Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Friday, 28 February 2014

Where My Heart Is - London (Part 1)

The warm layers of my heart glow as soon as my feet hit the platform of Kings Cross Station and I am at home again.  I physically sigh with contentment as I am jostled along the platform to the exit and then into the busy and unassuming air of the city I love with all my mind and soul.  The journey I had taken last week was with my daughter and her friend - a journey of discovery, a journey to show off my spiritual home.  A journey with two young girls that loved the vibrant and ever changing city.  Yes, I was going to love today.

This was a trip that would take in the typical tourist trail, and it really was!  The girls were wanting to see as much as they could and I wasn't going to disappoint.  A boat trip on the Thames, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards Parade, Downing Street, The Mall, Buckingham Palace, Green Park and then Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station.  We did them all! 

So, oh yes you've guessed it, I am going to take you along too!  However this will have to be on separate posts as I need to protect your feet and London posts always take me a bit longer as I daydream and drool over the photos while I plan my next trip.  OK, cup of tea? Cadburys chocolate to savour and feet up?  Ready?  Hello Ben!!

Can you see the writing at the bottom of the clock face? Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostram Victoriam Priman - Latin for O Lord, keep save our Queen Victoria the First.  Such perfection on every square inch of each clock face on Elizabeth Tower and a perfect introduction to the City for the girls, especially as Big Ben struck the hours while we were visiting.  However we were going to start the tourist trail by river and air... a Thames Cruise followed by the London Eye...
Luckily the day was dry with perfect fluffy white clouds and the sun's warmth followed us, so a trip on one of the river boats was going to be well worth the ride.  We sat on the top deck with camera ready and the banter of an entertaining captain giving his own little anecdotes of life on the Thames, but in the back of my mind was the comforting voice of my Grandad saying what was in each building.  So, say hello to Old Father Thames...Here he is on Temple Stairs Arch on the Victoria Embankment (some say it is Neptune, but I see him as the man himself).
Cleopatra's Needle which is over 3,500 years old!  The sphinx's either side are Victorian additions and should have been placed facing away from the Needle to protect it as Sphinx do!!
Our heads turned from left to right as we took in the views and our cameras were working overtime just capturing every moment.  Going under all the bridges, including London Bridge.  Now a very plain bridge in comparison to the over populated one it replaced.  The old London Bridge was a mini town in itself with shops and fortresses and surrounded itself with the heads of those beheaded at the Tower of London just up river, including those of William Wallace and Thomas Cromwell.
My second favourite bridge was coming up, accompanied by the wonderful St Paul's Cathedral.  The Millenium Bridge.  If you are ever in London, you must walk across this from St Paul's to the Tate Modern.  The views are wonderful.
Further on, an iconic landmark came closer, the Tower of London.  The entrance for those poor souls about to be tried would have been by river through Traitors Gate, now blocked to protect its history.
Can you imagine the thoughts that were going through Ann Boleyn's mind as she approached this formidable place along the river.  To the left of the shot are the 'gherkin' and the new building on the extreme left has already received the nickname of the 'walkie talkie'!  The old constraints of historical life meets the modern constraints of materialistic life.
We slowly meandered down the Thames with sights both new and old, but the one that was going to take the girls breath away was coming up...we were going to sail underneath Tower Bridge...
This beautiful bridge is magnificent in every way.  The engineering, colours and building are simply breathtaking.
Every detail is beautiful including the familiar City of London Crest that adorns the top, middle of the bridge.
Again, the new meets the old.  The shard to the left and the 'cheese grater' to the right.
The Shard is not my favourite building and, according to the captain, definitely not his either!
This building rises up from the London skyline, drowning everything around it.  Yes, it is beautiful with the clouds reflecting on its windows, but it just doesn't fit in with the beauty of the City that surrounds it.  A shame, but that's progress I suppose.
However, we were now on our way back to the London Eye, and I began pointing out things to the girls that were in between the buildings, such as The Monument, built as a memorial to the Great Fire of London.  When my daughter was very small she wanted to go to Pudding Lane where the Fire started and then decided to climb the stairs to the top of the Monument.  Oh, the pain!  If you decide to visit, make sure you are fit!  The good thing about this never ending winding staircase were the 'handles' on the hand rail all the way up.  I think they may have been decoration, but I can remember pulling myself up every agonising step after 150 and that was less than half way!!  You get a certificate when you achieve this and a view across London from the new platform.  A once only event!!
We were soon back to our place of departure and ready to join the queue for our next excursion... The London Eye!
I hope you have enjoyed your trip down Old Father Thames as much as we did.  Are you ready for the London Eye?  This time with my proper camera as promised in my post a couple of weeks ago.  Give me a couple of days to reflect on the photos and dream again.

In the meantime, have a great weekend and take care.

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Monday, 24 February 2014

Time to Dream of Spring with a Book Review

Let's face it, it's been an awful winter no matter where we are, so to dream a little of the months to come is a welcome release.  I was fortunate to be asked by Jessica at The Arum Publishing Group if I would like to review a new book by Louise Curley (her Welly Woman blog is here).  I am very protective of my little blog and its contents, but I know that quite a few of you love to fill your homes with blooms and are green fingered as I am so, with my garden sadly lacking love and attention over the winter months, and it looking battered and bruised with the winds and rain, the request came at the most perfect moment.  Time to sit back in a cosy arm chair surrounded by seed catalogues and Louise's beautiful and visual stimulating book - The Cut Flower Patch, was very welcome indeed.
What I love about this book is that it is 'useable'!  There are some gardening books that are full of scientific facts and plain, simple diagrams or photos that leave me a bit deflated.  I can honestly say that this book did the exact opposite.  It spoke to me with Louise's easy to understand hints and tips on creating a patch of garden, no matter how big or small, and whether new to gardening or experienced, that can be created with the purpose of providing your home with cut flowers throughout the different seasons, as well as the art of foraging in hedgerows.  This is something I do each year, filling my house each weekend after the usual housework Saturday to cheer the heart and soul!
Louise's ideas for the different flowers, and what makes a good cut flower that would last five days were invaluable, as well as her diagrams for a suggestion of different beds.  Her recommendations on the types of flowers to grow were detailed and plain speaking, a joy to read.
The photography is by Jason Ingram, and how I would ooze with happiness if I could take delectable photos of plants they way he does.  Each page draws you in and the flower arranging that is shown towards the end of the book is so natural and unstaged, a pretty arrangement to fit into any season including winter in all sorts of containers.  Nothing too fussy, just happy, cheery and simple.
As well as reviewing this book I wanted to actually try the information too, so with a few weeks of looking at these two forlorn little beds that were once herb patches (now being moved to the front garden), I was at a loss of what to do with these, especially as during the summer evenings I like to sit under the pergola, so I wanted scent and colour.  I am at a loss no more.  These two beds will become my Cut Flower Patches, close enough to the house for me to pop out and fill a vase, and also to put together a posy for the garden table.  Yes, my creative juices are flowing!  The bulbs are already in, just a bit of removal of the remains of some herbs and weeds (and pots that have flown through the air!).

So, a visit to the garden centre was required and a happy time was had by slowly filing through the seed packets and cross referencing them with Louise's book.  The wind and rain were blowing a storm outside but I was in a happy place, dreaming of what will be.  I came back and looked at my poor, lonely green house and stacked up the seed packets.  They looked like a little bundle of colourful fabric, seeds that will produce a flower blanket.
The garden gloves look hopeful and the stacked pots are waiting patiently to be filled.  The green house staging will need a bit of cleaning but once again this handy little haven will soon be a productive room once again.  These two patches of garden will now go on a little journey this year and I will be capturing the changes on my blog to show you the progress.
So yes, you may have gathered that I was incredibly happy to review this book and enjoyed every page.  Including the fact that I won't be buying flowers for the house this year as my own flower market will be outside dancing with the bees and the hover flies.  More money for seeds next year!

And now for the information you need if you are interested in this great book.  If you would like to order Louise's book which is published by Frances Lincoln / @Frances_Lincoln, the book will be retailing at £20 but you can buy this at the discounted price of £16.00 including p&p), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG101.

Alternatively, you can send a cheque made payable to: LBS Mail Order Department, Littlehampton Book Services, PO Box 4264, Worthing, West Sussex, BN13 3RB.

Please quote the offer code APG101 and include your name and address details.

*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

I am so happy that I have just completed my first garden post for this year (and my first book review - it's been fun), it's made me long for the spring weather and to fill wheelbarrows with compost once again and seed trays to nurture... I'm easily pleased!

Enjoy your spring dreaming!

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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Where Shall We Go On Our Journey Today... Stamford, Lincolnshire

As the half term week now comes to an end and a whole week off for me to enjoy with the two teens, it is time to reflect on what we did this week.  With my son's 16th birthday it was an opportunity to spread out the treats such as meals out, quality time gathering thoughts of his hopes and dreams and of course... trips!  But first, may I thank you for your lovely visits to my blog and especially for the wonderful comments on last week's post.  Sometimes with blogging you just let the words flow and they are the truest to your thoughts and mind.  Yes, he was suitably embarrassed but amazed at your comments and has asked me to thank you all.

And so, I sit here tapping away at the keyboard and re-living what we have done this week with... yes, you guessed it... throbbing hobbit feet (it was London yesterday with a typical touristy feel, but that's for next week!).  The first notable trip we went on was Stamford in Lincolnshire.  A beautiful town neighbouring the exquisite Burghley House (my posts on this historical building are here).  The town itself has hardly changed in 1,200 years!!
Now for an architectural anorak such as myself, the visit here was like receiving a box of your favourite chocolates with every single one containing your favourite centre.  Tudor, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian... they are all here in this town.  This alleyway, one of very many, had history oozing from every angle.
The beams pop out to say hello occasionally, with tales to tell of the centuries they have seen.
There are your usual shops and yes, they are all occupied!  How heart warming this was to see once again.  Then there were boutique shops.  As this shop showed outside, there really were four floors of happiness.
Spring had sprung outside this florists.  It was so lovely to see the cheery faces of the colourful blooms.  A symphony on the eyes.
Unusual gifts at every door down the roads of shops, not the same contents in each aisle.  I never realised just how much I missed this kind of shopping.  This wonderful book store in the middle of town was a visual delight.
Its two signs drew me in - Gothic House and the Walkers sign, etched into the wood, not plastic and uniform, just wooden and individual.  There are more details on this wonderful building here, however if you ever visit this place, do go inside and go up the stairs and then look behind you.  There over the stairs is the original outside of the building, the old post office in its Tudor magnificence.
And, me looking up again, realising that even floors above ground floor in the various shops were filled with chandeliers to make the experience even more special.
Also, to make me feel at home...
Now here is a collage for a special lady, Tammy at My Journey.  I promised her I would be looking out for telephone boxes locally and further afield.  So far, they have been sparse and in decline, however Stamford has plenty!  They all work and stand proudly throughout the town.  So Tammy, here you go - maybe you had used this when you were over here!!  Please go and give her visit here to learn more about these iconic 'monuments' and her upbeat way of life... and Tammy, wait for next week's London post, telephone boxes for the computer age!
You can easily become lost in the history of the place by following the main roads and then coming across little alleyways.  Some are so narrow that only one person can go down at a time.
Some lead to more little boutique shops.
Each street has a name to depict its history such as Ironmonger Street with its shadow street sign just above it.  The street had all manner of ironwork on show.
The river Welland flows through the town, a little high with the rain, but beautiful against the winter landscape.
Just over the river is the famous George Hotel.  A place that is dripping with history.
This plaque says it all!  Can you imagine the history that this building could tell you!
One day I will have the time to go inside, it looked so inviting especially with the reflections in the windows showing what the view would be.
The rare book shop is a must for those of you who like to feel the old pages and marvel at the first editions.  I am lucky with Miss Teen as she enjoys reading from a page rather than a Kindle.  As we walked into this shop, crammed with the written word, the smell of old books gave a memory trail like no other!  Through the back it opens into what looks like an old study with old desks and the obligatory computer.  The book cases are locked but the binding of the books were beautiful.  Miss Teen held one book as she sat crossed legged on the floor and opened the book to smell the pages, the book was printed in 1850.  The smile and sigh said it all... respect for the author and the once owner.
Of course there has to be some street entertainment and in Stamford it has to be a bit more refined!  This man was playing against the shouts of the fruit and vegetable market traders.  When we put money into his case his shout of 'Cheers' made me laugh.
Also some wonderful doors dotted around the side streets.
And some beautiful boot scrapers by each door.
And so, with the sun beginning to go behind the clouds once again, it was time to head home.

Another walk over and time for me and Mumsy to rest our feet!
I hope you all have a wonderful week and the weather is improving for you as much as it is for us!

Take care.

p.s. Thank you for your comments on this post.  From these I thought I would just direct you to a couple of blogs that I think you would also be interested in:

John at By Stargoose and Hanglands and Mike from A Bit About Britain
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