I mentioned Henry Donald's charming little book A Bunch Of Sweet Peas a few years ago, but I read it again the other day and it doesn't fail to delight. It's a true story, about a sweet pea competition run by a national newspaper in 1911 and specifically about one of the entrants, Denholm Fraser, minister of the Borders village of Sprouston. As I said in my previous post, "what is staggering is the scale of the competition which Mr. Fraser went in for: 38,000 bunches of sweet peas were sent from all over the country for judging at London's Crystal Palace, the boxes unloaded from horse-drawn Royal Mail vans by 500 Boy Scouts "with Scout Masters to preserve discipline", all of whom were accommodated on the site in tents. Can you imagine the like of that happening today?" It's an uplifting tale, guaranteed to make you smile.
My sweet peas wouldn't win any prizes, but this first bunch of the year gives me a lot of pleasure. These were autumn sown (I have another batch of plants which were sown in the spring and are yet to flower), and they are from Sarah Raven's Onyx, Venetian, and Vintage Silk collections. I wish you could smell them!
- Danielle's talking about Outlander; I haven't read it or seen it, but I must be in a minority of one in that regard - ditto Game of Thrones. Are you a fan of either series (books or television versions)?
- What I have been watching and absolutely loving is W1A: brilliant stuff!
We don't always stop our internet perambulations to say 'that's nice/fun/informative/useful/entertaining'. We don't always pause to express our thanks when something good catches our eye. We don't always record the fact that what someone has posted has pointed us in a helpful direction, brightened the day a little, or made us think. We move on because we're in a rush, others have already said what we had thought to say, we can't quite fathom the comments system, we expect to come back later ...
I'd like to acknowledge the worth of so much I read and see online throughout the day: to everyone whose blog I follow (and there are many), to those who take the time to post beautiful photographs, inspiring words, funny things*, interesting links, well crafted pieces into which they have put thought and effort - you may never know just how enriching what you publish is.
And the flipside of that: all those 'likes' and re-tweets, the simple messages of appreciation, the comments which carry on the conversation or take the topic further, all those things make a difference to the person who has posted the material, and that positive response is far more powerful than you may think.
Speaking as both a creator and a consumer of words and pictures, to all concerned, thank you.
Here's the view from Edinburgh Castle today, the Scott Monument on the left, the clock tower of the Balmoral hotel on the right, Calton Hill behind it, and beyond, the Firth of Forth and the sea. Glorious weather!
We were up at the castle on the Battery to watch the 21 gun salute in honour of HRH Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh's birthday, as it was commanded by Son-of-Cornflower (that's him with the red sash and the sword).
Every step of the procedure was carried out with typical precision, and special guests and tourists alike enjoyed the spectacle which included a military band and inspection of the firing party in addition to the salute itself.
Will's sisters were not there to hear him addressed as 'Sir', but there will no doubt be some gentle ribbing when they see him later, and though it's not obvious from the pictures, that sword was subject to hours of polishing.
This is Wild Edric, the first of the roses to flower this year.
As you'll see if you follow that link, "Wild Edric was a Saxon Lord in Shropshire, who was said to have married a fairy Queen. He reproached her one day and she disappeared. Legend has it that his ghost is still to be seen searching for her in the hills." There's a lot more on him here.
"It was one of the most beautiful spaces in England, built in the fourteenth century in the decorated style. Its sculpture, carvings and stained glass had been destroyed by Reformation zeal to leave an open space in bleached Weldon stone. The foliated arcading and the milky green light suggested a transcendent architectural garden: assured, contemplative, sacred."
That description of the Lady Chapel in Ely Cathedral (from James Runcie's Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins, which I've just been reading) is enough to make me rush there at the first opportunity. I've never been to Ely, but that passage - and the Cathedral's 'appearances' in two other novels, The Dean's Watch by Elizabeth Goudge and, to a lesser extent, Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce - is somehow better than any guidebook.
You can find photographs of the chapel here, and a painting, by Alexander Creswell, here.
"In an interview that she gave to the magazine Needlecraft in December 1906, Lady Carew professed to spending several hours each day at her embroidery frame. She strongly recommended needlework to women of all classes of society as a panacea for 'the bustle and fatigue' of everyday life. Plying her needle was for Lady Carew a cathartic experience which soothed the mind, dulled mental anxieties, absorbed the worries of the day and brought a good healthy rest at night."
Look here for more information on Lady Carew and her sister Lady Cory, "famed throughout society for their needlework skills and for the scale of the embroideries they produced for their Irish and London homes," and click here for the article from which I've quoted above - I love the bit about Lady Carew's aptitude with a needle having come from her mother who had cross-stitched her own stair carpet [don't we all?] , "a task her daughter believed every young bride should undertake".
Another pair of Skedaddle socks, pattern by Lena Gjerald. You may have seen these ones in grey, but this time I've gone for something more spring-like with Hedgehog Fibres Sock Yarn in 'Teacup'. That colourway is very hard to get hold of at the moment as it is so popular, but I found mine at A Yarn Story, and as I write they do have it in stock. Here it is in close-up:
When Beatrix was working on the book "she frequently visited the South Kensington Museum [now the V&A] refining the illustrations. She made the happy discovery that she could ask the curator to display some of the eighteenth-century costumes in the collection in any empty office where the light was better. 'I have been looking at them for a long time in an inconvenient dark corner of the goldsmith's court, but had no idea they could be taken out of the case.' Her status as the author of Peter Rabbit* was such that an assistant was subtly assigned to see that Miss Potter had whatever she needed from the collection [my italics]. The first things she asked for were the beautifully embroidered dresses, coats and waistcoats that were later to become the hallmark of The Tailor of Gloucester."
*The Tailor was published in 1903, a year after Peter Rabbit became - even in its first few months in print - a runaway bestseller. Miss Potter's reputation was made.
Miranda's post about her mornings is an inspiring read - as someone who always gets up early I can attest to the benefits of that kind of start to the day. As to the evenings, Miranda mentions that she's "a difficult sleeper", and so for anyone like her I thought I'd offer a few suggestions from my evening routine which I find aid restful sleep.
I do the following more often than not:
I switch off the computer around 9.00 or 9.30 (I watch almost no television, so podcasts, blogs, websites of interest usually supply my entertainment).
Next, a bath. A shower is fine, but a bath is better for relaxation. I use Olverum which is wonderful stuff.
After that, around 15 minutes of yoga. Again, this is very relaxing; it also helps to keep my dodgy back in reasonable shape.
I'm posting a lot on Instagram at the moment. I signed up a couple of months ago and am enjoying its immediacy - and everyone's lovely photographs - very much indeed. If you're there, do come and say hello: I'm 'Cornflowerbooks'.
This is Just Knit It by Susan Ashcroft, a wide but shallow (62" x 11") triangular scarf/shawl that requires you to cast on three stitches and then knit into the front and back of the first and last stitch of every row. That's all there is to it! The pattern gives instructions for an optional edging, but I made mine without, and of course you could knit it in any weight of yarn and to any size, so it's versatile as well as mindless.