When Ted Met Lola

Ted and Lola are cousins.  He’s 2 and a half years old and she is 4 and from time to time they meet at family events.  Recently various family activities contrived to lodge them with grandparents for a weekend.  Ted’s parents had been due to fly to a spa hotel in western Ireland.  Icelandic volcanic dust had them grounded and in the end after a thorough internet search Ted’s mother booked into a Country Club/Spa Hotel just down the road from their home.  With wonderful weather enabling plenty of sun-blessed relaxation they could have been 1000s of miles away.

Lola’s father drove his family to Godalming and then he went on to north Dorset with his brother where they attended the memorial lunch for their late cousin Max, who captained North Dorset Rugby Club.  They watched an excellent match afterwards where NDRC beat the estimable Sherborne team 17:16.  £2,500 was raised at the lunch which included a raffle.  This will be donated to Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). After the match a ‘party’ at the clubhouse lasted late and £5500 was taken at the bar!

Lola’s mother and sister Ruby (2) spent Saturday with the rest of us before catching a train to London at the end of the afternoon.  Ruby has her own engagement on Sunday.  It was a perfect spring day.  The children made fairies out of beads, pipe-cleaners, scraps of ribbon and lace: trimmings that have been waiting in the wings for decades in the certain knowledge that they would be useful one day.

They played outside running up and down walls using planks as ramps and bridges.  They investigated the woods with Grandpa, played on the neighbour’s climbing frame, collected a sample of tadpoles from the pond and watched them devour pieces of bacon.  A toy cooker, formerly rescued from our local tip by Nick, was the focus for a dollies’ tea-party.

At bed-time Lola and I hunkered down with Ted for a post-bath ‘Charlie and Lola’ story.  There was a bit of argy-bargy over the fact that Ted was allowed a large beaker of milk to settle with, Lola had had her milk earlier.  One of Nick’s instant customised stories for Lola sorted that one out.  Before she settled for the night Lola had managed to extract a number of promises and concessions for the following day, chief amongst these being an undertaking to give Ted and her access to the attic, whose trap door is tantalisingly placed immediately above the bunk bed she occupies.

They woke and joined me in the morning.  Rooney obligingly jumped up and allowed himself to be ‘softed’.  He normally gives the children a wide berth but Ted and Lola’s technique is sufficiently low-key that he does not need to escape.    After breakfast Nick compiles a simple picnic then we load up for Bockett’s Farm.  We were last there in December with Lola and Ruby.  At that time Santa was in residence, this time we are on the tail end of Easter attractions.

Again, there are newborn lambs, a second crop.  We buy pellets to feed the sheep and goats but their salivary yaffling technique is too much for Lola, who finds it all just so yucky.   We are sufficiently early in the day that we have been able to park in the lower carpark near the farm entrance.  This is a plus, as is the fact that the soft play areas are practically deserted.  We enjoy a brief animal handling session which includes a Chinchilla called Charlie.  This animal is so SOFT – no wonder their pelts have been exploited to make fur coats for rich ladies.  But how could they?

We eat our picnic piecemeal, seated at a table in the extensive playground area.  Ted is Lola’s shadow, imitating her.  This is the sincerest form of flattery!  They explore the small maze but have to box and cox as to who should be  in the lead.  At one point Ted becomes exasperated.  “I’m yost!!……Yoya, where are you?”

Late in the day we discover the large inflatable Jumping Pillow.  Lola and Ted skip back and forth, at the mercy of much larger children who create waves of unconstrained movement across the surface of the pillow.  Ted who is nimble and light as a feather is wafted this way and that, until he drifts towards the tipping point, and teeters and tumbles down the slope causing great merriment.

We have to drag the children away and they sleep in the car going home.  This is not the cleverest time to nap but we cut Ted’s sleep short, in time for him to be just about awake when Charlotte and Ryan come to collect him.  So then there was one.

After supper and before bed Lola and I fill the bath, tip in bubble stuff and turn on the jacuzzi.  As the white foam rises and envelopes all but our heads we have a confidential gossiping session.  By the time I get out Lola has floated the opinion that boys are stinky (I don’t think she includes Ted!), and pink is the best colour in the world.

A Houseful of Nutters

Easter Sunday was an excuse to get the family together……. not that we need excuses.  It’s a matter of pinning everyone down.  Nick and I don’t know how many more chances we will get to do ‘en famille’ at Godalming before we move, but on April 4th ten adults and seven children converged on us for the day.  Barns and the children came down on Friday for the duration.  On Saturday we went to the Spectrum in Guildford and spent two and a half hours in the pool complex.  It has various slides, play features, a couple of integral jacuzzi tubs and a wave machine which gets switched on every 15 minutes or so.  This is fab.

It will be many a year before we can face sitting down all together at a long table.  It’s a big ask of small children to respect Granny and Grandpa’s wish for decorum and stimulating conversation at the meal table.  Instead the children were seated for their lunch first and then allowed to play whilst the adults ate their lunch, buffet-style, dotted around the ground floor.  The kids came back for puds, then we followed and finished up with cheese.  That was pretty much eating done for the day.

During the children’s lunching interlude Nick pulled out his iPhone and captured some images.  These form the basis of my gallery.  It was Claire who gave me the idea for a title for this post, and for the image captions.  Nutters all.

Of which Dreams or Nightmares are made

Accompanying me around the Parisian flea market is, potentially, an integral part of Nick’s worst nightmare.  Faced with the prospect of persuading me to weed out some of the objects, ornaments, artefacts and books with which I choose to cover shelves and surfaces at home – less dusting that way 😉 – why would he want to risk the prospect of acquiring more.  And why would I want to do that?……….. Because I am a collector, that’s why!

If I didn’t collect shells and marine invertebrate cast-offs, as well as other marine rejectamenta, from the beach, I might just have to collect Majolica pottery.

Originally, Maiolica referred to ceramics from Renaissance Italy with an opaque, white glaze containing carbon dioxide, usually painted in several colours and sometimes called majolica in English-speaking countries.  (The term may derive from the island of Majorca where the pottery was first designed, then imported to Italy).  The original tin glazes with their vivid colours were first developed by the Mesopotamian potters, during the 11th century.  Now the term majolica refers to Victorian ceramics made in 19th century Britain, Europe and the USA, with moulded surfaces and colourful lead glazes.

Majolica pieces reflected the Victorian interest in the natural sciences – botany, zoology, entomology. Items were modeled in high relief, featuring butterflies and other insects, flowers and leaves, fruit, shells, animals, and fish. Queen Victoria’s delight with the new pottery helped to seal its success with the general public and Victorians became avid admirers.

All through the Victorian era, Majolica kept pace with the other decorative arts. In the 1860s it reflected the new interest in Oriental-inspired design with pieces shaped like bamboo and featuring other Asian motifs. Then, Majolica picked up Art Nouveau’s love of sinuous vines and the calla lily.  But in time it began to fall from favour and came to be seen as rather vulgar. Overproduction had not only rendered it common, but there was a glut of poorly manufactured pieces on the market. Also, the use of lead glazes had resulted in an epidemic of lead poisoning among factory workers, causing outrage amongst early union leaders.

As a child I used to enjoy the pieces of Majolica and similar pottery items that I encountered in the homes of my grandmother and my great aunts.  I loved the little cottage butter dish, the dishes and pots shaped like lettuce leaves, heads of celery and other vegetables.  There was a biscuit barrel designed around the theme of a water-mill.  My grandmother had a pale green bowl, shaped like a tree trunk with woodland creatures nestled in recesses around the bole.  She used this piece as a cache-pot for a large clay pot of the tiny-leaved plant she called Mind-your-own Business.  Others may know this as Baby’s Tears, Angels’  Tears, Peace-in-the-Home, Pollyanna Vine, Mother of Thousands, or if you are Andy Doran you will settle for nothing less than Soleirolia soleirolii.

In Paris we found a small shop with Majolica piled high, but far from cheap.  Some of the sets of special plates for serving and eating asparagus, globe artichokes, oysters or the fish sets ran into four figure sums.  I particularly like the individual pieces designed around an iris flower theme.  Majolica ceramics are not to everyone’s taste but I love the colourful, fussiness of pottery with detail and relief in the design when it is expertly executed.

Parisian Interlude

Since we moved to St Vaast in October 2005 we have seldom strayed far from our coastal idyll.  Apart from two trips to Giverny to visit Monet’s famous garden, on both occasions with visitors – first the Millets, the second time with the Palmers – we have limited our excursions to the Cotentin peninsula, with Barneville Carteret on the west coast being a favoured destination.

So when Alain Dupont, who owns the farm at Le Vast, invited Nick, Daniel and Francois to see the England-France Rugby match as part of the 6 Nations Grand Slam in the Stade de Paris, the opportunity was seized upon by the trio.  Invited along for the ride, ex officio, Anne and I joined Alain’s partner Martine for a retail adventure in the 9th arondissement which boasts the famous Opera and major stores like Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.

The former is very reminiscent of Oxford Street’s Selfridges and, somehow, the three of us managed to divide four hours between these two stores.  I came away with two swimsuits, a blue top for sailing days and a pair of springtime boots.  The Rugby kick-off was not until 9 p.m. so we ladies were back at the Dupont home and eating supper in front of the big screen in time to watch the match

On Sunday morning we drove into Paris to go to the Marche aux Puces de St Ouen.  The history of the famous Flea Markets dates back over two centuries, when rag and bone men scoured through the garbage of Paris at night to find valuable junk to sell on.  The flea market covers 7 hectares and is the largest antiques market in the world, receiving between 120,000 to 180,000 visitors each weekend.

With not much more than an hour and half to spend we can only explore a fraction of the sprawling complex of lanes and alleys which make up the market.  There are small shops and stalls selling bric-a-brac of every conceivable kind and there are specialist outlets for vintage clothes, genuine antique furniture, paintings, glassware, Art Nouveau jewellery and artefacts, postcards…..  But one small emporium has a fantastic array of rather special Victorian pottery and this collection merits its own next installment.