Sunday, 30 September 2012


We visited a great new antiques fair in Hartlepool today and lovely Julie from the Cloth Shed blog had a little book for me (see my last post). As well as useful stain removal recipes Julie pointed out some other helpful tips ...

...which I tried out today as soon as my "smalls" had dried.



Wednesday, 26 September 2012



I struggle to make my whites sparkle. Years ago, my good friend J and I had a lot of fun at a little antiques fair in York, selling old bits and pieces we'd found at jumble sales and church bazaars. J always put me to shame with her crisp, uniformly ice-white linens but I've never learned how achieve this result (I did ask her the secret - she shrugged, "Nothing special".) Nevertheless, I still can't resist buying dainty lawns and sturdy linens and...

...they pile up in our attic, in varying shades of off-white, awaiting - what?

This cloth is very fine, hand-worked using all kinds of techniques. I've soaked it in odd potions, boiled it up in a jam pan and hung it in the sun for hours, but still the pale brown stain persists.

Smocks are my favourites but inevitably, being work clothes, they are often stained.

I wonder what potent brew some tired agricultural labourer dribbled onto these Dorset buttons - I can't get rid of it!

This luscious nightdress is fit for a grand lady, but its front is fatally be-smirched.

I won't be trying that then - any ideas before I tuck my skirt in my knickers and jump in the wash tub?


Sunday, 23 September 2012


Here, on the left in this faded photograph, is my Granny Beatrice. She was born 114 years ago today, 23rd September 1898.
This anniversary made me think about the difficult, sometimes painful, decision, that many women ultimately face: will you be Granny, Grandma, Grandmother...? They all sound so OLD!

My Granny had a secure & happy childhood

She was a clever girl who grew up...

...into a lovely young woman.

By the time I met her she had turned into a Granny - her life had been hard with much sadness.

I loved her and she loved me - unconditionally. When I stayed at her house I slept in an old brass bed on a feather mattress with a feather eiderdown on top - and a stone hot water-bottle to warm my cold toes. She told me stories of her childhood and sang me to sleep with "Come into the Garden Maud". (Click on the link to share the experience.)

So, how do we see ourselves in the 2010s if grandchildren arrive? Do we ever feel old enough these days to be Grandmothers? My title was chosen for me - I'm Nana - and I like it.


Monday, 17 September 2012


Rain stopped play for a couple of months, but on Sunday our very own Yorkshire Country House Car Boot Sale at Sledmere House took place at last. Sadly, one very special stallholder, Zandra Rhodes, could not be present at this rescheduled event but plenty of jolly aristos joined in the fun and played to the crowd for our amusement.

Ladies of every kind were up at dawn displaying their wares, which looked very lovely against a backdrop of ancient sycamores and beeches.

Back at home I discovered that I had caught one of my favourite local artist/designers on camera. Here is Mark Hearld, probably hunting for a special Staffordshire figure to add to his collection. If you would like to see his wonderful  work please click on the link above.

And, this being an outdoors event, there were plenty of long-suffering little companions around...

...and a few grumpy ones.


Friday, 14 September 2012


It's harvesting season again and around here, this year, the bales are rectangular. See below the view from Chez Nous at the moment - spectacular straw monoliths.

  North Yorkshire haystacks were once picturesque, with little thatched roofs... a corn dolly's cottage!

There was a pagan invasion in the chapel at Wimpole Hall last week

Corn dollies came out of the fields and filled the choir stalls, while National Trust volunteers murmured their disapproval...

...but we thought it was the most enchanting and exuberant harvest display we'd ever seen.


Sunday, 9 September 2012


"I've never kipled so I don't know," was Mr N's reply to this question once, many years ago. I, on the other hand, enjoyed Rudyard Kipling's stories from an early age, preferring "Puck of Pook's Hill" and "Rewards and Fairies" to the "Jungle Books". It was, therefore, with great excitement that we visited Batemans, Kipling's house in Burwash, Sussex, last week. The interior reflects  the English Edwardian middle class taste for polished oak and all things antique, and we love that too. 

Kipling's desire to write never ceased, nor did his love of India - both are reflected in the interiors of the house.

The gardens are informal and romantic, just right for a bit of quiet contemplation...on the end of The Empire, perhaps?

Reminders of the our former colonies are all around, wherever we go we enjoy their colourful presence.

At Ardingly antiques fair.

In a Hastings antiques shop.

This wonderful elephant clock, in the "Bamboo Bedroom" at Scotney, might  well have escaped from Brighton's Royal Pavilion, itself built in the fashionable Indo-Saracenic style in the early 19th century.
India is part of my family's story too...

A Bit of a Do in Dinapore 1933.

Here is Mohamed Amin, Proprietor of H. Kader Bux & Sons, entertaining the non-commissioned officer's wives and children of the Royal Berkshire Regiment before they set sail back to England after 4 years in India. My grandmother sits behind him, in a dark print dress, and my father is in the back row, looking quite at home, beside the blonde in the beret. For the rest of his life he never forgot this adventure - being followed by howling hyenas in the dark, finding geckos on the bedroom walls, giving silver rupees to holy men... 
In the late 1940s he taught my mother, his new wife, to make an authentic curry and requested tinned lychees and guavas at the local grocer's shop. When he wanted us to hurry up he would say "Jaldi! Jaldi!" - Gujarati for quick or fast. Now there is a chain of Indian takeaway shops by that name - it makes me smile and remember!

Here is the little table that Granny brought back from Dinapore, now Dinapur. One day I will give it to my daughter-in-law - who is Indian.

On the way home from Sussex we stopped in Cambridgeshire to have a look at Wimpole Hall - the last owner was Kipling's daughter, Elsie Bambridge, his only child 
to survive into adulthood. I was keen to see if her home reflected her father's taste for the Orient, but it is not a house full of memories - perhaps too many at Batemans were sad ones. She restored this classical house with a light touch, faithful to its origins.

Then we found her bedroom - "Full of Eastern Promise" don't you think ?