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Archive for February, 2010

Goodbye Albion Road

Well, after years of pondering the future of the housing market, and fretting over whether we could leave our lovely flat behind for pastures new, we have taken the plunge and sold our flat.  Even though we have spent tens of thousands on improving the bloomin place, it was the garden that is hardest to leave behind.

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We moved here before we had children, and looking back our plants were more like pets than plants.  We collected, we categorised, we watched them grow.  We poured our hearts into this garden, and to be honest we filled it with our dreams and aspirations of life.

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As our first garden, it gave us the chance to put into practice all the garden designs we had locked in our heads over the years of living in flats without gardens.  All the plants we were desperate to grow, all the ideas we were desperate to try.  Now it is time to move on.  The children need more space (as do we), and the new garden will give us the chance to design it around them.

I hope the new owners enjoy the garden as much as we have.  It has become rather neglected of late, because we spend all our garden energy on the allotments, but I hope they will restore it to something of its former glory.  I daren’t post a photo as it looks today – it is a ruin and a sad shadow of its former self.   Five years ago, our cleaners thought we were gardeners for a living, which was flattering.  Since then, all our tender plants have been killed off by two successive freezing winters.  Now no-one could think this garden was cared for – as we have become more and more frustrated by all the setbacks in trying to move house, we have become more and more resentful and neglectful of the place we once loved.

This makes me reflect on how quickly nature takes over where man leaves off.  The circle of life and the way that we busy ourselves creating stuff during our lifetime and then hand it on to someone else to do their own thing when we depart.  Moving is a time of reflection anyway, so my emotions are finely tuned.

So here is the swansong of our flat garden, a place where many many happy times have been had and many memories will remain, before we say a welcome to the new garden at the new house, pictured below.

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Midwinter magic and fairy dust

Sometimes you plan things for ages, and other times an idea just hits you from out of the blue.  I was browsing through one of the girliest shops in the world in the town of Arundel in West Sussex, when I found this:

In case the picture is unclear, it is a phial of glitter which says ‘Fairy Dust’.   Costing about 50p, it was irresistable to a mum with two small girls of 3 and 6.  The possibilities!  Bear with me on this one…

While growing up in the wild moors of Lancashire, believing it to be the back end of nowhere, (subsequently proved by the long journeys back from civilisation later in life), I couldn’t wait to leave and live in a big city.  I was never sure which city, but I knew it was going to be a bigger and more interesting place than the rainy wilderness of home.

Of course, when I had my own children I was very excited to be bringing them up in London.  WOW, I thought, how lucky are they to live in such an important and cosmopolitan place?  The history, the culture, the museums, the markets, the endless life opportunities.  A truly enthralling place?

So I was very surprised when my daughter announced that she thought Tottington, the Lancashire village I grew up in was the most amazing place in the world and that she was going to move there when she grew up.  They do say life comes full circle!  Curious to find out more, I asked her why Tottington was the best place in the world to live.  She replied that it was because there was more magic there than there was in London.

I realised that when we had visited Granny there, the girls had got to make spells in the garden and, by magic, some gifts from the fairies appeared when they got up the following day.  Now of course, spells had never worked at our house in London, and we had speculated that there weren’t any fairies in our garden.  However, when I found the fairy dust, we wondered together if it might make our spells work?  Obviously Granny must have her own magic which Mummy can’t do?

So we tried:

The girls had a pot each, and collected an assortment of grass, leaves and other ingredients from the garden.  They mixed them up with a stick, and then we added the fairy dust to see if it brought any fairies overnight?

Well, the next morning we checked:

The fairies had been!  Well, my 6 year old confided that she had started to think that fairies didn’t really exist, but this confirmed that they did.  The rest of the fairy dust went a long way.  We made magic wands using real magic glitter, we made the teddies move, and we even made facepaint out of it later that day.

All in all a magical midwinter day.

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I try to resist it each year, but have to admit that at times I really do hate winter.  It just doesn’t come naturally to me to sit indoors while it is cold outside.  Everything I like doing is outside – the allotment, gardens, camping, walking, sitting out and so on.  I am generally happy as long as I can be outdoors comfortably.  All winter I feel like a battery hen and by the start of February the cabin fever is reaching its peak.

So far this winter I have read the whole Twilight saga, watched umpteen films, scoured the internet for bargains, and generally trodden water in any way possible till the warmer season hits.

I do suspect that perhaps the hibernation every year recharges my creative batteries for the year ahead?

So it is an especially lovely bit of light relief when someone in the blogosphere remembers that I exist, and sends a lovely comment my way.  After a particularly drab but stressful day (if that combination isn’t too much of an oxymoron), the lovely mangocheeks at Allotment2Kitchen woke me out of my restless boredom with her lovely my favourite photo meme.  We have blogged together through thick and thin, and I am in awe of someone who can create so many new recipes so often.  A true talent and a fantastic inspiration.

And I instantly knew which one I would choose:

I may be cheating here by putting a photo of the girls rather than myself.  It also may be cheating to put a photo on where they can’t be recognised, in these days of internet paranoia.  It’s not even the best quality photo I have by a long stretch.  And yet…

It sums up for me that warm, sunny, carefree childhood feeling.  My little girls in a haze of sun, their fine hair shining like halos round their heads.  Surrounded by lavender in our local area, our main claim to fame and the plant that connects me to the land here in so many ways.  The loveliest thing about the photo is that it will always remind me of their complete childlike joy that day.  Their fresh enthusiasm for every new experience that comes their way, their excitability when I take them places that I love.  Their love for me, which I never feel I deserve, and their love of life.  I hope I can give them a childhood that captures that feeling for them, and bottles it forever.  In some ways, my girls feel like two halves of me anyway – they share my looks in totally different ways, they share different character traits.  For me, it is like watching a ying and yang of different halves of yourself – if that isn’t too selfish a way of looking at it.

I have never done this before, so I apologise if it is intrusive, but I would love to pass this sentiment on to just some of the bloggers that make the online world so colourful.

First and foremost, my amazing sister-in-law at Marble-Rose.  I can’t really describe how much inspiration and camaraderie I have got from her over the years.  Her beautiful, talented and fun personality has brightened some of the darkest days we have had. I would love to see what photo she would choose.

Nic from Nipitinthebud has been a constant presence and inspiration, and yet I would be intrigued to find out more about her.

Kella from Kellasmusings would have been my next one, but she started it off, so I can’t ask her to be involved.

Kilbournegrove provides me with so much inspiration and house/garden envy from Canada, and I would be intrigued to learn more.

From the Stanley Road allotment site, Alithefrog has a fantastic blog and puts my gardening efforts to shame!

The ScatteredGardener is another brilliant inspirational blogger from sunny South London, and I hope you won’t mind me namechecking you here.

I would also love to pass this to Matron from Downontheallotment, who provides lots of ideas and brilliant competitions that I will enter one day when I have something worth entering!

I hope this brings a bit of cheer to someone during the long winter season.

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Charity shops in areas where rich people live can be a great source of quality cast offs.  I love charity shopping in Wimbledon Village, and then window shopping in the boutiques there.

Oxfam and British Red Cross have shops there, where I have picked up some fabulous stuff in the past.


Cath Kidston is always worth a look:

The stuff in the window is always an inspiration:

As well as a good browse to see what is new:

Some of the hand made stuff looks lovely.  In particular I loved these little children’s slippers.  They look quite easy to have a go at making (or do they??):

I wish my home looked more like this:

There is also a vintage shop, which was closed the day I went:

The ties and scarves alone look worth a visit (sorry about quality of photo):

As well as the vintage tea dresses:

Graham and Green have lots of quirky interior decorations:

I found these cushions in the sale:

There are lots of lovely places to go for a coffee stop.  Boulangerie Paul do the most amazing French patisserie and pastries:

If you want something more substantial, Strada do great pasta and pizzas and even offer free filtered water on the tables:

I have never been to Giraffe, but I have heard it is very child friendly if you have little ones in tow:

My final stop before heading back was to get some knitting inspiration from the fabulous and expensive Brora shop:

I was not disappointed, and although cripplingly expensive, the stuff there is absolutely gorgeous:

The little fair isle gloves were just adorable:

And the teddy has to be worth making:

I went home full of inspiration for knitting and sewing.

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