, buying croissants on the way, and we enjoyed those with blackcurrant jam and coffee for a late breakfast.

Speak again soon.







I hope you are now replete after taking afternoon tea with me, that you had a safe and uneventful journey home, and that in the not too distant future you will join me for High Tea, a quite different meal, but please allow me a little breathing space in which to prepare for our next get-together.  I will also post a lovely recipe for scones before too long.

* * * * *

It was my need to research butterflies that prompted my next topic:  illustrated children’s books.  I will shortly be writing an article for a magazine which will include butterflies and while researching this topic I recalled the 1973 children’s book, The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast by illustrator Alan Aldridge and poet William Plomer.  Indeed, it won the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year Award.  I have only just bought my copy, a reprint of the 1973 edition and in the back of the book it gives details of how Alan – who had been a creative consultant to The Beatles’ company Apple – spent a year preparing the 28 illustrations for this book.  It says, “The appeal of The Butterfly Ball illustrations is partly rooted in the sense of mystery and darkness that coexists alongside sheer fantastic exuberance. They are mad, magical and surreal, qualities that children have long embraced in their reading, that appeal to many adults too.”

Well they certainly appeal to me!  And once the book was published, “The prints just flew out,” Alan is quoted as saying.   “It was phenomenal.  We ended up printing 25,000 copies of the book in the first edition – sold out in three days.”

The one sad note is that at the moment of triumph, William Plomer (1903-1973) died on the day of the book launch, the eve of becoming a best-selling author.

I can’t remember when, as an adult, I became interested in illustrated children’s books.  I loved Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series and the ballet books of Lorna Hill (about which I posted some months ago), and the school stories for an even earlier generation than my own by Angela Brazil, but then, as an adult, I found myself drawn towards some children books simply because I loved the illustrations. 

Photo credits:  The Butterfly Ball & The Grasshopper’s Feast, pictures: Alan Aldridge (Jonathan Cape and Templar Publishing);  The Ship’s Cat, pictures Alan Aldridge (Jonathan Cape)

I bought The Ship’s Cat when it was first published in 1977.  Again this was illustrated by Alan Aldridge with the verses by Richard Adams. I particularly love this Elizabethan cat illustration!

A favourite illustrator of mine is Nicola Bayley.  I don’t know when I was first became aware of her lovely books.  She was born in Singapore and studied art at St Martin’s and the Royal College of Art.  I have a cutting from The Sunday Times magazine from 1979 where it says that she made her reputation with her Book of Nursery Rhymes (in 1975) …

Photo credit One Old Oxford Ox and Nicola Bayley’s Nursery Rhymes, pictures Nicola Bayley (Jonathan Cape)

and the article continues, “since then she has consolidated it with The Tyger Voyage [which, as yet, I do not have in my collection].”  She speaks about her art thus:

“My pictures are full of objects that already surround me or that I lust after.  One small painting takes me 10 days or so to complete. I can’t bear to sell anything because every picture conjures up past times.  I suppose I must have files full of work but if I let something go it’s like parting with a piece of my life.”

I have no idea whether Nicola still keeps all her art work. This article, as I say, was written in 1979! 

A favourite book of mine is The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and illustrated by Nicola Bayley …

Photo Credit: The Mousehole Cat, pictures Nicola Bayley (Walker Books)

I must point out right away, for those of you living far away from Cornwall, in which this story is set, that the little fishing village of Mousehole is actually pronounced “Mowzell.”  The book is based on the legend of Cornish fisherman, Tom Bowcock and the stargazy pie.  The story goes that one very stormy winter, none of the fishermen of the village were able to leave the harbour and the village neared starvation.  But Tom and his black cat, Mowzer, decided to brave the elements and put to sea in order to catch some fish.  When they returned after quite an adventure, the entire catch was cooked into various dishes including stargazy pie. 

Every year, on the 23rd December,  Mousehole celebrates Tom Bowcock’s Eve and the harbour is illuminated with hundreds of coloured lights, some depicting boats.  The pub serves stargazy pie in which the fish pie has pilchards with their heads pointing heavenwards through the crust.   Antonia and Nicola’s book won the Illustrated Book of the Year for 1991. 

More recently, while in the furniture outlet of one of our local charity shops, I came across a lovely copy of The Wind in the Willows.  I already have the Ernest Shepherd illustrated edition (along with his Winnie the Pooh) but how could I leave such a lovely book there,  illustrated by Inga Moore,  when it was only £1?  I really think I must look for some more of her illustrated books, they are such deliciously soft and gentle illustrations and they really appeal to me.

Photo Credit, The Wind in the Willows, pictures by Inga Moore (Walker Books)

These illustrations are quite different from the often surreal ones by Alan Aldridge.  I could spend hours just looking at the interiors of the places in which Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger live!  Again and again I’m drawn towards interiors, even in children’s books!

Other books in my  small collection include the not-so-beautiful Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs (bought for our younger son but which found its way to my collection), and Captain Beaky Volume 1 and 2, by Jeremy Lloyd and illustrated by Keith Michell.  I sometimes read the poems out loud to myself and my husband and we end up almost crying with laughter …

The bravest animals in the land

Are Captain Beaky and his band.

That’s Timid Toad, Reckless Rat,

Artful Owl and Batty Bat,

March through the woodland

Singing songs

That tell how they have righted wrongs.

Once Hissing Sid, an evil snake,

Kept the woodland folk awake

In fear and trembling every night

In case he gave someone a bite.

And that’s just the beginning of the band’s adventures.  I also have the LP (that’s a Long Playing record for those brought up on CDs and downloads!) of these jolly poems read by Jeremy Lloyd.

I wonder whether you, like me, love illustrated children’s books? If so, do tell us which ones are your favourites.

  Mice at a printing press in Nicola Bayley’s One Old Oxford Ox

Photo Credit:  One Old Oxford Ox, pictures Nicola Bayley (Jonathan Cape)

Until next time.






Photo Credit: Afternoon Tea Parties by Susanna Blake, photos by Martin Brigdale (Ryland, Peters and Small)


On the occasion of my 150th post, I would like to thank you all for your kind and generous comments since I started this blog last August.  When I started it I had only vague ideas what I would write about, but it would seem that those of you who read my blog regularly enjoy the topics I choose.  So here’s to the next 150 posts!

It would be impossible to visit each and every one of you to thank you personally, and so for this post I thought it would be nice to invite you all to a virtual afternoon tea party!  Furthermore, I would like to present each of you with a virtual bouquet, it’s no less than readers who call here regularly deserve!

Afternoon tea is a lovely English tradition.  It says in my book Afternoon Tea by Jane Pettigrew, “The innovation of the mid-afternoon indulgence called ‘afternoon tea’ is accredited to Anna Maria, 7th Duchess of Bedford. In fact, she did not ‘invent’ the ceremony, but simply gave it a name that settled it as a four o’clock social occasion at a time when the pattern of mealtimes was changing. 

When tea first arrived in England in the mid-17th century, it was taken as a settler at the end of dinner, a large, heavy meal that lasted four or five hours from noon to late afternoon.  By the early  years of the 19th century, this huge meal had shifted to around 7.30pm or even later, leaving a long gap between breakfast and the evening repast.  Only light refreshment was provided at midday by the newly invented luncheon, or ‘noonshine’. 

And so the Duchess found it pleasing and convenient to serve two or three hours before dinner, as well as (or instead of) after the meal.  Indeed, Anna Maria found ‘afternoon tea’ so essential to her daily routine that when she visited friends in their castles and palaces, she took with her a silver kettle and other tea equipage along with her trunks and hat boxes.”

Well, friends, I don’t expect you to bring along your trunks and hat boxes, but to come virtually prepared for an afternoon feast.  The cups and saucers are ready, and some glasses for some sparkling wine to add a little fizz to the proceedings or elderflower cordial if you would prefer …

Afternoon tea should always start with the tea itself, and it’s nice to serve at least two kinds – I serve Earl Grey and a light Indian blend, and offer slices of lemon and a jug of milk.  

Once the tea has been handed around, for we are seated on low chairs and sofas (high tea is a different meal entirely, but I might write about that another time) I will hand you a small plate and a napkin(never to be referred to as a ‘serviette’ in my hearing, please!)  I sometimes have white cotton ones, but more often I use paper tea napkins, which are so pretty.  Paper napkins are socially acceptable.

Here come the sandwiches …

Photo credit:  Afternoon Tea by Susannah Blake, photographs by Martin Brigdale (Ryland, Peters and Small)


This is an occasion – we are not having a bite to eat while doing the gardening – and so you won’t be served ‘doorstep’ sandwiches.  I prefer to cut the sandwiches into ‘fingers’ with all the crusts removed. Finger sandwiches are elegant and the sandwiches should be large enough for two or three bites; not so small they are insignificant, nor so large they require a knife to cut them. 

Traditional fillings are combinations of cream cheese & smoked salmon; smoked or unsmoked ham and mustard of chutney; egg & cress and, of course, cucumber. 

Cucumber needs preparation.  I peel and slice it finely early in the morning and then lay the slices on thick layers of paper kitchen towels and sprinkle with some salt, and then sandwich together with another thick layer of kitchen paper.  You will need to change the towel fairly regularly throughout the morning as they will become soaked with the water from the cucumber, but doing this certainly improves the sandwiches and prevents the water that was in the cucumber from making the bread (white bread for cucumber sandwiches) soggy. 

Sometimes it’s nice to serve something savoury, especially in autumn or winter, say anchovy toast or small cheese scones filled with watercress …

Having enjoyed your sandwiches, here are the scones, with blackcurrant or strawberry jam.  In Devon we put the clotted cream on the split scone first and then top it with jam. In Cornwall they reverse this, putting the jam on first.

Photo Credit:  Afternoon Tea by Susanna Blake, photographs by Martin Brigdale (Ryland, Peters and Small)


If you have room, I now have cake for you.  How about lemon sponge?

Or perhaps a Victoria sponge filled with raspberries and cream?


Or a slice of fruit cake?

I hope you are all seated comfortably?  I’m sorry I wasn’t able to invite you to the Ritz …

Afternoon Tea by Jane Pettigrew (The Ritz Hotel, London; Victoria & Albert Museum) (Pitkin)


But I hope you have enjoyed your afternoon tea and will return home, to all corners of the globe, whether you live in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, America or from wherever you have virtually travelled today.  I wish you a safe journey home and perhaps you might wish now to have an afternoon tea party of your own, a real one, to which you invite your friends from your own neighbourhood.  There are wonderful books available on the subject of afternoon tea and here are mine …

Keep the food simple, you don’t need to serve astonishingly intricate cupcakes, indeed the more traditional the better (and cupcakes are not an English tradition.) 

Thank you so much for coming, I hope you have enjoyed virtual visit!

Speak again soon.


This will , I think, be quite a long post, so perhaps it might be best to get a cup of tea or coffee before you start reading.   I have a cup of tea beside me as I’m writing.

Did any guess where we were going from yesterday’s clue of the van which was in front of us as we drove along Torquay sea front?

We were destined for Living Coasts, a local Sea Life Centre.  We had recently bought an annual pass for Paignton Zoo  and this pass also entitles us to visit Living Coasts (again, as many times as we like.)

The coastal promontory that Living Coasts occupies was, from the 1930s to the 1970s, the site of the Marine Spa (a ballroom, winter garden and swimming pool). 

I apologise for this poor -quality photo of the Marine Spa which is taken from a photograh within  Living Coasts.  In the 1930s the interior looked like this (below) not that I remember it from then!  How lovely it looked with ladies seated in basket chairs, all wearing hats – of course, in those days you were not properly dressed unless you wore a hat! – and taking tea, no doubt. 

This beautiful building was, sadly, demolished in the 1970s to make way for Coral Island, a leisure resort, and that itself was demolished in 1997 to make way for Living Coasts. 

Below is an aerial photo taken in 2003 of the then-new construction.

Living Coasts is an innovative coastal zoo and aquarium where visitors can take a journey around the coasts of the world and see animals in naturalistic habitats.

Habitats have been constructed to be as natural as possible, for cliff-nesting birds there is a cliff, for wading birds, a pool and sandy beach, and so forth

Not only is Living Coasts a unique attraction, it is also a conservation and education charity and part of a group of zoos, including Paignton and Newquay.  It was officially opened in July 2003 by Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne.  Since then it has continued to grow and evolve into the unique attraction it is today. 

Although we had passed it many times on our walks and drives around the Bay, we had never been inside.  Word of mouth was that is was “full of penguins and little else!”  We found that this most certainly wasn’t the case and we were pleasantly surprised at how much there is to see.

The area might be relatively small but, through imaginative and careful design, much has been included and without making the area seemingly cramped.  We spent an hour there and loved every moment.

In the background the lower of the two white buildings is the Royal Torbay Yacht Club and above it is a smart block of flats built perhaps in the 1950s but in 1930s Art Deco style.  It is difficult to see but large metal supports hold up fine-mesh metal netting of this large aviary.  The grounds have been landscaped and there are trees, shrubs and flowers, softening the hard landscaping. 

In the first pool above, basking on a rock, is a South American Fur Seal (a great lump which looks more like a huge furry slug!)

Living Coasts is the UK’s only coastal zoo which is home to a variety of marine species from around the world including  seals, penguins, otters, and fish.  And, because these animals, fish and birds are safe from predators, they have  become almost tame, birds sitting on fences just inches – let alone feet – away from visitors (however, visitors are politely instructed not to touch the animals, not only because of safety to themselves and the animals, but also because they to not wish the creatures to interact with humans; in other words, these are wild animals and birds, they are not pets.)

A posing seal!

Through carefully designed enclosures visitors can see animals both on land and underwater.  We particularly enjoyed seeing the seals underwater and were amazed at their speed and agility! The award-winning aviary reaches 19 metres at its highest point and the aquarium tanks have a total capacity of 1,214 cubic metres.

 Husband having a close encounter with a seal

Common Octopus (‘stuck’ to the side of the tank) Snake Lock anemone, Lion Fish

My photos of the fish are not good as this area is rather dark with only the creatures in their tanks well-illuminated.  Other fish, birds and animals include Pied Avocet, Spectacled Eider Duck, Silver Moony fish, Atlantic Mudskippers, Asian short-clawed otter, Macaroni penguin, Oyster catcher and many, many more.

As well as the exhibits there is an attractive shop selling all kinds of animal- and fish-related gifts, a children’s play area, and a café.   We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will certainly go there again. 

* * * * * *

When we left Living Coasts we were ready for lunch and so decided to walk over to Le Bistrot Pierre. There are lots of eateries in Torquay, but we just happen to like Pierre’s, it isn’t expensive and there is always something on the menu we know we will enjoy.

To reach Pierre’s we retraced our steps across the harbour bridge (photo yesterday) and then walked through what is known locally as Rock Walk (Royal Terrace Garden) which is parallel to the sea front.



The Rock Walk is only a narrow strip of land at the foot of a cliff face, but it has been beautifully laid out, and the ‘mulch’ over the soil is made up of shells, which reflect the light.  It has a Mediterranean feel to it, with agaves and also (not photographed here) the occasional olive tree. 

And finally, lunch in Pierre’s.  We both chose the same dish from the Prix Fixe Lunch:

Poulet Printanier:  pan-fried chicken breast with asparagus, fricassee of wild mushrooms, peas, truffle oil and tarragon. This came with a selection of vegetable, small potatoes, braised red cabbage, broccoli and roasted carrots, followed by …

Frangipane:  Warm baked pear and raspberry frangipane with vanilla crème fraiche and toasted pistachios.

We sat downstairs on this occasion (photo above) with a table for two next to the high bar-table.  We really enjoy our meals here, the beer is good, the meals are good and not expensive, the staff are pleasant without being overly-familiar and it’s spotlessly clean. It also has a lovely view of the sea. What more could one ask for?

We then walked back to our car, drove home and had coffee and spent the rest of the afternoon reading the papers and our books.  All in all, although the weather had clouded over by the time we returned home,  we had had a lovely morning and lunch.  We will certainly visit Living Coasts again.

* * * * *

This morning, Friday,  we went to Waitrose for our shopping and returned not only with nice things to eat but also nice things to read (the copy of The Daily Telegraph is our daily paper, collected from our local shop):   a free copy of The Times (for holders of My Waitrose cards who may have a paper of their choice), the new Waitrose monthly magazine, The Waitrose Weekend newspaper, and the latest copy of Country Living.  I don’t usually buy this magazine but I thought I’d treat myself for a lovely weekend read.

Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope you have a lovely time and I hope you have enjoyed a virtual visit to Living Coasts.

Speak again soon.



This post is something of a teaser … it is an interim post between yesterday’s post about books and tomorrow’s in which I will tell you where we went today.  But in the meantime, I thought I’d show you some of the lovely places we passed on our way to our destination today.  We parked our car along the sea front and this was the view directly opposite where we parked.  It was bright and sunny with a gentle breeze.  We walked to the harbour and crossed the harbour bridge.

I can’t quite recall how long there has been a bridge cross the harbour, between the inner and outer harbours (the outer harbour is now a marina, or rather a boat park as I prefer to call it … you can tell I’m not a yachty!)  I think it has been there roughly 20 years.  There is a sluice so that the water remains in the inner harbour even at low tide – it used to be just mud when the tide was out.   Here you can also see the Big Wheel which comes to Torbay each summer (and yes, we have been on it, but not this year.) 

As we walked across the bridge, the Western Lady ferry arrived from Brixham …

It is very inexpensive to go on the ferry, just £2 will get you to Brixham, across the Bay, which I think is very reasonable. 

We then made our way to Beacon Cove, to see if we could see a friend’s boat ‘parked’ in the marina there … we think we spotted it but then, to us, one boat looks much like the next. A bit like seagulls, but I’m sure seagulls can see differences in each other, so perhaps yachties can spot their own boats, ha ha!

On the bottom right of this photo you will see one of the ancient embarkation ramps that were built in 1943 for troops and ships to embark on their epic journey to France on D-Day, 6th June 1944.  And close by, a plaque on the wall (always with wreaths which have been placed there) commemorates this historic area of Torquay …

I love the Regency buildings in the background, they are so pretty with their wrought ironwork. 

Right.  Here’s a clue …

Tomorrow, all will be revealed … Coming soon, to a screen near you!

Speak again soon.


While researching the subject of butterflies for an article I am about to write, I happened upon a new series of recently published books.  They are marketed as “museums that are open all hours”, with collections, in Animalium, of more than 160 animals for visitors of all ages, with explanations on how they have evolved.  ‘Visitors’ can see inside the dissection laboratory and discover the great variety of habitats on Earth. 

Meanwhile, Botanicum houses an extraordinary collection of plants and fungi from tiny algae to trees that tower up to eighty metres high. We learn how such plants have evolved and how Earth has the diversity of plants life we see today. 

Yes, they are books, but the concept of the virtual museum is, I think, an interesting and an imaginative one.  The books have been produced mainly with children in mind, but as the books say, they are for ‘visitors’ of all ages. 

My knowledge of both the animal and the plant kingdom is scant. Yes, I’ve watched the programmes of Sir David Attenborough since he went on his Zoo Quests in the 1950s, and I watch Gardener’s World even though I still don’t know how to prune plants correctly.  I find it hard to recall my biology lessons where we learned about the parts of a flower, calyx and stamen and so forth, but would I be able to point them out?  I don’t think so.  As for animals, I’ve no idea, for example, what the differences are between turtles, tortoises and terrapins!  Therefore, for me, these books are a splendid introduction, even at my great age, to life on planet Earth. 

These virtual museums have been ‘curated’ by Katie Scott and, in Animalium, Jenny Broom and in Botanicum, Kathy Willis. 

Katie Scott is illustrator of Animalium and it was chosen as the Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Year 2014.  She studied illustration at the University of Brighton and, it says in Botanicum, that she “is inspired by the elaborate paintings of Ernst Haeckel.”

Jenny Broom studied at the Slade School of Art in London and has written several books for children.

Kathy Willis spent 25 years researching and teaching in the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and now has two jobs:  as the Director of Science at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and as Professor of Biodiversity at the University of Oxford. 

I have only shown some of the many wonderful illustrations here, and none of the explanations, which have been pared down to be readily understandable, not only for children but also for those of us whose knowledge of flora and fauna stops and starts with looking after our pets and tending our gardens. 

I am absolutely enthralled by these two books and I understand there is a further one in the series on History – I will be having a virtual look at that today and maybe adding that to my collection-of-two!

It is coincidental that last week we bought a season ticket to the Zoo and yesterday these two gorgeous books arrived.  Am I turning into a zoologist/biologist in my latter years? After all, there is now no retirement age, I might have a whole new career path ahead of me! (Only joking!)

These books are published by the Big Picture Press and they are as the press name suggests, large format, approximately 28cm x 38cm.  I think they would make wonderful Christmas or birthday presents for children of any age, including those in their second childhood.

Boxes of complementary postcards have also been produced – I just might be tempted by those, too.

Speak again soon.






I love my visits to my hair salon.  I have been going there regularly for around nine years. Indeed, I started going not long after my hair stylist opened her salon and next month she and her staff celebrate the salon’s tenth anniversary.  I hope to attend that special day. 

So what do I like about this particular salon?  For a start, the very high standard of professionalism that the owner, herself an accomplished hair stylist, has set and which her lovely staff uphold.   But along with the professionalism of all the staff there is a warm and friendly atmosphere.   All the staff are skilled in their own particularly specialties and not only that, they serve the most wonderful coffee from a proper Italian coffee machine!  What’s not to like?

Here is a photo I took, just a snapshot, a few years ago.  The salon hadn’t been tidied specially for this photo, it is always tidy and spotlessly clean.  This morning I mentioned to my stylist (the owner of this establishment) how much I liked the mirrors and she explained she had had them specially made, the glass supports for the mirrors have all been moulded in one piece and parts of them have been cut and formed into shelves.  They are truly elegant and even a decade later they still look modern and, dare I say it, cutting edge!

I must have been to countless hair salons in my life, from when I was a child going with my mother, attending one in a lovely hotel in Torquay,  to a small salon in our local town, but somehow I was never totally happy with how the stylist at the previous salon did my hair; it was OK, but when you’re paying serious money every five weeks, OK isn’t really good enough, is it?

One day I happened to be in another town, not that far away, and was passing my present salon and without stopping to cogitate too long, I walked in and made an appointment.  That was, as I say, almost 9 years ago.  

As my hair has been grey for a few years now, not the silver or white which I wouldn’t mind, but what I call galvanized dustbin grey, I have my hair highlighted about three times a year.  As I have my hair very short this means the time-consuming process of ‘cap’ highlights which, today, with most people having highlights effected by the use of ‘foils’, might seem a little old fashioned, but when cap highlights have been executed well, nothing looks nicer, as the highlights look more natural.  Well, I think so.  This photo, below, was taken by husband when I came home today. 

I am delighted with both the cut and the silver grey colour.  I have been using an ash blonde eyebrow pencil (from Vyes Rocher) but will start using my usual soft grey pencil again, I think.  My eyebrows never grew back properly after chemotherapy, more than ten years ago, but light feathery strokes with a soft eyebrow pencil seem to work well for me.   I quickly wrapped around the silk scarf as it’s one of my favourites, but it isn’t one that I usually wear with this particular blue/white dress, I just added it for a splash of colour, and I like the soft look of a silk scarf for photos.  This scarf was from Crew Clothing, as was the dress (not to be confused with J Crew, the American company).

I really enjoyed my visit to my hair stylist’s today and I now look forward to my next visit in five weeks time.

Do you enjoy visiting your hair salon?  Or do you trim your hair yourself?  Do you colour your hair yourself, or have it professionally coloured?  Are you happy to be grey “as Nature  intended” or do you cover the grey?  Or, like me, to you try and enhance the grey, rather than fighting it? 

Speak again soon.





Anyone who has been reading my blog since I began writing it last August will be aware of how much I love flowers and how our home is seldom without them.   But I am not a flower arranger, someone who has studied the art of floral artistry.  I see flowers I like, ones which I think will enhance the rooms in our home, buy them and then usually pop them into a vase (glass or ceramic) and position them in the sitting room, hall, kitchen or bedroom. I do know a few basics, such as dark colours should be at the centre of an arrangement with paler shades on the periphery, and always (if possible) have odd numbers of flowers in an arrangement, three, five, seven, and so forth. 

But rules are there simply as guidance, rules in floristry can be broken. 

I think the best way to learn how to make the most of a supermarket bunch of flowers is simply to observe how flowers in the homes which have been photographed for magazines have been arranged.  Taking flowers out of their cellophane and simply plonking them in a vase – often one of the wrong shape or size – isn’t really good enough.   Indeed, you don’t have to be particularly skilled or require any special equipment, just an eye for colour and proportion to make a humble bunch of flowers look really attractive.

I’ve started this post with one of my favourite photos of flowers in our home, a simple bunch of pink tulips in a glass water jug in our sitting room, taken some years ago.  Very often the most simple arrangement is the best.

This book once belonged to my late uncle who, with my maternal grandfather, lived with us as part of our family.  I have no idea how he came by it, or why he didn’t have Volume 1!  It was published by the Coca-Cola drinks company in 1941.  It is difficult to imagine that the company (at the height of World War II) considered publishing a book on flower arranging in order to publicise their soft drinks company, but they did.  Volume 1, so it says in the Introduction, cost 10 cents per copy and a million and a half copies were distributed and, “In response to this enthusiasm and to the thousands of requests for another book on the same subject, The Coca-Cola Company presents Volume 2 on flower arranging for home decoration.”

What I find interesting in the photos in this slim paperback book is seeing how tortured flowers were in those days!  They were wired and formed into shapes almost cruelly in order to look beautiful!   Yes, the arrangements are clever, a great deal of thought has obviously gone into the containers and the settings of each arrangement, but they are as different from how we ‘do’ flowers today as, well, chalk is from cheese. 

A lot of the arrangements have a vaguely Oriental look to them, I think.

Fast forward seventy years to Jane Packer’s lovely book At Home With Flowers, also in my collection.

Jane Packer is one of Britain’s foremost floral artists and, it says in the book, “is renowned for her fresh and unpretentious style.”  Here are some of the lovely arrangements which have been photographed for this book …

And a few years ago, I also made a more humble arrangement with Cornflowers …

Not quite up to Jane Packer’s standard, but I love the mixture of alchemilla mollis and cornflowers in this old Fortnum & Mason tea tin (I had a glass container for the water inside the tin.) And here I really should’ve had the cornflowers, the darker shade, at the heart of the arrangement with the alchemilla mollis on the periphery!  But we all make mistakes!

I rather like the idea of using old (and tarnished) silver trophies as containers …

And managed a very small arrangement of my own, using two golfing cup replicas which had belonged to my parents and what I could find in the garden that day …

Not a good photo as they were on the windowsill in the study, and photographing anything against the light isn’t easy.

I especially like this simple arrangement for a hall (below) in Jane’s book . White with vibrant vermillion, echoed in the bag nearby …

And in our hall, apricot roses in a simple cut glass vase …

And finally, a bedside posy in Jane’s book …

And a posy in our bed sitting room, flowers from the garden and placed in a floral jug; a medley of colours in flowers, jug, and cushion …

I hope I have inspired you, even if you profess to not being good at flower arranging, to look out different containers, and how you might even place similarly coloured objects close by, to echo the colours and/or style of the flowers. 

The green of this catalogue and the William Moorcroft dish complements this arrangement of chrysanthemums while (below) a lavender-coloured book spine complements the lisianthus.

Speak again soon.