One rose can be your garden.

If daybreak brought about a misguided twittering for sorting the social media, it has ended in an argument. A desire to pick up a fountain pen and write an entry that requires scratchy nib on paper and a dash of sherry.  All efforts of managing passwords, updating profiles and back and forth, back and ruddy forth to get a new code, change a forgotten golden password, is a teary endeavour and I lost.  It turns out I have three Twitter accounts, none of which I can change, or delete without upsetting the other one, and I want none of it.  If I must cull all to create anew I shall, but on another day.

The proverbial cherry was a message sent by a friend. Is this you, she queried with a link on Face Book. Now, what was I to make of that?  Was it me who sent it, perhaps cloning or being disrespectful?  Was I in the You tube link doing God know what?  Such were the words and just as the fingers tapped into a strange URL I shrank back in horror and closed the window.  Did I touch the devil himself?  Turns out my friend thought I had sent it, changed my password, apologies to all and have now decided, I am going focus on something lovely rather than the mean, disrespectful lot out there. Vulgar, human or not.

Sometimes one just has to step away.  Counselling has taught me that.  When things cannot be conquered, or changed, go smaller.  For me that can be a number of things.  And only lockdown has taught me the value of these, more prominent, more acute, more lasting.  I have learnt the value of a perfect cup of tea. The British answer to everything. Be it the cup of char, the infusion, the rooibos, whatever your fancy – it is the brewing and savouring that brings relief.  The good book.  I can write volumes on this – for years every joining a book club and finding drivel in the ‘Number one best seller.’  Topical – like a screenplay, must have angst, heartbreak, rivalry and for that extra touch, rape. I am talking about a book that will transport in words, create heavenly images, triumph in the everyday. A good, intellectual book will touch the soul rather than pass the time. An excellent glass of wine.  Past times, wine was water with a twist, had vat loads of it – now to look, sip and savour.  A long, languishing bath with classical music, and bubbles – so long that the skin will winkle and the wrinkles of the mind ease.

A pet cuddle.  Miss those but appreciate them more now.  And a garden. You may not have one but to be in one is like falling into the personification of beauty.  I found a few roses ready for the vase today, as you see, and rather than plonk, I placed each one lovingly, in a vase and thought, where would you like to live in my home? Making a meal, not for mere consumption, but glorification of the dish. Each action, each process, one of deliberate undertaking. These little things take me away from the fraught time, the uncertainty and down, down into the enjoyment of just letting the mindful cake be placed in the oven and keeping the door closed until it is time.

We cannot run at this time.  We have to slow down, but slowing in a fashion of fusion of little things.

And of course, family.  This is a wonderful accumulation of blood, of amity, of others we chose to spend our lives giving ourselves to. The definition has changed over the decades.  We can love whom we please now, at last.

The day is complicated with the times now.  To re-design lives and work that will not fit anymore. Becoming more imaginative to survive, re-direct, re-shape, rediscover who we are, what we want and how to make it work.  It is not so new really, it is just our new time.  So, in the morning of got to get going, find some way to make a living, pay the bills, validate our identities, I was ready to give up with … at this age, now, what the hell do I know and how am I going to convince myself and everyone else, that I still matter – to, it will come, there is time … will go back to the simple measures of breathing in, breathing out, putting the cake in the over and waiting for it to rise, without hurry, until the answers come, in the small soaking up of what makes me happy.

Tomorrow to tame the beast.  Today, home. Be it here, there, in a one bed flat or a four bedroomed house, if there is a garden, a cup of tea, a glass of wine, a good book, a soft nuzzle, a bath and my family … it will come.  And be extraordinary. It will be a different, but a better journey home.





All about the blooms. Two very different events.

One of the reasons I have returned to South Africa, apart from the Summer of course, it to celebrate a very special wedding. My best friend’s daughter is getting married on one of the most exquisite wine farms in the country, and the countdown has begun.  A year in the planning, nothing left to chance, this is going to be one of the most beautiful weddings I have the privilege to be a part of. Cannot wait to share the pictures with you.

Not doing the wedding flowers this time, but super excited to do all the blooms and set up for the Bridal Shower and wedding Shabbat dinner.  Two very different themes, and two very important events on the wedding calendar.  So you can imagine, with so much at stake, a happy bride and a happy mum, I have been planning – checking what’s available, meeting suppliers, setting up the mechanics and a very tight timeline for prepping and creating two very different, but sensational events.  To set the tone for the big day.

As a wedding and floral designer, nothing happens, just like that. More that plopping a few daisies in a vase. The Bridal shower is themed around one theme, and the dinner, very glamorous. Been doing the homework, which involves a lot of time finding inspiration, creating a mood board, making sure all is going to transport the guests into an afternoon, and evening, of pure magic. All about flowers this week.  Am eternally grateful to my daughter, Madison, for working with me on these events.

We are blessed in South Africa with magnificent suppliers of these gorgeous blooms. Today I found myself at the local farmer’s market, where Adene’s flowers displayed a fusion of blooms and I was lost in the frilly petals, the strong dahlia’s, floating cosmos and many other shades of prettiness.  Am going to explore a little more on the actual flower farm.  We need frilly and soft for the Bridal Shower, and then the strong stems and dramatic blooms for the pre-wedding dinner. Could not do without Alsmeer flowers who never fails to disappoint.

Adene’s flowers. Until April they have an open day on Sundays and so worth a visit.

My inspiration comes in so many different forms.  And one is never too experienced to learn, just that little bit more.  Been fortunate to travel and see some of the most incredible gardens in the world, all which add to the dream.  Smitten with the gardens of Italy and France, and England for that matter, and Monty Don’s insightful documentaries on these gardens has me at, oh of course, how amazing to bring this into the repertoire. Have visited a few myself and April sees me back at the Lakes of Italy to discover a few more myself.

Another secret crush is Tulipina.  Follow her work religiously. Seems so simple doing flowers, right?  Tulipina has become a major influencer in floral design today. Detailed art. Then there is Jeff Latham, always popping into the George IV in Paris to see his latest work and going ‘wow’ when I do. Many floral designers in London of course, especially Bloomsbury Flowers. there are so many: Flowerbx, McQueens, Wild at Heart and Elizabeth Marsh – one is never at the I know it all.  So much more out there! Sometimes inspiration comes from the smallest things, a vintage tea cup, a beautiful vase, indigenous blooms – one’s one garden. Planted another seven Icebergs last week, they just keep blooming and great to use for a soft touch. They last well in water. They are planted beside my lovely David Austen’s ‘Litchfield Angels’, who never disappoint.

Inspired by nature, here and in the UK. How to take local materials and make them the stars of the show. One needs to work with what is right there in front of you, hone it, incorporate it and make it something special. We draw all the threads together and often, even when walking, I find material that would be perfect, for the right setting of the scene.

So, as a floral designer, the countdown has begun for this special time.  To create a wonderful Bridal shower and then turn all around for a dramatic, sophisticated dining experience. Seasonal drama. A summer setting. Want it to be personal, digging deep to do so – and that’s why it’s all about the blooms this week.

No matter how small or large the event, the flowers will tell the story.

When someone trusts you with their dream, it’s a privilege and lots of work to deliver that dream to perfection.


Love what I do.  Love the flowers and the possibilities of what they can achieve. Love their ability to transform the ordinary to the extraordinary.

They will tell their own story. A memorable one at that.

To work.  To doing what I love. To the blooms

Images: Own, Adene’s flowers, Italy tourism








Into the memory boxes.

This photo was taken on the first anniversary of Princess Diana’s death.  That long ago.  Our visit to her grave at Althrop. Found in the box of photographs tucked deep inside a cupboard I keep locked away when I am not here. I am seldom here.  All my family things are here.

Our family home is in the Cape, in South Africa.  I live in London.  Still in the nomadic stage of life, I rent in London but keep our family home intact on the other side of the world.  Times we rent it out, times we just lock it up and return for the summer. It’s when I return, for a little while, that all the memories surround me, time to go back and swim into the past.  Not always easy, much has happened in the interim, but fortunate to find the pieces of self that brings nostalgia, but also a sense of belonging, and inspiration to pack the suitcase and fare out again.  The past will be here, when I am ready to surround myself with it years from now, but some say I am fortunate, and sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

When children leave home, they are not ready to take their lives with them.  To much to do, achieve, races to run.  We are the keepers of their pasts until they are ready to settle and own them. Do you do the same?  Hold onto your children through their chapters with you?  Admit to moments when hanging on seems more of a burden, only to realise how blessed I am, to have the role of keeper of what our lives became, once was, the weaver of the threads, the creator of the tapestry. The gatekeeper.

So I make a quiet time, a peaceful time, to look back.  We need to do that.  When life is fraught with anxiety, and at times pure hopelessness, when the road forward seems dark and foreboding and we are that stage when some of us are alone and despite the courage we all have within ourselves, daunted – it is a good thing.  We owned our youth, silly dreams, too much experimenting – our weddings and first jobs – being the smug mummies and creating homes.  When it was simple and no longer seems so.  The memory boxes remind us of a time of everyday magic, of swimming lessons and toddlers birthday parties.  Beach holidays and freckles on their faces. Our parents who may not be here anymore. Of laden tables and slim waists.

Going through the school days.  The all important, all consuming years of exams (yes, we soothed your fevered brows), the dances and first dates (yes, we listened and were there for you).  The sports games and rugby matches (yes, we closed our eyes in case you got hurt and wanted to run onto the field and box the ears of those you bullied you) and when you brought home your ‘Christmas’ decorations and we swooned over them. All still in the boxes.

A few photos of myself, only back then, photos were rare and not the best, not so? The odd school photograph of badly cut hairstyles and teenage angst. Beautiful wedding photographs. Now my daughter’s also.  All in the boxes.

It is a time of reflection, and a time of … gathering the threads to say ‘ it was good’, and put them back at this time in the new year.  They will be safe and no matter what the future holds, the past was pretty awesome. We are the fabric of how we dealt with the past, and that fabric, that tapestry, is the forever binding to what we do with it, and take it into the future.

Which is looking pretty good, now that I have had a giggle and a sigh at the boxes of memories. I know I keep everything, photographs, toys, slips and receipts and you know why, when I feel lost, as I often do lately, it really helps with the courage, to say, I am ok, I can be proud of where I have come from and even more excited of where I am going.




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 [email protected], or [email protected], or even at [email protected]

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.