Showing posts with label houses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label houses. Show all posts

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.  The flower painting is by a local artist and I crocheted the shawl myself over 40 years ago while on holiday in Ibiza with my then husband, when our love was new.  A few years later our newborn babies were wrapped up in it, to keep them warm.  


I found this botanical painting in the Voewood book and art shop 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 what used to be my children's bookshelf.  Everything has a history and carries memories.

Perhaps the next project is to paint some of the rather dated pine furniture a soft 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!

Monday, 27 July 2015

A Taste of Sweden. Trosa - Windows









 Sweden is not having a good summer this year!  For us, living for three weeks there on a small boat when the sun plays hide and seek, the rain comes down in torrents and it is frequently cold and windy, is far from ideal.  

However, I have amused myself during the gaps between storms, wandering around a pretty town in the Archipelago, taking photos of pretty Swedish windows.  The Swedes certainly know how to dress a window beautifully!

Friday, 29 August 2014

A Taste of Sweden - Trosa



It was a chance meeting with Arno and Gita, a tricky mooring and a vicious tree attacking my partner as he helped them tie their boat up next to ours on the rocks at Ringson (followed by a compensatory gin and tonic on their boat) which led us to Trosa, a very pretty little town with a strong New England feel.  I think you can really see how Swedish style influenced building in parts of North America.


This gorgeous house reflects its surroundings, the light green of the roof tiles picking up the light green of the larger tree, while the colour of the railings and the small tree in the front garden are picked up by the window frame in the eaves, all sitting tranquilly beside the river.


Our favourite cafe, Kutter Konfect, which serves delicious coffee as well as hand-made marzipan and truffles.  The Swedes love their coffee and the quality is very high - a lovely, mellow flavour and just the right temperature. We never had a bad cup of coffee in Sweden - a real pleasure. 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The tulips are over now, but it was never just about the tulips

Tulips are among my favourite flowers and I can never resist their bright hopeful colours each Spring.  I remember I had some beautiful red tulips in a vase in my bedroom in North London when my second son was born 30 years ago now.  A home birth, the best and easiest of them all, my mother asleep in the bedroom above me, my 2 year old waking early to greet his new brother, astonished by the arrival of the tiny person he would grow up with, who would always be part of his life. Every year they creep into my home or grow in terracotta pots by the front door, as long as the dog doesn't get to them first!  These are the last tulips this year - I love the contrast with the deep blue hyacinths, perfect for my blue and white birthday jug.

People still come to view the house from time to time, but for the moment we have no offers so no decision can be made.  I can feel myself letting go bit by bit of all we have come to love here in East Anglia, but it is a real limbo we are in now.  Who knows what the right decision will be? 


I spent some time in Kent last week staying with an old friend and it felt so good to be there again, the chance meetings with people I go way back with, whose homes I have visited, whose children grew up with mine, whose history I have shared.  I know in my heart where I want to be, where my home will be.  When the time is right.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Tulips are so beautiful right now

Today is time out from all this madness of putting our house on the market and at the same time reassessing our lives, where we are now and how we want the future to unfold.  This turns out to be better than therapy and there are plenty of opportunities to contemplate the tulips while we try and make some tough decisions.  My jealously guarded pot of tulips has survived the further depredations of the dog, but she continues to show great interest in them!  Her other particular favourite flower to nibble is carnations

I am having serious second thoughts about the chain of events we have triggered.  Who are these strangers who trail through my home, poking about in my closets and demanding to know exactly how much sun we get in the courtyard, and when (it varies depending on the time of year, how high or low the sun is in the sky), then dismissing us for their own spurious and personal reasons as everyone chases their own particular version of the dream, the rural idyll.


Putting so much time and energy into our home recently has only made us love it more, appreciate all the things that work for us here, despite the things that don't.   Every little change we make, every detail we complete, every vision I have had for the house and garden that we are now realising, bonds us to it more.  It is such a jewel of a house, full of colour and love and it fits us perfectly now after the five years we have spent here.  The thought of starting again in another house with all the adjustments that will have to be made does seem increasingly daunting!  And life moves on.  I know things won't be the same again if we do make a move back but at the same time, I do miss my old friends and companions and would love to spend more time with them.




The memorial service for my friend was held last week in the lovely old village church in Kent where my youngest son was christened and where my mother used to join me for the annual candlelit carol service.  The church was full of old friends and familiar faces and of course everyone wanted to catch up with us and then I was so sure we were doing the right thing.  But my sons have all left home now and my mother is no longer alive so should I really disrupt our lives to chase a dream, a time that has vanished into thin air. Perhaps the answer is to make sure I spend more time there in future and keep up with my old friends but hold onto what we are building here?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Who ate the tulips?


I can always count on the dog to be on her worst behaviour when the stakes are high!  And the stakes are high right now. We have exhausted ourselves this past week, bringing the house and garden to near perfection in time for the photographer and I was so pleased with my matching pots of carefully nurtured tulip bulbs by the French doors in the courtyard garden, and looking forward to seeing them burst into glorious flower. 

They have been growing in the courtyard for weeks and the dog has totally ignored them up to now, but yesterday, sensing change and tension in the air, she totally vandalised one of the pots, ate the tulip heads and some of the bulbs, discarding the leaves: debris and compost strewn everywhere.  She was very apologetic and chastened after a serious ticking off and confinement to the kitchen for a couple of hours, where she can do no harm.



We are putting our lovely house on the market after 5 years and much indecision.  This is a beautiful house and we love the village, the surrounding countryside and coast, but it's not my home.  I have no roots here, no real reason for being in this place, especially now the boat is in the Baltic for the foreseeable future and the sailing was a big reason for moving up here.


We have been debating this issue for quite some time and failed to find a resolution, but things have crystallised now, following the sudden death of an old friend in Kent and the subsequent fallout, and I realised that most of the people who really mean something to me, who are part of my history and my family's history live in Kent and that I need to let go of what we have here and go where my heart is, where I have some good friends, people I can really share with.   Meeting new people, making new friends is healthy, but I need my old friends too, the ones I spent so many years forging bonds with, sharing dramas, school runs and stroppy teenagers.  People whose children I have known since they were tiny and who know mine.


So the house goes on the market next week and my remaining tulip pot has been moved to a more secure spot to be jealously guarded from the attentions of my naughty Labrador!



Thursday, 13 February 2014

Favourite Things

Stuff accumulates. It creeps into the house bit by bit, initially eagerly justifying its presence before falling into disuse and skulking in drawers, cupboards, lofts and garages. I swear it is breeding there right now! There are definitely no-go areas in my house, drawers and cupboards full of discarded things that I can't quite decide what to do with.  The loft is another country...

Of course, there has been much de-cluttering over the years, much editing of possessions as our needs have changed and we have moved from house to house.  There have been car boot sales, garage sales and many visits to the charity shop and the tip, but still some things continue to make the cut for whatever reason.  I still keep a few of the children's clothes from when they were tiny - nothing quite so well evokes a time and a place.  The other day, I tried to throw out some old cookery books, but made the mistake of looking through them first and found myself lost in another world.  Our eating and cooking habits have changed greatly in the 30 years or so since I first acquired them but still they engaged me and earned a reprieve.

I was thinking recently about what I still hold onto from the time I first came to live in London in the 1970's to start my independent life; my early forays into re-inventing myself and attempts at home-making and these are some of my favourite things.


I found this amazing dress in a vintage shop in Covent Garden shortly after I moved to London and started my first job, moved into my first London flat share.  It is an original 1920's silk/satin dress and I wore it to the parties I attended at the time in South London with students from Guy's, Tommy's and King's (are they still there?) who lived in the flat below.  Wafting around in a maxi dress felt so good.  Of course I fell for the handsome, raffish young medical student I met there who promptly broke my heart, instead of the devoted, smitten but less viscerally attractive young dental student who would have cherished me!  I know better now.

The dress is nearly a 100 years old and deserves another reincarnation soon - I think it still has a few more parties in it and maxi dresses are fashionable again. Perhaps one of my new daughters (in and out of law) will adopt it one day.





I couldn't afford this lovely cream throw that I found in Heals in Tottenham Court Road when I was working at the Middlesex but I loved it so much that I bought it anyway and it has graced various sofas in many houses over the years and more than earned its keep.

Children have curled up on it to watch films after school, puppies have jumped up on it for illicit cuddles and it is a favourite venue for my cats who like to sit along the top, making a mucky indentation lined with shed fur and muddy paw prints, but it all just washes off and looks as good as new again.


This colourful enamel tray came from Nice Irma's Floating Carpet, a hippy emporium in Goodge Street, around the same time and it has brightened up the work surface in every kitchen I have ever had.  It is still in daily use for our early morning cup of tea in bed.  I was drawn to the strong colours which are still as sharp today as when I bought it.  
I love the way some things just form the fabric of a life and translate from one place and time to another, providing a thread of continuity, each with their own story to tell and all part of my sons' memories of home, wherever home might be.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Nostalgia

"Footfalls echo in the memory 
Down the passage we did not take 
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose garden
My words echo thus
In your mind"

Burnt Norton - T S Eliot

We drove past my old home the other day, on a brief visit to Kent, and stopped for a moment in the road outside.  A house I once lived in, a home that once was mine, a garden I once loved, an orchard where children played and a life that fitted me like a glove; a door that once was open to me, now closed for ever.


It is a strange thing, to so utterly possess a house, to sweep through the white five bar gate and park my car in the drive outside, put my key in the latch and go inside, to find my life laid out there, my possessions just as I left them, my pets waiting for me, my family coming and going, to wander outside, sit and have a cup of coffee making plans for my day, answer the telephone, put a wash on, go for a walk.  Ordinary, everyday things. And then one day it's finished.  Someone else has the keys.  I am a trespasser now and my life has moved elsewhere.

Drive on by, it's not my home anymore.  It exists only in my mind.






Monday, 17 May 2010

Stardust

Nobody said it was easy.

Sometimes there's a glimmer of hope and I start to think that I really can do this, I really can make a life here, but the truth is I'm like a plant without a tap root, frantically trying to push out a network of fine fragile new roots into the somewhat reluctant soil to compensate for what is lost, and I feel discouraged.

I know I've been here before, more than once, in a new place, building a new life and I also know that it takes time and that, sometimes, it never takes at all and you just have to go back to where you were and begin again from that place, and maybe that's going to be the answer in the end.  We no longer have children to help establish us in a strange place and I am struggling to find meaningful work and ways of passing the time.  People are very kind, but I have no deep connection with them and I'm not sure I have the will to keep trying.

There are wonderful things about life here.  The house is as lovely and welcoming as we had hoped, the village is idyllic though very sleepy and set in it's ways, the surrounding countryside is stunningly beautiful and we are enjoying exploring our new terrain.  We plan to carry on getting to know this part of the world, to enjoy what is available to us, to sail all over the coastline this summer exploring the inlets and rivers and try not to worry too much about the uncertain future. 

But I miss the life I had, with all its mess and difficulties.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Create

Create it says at the top of the page, and that is what I'm trying to do. Create a new future, a different sort of life for myself, as the old one collapses around me.

One thing is for sure, things cannot go on as they are. I know I can no longer afford to live in this house, now the maintenance payments have slowed to a trickle and could dry up at any time. I know my youngest son will leave school this year, hopefully to start an independent life for himself at University. And I know that my hands are telling me in no uncertain terms that I can no longer earn an income with them, as the joints swell and burn. No ambiguous messages there then, so what next?



We have talked through the worries we both have about moving in together, my lover and I, about making a life together, and it's exciting and scary in equal measure, but somehow we seem to have moved from 'shall we live together' to 'where shall we live together'. We could go almost anywhere, all our children now being young adults, and that's both liberating and frightening. We have a life here, friends, work, things we enjoy doing together. Could we find all the things we need in a strange place? Can we make a fresh start somewhere new?

We have looked at houses and they all have problems - one is a complete wreck and needs renovating, another is perfect, but a little too expensive and in the middle of Suffolk, another snatched from under our noses, and yet another is liable to flooding.

I keep looking for a sign, a way forward. These are tough decisions and there are no easy answers. Where are the angels when you need them?

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Happy Christmas

It just sort of creeps up on you, sometime after the last firework fizzles out, and before you know it there's just a few days to go and a whole Christmas production to put on. If I didn't do it, who would? I don't think any of the people who will be sitting around my table this Christmas Day would consider making Christmas happen, and yet each year somehow it all comes together and we always have a magical day.

This Christmas will be bitter-sweet for me, as I know I will have to leave this lovely house sometime in the coming year, I know change is coming, so amongst all the giving and receiving, the sense of family and love and warmth, there will be sadness too.

I don't know what happens next; my future is an open book and the next chapter has no heading yet. I just hope I can find a way through this maze, and keep shining.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Eight Interesting Things

Eight interesting things? Well, most of them are already in my blog or will be - now I shall have no secrets left.

The oldest house I have ever lived in was built in the 1380s. It was very, very difficult to clean. There was a mouse nesting in an ancient sofa in my bedroom when we moved in and it would scuttle about the room at night, but refused to be caught, although we trapped it in the end. The bedroom floor sloped dramatically so you had to get your sea legs upstairs, and the bed had to be propped up at the head to even things out. The house overlooked the marsh and was very atmospheric.

I have moved house more times than I care to remember and now have it down to a fine art. Removal men congratulate me on the quality and efficiency of my packing.

When I turned 50 (am I prepared to admit that?) I decided to grow my hair again, get my ears pierced and buy a bikini. Now I need to lose a few pounds so I can wear the bikini in public and I have a serious earring habit.

Neither of my parents were born in this country, but I consider myself to be quintessentially English. My mother was born on a Prairie Farm in Saskatuan and my father's family came over from Ireland during the troubles in the 1920s, following death threats which they took very seriously indeed.

I have never learned to ride a bike, nor a horse, nor have I ever sailed, but I am hoping to try sailing this summer. I think I will probably give the other two a miss now.

I have used up at least four of my nine lives, but am enjoying the five I have left.

I can speak to babies and small children in French, having worked as an au pair in Brussels when I was very young. I developed a strong attachment to Belgian chocolate while I was there. It was the only thing that kept me sane.

I once drove straight on to the roundabout on the A2, near Blackheath and stopped there. It was entirely my ex-husband's fault. He was supposed to be teaching me to drive and I hadn't done roundabouts yet. I was still on traffic lights. Lots of people were very surprised to see us sitting there as I waited for instructions on how to come off roundabouts and rejoin the busy weekend traffic on the A2.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Comfortably Numb

 "There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship-shape on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can't hear what you are saying"
Pink Floyd

A friend of mine is a journalist and writer. A wordsmith. Luckily he has private means otherwise he could be destitute! I borrowed his lovely medieval hall house for a month a couple of years ago when I was between houses just at the point when my ex-husband was re-marrying in great state and at enormous expense.

Although I had been dreading leaving the rented house that had been my home for seven years and did not yet have a contract on the house I am now living in, just a promise and a prayer, I found putting everything into storage and travelling light was a curiously liberating experience. My three cats agreed unfortunately and promptly liberated themselves at the first opportunity, to be found after much heart-break and searching, back in the woodshed of my old home a few weeks later. Two are still with me now.

'Do you ever write?' he asked me one day. 'Not really', I replied. 'I dabble. I have written a bit about the break-up of my marriage'. 'Oh', he responded rather dismissively, 'is that what you write about? Female pain?'

When I first started this blog I put the question 'What do you do if it all goes horribly wrong?' As anyone who has been in this situation knows, when you have finished falling apart, you do what you have to do. You survive, you change, you grow. Yes, I can write about female pain, why wouldn't I? But I'm a woman, I can do a whole lot else besides.