Saturday, 27 September 2014

Farewell Summer....

 Nearly October, and the year is turning....the garden is getting ready for the cold that's to come...
 ...even though the days have been golden and, at times, very warm...the nights are so much colder now and the darkness creeps in more quickly every evening....
 I see the changes everywhere...leaves curl & brown....
 ...the tomatoes are almost finished, their vines are dry & drooping around them now...
 ...for the very first time we have real, life-size olives on the tree! They won't ripen, of course...but it's wonderful to see them...
 The ivy has begun to bloom, attracting the last drowsy bees and wasps before the flowers turn into dark berries along the old garden wall...
 ...and still the bright, cheerful nasturtiums keep everything from looking too scruffy...I just adore their hot colours and dinner plate sized leaves...so do the bumble bees and the cabbage white butterflies who lay their tiny orange eggs on the underside...
 ...they do take over a bit at this time of year...but I'm happy to let them...all too soon they'll be gone as well! The flowers also taste delicious...I often snack on a peppery bloom as I'm pulling weeds...which brings me to my favourite moment of the working day right now. I come home from the kitchen and make myself something delicious...
...like this concoction of our own tomatoes and basil, with pecorino cheese, toasted on my friend Charlie's handmade sourdough bread....
...and then Alice and I go out on the deck into the sunshine, where she snoozes and I eat...and we both decide that life is pretty wonderful!

I hope you've had a great week...and enjoy the last days of September...x

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Spanish Surprise...

 Most happily-partnered people believe that their other half is nigh-on perfect...and I am no exception. My faith was more than justified last weekend when I was whisked away for a surprise 3 night break in....
 Seville!
 I was told nothing...except that it would be hot, and that I'd need my passport....SO exciting! I didn't know our destination until we looked up at the departure screen at the airport, but it's somewhere we've both wanted to explore for a while...
 We stayed in a gorgeous, small townhouse bed & breakfast in the heart of the old Jewish quarter...with streets so narrow that the tops of the houses either side almost touched across them...
 ...just 6 rooms were arranged over 3 floors around a central atrium...with a roof terrace bathed in sunshine...
 ...such a calm and cool place...I sat in this chair to write on the Sunday morning...Mozart's 2nd Horn Concerto floated through the open french doors from somewhere further down the street...could it have been any more perfect?!
Seville is right at the heart of Andalucian flamenco country...some of the outfits were amazing! I even spotted a shop selling special Flamenco underwear - I guess to help smooth the way into these figure huggers! It's also a very religious area...a few streets near the cathedral were full of shops competing for the papal euros!
Another thing that Spain - and Andalucia in particular - is famous for, is bullfighting. Thankfully, this hideously cruel and archaic practise is now outlawed in the province of Catalunya...and I can only hope that this is extended throughout the country in the near future. There were many bars that we avoided as they were decorated with the severed heads of these majestic and beautiful creatures. It may be traditional, but then so was bear-baiting and burning witches at the stake once! So, instead of photographing anything to do with the real thing, I found this rather lovely and comical fibreglass version peeking out of a t-shirt shop...
Southern Spain and its architecture is so heavily influenced by the Moors who once occupied this area...and what an amazing legacy they left...the colours are gorgeous...there is a particular deep blue that I always associate with this place...
...and as contemporary as it gets, Las Setas de Sevilla (setas are mushrooms - you'll see why!) is a brand new construction (it's actually made of wood!) that sits in a formerly run down part of the city and houses the fruit & vegetable market...
 
You can take a lift to the top, where there is a walkway all the way around with amazing views over the city and a great terrace to enjoy a drink while taking in the scenery...

We loved the juxtaposition of very old with very new....but, naturally, our favourite places were the many bars and restaurants....the tapas culture is an appealing one! You find a bar, order a drink and a tiny plate or two of delicious food...spinach with chickpeas and (very) garlicky prawns were two favourites...very reasonable prices too! They are popular with all sorts of people...the Spanish love children and they are used to eating out from an early age. Then you move on, and do it all again!
It's usually cheaper to eat sitting up at the bar, perched on a stool...there is an extra charge for table service. But it's much more fun to stand in a crowd, elbow to elbow, trying to attract the waiter's attention! The picture below was probably our favourite 'haunt' of the weekend...an hour before this was taken, it was absolutely heaving with people...
...see the legs of 'jamon iberico' (Iberican ham, from free-range pigs who graze on acorns) hanging from the ceiling? Ubiquitous all over Spain...
The images I will take home are of colour and pattern...beautifully decorated tiles and woven textiles...


...everywhere you look! Even the walls of the many, many churches are decorated with lavishly painted tableaux...

...my other memory will be of the heat. Bearable but intense. Siesta never seemed such a good idea! There is a whiteness to the sun's glare in the middle of the day that is unmatched anywhere I've been before, except perhaps Australia...
...and walking home late at night, arm in arm, with a salted caramel ice cream slowly melting in my hand...the velvet darkness chirping with cicadas...the streets lined with citron trees, heavy with fragrant fruits...feeling so lucky and happy...

Good memories....and a very special weekend.

I hope you are having fun today, wherever you are! xx

Saturday, 6 September 2014

If these walls could talk...

 And so September has begun. Thus far it's been warm, with golden afternoons...just as I love them to be..
 ...full of dandelions and the first curled, crisping leaves falling in the churchyard. I've posted briefly before about the walls that surround us here, and some of the marks on them...but after almost 15 years I've only recently begun to stop and properly look at them. Our museum, which has some walls that run parallel to the church path, was once the Boys Grammar School in town (long since moved)...and I've noticed that many of those boys left their mark...

 Who was 'W. Yates' I wonder? You can distinguish the old graffiti from the new (which is, of course, there too) by the much more ornate formation of the letters...

 Proper handwriting would have been drummed into 'G.Cox' back in 1915...

 Isn't it wonderful to see this and wonder? Humans have always and will always want to make their mark...
 ...to leave a sign that they were once here....that they mattered...

 (I loved this glazed brick too...)
 I think I see 1835 in the traces above....
 The back walls of the school (and there was another school and a workhouse situated behind it, too) were used to sharpen slate pencils...
 ...for many, many years, judging by the deep grooves that are left...
Our neighbours' garden was once a walled orchard and dates back to the 1600s...
as I passed on my way home I was delighted to find that someone long ago had etched this little butterfly into the brick...

 ...and whose cat was wandering in the brickworks that day?! When you live in an area with so much history, you begin to learn how to spot it everywhere you look. Our home was part of a farmhouse when it was built in the late 18th century, and this cobbled area on the pavement....
...marks the spot where the carts and carriages would have travelled in and out of the farmyard....before the 'modern' Victorian cottages were built that now stand where the cowsheds and manure piles once did. And long, long before any of us who live here now were even thought of...even our 95 year old next door neighbour, who has seen so much happen during his long life. Humbling. Inspiring. And quite, quite wonderful!

Have a fabulous weekend! x