Sunday, 25 September 2011

garden book

68. 'Simple Fruit Growing' by P.K. Bear.

This much-thumbed little book is very precious to me, but not for any of the advice given within its covers. It is printed on rough, dull cream paper, "produced in complete conformity with the authorised economy standard". 

My father bought the book in 1945 when he was discharged from the army at the end of the Second World War. He filled the blank frontispiece with the names of all the roses that he had bought to make a rose garden. On the end pages he made a record of the fruit trees, planted over several years, that became our orchard.
It was a magical place, underplanted with spring bulbs, the long grass scythed only a couple of times a year.  When I look at the names that my father has written I am transported back to the orchard, my favourite part of the garden. I remember the different trees well, 'Egremont Russet',  'Ribston Pippin', the 'Irish Peach', the hard 'Pitmaston Duchess pears, and the cherries that the birds ate the minute they were ripe.
Eating cherries, 1950's.

Monday, 19 September 2011


67. Victorian cast iron doorstop,
 Woodcutter and his dog.

My father brought this doorstop as a present for our last house where it propped open the sturdy front door so that the children could run in and out to and from the garden.
The doorstop was a good choice of subject matter because we had two copses of trees and cutting wood was a fairly regular occupation. There were a few fine old oak trees, which remained untouched, but quite a number of ash, and these we felled for fuel and also for safety reasons. They had self sown and were too close together, growing tall in their competition for light. I did the roping, to be sure that the tree would fall where intended, and Peter did the cutting.
There is an old saying that wood warms you three times; once in the felling, twice in the stacking and finally when you burn it. Don't I know it!

Sunday, 11 September 2011


 Peter and I first met half a century ago. It is not surprising that a number of the objects in our home are of couples.

62. Painted Indian alabaster carving

I don't think that this carving, where a small female is subjugated to the will of a large male god, is representative of the relationship in our household! I know nothing about the object, having never thought to ask, as a child, where it came from. My mother received various gifts from India when she was young and it is likely that this was one of them. Her uncle had died in his twenties after only six weeks of marriage. His widow remarried and went to live in India with her new husband. She wrote from there to my mother, sending photographs and gifts.

63. Staffordshire sailor and wife

I bought this couple at a country auction My father was buying glass and I had gone along to keep him company. It was one of many jaunts where I was just going along for the ride and not interested in buying anything. Those are always the times when something catches your eye and your hand goes up. I have always liked the idea of a blue and white cottage by the coast, where these two would look perfectly at home. It hasn't happened yet!

64. Dogon couple 24 cm high.

This charming couple are among a number of pieces that we have bought from the Joliba Trust, a charity formed to support sustainable development in the rural communities of Mali. This, I like to think, rather than object 62, represents our life together, side by side, feet on ground, and a steady hand!

65. Dogon door lock 29cm high.

This is one of my favourite objects, another piece from the Joliba Trust, a functional and beautiful wooden door lock.

66. Adam and Eve, Hungarian woodcut

This little wood cut was a present from our elder daughter after a trip to Hungary. It hangs on our kitchen wall. I like  the naivety of the scene, greedy Eve and a very docile looking Adam!

Friday, 2 September 2011


60. Lapis lazuli necklace

I share with my mother and grandmother a love of necklaces. Each one that I possess has particular associations. The lapis lazuli belonged to my grandmother, Isabella. It is made of round, even sized stones that sit neatly at the nape of the neck. It was a favourite, worn often by of my mother, so I associate it with her. All three generations had a similar taste, none of us caring much for glitter.
Over the years my own choices have become less delicate, and, as my fingers become less agile, the type of fastening is of greater importance. Many of the necklaces have been bought as holiday souvenirs.

61. Elidoro and peridot necklace.

In the Aeolian islands we passed a tempting small jewelry shop on our way to and from the harbour. The owner stood in the doorway and smiled and we soon struck up a conversation. He and his wife were from mainland Italy. Their display of jewelry was beautiful. An amethyst and pearl necklace called me in like a siren's song to a sailor. Each evening on our way back to the hotel we would stop to talk. We learnt that the shop owners were avid followers of the British television series, 'Flog It', and this was a source of amusement and gentle joking between us, along with an ongoing riff that the price of the items on display should drop with each time that we entered the shop. They were a stylish and intelligent couple and our exchanges were wide ranging and enjoyable.
On the last evening of our holiday Peter bought me a necklace of quartz, described by Adrianna, one of the owners, as 'elidoro'. The stones are strung between small beads of peridot.

We had chosen to holiday in the Aeolian Islands after seeing the film 'Il Postino', which was filmed on Panarea. It tells the story of a local man who is hired to deliver post to the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who came to live on the island for a while after being exiled from his own country.
We caught the ferry to visit the different islands, walking around patches of bubbling sulphur on the crater of Vulcano, listening to silence on Panarea, and watching from a rocking boat as sparks leapt into the night sky above Stromboli.

The quartz stones on my necklace are rough-cut and irregular, of differing smoky colours. They are a good reminder of the Italian islands, also rough-cut and irregular, a couple of them smoky, and all beautiful.
It is a necklace strung with good memories.