Sunday, 16 October 2016


It  looked as though today would be a complete wash out - I woke up to drizzle on my bedroom window panes, and the weather forecast for the rest of the day was miserable, so our plans to go pumpkin picking were duly cancelled. But, of course, in true British fashion, we were duped and the sun decided to come out at the eleventh hour.

We decided to take ourselves and our brollies to Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill and his beloved cat, Jock. Unfortunately photos were not allowed inside the house or art studio (TIL Churchill was quite a good painter as well as a politician), which was a shame because the modesty and domesticity of the house was a lovely surprise and the paintings were very nice too. Another missed photo opportunity was of the lovely Jock VI. Since the National Trust opened the house, Churchill's family requested that there always be a ginger cat named Jock, with a white bib and four white socks, in residence in Chartwell (this makes me infinitely happy) - I was so chuffed to say hello to him, but he was clearly used to avoiding the paparazzi and whizzed by before we could get the camera out! He does have a Facebook page, though, if you're curious (as all moggies should, really).

There's something about autumn which makes me want to wrap up, jump in the car and visit every National Trust property in Kent. Does anyone have any recommendations? I've got an itch to explore.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Ancient Room - One Year On

You might recall a little over a year ago I shared with you some photos of our "Ancient Room" - really, it's our entrance room / dining room (when we're not eating dinner in front of the telly...which is, I'm ashamed to admit, all the time), but I like to call it the "Ancient Room" because the Texan's grandparents used to have such a room in their house, where they kept all the antiques and old things they'd collected over the years. I wanted to do the same, and hence the name.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to take some photos of the room now, one year later, to see how it has evolved.

When I originally posted about this room, in my mind it was almost "done". I can see now that was certainly not the case, and after a year of tinkering around with our little house, I've realised it will never be complete - and that's half the fun of it. Rearranging and curating our home and our treasures genuinely makes me happy, and is a luxury I didn't really have living in rentals for 18 months max at a time. The permanence of our house has given me time to refine my style and work out what I like and what I don't like - something I just didn't have time for when I knew I'd only be in a flat for a year or so. No longer am I rushing to complete the decorating - now it can happen in a much more organic way and the result is much more natural (if that makes sense).

It's always a fine balance for me between clutter and emptiness, and I'm not sure I've quite mastered it yet. I am not a fan of the minimalist look - it reminds me too much of my office - but I also grew up in an untidy house (sorry mum!) with random bits and pieces everywhere and that drives me mad (honestly, open a drawer in my mother's house and you're likely to find a miniature hair comb from that Christmas cracker we pulled in 1993, amongst a whole other cornucopia of objects). What I've tried to achieve is ordered clutter - I haven't yet read "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying" (so don't worry I'm not going to proselytise!) but I do subscribe to the view that you should only keep things that you really do love, so that's my mantra when I walk into an antiques shop and want to buy everything.

 So what additions have I made since last year? Well, the biggest addition is the pianola - no, I haven't mis-spelled "piano", it's a pianola which means it can play itself! I took piano lessons for many years as a child, but was always put off practising because I only had a little Casio keyboard at home. When we bought our house, I knew I wanted a piano, even if I can't play very well, so our future babies will have the real thing to practise on. Then I came across this pianola on eBay and figured that would be a fun option in case my dream of having little Mozarts around the house doesn't play out... It's really incredible - you pull down a little hatch by the foot pedals, and out pop two bigger pedals; when you pump those pedals with your feet, it turns a roll of paper in the middle of the piano; the paper has little holes in and when these holes pass over a metal strip which sucks the air, this tells the piano keys to play! If Trump becomes President and the end of the world happens, we'll be ok - no need for electricity to have a party at our house! I had a pianola restorer (can you believe there's one in Kent?!) look at it when it first arrived and he said it was made in 1912 and, at that time, would have cost as much as a house. Amazing. Would you like to see a video? Perhaps I'll post one on Instagram for you.

The other big addition is the walnut and cherry wood wardrobe next to our fireplace. I swear it was built for that space - it has about 1mm on either side to spare before it touches the wall. I looked for ages for a wardrobe to hang our coats and hide our shoes and bags - I searched eBay every day. Then, one day, I walked past our local auction house (which only usually sells tat) and there it was, the front door to the building was open because some men were loading a van with furniture, and it was just sitting in the entranceway. It was mine as soon as I saw it. I like to think it's the wardrobe that leads to Narnia...

All the other additions are small bits and pieces, mostly collected during our travels, which have moved around the house and finally found a home here - the tablecloth came from a roll of fabric in a haberdashery in Croatia, the roof finial on top of our radiator was found in a charity shop in Athens, the jug in the middle of our dining table was a steal from an antique shop in Lostwithiel. I love how all our things remind me of moments, of places. They remind me of home.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Green Fingers

One sad thing about not blogging for the last nine months is that I neglected to document the transformation our garden has undergone this year. When we moved in last July, the garden was just like most suburban back yards - fences, grass, a few shrubs and plants around the edges, a garden ornament or two. But after years of living in London with barely any outdoor space to call our own, the Texan and I had big plans.

We  started by taking down the half broken greenhouse at the very back of the garden. That space - eventually - will house the Texan's timber-framed "workshop", which is a project for next year and which I hope to document here (I'm going for Shed of the Year!). In the meanwhile, it's become our dumping ground for all the necessary bits and pieces that have gone into making the rest of our garden.

We (or more accurately, the Texan) then started digging...and digging...and digging. I know it's not particularly child friendly but we took all the grass up and widened the beds considerably (but left some grass for the end of the garden, in case we do eventually decide to have a tot or two). We picked up most of our plants from the sale section of our local garden centre, although the Texan did grow some from seed and my Nana donated some plants too.  Nearly all of the plants were very small to begin with, and when we first started planting I thought it looked terrible - tiny little plants dotted around the place, they looked like miniature marooned islands surrounded by horse manure and mulch - it was hard to imagine a proper garden any time soon. But the Texan kept telling me it would all come together by the summer - and it did; by June the garden had exploded!

During the perpetual wet of May and June, we tackled the brick path and patio. It took us four weekends and a number of evenings after work to get it done (one weekend we worked solidly in the pouring rain, I ended up wearing two raincoats at the same time - my neighbours must have I thought I'd gone mad!), but somehow, eventually, we laid the last brick. I also painted all of the fences in Cuprinol paint (it's called Seagrass) - it took me an age to finish but my biceps did well out of it even if all my shoes are now speckled with green paint. The path currently needs a bit of a sweep and a clean, and I've still got one fence panel to finish painting (it was previously overgrown with weeds which the Texan just cleared out), but I am very proud of the job we did, even if it was back-breaking and sucked up weeks of my life. Probably a good idea that I didn't document that bit after all, but nevertheless it is satisfying now it is finished.

Oddly the gardens on our street are separated by a small public path - our solicitor said that this was fairly common with Georgian houses, but I've never come across it before. Mostly our neighbours use the path and everyone who passes by is very nice and says hello to Chutney and comments on how lovely our garden looks now it's "finished" (anyone with a garden of their own will know it will never be finished, but at least I won't have to lay another patio for a while). Privacy is important though, so we erected two high-ish fences at the front with a beautiful metal gate in the middle, which the Texan found at the Rochester Flea for just £40. I like to think of it as a bit like the Secret Garden, as you just catch a peek of it as you walk by. My plan is grow some kind of climbing flower on the inside of the fences, so that they eventually grow over the top edge and tumble down towards the path.

Now autumn is upon us, though, the flowers are starting to die away. I find it sad that our garden is getting ready to hibernate for winter, but I also think it's quite wonderful how you only get to enjoy it for a short while, how you really have to savour the garden and make the most of it while you can. I'm terrible for waking up at the crack of dawn and today was no exception. The sunlight at 7am was magical and so I crept outside in my dressing gown and took these photos as a sort of memento mori - the quiet sounds of morning, the dew glistening on the cobwebs, the last remnants of summer flowers - all of this made me think, autumn is here.