Monday, 31 August 2015

Borrowed homes...new outlooks...


 As you'll know if you read this blog regularly, history is one of my pet subjects....it never ceases to fascinate me. I love to learn about and imagine different times, who came before us, what they saw and felt. A wonderful way of experiencing this is to stay in historic places. And a few weeks ago we did just that...and spent a weekend here, in gorgeous Lynch Lodge, one of the Landmark Trust's amazing properties.
 The Trust buys and restores historical places of interest, many of them (like this one) quite quirky and different...and then rents them out as holiday homes for short or longer term breaks...
 We only spent a long weekend here, but for those 3 days it was our own! Gazing through the mullioned windows at a different view as we ate breakfast...
 Climbing steep stone steps to the light-flooded bedroom at the top of the tower...
 ...catching the evening rays in the impressive porch....Alice was allowed to come too...(many, but not all, Landmarks accept well-behaved dogs!) Sipping a gin and tonic here made us feel like the Lord & Lady of the manor!
 The Lodge is very close to wonderful countryside and we did lots of walking in the warm August sun...watching the narrowboats traverse the locks...
 Fascinating to see the water gush in and raise the levels, to enable the boats to continue on their journeys...
 Hard work, though, when there are a few of them in a row!
 But worth it to be on the beautiful River Nene and see views like this...

 The glorious English countryside at its overblown late Summer best...
 On the way home, we stopped in Stamford...an ancient place with so many interesting features..
 ...and more tranquil sights...
 ...as well as echoes of the past, everywhere...
 As we reluctantly left to drive home, we came upon this glorious, beautifully-restored old coach...


Like something from a 1960's Carry On film!


And even further back, we were privileged to stay in a restored early 18th century weavers house in Spitalfields, in the heart of London's East End...

 This is a part of London that we are very connected to...ancestors who lived here can be traced back to 1695....many of whom were silk weavers, Huguenots who had fled from France in fear of their lives...
 ...so benign ghosts were all around us in this amazing place...
 ....living here as though it were our own....
 ...going out, and then coming back and putting our key in the front door was incredible...
 ...the stairs were worn and had a gentle patina from the hundreds of feet that must have laboured up & down them so many times through the years...
 The kitchen retains the original features, but has been brought fully up to date for modern use (thank goodness!)
 What tales could these floorboards tell? I imagine children pushing buttons, coins, anything through these little gaps...
 ...and at the very top of the house is the weaving loft...the ceiling very high to accommodate the huge loom that was the livelihood of those that lived here...
 ...this was the only window they would have had for light for many hours of every day...a cramped, overworked and underpaid existence for these migrants who have enriched our land so much...
 The bathroom was one of my favourite places...sitting at the window, looking out over the courtyard below, and into the windows of other nearby houses...
 ...the whole area is steeped in history...
 ...relatives lived here, on Sclater Street, for many generations...what did they see, feel, hear?
 ...Some fabulous shops in the area...one of my favourites is Labour & Wait which sells practical, simple and very beautiful hardware and homewares...
 The area was heavily populated by the Jewish community in the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries...migrants again, from pogroms and poverty in their lands of origin...although their numbers have dwindled as they became prosperous and moved to other more affluent boroughs, there are still many influences visible...


This soup kitchen for the 'Jewish poor' was in use up until just over 20 years ago...
 ...probably the best beigels I have tasted...
 ...chewy, crusty, absolutely delicious!

The impressive and stunning Christ Church presides over the heart of Spitalfields...designed by Hawksmoor, a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren...
 Many ancestors married, baptised and buried within these walls....

Despite the heavy bombing of the East End by the nazis during World War 2, and the subsequent regeneration of the area (it is at the heart of the commercial and banking centre of London), an amazing number of original buildings remain...like this former silk dress shop in Raven's Row...

 ...and although there's a change of use for it now, this was the former workhouse...with separate entrances for the desperate men and women who sought refuge here (as an absolute last resort)
 Artillery Row still has the cramped feeling of an overcrowded and poverty-stricken population...
 ...but, like so many other places, the regeneration has hiked up prices and the area is now incredibly popular and expensive...

...as one man told me 'my grandparents moved away from here when they made enough money to leave, and now my son can't afford to move back!'

But we felt what it was like to live here, for one glorious weekend....and it felt fabulous!

Hoping you have a great week...it's raining as I write, on the last Bank Holiday of the year...and the schools go back on Wednesday...the year is turning again! xx

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Blue moon at the farm....

 I recently spent a week 'house-sitting' at our family farm, while my Mum, youngest sister & brother-in-law were at Pinehurst in North Carolina with Will, my youngest nephew who was taking part in the US Kids golf final there. It was a brilliant achievement for him to even qualify...he's only just 7...and in the end he finished 32nd out of 131 children from 51 different countries. So proud of him...and he made lots of new friends and had great fun, which is the main thing when you're 7!
 It was also good for them all to have a change of scene after the past few months..and years..of my dad's last illness and recent death. And I got to spend time in this magical place...
 Evenings were my favourite times...work finished, chores done, animals fed....time to rest my arms on this gate and drink in the beauty and the silence...just a few red kites mewing overhead to break the spell...
 This old house holds 35 years of memories for our family...happy and sad....growing up angst, baby joys, new puppies, illness, laughter, dancing, weddings, divorces, emigration and death....it's all here, embedded in the old walls which already hold hundreds of years of other families lives...
 The apples are plentiful this year, already hanging heavy on the trees...
 The sun just glows on the deep green grass....I was standing by the old walnut tree to take this picture. It's where we love to sit on hot days, shaded by the boughs...
 You can just spot Will's shetland pony quietly cropping the grass ..
 ...and here is Jock, who was born here...I was there when he came into the world...
 The dogs, as you can see, were terribly stressed without their owners...!
 Dear Millie and her faithful companion Cora....delightful dogs (I left Alice at home with Paul...five dogs is too many! But I visited them both every day...)
 The driveway is like the road to serenity...when you arrive home at night and close the gate behind you, all is right with the world...
 And my brother-in-law's ancient cat, Moses, is always around somewhere...in warm weather, he loves to soak up the last of the days heat from the tarmac...
 On Friday, the last day of July, I watched as the blue moon rose...
 ...the last blue moon until 2018....
 ...so beautiful, it demanded many photos!
 The other very special thing for me about that week on my own at the farm, was that I wasn't really alone of course....as well as the dogs, the cat, the cattle, ponies and sheep....there was someone very special there with me...
 As I sat in his chair in the evenings, watching the light fade from the sky, looking out onto the views that he loved best of all...
I felt my darling Dad all around me. He was in every room, around every corner....just out of reach. But ever present. Keeping watch over me, and over his beloved home. As he always has...

I hope you are having a fabulous summer...now going fast! Make the most of August...

xx