Sunday, 21 August 2016

Blue Bedroom

One blue-grey and white bedroom finished!  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 rosehipinthecountry.com The flower painting is by a local artist and I crocheted the shawl myself many years ago while on holiday in Ibiza with my first husband.  A few years later our newborn babies were wrapped up in it.


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 but 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 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.  

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 recent 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


Deli in Cley

Wiverton

Verandah in Holt

Byfords in Holt
Norfolk Beach

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 South East of England where we brought up our children. 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 cottage, 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 content with my role as a mother and the hub of our family life, with my own mother living nearby and my work in my children's school putting me at the heart of my 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 (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!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Wedding Dresses and the Liberty Connection

Reading Lucille's post about the recent 'Liberty in Fashion' Exhibition in London set me thinking about weddings and wedding dresses. Although I never wanted a big white wedding, the dress was important to me and I had firm ideas about what I was looking for.

I still have the dress I bought for my first wedding, a small, intimate ceremony at a London Registry Office and which I found in Stitches & Daughters in Blackheath Village where I was living at the time.  

It was around the time of Prince Charles' wedding to Diana Spencer, and Stitches & Daughters had commissioned a one-off commemorative wedding dress made from Liberty silk which caught my eye.  I can vividly remember seeing it displayed in their shop window and falling in love with it. Beautifully made and designed, it fitted perfectly and I bought it on the spot! I loved wearing it on this special day.  

We held the reception in the garden of the Victorian coach house we were renovating at the time and most of the photos were taken in the dappled shade of the old Mulberry tree, heavy with its dark, staining fruit, imprinted still on the hem.  Looking at it now, I am instantly transported back to that day.  It carries the memories in the folds of its fabric. I see a young woman full of hopes and dreams on the cusp of marriage and motherhood, knowing nothing of what would unfold and almost a stranger to me now.  Some of the guests at my first wedding are still in my life in some way, some have vanished into the ether, and my new husband, my children's father and the man I believed would always share the journey, shockingly no longer plays any part in my life.

My second wedding dress was harder to find and took many months of searching in the shops and online for something suitable for a rather more mature woman with three adult sons, but also special enough for the church wedding we planned to have in our Suffolk village.  

I knew exactly what I wanted this time but it remained elusive, a simple ivory shift wedding dress shouldn't be so hard to find!  As soon as I saw it though I knew this was the one and immediately put in my order.  The dress was duly delivered to my local Waitrose store and prosaically I loaded it into my shopping trolley along with my weekly shop, the fruit and vegetables, the milk and bread and washing-up liquid. I rather like that. 

Luckily it was perfect and my new husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our day celebrating with our seven grown-up children, their partners and his little granddaughter.  A very different occasion and much further down the path of our lives, older and hopefully wiser, but still with no idea of what life holds in store for us in the coming years, what joys and sorrows we will experience.  Weddings are about dreams, marriages are about reality.

What sort of wedding dress did you choose, do you still have it and what does it mean to you now? 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Brand new world - living with a puppy


Every day is a new adventure for Oskar.  The world to him is brand new and surprising, or startling and frightening, and it is refreshing to see it through his three month old puppy eyes.  

This week has been a pivotal week for us, as he is now allowed out into the wider world, vaccinations having taken. He loves his short walks but has to become accustomed to the constraints of a lead as he tears headlong through the village, snuffling and sniffing, stopping in wonder and terror for every car that goes by (no pavements for us to shelter on). 


He has to learn to travel in the back of the car, behind the dog guard, and not to be afraid as the world whizzes by, and he has started puppy school - a safe place to meet other puppies and learn a few basic skills.  He is also becoming a firm favourite in the village pub, where he has to learn to stay close to us and not to make a noise, yelping and barking. Today he met his first horse walking up the hill near our home, followed by a bike.  So much to see and do and absorb.




His life is a social whirl and he is welcome everywhere he goes.  Children exclaim and stop and pet him, parents and grandparents rush over to say hello and other dogs sniff him curiously.  The party is definitely wherever he is!  Our older dog looks on with a rather jaundiced eye, the centre of attention no longer and nose temporarily out of joint, but she graciously puppy-sits him every night for us which is a great relief. 


Life has changed in the four weeks since we brought him home, our world has shrunk to the village with short trips further afield limited by his nap times.  He is a very lively puppy and we are on puppy duty from 7am to 10pm with nap breaks, and it is wearing but rewarding too.  Putting in time and hard work with him now will pay dividends in the future, but I am looking forward to having two dogs quietly settled in front of the wood burning stove one day, and running free on our rambles, enjoying the country walks that are such an important part of our lives here in Suffolk.

Friday, 29 January 2016

... of Puppies and Frosty Morning Walks

Life changing moments don't always announce themselves with a great fanfare.  A week ago, as I took an early morning walk with my camera, enchanted by the hoar frost which had transformed the mundane into the magical, I wasn't thinking of acquiring another dog just yet, if at all. 

Somewhere in my head for a long time, I have carried a picture of two dogs, one black, one blond, sharing my life and although over the years I have often had one dog to accompany me on my walks, two seemed an impossible dream; time, space, money, work, practical considerations all held me back.  

So when my sister-in-law phoned me to tell me about her new puppy, a working cocker cross, with brothers and sisters waiting for their forever homes, I really tried hard to say no.  Taking on another dog, rather like having another child, is a massive commitment and there is rarely a perfect moment, but she convinced me that this was a litter worth looking at, both parents living in a home environment and the puppies being raised in the house with children, all beautiful, healthy and well balanced. 

I think the point of no return came when I picked up the phone just to have a chat with the breeder and found myself making an appointment to visit.  My husband was no help at all and frankly encouraged me in achieving this long held dream and somehow we went from 'shall we have another dog' to 'which puppy shall we choose'? (actually, he chose us).  After all, if not now, when?  Crazy I know but we will find a way to make it work and still have our freedom too.  After all, if you have one dog, how much more of a problem can two be?  No doubt we shall find out, but we are committed now and delighted to welcome Oskar to our family.

Are you a dog lover?  Would you have been sensible, or like me, would you have followed your heart?


and some frosty Suffolk scenes...