"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
30 March 2020
Some good things: road use is down to 1955 levels and the garden powers on in lockdown. The first raspberry ripple Bicolour flaming flag tulips are blooming and the apple tree is budding- simple pleasures to alleviate anxiety and the hit by a hammer effect of social distancing and self isolation. Mad humour to match mad times is a good antidote: the vide boss unintentionally appearing as a virtual potato in a group office meeting on Zoom the new way to connect whilst we are stuck inside. I have had my usual pilates class via Zoom and even if we were not together in the flesh it is connecting to see everyone else, to get a glimpse of each others sofa arrangements plus a show and tell of pet dogs, cats and even a lizard.
A host of white and golden narcissi under the apple tree.
Fresh and varied Vegetable box delivered from Smith&Brock wholesaler who have miraculously reworked their business mode in response to the lock down of events, hotels restaurants and bars and are now sending out consumer deliveries.
Vegetable box candy coloured beetroot and carrots - plenty of time to play around with art now .....
Rescue soup kitchen in our picnic thermos and a posy of spring flowers from the garden
A friend with suspected covid now has pneumonia and so I make her
some pea and mint soup. I leave it at her doorstop and wave from at
least 2 metres away. She reports that it`s fresh and soothing on her
throat. Worrying times.
Pea and mint soup: chop 1 onion, 4 garlic cloves, 2
peeled potatoes, add to a pan with l litre vegetable stock. Bring to
boil and simmer for 15 minutes until potato soft. Add handful of chopped
fresh mint leaves, 500g frozen frozen peas (petits pois sweeter), juice
half lemon, and bring back to simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt
and pepper. Whizz in processor. Can serve with sour cream/creme
Social distancing in Brockwell Park: a quick charcoal after my run along with everyone else on their once a day exercise, now that we all have stay in. The sun is streaming, sky is clear and the streets are empty. I miss the cold clear lido... Don`t know when we will be swimming again.
The new gravel is satisfyingly crunchy and adds definition to the beds which are growing in profusion. Think the alliums are going to be fabulous this summer . In the background are my newly planted box plants... I am taking a risk because box blight destroyed the previous hedge but with all things in the garden its worth having another go ..
At least the garden`s ready for lockdown even if I`m not. I`m more than lucky to have this space when so many people in London will have to endure confined conditions.
For those new to my garden here`re some notes on my plans for the garden when we moved here in 2003
FROM MY GARDEN BOOK NOTE BOOK:
Winter is the time to plan and dream. And over the first one at
Palace road I read up on gardens and gardeners, great and small to get me going on the new
garden I will dig with the help of Tommy and his gang later in the year. Alexander Pope’s advice to the Earl of
Burlington – that the gardener consult the genius of the place could certainly apply to my back garden as
much as to the 18 century earl’s sprawling acreage . The genius in this place is its spacious and
leafy,suburban proportions. Where
I rough out a basic plan and thoughts in a notebook. I envision the garden as
a series of outdoor spaces: a journey for the senses, a mix of the formal and
informal , with places to sit and eat or contemplate on a blanket under a blue
sky. Three sections emerge: a patio, a central flower and herb plot divided by
gravel paths and planted at the corners with wigwams of beansticks, and the
grass area at the end with the old apple tree and garden room,. The brief :to
keep it simple, functional, and beautiful. Simple in the sense of layout, functional
in not having time consuming plants, and beautiful in terms of texture
colour and sensuality. Possible obstacles to dash my plans: the unvisual prospect
of a trampoline - at the time my children were begging for one.
I also look with increased focus at the cottage gardens and allotments
on which I will base my ideas. The forerunners of sweetly cobbled or
brick paved front gardens brimming with little clumps of the season’s first
snowdrops , near me, and of my own childhood back garden for that matter,
go back to the Middle Ages, and earlier when green fingered monks tended
flowers and herbs in cloister and courtyard gardens. Enclosed by a wattle
fence, hawthorn hedge or stone wall.
As the country closes down, loo roll is like gold bars and birdsong takes over from the roar of aircraft, it`s a race
against lockdown to ren novate the gravel paths
flower and herb beds. Gavin and and Karl are my right hand garden team digging out the existing gravel, now thick with weeds and earth
spillover after the most torrential winter I have known , and laying down a permeable plastic membrane on which will be spread a thick layer of pea shingle gravel. This should be more weed repelling than previously because the plastic butts up against the earth border of the flower beds.
9th June 3pm: the garden basks in afternoon heat and light. Days like this in our hit and miss summers are precious, as all worthwhile things are. The bees are here again, feasting on the fluffy alliums and there`s a haze of blue nigella magic from a packet of seeds. Blue and purple, purple and green: summer colour pairs which work so naturally and beautifully. Framing the left and right borders lush green and pink, the usual, but never taken for granted , bowing and flopping roses are sweet with soap scent..
Since restoring a broken down Georgian Spitalfields house back in the nineteen eighties` and seeing its simple interior spaces come to life again my heart goes out to every piece of neglected architectural beauty I come across. On a recent trip to Barbados (where I`m having the best of times liming with my long lost Cumberbatch family) I note the neglected colonial-style buildings in Bridgetown, the island`s capital, wishing I could scoop up them and put them back together again. It`s vital to hang onto architectural heritage: one swing of a wrecking ball and hundreds of years of skill, detail and social history pound to the ground in a blast of dust. Sometimes the balance tips the wrong way: walking in Spitalfields last week I feel the quirky beauty which attracted artists and brave creative types prepared to rescue the decaying Georgian splendour has all but been swamped by eye-watering house prices, burglar alarms,and Costa Coffee chains. It seems merely another tourist destination where the idea of the artist is all that remains. But at least the houses are preserved.
Back in Barbados the profits from swanky golf resorts like Sandy lane are greater than the less profitable unsung heroes of vernacular style but The National Trust of Barbados does an enormous amount to protect the island`s heritage and there are many exquisitely preserved structures such as, the Black Rock Archives site of the old leprosy hospital where I spent a morning under wooden eaves and cooling fan uncovering my Bajan Grandfather`s birth and death details.
Would love to have a go at bringing something like the tattered building below to life again - it has a For Sale sign.
Built in 1907 The
Empire theatre and cinema - my cousin remembers visits here when she was a child- there are plans to refurbish it
I love the wooden balcony detail
Backstreets of Bridgetown fading beauty- note the simple Georgian style sash windows.
Wooden detail is at the mercy of tropical heat and humidity
On the coast road out of Bridgetown: thirties` gothic - a perfect setting for a Bajan ghost story with a Colonial twist?
With only the swishing of palm trees, the old Queen Elizabeth hospital in Bridgetown is eerie and desolate - my great grandfather was the first man of Colour to be Superintendent here. See below:
The Black Rock Archives , are located in the old leprosy hospital, a collection of elegant stone buildings.
When the garden is looking as heavenly as it is at the moment I have no huge need to spread my wings in search of new excitement. ( Although I would rather like to go dancing....... ) This week it is our clever lodger Jeffrey`s birthday and there is cake for tea and all the gorgeous purples and greens of early summer to mark the occasion.
Lucky to have the last fading tulip petals (they`re edible!) to decorate a chocolate Victoria sponge using the recipe from my cookbook, and to enjoy it against a garden canvas of alliums and lime green lavender and lemon balm leaves: one of my favourite colour pairings.
See how a purple/green combination works in printed floral cotton: a remnant used to patch one of my chidren`s jeans pocket.
It`s the time of year for London`s crop of interior design shows. Last week, much excitement! our Toast wallpaper border, see above and below decorated the World of Interiors stand at Decorex.
I manned the House & Garden stand at the same show, during the eighties` when chintz prints, swags and bows and frilly Austrian blinds were the life blood of interior decoration. The aesthetic today is so much more eclectic, everything from modern textures to retro Cabbages and Roses chic.
My Pure Style eye is caught by tiles in jewel colours from Habibi and Bert&May. Hibou wallpapers and fabrics for children have a Cath Kidston flavour, but in a less sugary palette. David Seyfried supplies among the best small classic sofas that I have seen since I purchased two from him over twenty years ago. And there are beautiful one-offs from Fine Cell Work Fine Cell Work a social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework.