Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Catching up with the season...

My daily walks with Alice in the hills near our home are easy to take for granted....until I see something like this...
 ...a gorgeous patch of Fly Agaric toadstools just sitting there...
 ...glowing like tiny sunsets through the grass...
 ..and I start to look more closely. There are crops of fungi everywhere..
 I'm almost certain that these are edible...the one below was bigger than my hand...
 ...but I'm not quite brave enough to pick them. I just leave them where they are and admire them!
 This is the view at the start of our walk...
 ...through the gate, and there are many new smells to be snuffed...
 ..this part was cleared a few years ago...before it would have been a mass of bracken and gorse at this time..
 ...although there are still some gorse bushes around, scenting the air with their coconut flowers..
 Hips and haws look more like winter than autumn...
 and yet the beeches are only just beginning to turn all shades of gold and bronze and brown...
 The wild juniper bushes are laden with berries...
 ..the blue looks frosted..and the spikey leaves are so sharp that they are well protected.
 At this stage, we start to glimpse the amazing views over the county through the gaps in the trees...
 I have always loved this particular tree...it's such a regular shape...almost like a child's drawing! How a tree should look!
 Still many interesting 'fragrances'!! And then we burst into the open and this is what we see...
 ...behind Alice in the picture below is our town...far in the distance...
 ...and then we start to go back...a different route every day (for variety - mine, not Alice's, as I don't think she cares a bit so long as she is out and about!)
 We often end up going through the woods at some point...

 Alice loves to pretend that she sees squirrels and dashes off after them (they are mostly in her head!)
 But she never goes too far! This year we had the warmest Hallowe'en since records began..the temperature here peaked at 21c (almost 70f) which is virtually unheard of! I took the photos below that day...
 ...our churchyard looked decidedly UNspooky!
 Just glorious...
 ...the ancient beech hasn't started to change colour yet, really....although it won't be long now...

...and the sky on Friday was as blue as can be!
This morning, however, was a different story...
chilly and misty...although the sun has now broken through and it's another blue - although cold - day! Time for my walk with Alice once again...I wonder what we'll spot today?

I hope you have a wonderful week! xx

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Paris tres Vite!

 A special treat last Thursday...we took a day trip to Paris! One of the wonderful things about living in Europe is that we can do such things! We took the 8.30 Eurostar under the Channel...and arrived at 11.45...
 ...we had some business to do first (it wasn't a total indulgence!) but when that was completed we were free....to ride the Metro...
 ...look at the art installations in the square outside the Hotel de Ville...
 ...spot the ancient next to the modern...
 ...which gives Paris its special character, I think...
 We stopped in this little traditional 'zinc' bar on the Ile de la Cite late in the day to have a Kir (blackcurrant liqueur mixed with white wine) - yum!
 I love the many statues that adorn the various civic buildings...what tales they could tell!
 This was the bridge that crosses the Seine to the Ile de la Cite where Notre Dame Cathedral sits in splendour (you can see it peeking out in the middle of the picture above)...
 ..and here is the divine orange cake (with optional chantilly cream) that we shared, with coffee, in a small cafe mid-afternoon...
 This is now part of an hotel, but I am so thrilled that they have preserved the beautiful bakery shopfront...too gorgeous to lose!
 We window-shopped the chic Autumn fashions....
 ...and stopped by one of our favourite restaurants...although we had no time to eat there on this trip...
The patisseries are so tempting...everything arranged in abundant pyramids, just willing you to buy...!
But, alas...all too soon it was time to leave again. We caught the 7.13pm train home...and got the hour back..which meant that we were home with Alice just after 10pm! A long but amazing day! I thought that you might like to hear the bells of Notre Dame...this is how they sounded at 6.30pm last Thursday...and how they have sounded for almost 800 years!
The cafe with the orange awning (if you didn't spot it) is called 'Quasimodo!!

Thanks so much for all your comments and discussion on my last post by the way...'Little House' has touched so many of us...I knew it! If you love it as I do, let me heartily recommend a new book by Melissa Gilbert who played Laura Ingalls in the show. 'My Prairie Cookbook' is so lovely...not only recipes, but stories and photographs from her 10 years starring in this beautiful series. I treated myself to a copy for my birthday and I am savouring it!

I hope that you have a great week xx

Monday, 13 October 2014

An Enduring Love - No. 1

 This is the first of an occasional post about something that is probably quite trivial, but that means an incredible amount to me...as you can tell from the photograph, my first subject is 'Little House on the Prairie'!

I'm rapidly heading for 50...and yet this 1970's tv series still tugs my heartstrings like nothing else. First, a few provisos...I have all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's original books and adore those, too. I know that the tv series stopped being faithful to the books fairly early on...I am aware that many of the episodes (especially the later series) are formulaic, contrived...and overly sentimental. And, being a keen historian, I know very well that the 'golden life' portrayed is very far from the reality of growing up and living in 1870's pioneer America. I know all of that. And yet....and yet...
Much as I love Laura, Mary, Carrie and the other characters...for me, 'Little House' has really always been about Ma & Pa...
 It's a strange thing, because on the whole we had a very lovely childhood....we were lucky to have parents who loved each other and are still happily married. And yet, Caroline...
 & Charles Ingalls...
 represented absolute perfection in marriage & parenting to me back then!
 A lot of this is to do with the actors who portrayed them. Karen Grassle and Michael Landon had a brilliant chemistry....and Michael Landon, who was the driving force behind the whole concept, had an uncanny knack for pitching it just right...
 I sobbed buckets when he died so tragically early...BLOODY cancer again. I know that Charles cried a lot, pontificated a lot and was always eager for a fist fight. But he was decent, good, kind, worked so hard for his family...and he loved them all so much!
 Caroline was incredibly beautiful but also serene, gentle, brave...and she could be feisty when the occasion called for it!

Esther and I used to run home from school at full tilt every Thursday, when the show screened at 4.20pm (you see, I can even remember that!) And probably being one of 3 sisters meant that we all especially identified with the family...
 Just the other day, when my youngest sister Lucy was feeling under the weather, she sent me a text to say that she was curled up on her sofa watching an episode of 'Little House' (she is over 40...) and she's not the only one of my female friends and family who admit that, for them, this is one of their ultimate comforting indulgences. As for me...well, I can't exactly analyse why this series still warms my heart so much...and I'm not sure that I need to, really! I just know that when I see that little wagon roll across the screen in front of those rich, blue prairie skies and hear the horns that begin the iconic theme...
I feel like I'm enfolded in a gigantic hug!

Do you have a 'comfort' show like this? I'd love to know!

Happy week x