Wednesday, 30 June 2010

bikini girls

It was so hot here today I hardly knew what to do with myself. The room I use as my study and from where I work gets the sun for most of the morning and despite the huge fan cranked up on full pelt it was a sticky, uncomfortable business sitting in front of my computer screen, and noisy also as the whirring became more and more pronounced! A thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just change into something a little less, well, buttoned-up shall we say. After all, one of the perks of working from home is that we can pretty much wear what we please (I have been known to work in my pj’s when attempting to work through a bad cold!).

Anyway all this got me thinking about the Bikini Girls ...

A few years ago me and the OH took a trip to Sicily and came across the mosaics of the ‘Bikini Girls’ at the Villa Romana del Casale. The villa was constructed in the 4th Century by Emperor Maximian for use as his villa rustica; its position high in the mountains surrounded by dense forest and ubiquitous cypress trees is breathtaking.

The bikini clad ladies are portrayed in various exercises such as weight-lifting, discus-throwing, running and ball-games and it’s believed they were part of some kind of competitive games taking place at the time. Some of the mosaics could have been made by Fired Earth yesterday – they are so pristine! One lady wearing a toga is carrying a crown in her hand, presumably for the winner of the games, and another is holding a palm frond. They really are quite amazing and the fact that they portray such a modern-looking scene makes them quite fascinating.

So there you have it – the famous Bikini Girls of Romana del Casale looking, it has to be said, very fit and buff!

PS You’ll be relieved to learn that I desisted all thoughts of bikinis/tankinis in favour of cool, loose linen and instantly felt better.

Have a great rest of the week!

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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

tales from another Kitchen Garden

All the above photos were taken at Francine's Kitchen Garden -
don't forget to enlarge the images!

Whenever possible and workload permitting, I like to take Fridays off from work. Since starting my business from home, Friday has become my ‘me time’ day, offering the opportunity to catch up with friends for coffee or lunch, sometimes a lunchtime concert or an afternoon at a favourite local nursery. On rare occasions, I even leave behind my beloved Suffolk and travel farther afield - yay! Last Friday I took the train down to London, my old stomping ground, to meet with Gaye at the British Museum for the Renaissance Drawings Exhibition. Thank you Gaye for a lovely afternoon.

The dome at the British Museum

A couple of weeks ago however (I am so behind with my posting) Sue and I went to see Francine Raymond at her inspirational kitchen garden at Troston.
We had heard through the grapevine that Francine had placed her house on the market with a view to moving down to the coast at Whitstable where she hopes to buy a cottage and open another little shop. Francine will continue to write books on hen-keeping and gardening but her main focus will be on taking over the Gardening column at the Daily Telegraph Newspaper, left vacant following the sad death of Elspeth Thompson in March. We spoke briefly about Elspeth. Francine knew her very well and like everyone else who came into contact with Elspeth through her writing and her blog, was left shocked and saddened by her loss.

We wish Francine well in the move and every success in her new venture.

We shall really miss this place though. It feels like the end of an era. No more lovely Christmas shopping days, Easter hen-keeping parties or simply just an amble around the pretty and abundent garden. The Kitchen Garden at Troston is a one-off and totally unique in a typically laid-back Suffolk way. A charming and rustic shop/home where you can happily browse in peace.  The kettle is always on and a freshly baked cake never fails to emerge from the Aga.  All enjoyed with a good old natter and on occasion, a little gossip too ... perfick!

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Monday, 28 June 2010

Monday Poem :: Midsummer Song

Dawnings of amber and amethyst eves;
Soft in the south wind the laughter of leaves;
Breath of the poppy and death of the rose,--
Midsummer comes and midsummer goes!

Dapple on cheek of the apple and plum;
Honey-bees droning a die-away hum;
Swales in a shimmer and dales in a doze,--
Midsummer comes and midsummer goes!

Darting of dragon-fly, flutter of moth;
Barley in windrow and wheat in the swath;
Hush-song and thrush-song!--the mother-bird knows!--
Midsummer comes and midsummer goes!

Moonlight and noonlight all glamour and gleam;
Hillside and rillside a thrall to the dream;
Capture the rapture before the days close!--
Midsummer comes and midsummer goes!

By Clinton Scollard (1860-1932)

We still have a lot of summer left though!  Enjoy these wonderful sunny days.

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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

kitchen garden update

When I had the idea of starting my little kitchen garden way back in March, I half expected that nothing would grow.  The birds and the mice would peck and burrow and steal the delicate seeds; slugs and snails would munch through the tiny leaves as they tentatively emerged from the soil and blackfly/greenfly, with every possible hue in between, would infest everything, taking over the little eco-system that I had so painstakingly created.  These things may still happen but in the meantime imagine my dismay and delight to be able to report that we have for some weeks been eating produce from the kitchen garden every single day.

The' cut and come again' mixed salad leaves do just that! 

I am now supplying friends and neighbours otherwise we would have a glut.  The Lollo Rosso that you can just see in the right hand corner above is also abundent and has a sweet crisp flavour ...

Peas - we are adding these, freshly popped from the pods into salads - they taste so sweet ...

The runner beans have scrambled to the top of their poles and these tiny flowers emerged at the weekend - not long now ...

Alicante tomatoes - looking as juicy as apples - but requiring a lot more sun to ripen them ...

The onion and garlic bed is not looking too pretty at the moment - but I'm assured that things are progressing as they should.  This lovely Welsh Onion is worth a photo though and the bees love it!

Ruby Chard with rosemary and orange thyme in the foreground ...

Tarragon, a glimpse of Lemon verbena behind the swathes of fennel, with santolina, orange thyme and Greek basil in the foregound ...

Lemon thyme, curly parsley and a glimpse of sage

I would show you my gorgeous strawberries but we ate them all at the weekend!  They were the sweetest strawberries I had tasted in a long time, however with all the delicious rain and warm sun of recent days it shouldn't be too long for the next batch to follow on.  I promise to take a photo before they get eaten!

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Monday, 21 June 2010

Monday Poem :: Summer Sun

Summer Solstice sunrise at Stonehenge
photo taken from the internet

~ 'Solstice' from Middle English, from Old French, from Latin sōlstitium : sōl, sun + -stitium, a stoppage ~

Today, here in the Northern Hemisphere, is the Summer Solstice, giving us the longest day and the shortest night of the year.   As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky. 

It's a beautiful morning here in Suffolk and I thought I would celebrate this wonderful celestial event with the following poem praising the life-giving power of the sun.

Summer Sun
By Robert Louis Stevenson

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy's inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

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Thursday, 17 June 2010

Conversations with my Gardener (Dialogue avec mon jardinier)

I love anything to do with gardening of course and when I saw the title of this film I was smitten.  I'm a great fan of foreign-language cinema; they never fail to impress with their passion and/or subtlety and so with a suitably entranced friend we went along to see it at our local cinema last night.  It is a jem; a delight and if you haven't seen it yet, do look out for it at the cinema or catch it on video.   This charming film has actually been on release in cinemas for a year or two, but for some reason tends to show up in art-house cinemas only, and then for only a day or two - we kept missing it, until now!

The following is a synopsis from the cinema website - who could resist this story?

"This finely observed film depicts a poignant friendship between two men from different walks of life. When a respected Parisian painter on the brink of divorce (Auteuil) returns to his childhood home and places an advert for a gardener to tame the vegetable plot, he realises that the retired railway worker he hires is a former schoolmate. As the garden is nurtured and the painter struggles with his relationships and his work, a warm friendship flourishes between the two men. Sharing a love of the place where they grew up, they try to understand each other's passions and attitudes to life. Ultimately, however, it is the painter who has the most to learn. The 78-year-old Becker perfectly captures the intimacy of the tale, yet avoids sentimentality. The film positively glows with life, even as it paints a tender portrait of men coping, in different ways, with the process of growing old."

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Monday, 14 June 2010

Monday Poem :: Summer Shower

Summer Shower
by Emily Dickinson

A drop fell on the apple tree,
Another on the roof;
A half a dozen kissed the eaves,
And made the gables laugh.

A few went out to help the brook,
That went to help the sea.
Myself conjectured, Were they pearls,
What necklaces could be!

The dust replaced in hoisted roads,
The birds jocoser sung;
The sunshine threw his hat away,
The orchards spangles hung.

The breezes brought dejected lutes,
And bathed them in the glee;
The East put out a single flag,
And signed the fete away.

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Sunday, 13 June 2010


Another two weeks have run away with me yet again and my little blog has been very sadly neglected.  I'm looking forward to catching up with your summer adventures over the next few days.

Life here has been a mixed bag of family visits - both to and from; some wonderful social events (ongoing); gardening (of course!); a much needed and belated spring-clean and some external maintenance including the painting of our awkwardly small-paned, but very pretty cottage windows.

While we were in a painting mood we decided to treat the back door to a make-over as well, in our favourite Farrow & Ball shade of 'Mouses’s Back'.  All the external woodwork to the cottage is now either 'Mouses’s Back' or 'Stone' and we lightened the brickwork of the kitchen extension with the same stone colour, it complements the darker shade of 'Mouses’s Back' perfectly.

The front door was given a fresh lick of paint too - the two doors now match, plus the shed of course. 

The kitchen garden is green and abundant and my cottage perennials are adding a welcome splash of colour in sweet pinks, purple and white.

Work has taken off too and with the summer holiday season now in full swing this is undoubtedly my busiest time of the year, so I may not be blogging as often as I would like for a short while.  But then again, you never know when I may just turn up!

Until next time ...

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