Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Bedroom four

Despite everything that's been going on this summer we have managed to finish the last bedroom. Andrew took a lot of the pressure off me and finished the painting, then I came swanning in with a few blankets and curtains and finished the whole thing off in an afternoon!

So this is how you last saw the room (and this is how it looked, it really wasn't staged).

Now we have this.

Farrow and Ball - Peignoir
We used one of Farrow and Ball's new colours - Peignoir - which is a soft grey-pink. I particularly like this room as many items have family connections and, apart from the light fitting, nothing has been bought new.  The small sofa my father gave me and I upholstered it. The needlework picture over the bed was done by Andrew's grandmother and the blanket was given to us as a gift.

The linen curtains are vintage Sanderson and found on Ebay. I can't recommend Ebay enough if you're looking for good quality curtains. People buy a new house and the curtains are left behind and not to their taste - you can save a fortune and get really lovely curtains for a fraction of the cost. The print I found in my parents loft a couple of months ago and I decided she just had to be the occupant of the room.

The wooden box I've had since I was about 12 and the necklace stand was another recent loft find - I think it had something to do with wool originally.

The carpet is a dark wine red which pleased the fitter no end as he said he was fed up with beige!

So the last big project is the hall, stairs and landing - not my favourite job. Andrew is in 'just do it' mode and has already stripped the wood chip off - there's an awful lot of filling and rubbing down to do.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

And breathe

It's been a long summer. My father died. We knew he was ill but expected a few more years. We were then told a few weeks. It turned out to be days.

I'll be back to normal posts soon.

Thursday, 9 June 2016


Finally it was May, a month we had been looking forward to for a long time- we were going on holiday! Our five (now six) year plan doesn't include long breaks so we just grab the odd long week end but this 2016 was a little special as we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. Planning had started last August when we had booked an apartment in Bellagio, Lake Como and a leisurely car journey to get there.

Our holiday started the day before we left when Andrew's uncle/godfather sent us a case of prosecco, a lovely gesture. Andrew's brother and his wife had generously volunteered been rail roaded into looking after Mortimer for us. We stayed overnight and Jude experienced a new alarm call - a big, black hairy dog staring at you from the side of the bed.

Epernay (champagne capital of France) was our first stop and we had booked a night at Les Epicuriens

Laure and Eric have two guest suites on the ground floor of their lovely townhouse, very comfortable and with everything thought of. Laure speaks excellent English and could not have been a more welcoming host, offering us a glass of champagne and home baked cheese biscuits on arrival. She loves to cook and the guest book was full of praise for her meals. Sadly we only had breakfast but with a range of home made jams, freshly squeezed orange juice and lovely croissants we really wished we were staying longer, it would be great for a relaxing weekend.

The next day was a leisurely drive to Lucerne, the sat nav took us through some glorious French countryside.

As we approached Switzerland the heavens opened and we got caught in traffic for the first time, we hadn't realised that Monday was a Swiss bank holiday so hitting Bern on a Friday night wasn't a brilliant idea. We had read that we needed to purchase a vignette for travelling on Swiss motorways which we did at the border crossing, and that the Swiss have very strict driving laws. Speeding really is a no no and if you have a sat nav that shows where speed cameras are you have to turn this function off. But what was really irritating is that there didn't seem to be any information fed through to the sat nav. We're used to being told that the delay ahead is 5/10/45 minutes but this just didn't happen. Lucern was gorgeous but as it was raining heavily the camera didn't come out.

The Swiss escape to Italy, and the rain, continued as we made our slow way to and through the San Gotthard tunnel but popping out the other side was a different country. The industrial landscape ended, the buildings started to look more Mediterranean and the sun came out. Despite the morning's delay we caught the planned 2.15 car ferry and crossed the lake to Bellagio. This was my first view of the town - it was love at first sight!

Approaching Bellagio by ferry
Looking north

I'm afraid this account does not include any high culture or historical references, we were just there to enjoy the scenery and relax. Although we had the car we only used it on one rainy day to go to a supermarket (sadly I like foreign supermarkets) as the ferry is the best way to travel. You can buy a daily mid lake pass for about €15 which allows you to visit at least half a dozen towns.

Lake Como ferries
 By far and away my favourite was Varenna, I even started to plot how we could live there. Like Bellagio it is full of tiny, steep lanes.
Varenna from the ferry
Varenna ferry terminal
Lunch for two

A pretty corner

Ancient steps
Just gorgeous - Varenna
Our base for the week was the San Giacomo apartment in the heart of Bellagio. On the third floor we had views of mountains, lake and the church square. It was a perfect place for people watching and I spent several late afternoons on the balcony with a book, a glass of something and being seduced by the sounds of the town.

People watching from the balcony

People at work

Italian life

When we arrived we were met by Tania, a charming Italian lady who looks after the occupants of the apartment. She was a mine of information, it was she who told us about the lake pass and took us on a walking tour of Bellagio. She told us the best way to visit Como, slow boat there (2 hours), hydrofoil back (45 minutes). Como was much nicer than I imagined and well worth the trip.

Somewhere on Lake Como

Watching the watcher

Como balconies

Outside the cathedral

Cathedral chairs

Quiet Como street

Shopping in Como

I think that's enough for now - if you're really lucky I may post a few more photographs later!

Sunday, 8 May 2016


April 29th 2011 was the date we moved into Nelson House. We had a five year plan to do the renovations, sell and move on but like most plans we've had to be flexible and five years is looking more like six. Sometimes I look round and wonder what's taken so long but a flick through the 'before and during' photographs makes me realise that we Andrew has done a huge amount of work. This is the blog post showing downstairs when we moved in I didn't have an oven, hob or fridge for seven months! But we are on the last bedroom with only the hall, stairs and landing for internal work so I'm hopeful that this time next year...

We were inspired by a visit to some friend's new house and are determined that our new house will be just as gorgeous. I have known Carol since secondary school and she and her husband have just moved to Hampshire after being in their Surrey house for over 25 years. Their new home is a lovely cottage, part of it centuries old and with an enviable walled garden. We took a long weekend over Andrew's birthday and headed south. Hampshire is a county we don't really know and it is beautiful. Our first outing was to Arlesford which is famous for its watercress, we had a walk by the river and did see some watercress beds but I think they may be redundant.

Arlesford watercress bed

Definitely wash before consumption!
We also walked past what must be one of the most photographed cottages in the area, an ancient fulling mill. Fulling (also known as tucking or walking) was a process of the wool industry where wool was cleaned of dirt and oil. It is also the origins of some very English surnames - Fuller, Walker and Tucker.

Ancient fulling mill

Arlesford is a beautifully maintained Georgian town which made it's money from the wool industry. Now it's full of upmarket shops (I was tempted but managed to resist some more napkins!) and smart coffee shops. I did love these door bells.

The area is very dog friendly and we had supper in a lovely pub where Andrew found two new admirers.

Waiting for scraps
The following day we headed to Selbourne to do the zig-zag walk. I confess to being a little nervous when Carol said we were walking up a stiff hill as I've got use to the flat Norfolk countryside but it wasn't too bad and the views were spectacular.

The zig-zag path was created by Gilbert White (1720-1793) whose family home was The Wakes in Selbourne. White was a 'parson-naturalist' and said to be England's first ecologist. We didn't get time to visit the house but hopefully if we're invited back...

Viewed from a distant it looked quite daunting

Mortimer had no problems

The views were gorgeous

The Wakes is on the right
St Mary's church in the village has two lovely stained windows commemorating White's life

St Mary's - Selbourne
and also seems to have a history of fine bell ringers too.

Sadly we had to leave this beautiful county after what seemed a very short weekend.

Back home I had my own ecological task to do. We have a reconstituted stone table which we bought at least two decades ago and I've loved how it has slowly weathered over the years.

The table in April's snow
However the weathering has got a little out of hand and the table had spawned it's own micro world.

This pansy is less than 2 cm high

I finally gave in to Andrew's request to clear the surface when I found that my wine glass was dangerously unstable!

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the snow, sleet and hail is behind us now. The bees are very active, too active in some ways as on last inspection they had started to produce drone cells which is one of the signs they are considering swarming. There has been an aerial highway to the nearby rape field (seen from the bathroom window) which is one of their favourite flowers. Rape honey sets quickly so I'm going to have to get it out of the hive as soon as the flowers start to die down.

So that was April. I'm hoping bedroom four will be finished by the next post and we can move on to the outside, leaving the hall and snagging until the autumn. But best laid plans etc. etc...

Wednesday, 6 April 2016


I left you at the end of last month with high hopes for March, but the first couple of weeks were not so good.

We attended the funeral of our sister in law's father, someone who we had known for over three decades. Brian was a generous man who loved, and was very proud, of his family. He enjoyed a good joke and each time we met would try and tempt me, a long term vegetarian, with bacon sandwiches!
Our fondest memory of him, and his wife Pat, were when we were sailing. They'd made several trips to the Caribbean over the years and were visiting St. Lucia when we, unbeknown to them, were in the area (we were aided and abetted by their daughter). Even better, their hotel had moorings just off the beach. We picked up a buoy, dinghied in and invaded their peaceful holiday. Brian (and Pat) could not have been more generous, inviting us to stay for dinner and plying us with rum - it was a magical evening.

The following morning it was our turn to be surprised when Pat turned up at our boat, courtesy of the hotel's tender. Brian had remembered us saying that books were like a currency to cruisers, when you met new boaters the first question was 'what's your name?' and the second 'have you any books?' Brian had remembered this and had sent Pat across with all the paperbacks they'd brought on holiday. It really was a lovely gesture and typical of Brian. He will certainly be missed.

The month also kicked off with a very poorly Mortimer who managed to ingest something toxic. We're not sure what exactly, although there is a possibility it was a daffodil bulb. He had been sick on the Friday morning as I left for the day and by lunchtime Andrew knew there was a problem as Morts was not even keeping water down. He whisked him off to the vet and it was quite a shock when we were told he had to stay in overnight, possibly two, and remain on a drip. Apparently his liver was functioning at ten times its normal level. As you can imagine that night was horrible with my imagination running wild, thinking I wouldn't see him again. Fortunately he improved and we were able to collect him on the Sunday morning, although he was still poorly ( however quite impressed with his diet of chicken and rice). A week later his liver function was still higher than normal but had reduced significantly. Here he is on his return looking sorry for himself.

And here he is, feeling better but also looking out of sorts as Andrew had bought him a waterproof coat. I love the four square planted legs "I'm not going anywhere in this!"

The month did eventually improve. Work continued on bedroom four. We've given ourselves a generous timescale this time, we'd like to finish mid-May so we can then move on to the outside - knocking down part of the garage-workshop and re-landscaping. We are on track and have reached decorating stage, that relentless fill:sand:fill:sand:fill:sand that I think will never end.

I also managed to spend a few enjoyable hours in the kitchen over Easter. I used to try at least one new recipe a week but that has slipped so I thought I'd make a bit of an effort over the holiday break. I am a Pinterest follower and this recipe popped into my inbox and looked interesting. I particularly liked the fact it had walnuts in it as we still have several pounds of our own from last year. Andrew is not overly fond of gnocchi but with this recipe you fry them off which makes them crispy and not stodgy. It turned out to be very tasty (although the recipe photograph is much better than mine- they really are the same dish!) Oh! if anyone is wondering arugula is rocket.

Gnocchi with walnut pesto and rocket
I hope everyone enjoyed their Easter break and I'll be back next month.