Thursday, 27 December 2012

On your marks, get set .... duck! The Bibury Duck Race, 2012

One of the highlights of the year in Bibury is the annual Boxing Day Duck Race. In practice, this takes the form of two races: the first involves plastic decoy ducks, and the second the sort of yellow rubber ducks that you put in your bath. Well, perhaps not in your bath, but you know what I mean.
The river that flows through Bibury is the Coln, a typically fast flowing chalk stream. Yesterday, thanks to weeks of rain, the Coln was at its highest-ever recorded level, so the yellow rubber duck race was abandoned. There were fears that hundreds of little ducks would jam what space was left underneath the bridge, causing the river to overflow into the neighbouring cottages.
The local cricket club organises the race, and by 10.30am yesterday morning, there was a long queue to sponsor the decoy ducks. For £10, you had the chance of winning £100, or a bottle of champagne or whisky. The sponsor of the winning duck could also choose which charity would benefit from the money raised.

This is Terry, the local builder and a member of the cricket club committee. I haven't seen Terry play cricket but I can attest to his building skills, because he has just built a walkway connecting the two terraces at the back of my house. It's beautiful.

The little ducks were raffled instead of raced, much to the disappointment of the smaller children. They cost 50p, which is pretty good for a chance to win £100!

The duck race draws crowds from neighbouring areas as well as locals.

Setting up the net to catch the ducks at the finishing line.

While back at the start, the ducks were still being snapped up by punters.

On occasions like this, it helps to have friends in high places. Or in high balconies.

And they're off!

The real ducks were very confused by the race.  They'd gathered to watch what was going on but the minute the decoys came sailing down the river, they took to the air.

Nearly there! There was a clear winner, which was number 20.

At the finishing line the ducks are gathered up ....

... and put away until next year. They look like they're glad of the rest.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A little light reading

When you give up your office job, as I have, you expect somehow to be restored to miraculous vigor and to have enough energy simultaneously to prune the garden and decorate the house. This doesn't happen. The removal of the routine of work, you will find, also removes the routine of rest.
"I'm not doing anything," you think, "so why am I always so knackered?" It's because you are probably pottering around non-stop, and pottering - particularly if it involves unpacking and putting away, and the installation of various lights/curtains/bookshelves/bits of furniture - can be very tiring if you are doing it all day long.
You need to establish a new timetable with clearly marked breaks, where you sit down with a book or watch Judge Judy or just stare into space. My own preference is to sit down with a book, because much as I love Judge Judy, I feel guilty about watching daytime television. In any case, daytime television does not, in my opinion, include enough Judge Judy, but includes far too many programmes such as Bridezillas, which involve very silly people making a great deal of noise. (As you can see, I have done my research.)
On the other hand, I've never felt guilty about burying my nose in some volume or other - I got over that by the time I was seven and had mastered the art of reading a book, undetected, under my desk at school.
There is plenty of reading matter for the novice country dweller, but I was given two books which turned out to be rather different from my expectations. VP gave me a copy of Mike Dilger's book, My Garden and Other Animals, illustrated by his partner, Christina Holvey, and my mother gave me a copy of Roger Scruton's News From Somewhere.
Dilger is an ecologist and television presenter, and his book describes how he and his partner adapted to country life after moving to their first house with a garden. It's set in Somerset, near Bristol, which is where the BBC's Natural History Unit is based. Scruton is a philosopher and author, and lives in rural Wiltshire.
The title of Dilger's book is a light-hearted play on Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, while Scruton's title is a rather loaded reference to William Morris's News From Nowhere.
Morris's "preposterous" book, says Scruton, envisaged an "English countryside purged of real people, inoculated against religion, and sprinkled all over with a kind of medieval star-dust" and it was while hunting near Kelmscott, Morris's home in Gloucestershire, that Scruton apparently decided to move to the country, bringing with him "a library, three pianos and four horses".
Scruton is a famous proponent of hunting - indeed, he describes how he fell in love with his wife after seeing her "poised aloft in the Beaufort colours". (The Duke of Beaufort's Hunt dress is dark blue and buff, while the huntsman and the whippers-in wear dark green, not the usual hunting pink (ie red) coats. Still with me? Good).
I didn't expect to be impressed by Dilger's writing style, which was just as well, because his prose is peppered with hanging clauses and dangling modifiers. I think - I hope - this is a televisual habit, which demands that the subject of each sentence comes at the end rather than at the beginning in order to keep the viewer's interest piqued.
For example, instead of saying: "X and I started work on the pond while Christina weeded the new border", or even "Christina weeded the new border while X and I started work on the pond", he says: "With Christina weeding the new border, X and I got to work on the pond." Almost every single sentence is constructed like this.
You'll probably think I'm being extremely pompous when I say I found this incredibly irritating. Perhaps I am, but then I'm used to editing copy, and I found my fingers itching for a blue pencil with which to amend his grammar.
I was prepared to forgive him, however, because this is a fascinating account - by someone who really knows their subject - of observing wildlife in an English garden. Dilger has access, thanks to his background as a TV wildlife presenter, to all sorts of kit which enables him to track bats, film animal activity or record birdsong.
The results are described to the reader with such passionate enthusiasm that you almost find yourself whooping along with him as he ticks off another species that is new to the garden.
I turned to Professor Scruton's measured prose in the expectation of finding some respite from Dilger's misuse of English, so I was rather astonished to find a spelling error in the first sentence. (He refers to "presumptious" Icarus, rather than "presumptuous".) By page 6, I'd found another one! ("I meakly [sic] conceded.") And there are others - a neighbour is described as "cussid" (surely cussed?).
The professor appears to fare no better in German - "Man ist was er isst" he writes on page 106. Does he mean "Mann [Ger] ist was er isst"? Does he mean Man [Eng] "ist was er isst". Or does he mean, to quote Feuerbach more accurately, "der Mensch ist, was er isst"?
What is it with publishers these days? Can't they afford proof-readers or copy editors?
Luckily, there is the occasional philosophical joke - the sort of thing that would elicit wheezy chuckles at High Table - to distract the reader from the errors. At one point Scruton says that while his long-suffering neighbour Stephen is a farmer, he, Scruton is a meta farmer. "That means, I would have gone on to say, had we both belonged to the frivolous world of the university, that we are both of us farming only my farming is meta than yours." LMAO, Rog.
Dilger's book effervesces with detail eagerly inscribed, while Scruton's account is more sedate, like a shaft of sunlight through a dusty library window. Yet they are both, in their way, a hymn of praise to the life of the English countryside, whether it is Scruton on the subject of Vaughan Williams and the Anglican hymnal, or Dilger on soprano pipistrelles.
I was going to restrict this post to these two books, but a couple of  days ago, I took delivery of In A Gloucestershire Garden by Canon Henry Nicholson Ellacombe, which had been recommended to me by the wise and wonderful Carol at May Dreams Gardens. I won't bore you with yet another review; I'll just say: "Thanks, Carol, it's fab!"

Monday, 10 December 2012

Comings and goings at Awkward Hill

The sweep came back to Awkward Hill on Friday, to clean the other chimney ready for the arrival of a second wood-burning stove for the study. This was a thrilling moment for me - I love seeing the brush emerge from the chimney and rushed outside like a big kid to take a picture.

The new stove has made the prospect of sitting down at the computer more bearable, because for the first time since I moved in, the study seems warm and inviting. It has two outside walls, and three big windows, so it needs something a bit more radical than just one measly radiator. But like the rest of the house, now it has warmed up, it seems to retain the heat quite well.

Talking of heating, the new range also arrived. This was another moment of great drama - it is cast iron, so it took quite a lot of skill and muscle to get it off the truck and into the kitchen. The range provides hot water and central heating (oil-fired) and is also what we cook on. With this model, you can have the heating and hot water on without having the cooker on, and vice versa, so it's very flexible.

The chap in the foreground is Dave Keenan, who is a heating engineer. He came recommended by Cast Iron Range Cookers where I bought the stoves and the range, and he has been absolutely wonderful. He's patient, reliable and good-humoured and is an endless source of advice about anything to do with heating a house. When the temperature is below zero and snow is forecast, he's a useful guy to have on your contactst list!

Right, that's the stove in the kitchen. Now all we have to do is to put in a new flue, sort out the pipework and connect her up...

Here's my niece Roisin, who turned up this morning with her dad, Paddy, to do some work on one of the bedrooms. She was a huge help, and she looked incredibly professional as she got down to taking off the skirting on the landing.

My friend Ollie, putting up the Christmas lights. Ollie is a freelance theatre production manager who specialises in arena events. He's spent most of the year working on either the Diamond Jubilee Regatta or the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, so I now consider him suitably qualified to take charge of the decorations on my house. Under supervision, of course.

My son Rory and his girlfriend Alison, who came to stay for the weekend. I don't know which they enjoyed most: the bonfire, the fresh country air or the huge Sunday lunch we had in the local pub. One thing is for sure - I wasn't the only one behaving like a big kid over the past few days.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Chill December

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire and Christmas treat.

(English nursery rhyme)

It's the first day of December, and as if to mark the day, the weather has obliged with a thick frost and bright sunshine. I can't believe that only a few weeks ago, I viewed the cottage in the heat of a late summer day.
Despite all the chores that moving house dictates - the unpacking, the fixing of shelves and changing of lights, the frequent trips to B&Q, the daily discoveries (oh, is that where that screwdriver/knife/breadbin/chair/bookcase went!) - I've managed to do a bit of sorting out in the garden. In weather like this, it seems a crime not to be outside.
I put up bird feeders yesterday, and this morning, there was a bustle of small birds who were obviously delighted by the December bonus. The tits, I find, are always the first to discover the feeders, and a robin has been taking a proprietorial interest in the proceedings, but it will be interesting to see what else turns up. 

This moss-covered apple tree is the perfect place to hang a squirrel-proof feeder.

On a winter morning, the light changes minute by minute, which means interrupting your breakfast every five seconds to rush outside and take pictures.

As the sun got higher, it highlighted the frost on the trees in the meadow next door.

The next moment, you could almost believe that spring was on its way.

After a while, though, the cold drives you back indoors, as Luigi (above) will tell you. Those of you who have asked how the cats are settling in may like to know that they have already put their paw of approval (not to mention cat hair and pawprints) on the woodburning stove, the range in the kitchen, and my new bed.
They went to a cattery while I was packing up and moving, and it was interesting to see how it changed their behaviour. They shared a pen while they were there, and they seem much closer now. Perhaps they've realised that cuddling up together means they stay warmer.
They have been out in the garden for the first time, and I think they're going to enjoy life here immensely. It's hilarious watching them explore. Intrepid Luigi, despite his cuddly, cute demeanour, is always the leader in any expedition. Mario, who looks more athletic, is actually much more cautious and follows a couple of paces behind.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Chim chiminey, chim-chim che-ree

Now, before I had my woodburning stove installed, I had to have the chimney swept so that it was all nice and clean. I'd made an appointment a few weeks ago, because at this time of year, as you can imagine, sweeps tend to be quite busy.
The day came for the appointment, which I had carefully inscribed in my diary. No chimney sweep. Oh well, I thought, I'll try another sweep. It's quite common, in London, for tradesmen not to turn up - they get stuck in traffic or on the previous job. You just shrug philosophically and phone someone else.
I phoned another sweep, and a very friendly lady answered. I explained that the sweep I had booked had not turned up. Could they do my chimney by Thursday - two days away? No, she said, she was very sorry but they were fully booked. Who was the sweep who had failed to turn up, she asked? I told her.
I rang the next sweep on the list and left a message, saying that someone had let me down and I needed to have my chimney swept by Thursday. Five minutes later, another very friendly lady (everyone in Gloucestershire seems to be incredibly friendly) rang me back and said they could do my chimney on Wednesday morning.
I sat back, feeling relieved, when the phone rang again. It was the original sweep. "I hear you've been telling everyone I didn't turn up for the job," he said. "You booked me for tomorrow, not today."
Oh. My. Goodness. I had been blackening his name (if you'll excuse the sooty metaphor) to half of Gloucestershire and all the time it was me that had made the mistake.
I apologised in a suitably fulsome manner. Then I rang the previous sweep and grovelled to the friendly lady, explaining that I would now have to cancel my appointment. She said that was perfectly all right.
The next day, the sweep turned up, on time, and I began to apologise again for casting aspersions on his reliability. "That's OK," he said cheerfully, "it was only my mum." What, his mum was married to the second sweep? "Well, he's her partner," said my sweep. What about the third sweep, the one I had to cancel? "Oh, that's my brother," said the sweep.
I've now made an appointment to have my other chimney swept. I have written it down in very large writing.

Whatever the weather...

Since I moved to Bibury, the weather has alternated between torrential rain, howling gales and fog, with the occasional glimpse of sunshine, usually in late afternoon when I am driving due west.
I enjoy weather. I love watching storms, I don't mind being out in the rain (as long as I'm not on my way to work, or some event at which I have to look smart), and the first snow of winter still seems as magical as it did when I was a child.
In the country, however, you are far more aware of the power of the weather and its ability to wreak havoc frighteningly quickly. Here's the entrance to Bibury Trout Farm, on the River Coln, which runs through the centre of the village. In summer, the "dimpling stream runs laughing by", as William Blake put it. Today, swollen by days of endless rain, it was a ferocious torrent, submerging the footbridge that leads to the shop where I buy my newspaper.

The other day I had to drive my daughter back to Bristol University, a fairly easy journey of about an hour and a half. Just as we were about to approach the motorway, a "Road Closed" sign brought our route to an abrupt end, sending us on an odyssey across the sodden countryside. Every half a mile seemed to bring yet another flood to ford, the water rippling around my axles.
I could tell my daughter was a bit apprehensive, so I had to pretend this was the sort of thing that happened every day. (As indeed it is, at the moment!) But at one point we both let out a yelp of fear as a motorist travelling in the opposite direction roared past us impatiently, sending up a wave of water that washed right over the roof of the car. Selfish scumbag. We got to Bristol safely, but my knees felt distinctly shaky by the time we arrived.
The following day, I went up to the Burford Garden Company (the poshest garden centre in Oxfordshire) to buy a log basket for my new wood-burning stove. They were having a Christmas shopping evening and the place was awash not with water, but with mulled wine, cider and various seasonal tipples. The rain had stopped, blown away by high winds, which whipped at my scarf and hood as I got out of the car.
Normally, I don't need any encouragement to spend hours browsing around a garden centre, even without mulled wine and samples of cheese, but the wind - and the thought of fallen trees - sent me scurrying home with my log basket and a car full of wood and kindling. At times like this, at home on Awkward Hill seems the best place to be.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The first week in Bibury

I got up early this morning, mainly to put out the rubbish. We didn't have such stringent recycling regulations in London, so I felt that I needed - like any true journalist - the pressure of a deadline in order to get my head around which sort of waste went in which sort of container. And the rubbish is put out before 7am.
Thus it was that I was able to capture the dawn coming up over Awkward Hill, and the mist rising off the meadow. You could tell it was going to be a beautiful day.

It's been a busy week. Moving house is always a stressful business, and however well you think you have planned ahead, there never seems to be enough space for all your stuff. Another law of moving is that all the boxes that contain things you use least often are always the boxes that are closest to hand. However, you can't get away with just carting them off to the garage or the shed, because there is always a chance that some helpful person will have tossed in the tin opener, or the dishcloth, or some other household essentials, just to fill up the box.
I've spent most of the week without a broadband connection, too. And my landline sounds as if someone is scrunching up a packet of crisps whenever I try to phone anyone.
It seems odd not to be at work. It's not that I miss it; it's more that I have a vague feeling of guilt at the back of my mind. I feel as if I'm bunking off. Shouldn't I be doing something other than sitting at home leafing through kitchen brochures?
I look back over the week's activities: I have found the recycling centre; I have driven my daughter to and from Bristol through torrential rain and floods; I have found the Swindon branch of B&Q; I have emptied scores of cardboard boxes and unwrapped dozens of items of kitchen equipment. I have even found time to do two loads of laundry, and I have polished and swept. The cottage is beginning to look more like home, thanks to the new woodburning stove which was installed yesterday.
Here, though, are the real achievements. I saw a buzzard sitting in a tree the day we arrived here. I've seen deer grazing at dusk, and pheasants strutting through stubble. Tonight, for the first time in my life, I heard an owl call.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Dreams, designs, and dangerous women

 "I am so longing to read about you starting a new garden. Wonderful to see the concepts and ideas developing, happening and growing. What lurked in your mind, unsuited to a completed London garden, that you can now tackle with aplomb, delight and joy?"
Diana of Elephant's Eye, who has been a long-term blogging friend, posted this comment on my last postShe's absolutely right. Things do lurk in your mind. They are filed away for future reference, until one day you pull the idea out, blow the dust off it and see that, yes, this is the time to put it into action.
Just because your garden has a particular style, often dictated by its aspect, its soil type, the local climate and so on, doesn't mean that you can't appreciate a completely different style.
I have a fairly clear concept in mind for my new garden. The actual landscaping may turn out to be slightly different from my current mental picture, but the style will be the same.
I want something that echoes the surrounding landscape. If you look at the pictures below, you can see how the designers have used evergreens, or sculpture, or hard landscaping to provide a contrast to the very soft, pretty planting.
You may think: "Oh, well, I don't have any of those things." But you probably do. You may not have a wall, but you'll have a house wall (at least, I sincerely hope so)! You may not have a sculpture, but you may have a tree, whose shape you can repeat with the right planting.

This is Tom Stuart Smith (above) for Laurent Perrier at the Chelsea Flower Show 2010. I really admire his work, and the more I see of it, the more I love it. I think he is a master of proportion and "punctuation": his gardens look so simple and so artless, and yet the design is very clever. The eye is led exactly where he wants it to go.

Here's another one of my favourite designers: Cleve West, who won Best in Show at Chelsea 2011 with this garden for the Daily Telegraph. The colour scheme here is so subtle - I love the dark red with the misty greys and purples, injected with pops of pale yellow that pick up the colour of the wall. And I like the restraint that characterises Cleve's work - the flat bare wall makes a wonderful contrast to the fluffy, floriferous perennials.

This is a detail from Cleve's garden for Chelsea this year, which also won best in show. It's the sort of planting that looks terrific in any garden, but particularly in a country garden, where it gives the impression of random seeding, but with a strong shape that makes it stand out.

This is Derry Watkins' garden (above) in Wiltshire. Derry runs a nursery called Special Plants and boy, is it special. She also has a wonderful garden on the other side of the house from the nursery. Don't go there. I went, and look what happened to me. I ended up selling my house in London and moving to Gloucestershire, just up the road.

Here we have the "echoing" effect that I like: the humps and hillocks of the plants in this scree bed reflect the curves of the trees and the hills around the garden.

A fabulous yellow kniphofia, with its upright flowers looking like soldiers standing to attention, echoes the shape of the conifer beyond.

Of course, you don't have to use plants just to echo plants. Here Derry has used a rusted iron sculpture as a sort of exclamation point at the end of the border.

And the kniphofia stands guard at the beginning of a path.

Sorry, I can't say anything intelligent about this picture. It just makes me go weak at the knees. What a view. And in the foreground, the angelica has raided the dressing up box and is pretending to be a tree.
Seriously, Derry's nursery has a lot to do with my reasons for moving. I went there with VP (yes, I blame her too) and Marty Wingate back in August, and had a wonderful afternoon being shown round the garden by Derry herself. We got back to VP's house for supper, and I sat there bleating: "I want to live in Derry's house! I want to have Derry's garden! I want to come and buy my plants at Derry's nursery!"
Marty teased me, saying: "You just want to BE Derry!" and VP said: "Well, why not? You could do it, you could sell your house in London, and move to Wiltshire." No, I couldn't possibly, I said, I have to keep working until my kids are through university, and I enjoy my job, and OK, I might get very tired, and I might really miss the kids now they're both off to college and feel that the house is too big, but it'll be fine.
All the way home, driving along the motorway, that little seedling of an idea took root and grew. Marty went off to Edinburgh for the festival, and I got on the internet and started looking at properties.
I warn you: these women are dangerous.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

So, Awkward Hill...

It's a strange name, isn't it? Awkward Hill is a very steep hill, rising abruptly from the River Coln. You can quite see why it's called "Awkward" - it's a sort of blip or bump right in the middle of Bibury.
If you go down the other side, the lane is called Hawkers Hill, as in hawker, or pedlar. I keep meaning to look into this, to discover whether Hawkers Hill is a corruption of Awkward Hill, or whether Awkward Hill is a corruption of Hawkers Hill.
If anyone knows where the name comes from, I'd love to hear from you. When I decided to move to Bibury, my family thought the name was hilarious. It was even suggested that I use the blogging name Awkward Cow. But I think not.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Local heroes

One of the things I want to do in my new life is to use local producers as much as possible. If you live in the country, it seems mad not to buy from the people on your doorstep, especially when some of them are producing wonderful things, whether it is cheese or gingham checks.

I came across the textile designs of Vanessa Arbuthnott (above) while looking for a shepherd's hut. (My mother wants to buy a shepherd's hut for my garden, where she will sleep when she comes to stay. But that's a whole other post!)
Vanessa's designs were featured on the Cotswold Shepherds Huts site, and I was thrilled to find a range of fabrics that used such clever colour combinations and subtle designs. I've never been a very chintzy person, but I wanted something for Awkward Hill that was more in keeping with a country cottage than the more austere colour scheme I had in London. I think Vanessa's designs complement the colours of the Cotswolds perfectly.
I'd discovered, thanks to VP, that there was a very good organic farm shop nearby, on the road to Cirencester, but ironically I had my first taste of Gloucestershire artisan cheeses in London the other night, at the RHS Harvest Festival show.
Godsells, who are based in Leonard Stanley, near Stonehouse, had a selection of their award-winning cheeses to taste, and I was smitten by their Three Virgins (so to speak), which is a Cheshire-type crumbly, tangy cheese. Only iron willpower prevented me from ripping open the packet I bought and eating the cheese on the train on the way home.
Another of their cheeses is Singing Granny, a Cheddar-type cheese that is so strong, you could almost use it as a substitute for Parmesan.
The man at the Godsells stall also gave me a copy of the Grazing Guide, which is a directory of local food and drink producers (including pubs and restaurants) in Cirencester and the Cotswolds. I only got it on Tuesday but it's already well-thumbed.
I anticipate that I am going to put on weight in Gloucestershire. But at least I'll have nice curtains.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Japanese question

The first thing you do when you buy a house in the UK is to have a survey done, to check that there are no structural problems such as subsidence, or damp, or dry rot, or anything else untoward.
I've had many of these done over the years, but I've never had one that mentioned Japanese tourists as a possible hazard!
Under the heading "Environmental issues to check and other considerations", my surveyor notes: "Bibury is very popular with tourists (especially Japanese, who often wander around the village peering into houses and gardens).
This is absolutely true - indeed, many of the houses on the main street, down by the river where the tourists tend to congregate, have signs in Japanese which (I assume) say things like "Private".
"They're always very polite," said my surveyor, "and all they want to do is to take photographs, but they do tend to assume that the entire village is one big historical attraction."
The only access to my new house is through the gate onto the lane (dry-stone walls surround the entire garden), but even so, it's still a focus of attention. My mother came to see it with me the other week, and says that she was photographed several times by groups of Japanese tourists while she was photographing the house.
I think this is quite amusing and sort of charming in a way. (I hope I still think that in years to come...)
I also like the idea that there are people around all the time. It gives the village a sort of buzz, and certainly there would not be a shop, or a post office, or two pubs, or any of the other facilities that make it quite a civilised place to live if it was not for the tourist hordes.
Wherever you live, town or country, you have to make compromises. 人生はそういうものだ - as they say in Japan.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

BBC in Bibury (from the archives)

I found this old video from the Day Out series, presented by Angela Rippon. This episode looks at the South East Cotswolds and features Bibury, along with Northleach and Fairford.
There's one about Cirencester too, with a different presenter.

Counting down the days

I am itching, absolutely itching to move into my new house. We haven't even exchanged contracts yet (there's no great delay or problem as far as I know, so it should be any day now), but although I tell myself that in a few weeks I will have all the time in the world to measure for curtains, think about the garden, rejig the kitchen and arrange the furniture and so on, I want to do it all NOW!
It's funny how you can make a connection with a house after seeing it for only 30 minutes. I've now visited Awkward Hill Cottage three times, and each time I go, I feel at home. My shoulders relax, my breathing slows and the world seems a much more beautiful place.
It's not that I dislike London. On the contrary, I think it's the best city in the world - the most beautiful, the most glamorous, with the most to offer in terms of theatre, restaurants and shopping. (I'm biased, of course!)
However, for me, life in London has become a bit of a Catch-22 - I have to work in order to be able to afford to live here, but if I work, especially the sort of hours that daily newspaper life dictates, I don't have time to take advantage of all it has to offer. And I'd like to slow down a bit, to have time to stand and look at my garden as well as scamper round tidying it up. For garden, also read life.
In the meantime, my old house feels rather like a big hotel, one in which the guest has to do all the work. The children's rooms are stripped of their posters and paraphernalia - they've both now departed for university - while the hall and landings seem to be full of piles of clean bedding. I'm  gradually working my way through the house and laundering all the sheets and towels I can find (and believe me, I've found some in some funny places...).
I'm consoling myself by ordering fabric samples, and kitchen brochures, and books on keeping chickens. And dreaming of what life will be like in Gloucestershire.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Golden October at Awkward Hill

The famous cottages at Arlington Row, which date originally from the 13th century, and which are now owned by the National Trust. In the 18th century, they were converted to weavers' cottages.

Rack Isle, which is also managed by the National Trust. It's a meadow area which is home to all sorts of bird and animal life. In the olden days, the weavers used this flat area beside the river Coln to dry their cloth, hence the name.

In the gardens in Bibury (above and below) the shrubs and trees are starting to take on their autumn colours.

Meanwhile, up at Awkward Hill Cottage, the autumn crocuses are in full swing.
They're growing in a reasonably open situation - not too dry, but with a bit of sun. The blue ones, below, look like a little pond from a distance.