Sunday, 29 September 2013


These are the White Cliffs of Dover, just a couple of miles up the coast from the town of Dover, at St Margarets Bay. This part of East Kent is where I grew up and we both love it dearly, though it is rather rough around the edges and a bit of an acquired taste. Some years ago we stayed in an eccentric house perched on the edge of the cliff pictured above. It is a "retired" gun emplacement, built in 1910 and once owned by Peter Ustinov. Its present chatelaine is the actress Miriam Margolyes and she lets it to holiday-makers (see here.) It is the closest house in the UK to France.

The arrow shows the position of this unique holiday let. There is no garden fence between you and the cliff's edge, gulls hover at eye level and I swear the sea shakes the cliff as it crashes rhythmically below - over and over, never ceasing - the sky ever changing its colours and moods.

The sun sets and the moon rises over the sea in front of the house.


It is an odd little building, an anonymous concrete box, slightly sunken into the cliff, but I instantly recognised it on a TV film the other night! In faded 1960s tints...

...there was the room where I also sat just a few years ago.

By great coincidence, within a day or two of the TV film, an email (in unmistakeable style) arrived from Ms Margolyes herself.

Experimental drilling is planned in nearby villages and residents are worried. Has my beloved East Kent become the "desolate North East" (Lord Howell commenting on suitable areas for fracking, a couple of months ago) of Southern England? Is beauty only relevant where residents are rich?
Perhaps I'd better sign the petition.


Sunday, 22 September 2013


We both agree - exercise is good for mind and body - but Mr N and I don't take kindly to organised classes (or organised anything really) so what should we do to supplement the antiques hunting and general domestic chores that make up our usual daily quota of physical effort? Since our cycling techniques are incompatible - he hurtles and powers, I pootle and wobble - we've decided to go on walking expeditions. Our first ramble on this new regime was at nearby Brimham Rocks, once called Brimham Craggs and now managed by the National Trust. 

To start with it was much more fun than I remembered, largely because past visits have involved preventing small, wriggly boys and larger, foolhardy boys from hurling themselves to certain death off the ice age rock formations. This time there was just one old-ish boy...

...who seemed determined to escape my clutches!

Occasionally I'd catch a glimpse, but it was hard to keep up with him.

He loves to tease.

At last I caught up but then something strange happened...

...a blinding light,

a giant toadstool fairy ring, but not a soul about,

just the ever-looming sinister presence of the radomes of Menwith Hill communications station.

Please come home, Mr N, all is forgiven!

All these phenomena: natural, supernatural, man-made and artistic, can be experienced on a visit to the magical Brimham Rocks. (If you find Mr N, please leave a comment on this page and I'll come and collect him. Maybe.)


Monday, 16 September 2013


Mr N was so impressed by the new female rock bands he saw performing at this summer's festivals that he invested (well - £3 at the local charity shop) in the future of the youngest member of the family!


Monday, 9 September 2013


Beachy Head, East Sussex.

Genius loci, or in contemporary parlance the spirit of a place, is an intangible thing though I think we all experience it. I wonder if it is partly a self-induced reaction or emotion, in some way triggered by our expectations, memories and preconceived ideas. The fact remains that the atmosphere of a place affects us strongly, sometimes taking us by surprise. Wherever we go on our antiquing trips, Mr N has a genius for capturing this spirit in photographs so that we can relive it whenever we choose.

Eastbourne Pier, carrying on regardless.

Chilling out at Chiddingstone Castle, Kent.

The North Gallery, Petworth House, gloriously Georgian.

Sussex Sunshine - Alfriston Clergy House & Monk's House, Rodmell.

Doing the Sandwalk, together, at Charles Darwin's Down House in Kent.


Sunday, 1 September 2013


As Whitstable is to oysters and Bath is to buns, so York is to chocolate. Both Terry's and Rowntree's had large factories in the city until recently. Their memory is still fresh in local minds though the heavy, sweet-scented air is no longer a feature of a walk around York's historic streets. Terry's factory closed in 2005 and the last Smartie was minted at the Rowntree works in 2006. 

The brand new art deco Terry's factory in 1926.

 Now it's a back-drop to the famous York Car Boot Sale (funny how some people don't want to be featured on my blog...)

New apartments tomorrow?

In contrast, the Terry family's former home, Goddards, is kept in good order by the National Trust, though I feel it is a little too respectable and suburban in design to merit its Arts and Crafts label.

Phew - we're not quite old enough to recall these.

Here's little known chocolate fact:
Everyone has heard of Terry's Chocolate Orange, first harvested in 1931, but did you know that it was preceded by the Chocolate Apple which appeared in 1926? Production of this rare fruit ceased in 1954 - we don't remember it at all. (You can just see one in the photo below.)

I felt that this room, devoted to juxtaposing tiny vintage silk dresses with advertisements for luscious chocolate treats, was rather unsettling. (Chocolate or dress? Chocolate or dress? Chocolate or dress...?)

The Terry family - a bit dull and conventional like their house?

Here is Joseph Rowntree - Quaker, philanthropist, social reformer and chocolatier! He made it his life's work to improve the lives of his employees providing them with a library, free education, a social welfare officer, a doctor, a dentist and a pension fund. He looks, justifiably, rather pleased with himself. 

His legacy to the country and the city of York is a group of four trusts:
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker philanthropic trust.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation which funds social policy research and development.
The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust which owns and manages the model village of New Earswick and other York housing schemes.
The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust- a political body which promotes democratic reform and social justice within the UK.

And some very delightful tiny confectionery tins.

And Smarties and Kit Kat and Rolo and Yorkies...