Thursday, 31 July 2014

Mr Higgledy Garden proposed...

Centaurea 'Blue Ball'



Centaurea 'Classic Romantic'

Nope. Not a clue what this is...

Centaurea - unknown variety

and I accepted...

If I am being completely honest
I caught him at a weak moment
when he was so terrified about talking
in front of the dovegreyreader audience
that he sold me twelve packets of seeds
at an outrageously cheap price.
It is a brutal lesson
not to drink gin in public.

Now I just need a walled garden...

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Notes from the Lady Gardener

Lady in the Garden
Emile Claus (1849 - 1924)

How lovely to see everyone again after my holiday. I hope that you are all refreshed and ready for some hard work. I would like to congratulate the Agapanthus alba who has achieved spectacular results while we have been away, reaching a record breaking six feet. In view of this there will be no mention of the fact that you are blue rather than white. Congratulations also to the Hosta who has maintained a pristine appearance for the second year running. The prize for hard work goes to the Iceberg rose which is flowering abundantly for the second time. I am sorry that the Fuschias feel so neglected but you must shape up or ship out - there is no mollycoddling in this garden. I am afraid that the Geraniums have had a very poor attitude this year and must expect immediate remedial treament. Also in the disappointing category, the Pelargonium who was doing so well before I went away but who appears to have been slacking, there is no excuse whatsoever for that sort of attitude. On a more positive note, I am glad to see that the Scabious which had extensive surgery in June has now recovered and can leave the sick bay in the next week. I thought you might like to know that I met Mr Higgledy Gardener while I was away and he has given me some tiny packs of seeds for the nursery so you can expect new chums next year. And finally, to the slugs who ate my blue lupins I say only this 'There is no place that you can hide. I will hunt you down. Expect no mercy'.

Friday, 25 July 2014

night blue

After dinner we went down to the beach
and walked on wet sand to the black sea.
The sky was the colour of soaked silk,
dense opaque blue beyond the horizon.
We watched the young couple run back
from the water's edge, across the rocks,
to their driftwood fire under the cliff
and then quietly turned back to the village,
fearful of intruding on their happiness.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

what the commuter saw

Guerilla Gardening

A micro garden squeezed between concrete cobbles
in the chaotically busy entry to Waterloo Station.
I wondered if the guerilla gardeners wait and watch
to see how much pleasure their intervention gives
in the grime, noise and rush of commuter land.
I hope that my squeak of excitement made them smile.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

people I work with

Gillian Ayres

Juno and the Paycock

silkscreen print (1992)
British Academy Collection
© Gillian Ayres

I walk in and out of the building where I work
conscious every day of the privilege
of being surrounded by exceptional art.
This print, hung at eye level by the lift,
is a joyous kaleidoscope of colour,
creeping in thick swirls and furrows.
Waiting for the lift you are tempted to reach out
and trace the contours to absorb the energy.

There is a wonderful article about Gillian Ayres here

Monday, 21 July 2014

*deep breath*

Blogger, you are driving me crazy. Why won't you let me load images? Only sheer determination and the ability to squash this image to a smaller file size has allowed me to post tonight. I have important images to share with my friends so do me a favour, Blogger, whatever it is that you are sulking about, get over it. I'm giving you 24 hours but if you haven't sorted yourself out by then spend a moment trying to imagine how cross I will be. No, try much harder than that because you need to understand how extremely cross I will be. Now go away and sort it out.

Plain Fare

We are back from our travels
and glad to be sleeping in our own bed,
waking to sounds we are familiar with,
eating scrambled eggs off my lovely plates.

We have promised ourselves
that August will be the month
of living slowly, simple food*, enjoying our home.

I will sit in the garden with a book,
MrM can watch the cricket (if he is strong enough),
we will make plans for picnics, beach trips, fêtes.

It feels like the best kind of holiday
and I am looking forward to it already.

* cocktails are excluded from the austerity regime.

Sunday, 20 July 2014


it's Friday night in Tanzania...

Here is a picture of
the Indian Open Air Bingo
It's a sight to behold!

Blasted prawns
Salt and Pepper chicken
Paneer samosa
Cheese naan

Main course
Lamb rogan
Chicken sookha
Garlic naan

Kilimanjaro X

(in garden, under cherry tree)
We're having fish lame is that?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Lavender Bags

A modest tutorial

Buy half a kilo of lavender
at a little market in Provence.

Remove old lavender from bag
you bought in Portugal.

Add new lavender and reseal velcro fastening.
Slip lavender bag into white lawn pillow.

Sniff when stressed.

Monday, 14 July 2014

family history

"When I was about six I was playing with the children who lived in the house opposite. It was late afternoon and I can remember that there was a very beautiful golden light. Suddenly we saw one of the Betts boys running towards us, shouting and waving his arms. He was rather simple, he was twenty six and he hadn't been called up because he wasn't quite right. Anyway, he had been sleeping under a haystack and when he woke up he saw this great column of rats coming towards him. He was quite terrified. My dear, there were hundreds of rats, thousands of rats, all led by a King rat. They were moving to a new territory and eating everything in their way. We watched and then they turned off into a field and we didn't see them anymore. I know that you don't believe me but it's quite true."

Granny's memories of early childhood in rural Lincolnshire.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

1 canoe, 2 paddles

Canoeing is not difficult.

You just paddle
in a straight line.

We were awesome.

Except for MrM,
who fell out of the canoe.

I promised not to tell anyone
so can you forget I mentioned it?
~ bisoux bisoux ~

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Mas Vacquières

This is a very special place.

It is not expensive or exclusive
but it has a magical quality
that seeps into your dreams.

You drive through a countryside
of vines, ripe wheat and sunflowers
and arrive in a tiny hamlet.

At the far end of the hamlet
is a cluster of buildings
with yellow shutters
looking out over a sheltered valley.

As soon as you arrive
you are enveloped in quiet.
The rooms are cool and tranquil
each with a tiny terrace.

In the beautiful gardens
there are places to sit and dream
or fall asleep in the shade.
You can swim. Or just admire the flowers.

This wonderful place is the creation of
a Dutch couple, Thomas and Miriam van Dijke,
and their hospitality is courteous,
with their guests comfort as top priority.

There are historic towns to visit nearby
and lots of places to eat delicious food
but you are always making plans
to return to Mas Vacquières
and make the most of every moment there.

On the first night I saw a doe
step out of the woodland
and look up to the terrace
where I was sitting.

As I said, it is a very special place.

Mas Vacquières

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

a tragic case of the wanties

You know that thing when you leap out of the car on the first day of your holiday ready to fall in love with everyone and everything and then the very first shop that you walk into is adorable and there is this one scarf and you want it so badly and your best friend (in this case the lovely Mary) says that it would really suit you but you look at your husband's face (in this case MrM) and you can see he is thinking that if you are like this in the first shop of the holiday what are you going to be like for the rest of the fortnight so even if your bestie is saying that you really should buy the scarf you bravely walk out of the shop just to prove to your husband that there are no other shops that look remotely interesting and then when you go back after lunch it is closed. Well, that.

So then you spend the rest of the holiday dreaming about the scarf and blaming yourself for not standing your ground and it is a personal tragedy.

And then on the last day of the holiday you realise that you are driving past that little town and you persuade your husband who is now relaxed and will indulge your eccentricities to stop just in case the little shop is open. And it is! So you buy the scarf and one for MissM too.

Yes, since you ask, of course there is a website but I didn't know that, did I?

Gris Piedra

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


These photos were mainly taken after lunch. I am most snap-happy after a couple of glasses of wine - I am sure that David Bailey worked in a similar way.

The meals before the photos:

Artisan ice-cream with the most delicious selection of flavours. I had salted caramel but MrM was more adventurous and tried honey with wild thyme.

A rustic galette in a creperie hidden down a cobbled side-street. We were the last customers to arrive and sat near the kitchen so we saw the great armfuls of plates hurrying past through the narrow doorway, down the steps, across the road.
Lamb that fell away from the bone as you touched it with your knife and melted into a rich thyme flavoured jus, a perfectly dressed salad and a velvety crème brulee with a frail, crisp sugar crust in an old fashioned bar on market day filled with local familes.

Tartine pissaladiere in a smart café - a smoky concoction of olives, anchovies and peppers on grilled artisan bread.
Tiny vegetables in bubbles of tempura batter and a dish of homemade mayonnaise on a terrace under a clock tower.

Watching the sun set through a frame of vine leaves, thinking about the fish soup I had just eaten. Dense broth laden with flakes of fish, small toasts with creamy anchovy paste glowing on the surface.
A return to Au Fil du Temps in Pernes les Fontaines. The couple who were there when we last visited have moved on but there is another young couple working hard, learning their trade in this charming restaurant. We ate outside next to the fountain, savouring the grilled fish and exquisite raspberry tart.

Monday, 7 July 2014


I have become very lazy about taking pictures and there was a danger that I would return home with an empty camera so I set out with the objective of adding to my Pinterest boards. Here are the pale tones of white, ivory and cream to contrast with the vivid Provençal landscape.
It has been fun organising my holiday photos by colour although I suspect that unless I add titles soon the memories will vanish just like those sepia photographs of anonymous faces. I have always admired people who organise their photos into albums because my printed photos remain in a drawer, still in their paper envelopes, waiting for an unspecified time when I will sort them out. In contrast, my digital photos are all here in a virtual album with dates, names and places. It is an important source of family information - which is why I started writing in 2007 - and I mustn't lose sight of that.