"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
15 September 2020
Despite the overall greenness of the garden exuberant splashes of colour continue to blaze in a mini summer heat wave: sunflowers grown from seed given to me by my eldest daughter`s partner; pink and white rose blooms : John Clare, St Swithins, Gertrude Jekyll, Winchester Cathedral, Ice Berg.There are even a few new flowers on north facing white tissue paper coloured Madame Alfred Carriere.
I gather armfuls of apples, that have ripened and swelled in the two weeks since I departed for ,and have just returned from, Olhao (Missing new quarantine by 36 hours).
There is an apple crumble coming on in my cooking thoughts and more apple and ginger puddings. For Emma`s Birthday I tie up the last zinnias some rose buds, and creamy white dahlias from the pot Jane gave me. I must say this nursery grown plant, has delivered an endless show of blooms since the middle of July... and of course, there has not been a whiff of a slug or snail.
Sad to hear of Terence Conran`s death, a design hero who has hugely influenced my love for simple practical design and the importance of everyday things. Enticingly modern and full of gorgeous ideas the Conran Shop was a magnet for us stylists. After Conran had lost the business in 1990 I styled and art directed two Habitat catalogues but the ethos and pieces I was given to work with were diminished compared with the simple and appealing elements of early Habitat . Conran`s influence also seems a very long way from many current ideas as in the surfeit of Central London glass tower developments which feature showoff and over sized lumps of furniture, awkard angles, and, my personal bugbear, mega kitchen islands some it seems with the dimensions of aircraft carrier landing strips. Timely perhaps to revisit Conran`s House Book series.
Even thought the Zinnias are fading some stems continue to push up a few new vibrant blooms . Just think all of these from a sprinkling of seeds back in early summer. These and more garden thoughts are percolating whilst I sit at my desk and I also write about autumn for my forthcomng book....Can`t wait to tell you more about it!!!.
This is what I mean about the overall greenness of the garden on my return from Olhao: such sweet grass scents and the rhubarb is rampant, both signs of recent rain..The beans are all over on the plant in the foreground but there are runner beans feasts (steamed with garlic and butter ) ahead with the scarlet flowers and emerging pods on the specimen in the background: one of the only two of 25 seedlings that made it to this stage. Survival of the fittest?
Olhao in early September is hot, still and pleasingly less crowded. The beach on Armona calls and I sit under the umbrella playing with brushes and acrylics, trying to make sense of the coastal textures and colours.
The Saturday market is suffused with oranges and reds: thick pumpkin wedges, glossy pomegranates and Rosa tomatoes the size of small footballs.
31 August Before my Olhao departure I pick a colanderof runners, with instructions for younger daughter to enjoy. The verdict was mainly good, although there was some string and toughness..
Auguse 2nd Our Puglian visit combines impossibly beautiful scenes of olive groves, sparkling sea, gelato and gelato coloured architecture. I inhale heady cologne scents wafting from beyond the thick rope curtain at the barber`s in Carpagano and get hooked on espressino freddo con panna - basically an intense cold coffee kick with cream in a glass.
Summer dried grasses in the countryside and extraordinary cactus garden in town
Pool at Pasulo by me
Evening light -
It smells heavenly beyond .....
lst August I say goodbye to the garden en route to Puglia at the heel of ( Southern )Italy. Friends have moved in to dog sit the elderly one who will turn 16 in September.
Zinnias in full bloom: the zinc bucket will later make way for the `thalia` narcissi bulbs, which have been drying in the shed. Recycle recycle.. is all part of the garden mood and adds to why gardening feels so productive and nourishing
21st July Birthday dahlias from Jane in a pot... a great way to have cut flowers on tap.
Daughter can`t get to job and assistant stuck on bus for two hours. Poor show, striking Tube people and your big brother boss B.Crow last seen sunning hairy belly on Rio Beach. But this, and ongoing flood/mud/rain/wind/gloom story brightened by lone survivor of my roses, a brilliant John Clare bloom. Also, cheering thoughts of the toasted pistachio gorgonzola tagliatelle taste sensation at Zucca a few weeks ago and, look here, chocolate brownies baked by middle daughter for her younger sister`s` birthday tomorrow. (From Felicity Cloak`s Perfect, and they do taste, just that).
Inspired by a yellow Habitat chair on a shoot a couple of months ago , I thought you`d like to see my paint update on a chipped and worn chair in my office. Off I go to the paint shop to see if I can recreate the same lime green/acid yellow colour that reminds me of all things springlike e.g see the angelica flower head I shot in an Algarve meadow last year. I pick `Tarragon Glory` from Dulux and it works well. I cheated and bought quick drying emulsion which, of course won`t wear as well as an oil based eggshell, but I do rather prefer matt painted finishes all round.
The cat and dog look at me hard as I shut the door to the kitchen. I read their stares as `what is she doing, denying us access to FOOD ? ` But I don`t want them decorating the freshly painted white floor which is wet and drying slowly slowly because it is oil based . The long drying time is worth it because the result is hard wearing, like enamel. And this is good for repelling the assault by the heavy boot wearers and furniture draggers of the shoot world. The chalk-on-blackboard screech as a bed or sofa is grated across the boards propels me out of my hidey office hole like nothing else. Thankfully most people are brilliant and careful when they come to use the house.
It`s as if I`ve gone on holiday to a fresh new space . I`m inspired to invest in a a new steam cleaner to keep it looking that way. Quite sceptical about housey gadgets but this is rather wonderful like a steam iron-with-pad on astick. The thing works well if I apply a firm pressure - in the manner of mowing the lawn. Rather meditative, too, as no interruptions for rinsing like you have to do with a traditional mop and bucket.
PS Cat and dog food bowls relocated so they don`t go hungry.
I also update the central island units with a coat of water based `diamond` eggshell, which does do what it says on the tin but obviously wouldn`t be up to something like a floor painting job.
Number one unreliable gadget, the car won`t start. Into garage and the blissful engine hands of Panos. Bicycle main form of transport and so I wobble off with dog on lead tied to handlebars. I am multitasking:dog gets walk in park and I can get to the market to load up with birthday party ingredients for son turning 25.
As ever, Herne Hill Market is a treasure trove of edible delights : rock oysters from Poole in Dorset and leafy greens to start with. Bicycle basket filling up , but I can`t resist retro jug above, and green retro Pyrex glass below. Makes up for the vintage olive oil jugs I backed out of at Fuseta market the other week. The last stop turns out to be the west country cheese man, whose extra mature cheddar is mouthwatering. I feel the dog tugging and sniffing , trying to get under the stall. Bike , dog and me, almost a heap on ground, when west country cheese man shouts,` `Oi its got my lunch` and bends down to retrieve a half finished carton of curry. Wishing I wasn`t there, I offer replacement and buy an extra slice of goats` cheese . Time to leave.
Incident free on the ride home. I bake a birthday cake involving much chocolate and caramel sauce. The canine, not chastened of course , lurks by my feet waiting for a tasty crumb to drop. .... I have to admire her dogged persistence.
The psychoblurb where blue equals down, miserable.... blah blah blah is daft, really. When I get the blues, it all feels rather ragged London pigeon grey. Rippling cobalt blue sea or a first day of spring blue sky can only help to lift my mood. So pleased to see on the Style Court blog that although the Pantone colour of the year is Emerald green, there`s much to get excited about blue, too. How about the new blue and white ceramics exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the cobalt blue cover of the new Anthroplogie spring collecton or Cornflower one of my new Colour Band borders - see above ?
More highs: his little pot of grape hyacinths is just as I found it at the local flower shop perfectly co-ordinated with blue plastic pot for 1.50 and, so far, 10 days of indoor Spring beauty.
Cobalt blues on old Portuguese tiles, a street feature in Olhao as everyday as grilled sardines .
Funny, isn`t it that this gorgeous sludgy blue in my sitting room is called Parma Gray? At night it feels snug, along with the heat from the new Morso woodburner. (Yes, yes, yes, pluck me from the Periodic Table of the Middle Class Handbook ). During the day this colour is serene, all very period Dutch domestic interior, like being in a scene from the Girl with the Pearl Earring. Nothing depressing about that.