Monthly Archives: August 2013


I spent the last week with a very dear friend who lives in upstate New York. When we were discussing my visit, Steve asked me what our plans were. I answered, only half jokingly, that we planned to spend about 18 hours a day chatting, and that we would probably chat in a variety of places. ‘That’s not a plan!’ he said,  ‘what will you actually be doing?’

Anthea and I have been friends for twenty years. We met when we and our husbands were posted to Cleveland for a couple of years (I know!). As well as both having babies and having been plucked out of our home environments, we discovered that we share all sorts of interests, views and values. Plus she has a wicked sense of humour. We Skype regularly and in recent years have tried to visit each other once a year.

So, I arrived on Monday afternoon and it turned out that various people had also been asking her what we were going to do during our week. It seemed that people were a little … bemused might be the best word, about our distinct lack of plans or apparent enthusiasm for doing very much. We spent one afternoon walking to a coffee shop, having coffee and walking back, another one trying on clothes and hats in a vintage shop and yet another pottering round little local shops and going to the library.

 photo IMG_2749.jpgWe found it very funny indeed that so many people seemed to think that we were ‘doing it wrong‘.

When we reflected on this, it seemed to us that people expected us to do all sorts of things: to visit the city, to go to exhibitions and a show and to shop. All of which would of course have been lovely, had we chosen to do them. And if those activities are a kind of tick-list by which a successful trip is judged, then it is true that we did indeed fail miserably.

However, we realised that we are in fact very good indeed at our visits, but not in terms of what we do. What we are brilliant at is giving each other and ourselves the gift of time. We luxuriate in hours and hours of time. Time spent listening to each others’ stories; time spent belly laughing (and sometimes crying); time spent hanging out watching films, trying on clothes, cooking, going for walks – just time being together. We have so much to talk about, in so much detail, that we never, ever, run out of things to say.

 photo 1a7733f8-72c0-47ff-8944-d64c6e234a18.jpgAs mothers and as workers our lives are so busy, hectic and fast-paced, that allowing ourselves to stop ‘doing’ and instead just to ‘be’ together truly feels like a luxurious gift of rich and precious time. I am very lucky to have her for a friend.

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Two (and two dogs) have fun in Dorset

We just got back from a gorgeous week in Dorset. Here are some of the things that we did.

 photo Image4.jpgWalks along the coast

 photo Image3.jpgLolling around on beaches

 photo IMG_2644.jpgHaving fun with our dogs

 photo IMG_2658.jpgAfternoon tea and cake, reading and knitting (it’s in the bag!)

 photo IMG_2707.jpgA trip to Lyme Regis…

 photo IMG_2651.jpg…where I wore my Footlights cardigan (details on Ravelry)

 photo 13c86535-04e9-4b86-abf5-23b00f3d8a5b.jpgI had my first ever shampoo and set in a hairdressers (as opposed to doing it myself at home).

 photo IMG_2684.jpgI loved the results – and also the fact that in the photo below I pretty much could be my grandmother!

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Waddesdon Manor

I recently went on a work visit to Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury in Hertfordshire, and thought I’d share about it here.

IMG_2527The main part of the Manor was built in 1883 by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, as his country weekend retreat. The house was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1959 and has been open to visitors ever since.

IMG_2510The house is incredibly ornate and is stuffed to the gills with the Rothchilds’ possessions: there are over 25,000 objects in the house’s collection and the majority of them are on display. It is in fact quite an overwhelming place to wander around – you could easily spend the entire day there and still not see everything there is to see.

IMG_2509When the Baron died he bequeathed a collection of nearly 300 precious art objects from Renaissance Europe to the British Museum. This collection is in the process of being moved to a new gallery in the Museum which was the reason for our visit. It will be worth dropping in to see the new display if you are in London from next February.

There was a temporary exhibition of linen folding by contemporary artist John Sallas. Linen folding is an almost-forgotten, spectacular art form that was extremely popular in German-speaking lands in the 17th century. It was used to make table decorations of great intricacy and beauty, both for display and for practical use. Different patterns were used to represent different families – you can see some of them in the image below. In the centre of the table is an incredible 1.5m-high fountain flanked by heraldic beasts, a 3m long snake and many animals, vegetables and architectural features – all original designs that would have graced the tables of courts and those of high society across Europe.

IMG_2506The gardens are lovely – many people go just to visit them (they are free, unlike the house). This ornate aviary was built in the late 19th century and is full of beautiful and unusual birds – including Rothschild’s Lobe-Billed Bird of Paradise.

IMG_2519Waddesdon is just under an hour away from London by train and is well worth a visit. If you go, don’t miss the incredible 8-foot topiary birds!


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