Friday, 26 August 2016

Stockholm to Helsinki Part I



The strong, bright Scandinavian sunshine bouncing off the water when we arrive in Stockholm is always shocking after our cool, washed out English summer light.

This time, we were just passing through on our way to join the boat in Mariehamn in the Aland Islands between Sweden and Finland, but as our hotel was just around the corner, there was enough time for a browse around my favourite design shop, Svenskt Tenn full of gorgeous, covetable soft furnishings.

The Viking Ferry took the scenic route, through the Stockholm Archipelago and we sat on deck with a refreshing gin and tonic, watching the glorious sunset, for once far above the waves and with nothing to do but enjoy the view.


Although my husband had gone out a week earlier, the boat was still in bits when I arrived, but luckily the couple who own the boatyard also rent out several holiday cottages and we were lucky enough to be given the ground floor of the old family home, known as Mormor's (Grandmother's) House. Light, sunny, full of beautiful old Swedish cut glass, pottery and throws, and set in an orchard overlooking the bay, staying here for a few days was no hardship as I had often longed to spend some time in one of these charming, traditional, red-painted summer houses.


In Sweden, the idyllic and the industrial are often found in close proximity, so although the view from the front of the house was of the gardens and the orchard, the view from the kitchen window was of a working boatyard, but I found this equally charming as the evening light slowly faded away.


At last our small sailing boat was ready to leave its winter quarters, towed by the local apple farmer, who also runs the boatyard, and was launched into the water ready for our next adventure. 





Home for the next few weeks!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Blue Bedroom

One blue-grey and white bedroom finished, apart from re-carpeting.  Another time.  I love the colour, which changes with the light and the time of day and works well with the curtains we put up a few years ago, after a sailing holiday in Holland.  They remind me of washed-out Dutch skies, and the walls needed to fit that theme too.  It's a very soft and restful colour and I am enjoying adding the finishing touches.  

The old french chair was re-upholstered using an antique french sheet, and the cushion was made from french fabrics found in flea markets by Jenny at Rosehip in Long Melford.  One of my favourite Suffolk shops.


I found this botanical painting in a closing down sale in the North Norfolk town of Holt, where we spent our short honeymoon last May.  The picture is painted on vellum, as was the fashion in the 18th century when these paintings were so popular.  It looks very comfortable in its new frame above a bookshelf. 

Perhaps the next project is to paint some of the rather dated pine furniture a smart off-white. Something to keep me busy in the Autumn when the garden is less demanding.


Clothes, shoes, cushions, handbags and scarves, all magically disappeared into the spacious wardrobe in the corner of the room!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Stuff

Most of yesterday was spent clearing out my bedroom for the decorator who arrived this morning at an ungodly hour. The room is going to be transformed by the pretty pale blue-grey colour I have chosen, having bought far too many sample pots of various shades of blue - everything from barely there to the darkest possible Georgian blue which I love in magazines but am not quite brave enough to use.  

And this is the problem.  So much choice, so many sample pots.  Why?  I knew after the third colour I tried out that my search was over; this colour was perfect.  What to do now with all the other little pots? Projects I suppose.  Repaint the kitchen chairs and small items of furniture or paint plant pots, perhaps.  A pity not to use them but more jobs to add to the endless and ever growing to-do list.  


But the stuff that came out of my bedroom! Especially out of my wardrobe.  Where did it all come from? How did it get there and why did I want/need it?  So many pairs of shoes?  So many scarves? And the earrings, necklaces, handbags and clutch bags, jackets, dresses ...  all no doubt bought for a reason at some point.  The clothes I needed for a job I no longer have, special occasion clothes for a party or wedding, too nice to let go but probably not to be worn again, unless I take to going to the village shop or walking the dogs in them! Not entirely practical. 





The spare bedroom now looks like a branch of an Oxfam shop.  In my head I would love to be someone who buys only one or two carefully chosen pieces but this has never happened and probably never will. Instead, I am a magpie!  




The sooner it all disappears back into the various nooks and crannies of my bedroom, the better.  I shall no doubt do a bit of desultory pruning, a few books to the charity shop, a few pairs of the high heeled shoes I can no longer wear put on ebay, perhaps, and a big note to self. For goodness sake, stop buying scarves!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Chagall Stained Glass at All Saints Church, Tudeley






















As I opened the door of the small, unassuming, 12th century Kent country church and stepped out of the bright June sunshine into the quiet peace of the interior, I gasped with pleasure at the sight that met my eyes! It was like stepping into a box of jewels.

Although I had been aware for many years that there was a stained glass window painted by Marc Chagall at All Saints Church in Tudeley, Kent and had meant to visit one day, bizarrely it took a move to Suffolk and a random diversion on our way home after a family wedding, which brought us here. Knowing the lie of the land, we had diverted into the network of country lanes, trying to avoid the traffic jams on the A21, and it was pure serendipity that I spotted the signpost to Tudeley as we flashed past.  

What I hadn't realised was that there was not only one Chagall stained glass window here but 12! The entire church has been re-glazed with his painting and the effect is simply stunning.  The only other building in the world which is completely glazed with Chagall's work is a synagogue in Jerusalem.  

Chagall was commissioned by the parents of Sarah d'Avigdor Goldsmid who sadly drowned off the coast of Sussex when she was only 21 years old.  Her grieving parents, a local family, knowing she loved his work, asked Chagall initially to paint the window above the altar, which symbolises death and resurrection, in 1967.  He was so pleased with this work (the first photo) that he asked if he could paint all the other stained glass windows in the church.  Despite local opposition to replacing the existing Victorian stained glass, permission was eventually granted and he completed the work in 1985.  All the paintings are biblical and follow the theme of creation, the fall and redemption, and the promise that God gives us of restoration and recreation.  

I find some comfort in that thought today in the midst of the turmoil we are currently experiencing here in the UK.  

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The North Norfolk Coast



It's been a while since I last posted and looking back through my drafts for inspiration, I found these photos of our trip last May to the North Norfolk coast which we visited following our wedding. 

It was a short visit, but packed with lovely memories, and I was particularly pleased to find these photos saved in my draft folder as Microsoft has very unkindly managed to lose all my documents and photos when it insisted that I install Windows 10!  Luckily I had saved most of my work to the Cloud, but not all, and these precious memories would have been lost had it not been for my blog.  

We stayed at Byfords in the lovely Georgian town of Holt and were thoroughly spoilt!  This pretty bunch of spring flowers came from the Delicatessan in Cley next the Sea

















Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Staying put

The subconscious plays strange tricks.  Deciding to acquire Oskar, our new puppy, was an emotional decision and totally impractical given our plans to move house and downsize to a busier, more urban environment with better facilites and transport links to our growing extended family, preferably back in the rather overcrowded South East of England where we brought up our children (despite this being our second marriage, the children grew up in the same area and were educated at the same school, so lots of ties there). 
All sensible, reasonable, carefully thought through and definitely achievable with one older, settled dog (and the three cats who are well used to upping sticks anyway). But the subconscious was having none of it!

We are still enjoying a love affair with our pretty village house, very much off the beaten track and on the road to nowhere in particular, and with the gorgeous countryside that surrounds us. We can step out of our gate and be in fields in minutes, well away from noise, traffic and pollution and revelling in the space and unspoilt beauty of this part of Suffolk.  Ideal for dog walking and yet within driving distance of so many places we enjoy visiting.  Perhaps if we had found another house we could fall in love with, our decision would have been different, although given the cost and disruption of a house move, it would have had to be very special indeed.  

I have also had to face the fact that my wish to move is very much linked to a strong desire to turn the clock back.  Back to a time and place where I was happy in my role as mother and daughter, where I had a job I enjoyed and found interesting and was surrounded by like-minded friends, very much the hub of my family and part of a community, but life has moved on, choices have been made and for now, it is clear that Oskar has helped us to crystallise our thoughts and, after two years of uncertainty and playing the options, tolerating hoards of strangers tramping through our much loved home, always believing that there would be the perfect house for us out there, we are settling for what we have.  We are simply not ready to give up our country life yet. The colour charts have come out and I am having Rightmove withdrawal symptoms, but we do have two happy, contented dogs (and the cats would be relieved too)!  Of course Oskar is totally oblivious to his role in our decision and is happily getting on with the business of being a puppy but he has certainly changed our lives in more ways than one and I have found out why I needed him in my life.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Winter in Amsterdam

Winter suits Amsterdam.  Even in mid-March there are still splinters of ice in the North wind and the cold blue-grey light is the perfect backdrop for the monochrome colour palette of the city, with its network of canals bordered by merchants houses, still as beautiful and harmonious today as when they were built.

We spent my recent birthday there, staying on the Herengracht, one of the prettiest canals in Amsterdam, browsing around the markets and churches, enjoying the ambiance in the cafes, shops and restaurants, and admiring the art in the museums and galleries, chatting with the very friendly locals and hopping on and off trams whilst trying to avoid the bikes which seem to come flying from all directions!  

Amsterdam has many faces and most of these photos were taken in the Nine Streets area near our hotel.  This area is lovely by day...







... and by night.  In the evenings, we would walk around the Nine Streets after dinner, admiring the stark winter-bare trees against the night sky and the lit-up windows of the beautiful old houses. 







 I was particularly fascinated by the shop windows, lit up at night and full of colour and life













A great city for a short break and one I look forward to revisiting one day.