A Wedding, Two Lunches and a Graduation

These are betwixt and between days, a medley of time at home and one-offs, like the wedding we attended in Bloomsbury.  One of Nick’s former fishing customers generously invited us to the wedding reception of his son.  This gave us an insight into Turkish customs on such occasions, and will be memorable on a number of fronts, not least the dancing which took place and the novel method of paying the live band: all eligible young ladies performed versions of a shimmy in pairs, as guests showered them with dollars which would find their way into the pockets of the musicians.

Then there was lunch with Jane at The Elm Tree in Langton Herring a couple of days later, followed by a short drive to Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Garden where we looked at the plants for sale in the small nursery.  They have a good selection of Salvia –all in flower – which are staples for my gardening schemes.

The Watsonia are flowering just now.  They are part of the iris family, bulbs which send up a tall spike of flowers in hues of pink and orange.  They are more slender than Gladioli which seem to have replaced them in popularity.  But the Watsonia are more graceful, the florets more subtle.  I need to create a place for them in St Vaast so I resisted the temptation this time.  But I did buy two rather unusual plants, a departure for me in that they are succulents.  Their morphology and colouration reminds me of marine organisms: sea anemones, or algae perhaps.  The genus is Echeveria and the two I bought – Mauna Loa and lilacina should look well in the kitchen.

Over tea and carrot cake Jane and I wrote cards for forthcoming birthdays and anniversaries.

The following day found me rising early and driving to Guildford for a dental appointment.  Afterwards I drove to Bramley where I met my very good friend Esme for a bit of lunch in the recently-opened Wine Bar – Bistro ‘Hollyhocks’.  There over a small glass of wine and seared scallops on parsnip puree, with salad, we caught up on news and hatched a plan to take the Orient Express to Venice in 2012.  Based on shared time spent in the recent years that we have known Esme and her husband, I think the trip is destined to be a lot of fun.

Later that day I met up with my Godalming Book Group, at least we were a quorum of five.  We talked about our recent read, ‘Trespass’ by Rose Tremain, then moved on to other books we have been reading, or are planning to read.  Appropriately I took delivery of one of Christine’s sculptures which completes a trio of her work.  The new one is a kneeling young girl and is called ‘The Story’.

And so to a milestone in the life of Ted who starts ‘big school’ in September.  With summer holidays looming, all the children who will leave at the end of the summer took part in a ‘graduation’ ceremony, held at the neighbouring church, during which they sang songs, received a certificate and small prize, then threw their mortar boards in the air before repairing to the hall for tea.  By request, Charlotte, Demi and I accompanied Ted to Pizza Express, after stopping off at the toy-shop for a graduation gift.  Quite a day in a young life.

A Right Royal Riot of Colourful Blooms…..

I braved the crowds at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hampton Court Flower Show.  It is billed as the largest show of its kind in the world.  Certainly the sprawling encampment of stalls selling the gamut of gardening equipment and accoutrements, food and drink outlets such as bistros and tea rooms, display gardens and larger floral marquees occupies a space that is difficult for the visitor to cover in one day.  The Edible Garden display occupies the largest area on the site.

As I parked up at 2 in the afternoon I was already feeling jaded and disinclined to ever visit the Show again.  The drive from Junction 1 on the M3 at Sunbury, to the Palace, was achieved at a snail’s pace with gridlock on the roundabout which takes traffic feeding off the motorway.

I gave the show 3 hours and covered less than a quarter of the grounds.  I lingered long in the RHS Floral Marquee and took many photos.  This houses wonderful plant displays including new cultivars.  Some of the companion planting was stunning and gave me lots of ideas.

In another large marquee I found the Festival of Roses and chose a climber, The Generous Gardener, for the wall of the hosta bed at the front of The Old Workshop.  Here were specialist stalls for things like Eucalyptus, Carnations, Buxus and Auricula.

Inevitably I bought plants but fewer than last time, I also found some inexpensive but sturdy green wire plant supporting frames to add to those I have in Dorset and St Vaast.  When I could carry no more booty I headed for my car.  As I approached the exit I glanced down and caught sight of a ‘mob’ of meerkats, small wooden beings on sticks as garden ornaments.  Perhaps Nick could make some for the grandchildren ……….. Simples!!

I drove without too much traffic pain to Godalming, to a wonderful welcome from Ted.

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A first Vide Grenier

Over the weekend before we returned to Dorset I experienced my first French ‘car boot sale’.  I have heard such off-putting tales of voracity, from friends and family, that I have never opened up my car boot for business in England.  In France such sales/markets are called Vide Greniers (literally, Attic-Clearances) which certainly sounds more enticing, with the implied promise of latent treasures that may be unveiled on one’s stall.

My table was sandwiched between my friend Anne and her sister-in-law Sylvie who served as a human comfort blanket.  In reality my wares consist of odd bits of china, knick-knacks, some children’s things, surplus fishing tackle donated by Nick.  Most items fetched a Euro or two and somehow I managed to shift 100 Euros-worth of goods, and ended up repacking almost as much stuff as I had brought to my stall at the outset.  There is a nucleus of goods for the next one.  I also know what I will not be able to sell.

I bought a couple of items from Anne’s stall and later, two of the Thonet bentwood cane-seated chairs which came from her grandmother’s house.  Excluding the chairs, which don’t really count, there was certainly a net outflow of possessions!

We ate with the Poulets three evenings running, the final evening reaching gastronomic heights with Anne’s marinaded mackerel fillets (caught by Nick and Francois on Vide Grenier day), lobster à la mayonnaise (thanks to Daniel) and a strip of chunky lamb ribs roasted on the BBQ  in their kitchen, followed by a massive bowl of salad leaves and cheeses.

It is risky to say much about the state of play regarding our dry rot works, but we leave on Tuesday with the sense that our builder has grasped the nettle; he is very much on the case in getting the remedial treatment finished in July so the house can dry out in August.  The stage should then be set for reinstatement of our home to begin come September.

As usual we have put time in on the garden.  Some of the bee orchids are still flowering and looking more robust than the first ‘floraison’.  I’m rather taken with the way the corner by the rear gates has turned out.  It is graced with EchiumCichorium intybus, the tall pale pink Salvia , Crocosmia Bressingham Blaze and the yet-to-flower pale creamy yellow Dietes bicolor. There are rather more zones in the garden where I think I must rearrange the plants.  I heard on Gardeners’ Question Time, with much relief, that a good gardener should expect to move plants around.

In the course of general weeding I find a small self-set plantlet which I conclude is Daphne.  The carnations which were mere sprigs from a bouquet and which my mother rooted in water are all now flowering well.  Carnations have been considered to be rather démodé until recently, but it seems to me that they are making a come-back.  I find articles on the internet which back this up.

The two small borders by the pergola are now richly vegetated and lush.  One bed is tackled, with a serious cut-back of the magenta Centaurea, pruning of the Forsythia and the Cistus and staking of some of the plants.  The climbers planted along the pergola (vine, Akebia, Jasmine, climbing rose ‘Janet’, Clematis tangutica, evergreen Lonicera and Wisteria – too many?) are now growing really well and working their way over the upper struts.  Eventually they will clad the uprights rising from the terrace wall.

All in all there are pleasing things happening in our garden, and we always run out of gardening time; too soon the tools must be cleaned and laid out on the table in the potting shed.  Nick does this.  He also clears up all the plant material I cast behind me onto the lawn as I work, and turns it into compost.  He now generates it rapidly.  It is amazing how quickly the contents of the compost bins heat up under their offcuts of carpet, laid on top of each load under the wooden lids.  There is more than enough for French needs, so we take some back to Dorset at the end of our stay.

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Barn’s Dance

If 60 is the new 40 I guess our eldest son hit the new 20 earlier this year.  I didn’t ask him how he felt about it but I certainly had a sense of a real milestone.  There is so much of the growing-up years of our children that seems to have whizzed past and is telescoped into a memory of everyday schooldays and holiday highlights.  Christmases seem to be particularly memorable, and once my brain gets in gear its starts dredging up lowlights too.  So enough of that, here’s a gallery of random, sometimes soft-focus images from a day in Oxfordshire.  Barns and Sanj threw a party with a Ceilidh.  A perfect format for all ages.

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Open Homes, Open Gardens, Open Studios

I’m sitting in the kitchen at 104, it’s coffee time and there are sounds of yet more dismantling from the front of the house.  The last bits of timber are being removed from the ceilings and walls, and more evidence of the dry rot fungus has been found 😦  It is almost certainly dead but it is unsettling.  We wonder yet how far the house must be unpicked to rid ourselves of the scourge.  It is bringing a new meaning to the concept of Open-Plan!

Progressing the work has been painfully slow because so many interests are involved: the builder who renovated the house before we bought it, his two insurance companies who are involved, the expert and the technicians responsible for remedial treatment and us.  They communicate sporadically and phases of work inch forward.  I am amazed how well Nick manages to comprehend what is happening, follows and conducts conversations entirely in French.  His vocabulary has expanded in unforeseen directions!

We crossed the Channel on Tuesday.  I left a calm and orderly house and garden.  My study/workroom is unpacked and I have just about enough shelf space for books and papers.  There has been time to set up my microscope and start the protracted curation job that will be necessary to sort, label and box up specimens.  At some point I need to decide how to deal with my collection.  One museum has already expressed an interest.

Best of all I have made the curtains for my room.  I waited until I found the right fabric, and I knew it when I saw it in my favourite shop in Godalming.   It’s a large sweeping peacock-feather design on an off-white background.  They are light, airy and gorgeous.

Just about all the plants that needed to be planted out are safely bedded.  Some things are growing really slowly and I think this must be because the soil is poor and we need time to feed it up with vegetative material.  The beans and peas in particular are not putting on growth as they should.  Nick’s compost making is prodigious and he has been persuaded to bring some of the precious commodity back from France for the Dorset garden.  The Tom Thumb tomatoes I sowed and planted in containers are doing really well and the asparagus crowns we ordered from Suttons in May have nearly all sprouted.  On this basis we may be able to harvest a very few spears next year.

One morning I slipped over to Cerne Abbas for coffee with friends.  The lady of the house is a keen gardener and allotment holder.  She is new to the game but her plot is verdant and fruitful.  It is set on a gently sloping hillside, with an open, picturesque aspect, on the periphery of the village, a 5-minute walk from her home.  I get a tour, also of her pretty cottage garden which will be on show over the forthcoming weekend when the village runs its Open Gardens scheme.  My star of her show is the pot of blue Himalayan poppies in the dappled shade of a tree at the edge of the lawn.

I’ve managed to be on the spot for both June Book Group meetings.  My Godalming read, A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, was an engrossing and rewarding book.  David Mitchell is an author who does not fail to please.  Other books have been a bit lack lustre and I’m waiting for the next page-turner to light my fire.  The trip to Godalming coincided with Surrey Artists’  Open Studios so we were treated to a glass of wine in fellow reader Christine Charlesworth’s studio.

Her sculptures are receiving increasing recognition, most recently at the Society of Women Artists’ 150th Exhibition in London where she won an award.  She sculpts her people – often the subjects are children – starting with an armature which she coats in clay.  From this a latex mould is made which will contain the bronze resin mix.  Then there are various finishing techniques to carry out.  This enables her to produce limited editions of her sculptures which are more affordable than solid bronze.    And they look wonderful.

Christine is inspired by the human figure and aims not just to capture a likeness but to show life and natural movement in each piece.  Looking at her collection I think the last thing in her sculpting process is to breathe life into her figures.