Monday, 7 April 2014

a poem for April

Photo taken at Sissinghurst in April 2012

April Rise by Laurie Lee

If ever I saw blessing in the air
I see it now in this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.

Blown bubble-film of blue, the sky wraps round
Weeds of warm light whose every root and rod
Splutters with soapy green, and all the world
Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud.

If ever I heard blessing it is there
Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are
Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound
Break on my ears their crests of throbbing air.

Pure in the haze the emerald sun dilates,
The lips of sparrows milk the mossy stones,
While white as water by the lake a girl
Swims her green hand among the gathered swans.

Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick,
Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;
Now, as my low blood scales its second chance.
If ever world were blessed, now it is.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Thursday, 27 March 2014

a staircase tale #2

Some of you may remember the first 'staircase tale' blog post from way back when in February 2010 ... incidentally my second most visited post with 1,520 views!

There have been a few changes to the cottage since then, simple cosmetic tweaks really; fresh paint colours, new curtains etc.  The most recent change is that we now have wallpaper, and patterned wallpaper at that.  Did I actually say we now have wallpaper?  I've always thought of wallpaper as being a tad fussy and, suffering from pattern phobia as I do (!) they tend to scare me a little (a fear no doubt caused by growing up in the 60s and 70s; living in a house with clashing yellow, orange and green involving incomprehensible swirly/geometric patterns on everything, from carpets and wallpaper to china).  Of course the 70s is all very much in vogue at the moment and super trendy. 

But I digress ... back to the cottage.

The wallpaper I have chosen (well actually it chose me) is Oriental Garden Duck Egg Floral by Laura Ashley.  By the way take note of the 'I' as in -  'just me'.   Oh no, the OH wanted nothing to do with wallpaper and the sticky subject of wallpapering.  Be it on the my own head (quite literally)!  So, the lovely Simon stepped into the breach and balancing artfully on a very precarious staircase he has succeeded in wallpapering our upstairs stairwell most admirably.

I just have to re-paint the stairs to finish it off.  This will be their third incarnation in almost as many years.  They were, as in my original post, painted in Farrow & Ball Clunch with a 'runner' in Mouses's Back, a very popular choice with many of you as I recall.   Then last year I painted them in Pigeon, also by F&B.  

They looked great until I painted the wall in the Duck Egg Blue, but as you can see these two colours do not do each other justice.  So  it will be a return to Clunch for the entire staircase, treads and risers; the lot.

 Keep it simple, this wallpaper deserves the limelight.

What do you think?  A thumbs up for wallpaper in the cottage?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

... of Magnolias and Gossypium

Haiku ~ Magnolia Tree

Stood like a cone
Flowers white
Like stars they shone
Magnificent beauty
Showed up in front

A brown leaf
Fell to the ground.

The Magnolia Stellata in my garden is in flower and for me this is one of the highlights of the gardening year. It's a small specimen - after 10 years still only just above 4ft in height - but exquisitely formed.  In previous years when the weather has been particularly unsettled it has flowered just fleetingly, a windy day can pluck every newly unfurled flower and hurl them around like confetti or perhaps bolls from a cotton plant ...

I love the purity of the white flowers as they shine out against the newly painted black shed; bright-white, like stars.

We painted the shed on Sunday - 'Tudor Black' so the tin says.  What do you think?  I haven't quite made up my mind whether I like it or not - the colour change is startling.  It has gone from 'beach-hut' cream and pale grey/green to 'tithe barn' black ...!


By way of comparison, here is a photo from March last year ~

... and in June 2013 ~

... and, just glimpsed beyond a riot of flowers and vegetables, in July 2012 ~

I was planning to give the shed doors a further coat of Tudor Black this morning, however when a friend suggested we go to a screening of 12 Years a Slave at our local Picturehouse cinema I decided to put the paint brush down until tomorrow.

12 Years a Slave is such a powerful story, it is devastating and harrowing in its subject matter yet somehow director Steve McQueen has deftly created a beautiful and poetic film.  There are scenes of stunning sunsets of red and gold and white-heat skies glimpsed through canopies of exotic trees.  The Louisiana bayou is shown to us in all its haunting beauty, such as the iconic bald cypress tree with its green 'flowers' hanging in huge tassel-like structures; life-affirming nature juxtaposed with scenes of incomprehensible inhumanity.  McQueen has used sound to great effect too, illustrating the passing of time in long shots where we hear rumbles of distant thunder, birds singing and the movement of trees; a sense of the cotton blowing from the fields in the heat and wind.

The relationship between the plantation owner Epps and the slave Northup is at the heart of this film: the former represents the very worst of humanity, while the latter holds on to his dignity with resilience, keeping faith in what is good in the human spirit.  It has been said that 12 Years a Slave is a film everyone should see.  I cannot disagree with that.

Doubtless there will always be injustice in this world.  Looking at my beautiful magnolia tree, from a distance not totally dissimilar to a Gossypium (cotton plant) below, I feel fortunate to take such joy and spiritual nourishment from nature.


borrowed from the internet
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Saturday, 1 March 2014

St David's Day - welcome March!

"Don't say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies"
~ old proverb ~

Cottage Garden - 23 March 2011
Cottage Garden - 20 March 2012 
I always look forward to a wonderful burst of vibrant yellow as the first daffodils appear in my tiny 'woodland garden'.  As of this morning there are a bank of them standing tall and straight with healthy green buds ready to unfurl when the time is just right.  In this part of Suffolk the first daffodils tend to properly flower on or around 20 March which is officially the first day of Spring so very good timing in fact ... have the first daffodils bloomed in your neck of the woods yet?
It wasn't really planned in any way (I'm not that organised and have no idea of their names) but I seem to have various varieties flowering at different times, with the one below showing its pretty face well into May.  Isn't it gorgeous!
Cottage Garden - May 2012
So alas, no daffodils here just yet but still going strong are the snowdrops, together with purple, yellow and white crocuses which all look very, very pretty indeed. 
(Oops I tried to upload some photos from this morning but my camera is misbehaving and as I wanted to get this post published before going out I have decided to just go with the daffy pics only - sorry)
Happy St David's Day!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

... are you talking to me ...?

For those of you who may be wondering about the whereabouts of my cat Bobbi, this is just to let you know that she is happy and well, although it has to be said, ever so slightly miffed that this blog no longer carries a photo of her in its sidebar - and so, eager to show off her new 'don't mess with me' facial expression, her dexterous paw has very cleverly uploaded this photo taken last year during our blog break.   As you can see all that practising in front of the mirror has paid off and the dvd has now been hidden away; Taxi Driver being deemed unsuitable viewing for an impressionable cat like Bobbi.

The little minx is all attitude for the camera, and occasionally the postman and Benji the dog next door.  For us she is all purrs, head butts and tummy rubs. Bless her! >;3

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

'Summer in February'

With high winds and lashing rain on Saturday we decided to stay at home and watch a movie, and what better choice than 'Summer in February'.  Well it is February, and summer has an enticing ring to it. 

I read Jonathan Smith's novel when it was published in the mid 1990's and somehow the film had ducked under my radar so I missed it at the cinema.  The story is about love and loss among a bohemian colony of artists which flourished in the fishing village of Lamorna on the wild west coast of Cornwall before the First World War.   This group of artists became known as the Lamorna Group, as part of the later Newlyn School they included S J "Lamorna" Birch, Harold and Laura Knight (later Dame Laura Knight) and A J Munnings (later Sir Alfred Munnings).  The music score is especially memorable, composed by Benjamin Wallfisch it is classic, romantic and sweeping with soaring strings giving a sense of loss and yearning.

The narrative of Summer in February is told from the viewpoint of Captain Gilbert Evans (played by Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame), a respected and popular local land agent who kept diaries of his time in Lamorna.  He was a close friend of Munnings (Dominic Cooper) and is devastated when the beautiful Florence Carter Wood (Emily Browning) accepts AJ's proposal of marriage.  Gilbert is secretly in love with the fragile and ethereal Florence and bitterly regrets his hesitation in declaring his love for her.  Florence has arrived in Cornwall after fleeing her middle-class background in London with dreams of becoming an artist.  She joins her brother Joey Carter Wood and soon becomes part of the group, both artistically and socially (most famously with late-night revelry at The Wink pub) but her work is sidelined when she begins sitting for Munnings and falls under his spell.  The excitement and freedom she craves is hers, for a while.

Friends can see the couple are ill-matched. Florence is swept away by the charismatic Munnings whom she sees as a genius, and he in turn is mesmerised by her beauty.  However, beneath the easy-going charm Munnings could be cruel and insensitive and it's intimated the marriage was never consummated.  Despite her beauty Florence was introverted and prone to depression; this fragility comes across with great poignancy in the film and she is portrayed as having attempted suicide by poison on her wedding day.

She and Gilbert become friends and confidants and they would take long walks together along the wild and beautiful cliffs, and it was one of these occasions, described in his diary as taking place on a 'summer's day' but dated in February which inspired the title for the book.  So the inevitable happens and the pair fall deeply in love, but its difficult for them both and Gilbert feels terrible guilt at the situation.  In early 1914 he resigns from his position in Lamorna and joins the colonial service in Nigeria.  He cannot handle the betrayal any longer and feels that AJ and Florence should be left alone to work at their marriage.

In the book there is a lovely passage where Gilbert and Florence have lunch at the Trocadero Restaurant in Piccadilly Circus and afterwards she accompanies him to Paddington Station, where they say their goodbyes.  Gilbert's diary continues the narrative: 'I went to the train alone and very sad.'  Later, he added: 'this was the last time I saw her alive.'  In the film they share a romantic evening in Florence's cabin on the cliffs and she becomes pregnant with his child.

Florence is left bereft at Gilbert's departure and unable to bear her husband's cruel and dismissive attitude towards her, she commits suicide on 24 July 1914.  A few weeks later Gilbert Evans received the news in Nigeria.  By September that year Britain was plunged into war with Germany ....

I enjoyed the film and it was certainly well played and deeply moving, but overall I preferred the book and may revisit it once again.

You can find out more about the artists of the  Newlyn School here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Friday, 14 February 2014


For all you lovers out there - the wonderful Van Morrison singing his most heart-felt of songs ....
Happy Valentine's Day
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Monday, 3 February 2014

welcome February!

I quite like February.

The days are slowly drawing out and the smell of spring is tantalisingly close.  Of course anything can happen between now and the end of March; snowfall, or even worse the silvery powder of a killer frost.  In the meantime tiny, fresh-green spring bulbs are prising their way through the cold, wet earth, eager to catch any sunshine on offer.  I've noticed the softening effect of buds on the bare, sharp outline of trees and shrubs, gathering energy; biding their time. 

The weekend was bright and breezy and it felt good to be out in the garden.

... the following poem, one of my spring favourites, is especially for any readers affected by the heavy rain and extraordinary floods in the south-west.  I hope things improve for you very soon.

Very Early Spring
by Katherine Mansfield
The fields are snowbound no longer;
There are little blue lakes and flags of tenderest green.
The snow has been caught up into the sky --
So many white clouds -- and the blue of the sky is cold.
Now the sun walks in the forest,
He touches the bows and stems with his golden fingers;
They shiver, and wake from slumber.
Over the barren branches he shakes his yellow curls.
Yet is the forest full of the sound of tears....
A wind dances over the fields.
Shrill and clear the sound of her waking laughter,
Yet the little blue lakes tremble
And the flags of tenderest green bend and quiver.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

making strides

The other day I was making my way to the post box in the village when I bumped into an elderly neighbour.

'Don't you write your blog anymore?  It seems to be stuck at Christmas 2012.'  He said.

I was momentarily taken aback by this, I had no idea that Mr R even knew my blog existed, let alone actually read it.  I stopped in my tracks.  I scratched my head, you know in that vacant sightly worrying sort of way; like when you go upstairs with the greatest intent only to stand on the landing thinking ... but I digress.

'Erm, well ... you know ... one thing and another cropped up and there never seems to be enough time, what with work and everything.' I replied hesitantly.  No doubt looking extremely astonished at his opening gambit.

'Well I miss it, and I'm sure your other readers do too; those friends in that little box, I'm sure they miss reading about your garden and such like.'

I could feel myself blushing, or at least having a hot flush, and blurted out modestly.

'Well, you know, there are absolutely loads of blogs out there; hundreds, thousands really, there are no end of blogs you can follow.'


'So, do you follow many blogs?' I asked tentatively.  He gave me a quizzical look.

'Well what I meant to say is; do you read many?  Blogs I mean?'

'Oh no, just yours.  I can't be bothered with all that social networking stuff.  No, my daughter told me that a friend reads your blog and it turns out that you live in the village.  I was curious.  Of course I recognised it was you from those pictures of your garden, you know from when you had your Open Garden a few years ago.  Now, that's something else you really must get cracking on with again.'

'Yes, I suppose ....' I trailed off depressingly.

'Anyway cheerio! must fly, the bus will be along in a mo.'

As we waved each other off in a flurry of goodbyes I thought about what Mr R had said.  I couldn't help feeling rather chuffed.  I'm a writer I thought.  I have an audience.  Someone in the village actually reads my blog.  I know who the daughter's friend is, she's a colleague of mine with whom I work occasionally.  I'd told her about my blog yonks ago when I was eager for readers to come on board.

Walking home, I continued to mull over the conversation.  I thought about how I had left my blog, sort of in the lurch really.  Just upped sticks and left it, with hardly a backwards glance.  Left to float alone and orphaned in cyberspace ... well you get the picture.  The Christmas Goodbye post in 2012 had indeed been very short and to the point (well why dilly dally I had thought at the time).

Of course, I have to confess that as some of you may know, many months later I flirted and toyed with a new blog.  But it was never the same.  It just didn't feel right.  I struggled with inspiration for posts and realised that somehow it just didn't have my voice.  I've read about the importance of voice, or the lack of it, somewhere or other.

Anyway, some techie glitch had got hold of the aforesaid impostor blog and it simply disappeared, in a puff of disassembled words.  I metaphorically wiped my hands and didn't feel the least bit sad.  Then work became manic for a while, as it often does and the whole blog issue got shoved to the back of my mind ... until ... well, back to the story ...

I posted the two letters (bills of course) and the two birthday cards (belated of course) and hurried home in great haste to look once again upon this pretty page.  I felt my blog mojo rising.  Yep, it was still here, looking somewhat old-fashioned, quite sweet really.  My blog roll was still here (of course), familiar blogs with new posts loading daily, weekly, as it ever was.  A year had gone by, children have grown, people have moved house and changed jobs, undertaken new ventures; there have been successes and disappointments, books have been read, holidays taken and sad losses endured.   Just as in our real lives, the virtual life of the blogging community continues to roll along, inspiring and generously documenting lives and goals. 

I began to type.

The virtual door to Cottage Garden will once again be open for business quite soon.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Thank you to all the followers, faithful readers and friends who have visited Cottage Garden throughout 2012.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my three and a half years at the helm of this little space in the Blogosphere, but feel it is now time to hang up my 'blogging boots' and bid you a fond farewell.
Wherever you are in the world may I wish you a Joyous Christmas and a Happy, Peaceful and Wonderful New Year!

With love
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...