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Flowers of middle summer

3 Jul

Another summer, another fragrant visit to Cotswold Lavender.  Possibly one of my most favorite seasonal visits.  (But who can say.  I have so many seasonal favorites.  England is full of them.)

See previous visits: Day out: Cotswold Lavender; Cotswold Drive; Purple Haze; Week out: Cotswold.  Since we’ve been here before, I’ll give myself the pleasure of simply sharing a few new photos — there’s a wildflower field, new this year! — and breathing in deeply the memories (along with this cup of Lavender and Earl Grey tea).

On your drive to the fields, enjoy the rolling countryside.

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Boy, the traffic is just crazy, isn’t it?

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More fellow-travelers.

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And finally, that picturesque white cottage looking over the purple fields.IMG_3668ed

And see the burst of wildflowers, new in the fields this year.  What a glorious contrast to the purple lavender, white house, green fields…IMG_3586ed

There’s space and time to sit down right next to the lavender.  It bobs and almost sparkles in the sunshine.

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Other friendly visitors in the fields…IMG_3678ed Deep purples … IMG_20140626_115859ed Gravity-defying spiders … IMG_3649ed

Bachelor buttons in the wildflower fields.

IMG_3597ed I can hardly think of anything more English.  Well, maybe I can, but I don’t want to think, I want to lay down among the flowers, listen to the music of the bees, and watch the flower tops bounce and bend in the breeze.10502460_10203355700867392_2054136464055792860_n

If you are around and have the time, a visit out to the lavender fields can’t be beat.  Check the website for peak bloom times — and get there before they harvest the lavender!

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In, not of, with roses.

25 Jun

I heard myself say the other day:  “I love England.  I don’t love living in England, but I love England.”

Sometimes when you open your mouth and speak without thinking, truth pops out.  I’ll leave you with that bit of personal ambiguity and my annual photo spread of something about which I feel no equivocation — the gorgeous roses that bloom in our garden.  When I turn the corner to walk to my house, the scent of these roses hit me before I can even see the front door.  Some brave blooms show up as late (or as early) as New Years Day, but most reach their fulsome loveliest now, in June.

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Want more roses?  See my post from two years ago, Jubilee and Roses, or look up the roses tag.  I’m still a rose-moron — I have no idea the names or types of these roses which bring my life so much beauty.  Yet in these few years I find my idea of what is required in a garden has changed.  There must be roses.  There must always be roses.

2013 in review

1 Jan

Here’s a quick review of 2013 — and let’s be honest, this post is mostly here so you won’t think I’ve died and stopped blogging.  (In contrast to dying and continuing to blog, also a possibility.)

The 2013 most-viewed-in-a-day post was this photo-tour of my crossfit box (which was also one of the top posts for 2013).

The most popular post from 2013 overall was a recipe for oat flour pancakes.  You pinterest-y people seem to have found it, and have been pinning it here and there.  Thanks!

The post which generated the most discussion this year was my farewell to my mother, who died in April.  Thank you, dear readers, for making the time to speak to me on that day.

I was not as prolific in 2013 as I had been in 2012.  Three posts I enjoyed writing, which I think sum up where I’ve been this year, are In majesty of mudWorth waking up, and On the right foot.  Of my various day out posts, Croome Court might be my favorite post result, although The Rollright Stones and Pi=yum sums up a day I could repeat over and over with perfect contentment.  (I did visit the stones four times this year!) When the sun shines, Witley Court, and Cotswold Drive are three posts I’ve returned to during these dark months to remind myself that the sun really does shine in England … sometimes. The posts from France live their own separate existence, in a beautiful croissant and coffee-rich world.

This is a blog of images, of course, and I find I can’t choose my favorite image of 2014.  I’m greedy — I like them all — I wouldn’t share them if I didn’t.  So I’ll post a new photo, from a visit to Toddington railway station, the northern terminus of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.  I can’t think of any one image I’ve taken which sums up “England” more perfectly than this!

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Here’s to more explorations in 2014.  Much love to y’all as you come along with me!

O Tannenbaum

17 Dec

Another holiday snapshot, to help us through these darkest days of winter.  The beautiful Christmas tree at Bourton-on-the-Water, which we have visited each holiday season in England so far. (Year one. Year two.)

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A gentle winter afternoon walk, accompanied by ducks and the occasional brave tourist.  Breathe – soltice is almost here.

The heart of memory

9 Dec

I do try.  I try not to obsess about the days of darkness.  I try to talk about something else … anything else.  I try not to give up and go to sleep at 7pm, because it’s been dark for three hours already and who cares anymore.  I keep making meals for the family, keep wandering through my routines, keep tying myself into to the small knots of details that make up a pattern of life even when it all seems pointless.  I remind myself of days where the sun shone endlessly over green fields.  I remind myself of when the sun was so bright it hurt my eyes and I could fling my arms wide and fold it into my skin.  It seems unfair that even in those summer days, I carried the fear of winter coiled in my heart.  Now that winter has fallen, where is my internal memory of summer, to keep me warm?

IMG_0559edI’m making a deliberate effort to work on my gratitude.  To notice and appreciate the unique experiences and opportunities of living in this country.  Like getting to hang out in Shakespeare’s hometown on my birthday, and contemplate the passing of time with a sundial in his daughter’s garden.

Come what come may, time and the hour run through the roughest day.

God, I hope so.

Survival

19 Nov

It’s survival time here in England.  The days of darkness are NOW.  Every day, as the minutes click down in our quota of daylight until we reach solstice, I spend each day trying not to lose my mind.  Pretty much.  I don’t want to exaggerate or anything.  I will simply assure you, with one hundred percent accuracy, that any day you see me standing upright and able to communicate in anything close to sensible speech is a day in which I have already conquered my demons and barely — barely — won through to survive one more day.

Every.  Single.  Day.

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I spent some time last year thinking about ways to survive these black days.  I followed my own advice last year, and didn’t completely lose it until about December 20th.  This year I’ve been following more of the same, although I think it’s safe to say I’ve kicked up the exercise (including lots of outdoor muddy running) and had a bigger focus on food for (mental) health.  Still.  Even sitting in front of my fire, mince pie (gluten and dairy free!), coffee, and vitamin c orange ready, snuggly blanket and cheerful laptop by my side … it’s rough.  It is ROUGH.

Death has been my companion for too much of this year.  I’m cold way down deep in my bones.  Thirty two days to solstice.  Let’s just keep holding on.

Day out: Holst Museum

1 Oct

A small gem at the edge of Pittville Park in Cheltenham — the Holst Birthplace Museum.  I’ve been meaning to visit for quite some time.  I didn’t realize it was not only a sweet and gentle introduction to the life and work of Gustav Holst, but a beautifully presented history of Regency and Victorian homes in Cheltenham.

Enter the front hall, pay your small entry fee to one of the smiling docents, and enter the main music room, where you will see Holst’s piano, where he composed The Planets.IMG_0608e

And examples of his compositions.IMG_0609e

Wander downstairs, and find a Victorian scullery, and a kitchen — the range is still in working order!IMG_0615e

A Victorian pantry.IMG_0616e

And finally a small storage and repair room, next to a bright and cheerful working room for the lady of the house to do the accounts or for the maid of the house to catch up on sewing and mending.IMG_0617e

Upstairs, the music room is maintained in a Regency style.  Holst’s father was a music teacher, and may have taught in rooms decorated like this in any of scores of Cheltenham Regency homes.  Much of the artwork through out the home was created by Holst’s great uncle Theodor Von Holst.IMG_0621e

A close up view of the angel on that harp.  The furnishings are not original to the house, but are all of the appropriate time period and held in cooperation with the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum (soon to reopen as The Wilson).IMG_0624e

In one of the main bedrooms, where it is speculated Holst may have been born, we see more Victorian decor — complete with stuffed bird in the background.
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Upstairs, the servant’s room.  Small, but a room of one’s own.IMG_0626e

The Edwardian day nursery, upstairs, next to the servant’s room.  The room is filled with toys — some available to today’s children of all ages to touch and explore.IMG_0627e

Sweet needlework hangs on the walls, an example of the education given to girls in another era.IMG_0635e

And behind the house, the current toilets sit next to the original lavatory!  (“Gustav’s Lav”!)IMG_0638e

After a stroll through history, what could be better than a walk up through Pittville Park to the Pump Room, and a taste of the famous Cheltenham Spa waters?IMG_0642e

Hello, sir.  That’s quite a pump you have there.IMG_0644e

The Victorian pump is broken, but the water still draws up 80 feet to land in these compostable cups.  And it tastes like death.

Seriously.  But I drank it down, didn’t vomit, and felt not at all any healthier.  But give me a week, maybe it will turn back the clock on my age, face, and brain if I just give it long enough.IMG_0646eOooohhhh, while I let that death water do its magic, I’m going to stare up at this gorgeous chandelier and the incredible Pump Room dome.