My fifth visit to Babylonstoren, and not my last.

 I am listening to the soundtrack of ‘Downton Abbey’,  luring my heart to rural England. I am watching Monty Don’s series on French Gardens, calling me also. Writing tonight about the magic of Babylonstoren, in the heart of the Cape Wine lands.

Best in a garden. Most spiritual in a garden.  The grander the better, no, that is not entirely true, I love the small cottage gardens just as much.  Babylonstoren is grand, in a style I see in Europe and of course, it was when reading Monty Don’s book: ‘The Road to Le Tholonet’ that it came together.  Monty talks of visiting Babylonstoren and that the garden was designed by well known French garden designer, Patrice Taravella.  Inspired by the Company Gardens in Cape Town and the early Dutch influence, Babylonstoren is a tribute to European garden design, lots of Delft influence and then, the lovely mixture of South African taste.

 

Perfect rows of lettuces and the heady surprise of hanging calabashes – watch out!

Driving into Babylonstoren is like driving into a beautiful painting.  The mountains rising in the distance, almost surrounding the farm, the golden Autumn hue, pink and mink wild grass by the roadside.  The vines are turning deep jewel colours, rich and crisp.

The buildings seem newly whitewashed, gently put on verdant, lush lawns.  A contrast to still signs of the crippling drought experience last year. Everything is fresh and growing.  As a wedding venue, you could not ask for a prettier background.  And the donkeys say ‘hello’ as you enter, the speckled chickens scratching at the base of the old, oak tree. Proud and haughty chickens.

The Kitchen Garden begins around the corner of the shop and I always leave the temptation of visiting the shop, till last.  And the rooms begin: long, rustic pathways of dirt or peach pips that cross-cross the garden.  Small squares and rectanglular blocks.  Ponds of shimmering water and a variety of fish, water-lilies, glossy and clean.  The ponds and water furrows, instant attractions for children, playing their own version of ‘pooh sticks’ with leaves and twigs, anything they can chase down in the game of winning.

This is a working garden, food supplied to the hotel, Babel and the Greenhouse, which is the reward at the far end of the garden.  The actual planting and schedules of it, as well as daily tours are all available on the Babylonstoren blog and I am no expert, but fancy the odd recognition of plant and design, much to the thrill of the brain so long last used when it comes to gardening.

Shades of Autumn and twisted vine, and the gorgeous delft mosaics.

For me, it is the ambling, the ‘flâneur’ and picking of path in an unhurried way.  From dappled light to cool repose beside the fountain, a minute here, careless adoration of it all.  Much like any successful garden, the garden at Babylonstoren works in any season.  Planting is done in such a way.  Structures take on a bolder presence when leaves are lost.  All fifteen clusters offer up a difference scene.

The Insect Hotel.  Something to think about for your own garden, no matter how small it may be. With all the fear of disappearing bees and pesticides, fostering sanctuary for wildlife should be a priority for any lover of this planet.  And I do so miss my garden, have spent many years living with a single crabtree, and then David Austen rose on my balcony, and now have a sliver of a patch around my house here in the Cape, but I think I shall find a little place for an Insect hotel – as long as they stay there and don’t come into my house!

As a wedding planner, Babylonstoren holds an added charm.  Their Wedding venue is the stuff of dreams.  A perfect backdrop, ideal accommodation, old Dutch style buildings, nature in a five star setting.  Love the whole idea of it.  Stay, even if it just for a night, partake of the cuisine and spa.  The new Scented building is pure indulgence: Karen Roos has thought of every detail and it will be difficult to tear yourself away.

And you can shop, take a token of this heavenly repose with you.  First a wine farm, their wines a gift to my palate, but there is so much more, eg, as the Dutch say … leuk. A deli too. In short, everything for the perfect day out and indulge, in sheer beauty.

I like to visit early in the morning, and late in the afternoon.  When the mountains are pink and envelope the farm in a calmness difficult to emulate elsewhere.

Please take note that there is an entrance fee of R10.00 on weekdays and R20.00 on the weekends, which is little for the glorious experience.  I did however, on my last visit, enquire about some sort of loyalty card, much like the National Trust, and was offered an annual, as many times as you like to come, card for R50.00.  Ask for it if you, like me, cannot stay away.

If you want to know more about Babylonstoren, are planning a trip to South Africa or getting married, kindly contact me at karen@londongreenafrica.com, or karen@mysilverstreet, or even at karen.devilliers1110@gmail.

Thank you so much for reading.

Anxiety and The Garage. When letting go could just include sanity. Maybe a little …

This is Sarah Gardiner.  A Victorian delight sent to an asylum for suffering from anxiety, I believe.

Poor thing, bless her, I wonder if she too at some point, faced the anxiety of moving house? For me, again, the anxiety levels are up there with naked swimmer from ‘Jaws’ at the moment, but she remains calm, as Sarah seemed to be, in the face of adversity, moving, and dealing with, amongst other things, the Garage.  An Ogre for sure.

A little background c’est nécessaire mon amies, in the way of an explanation.  When the flat was bought, number 16, I assumed (never assume) that our garage was also, number 16.  A slim, yet easily accessible delight – but no, we were sent marching to number 18.  A garage … to be debated, but sort of in the corner that would take a tricycle about twenty attempts to enter. No problem, no-one in London uses a garage for the purpose of a car, it is the ‘other room.’ The storage, toss in all unloved, debris cemetery and hallows of memories. No light, no window and no chance of seeing the back wall.

Things go to die in the garage. They breathe with difficulty in the damp (we have a rivulet of constant water running through the centre of the roof) and all so, rather than call it a garage, per say, it should be called a swamp. But no matter, plastic covering, plastic tubs and plastic everything prevails.  Best attempts awarded.

Best avoided lest we seek the soggy suitcase, you know the one where the name tag ink has run and it could end up in Calcutta – yeah, that one.  But time, dear time, comes close.  After ten years the garage needs clearing and dear Lord, I need a drink, some Valium and a pretty white mask over the mouth. The swamp, like those old graves in Parisian cemeteries, needs clearing for the next bodies.

Part of the process is finding stuff you had quite forgotten. Not like money, but twenty thousand pieces of paper dating back five years: bank statements, accounts, reports etc. Some need careful shredding and for lack of shredder, about two hours of finger tearing whilst sitting on very hard tar where the stones drive themselves into your butt. Then there is the Persian, once admired and stored, now home to moths and eggs – off you go, she says choking ever so slightly. The dresser once loved and too big, now a pregnant, swollen mass with drawers thicker than Brexit. Ugh, not even attempting to find out what’s inside, bugger and to hell with it. There is a bicycle pump and helmet, but no bicycle (long stolen) musty Christmas tree and a mouldy mattress.  And pots, hundreds of little blue pots.

The blue pot are those I buy my favourite yogurt in. Ceramic jars I could not throw away and thought one day I would find a use for them, like people who buy a lovely Chateau and find use for dormant stuff – perhaps pencil jars, flower pots, beauty products oh, the list was endless and the patience is now worn so the pots will have to go to the dump along with everything else.

I find parts of my mother’s 60 year old Kenwood. A shovel, for what reason I know not, miles of electrical cords and a DVD player, lying in a watery grave. Chairs and a table turned white with mould, and books in a box.  Books that peel pages, wet and melancholy pages.

I can let go of all this.  I need to let go of all this, but here is the rub – I have to get rid of all this. Physically. In London. To the dump.

Herein lies the anxiety.  The leetle car will make for days of my life, going back and forth. The lifting and trying to move said items will impact on my heart, my lungs and my future.  Hiring someone to do it will cost me the same price as a holiday in Mauritius. What is a girl to do?

And I think of Sarah, facing adversity with a calm resignation.  I hope I shall not be committed, but rather temper the fear and get to the doing of things.  Time … oh she is harsh. The children can sense the asking, like they used to wait to have their vaccinations, dreading and filled with doom.

How simple it would be to shut the door and leave it for someone else to clean up. Not like that.  So to scraping the soggy bottoms of cardboard from cold cement floors, heaving and heaving in the doing of it.  Making sure that the new owners have a clean garage, but secretly sniggering when they find out which one it is.

My new garage will be light filled, spacious and house a car from now on. And I shall remember the experience whilst mixing a batter for cupcakes with the other half of the Kenwood, when I find it, and ponder – did this cleaning of this garage curse my anxiety to the level of Sarah? Will I max the Amex and hire burly men to do the job instead? That cave of stuff needs addressing and I have little time, so to mustering the strength, face the ire and damp and dive in.

Remember, it is dark, even at nine in the morning.  Medusa awaits.

Images. The daily mail

 

What does Spring mean to you?

“If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.”
— Audra Foveo

I can never really describe Spring. I will never do her justice.  But in my few attempts, I change, I become the hopeful, optimistic soul who stops and stares at blossoms when they appear.  Full knowing that whilst I have endured winter, some good, some soulless and questioning, Spring has been pushing through the darkest soil to present the gift.

The English countryside transforms. Birdsong comes a little earlier, at first light, with happy tunes. Leaves unfurl in verdant lime. It is as if I can see them from curling to show. Nature lays her bounty before me and I am enthralled, my soul transformed, the year begins again.

When the time comes, I love nothing more than a walk from Richmond Station to Ham House. All that has been dormant, comes alive in so many ways.  The Thames lifts her veil of mist to glitter in the sunlight, brooding waters, lovely in winter, is now filled with coots, swans and geese who chatter and fly rather than lament in low sounds at the water’s edge.

Ham House has planted nearly 500. 000 bulbs this year. The early crocuses are shown and gone, the tulips rise majestically and the meadow flowers will bloom in June. In the Wilderness, the fritillaries pop up everywhere, hooded blooms with their polka dot dresses.

Happy girls. Happy me.  I feel the awakening of myself at Spring. God knows I love Christmas in London, and then struggle with the aftermath of winter in January and February, but March, I find the reason in the season and am all about lambs gambolling and fields of poetry. When I do my tours at Ham, I am over the top sort of about Spring!  You have to imagine, I tell my guests, what beauty lay beneath and what the next few months will bring. You have to imagine the pushing up of bulbs, the heralding of branches and fruits that will yield in the Kitchen garden. Soup becomes salad. And the blossoms are everywhere.  Cherries, peaches, apricots and plums. White mischief and pink possibilities.

My mother was Dutch, and for me Spring is our connecting time.  I see her there.  It is not easy to grow tulips in South Africa, some bloom, some stay dormant, but here in England, and of course when I go to Keukenhof in Holland, there are rivers of tulips at this time.  They are delicate ladies, need little water in vases but they are the stuff of the Golden Age, the Masters of the 17th Century and I see my mother in every one of them.  And I miss her at this time, but am happy that I can still enjoy what she enjoyed so very much. It is my Dutch heritage that is the tulip Spring.

Many years ago, and I mean many, many years ago, I discovered Petersham nurseries.  Long before it became the stuff of popularity and Instagramming.  Before parking became a problem and all were in ‘on the secret.’ Even before I lived here. It is now part of my weekly walk. I buy my David Austen roses here. My vases here and my spot for coffee in one of the conservatories. Bought my mushroom brush here. My first huge, and I mean huge container that we had to transport in the tiniest car and still holds pride of place on my balcony – which will go to pride of place on my children’s balcony.  How we did it, I don’t know, squashed in a little car, mermaid, and plonked on the balcony, first with a crab apple tree and now with ‘Litchfield Angel.’ She is about to bloom, a multitude of cinnamon sweetness.

And then there are the magnolias.  This one is in the Petersham Cemetery, where the Dysarts are buried.  They are important to me, they are the family from Ham House.  Some may think it a little macabre but I find it all the more significant in the spring. There is history here, important history and for me, seeing the new blossoms in a way, is paying tribute to the new and the old.

We learn. We stay connected.  I am a better person for learning about Elizabeth and her family and I can take that with me through the years for we must honour those who loved Spring before us. I find myself here, in a quiet time of her, her family and all those lying here, some going to war and never to return in life, some who lived here and never travelled, who teach me everyday about strength in adversity and still made it good.  They are important. Spring for me, teaches me that every year when it happens, we are grateful to be part of it. New beginnings but also remembrance. Gosh I love being here!

So I walk, past Ham, past Petersham, past the meadow and along the river to Richmond. And I am still walking – for it is a new year, with so many possibilities and so much hope. That is what Spring, or as the French call it Printemps, and you know how much I love the French. it is a revival of sorts, a Renaissance of life, a chance to start over – or make it better.  And I am lost in Spring – I am the one on the way to the tube taking pictures of flowers and beguiled by the birdsong – I have survived another winter and the year, oh, this year, is going to be amazing.

Spring must mean another chance. It must mean a beginning of self. For me, Spring is the epitome of growth, despite the challenges and if a bulb can push through the winter soil, to flourish and bloom, so can I.

 

Do we look more closely to the blossoms as we grown older?  Do we value Spring more closely? I do – and for me, it means I am still about to bloom again.

What does Spring mean to you?

Moving is my middle name. And it is good.

Remember a time ago I was flat hunting?  Rather like the hunted being all, ‘oh I am going to sort this out’, ‘do it or die in the process’ and ‘martyr magnificent’!  My flat was sold.  My home was sold and I had absolutely nothing to do with it.  A whisper in the ‘please don’t sell my home’ and a retort of ‘it is done.’

May I never have to deal with an estates agent ever again.  Apologies to those of you who have a modicum of decency but ugh, the rest of you are spawn of the devil.   ‘I am happy here’ I pleaded. Life changed, I got used to living alone and all was falling into place, but let it be said, even if it is in your name, and you don’t pay the mortgage, it is never yours.  But that was a few months ago, in the dark of December and I am awful in December, post Christmas, despite me telling all, don’t believe me in the dark December winter – I am not myself and surrounded by black dogs, the sale went through.

All the bravado failed miserably.  In no position to find a new flat, pay a deposit and rent and let’s face it, some of the options were like … seriously, you want me to live there? Fagan would have cringed at the prospect.

Reality moves in like a pig finding the truffle.  It is done.  Going to be eaten. At a price. Me.

But I have been blessed.  Years ago we bought the flat in London, and a little place in the wine lands in the Cape in South Africa.  Was going to be the ‘let’s live here and there’. In the vortex of divorce, the there became a rental and living was London. With the update bulletin of flat being sold in London I thought, be flipping otherwise and sell them all – I am going to be whatever and do it on my own.

And then the wedding. All flew out and we stayed in our little house.  And something else happened. My children fell into their past (all housed there) and were happy.  Nights on the veranda with laughter and plans and living a normal life and saying ‘this is home for us when we are not in London.  This is our place.  And I got to thinking …

What is stopping me from living in both?  I have been in London for ten years –  amazingly, lovely ten years.  I have a place in the country of my birth where I can breathe, fall into the culture I know, looking at the mountains in the evening and feeling  the salt air drifting through in the mornings? Where my children want a place of history, birth and memories? In other words, home from home.

So home from home is going to be home.

Blessed to have both.  I am to be the swallow. And I am flying.

At the end of April I am going to the Cape of loveliness.  I can, no I shall be the one, now in this stage of my life, the flitting bird. Summers here and summers there. How divine! If one thing this new life has taught me is that I am able to let go of all materialism  … and it is a privilege.  I am to be the woman of discovery and bliss. Living with a suitcase is possible, and in some ways, so liberating.

Life is strange. Life is wonderful and I am all for the taking of it. So I am moving, not down the ladder of giving up and settling, but onto the I am British and I am South African.  Do not have to choose anymore … my children are strong and thriving and my address will be in London when I find a great little place. Our home is in South Africa and England.

And I blame no-one. I understand. The decision to sell my home was meant in good faith. It happened and I love still.  Flying will be the future.  Hope the loyalty points add up.

What an amazing Wedding it was. The most beautiful wedding ever, and I am not being biased. Of course not!  It was. Closure in some ways, opening of possibilities in so many other ways – but the gist of this writing is this … not afraid of change, of what lies ahead, of anything anymore.

To the new chapter.  Friends, true friends who not question your address. Your soul friends are there no matter where you go.

Shall miss my balcony, my ‘office’ of wine and wallowing of what happened to my life.  It was an important time for me (my children will not miss the hideous gown I wrapped my sorrows in) – she was lovely at the time.

Paris is there. London still. The Wine lands await.  And if you look for me … I shall be sipping wine in the wine lands, in Green Park, in Ville Franche sur Mer and Lake Como.

And telling you all … life is magnificent, Tres jolie mon amies.

My new address, is where I want to be.

Image: A modern  military Mother.

 

 

So it begins. Flat hunting in London. Give me strength she prays.

 

 

So it begins.  I know that I am allergic to morphine, but of late find myself allergic to Estate Agents as well. Who knew?  Not so much of late, have had to deal with them for some time, but lately, and especially since one cretin chose to play the underhanded game, I am not a fan. Yet, like morphine, there are times I need them and in the next two weeks I am going to have to rely on them even more.  Cue in the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ music.

As a result of the one who underhandedly led to the demise of my current home, I find myself having to enlist the help of others to find my new abode.  Today was the day.  It requires, as you know, endless, wasted time on the internet, looking at properties to rent within the said budget. I could be planning a trip to Barbados but no, I am looking a photos of properties to rent. In the winter, in grey light, in the mood of caved bear who wants to sleep and eat rather than engage.

There is something so wrong with this picture.  Rather than have to ask for a new address from college leavers, I should be smiling at the last mortgage payment on my home bought a few decades ago.  Not this gal, she is the ‘all over again’ kind of gal. And they think Dry January is a good thing.

Anyway, to the front I went today. To be fair, some were lovely, patronising and sweet. Others smelt of too much aftershave. My first visit resulted in the Estate agent, not pitching up. Ok, gave up a work day for this and rather than the coronary imminent, chose to Zen and move on.

Let’s talk about some of the properties seen shall we? First one. Could not see out of the windows.  The windows that were filmed with years of London pollution came twofold. Original windows of sash (pretty) did not keep out the cold and noise, so landlord put in other windows that resemble those of bus drivers, or the ones you find in the cockpit of planes – shift and small. No air here, but at least it cuts out the noise.  Dark blue walls, lovely for the winter months.  Depression acute guaranteed. The bedroom was that of a hamsters cage, but some may call it intimate. Bathroom – um, blinked and it was fuzzy and gone. The advantage of this place was the bus stop right outside – with the entire London traffic close behind.

Moving onto two.  Quaint, lovely outside. Quiet location and I thought, let this be the one. It was the one and only place I am sure long inhabited by mould.  Black along the window frames.  There were lovely remnants of past lives, on everything, even the picture outlines on the walls.  Imagine the rush hour on the tube and spaces between people – that was the size of the kitchen. Can I work with this I kept thinking, can I work with this as the boiler stared at me and the gas meter plonked under the sink, sneered at me. Oh my Lord … this would be punishment still.

Third.  Not even going there.

Fourth – already dark so the black bedroom doors, in the kitchen, did not appeal. Where is the taste I wondered? Where is the modicum of decent living, and at the price of a five bedroomed mansion of past living?

But in fairness, the agent was lovely. Thought I would be lovely, and I was, and when we parted, the nausea was kept at bay.

Not their fault on my budget. Perhaps if I move to the island of Orkney, I will find something suitable. But am not daunted, am resilient and have a million more viewings to do.

No more Dry January. Champagne is cheaper than these stupid options.

The search, as Alan Sugar says, continues.  Watch this space.

Image: Cartoon shock.

 

 

Colouring my world.

‘The time has come … the time has come … that lovely time has come.’

‘But oh!’ She says, ‘where to begin?

One must always begin with a story …

Upon a time, there was this lady (which would be me), worryingly naive and unceremoniously set down in a foreign land.  That would be Great Britian, or England, or more precisely, the city of London.  That same city seen only through the eyes of Harrods/Selfridges/Harrypotterfilmlocations/prideandsanderson eyes.  The afternoon tea/musicals/postmanpat/englishgardens eyes.

We digress.  Rather, said lady landed in a tiny apartment with foreign furniture and even more foreign habits, such as never expected.  A few years passed and all dreams of buying the equal to before, dissipated in the fog. A small, two bedroomed flat became available and I had the bright eyed wonder lust of decorating a little dream nest.  Not really thinking that it would be a forever thing, but a purpose and pretty pastime.

The winds of change that blew across the lake and beneath the frosty doors were profound, unceasing and destructive and the little flat, though changed, changed again – pretty morphed into prison of broken dreams and sat within it, or on my balcony as you know so well, fearing my tears would drown me.  But they didn’t, I wailed at the furies and finished the vineyards.

In the midst of winter I resolved to sell it.  Be done!  Be gone, I shall walk away to God knows where and be the martyr, and beginner again. Little did the lady realise that the winds would shift, the spring, the breathtakingly long summer and golden Autumn shades would turn and  bring a new perspective. Rather than want rid of this little blessing, so close to my family, is exactly where I want to be. Winter came around, only I was no longer the winter past, but filled with summer and a decorating plan.

We are both in need of a loving make over, and the first task is the main bedroom.

A fitting whiff of burning sage to say goodbye to ghosts of past, out the window you go with good wishes, and onto the redecorating .  This is not easy – what colour, what design, what accessories to add?  The old adage, know what I don’t want, but what exactly is it that I want? Phew!

Presently the walls are painted in Laura Ashley’s Pale Biscuit.  Sort of leaning towards the palette of greys, french blues and raspberry hues, but the lovely French headboard is cream, so need to work with that.  Perhaps linen, textures of natural fabrics and duck egg blue?  French blue – botanical green?  The point is, for the first time, in a long time, the little home is changing her ballgown and it’s all rather exciting, so watch this space.

Taking stock of your life, where you live and despite the loving artefacts, it is important to keep changing the scene to invigorate, not only your home, but your attitude to life.  For too long all has been stagnant and waiting … change is good, but only when you are ready for it.

Begin with a mood board of what you love. What you believe a bedroom represents, and the making it your own.  What style suits you.  What colours soothe, comfort and how it will enhance the purpose of the room.

Nights are closing in fast this winter in London.  Lighting is important (still shying away from the must have winter lamp and vitamin D – she shall embrace the winter nights and dark mornings). Investing in good, atmospheric lighting and great pieces of art, a bespoke, bevelled mirror and carpets to retain the warmth are on the list.  Fabrics that caress, excellent linen and photographs to kiss before bed. It is especially in my bedroom that I want my family, past and present, close.  Utterly Romantic is the thought uppermost in this room.

Amongst so many things!

The story continues … 

She is living on her own, for the first time in her life (if you exclude the college and early working stages) and her home is now a haven to reflect the things she loves, the ideas that make her feel, safe and empowers her.  A home from home for the children. No matter how small her life, and abode has become, it is still a reflection of me, her dreams and her haven when the door is closed from the outside world. It is enough.

Let you know how it goes, and if you are feeling a little caught between this and that, life and all the drama, look around you, and like me, begin to colour your world. Starting with change …

 

 

 

 

 

Wistful, wonderful Hyde Park.

“It came to me that Hyde Park has never belonged to London – that it has always been , in spirit, a stretch of countryside; and that it links the Londons of all periods together most magically – by remaining forever unchanged at the heart of a ever-changing town.”  Dodi Smith, ‘I Capture a Castle’

My ‘Litchfield Angel’ is blooming, once again.  She is my garden. On my little balcony, in London.  To the parks and open gardens I go, to immerse myself in nature, and this morning, en route to somewhere entirely different, I changed direction to Hyde Park.  Needed nature.

There are parts of the park that are open and spacious, others planted with roses, with beds of flowers and arches of looping vines. To Kensington Palace I first went, for the proverbial ‘cuppa’ and the sunken garden. I like to think of it as Diana’s garden.  The lines were long, holiday vibe, to get into the Palace but I went to the café.  Security was tight, a ‘terrorist attack’ earlier in the morning at Westminster which the security guard was careful to inform me of. ‘Please let me know if you see anything suspicious’, he said. In unison we lamented the attack on this city, our home.  The shop is touristy, but has some beautiful items for taking home when the trip is done.  And I watched him, my security lad, and thought, this job must be tedious to say the least, but there he is, taking it ever so seriously, and I admired him.  He is one of the people of the park.  They come in so many different forms.

Though it is the park that beguiles, it is the characters that find her, the history, the stories that intrigue me.  Like the young lass who asked me to take her photograph beside the stature of Queen Victoria – she is travelling alone, young and unafraid.  Obviously I did a second rate job, for walking away, she asked another to repeat the exercise.

Established in 1536 by Henry VIII who seconded it from Westminster to use as a hunting ground, Hyde Park was first opened to the public in 1637.  My favourite story is the legend that the very young Victoria, woken from her sleep, was announced Queen at the tender age of 18.  She must have looked out of the window, overlooking the park, and wondered at the significance of it all.  The Palace is home to many royals now, including William and Harry.

A few weeks ago, those escaping from the heat wave, were swimming in the Serpentine.  I remember, standing there, snow all around and watching children throw snow balls on the frozen water. Today, children were feeding the swans. Another lad, in charge of the many deck chairs dotted around the park, was sitting in one himself, and I thought: he may find the job tedious, but he has a job, and he too is one of the characters that makes up the life of the park.

Walking towards the Albert Memorial, all sorts pass me by.  The tourists on Santander bikes, cyclists, horse riders, runners, lovers on benches oblivious to the world – nannies and walkers berating the cyclists for not sticking to the path.  Tennis players, Instagrammers, sketchers and some who must simply take a thousand pictures of the ducks. What brings them all here I wonder? This oasis in the heart of a pulsating city. Respite, exercise, a must do on the list? Tiny children learning to play soccer, roller skating classes, yoga on the grass.  I pass them all.

Most of the tourists still come for the Diana magic.  An unbroken spell.  Her dresses are on display at the Palace and her presence strong after all these years. Few know of the remarkable love story that is the Albert Memorial.  So deeply loved, and so deeply mourned by his Victoria: she never recovered from his death in 1861, and the Memorial, opened in 1872 at great expense, was her declaration of that love.  Albert was her everything and it is said she wore black until the day she died.

Would I have been loved so deeply.  Perhaps a bench in my honour, in a park somewhere, someday.

One can spend hours in this great park.  Restaurants, the Diana Memorial, the lake – sit silently, walked briskly, do nothing, be active. Stare at the skyscrapers and realise how much has changed around her, while she keeps her stories tucked within the borders. Many, many stories.

Such as this:

In 1982, two IRA bombs went off, one in Hyde Park and one in Regent’s Park.

Standing in front of the memorial, the flowers now dead in the Autumn sunshine, I could not help thinking of the loss, on this day when terror is still so prevalent, when life means so little. A little further is another memorial, to the victims of the 2005 bombing in London.  Close by, a little old lady was sitting on a hillock, with a suitcase and a Sainsbury packet and I wondered what her story may be?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this park.  I love the history, the stories and the sanctuary she offers.  And I learn a little more, as the seasons change, as nature turns the year, and I am grateful.

Still summer, yet the London Planes are beginning to lose their leaves – another change, another year.

My ‘garden’ in London.  And there for all to enjoy.

The Chelsea Flower Show 2018

I don’t much care for the Chelsea Flower show, I remember saying once upon a time.  That is not true – I love Chelsea, it’s the rivers of visitors I find hard to navigate at times.

Since it’s inception in 1811, and current venue since 1813, Chelsea remains a landmark event in the world of Gardening. It’s huge.  It’s a must visit once in your life and has become the most popular garden event in the world.

While we wait for a week in May to indulge our gardening fantasies, to witness design gardens and mountains of blooms, what is new and what remains classic, the exhibitors and nurseries around Britain have spent months in preparation to showcase their best work.  A mammoth task.  Holding back the blooms to flower at their peak during the week, moving earth and creating designer gardens that have won the right to be there – all in search of the gold. 

Perfection.  Pure perfection.

The top favourite this year is Sarah Price’s Mediterranean, Monet inspired garden to take show design of the year.  I am particularly interested in Jonathan Snow’s debut entry, the Trailblazers: South African Wine Estate design focussing on Fynbos, from burnt earth to bliss.

The beautiful setting in London, the home to the Chelsea pensioners, allows one to glimpse into the lives of these extraordinary men, dressed in their finest red uniforms, they epitomise the traditional and respected, and one can visit the Coffee shop throughout the year (which I do) and love interacting with these individuals who have given their lives in service to their country.

The Chelsea Flower Show is the feather in the cap of the Royal Horticultural Society.  Be it your love for roses, alliums, delphiniums or whatever, you will find them at their finest – get the latest gardening tools, sip champagne as the sun sets over the many magnificent displays for it will be an excursion you will never forget.  And yes, the throngs are daunting, the multitudes of visitors at times a barrier to stand back and take it all in but nevertheless, be a garden lover or nature lover or simply a lover of beautiful things, in this case, living things, Chelsea is an event of the prettiest sort.

If you cannot be present, there will be many television programmes to highlight the beauty of Chelsea.  And did you know, just for a little extra bit of random information, gnomes are banned.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/about-the-rhs-chelsea-flower-show/history-of-the-show

Images: country living, express, sporting class

Little girls being mommies …

On the bus home yesterday, two little girls were very serious about their ‘babies’ in the prams. Tut, tut they clucked, pat pat, they patted. ‘Sit still.’ they heeded the two younger, plastic, infants.

As prams go, these were the ‘ferrari’ versions of the real, expensive buggies. Handlebars that snapped up from parking positions, cup holders, even brakes – right down to the hoods with rain guards.

And I sat there smiling. How wonderful to see the care and nurturing taking place. How wonderful to see little girls playing ‘mommy’ and ‘baby’ going out for the afternoon. With all the modern day stuff going on, how refreshing to see little girls being, little girls, complete with curls and vivid imaginations.

When I was their age, I could only dream of such a beautiful pram. And I loved being ‘mommy’. Still do.

A good moment.

Image: The daily mail

 

 

Time for white.

 

 Time for white.

Your time now.  The ‘let’s decorate in white’ time.  Back in the day, when little ones were still running around with chocolate covered fingers and crayons, the thought of white couches were a no go.  White couches belonged in penthouses, magazines and hotel lobbies. Not in your home.

Now it’s time – in the Silver Street time, to take on the white.  You have earned it.  Even though the grandchildren may pop in, it’s your home and your rules and bringing in white will not only create an more elegant feel, a more dare I say it ‘grown up’ feel, but put in place a new era of how you want to live in your home.

Rover and kitty will have to learn to abide by the rules.

Always loved white linen, the pristine, classical appeal of fresh, white sheets.  Plump white duvets beneath white covers.  Crips white cushions – like sleeping in a cloud. White bath sheets, white linen bags, almost everything white except for what had to be practical in a family home.  But I am leaning towards the white everything now – right down to the appliances and wall colours.  Touches of colour in art and design pieces but I like the feeling of clean and crisp.

Can only admire the genius of The White Company as they do white so well.

Down to the exterior.  White cushions on the patio to sit in for that cool white wine.  I love the idea of being surrounded by white iceberg roses in the garden. Sunset makes them pop. Talking about gardens, its been years since I fell in love with the white garden at Sissinghurst.  White and Silver that gleans even on the dullest of days.

Be bold, even in the smallest way and make a statement for you present state of mind.  Add white to your home and your life, you will surrender to the elegance of it all.

Time to make a change and reclaim your life space. Go with white.

 

 

Images: novainteriors, pintrest and country living.