April Double delight.

A beautiful Happy Easter to all,

I have been blessed to spend this summer in South Africa.  As the weather turns towards Autumn, the days are still balmy and warm enough to spend time on the beach, lunches on the captivating wine farms though the evenings a little crisper than they were a few weeks ago.  It is the natural light that is the real princess here, natural light and space.

Been doing a bit of DIY at the same time.  Finally, after nearly eight years, the slither at the back of the house has been paved. Technically not DIY since I had little to do with it, other than the rudeness from my neighbour at the back. All my other neighbours are wonderful and we live in a very happy corner of the estate.

With thoughts turning to Spring, being able to meet a friend and soon all the shops will be open, some, like me, may still be faced with no clear plans.  Lockdown has hit the tourism industry really, really hard and the pain of watching planes parked on runways, small pensions close, restaurants flounder and fold under the protracted rules, I am also waiting for visitors to return, and realistically this is going to take some time.

With so many redundant and that is all ages, the chances of getting work when one is over sixty is all that more difficult.  The options are a little limited, but not impossible.  It’s a question of rewiring if need be.

So the days are still slow, and the mind always thinking of many things to do.

Have a wonderful April, be rejuvenated and positive.

Eat all the Easter eggs you want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March Mad Love

Happy March and Spring!

Most fitting to welcome the month of, could we hope, a lightening of mood, a smattering of hope, a glance towards the summery light?  Some naysayers keep telling me to be realistic and honestly, realism is rude enough, so I am to the joy of the beginning of the end of the worst of times.

Congratulations to Josh O’Connor, Emma Corbin, Gillian Anderson and all the amazing cast of ‘The Crown’ for your accolades at the Golden Globes.  Loved Josh in ‘Hope Gap’ and of course ‘Emma’ by brilliant director Autumn de Wilde – and Gillian Anderson is an icon in my life.

What could be more fitting than this shot of Josh at a photoshoot – so very March, don’t you think?  We have absolutely no idea of what the weather will hold each day.  The long winter may be over, but fickle she is: sunshine, balmy, rain and frost – ideal choice of clothing in the pic – we can dare for the shorts but keep it well within the layer dressing, and down to the funky socks.  Still tend to get fooled when the sun is out and we step out, to remember just how cold it actually still is.

March and blooms.  This is one of my best times, when the daffodils and other blooms peep up from the ground.  I am inexplicably joyful.  Childlike glee at every bit of nature I see. Sjoe, those colours after months of grey are a true sight for sore eyes.

March is also a birthday month. My beautiful eldest has her birthday in March. All those years ago, being so unsure of being a Mama and knowing that it has always been the past part of my life, being a mother.  All are grown, and not easy to let go, but knowing that they have developed into strong, independent individuals is just great.

It’s going to be a fabulous month.  I am positive, upbeat and making plans.  Patience still prevails, and travelling may still be a dream, but one coming closer every day.

‘I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.’
William Wordsworth
That’s it – it is the unexpected delight of finding spring, sprung.
I hope that this day finds you at a new delight, of something better coming along. Of strength and planning for a new chapter.  Perhaps you are planning a new business, have let go of what can no longer be, something for yourself.  Finding inner strength, fortitude, imagination and romance for everything, especially yourself, overflowing with the golden river of spring deep in your heart.
Image: Pintrest

Artemisia Gentileschi – a woman to love.

 

Mary Magdalena in Ecstasy – 1620 – 1625

All too willingly, I fell into a love affair with a woman who lived centuries ago. Artemisia (don’t you just love that name?) Gentileschi, born 8th July 1593, was, until now, rather unknown to me.  Always a love for the Baroque, time of a favourite, Carravagio, and plenty of grandeur, I only recently had the honour of being introduced to this accomplished, fiery, independent and the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di arte del Disegno in Florence.

Of course I could pepper you with dates and academic information, but this is not what draws her to me. I could never paint like her, create the passionate, vivid and intense scenes in oils like she did, and that leaves me at … genius.  Talent such as hers leaves me breathless.  In a time when women could not even walk alone in the streets of Rome or Florence, or any other city or town for that matter, let alone become a master painter, which was very much a man’s privilege, Artemesia and her brilliance as a painter, became the favourite of courts and kings.  She travelled to England, taught herself to read and write many years into her adulthood, refused to stand back to sexism and convention.

 

At the tender age of 17, Artemisia was being tutored by the Agostina Tassi, a man deemed suitable by her father Orazio, also an acknowledged painter of the time.  Tassi raped her.  Dishonoured and victimised, Artemisia continued sexual relations with Tassi, in the belief that he would marry her and so restore her dignity in society.  Not only did he refuse to atone for his crime, but was later found to be bedding his sister in law, and planning to kill his own wife. All supposition I suppose, what with not too much evidence on that score, but what was amazing, was that her father, realising that no good would come of this scoundrel, decided to take him to court for rape.

This in the 17th Century.  Artemisia would be subjected to the worst kind of scrutiny, ridicule and slandering for standing up for her own rights – and now we wonder what has changed – and was subjected to torture, yes, had thumb screws applied to test if she was telling the truth, until truth won out. The scoundrel was exiled but nothing else much happened to him, and Artemisia was married to Pierantonio Stiattesi and moved to Florence.  Artemisia went on to paint in the court of the Medici family, had five children of which only two survived.  So mum and artist, and lover of Francesco Maria Maringhi, a wealthy nobleman.  All the while producing exquisite works of art.  What is not to love?

Many academics and art historians have hinted at the fact that many of her works of Art, are reflections of her private pain for being assaulted at such a tender age.  A way of manifesting her anger when she was not able to verbalise.  Some of her paintings, like the young Susanna and the Elders, explores the vulnerability of the young woman bathing and being leered at by invasive, lecherous men.

Above, Judith and her Maidservant, the latter carries the head of Holofernes, just recently slayed by Judith.  A number of art works with this theme exists, some showing him being beheaded, blood spurting from his neck. Artemisia would often return to a single work of art, and create more with the same vision.

Unlike her father, who preferred a more idealised form of painting, Artemisia embraced a sense of naturalism.  Her vivid colours and costumes portrayed, were part of her later education at court.

Seldom are so many of her pieces displayed in one venue, and this is where I was very fortunate, to see such a wonderful collection at the National Gallery last week.  Before the gallery, like so many other museums and galleries, were closed, once again, due to the pandemic.  I hope others get to partake in the splendour and the hard work it has taken the National to bring so many pieces together.

My simple story about witnessing such intense and profound pieces, dating back to the seventeenth century, and in particular, one incredible female artist, does little justice to the actual exploration of her work, and her life.  There are many articles written about this, and I left the bookshop with one such story, by Alexandra Lapierre, entitled ‘Artemisia, The story of a battle for greatness.’  I cannot wait to read it.

A woman to love.  Strong, individual and greatness in a time when female artists were few.

If only I could paint but one, tiny aspect, and create such drama, colour and intensity, but perhaps I shall have to go to Italy and  even that is an enchanting thought.

 

Keeping faith and those French cafés.

C’est possible!

Saturday afternoon and I am onto my bigillionth cup of tea. Am a viable little teapot of late. Morning tea, blah mid-morning tea, after lunch tea … afternoon tea… it goes on and on and on. Count tea before I can count the wine. Dream of coffee. Dream of coffee on the sidewalks of Paris, which since this week, is possible again. Who would have thought, those tightly packed cafés, a breath from the person next to you, facing forward and viewing the world with a great little noisette, would be back in business? Can’t keep a good thing down.  Drinking coffee at home, during the lockdown, just isn’t the same n’est pas? Paris has come to life again, and plans made, sidewalks widened, tres interesting head gear in place,  the romance may be tainted, but not forsaken. Talking of inspiration, I have my little list this week.

Getting away, when I can get away. It’s to the beaches, the mountains, the cities. Until it actually happens, here’s to dreaming of Europe’s beaches. This of course, may have to wait until next year, and I shall never complain about Easyjet ever again. Much to complain about of course, nothing like the six am flight from Gatwick to lose one’s faith in humanity, big time; having to reduce luggage befitting a sparrow on route to the sun, the security snarls, stripping and apologising for whatever because you are convinced you must be guilty of some heinous crime. Not to mention the lovely louts in airspace, drinking largers in slipslops and the greasy spoon offerings before being shoved into a seatless space whilst the Speedy borders bully their way in front of you. I digress, I will not complain of Easyjet again for she can get me to the beaches of Shirley Valentine and Donna Sheridan. Low Budget airlines do test the faith, but I am keeping the faith to get to travel again. Hold that plane!

Whilst the rest of the world slowly returns to a semblance of what we know, the focus for me, rather than be pessimistic (and I have my moments), is instead on the amazing resilience all around. The last to be allowed to resume to business are the Hospitality, Wedding and Events and Beauty industries. You can imagine what the hair looks like now – think Charles Manson, but even in this faith remains for rescue. Many restaurants have turned to delivery services, setting up shop outside to serve customers. Entrepreneurs are offering online courses, writing great articles and making videos to keep their livelihoods relevant whilst holding out for salvation – it will come.

We will always want to go somewhere special to celebrate, meet friends. Weddings will happen. All will be well, if but in a different form.

We are still here. We have planning and projects to explore. Face realities of what still exists and what we can salvage out of what is not working anymore.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” Brene Brown. Keeping the faith is key. Believing that we can rise, change, deliver and drag ourselves up from the floor over and over again, is what makes each of us unique and valuable.

Adding bookmarks of inspiration to daily life, is what it means to plan forward, rather than be stuck in the disappointment of the time. We need creativity, innovation and regeneration now. New careers are out there, it may be a first for you, doing something you never dreamed of.

Think outside the box, if the box of your life has a lid on it. No matter our age, we are all going to have to be inventive – no-one is immune to change and this mother of all change has many of us in the starting blocks, running a new race. I’m ready and impatient to start. And then to the beach and a stop at the Café de Flore.

 

Image: Christophe Petit Tesson

Victory in Europe, travel and resilience. Going somewhere slowly.

Today, seventy-five years ago, Europe, breathed again.  Victory in Europe day.  Enemy defeated, though years of hardship lay ahead.  Survivors remained frightened, mourned, lost incomes, homes, the semblance of normality.  Individuals questioned just about everything, trusted few … had little to hold onto, but, little by little, began again.

The war to end all wars.  Not so much.  We are in the midst of The Third World War, only this time the enemy is an unseen virus.  We will get through this, and most now acknowledge that the world as we know it, and ourselves, will never be the same.  We will take the rubble of life remaining and build something quite unique.  My daughter keeps telling me that the previous war went on for four years, I should be patient after wanting it done within weeks.  We are an impatient lot, are we not?

In this strange time, my thoughts turn to sowing seeds and watching things grow. I can’t remember the last time I planted seeds.  The other day someone spoke of October and instinctively, I thought, that’s months ahead, I won’t be here … and they cancelled my flight to London, indefinitely. The idea of doing the same thing, day in and day out is foreign to me, but perhaps I will learn.  Cancelling all my travel plans today, hotels and Eurostar brought such sadness to my heart.  In the ensuing boredom of mid-lacklustre morning, scratching around the house for want of something to do (apart from the incessant cleaning), I found a wooden box, filled with my mother, and grand-mother’s photographs.  There are oceans of them floating around, these taken on a trip to Europe, a mere four years after VE day in 1945.

First trip to see family in Holland since the war.  Visit other European countries, travelling again.  The moment did not go amiss.  Was is not for my parent’s love of travel, I would not have walked past St. Paul’s weeks ago. During the war, a German bomb pierced the dome of St. Paul’s, destroying the high alter.  In 1945 services given in thanks for the end of the war, was attended by more than 35 000 people – the church survived.  I pop into the side chapel whenever I can. Notre Dame is being rebuilt.  We need to witness these magnificent symbols of man’s ability to create, design, paint, plant and build, to be in awe.  We travel to experience these pillars of man’s resilience under adversity, in and to tame nature, to glorify God or the gods, to be humbled and surprised.

How patient my parents, and their parents must have been back then, waiting to travel again.  To see for themselves how the world has changed.  To re-connect again. How patient must we be?

Today is VE day.  Against the odds, the war ended.  Maybe we will have a VE (virus elimination) day soon.  Pray it happens.

Have a blessed weekend and keep the spirit – it’s been weeks since the Hag meltdown thank goodness … looking back to plan going forward.

 

A strange, but lovely week.

Cannot tell you how enveloped with the pride at managing the second week of ‘Couch to 5K’ and the soothing voice of Sarah Millican, though I think I may require physiotherapy quite soon.  This is the body of the 60 something – there is the fortitude and strong belief, and then there is the reality of wanting to, from sloth to super marathon, in isolation syndrome.

It is a syndrome, like the Stockholm syndrome;  the angst and terror has become an intimate bond of small spaces and the real desire to ‘begin again’ – clear all, delete all and gather the threads.  Finding half embroidered project abandoned years ago – shall finish that.  Open the puzzle (did so with great fever) – if I can manage one piece per day, quite chauffed.  All these things being rather attached to becoming unattached, it is a syndrome.  One good thing though, as the Hag is slowly transforming into Corona Syndrome of coping, calculating and blah, am no longer succumbing to all day and night attire, or flicking the edge of the duvet in an illogical attempt to convince myself ‘what does it matter anyway.’  The hair is now balayage – am not going gray with threads of luscious platinum – it’s murky mordor with follicles of grey on the top and remnants of burlesque blond at the bottom. And I am getting used to it. Go figure, I haven’t lamented about the lack of salon once – except for the waxing.

I digress.  I am doing well, as I am sure you are.  I am also about to run out of wine again and the restriction on that front is a mirage, enough said.  There are ways and then there is always pineapple beer – if I can do the hair, I can ferment something in the garage. Depends of the level of mania.

One of the more fetching activities over the past few weeks, has been the restoration of my slither of a garden.  For want of any garden centre open, I have been talking (yes, we know) and coaxing my roses to what is now a shower of white blooms throughout.  Summer splendour. Was I not too acutely aware of how boring photos of single blooms are (little like some food photos) I would present my pretties.  Gardening and Spring.  Hence Monet’s garden. The book was bought there on my first visit in 2007 and I have been back for more.  Longing for the repeat.

Another, ‘The English Garden’ by Peter Coats.  At least twenty years old.  I have so many gardening books and always dreamed of owning one, with borders and a kitchen garden, how about you?  This has not turned out to be (though I still dream) and it does not lessen my love for visiting others.  It’s about the ethereal beauty of creating and taming nature. Ethereal beauty.  Makes me happy.

What else inspired me this week.  A few links you may enjoy.

  • Of course, a little gardening to begin with.  Love Alan Titchmarsh and Country Life has offers some of his wisdom.
  • Passionate crush on Peonies, and yes, more gardening advice from The English Garden, on how to grow them.
  • Do you know about the National Garden Scheme?  These are private gardens, some offering B&B options and if you love gardens, make a plan to see some in England.  Enjoy the virtual tours of some of the most stunning on show.
  • Longing for Paris? Afar will help you be a Parisian in the lockdown (not so much comfort) of your own home. Viva all those croissants.
  • Talking Paris? David Lebovitz will help you create a bar in your own home.  Look for his virtual classes on his website. Love his journey to Paris and making a new life, his own way.
  • Setting the background to a groundhog, lockup day. Hip Paris.

Is it  all about gardening and Paris? C’est vrai.  These are the happy places, the garden and a memory trip to Paris.  Been a week of real frustration, then feeling bad about being frustrated because so many are worse off, and then being frustrated because, at sixty, life has a few more chapters and I feel as if I am in limbo in one.

We are all in limbo. We are all feeling fragile and lost. Strange times indeed.  But is this not the perfect time to also take stock of that long … yes … long life and go … ain’t done yet, and plan.  Perhaps for the first time you are putting yourself first? Going for the make or break? Changing what you think was a given to a bust up of set things?

It has been a strange week indeed. Angry, annoyed, anxious but so worth buckling down to change.  For in the fear, the lack of fear is the one true thing we can give ourselves.  It is a gift to dream, and not fear if all is still out there.  Take care of yourself, give yourself a break and dream.  No matter where you are now … you owe it to yourself to dream, be it a trip to Paris, a lovely garden, friends and family and getting off that couch. You are worth more …fyi … you are here.  Where to tomorrow?

Let’s see and go there. My homework is done, I have passed (albeit with maybe not the best marks) but nothing like a little lockdown to fuel the ambition.

Take care …

Staying inspired and getting innovative.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Never, for me, have these words been more true.  Where I am in lockdown, we are only allowed the essentials and medicine – no extras.  Tried to buy some Rosecare yesterday no, and Art supplies, also no.  Use what you have, do what you can:  nothing like a make up brush for my online art class this morning.  Brought back the small box of watercolours, avec tiny bitty brush and MacGyver like, innovative use of said make up brush.

Day 10 of lockdown, and dare I say it, things are getting a little easier and only if the end is in sight, which sometimes fades … and then I really have a major anxiety attack.  It doesn’t last too long which is largely due to  the multitude of wonderfully innovative people out there, adapting and delivering on a whole new level. Viewed from my living room. Organisations keeping us entertained with viral beauty, online courses sprouting, literally, everywhere.  Delightful chefs sharing recipes, memes to make us laugh, the list of buzzing ideas makes me quite dizzy – so if my day is spent alone, mostly in front of my computer. I am in a world changed, but also remarkable.  We may all become very lounged and lazy, but bored, never.

When I left London a few weeks ago, one of the many things I miss, is my Art Classes.  What started as a weekend of Life Drawing at the Wallace, has become a group of friends, under the guidance of the delightful Alison – art teacher and lecturer supreme. Alison gives art classes in schools, privately and at the National Portrait Gallery, as well as bespoke tours of the National and Portrait Galleries.  Because of the current situation, Alison is, like the rest of us, housebound.  No longer missing out, for we have gone viral – Zoomers all, and today we did various Japanese Watercolour techniques. Even with my lack of proper tools, spent the morning transported to a make-shift studio dabbling with colour whilst jabbering away.  What soul stuff for me.

Of course we are all reeling and most stressing about our livelihoods.  Never more true then are the words of start where you are, use what you have and do what you can.  What about taking your business virally, or changing your direction all together? Find inspiration around you and always believe that ‘ ‘n boer maak ‘n plan’  – a farmer makes a plan, a wonderful Afrikaans expression.

What else inspired me this week?  A few little bits and bobs of articles for starters:

  • One of my favourite chef’s Janhas come up with a Lockdown meal plan, and it looks delicious!.
  • HiP Paris has a lovely article on how to experience Paris from you armchair.  First stop darling.
  • Country Living shares 8 magnificent gardens you can visit virtually.  How many have you been too?
  • For serious, uplifting inspiration, nothing better than watching Escape to the Chateau and the DIY spinoff.
  • Countrylife SA has some great articles on interesting towns in South Africa.  Uplifting stuff.
  • More Francophile inspiration from The Simply Luxurious life, a favourite of mine too.
  • Good for the exercising all, but ladies, did you know how important that pelvic floor is? Off you go …
  • And of course, my lovely National Trust has a blossom watch list for those going into spring.

Just had to pop the exercise link in there – now more than ever we have to fight the flab.  Inspiring too, to see how innovative everyone is getting for not being able to get out – I work out (all ten minutes of it) on the garage floor.

And there are many, many other places to find inspiration – when the chips are down, the ideas spew forth. Put the music on and pencil in hand …

Don’t know about you but sometimes I get a little iffy if others tell me what I need and should do – is it the ‘grumpy’ thing, I don’t know. Although I fail miserably at times, I try not to tell, but learn from, rather pep myself when things are askew in the world.

The lockdown, and I thought afternoon naps were going to be part of the miserable pattern of inertia and depression, Now I need to make every hour count.  Paint, chat, clean, exercise, cook …(feels a little like living in the last century),  you know the drill. and not justifying wine before the proper wine o’ clock (even after the mouse debacle).  If I had to wait for the first plane to fly over before pouring the cold medicine of the vine, I would be stone.

Hope your day was a pretty awesome one.  Till soon xxx

 

 

 

 

Isn’t life just full of lovely flowers this week.

Bon Jour to you and you and you and you …

Well into the New Year and the positivity bunny is still sitting next to me.  Admittedly, the Summer weather and daily dips in the Ocean may have something to do with the wellness factor, but there are other natural highs I drip feed into my soul.  Like planning small trips this year: talked about Paris and the Eurostar is booked.  My return to the ‘Grand Tour’ heaven of Lake Como is in the dairy and this time I may spend more time in Milan.  Anyone have great tips on Milan?

Cape Town and the wine lands is incredible.  As I write, I am overlooking the Atlantic from the 8th floor of my friend’s apartment, with a view that will quickly run out of superlatives. South Africa is unique, home from home and so beautiful – despite the problems, she remains feisty, sexy and strong.

Needless to say, the mind is full of flowers – when is it not, she asks, but today especially, it is full of flowers and inspiration around the blooms. Doing the flowers for a special Bridal Shower was like literally, oh leave me alone to just indulge in my passion.  The theme was an Afternoon Garden party, so the floral design was all about whimsical blooms: lots of roses, gypsophila, lisianthus, scabious and cow parsley.  Gentle flowers that create a free flowing prettiness.  Smaller vases filled with garden herbs such as lavender, rosemary and fennel flowers – the scent was perfume perfection.

With Flowers and Paris in mind, and so many other lovely articles I read over the past two weeks, I thought I would share them with you:

Love all things French, so this was a great inspiration for the New Year. We will be having four days in Paris, and though I have been many times, always looking for new ways to show my friends.  Good dining and flowers together, should check this one out. And then there is the ‘how to be a true Parisian‘ and more inspiration. Moreover, I am moving towards a more eco-friendly way of life, and this company really inspires me too!  It is possible if you look for brands that are vegan friendly and gentle with nature.

No trip to Paris would be complete without tasting, at least, a few dozen pastries – I am a sucker for the sweet things in Paris.

Back to the flowers.  One of the more lazy moments I have in the day, are spent watching the ever addictive You Tube.  Tulipina is a favourite of mine, and again, always learning.  Tulipina started her business with a passion for flowers, a website, instagram and true belief in her art of creating different and impactful floral designs.

A recent crush, and if only I were in Versailles the week before our trip, I would definitely join Molly on this course. Adore the town of Versailles, the Chateau and the Jardin du Roi, so a pastry course in the heart of Versailles, close enough to do in a day trip from Paris, would have been perfect.  Perhaps in the future?

Without bees, there would be no flowers – and little else in the future if we don’t take care of them.  As much as I love alternative ‘milk’ in my lattes, a sobering article on Almond milk.  St. Clements no longer offers Almond milk as an alternative, but one can still have soy and oat milk if the real thing is not your thing.

This year is a personal drive to being more conscious of our environment. I should have been all the time, but sometimes even I slip up on the plastic, the easy alternative and the not so great effort at recycling. Climate change is real and terrifying – I believe even the daffodils are coming up earlier, wow! Used to be in March, then February, and now some are popping up when we should be having snow in England.

It has been a fabulous week.  A floral, frilly week.  Going to the suppliers, getting the mechanics sorted, working with pure gorgeousness in petals and stems.  A wonderful Bridal Shower, and of course, always a pleasure to work with and admire, and eat, the delectable creations made by Lulubelle’s bakes, without whom the Bridal Shower would not have been so heavenly.

Till next time, get creative and embrace you life.

 

 

 

What I loved this week.

 

This is Big Sky Country – South Africa

Hello from Somerset West in the Western Cape, South Africa.  My other home.  Here until February and plan to enjoy and explore as much as I can.  The Instagram needs some input!

Flying from cold London to intense heat in Mauritius, it is to the summer of South Africa.  Must admit to being relieved at the cooler weather on arrival, even rain, but now we are back to the full on Summer sun.  Unless you are at the beach, or beside a swimming pool, not the best, but the evenings make up for the heat of the day.  Complete opposite lifestyle to the one I live in London, I am in our family home, complete with a little garden and playing at all it entails. Putting my hands in soil, clipping rose bushes and the fragrance of fresh herb bushes is idyllic.  Rather than the sounds of London birdlife, it is the Guinea fowl that chirrup me awake in the mornings.  This is Africa and I am revelling in the joy of being here.

Christmas in the summer is not something I am used to, and it was wonderful.  Double Christmas celebrations!  Shared with friends and family, the eating is done to excess.  Throw in the odd braai (barbecue) and my favourite wine, Tranquil Blush from Haute Cabriere, I am happy to laze the days away.

Last week I took my youngest daughter to George, up the Garden Route.  My car has been cloistered in the garage for six months, so this was most beneficial to ‘clear the pipes’.  Love road trips with a passion and South Africans do them so well.  Though I have done this route a few times, I find the countryside nothing less than breathtaking.  Big Sky, vast landscapes, white washed farm houses all around.  It is a four hour drive and I literally kissed her goodbye and turned around to return home. Nothing like the best company, awesome music on full blast and the open road. A little different to the bus in London, not so?

When I returned to South Africa in April, it was going to be a sort of permanent arrangement.  It did not suit me and I was back to London, on my own terms. Now I return of my own accord and cannot be happier to spend the summer here. This is a holiday, surrounded by our family things and the pace is slow, as it should be on holiday. I have time to read, watch movies, go for long walks and eat healthily. No sad looking supermarkets with sad food in the grey days, and of course I have the best Woolies in the world on my doorstep!  Crush on the freshness of all. Even the coffee is brilliant, which is saying something from this Barrista.

Yeah, it’s that kind of spoiling myself time.  Thinking of the right nail colours is important when lounging.  Spoiling myself to facials and all sorts of body grooming, which on the pound, is peanuts. But, I have not been that idle, still read my favourites and these are some of the links I love to share this week.

A lady in London (one of my favourites) has listed some amazing winter walks to follow in winter in London. The city offers so much, at anytime of the year, so wrap up warmly and get out there, post Christmas, when we all feel a little deflated after the Christmas buzz.

Love my fellow bloggers and these are some amazing women over Fifty who you should follow on Instagram. We all have a story to tell, whether it be our love for fashion, following a divorce, beginning a new business and just living life to the full.  I take huge inspiration from all of them.  Love the fact that we all are able to have a voice now and resonate from each other.

Somehow, in the sunshine, I still need my Country Living fix and this quiz popped up.  Afraid I was dismal at it, but how would you fair?

Being on holiday, and not working seven days a week, this is the time to get those resolutions for the new year in place. I want to update my playlists, begin the new diary, plan my travels, get more technologically savvy and again, sort out the clutter stuff.  Been listening to the local radio stations on my mum’s radio and this song is getting so much airtime  Also the song of an ad in London and so yes, in the mood and love her.

Lizzo. Good as Hell.

 

Being the end of the year, it’s reflection time.  Some of the best books for 2019 – how many have you read?

I have my perfectly pristine diary all ready for 2020!  Though I do use the Google calendar on my phone, having a diary in my handbag is vital to me.  The same type of diary I have had for fifteen odd years – have to have the horizontal diary and I can only get it here in South Africa, so she is here on my desk, all ready to fill with exciting dates and times.  Diaries are a reflection of my entire life, not just meeting times so one can say, the journey is in all the dairies past, tucked away in a cupboard – my life is literally an open book.

Getting back to the garden.  Truth is I am trying to coax my David Austen roses to survive the harsh Cape climate.

Everyone else has better sense and planted indigenous.  The winds are fierce, there is a water shortage but no, I want my Litchfield Angels and have planted four of them.  They have, despite me not being here for six months, sort of survived and I have a bloom – hello girl! I am a fan of the Piet Oudolf idea of roses and grasses combined in a bed – got the grasses and nursing the roses.  Fortunately I have an amazing helper in Dosha, who comes to help me when I am away.

But it is back to the joy of being here in South Africa this week.  There is so much to do, the beaches are packed to bursting, the wine farms are beyond mere words, the sightseeing and Table Mountain is awesome.  Love the shopping, sipping and savouring of it all. So this week, it has been, for me, great to be here. More to come, but this week, the things I love the most, are the people, the climate, the views and the lifestyle of South Africa. Wish you were here.

What I loved this week.

It’s been two weeks since I left the cold and Christmas love of London, bound for a ten day break in the gorgeous Mauritius.

I would not have planned a trip for myself to Mauritius per say – not the sort of place I would have thought to visit on my own, but it was a ‘good morning Kari’ on my 60th birthday from my dear friend Bev, with an airline ticket to the island.  Her present.  Bev is a present to me every day, and this was overwhelming. Landed in Cape Town at 11.40 in the evening, just time to toss the winter clothes, throw in the bikini and off the next day.

A quick thanks to the brilliance of Air France and Air Mauritius for amazing service and getting me halfway around the world in two days!  From four degrees to forty degrees and darlings, the body crisped up in a matter of minutes in the sun. I am now the shade of tomato, from lobster to tomato.  Learning to do absolutely nothing everyday was a bit of a strain in the beginning but swimming again, that was pure magic.

It is paradise indeed. Being with friends who knew me when I still believed I was going to marry Robert Redford and had stayed throughout the highs and lows of my life is something few have in their lives and I do know how blessed I am. I only hope I am as good a friend to them, as they are to me.  With the liberty of taking time out, a slow wi fi and literally just chilling, what were some of the things I loved this week? – other than the gorgeous holiday of course!

Finally got stuck into ‘The Fingersmith‘ by Susan Waters. If there is one book I can recommend or begin reading almost immediately again, it would be this epic novel.  Pulsating, thrilling and brilliantly executed.  Details and imagery of London and the Borough in the 1860’s, just up my street.

Since the arrival of George, I am so aware of dog friendly places to visit.  Sawdays has a great guide to Dog friendly hotels in the UK. This would make a fabulous gift for fellow dog lovers.

 

Watercolour of George by Madison de Villiers

For those fortunate enough to find themselves in Paris over Christmas (I do envy you), Paris Insider has some wonderful tips of things to do.  Still on the subject of Paris, I do try, and never really get it right, but this is a great guide to learning the different bridges spanning the Seine in Paris.  Which is your favourite? Cannot wait to see these early next year when I return. Still on the subject of Paris, good news for all – a face lift for the Champs-Èlysées

Cannot wait too see the results, and Paris again.

Something else I cannot wait to try again, and discover a few more venues for Brunch, is this article I found of the best places to have brunch in London.  Am constantly finding ‘the perfect coffee shop’ or the perfect spot for lunch in the different boroughs of London (St Clements being my favourite, of course) and now I have a handy guide for brunch.

Part of the gorgeous offerings by Coutours is The History of London in Four Drinks, which includes the history of Gin.  We also offer Gin tasting evenings which a so much fun for friends and family to share.  This article gives a great view of the History of Gin and it may just tempt you to join us for a more in-depth exploration of the History of Gin and a fabulous tasting to boot. Everyday I am so enthused by all that is still possible to explore in this silly world of ours.  Not only can we show you a unique part of London in a fun and informative way, we can also help you plan your days when you visit.  Herewith a list from the Londonist, of some of the superb exhibitions we can see in 2020, so get that itinerary on track!

The mind brims with all the ideas of these places to visit, what next year holds in store for me, travel wise and every way otherwise and I do believe it will be a fascinating year.