A long wait…

I realise I haven’t been here for a few months – the summer has been really busy and so I have restricted my online ‘menanderings’ my other site: Honey Pot Books.

But, with a new academic year (I still think in academic years as well as calendar ones – it’s really great – you get two opportunities to make ‘New Year Resolutions’) I have vowed to keep a journal of the year and try to take a photograph each day.

OK. I hear you say ‘try?’ Yes, in a household which does not own smart phones, i-pads or tablets (other than soap or painkillers) and only possesses one working digital camera, it isn’t always possible to keep that vow. However, since my journal is in a book (remember paper?) I can both write and draw in it – so no excuses permitted.

But I digress. With the advent of a journal AND photographs, there is more scope for adding to this on-line dumping ground of idle thoughts – so be warned.

I don’t want to frighten the horses, so I’ll make a start with yesterday’s photo – taken just before I harvested the eating apples. And for anyone who is interested in these things, they are Spartan eating apples – very tasty, diced, on top of a bowl of cereal, for breakfast.IMG_8115

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We made it!

Well, to be absolutely honest, a lovely bunch of men from the village rallied round to ‘make’ the shed – leaving me the role of painter and decorator AND chief supplier of tea. The Grand Opening’ of the shed was celebrated on Friday April 28th – with suitable fizz.

The shed now acts as a perfect place for children to sit and read on Saturday mornings, hold exhibitions and stack the old plastic chairs which come out once a year for the Charity Breakfast held on our drive.

So, a wonderful start to our May festival weekend (April 29th – May 1st) and many happy people enjoying the atmosphere of the event. England looks so very beautiful at this point in the year – fresh green everywhere and (between the showers) gentle sunshine and a chance to sit outside and chat with friends. The book-garage, garden, shed and canary-coloured caravan were full of book related installations, stimulating conversation over tea and cake in the Mad Hatter refreshment area.

Summer is on its way.

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Easter and the gallop to summer

A wonderful Easter weekend – with proper Easter weather – sun and a nip in the air (the previous weekend’s balmy temperatures being an anomaly which put paid to the daffodils). All our Easter activities were blessed with the ‘right weather’, luring people out to enjoy things to the full.

The garden is lush with new growth and grass-cutting has now taken its permanent summer place on the ‘to do’ list. The glorious fresh green of spring leaves in the hedgerows and woodland around us is a refreshing balm for the soul. Everyone is walking taller, smiling more easily, unfolding like the spring flowers and readying themselves to enjoy life out and about.

A trip to the Jurassic coast on Saturday morning (in a biting wind) was rescued by a visit to Whitchurch Conanicorum and a picnic in a sunny sheltered spot. Barrington was our destination yesterday – taking ‘overflow books’ to the book barn there. We bumped into friends and neighbours, also taking advantage of the sunshine. The gardens were looking beautiful – vivid colours – wallflowers and tulips making glorious displays (well done, team of volunteer gardeners).

Out with the paintbrushes when we got home – and now the ‘new’ shed is looking smart – all ready to receive its motley collection of ‘treasures’. (Note to self: why does one hoard things which are of no use to anyone else?) (Note to potential burglars: forget it – nothing worth nicking ūüėČ )

So, the African hut, destroyed by Storm Frank, has now been resurrected as a shed Рand you would be surprised how much of it found its way into the foundations (thanIMG_1733ks to our lovely neighbours, who masterminded the very solid Рtemporary Рconstruction)  Photo to follow, just as soon as we work out what to do for a roof!

Hopefully, this will happen in time for the next bank holiday weekend, when the gardens and book collection are open to the public Рwith all sorts of pleasant things to do. Check it out at  https://honeypotbooks.wordpress.com/

And today? Still lots of tidying up to do – and preparation for our ‘literary garden’ – not to mention spring-cleaning the Canary-coloured caravan. And I guess that the weeds are also popping up with the more welcome new spring growth, so, guess what!…


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February Fun…

So, here we are again – I hope you have been happily and busily engaged since last September. I’m not sure how it happens, but life sometimes takes over and posting just gets lost. I’ve managed a few posts on Honey Pot Books, but Anne’s Space has remained just that: a space.

The brain hasn’t though – lots of reading, writing and painting – then there was Christmas with all its attendant busy-ness. The winter bugs managed to hit the household, but not too badly – although neighbours and friends seemed to succumb in dominoes fashion. On the bright side, the sun has now reached its post-winter height, casting rainbows of light across the wall each cloud-free morning. Somehow those img_6135rainbows are full of promise – they visit in the spring and the autumn, measuring out the year in a kindly metre. And, to underline life’s promise, a double rainbow filled the sky this evening. But, for the record, we have seen far more days like this: cold, frosty and bone-chilling, interspersed with stolen days of ¬†spring sunshine, teasing us that winter is behind.

Fickle seasons – so very English. As were the fun and games of Tuesday when a trip to the Levels to see the starling murmuration, became a chilly vigil on a cold hillside, a gathering, misty sunset (where was the sun?) and the only birds to appear – local songbirds, the odd crow and the hoot of an owl. The blackbirds positively laughed as we tottered, numb-limbed, back to the car.

Perhaps another day.

A fruitless foray – but a journey full of conversation and the sharing of a unique experience.

Roll on rainbows, warming breezes and Spring.

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A busy summer

I have just realised how long it is since I posted anything here – blame the busimg_5552y summer months!

This year, the garden seems to have done nothing but grow – despite our frequent assaults upon it with cutters and spades, it still looks more like a jungle than a garden. Everything has either grown and grown, higher, bushier and enormous, or proliferated – in an attempt to take over as muchimg_5550 space as possible.

Meanwhile, we have been out and about, travelling all over the UK from SW to SE to NW/E, visiting friends and family along the way. Wonderful!

Photos include: Coleridge cottage garden, the Thames @ Kingston, Wolvercote Lakes, Gorran Haven, Southwold, Norfolk, Litchfield, Morecombe Bay  & Townend NT.




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So much joy

May is an incredible month, even in the bleakest years, but this year -after an icy blast at the tail end of ‘spring’ – May exploded into life.

In a matter of two or three days, the ¬†countryside ‘greened’ and the garden stretched, yawned and remembered how to grow. Now, the variety of delicious spring colours sates the senses. The birdsong wakes me before dawn and all day, there is life and light and growth and change and… delight.

Somerset is a beautiful county in all the seasons, but this May it has excelled itself. At an ‘apple blossom cream tea’ this afternoon, the sky was pure blue, the temperatures heading up to summer figures and the food, drink and company were all wonderful. There was even a gentle musical background offering from some talented local musicians.

Sorry if this all sounds smug – it isn’t meant to – just DELIGHTED – and wondering if Somerset can get any lovelier.

Oh, and thank you.IMG_1420

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‘Nightingale Wood’ by Stella Gibbons

Nightingale+Wood.jpg (318√ó500)

(Part of 1938 reading week)

From the very first moment of¬†meeting ‘Wither’ as a family name, I knew this book would¬†not only be¬†SG’s up-dated¬†take on¬† Cinderella, but would also ape Dickens’ love of witty¬†names. According to the introduction (by Sophie Dahl) this was SG’s first published foray into this territory¬†– to be followed by¬†books inspired by¬†The Snow Queen (1939: My American) and Beauty and the Beast (1958: White Sand and Grey Sand).

But SG isn’t clumsy in her choice of names – one has to look carefully or even read them aloud to get the joke. The subtlety (or otherwise) of the characterisation, scene-painting and plot twists, is typical SG. Yes, there are the stock characters: types¬†first met by many of us in CCF – the beautiful (if ordinary) man, the frustrated ‘old maid’, the controlling parent, the contriving wife, the slattern, the bizarre, the heartless and the deceitful. There are poor victims and indifferent rich, mismatched couples and lost causes.

The different houses also claim attention – The Eagles being a totally inappropriate name for the claustrophobic prison, brooded over by Mr Wither, and the eagles themselves being plaster ‘not badly modelled’ only remain in place because Mr Wither dared not go against his own, dead, father’s wishes. The heavy weight of history and time lying heavy upon one, combined with the unrelenting brownness of the interior, neatly sum up life at the Wither’s house. How can the newly widowed Viola (Cinderella?)¬†with her suspect background and lack of decision, ever hope to survive in such a place? Meanwhile, Saxon’s mother lives in a squalid cottage and Victor zooms down to visit his mother in the magical Grassmere – the house of light, pleasure and luxury, perched across the valley from The Eagles, and its precise opposite, in every way.

The plot twists first one way, then another, with dramatic and farcical turns including the depiction of weather which favours the rich and punishes the pseudo-genteel. She speaks of money, breeding, aspiration, frustrated dreams and comical coincidences in much the same way as in CCF. However, one’s sympathies settle early on in the book with the widowed Viola and her sister-in-law Tina, each (albeit, flawed) caught in¬†Mr Wither’s slowly decaying web of dullness. Madge, the plump (and plumper) back-slapping ‘don’t like mush or beastliness’, elder daughter bumbles through the book – and towards middle age – insulated by her simple desires for fresh air and a dog. Rustics abound – always appearing to know much more than they ought to –¬†and to drink more than is good for them. Fights and retribution juggle with saving face and pretending to be gracious. One longs for everyone to get their just deserts – and, on the whole, they do.

The book is an unpicking of the unfairness and superficiality of 1937/38 society, in a slapstick, pantomime way. It wanders from one plot story to¬†another (a precursor of the ‘soap opera’ of today?) and its denouement(s) owe much to the pantomime structure.¬†Some of the promising subtlety of the start of the book tends not to live up to expectation as the plot drives one on through the story and characters fade, becoming more two-dimensional. Phyllis never rises off the page and (spoiler alert) flounces off in a somewhat predictable scene. However, little touches like ‘I’d sooner kiss my typist’ (Victor, living up to his name) add spice to what would otherwise be a piece of tedious tying up of stray plot lines.

The younger women tend to irritate the modern reader (well, this one anyway!). They tend to sniff and weep a little more than seems necessary, fail to come to the point, and spill tears (and worse) upon¬†a somewhat over-described (in the wardrobe department) of manly or womanly chests. The word ‘sex’ seems peppered over the pages when the plot needs a bit of a stir, as well.

Reading the book now, one cannot escape the vision of the terrible war about to fall upon them all – but, within the book, there seems to be no sense of this – merely a distant skirmish in distant parts – and any references to war still look back to the start of the century. In her ending, SG clearly does not envisage such changes as were about to occur in a world turned upside down. Her clocks are stopped in 1938.

But, for all these irritations, I couldn’t help being beguiled by Nightingale Wood. Perhaps SG best betrays her neat docketing of the subtle strata of her women in her¬†description of the face cream – a nice little touch in chapter XIII:¬†Mrs Spring – twelve and sixpence, Phyllis – six and sixpence, Tina – two and sixpence, and Viola – sixpence a tube. Thus the differences are summed up – in a commodity which probably contained much the same ingredients. And perhaps that is SG’s genius – she points out that we are all much the same, under the skin.



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