Sunday, 30 January 2011

Tales from a Churchyard...

As many of you know, we live in an old church square...the graveyard is our front garden...and I so love seeing it from the windows, stepping out into it's quiet peace every morning...
I thought that you might like to see a little more of what I can see...so come with me for a walk up the cobbled path...
through the wrought iron gate and past the WW1 memorial on the left. Originally the whole churchyard was enclosed by high wrought iron railings...but these were removed at the beginning of WW2, and melted down for the war effort. Never replaced, there is now a low, ancient wall running around the perimeter instead...

the old church door usually stands open during the day so that anyone can wander in...the inside (apart from the stained glass windows and some monuments) isn't so special any more, sadly. In the 1970's, the ancient old wooden pews were removed to make a large, open space. Plastic chairs are now set out for services and concerts. Although this means that the church can be used for a wide range of community activities, I always feel a little sad when I enter the stone magnificence of the exterior and the interior doesn't match up to that promise.

Back outside, and most of the houses ranged around the square date from the Georgian period...my favourite time...and have that elegance that the 18th century architects so often provided...the rest are early Victorian. One side of the square has very small, slightly dark cottages..these once included the town workhouse and some of the others belonged to poor lacemakers (once a famous skill in our county)

the graveyard (which incidentally hasn't been used for burials since aboiut 1870, when the large town cemetery was built on the outskirts...and is still in use today) is also a bit of a haven for nature as it's largely left alone except for essential maintenance. Can you just see the mass of snowdrops emerging beneath the skeleton of the laburnum? Signs of Spring are everywhere...

soon, soon the bright yellow daffodils will be nodding their beautiful heads again. But for now, the bright green of their shoots do their job and gladden my heart!

As walk through on my way to wherever I'm going, I often visit my 'favourite' gravestones...

Such as this one, on the grave of Elizabeth Jenkins who died aged 35. A 'most faithful servant'. The inscription reads 'This stone was erected by those who for many years reaped the benefits of her valuable service' Which, in 1830's England is the nearest they got to saying that they loved her, I think. A comforting thought, despite her youth when she died.

And these are very special to me, as they mark the graves of the family who once lived in our house. Way back then, it was a farmhouse (unthinkable now, it's very much a townhouse!) and this large extended family were one of the richest in the area...

apart from the obvious link, it makes me reflect that, despite our very human quest to 'own' things...in the end, we're just guardians for future generations. This family once owned and loved the house we live in...as we do now...but so little remains of them nearly 200 years later. So it will be with us. That doesn't frighten or depress me. It makes me determined to do as much as I can, to make a mark and hopefully be remembered.

Some people ask whether we find it 'scary' to live so near to the dead. I find it to be quite the opposite. I feel that it's a calm and tranquil place, a reflective and serene reminder of the truth in the old saying 'This too shall pass....'

Enjoy Sunday...the sun is shining as I write, and the world looks bright.

With love xo


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

West Sussex Weekend

Monday was our wedding anniversary. We usually go away for a weekend at this time of year...usually to Salzburg for Mozart Week. But we decided (given the way the weather disrupted our Christmas travel plans!) to play it safe and hire a cottage in the UK, where we could relax and take long walks with Alice. So Friday found us driving down to beautiful West Wittering on the Sussex coast. We'd been before and always loved the amazing, wide, clean sandy beach...and it was just as we remembered it. Can you just make out the moon in the photo above? That was taken early on Sunday morning when we walked to see the sunrise on the sand...

the tide was almost fully out (low tide was 6am) and so it was a long way down to the sea...the pictures don't really capture the beauty of the colours in the streaked sky...

that's Paul above...

and you know who that is! I swear that Alice smiled every minute she was on that beach - whether she was racing across the sand, sniffing the seaweed clumps or splashing through the shore. Such different and exciting smells and landscape for her...and us! We went for several walks a day. There is an estuary packed with wading birds around the spit off East Head and also National Trust protected dunes...a nature sanctuary, really...
eventually we tired Alice out...

and went out to play and explore the nearby towns and cities. We chose to eat in the cottage in the evenings, reading, watching DVD's (and snoozing!) but we had two lovely lunches out...

on Saturday at Fat Olives restaurant, which is a converted 17th century fisherman's cottage...now a superb little brasserie... in the small and picturesque town of Emsworth. After lunch, we toured the town - ending as we usually do in a second hand bookshop and leaving with armloads of new bargains!
On Sunday we drove the short distance to the gorgeous Georgian city of Chichester

and had a good lunch at Brasserie Blanc, which is one of famous chef Raymond Blanc's ventures...
this was quite recently opened, light, bright and felt very French...

On Monday, we took a last long early morning walk on that fabulous beach...trying to breathe in as much of the iodine rich, salty air as we could before heading home (we live near the furthest point from the sea in the whole UK!) We didn't hurry back, stopping at Arundel and at the Cowdray Park Estate on our way. In the evening, as it was also my darling Dad's birthday, we picked up my parents and had a lovely double celebration meal at our friend Dave's wonderful restaurant Annie Bailey's . It was great to catch up with Mum & Dad, sitting by a log fire and ending our long weekend in style!

I'll leave you with a picture of Alice as I love to think of her...happy, perfectly happy

I hope that you're having a wonderful week so far...xo

Monday, 17 January 2011

Monday Monday & Weekend Memories...

This is the scene in our garden this morning....rain, rain & more rain! But it's warm (for the time of year) and the birds are singing so I'm not complaining. And every day is a day nearer to Spring, which is a cheering thought!
We got back last night after a wonderful weekend in London...here is the break in pictures!
a walk through Soho (one of my favourite districts...)I love the mosaic set into this pavement - dated 1867

at lunchtime we stopped at an historic pub - The French House. Everyone who is anyone has passed through these doors at some point. It's a banning offence to ask for autographs (luckily, no one asked me...:o)

the walls at the back are literally covered in signed photographs of the famous faces who have stopped off for a drink - Maurice Chevalier, Peter O'Toole, Michael Caine....too many to mention. You can just make out Charlie Chaplin in the photo above, I think....

There are mirrors & old panelling everywhere...

and the bar is so friendly - they treat you like a regular, even if they've never seen you before! There's also a great restaurant upstairs - Polpetto - a tiny recreation of a Venetian 'baccaro'. Of course it was full on Saturday so...

we ended up here, at Wright Brothers in Kingly Street. A beautiful new, mainly fish restaurant....

Simple food, great ingredients, good service and a beautiful room...

having been a chef fr so long, I love to watch the kitchen working...

a little boy was celebrating his 10th birthday there, with his parents and younger brother and we all sang 'Happy Birthday to YOU!' very loudly, to his delight!

The little chalboard sign on the back wall says: 'One man's fish is another man's poisson.....'!! I loved that.

afterwards we made our way back...it was just beginning to get dark, & Marylebone Lane was lit up and beautiful...

We see Caffe Caldesi & Le Cordon Bleu cookery school....and we know we're nearly home...
The Golden Hind is one of the best fish & chip shops in London...
And then we were home. An evening of movie dvd (It's Complicated with Meryl Streep) and relaxation was just perfect. Yesterday we did yet more walking, visited the Farmer's Market and explored before we drove home last evening and prepared for the week ahead. We love the city so much - endlessly fascinating. It's so good to be here at home too, though.
Alice loves London - long, long walks in Regent's Park (she nearly caught a squirrel yesterday) and then she curls on our bed and has a good sleep, while listening to the radio...and waiting for us to get back from wherever we've been...

A lovely few days. We are very lucky.

I hope that you enjoyed your weekend too...and that your week starts well! xo

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Raindrops on roses...

One of my favourite songs from 'The Sound of Music'. It's a great musical of course, but I mainly adore the movie for the glimpses of my beloved Salzburg! I'm usually gazing over Julie Andrews'shoulder and looking at the view of the fortress...or the rooftops...reliving happy times there!

But listening to the song 'My Favourite Things', over New Year, led me into an idea for a post on...yes, you guessed it - a few of my favourite things! Much as I love whiskers on kittens and warm woollen mittens, I thought that I'd show you some more original images from around the house:
Firstly - our bathroom. When we bought the house, the bathroom was downstairs - one of my pet hates. I can't bear walking through the house in my dressing gown...it just feels so wrong! So we incorporated the existing bathroom into the kitchen and lost a bedroom upstairs to make my idea of perfection...the bath is enormous and the perfect place to relax and unwind...

this mirror used to belong to Militza (about whom there is much more on this blog) and once hung in her bedroom. We love to mix old and new...and it is just right here . The walls are silver by the way...this was difficult to achieve (about 7 coats for proper coverage!) But the dull metallic sheen reflects the light and feels clean without being cold and functional.
This is the silver birch tree that I can see as I'm soaking in the tub....luckily, today is a beautiful day so she looks at her best! Of course, with leaves on she's even more stunning...but I love her skeletal form too and the birds use her as a roost so I get to see them as well....

This little painting is one of my absolute favourite things...it's by an artist called Roy Freer and is, I think, a scene in the South of France. But the colours remind me of Australia too.It was a 40th birthday present from my parents. It's calm, serene and beautiful and hangs on our landing wall...

Totally different but equally dear to me is this painting by my darling niece, Scout. Esther gave it to me for my birthday last year and it hangs in my writing room where the colours and the thought of my beautiful girl cheer & inspire me whenever I look at  it...

The view from our bedroom windows....the graveyard and the church. I absolutely adore living in a church square. There are no graves less than 130 years old, and I find it soothing and a privilege to look out on them.
we have the added pleasure of the church bells...the clock chimes every 15 minutes, day and night...and there's also the proper bells which are rung every Sunday, for weddings and on practice night too. Some people have asked if this is intrusive. Not to us! We are so used to them now that we wake in the night if they don't chime - which sometimes happens if the mechanism faulters. I don't know what we'd do without their unique and very English sound..
my reading corner....ahhh...my absolute favourite place in our house. I'd wanted a proper built in bookshelf for so long and we at last managed to find a proper, artesan craftsman to build one for us last Autumn. Then we found THE chair. The big leather footstool. The lamp looks perfect there too. And my ultimate moment of bliss, when the work is done each day, is to take a big cup of tea and my latest book and sink into the chair with Alice on my lap....heaven!

Talk of my little dog reminds me of this collection of mini-Alices of all sizes...we're always on the lookout for new additions and several are presents from dear friends...
And so to my most favourite of favourite things...

How could I not use the opportunity to post yet another picture of our beloved??

I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into my world. Or the tiny part of the world that is our home!

Have a wonderful Sunday and thanks so much for reading xo

Thursday, 6 January 2011

My January Garden

Just as I've started a New Year's Resolution on my other blog to post details of every bakery delivery I make to our local coffee shop, I've made one for this blog as well. In the first week of each month, I pledge to post about my garden...with photos taken in (roughly!) the same positions, so that we can see how it changes together over the year. I meant to do this in 2010, but I didn't think about it until February - and if you miss January then it's all a bit of a pointless exercise!

So I'll start with these pictures, which I took in the gloom and damp of this morning...we had heavy rain for most of yesterday afternoon and snow is forecast for tomorrow. But today the outdoor thermometer registers +2c...which feels quite warm compared to some of the temperatures we suffered in December!
ours is a small, walled, north-facing town garden. Relatively easy to keep an eye on, but big enough to be interesting!

I love this old bench....it's surprisingly comfortable-the little dish holds fresh water for the birds...

and this is what I call my 'bird tree'. They just adore it...there are many feeders hanging and I see so many different species - this morning: greenfinches, bluetits, hedge sparrows and our resident robin! Under the upturned metal bucket you can see on the right is a beautiful bowl of white hyacinth bulbs...getting ready to explode into scent and colour!

This is our 'David' who watches over the garden serenely...

my beautiful mophead hydrangeas are like papery ghosts right now. The old flower heads protect the new growth from the worst of the weather, so I won't remove them until late Spring...

My raised vegetable bed is covered in a thick layer of leaf mulch...but the olive trees seem to withstand all weathers and always look beautiful...
This old white ceramic 'butler's' sink holds some of my special herbs in Summer...and to the left of the picture you may be able to spot Paul's 'door in the wall'...a visual joke, but I love to think that it leads to a secret garden!

So, that's January...messy,brown, damp, patches of evergreen. A garden hibernating, nurturing the life that lies beneath the surface...and I hope it won't be too long before we begin to see some signs of the Spring to come...

There's always the rosemary to brighten everything....

Enjoy your day x