In a vase on Monday: Octoberfest

The leaves may be turning on the trees, conkers may be falling, berries ripening and seed-heads forming, but there are still plenty of summer flowers in my garden. Cosmos, osteospermum, snapdragons, verbenas, nasturtiums – all continue to produce blooms in jewel-like colours. Joining these flowers in my Monday vase are a few Crocosmia seed-heads, a length of hawthorn heavy with berries, a twig spindle leaves, a sprig of old-man’s beard (wild clematis) and some field maple which is just starting to turn.

October (before the clocks go back and it starts to get dark in the afternoon) is one of my favourite months. There’s the prospect of a walk through crunchy leaves, burnished and shiny conkers to find in the soft autumn light, and fruit, berries and seeds to harvest. It can be warm enough to be outdoors in a t-shirt (like today) or chilly enough to need a coat and scarf. Whatever the weather, it’s a month when you can really sense the seasons turning and I find that reassuring and comforting.

Thank you to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting all the Monday vases. Click on the link to see her lovely collection of persicaria and links to many other vases from around the world.

Wishing you a good week ahead.



The Earth keeps spinning, nature does its (amazing) thing

There is something breathtaking* and humbling about standing in a field while swallows whizz about in the sky above your head, zooming low to skim past you, especially when you know that these acrobatic birds are busy feeding up before migrating epic distances for the winter. For the past week or so, the skies round here have been full of these little birds feeding and gathering in large groups before they cross the Channel on their way to South Africa. Incredibly, they fly around 200 miles each day to reach their wintering grounds. (You can read more about swallows here.)

We’re lucky that there is a thriving population of swallows in our village – they nest in local farmyards and stables where there is a ready supply of nesting material and insects. Just up the road from us is a smallholding of Shetland ponies and goats where over 30 swallows have fledged this year from 4 nests. There is a second brood in one nest and although the babies are flying, they still have the yellow edges to their beaks and fluffy feathers. They seemed completely unperturbed by me when I took these photos; if I’m going to be anthropomorphic, I’d say they were watching me with interest 🙂  I got within a metre of them and it was only when I lowered my camera that I noticed another one perched close behind me. It chirruped and took off, flying over my shoulder and out through the door, up into the sky. Hopefully, they will all be fully fledged and strong enough in time to survive their long journey south. We will be waiting for them to return next spring.


* Obviously this wouldn’t be thrilling if you suffered from ornithophobia…

In a vase on Monday: autumn gold

Swallows wheeled about in the sky all around me on the clifftop this morning. Large flocks of them calling to each other and riding the thermals from the sea, feeding up for their long migration south for the winter. I walked along slowly, taking it all in while the dog snuffled in bushes – such a magical moment. There”s are sights, smells and sounds particular to autumn, aren’t there? Berry-laden bushes, cobwebs everywhere, flocks of birds leaving, others arriving, leaves turning… As I walked back to the house through the garden, I spotted a couple of golden bells of Clematis tangutica (golden clematis) in the wildflower patch under the fruit trees. We don’t want clematis growing here so I went back out again to snip off the tendrils and cut a few white Japanese anemones that are growing in the steps to put together a simple Monday vase.

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden also has a jug full of autumn gold today.

I also have jars and jugs of zinnias in the house – the colours are more muted than the very bright colours in summer but still lovely.

I used to spend more time than I had spare gazing out to sea when we first moved here. After a while, I got used to the view (you have to get on with daily life!) but there were several moments yesterday when we had to stop and stare at the dramatic skies and the serene view.

Wishing you a good week ahead.

Salutation, appreciation and celebration

You may have heard of The Salutation in Sandwich because of its colourful previous owners who regularly featured on the tv show Gogglebox. It may have put you off visiting (or it may not) but the place is now under new ownership and is a super-elegant boutique hotel and restaurant (which is receiving rave reviews), a lovely tearooms and a glorious garden. You can visit the gardens, without staying at the hotel or partaking of food, for £8 (or £15 for a year’s subscription, which, frankly, is a bargain).

Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, The Salutation was built in 1912 on the site of a market garden and pub. You can see the Lutyens influence in the way the gardens are laid out in distinct areas with clever sight-lines and pleasing symmetry, and hidden nooks and crannies. These days, the deep borders and beds are jam-packed with lush planting, crammed with unusual and exotic plants, perennials, grasses, annuals and fruit and veg, but the star plants at this time of year are the dahlias. Head gardener, Steve Edney, is a member of the RHS Dahlia Committee and it’s clear he knows his stuff. It’s the Salutation’s 8th Dahlia Festival this coming weekend and visitors are in for a treat – there are large planters of pristine dahlias, whole borders just of different varieties of dahlia, and large clumps of striking dahlias dotted here and there among other plants. They obviously have their slugs and snails well under control.

I had such a lovely time wandering around the garden soaking in the beauty of the place that I failed to make a note of the different dahlia varieties but I’m fairly sure that the striking, dark, star-shaped one above is ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’ (which is a fantastic name). As much as I love them, I have decided to give up on trying to grow dahlias for the time being – I just can’t be bothered with plants that require hyper-vigilance when it comes to pests. And now that I’ve found this local gallery of dahlia perfection, I am content to leave it to the experts and appreciate their efforts instead.

In other news… It was my younger son’s sixteenth birthday on Tuesday. Sixteen. How did that happen?! He’s grown from a sunny, yellow-haired poppet into a funny, mostly sunny (with occasional dark clouds), intelligent, kind, tall string bean who shares my appreciation of a tidy room, loves his Dad’s baking and is there with a hug if needed. Oh, and his cake of choice is coffee and walnut.

My daughter making a cameo appearance 🙂

Hope all’s well with you and that you have a lovely weekend.



In a vase on Monday: stalwarts

There are flowers that are ubiquitous in a late summer border – stalwart flowers such as Japanese anemones, Verbena bonariensis, cosmos and sedums – and these are what I’ve picked to display in three Monday vases today (they wouldn’t all fit together nicely in one and I wanted to show off the flowers to the fullest extent).

The beautiful grey Royal Doulton vase was a birthday present from my best brother (no favouritism going on; I’ve only got one sibling) and I love its shape and colour. In the jug with the sedums, I’ve added pink scabious and Panicum elegans ‘Frosted Explosion’ which has appeared of its own accord in a different part of the garden to where I grew it on purpose last year. The little vase with cosmos was a second-hand shop find.

As I was taking the photographs I noticed a tiny passenger…

As usual, I’m joining in with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who has a very colourful, lovely vase of late summer flowers.

Thank you very much indeed for the lovely comments on my previous post. It seems many of us have slight laundry mania 🙂 Brenda came up with a great suggestion of several (lots, if possible) bloggers writing about their day all on the same day. I think it would be fascinating to know what many bloggers from around the world all get up to on one day but I guess it might be tricky choosing a day that suits as many people as possible. What do you think? Who’s in?!

Have a great week.

An unremarkable day

Christina in Scotland and Leanne in Cornwall have recently written lovely posts about a day in their lives. I found these posts fascinating – I’m nosy and I enjoy reading about what others get up to in their daily lives – so I thought I’d write a diary post about my day today. It has been an ordinary non-work day, a drifting day of errands and hum-drum life (it’s long, so maybe make yourself a cup of tea!). Unlike me, you may not enjoy reading about the minutiae of everyday life, in which case let me know and I won’t repeat the exercise 🙂

6.45am – My daughter wakes me by climbing into bed for a hug (this routine won’t last much longer, I’m sure) and I hear one of my sons going into the bathroom (noisily). My daughter goes into my bathroom (she uses ours because it avoids arguments and banging on doors to hurry up). When she’s finished, I drag myself out of bed and splash water on my face. I don’t shower because there’s no time. I could get up earlier and make time but I don’t. I look at myself in the mirror, then put my reading glasses on to look at myself in the mirror. I’m looking tired and every day of my 52 years. Sigh.

7am – Dressed, I’m downstairs making tea, sorting out breakfast and making packed lunches for my younger two (the eldest won’t take one; he prefers to starve all day until he can get home and ‘eat proper food’). My children traipse into the kitchen, one by one, for breakfast. It’s only the second full day back at school after the long summer break but they’re all a bit subdued. None of us are morning people. The boys in particular are not going to bed early enough, despite my ‘strong advice’, so they’re not getting enough sleep. It can take a week or so to get back into the school routine. I drink a mug of tea and scroll through Instagram while I wait for them to get ready.

7.40am – We leave the house and drive to the station. On a clear run it only takes about 5 minutes but we need to allow at least double that to cross a busy main road to get from our village to the next village where the station is. There’s usually a constant stream of traffic and it can be quite stressful if we’re running late. Sometimes a kind-hearted person will slow down to let a couple of cars across but more often than not it’s a case of waiting for a gap in the traffic and zooming across. Very occasionally there isn’t a car on the road which is spooky. Today isn’t too bad.

7.46am  We arrive at the station where there are several other cars emptying themselves of children to catch the 7.51 train to school. There is no bus to the school from our village and the only other option would be to drive them, so most parents choose the train. My eldest is coming home early today (the sixth-form timetable has several ‘study periods’) and I remind him to get off the train in town as I’ll meet him there.

7.55am  Back home I notice what an absolutely beautiful morning it is, so I grab my camera and head into the garden where the sunlight is highlighting cobwebs and making everything look gorgeous. I notice that I forgot to bring in the washing yesterday and there are some cobwebby sheets on the line. My neighbour greets me from his garden and we agree that it’s the best time of day to be out and he wonders whether we’ll have an ‘Indian summer’. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

8.20am  Distracted by taking photos, I’m now off schedule for getting to my yoga class for 9.30am. I drink another mug of tea and eat a bowl of muesli while scrolling through more Instagram.

8.40am  I’m out of the house with the dog, who is particularly bouncy this morning. She’s not going to be impressed with the usual pre-yoga short walk – it’s the sort of weather for a long stomp across the clifftops. Oh well. We walk up the Leas and past the grazing Dexter cattle and ponies (one is having a good old scratch in a thorny bush). They don’t bother us and we don’t bother them. I see a friend walking her dog and stop for a chat (ignoring the time), then I notice swallows gathering on the telephone wire next to the hut where they’ve been nesting and zooming about the field with their chirrupy calls. I watch them for a while and film them with my phone, then jog back to the house.

9.20am  I run indoors, give the dog her after-walk treat, fill her water bowl, grab my yoga mat and car keys and rush back out. I am late. I have to say that I love yoga and it does me the world of good, and I am normally on time. I usually give a friend a lift but she’s not coming today and I’ve not booked into this session online – I think this is what subconsciously causes me to slack! If the road is clear I should be there during the warm-up (an acceptably late time to arrive). The road is not clear. I get stuck behind the slowest driver in the world and I finally bail out when I realise I won’t arrive until the session is well underway. I turn right instead of left and drive home, thinking that a shower and a coffee will do me just as much good. (I know it won’t really.)

10am  I shower, then go into the children’s bedrooms, pick up wet towels and open windows, and sort the laundry. There is always laundry. I put a wash on and take a mug of coffee outside and sit on the bench in the sunshine looking at the sea. The dog comes to lie on the grass beside me. She doesn’t seem that bothered about the short walk. I lift my face to the sun and enjoy the peace and quiet.

11am–1.30pm  I sit at my computer and check emails. I answer a few, make notes and rewrite some copy. I do a little research for a work-in-progress. I have more coffee and some toast. I hang the washing outside. I love hanging washing on the line and I am a little ocd about pegging it out in a particular way, shaking out t-shirts so they’re straight, hanging shirts at the seams and so on. It probably takes more time than it should but there’s something soothing about doing such a simple mindless task. I know: weird.

1.30pm  I have an optician’s appointment at 2pm so I drive to town, taking a couple of jackets to the dry-cleaners en route. I wear glasses for reading but I’ve noticed my eyesight is getting worse and I’m starting to find distances a little blurry and my eyes get extremely tired. The optician is reassuringly thorough and, as I suspected, she says I need new glasses for reading and a pair for driving and watching tv. It seems my eyes are also showing their 52 years. She hands me over to someone else who gives me several pairs of glasses to try on. One pair looks fine, good even, and is really lightweight but they’re £360… Maybe not. I decide to go back at the weekend with David – I want a second opinion if I’m to spend big bucks on two new pairs of glasses.

2.45pm  I call my son to tell him to meet me in Sainsbury’s car park but it goes straight to voicemail. I walk to the supermarket and see him waiting near the car – his phone isn’t working properly and he’s grumpy. I give him the keys so he can wait in the car for me while I pop to get a few things. I buy some fresh soup and bread for a late lunch, and milk. We always need milk.

3.15pm  Back at home, I put the soup in a pan to heat and eat a chunk of bread and butter while I wait. My son and I eat lunch quickly and chat about school.

3.40pm  I drive to the station to collect the other two. There’s a long queue of cars waiting for the train and it takes a while for everyone to sort themselves out and drive out of the busy car park. Both children have had ‘meh’ sort of days. My daughter is still having friendship issues and she has a good moan on the way home. My son offers typical brotherly advice from the back seat.

4–6pm  Back at home I bring the washing in from the line and the children eat the last of the loaf I bought for lunch. I make a pot of tea and we chat more about their days. The boys disappear to their rooms hopefully to do homework and my daughter lies on the sofa. We chat while I check my emails. She’s watching ‘Gilmore Girls’ on Netflix and is soon absorbed. I go into the kitchen to peel and chop some Bramley apples that are in danger of spoiling and freeze them. David phones and we have a chat, then he speaks to each of the children.

6pm  I unload the dishwasher (this is my eldest’s job but he’s fallen asleep and I don’t have the heart to wake him), I tidy the kitchen, cook dinner and listen to ‘The Archers’. I call the kids for dinner (eldest son mildly revived after his kip) and we all sit down to eat. There’s no sparkling conversation, just eating and low-key chat.

8pm  Everyone disappears to finish homework and I clear up. It’s not long before there’s an argument over whose turn it is to use the computer. This is the perpetual flash point in our house and it drives me nuts. I get cross, shout a bit and it takes a while to sort it out. One boy stomps upstairs and the other goes on the computer (but makes a pot of tea first as a small peace-offering). I sit down to start writing this.

9pm  My daughter goes up to bed. She rarely needs encouragement – she’s always loved her sleep. I go up to say goodnight and she reads for a little while. David phones again to say he’s off the river (he sculls on the River Thames after work and often goes out after dark; he phones to let me know he’s safe). We have a chat about weekend plans.

10.15pm  I boot my son off the computer and he comes into the kitchen for food before going to bed. My daughter is fast asleep and my other son is in his room. I’m about to sign off, make sure the boys are heading to bed and go to bed myself and read (I’ve just read Margaret Atwood’s ‘Hagseed’ – very good – and I want to read the ending again).

Goodnight and thank you for reading.




In a Vase on Monday: sunshine on a rainy day

It’s the last day of the school holidays here and my three are making the most of it, i.e. at midday one is still in bed and the other two are lying on sofas plugged into their devices. To be fair, it’s a dull old rainy day which makes everyone feel lethargic and not inclined to rush about doing all the last-minute back-to-school jobs, plus we’ve run out of breakfast cereal.

While there’s a lull in proceedings, I’ve picked flowers for a Monday vase (I’ve missed it these past few weeks) and set about photographing them with one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever had – a Nikon camera! As well as a fantastic new DSLR to play with, my mum handed me this gorgeous jug yesterday – it was my grandmother’s and she thought I’d like it for flowers. Isn’t it lovely? It’s a little chipped and worn but it holds such happy memories of my dear grandma and I love it.

The contents of the jug are: zinnias, pink Japanese anemones, Verbena bonariensis, poppy seed heads, Miscanthus flowers, jasmine leaves, a spire of Heuchera flowers, dried lavender and a lovely copper-coloured osteospermum. It’s definitely a late-summer-blending-into-autumn collection of blooms. As usual, I’m joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who is showcasing a gorgeous ‘Cafe au Lait’ dahlia today.

The village show on Saturday went really well, especially for David. His sourdough loaf won the ‘best home produce’ cup AND the overall ‘best exhibit in the show’ (a large shiny) cup! My son and daughter shared the cash prize for ‘5 meringues’ (he won but they agreed beforehand to split it as they were the only two who entered…), our ‘7 raspberries’ came first and second and my little milk jug of flowers was highly commended (which means it didn’t come first, second or third but the judge thought it had some merit). I also entered these zinnias into the ‘5 flowers of any annual’ and they won 🙂 A happy outcome all round for our family.

You can just see my daughter’s fingers on the right holding up the paper backdrop for me!

Right, I’m off to the supermarket. Wishing you a thoroughly good week whatever you’re doing.