Sunday, 30 December 2012

Winter sun

Blue skies and sunshine in Provence...this is what it's all about, especially after weeks of unending dreariness and rain in England. The sharpness of light and shadow takes the breath away and makes you feel as if you have Super-sight.
Just look at the colour of this sky! 

The cotton lavender and thyme are silvery among these bright white stones...
...and a rose in the courtyard still holds on to its leaves, now a sun-capturing yellow against the house.
Cosy though the Christmas through to New Year slump can be - though not for those suffering the floods that have scoured the British countryside so cruelly this year - there's nothing like a shift in the light to raise the winter spirits. Hope you are warm and dry wherever you are.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all the lovely visitors to this blog a very happy Christmas - I hope you have a cheering and festive time wherever you are.
This Victorian card was produced by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, a forward-thinking organisation that advocated equal education for boys and girls even at the start of the nineteenth centure and was instrumental in the development of charity schools in Britain and overseas. The Society was founded in 1698 on the departure of the Anglican Thomas Bray across the seas to Maryland. Bray believed passionately in the power of words and books and the Society became one of the first educational publishers.
But they taught far more than Biblical knowledge: their model was to give a wide education in literacy and numeracy, with practical skills that would also enrich lives like woodwork and sewing and cookery. And I think that comes through in this charming example of an early Christmas card, in which the beauty of nature is celebrated. The humble ivy and bluebells (or are those flowers common lungwort?) give the comforting message that the joys of Christmas are around us for much longer than a day.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

End of term report

Michaelmas Term 2012
ENGLISH: A good term's work, covering much ground. Deborah is writing fluently but with occasional lapses of confidence. She is working hard to eradicate the flaws that sometimes detract from the flow of her narrative.
MATHS: Very satisfactory progress. A good understanding of business accounting has been achieved with publishers in London and New York and I am pleased to report substantial advances.
FRENCH: An obvious enjoyment of both language and literature continues to influence her work.
HISTORY: This term we have undertaken substantial research into the social history of the mid 20th century with special reference to Vichy France and London 1942-45.
GEOGRAPHY: Although Deborah often wished she could exert herself more by joining field trips to areas of relevant interest, she has unfortunately been confined to her study at home.
CHEMISTRY: Perfume and wine. Excellent work.
PHYSICS: Deborah now has a basic understanding of the Lysander plane and landing trajectories. She is not a natural scientist and has struggled with some aspects of this.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION: Most disappointing this term. Could try very much harder. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Gothic iced

Some eerie effects left by the heavy overnight frosts this's a padlock on old shed door bound with iced cobwebs. My eye is drawn to the funnel-like hole above the bar - why does this seem the creepiest part of the picture? Possibly because the thickness of the web shows the door has not been opened in a while (what secrets are behind it?) and there are intriguing contrasts in texture between the rotting wood, the cold steel of the lock and the fragile white lace of the threads. Definitely one for the writer's notebook.

I found some even thicker ice cobwebs hanging from an outdoor lantern:

In fact, everywhere I looked I could see more filigree picked out by the frost as the sun struggled to rise through thick wintry clouds of cold air.



Sunday, 9 December 2012

If only...

If only...I had thought ahead enough to rummage through this selection of old French boxes when I had the chance. There they were in the washstand (or cradle for a Moses basket?) outside a quirkly little brocante in Céreste last summer - and they are just what I need now! Imagine the gorgeous gift presentations they would make, padded with tissue paper for homemade cakes, hand-printed notecards or a smart new diary.
This afternoon I'm tackling the wrapping of Christmas presents in readiness for a family Christmas party next week. And thanks to a fantastic Winter Fair in the village in Kent, I was able to buy many of my gifts a short walk from home. That appeals on many levels, not the least being that my self-imposed deadline of a first draft of the new novel by Christmas is fast approaching and I'm completely bound up in that.
But it's also a pleasure to be able to support small local businesses. The big players have so many advantages - buying and negotiating power, tax, whatever you want to name - that it's never been so important to buy from sole traders and start-up ventures. And these are people with vision and passion, usually offering specialist products. Wouldn't you rather receive an artisan piece of silver jewellery or aromatherapy oil than an item that had been produced in hundreds of thousands for the mass market?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Lantern in December

The romantic glow of lanterns in winter...candlelight cast on interior walls and white orchids...I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the weekend setting the scene for a party.

Unfortunately, the details were largely lost on the crowd. It was a classic teenage party: Maddy's old friends meeting the new ones, a lot of shrieking and a touch too much cider in some cases. After the last guests went on Sunday morning we took stock, shivering. The Rayburn range in the kitchen was one casualty, cold as the night, having been accidentally switched off. And we still can't find the kitchen rug. Though there is a last known sighting caught on iPhone camera. Ed is wearing it.
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