Friday, 27 April 2012

Bluebells beginning & those giveaway results...

I'm sorry that this post is a little late....the week has been such a busy one, and I'm breathing a sigh of relief that it's Friday and the weekend will bring a chance to relax & regroup! Many exciting things happening work-wise which will be revealed in due course...but they need thinking & planning time which I have to fit in somewhere!
The cold & rainy weather has continued here all week....it has its benefits, one of which is that Spring seems to be holding back a little instead of continuing its headlong rush...but I did notice on my walk with Alice yesterday that the bluebells are just starting to emerge...
in a week or so this will be a carpet of cobalt...but I love the 'blue fuzz' that tips the green right now. Full of promise!
We took a detour through the beech woods yesterday...the sun came out for a few minutes as we ploughed through the mud, and the light glowed through the soft new leaves...

My dear friend Susan Branch calls it 'screaming green'...but at the moment it's just softly calling! The screaming will begin in a few more days...
When the sun does show itself, it's beautifully warm...the promise of things to come. The lilacs in the churchyard are almost out too...everything is burgeoning..
So much beauty everywhere I look!

And now, that giveaway! Thanks so much for all your entries...I loved hearing about your special books and it seems that Anne is a real favourite with everyone. Just to let you know, I put everyone into the draw...whether they've won before or not, and wherever they live! If you are sweet enough to read my blog and leave a comment, you deserve the same chance as anyone else!
The winner this time was.....
Martha Ellen!
Well done, sweetie - I know that you will love the beautiful book & the tea towel is so gorgeous that I've ordered another one for myself! Could you please let me know your postal address? Either by emailing me at the address shown at the top of this blog, or you can Direct Message me on Twitter if you do that...I am @MozartsGirl . I will then pack them up & send them right off to you with my love!
Thanks again to everyone...I hope you've had a good week and that your weekend is wondrous!
xoxo


Sunday, 15 April 2012

A Spring Giveaway....

It seems ages since my last giveaway. I've had such a busy week, cooking and spring cleaning (nothing like the promise of treasured house guests to sweep away the cobwebs...metaphorical AND real!) Every morning on my walks with Alice, I've noticed beautiful little signs that the new season is really with us...
although the chilly temperatures are making sure that everything blooms at the right pace....the bluebells have been held back, when a few weeks ago I thought they would explode - far too early.
Thanks for all your wonderful comments on my recent posts - I found the discussions sparked by my 'Desert Island Books' to be especially interesting.
Because 'Anne of Green Gables' seems to have touched just about everyone, I thought it would be fitting to offer a very special copy as my first giveaway prize.
I know that most of you will already have the book - but this is a collector's edition, published by Everman's Library. And you can never have too many copies of a wonderful story!

Cloth-bound and with gorgeous illustrations...

this may be one you will want to pass on to your daughter...or grand-daughter...or another special little girl (or just keep for yourself to treasure!)
It will be sent to you with my love, and with an extra gift...and  a reminder of another fabulous children's tale... I love Frances Hodgson Burnett's 'The Secret Garden' (also 'A Little Princess) and this beautiful tea towel
from Kitchen Sink Dramas (great name for a teatowel company!) is printed with a snippet of that magical story. Almost too good to use!
So, as usual, all that you need to do to be included in the draw for my Spring Giveaway is to leave me a comment and tell me (if you haven't already) your Desert Island Book.
The draw will be made on Wednesday 25th April which is also Anzac Day.
Good luck - and thanks so much for reading xo



Sunday, 8 April 2012

A Golden Day....

Happy Easter! It's cold & grey here...rain just starting to fall a little as the day turns into early evening...yesterday was much the same, but it didn't matter a bit because the day was Golden for our family! It was my parents' 50th wedding anniversary...and we had planned a special lunch party for them.
Mum knew about it, but it was a complete surprise for Dad...and as it was taking place at their farm, we had to get them out of the house the day before so that we could prepare! So they went to London...stayed the night...and had a fabulous romantic dinner at one of their very favourite restaurants, The Providores where they were treated like royalty. While they were gone, my youngest sister, Lucy, & I got down to work...
 There were 14 guests...so we set up some long tables in the conservatory. Lucy had 'blown' 16 eggs and painted them gold...
and I customised some Lindt chocolate bunnies by replacing their red collars with gold ribbons...
and we placed them down the centre of the table

We found Mum's beautiful, simple ivory silk wedding dress and put it on display in one corner...
Lucy found some large cardboard numbers and sprayed them gold too...and William & I stuck some gold stars on the windows to make a little focal point at the back of the room...
We stuck original photographs from the day around the edge of the conservatory too...here's one of my favourites...
Mum on her way to the ceremony on the arm of my lovely grandad. Can you see her hand is blurred because she's waving happily to someone in the crowd? So sweet...
We photocopied some pictures too, to dress the entrance door...
and in the middle of the morning, as if on cue, a florists van arrived bearing gorgeous bouquets...
this one was from Esther & the children in Australia...

they sent a CD of wonderful music too, from the 1930's & 40's...fabulous romantic numbers to play at the party...
And,of course, I cooked the lunch too! More of that on my food blog tomorrow...
After a quick shower & change, we were ready! Paul went to the train station to pick up the 'Oldyweds'...Dad was totally amazed! Especially when the first guests arrived.. including his brother David, who had been his Best Man at the wedding!
Paul manned the bar and made sure glasses were charged with cold prosecco at all times...old and dear friends greeted each other...and all was happiness and joy!
Many highlights and wonderful memories...
Uncle David gave an updated Best Man's speech...half a century on...
Mum & Dad looked radiant...as if in their 20's again!
After lunch, they cut the cake together...
as they had 50 years before.
It was such a special day. I felt so proud...not too many children get to throw a Golden Wedding celebration for their parents.
We are so lucky.
Congratulations to them both...still in love...
from that day, so long ago...
to this!

Wishing you much joy too this Easter & Passover!
xoxo











Monday, 2 April 2012

Raindrops on roses....

This weekend was much colder...Saturday was overcast all day and we snuck off to a matinee performance of the National Theatre's touring production of Travelling Light, which starred Sir Antony Sher. It is so wonderful to have an amazing new theatre within 5 minutes walk of home! It's as close as the cinema....now we just have to get used to using it!

I've been doing a lot of spring cleaning recently...I just took a big bag of stuff to the local RSPCA charity shop. It wasn't rubbish...rather bits and pieces that are still good, but that we just don't need or have room for. Clothes that don't quite fit or look right...costume jewellery that I bought on a whim, without thinking about whether it would suit me! Baking accessories that I just will never use (purple plastic cupcake stackers that someone sweetly gave me...) Things that I hope others will love and get some use from. It feels really good to do this...even though I have to steel myself every time. I constantly fight that instinct that says 'keep it in case'!!
One thing that I do find impossible to throw out is a book...I just can't do it. I'll pass them on to friends or family, but I so love to read & reread...even if I only pick out favourite passages the second or third time. Paul is the same, luckily...we always find space for more! So today I thought you might like to see my 'special ones'. My desert island pile....the books I would absolutely hate to be without, ever. So much so that I have several editions of most of these...just in case I mislay or lend one and don't get it back!
First, the ones I've loved since childhood. Of course, I found it so hard to choose...Little Women, the 'Katy' stories, the 'Little House' series. But in the end, it had to be...
This edition was originally my Mum's. It's faded & misshapen & stained (it's fallen in the bath at least once!) But I so love the story of Anne (with an 'e') the red-haired, feisty little orphan who is taken in by kind-hearted Matthew & his crusty old sister, Marilla...even though they had really asked for a boy to help around their farm. It's so charming...still makes me laugh & cry and I can recite whole chunks!
Next, another book that my Mum passed down to me...not well known at all in contrast to Anne...
'Nuts in the Rookery' by Mathena Blomefield. It's an autobiographical account of her childhood, growing up in rural Norfolk at the end of the 1800's. This is actually the second she wrote - I managed to find the first, 'The Bulleymung Pit', just a few years ago. Wonderful. The cover is just brown, which is why I show the title page! Mum must have given it to me when I was about 5 years old...how do I know? Because I 'autographed' the endpapers....
As you can see, I was no artist!!
All of Alison Uttley's books are gems - this is my favourite. Quite similar to 'Nuts...' in that it's an autobiographical account of her childhood (although she's called 'Susan' in it) at around the same time. My addiction to history started pretty early! This one is still in print, but if you ever come across one like this, with illustrations by C.F Tunnicliffe, then snap it up!
Growing up now...

You might expect me to include something about my beloved! I've always really enjoyed reading scripts & screenplays. 'Amadeus' is in my top 5 movies...but this book is the script of the original play it was adapted from. Different in many ways...but it will always take me back to the magical night, over 30 years ago, when I first saw it performed at Her Majesty's Theatre in London. From the minute the curtain went up, I had goosebumps. Amazing. I once met the playwright, Peter Shaffer...and I was able to tell him just how much his creation had affected me.Such a special moment!
I have many, many books on Mozart....but on my desert island, I would have to take this volume of his letters over the others. Because they are his voice!
Another script I would take is 'Journey's End' by R.C Sherriff. Written just after the end of WW1 by someone who went through it. The language, the characters & the story...incredibly & almost painfully moving. I have seen the play a few times, and reading this brings it back to life for me.
The First World War is something I have always been drawn to...and now I'm writing a novel about it, even more so...

'Chronicle of Youth' by Vera Brittain is...sublime. Another of her books on the same subject, 'Testament of Youth' is more well known - I love that too. But this is the one I would take, because it is her actual diary of those  years, and so we see the story unfolding as she did...and so we feel as though it's happening in real time. This desperately poignant tale of how she lost her fiancee, beloved only brother and two other close friends in WW1 encompasses the loss & futility of that period for me. 'Letters from a Lost Generation' is a compilation of the letters that passed between them all during that time, and fleshes out the characters & personalities involved. Unputdownable.
Neil Oliver's great book 'Not Forgotten' traces the stories that are to be found by stopping & looking at the names WW1 memorials...fascinating and informative, and he writes in a very personal way as though you are sharing a conversation.


While I'm on the subject of loss & tragedy....Claude Lanzmann's documentary film 'Shoah' should, I think, be required viewing for all teenagers as part of their studies. It's 11 hours long...but nothing for me has had a greater impact than these real people who experienced the holocaust (on all sides) simply talking. This transcript is treasured. The second book is so uplifting...it contains true stories of camp survivors and how they rebuilt their lives after liberation. Amazing lives. Such bravery and spirit.

I've put these two together, because they are both novels about women...and transformation...and ultimate happiness. 'Precious Bane' is a treasure and 'The Enchanted April' never fails to lift my heart.

Similarly, 'Dared and Done'....about the incredible clandestibe courtship & happy marriage of Elizabeth Barrett & Robert Browning is a courageous, romantic & triumphant story of love and its power to change everything.
Looking at this list, it seems that I generally prefer non-fiction...so it may be a surprise that my book of books is a novel. The one that I would choose (if I absolutely had to!) is...
'Rebecca'
I know that it's not a particularly original choice. But since I first read it at the age of 9, it has captured my heart. It is, to me, perfect. Several sequels and alternative endings have been written by other authors...they are superfluous, I think. Even the great Laurence Olivier & Joan Fontaine couldn't quite capture the magic, although they had Hitchcock's help...
It is a book of it's time, capturing the feeling of the 1930's as if I could walk through a door straight into it....it's a thriller....it's a truly fantastic piece of storytelling...and it's a great love story too.
I can pick it up the minute I finish and begin all over again...and find something new every time. And that's why it's my Number One!
Reading this post again, it occurs to me that my choices are fairly 'heavy'! I do read and enjoy all sorts of books...but I think that the ones I've chosen reflect the fact that I love to learn when I read...to experience different times & places and to take something from them.
I'd love to know your Number One - if you have one - & why it's special to you.
Thanks so much for your lovely comments, they are so much appreciated...and I hope that you have a wonderful week. Happy April - I hope it's Enchanted for all of us! xo