Friday, 31 December 2010

A Garden presence for the New Year

Deep frost
Frost and Hydrangea leaves, morning sun
 As the year turns, the garden has gone in a matter of days from frozen

to mild and almost dry in places. This has allowed me out to explore the character of this new space we occupy for a while. Quite along while I hope, though in terms of the plants that are here already, we are newcomers.

The first delight I discovered was this quiet presence lurking beneath some unpruned young growth.


The trunk is a delight, so sturdy and moistly dark It is, I think, Prunus laurocerasus and stands at the top of a very short run of some all but invisible tiny little steps which will need to be cleared in time. It sits at the turn of a miniature walk that wends its way from the back door to the lawn.

Wol in his new home

Wol has been moved there, he seemed to fit with the spirit of the tree, despite being from Zimbabwe originally

Then this afternoon I went to clear this space,
a narrow little channel which zigzags between the house and the property boundary, and is fronted by a garage.
As I fought my way to the garage wall, I found this

the pattern of seedheads against the blue of the window frame delighted me. It did, however, have to go!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Rainbows for Christmas

My dear man gave me, amongst other things, rainbows for Christmas.

How? By giving me this crystal now hung in a south facing upstairs window, where the cats sit and the Christmas lights are glimmering. It catches the low winter light and throws rainbows about the landing, much to my delight!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

New home for old pieces

This little tableau of furniture has found it’s place in my study on the south side of our house where sun can warm and illuminate. None of it is is new, each piece is redolent of the women of my family.

In the very foreground is the leg of my grandmother’s chair, always known as The BergĂ©re Chair. I believe my grandfather Gerald bought it for her, though it may have been in the family longer. She was a contemplative woman, a Christian Scientist of very deep and sincere faith, who spent many hours sitting in this chair in her bedroom, thinking. It was here that we found her after she had the stroke that killed her. I find no morbidity in that thought, rather I wonder if some frail remnant of her molecules lingers in the grain of the wood, touching mine as my hands smooth it when I too sit there. It once had a very worn donkey brown brocade velvet seat cushion, Mum had a new cover made for it as a birthday present for me one year, the seat cushion fits precisely round the arms of the chair so was a complex piece of upholstery.

Next in the image is a little black wood, fold out table. This was also hers, the repository of her pen, often lost or rather, “taken by the fairies”; whatever book she was currently reading; her glasses and her table lamp. This little table sat in our sitting room, by the chimney breast where she could warm her twiglety legs at the stove, a great shiny glass doored anthracite burner, with dark iridescent metal finish. This had a convoluted looking gas lighter with a flex that attached it to the gas tap by the hearth. It looked rather like a short sword with holes down the side and had to be lit, at which point it roared into life with blue flame glowing down it’s length. This was then thrust into the coals and not removed until they were glowing red and orange. Behind this great metal heart was the boiler, which provided us with our hot water downstairs.

Beside this table is a little wooden chair. This has a cane seat, but is quite plain otherwise. It came from my mother’s flat, but probably belonged originally to my great grandmother, Nanya.

Behind that is a little kneehole desk, very simple, with one lockable drawer and three more below it. This was my mother’s home typing desk, bought with the wages of her first secretarial job, just after the war in London. She saved up shillings here and there from a very small wage until she had enough, then bought it from a shop in Cheam where she and her parents lived. The handle and keyhole in the top drawer are worn by her hands. She typed a myriad of cheerful letters to friends here: one of the enduring themes from letters of condolence this year was people’s delight in receiving her chatty, funny, thoughtful hand typed letters, an art that is perhaps dying, or at least being replaced by differing forms of communication.

None of these pieces of furniture would feature in Cash in the Attic, or a Kevin McCloud Grand Design, though perhaps Kirstie Allsopp might flutter over them if she found them in a furniture warehouse. None have been bought to "go" with our new home because we fancy a restyle. They are quiet, personal, cherished bits of domestic history and beyond price to me, imbued as they are with lives that I knew and loved dearly.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Mirror Mirror


This lovely beveled glass mirror once lived above a large oak sideboard in my grandmothers sitting room. I preened my teenage self in it but perhaps, before me, Nanya's face might have been reflected as she glimpsed herself in it while visiting her daughter.
We managed to hang it yesterday in our new sitting room, my good man providing the strength and being a dab hand with an old fashioned, hand held drill. A skill I am in awe of, though I'm sure that's bad grammar!

cat appeals

You were going to put that second cat flap in weren't you?

And what about a chair with blanket each - you don't seem to be using this one, but it is a mite cramped!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

What do I love about our new house?

The  way the light falls here, the low angle catches the beveled glass of the door and the crystals hanging there

and coaxes them to throw indiscriminate  rainbows, about the hallway and through to the dining area.

We have had amazing icicles

And the garden has an air of mystery all its own.
The lord and lady have found their rightful place above an ancient water source

Wol and the Oriental lady have found a secluded walk in which to converse

But the little water boy has lost her!

He has no idea she is peeking at him from behind

So near, yet so far.

The garden swoops down a hill, with sunlight streaming after, even in these winter days,

I wonder if there are fairies at the bottom?

From the top of the garden, looking north the shadow of o chimney marks time in the yew tree

And light glances through an upstairs window

There is much moss in the lawn – that means I can grow damp loving shady exotic looking plants,
 feathers and ice

A lovely old rhododendron with mossy bole
An outrageously decrepit galvansed iron water tank

And the cats have finally been allowed out in their new strange home.

It is a good place to be, with lots of potential for stuff inside and out.

"Stuff" means anything and everything that can be done in a day.

Monday, 13 December 2010


I had the bestest, longest hug from my lovely daughter today. Lucky me.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

birthday snow

I have been moving house and so have no internet at home and no time to do anything but unpack boxes and wonder where to put all the stuff. It is remarkable how much stuff you still have, even after that pre move blitz. However, today is my darling daughters birthday so I am up in York, rather than down on the south coast and so have access to her internet while I wait for her to get dressed (usually a lengthy process (Oi!!! said Jen)), so we can visit the Christmas Market together and go OOoooohh at all the lovely things for sale.
I was amused during my delicious guest house breakfast this morning by a pair of Australians, visiting the UK and planning to drive to Edinburgh  today. I guess they just don't do snow in the same way down in Oz; there was a collective "whaaaaat" from the other breakfasting guests, at which they looked, it has to be said, a little crestfallen. Now this is what the world looks like outside Jen's window, I could hear the ice cracking under my feet as I walked up the road through several inches of fresh snow.

It is still snowing and there is travel chaos across the country. I suspect I may be seeing them at breakfast tomorrow as well, poor souls.

So what did she get for her birthday from me? Well, some cash - always useful to impoverished students, a little cat ornament to sit and smile by her computer because she misses our two, some chocolate, utterly necessary and these
also useful in this weather in the frozen north. I finished them on the train on the way here (NO I didn't try driving up!!) and sitting in my guest house room last night, the second pair of socks I've knitted. I wasn't sure they were going to be done in time!! So now she has toasty feet, which is a Very Good Thing.

Hope the trains are running when I go home tomorrow!!