Saturday, 29 June 2013


Fairytale mug by Julie Dodsworth

I'm always delighted when I find some little item which I know will bring a bit of magic and enchantment into my every day life. We cannot all live in a castle or storybook cottage but it is possible to find small inexpensive items which give great joy when we see them and use them in real life. 

I loved this mug when first I found it and could not resist.  The floral design with it's fine tendrils captured my interest straight away .... and then I read what it says inside the rim.

This is a wondrous design by talented Yorkshire artist Julie Dodsworth. This is what she says about this mug:

"Fairytale - Another one of our favourite haunts are the woods at Bolton Abbey. Come late spring, the bluebells form the most incredible blue haze, the walk is intoxicating. As a child I thought the tiny blue bell flowers were fairy bonnets! Fairytale is my tribute."

Drinking my morning tea from it makes me cheerful all day and when the day has worn on and I am flagging a lovely cup of Earl Grey with lemon refreshes me for the evening.

You can get it from Julie's own website, or if you have a Waitrose local to you they are stocking them too!

You can add your own old chair with comfy cushions and fairytale Bunny or Fox!

Have a good look around her new website, she is offering a lot of wonderful items. 

from Julie's own websiteJulie Dodsworth

Julie on facebook: Julie's facebook page

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Of Peter Pan & Pirate Ships

From NeverNeverland on tumblr
"You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting."
J.M. Barrie - Peter Pan

I know how she feels! Midsummer always makes me languid and dreamy. This time last year I was obsessed with Mermaids and now I feel like Wendy waiting for Peter to appear and whisk me off to Neverland.

A favourite Peter Pan illustration by Flora White

When I was a child the very English tales of Peter Pan, Alice and Winnie the Pooh fascinated me and planted the first seeds of my love affair with England. I never grew tired of them and as a teenager I read the biographies of their authors and remained determined to one day visit the places where they had lived and which had inspired them to write the stories. Despite liking the idea of being a pirate I possess a hopeless sense of navigation and upon my first visit to Kensington Gardens I spent a considerable time searching for Peter Pan. The bronze is perfectly located in a site chosen by author J.M Barrie about half way along the west bank of the Long Water. The statue is by Sir George Frampton, R.A., P.R.B.S. (1860-1928).   It has a special atmosphere about it and thousands of people, young and old make the pilgrimage to see it. Looking at it made me feel a loss for my own childhood, even though at the time I was a mere girl of twenty-something.

So many children's stories are bittersweet rather than sweet, if you learn to read between the lines. And perhaps, often, we do not fully comprehend this bittersweetness until we are grown up. Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up is a sad tale and yet ..... a part of him lives in all of us who treasure childhood and enchantment and do not want it to end nor do we want to face the inevitability of our own mortality.

painting by Margaret W. Tarrant  (1888—1959). 
I'd not forgotten Peter, no, never, but I had neglected him over winter when I tend to think of darker things, of Grimlings and beasts in the wild woods.

On a recent trip to Scotland a friend took us to a magical gift and tea shop in Kirkcaldy, called appropriately The Merchant's Garden as it is located in The Merchants House, on the sea. Being near a wild sea reminded me of how much I had loved The Tempest and the illustration of Miranda by Waterhouse who painted versions of Miranda at the start and the end of his career. The sea has played a running part in my life too. I had a cat named Miranda and a parrot named Prospero, sadly both long gone now.

Miranda from The Tempest so divinely captured in oil in 1916
by John William Waterhouse

The shop keeper had two old carved wooden galleons as decoration and I fell in love with them. Alas, they were her treasured keepsakes and not for sale.

You can see one of their old galleons on the shelf with gift items.

 It was an inspiring place you can feel the age of the building, the romance of the sea and the ochre colour sings. On the upper floors when they restored the building they found an ancient wall painting of a galleon which has inspired them in their decorations. 

They have a facebook page: Merchant's Garden at The Merchants House

As summer finally arrived my dreams turned back to the sea and all things watery and I started thinking of galleons and pirates.

by James Coleman

One of my history teachers was descended from Sir Francis Drake and the way in which he taught seafaring history kept my interest in pirates and galleons alive. It has not waned through all of these years and is one of the reasons I had first wanted to live in Devon. I miss the sea and am always drawn to water.

Having just attended Royal Ascot the subject of hats has been much on my mind as well. I've never been a great beauty and do not like to stand out in a crowd but I must admit this galleon hat was very tempting! It is magnificent.

It is the creation of artist Amanda Scrivener of ProfMaelstromme on Etsy. Have a look at her designs and find out more about her on her blog at Professor Maelstromme:

 From: ProfMaelstromme on Etsy

When you collect things or get an idea for a design theme I often find that items which fit are attracted to you, or vice versa.

Treasures of the sea

My treasures of late include this wooden pirates chest from a charity shop, (the jewels did not come with it!) a small oil painting of a sailing ship from ebay and strings of shells from the 'Shore' section of online store Re. I have many gathered shells which I could have strung myself but this arrangement is so well done, and so reasonable that I bought two. The site is well worth a wander, they have wondrous things!

Seashell strings from : Re  

I have saved the best for last. I found my galleon! It's a little broken and faded, but then it is very old. You can just see the lions on the masts, and all of the flags which fly depicting royal arms. It may be a model of  a real ship or just a fantasy. The seller did not know, I will need to do some research.

My very own Galleon!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


I've had a blog absence caused by summer finally arriving. The garden is just too magical to resist. After all the rain and extended cold weather there is a lot to do outside.

When we moved to the cottage there was an ugly but functional pond at the back of the garden. It had a cement brick border and no plants around it. What had once been the lawn had been covered with black plastic and then piles of pebbles. No doubt the previous owner liked the beach, but this was more like a desert. There was a small border, overgrown with ivy, and brick planters had been built all around the whole back. No shade for wildlife to hide and live.

The old pond, in the desert. 

 We were surprised that despite this inhospitable environment there was life. Before the pond began to cave in we discovered two species of Newt and several common Frogs. We decided that eventually we would build them a new home and in the meantime we moved them to a safe place where they could hide and hibernate under some large stones.  The cottage needs as much work as the garden and so the Newts and Frogs have had to wait. until now.

The beginning of a new pond.

It is a work in progress but as soon as we had the liner down and water in the Newts reappeared.

The bright and dark 'Jewel Garden'

Nature never ceases to amaze and delight me. Suddenly the garden which only a few weeks ago was dead stem is lush green and dark moody bloom, full of buzzing.

Mrs House Martin sitting on her eggs.

Our cottage is very simple, nothing grand. But it has charm not just to us, but for the House Martins who have nested here every year since Victorian times. Those raised in the nests on the cottage return from their long and perilous journeys from South Africa in April and build new nests around the village. This year we saw a few, then a storm raged and they disappeared, then a few returned. One nest on our cottage remained empty and a source of constant sorrow for me. It had been built two summers ago, by a House Martin who had fledged from our cottage. Last summer she and a mate raised a brood there which were only ready to fledge in October. We worried that the dangerous journey they make may have come too late and they and their small offspring had perished.

The first week of June we heard excited chirping and there they were! A flock of both House Martins and Swallows had returned and joined the earlier arrivals in excited flying and talking. There are now a few new nests on the side of our cottages. The Swifts returned this Spring to their homes in the church, but sadly only a few. Numbers are really down. Last summer was disastrous for them and they returned to South Africa having been unable to raise any young due to the torrential rain. If this glorious weather continues this summer might be a good one for them.

A Poppy seed head. A perfect work of art, by Nature.

Oriental Poppies about to bloom

As soon as we moved here I planted a lot of Poppies. They are such a romantic plant.  I love everything about them, the buds, the fern like leaves, and best of all the big blowsy blooms in fairy tale colours. But we must not forget the seed heads either. After the blooms are gone the plant creates such magical shapes to hold it's seed. I love the way it has a small crown on the top and inside is beautifully marked and furrowed.
The borders at our cottage were covered with ivy which when removed revealed ancient varieties of plants with blooms in shocking colour combinations. Their jewel like shades of orange, magenta,  midnight blue, acid green, purple and deep red glowed. We were inspired by BBC television gardener Monty Don. Monty was a jeweller before becoming a gardener and has what he calls a 'Jewel Garden' at his home. Monty has written a book about his garden and how it saved him after his business failed. I think most gardeners would agree that there is something healing about being amongst nature and creating a personal haven. We really loved the idea of his Jewel Garden and how he had chosen plants in jewel like colours. Throughout my life I have thought of my garden as a kind of jewel box, full of exquisite surprises, provided to me by Nature. We decided rather than dig out all of the old plants and start anew with a more subdued colour palate, we would keep our Jewel Garden and add to its dark and moody ways. I have begun to think in jewels instead of colour and now see the garden in terms of Citrine,  Pink Quartz, Sapphire, Lapis Lazuli, Peridot, Emerald, Amethyst and Ruby. I added a lot of white scented climbers to diffuse the brightness and attract Moths and Butterflies.

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