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Vintage dealers at The Emporium, Hungerford, Berkshire

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  • 03/17/15--12:20: THE FIRST BUDS OF SPRING


    The First Buds of Spring
    watercolour, 25 x 16 inches, signed and dated 1885
    Lionel Percy Smythe 

    It is still very cold here but the first buds of Spring are opening bringing us hope that soon winter really will pass. It has been a mild Winter overall, with snow only coming in small amounts in January and February.

    Countryside Info website
    I've been in the Cotswolds for a week with friends. Driving through the villages and up Cleeve Hill the hedgerows were dotted underneath with the pale creamy blooms of wild primroses. I love seeing this wild flower and much prefer them to the more vibrantly coloured hybrids which people put in baskets. According to the excellent website, 'Countryside Info', "The Primrose (Primula vulgaris) is native to Britain and Europe. It  is a small plant, typically no more than 10 cm (4") high. It produces flowers which generally vary in colour from pale cream to deep yellow." There is also a pale pink variation which is rarer than the yellow. 

    Blackbirds are everywhere gathering food for their young, when we drove at dusk we slowed right down for them because they fly very low from hedge to hedge across the road.

    Before our holiday I visited one of my favourite art galleries and came across a catalogue from 2000 which caught my eye. The cover had the most exquisite watercolour on it, of a young girl in a wood with a blackbird in the bush beside her. The composition is soft and luminous and somehow conveys an air of melancholy. I found it quite poignant, the young girl perched on the brink of womanhood, and the Spring, both poised to bloom.

    I'd been shopping all day and my bags and baskets were full but I had to have this. It was only a few pounds. I set off weighted down with my captures of the day towards the car.

    Royal Albert Primrose Hill teacup

    Once home and fortified by a cup of tea in a pretty cup I looked more closely at the catalogue and read the entry about this watercolour. The painting is called, 'The First Buds of Spring' and is by Lionel Percy Smythe (1839-1918). Lionel was the son of the 6th Viscount Stratford. He spent his early years in France before his family returned to settle in London in 1843. He trained in London and some of his paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1863. Smythe and his wife made their home in Normandy, first at Wimereux (where the artist had spent his summer holidays as a child) and, from 1882 onwards, at the Château d’Honvault, between Wimereux and Boulogne. 
    Lionel was a student of nature and he often portrayed the woods and fields of the countryside where he lived. His work was popular with a small following of collectors in England and became associated with 'The Idyllists',  a group of Victorian artists and illustrators which included Frederick Walker and John William North.  His work is represented in the collections of the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
    This piece is one of a series which Smythe painted using the woodlands around his home as a backdrop to a young girl pushing through a thicket in Spring time. The model was his daughter Norah, known as Noe. One of the compositions, 'A Wood Nymph' was exhibited in 1884. I have been unable to find an image of that painting, with that name, but the catalogues states that it is, 'surely close in composition to the present picture with its 'silver velvety bud of the willow palm' and 'a blackbird preening itself'. I wondered if this could have also been named 'Springtime', as this painting is so similar to the description and Noe is also the model here.
    Lionel Percy Smythe
    possibly also known as 'A Wood Nymph'
    And there is one other painting which I located, entitled 'Bramble' which has the same composition but the girl is dark haired.
    Lionel Percy Smyth
    His paintings of farm and seashore workers and children picking flowers and playing have magic about them although they often portray quite common circumstance. Stephen Ogden Fine Art sums this up in their bio entry of the artist when they say that, writing in 1910, one scholar noted of the artist that ‘Mr. Smythe proves plainly that a man may be as realist and still retain his poetic sense; that he may record the life about him faithfully and convincingly and yet miss none of its poetry, none of its imaginative suggestion, and none, certainly, of the beauty it may happen to possess.’
    The Chris Beetles catalogue entry ends thus, "Its suggestion of melancholy is given poignant emphasis by the knowledge that Noe developed pleurisy in 1897, and died of tuberculosis a year later, before her 13th birthday'.

    I have fallen in love with his work, and with this beautiful girl who lit up his paintings.  I hope to see some of his pieces in galleries when I am feeling better and can travel again.

    Lionel Percy Smythe
    (love the flower collar on the dog)

    Credits :

    Stephen Ongpin Fine Art HERE:

    Chris Beetles Art Gallery

    Royal Albert China

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  • 04/01/15--11:37: PAPIER-MACHE EASTER EGGS
  • Beautiful Easter shoot by Green Wedding Shoes.
    See their work Here:

    I like papier-mâché and used to have a collection of Easter egg boxes. I've no idea how or why I began to collect them, like so many things I have, they just happened. And then they just disappeared, probably during one of many moves in either a pre clear out, or a mislaid box. I used to give and receive them filled with chocolates, and tied with a ribbon. I don't miss them, but I wish I would have owned a camera and photographed them, and I hope that wherever that they are, they found a good home.

    A charming Easter egg box

    Papier-mâché boxes and eggs always remind me of both Easter and Alice in Wonderland.  Our cottage is adorned with several Alice vignettes. One of my Grandmothers was named Alice and I was given the name as one of mine too, after her.

    Mad March Hare from Graham & Green Here: 
    Alice cloth ornament from Alice's Shop in Oxford. Here:
    Although the Easter egg boxes are gone, I have a small collection of hand painted papier-mâché boxes from Kashmir in which I keep pieces of jewellery on my dressing table.

    This box is quite large and the lid is painted in
    an exquisite pattern of  mille fleurs.
    I keep another collection in it - Miracle jewellery.

    This little papier-mâché rabbit came from a shop in one of the
    fairy tale cottages in Carmel by the Sea, 20 years ago.
    I love the cat shaped box, adorned with bright flowers.

    As March ends you would expect Spring to be in full bloom, but it is not so here. I have seen no Deer in the woods, and few Hares, being mad or not. We have had very high winds (we do live on a hill) and rain with hail. It is a bitter biting wind as if the Snow Queen has grabbed hold of you with icy fingers and a sharp nail has pierced your skin.
    Kelly McMorris, Snow Queen book cover,
    for Stephen Player's Fantasy Illustration class
    Published: February 02, 2013
    Her website: Here:
    This weekend is a Bank Holiday in England. The church school behind our cottage is very quiet without the children, and the cats have been playing in the wild woods of the church amongst the daffodils and primroses.  This time of year I like to wander in the gardens of English Country houses and ruined abbeys where you feel as if you may at any moment come upon a Mad Tea Party or you could have your own. Alas, I think that the Easter Bunny may even need to don a long tweed coat and a rain hat prior to bringing children their treats.
    The Mad Tea Party Alice illustration by John Tenniel.
    The March Hare is wearing straw in his ears, a sign of madness!
    Even in this weather, and whatever that we believe,  this is a time for rejoicing in the life that is beginning all around us, and giving thanks for each day we are here to see it.
    I think I will wrap up warm and venture out to see if I can find some March Hares and then curl up by the fire with a book and the cats. Oh, and chocolate. That diet will just have to wait for a few more weeks until the sun comes back.

    I love this painting, but do not know who created it.
    Please leave me a comment if you do!

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    Carey Mulligan plays Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby
    Diamonds by Tiffany & Co

    There is something really retro about summer that makes us all dreamy and sleepy. Thinking back to past times, the 1960s flower children and the Summer of Love, and back further to that carefree era between the wars. Especially if you are old enough that when you were little elderly relatives told stories of that time, showed black and white photos and allowed you to play with broken diamanté and faux opal necklaces. Tea dances, beaded dresses, dancing on tables and in fountains. Real fur coats and feather boas. Aunties who made Prohibition Gin in the bathtub. Cars that were designed purely for looks rather than ergonomically.  Diamonds, emeralds and pearls for the well off.
    Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson
     You can imagine that Daisy Buchanan became the Grandmother of some 60's Flower Child who  ran away to Laurel Canyon to live with a musician taking some of Daisy's jewels with her.
    The San Francisco Cliff House
    My Grandfather could do The Charleston, not just adequately, but very well. He and my Grandmother met at The Cliff House in San Francisco, at a tea dance, before the beautiful Victorian building burnt down.  When I was little this used to fascinate me and I remember that Grandma had a real fur coat even tough I never saw her dress up. I always wondered what they had looked like in those days of beaded chemise flapper dresses, sequins and long ropes of pearls and tiaras.

    Flappers Dancing the Charleston atop the Sherman Hotel
    Chicago, December 11, 1926

     It is hard to think of a more romantic story than The Great Gatsby. Only a few equals come to mind, Breakfast At Tiffany's, Gone With The Wind, Wuthering Heights.

    I have always been torn between F. Scott Fitzgerald's tragic hero whose dreams of eternal love are let down by squalid reality, and Hemingway's Earthy scars and all portrayal of life. I cannot shake from my mind the oft quoted literal exchange between the two of them via their books.

    Fitzgerald is quoted as saying: “The rich are different from you and me.” And, Hemingway is quoted as responding: “Yes, they have more money."

    Both of them were to suffer magnificent obsessions -  Scott Fitzgerald because of his own fragility and the beautiful irresistible wife Zelda. So wicked, so spoiled, talented and unrelenting and more than ever so slightly mad. Sadly she was to die in a fire in an insane alyssum.

    While Hemingway had his inner demons. His incessant need to kill wild things and the loss of his wife in a car crash in Africa.  At least he had his 6 toed cats, whose progeny still hold court for the tourists at his residence in Key West. Like Fitzgerald he became one of his own characters when he chose to take his boat out and shoot himself at sea. 

    Hemingway and one of his cats

    Like his books, the cats live on

    No summer ever goes by that I do not think of them both. And Zelda, or Daisy,  come to think of it.

    The ability of a storyteller to bring life to their creations which live on to enthral future generations long after their own demise is nothing short of magic. And it is rare.

    Zelda Fitzgerald
    Daisy Buchanan played by Carey Mulligan

    Daisy Buchanan is one such character and one cannot help but know there is a lot of his wife Zelda in Daisy and a lot of himself in Gatsby.

    From tumblr

    To those who do not understand Gatsby must seem a loser. He fails in his dream and he loses the one thing he cared about, Daisy, who he did it all to obtain. The green light at the end of Daisy's dock which Gatsby is always reaching for symbolises the American Dream that money can bring you happiness and you will get your Daisy. He is not a loser, he stayed true to his dream and it is instead Daisy who lets the hero down. She choses money instead of love and she is happy with that. Is he a fool? Hemingway probably thought so and yet envied him.

    Like Zelda Daisy is captivating and you cannot help but fall for her. Yet she is ultimately disappointing. But it was her ability to shine which attracted us. And of course she had great diamonds.

    She would have loved this collection.

    Tiffany designers crafted a magnificent headpiece in platinum for The Great Gatsby,
    named The Savoy Head Piece, bringing Daisy Buchanan to life.
    Features a detachable brooch. Inspired by Baz Luhrmann’s film in collaboration with Catherine Martin.
    Freshwater cultured pearls, 3.6-6.9 mm. Round brilliant diamonds, carat total weight 25.04.

    The Tiffany Daisy ring for The Great Gatsby

    An archival daisy motif of diamonds in platinum accented with pearls
    beautifully reimagines Jazz Age fashion.
    Inspired by Baz Luhrmann’s film in collaboration with Catherine Martin.
    Freshwater cultured pearls, 2-7 mm. Round brilliant diamonds,
    carat total weight 8.98.


    F. Scott-Fitzgerald was a customer of Tiffany's and Zelda and he both wore their jewels. For the film Tiffany gave archive access to the directors and created a collection which Zelda would have approved of.

    You can watch a short video on youtube about how the collaboration was born and worked for the film.

    Tiffany and The Great Gatsby

    I'm pleased that the film has been remade to bring the story of Gatsby and Daisy, and F Scott-Fitzgerald and Zelda to a new generation, but it does not and cannot reach the intensity of the book. I don't think anyone ever will.

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  • 08/06/13--07:20: MELLOW YELLOW

  • Although I have always loved art I have no talent in that sphere. From an early age I realised this (yet still delighted in art classes) and began to think in terms of colour and texture. I gathered and grouped items according to how they caught and reflected the light, how they felt underfoot or when stroked.

    Woman in Yellow
    Dante Gabriel Rossetti

    I still love being enveloped by colour. There is some thought that colours equate to scent, and it is easy to imagine. For me colours have auras.

    By The Style Files on Flicker

    I think Yellow is a hard colour to live with, often too bright, too weak or to uniform. Getting it right is difficult. Once upon a time I found a paint that was as marvellous as it's name, by the late great John Oliver, called Chinese Imperial Yellow. I painted all the walls in a small downstairs toilet in this, outlined the window in Turquoise and hung brass framed mirrors and pictures. It was a warm rich yellow that saturated your senses. By day it glowed with sunshine. The room was at the back of the house, off the kitchen. At night we left the door ajar and burned candles in mercury glass jars on the windowsill. The candles flickered on the glass casting shadows on the golden walls and the room glimmered like the dying embers of a fire. It hugged you. I shed tears when we sold the house and I had to paint the room in white to make it instantly saleable.

    Our cottage is now so small all that remains of my Mellow Yellow days are accents. A glimmer here, a glow there. Isolde by Audrey Beardsley, some faded golden cushions on a pale green chair, and an old quilted throw made by an Auntie I never met.

    Isolde by Audrey Beardsley

    Aubrey Beardsley knew a thing or two about yellow. His illustrations for The Yellow Book, of which he was the Art Editor,  are outstanding.

    From the Wikipedia page.

    The Yellow Book, published in London from 1894 to 1897 by Elkin Mathews and John Lane, later by John Lane alone, and edited by the American Henry Harland, was a quarterly literary periodical (priced at 5s.) that lent its name to the "Yellow Nineties".
    It was a leading journal of the British 1890s; to some degree associated with Aestheticism and Decadence, the magazine contained a wide range of literary and artistic genres, poetry, short stories, essays, book illustrations, portraits, and reproductions of paintings. Aubrey Beardsley was its first art editor, and he has been credited with the idea of the yellow cover, with its association with illicit French fiction of the period. He obtained works by such artists as Charles Conder, William Rothenstein, John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert, and Philip Wilson Steer. The literary content was no less distinguished; authors who contributed were: Max Beerbohm, Arnold Bennett, "Baron Corvo", Ernest Dowson, George Gissing, Sir Edmund Gosse, Henry James, Richard Le Gallienne, Charlotte Mew, Arthur Symons, H. G. Wells, William Butler Yeats.

    When Donovan released the album Mellow Yellow everyone wondered where he got the title from, and most guessed it was some kind of drug, probably hallucinogenic. They were wrong. Many rock stars were well educated and well read and their songs and album covers were strewn with literal references.  They were the modern pre-Raphaelites. The phrase "mellow yellow" appears on page 719 of the first American edition of James Joyce's epic Ulysses, where it is used to refer to Mrs. Marion Bloom's buttocks. It has not been confirmed in print that Donovan got the phrase from there. However I did ask him once and he replied, "Probably." I still love this album and really wish that I had continued to move my vinyl copy from house to house with me.

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  • 04/28/15--09:15: BLACKTHORN AT BELTAINE

  • Of all the trees that grow so fair,
    Old England to adorn,
    Greater are none beneath the Sun
    Than Oak and Ash and Thorn.
    (Puck of Pook’s Hill, by Rudyard Kipling, 1906)

    Munchkin our Main Coon avoiding getting the snow in his furry paws

    Trees in the wood just beginning to have leaf

    Trees are late to come to bud and some parts of England remain snow dusted. It has been a hard fight here to shake off the icy arms of Winter from round the neck of Spring. Cold winds pull us back into our woollens. The bramble and the thorn have thrived while we all slept. 
    Arthur Rackham

    I really adore the work of Lionel Percy Smythe. His gentle use of colour and light is exquisite. Here  'Spring' is cloaked in pale clothes with her green mantle lined in violet. The Blackbird held close. They are one of the first to nest, as early as January.

    Caught in the arms of icy Spring
    Lionel Percy Smythe, 1918
    The woods are silent but for a few bird songs, but the hedges are strewn with Blackthorn blossom, those tiny flowers dropped during Faerie revelries. 

    Blackthorn is one of my favourite harbingers of Spring. The thorn, with it's black stems,  is associated with darker nature, being the branch which made the crown of thorns for Christ. Yet it also reminds us that after darkness comes the light. I love the William Morris fabric with the thorn blossoms bright against the dark green background, the sweet violets and the fritillaries, and the thorns long and sharp, clearly visible. When we bought our cottage a small built in wardrobe was completely papered in this wallpaper. It is beautiful dense paper with a raised design. I found curtains in the same fabric at a flea market. I enjoy having a seasonal home. We call this small bedroom 'The Winter Room', decorated in dark and icy blues, smokey green, grey and silver with a nod to Narnia. The  Blackthorn reminds us that the White Witch will be gone soon.  
    I have long been obsessed with tangled woods, briar roses and the thorn. But even I grow weary of Winter after awhile. I feel like a long sleep is passing, the Prince has come with May.

    Thorn Rose, 1975 by Errol Le Cain
    There is a feeling of magic in the air as Nature comes to life again and the flora and fauna which slept or hid through Winter come out into our view. It is not the full blown heady feeling of Midsummer, which is dreamy and sleepy - this is a joyous awakening and a celebration of life following another Winter.

    The perfect May Queen
    Rapturously beautiful Evelyn Nesbit
    Age 16, by Gertrude Käsebier

    It is easy to understand why it was that our ancestors danced and crowned a May Queen.

    Queen Guinevere's Maying by John Collier

    The chill remains upon us but sun shines brightly, and birds are nesting. House Martins have returned to tend their little homes on our cottage, always a welcome sight each year. The Snow Drops and Daffodils are now faded and the Bluebells are just coming into blossom with our Apple Trees, soon the Blackthorn flowers will turn to Berry.

    Blackthorn Sloes
    A lovely vintage Blackberry brooch by Exquisite

    There is definitely a bustle in the hedgerow, as Robert Plant once sang. Things are afoot all over the place.  Hopefully if the predicted cold spell does not materialise this weekend we will celebrate May Day with a bluebell walk. We should acknowledge the turning of the seasons, as our ancestors did. But if you stray into the woods remember the Rules of Faerie, do not stray from the path and do not eat or drink anything!

    Some of my favourite images of this time of year.

    By Arthur Rackham, from
    Hans Christian Anderson's The Elf Mound

    Marc Bolan of T Rex
    Ride a white swan like the people of the Beltaine .....
    The remarkable looking Palmate Newt larvae, from
    the magical Heligan Gardens.

    Abigail Edwards The Bramblewood plate

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  • 06/24/15--07:06: SUMMERTIME BLUES
    Candle lit sandcastle by the sea, source unknown.
    Summer is a riot of flowers. This year on clothes as well as in the garden, and every year we are reminded how well Lord Leighton captured the heat of summer in his Flaming June.

    But for me water flows through the season and paints it from the blue, green and shimmering palette of the rivers, brooks and seas.

    From Here:

    Faded blue & green chest of drawers

    An Art Nouveau brooch from my collection

    Rich blue fringed velvet curtains

    Magical shimmering sequinned fishes by Lainey Whitworth Art on Etsy
    I had to have one.
    Her Etsy shop is Here:

    Buckled sparkly shoes from Top Shop

    Raw silk embroidered bag from the magical Medieval Muse on Etsy
    Medieval Muse Etsy shop Here:

    Silver and copper dusted, sea glass, the mermaid's tears, glowing in the sand. Surprising golden, violet or indigo skies. Always.

    Strange Tempests gather. Inevitably Mermaids enter my thoughts.

    shells & tealights in mercury glass 

    Edward Arthur Fellowes Prynne
    Penelope Tree

    A superb John William Waterhouse Mermaid
    Dolce & Gabbana, 2014

    The Sirens - Edward Burne-Jones
    Evening Dress, Mad Carpentier, 1940s

    But there is also that Midsummer Night's meeting. Water links summer themes, as does that other element, Air.

    Air, elemental leather mask
    From Fairy Magic on Etsy
    Heady scents and potions (and sometimes a spell or two) gently incline all to sleep.

    A Midsummer Night's Dream by Chad Gowey 

    William Morris & Co, The Brook tapestry

    Titania by Arthur Rackham

    Of Pirates and Pan

    Peter Pan and the pirate ship, James Coleman
    Johnny Depp, Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean
    The Curse of the Black Pearl

    Galleon topped thatched cottage, image by me

    Clothes by Magnolia Pearl

    Alice, drowsily beside the Thames, her dreams conjuring a tale from Mr Carroll.

    "In a Wonderland they lie,
    Dreaming as the days go by,
    Dreaming as the summers die;
    Ever drifting down the stream--
    Lingering in the golden gleam--
    Life, what is it but a dream?"  

    Lewis Carroll and the Liddell family
    image by Lewis Carroll

    Bickleigh Cottage reflected in the river 

    Alice illustration by Amber Alexander
    Swallows gathering mud for their nests

    Alice's Cottage, the pale blues

    My Cheshire cat apothecary bottle
    And when she is grown,
    will Alice remember?

    Meanwhile, Ophelia is gathering flowers for her watery grave.

    Spring collection Dries Van Noten

    Ophelia by Kirsty Mitchell

    Ophelia, Theodore von der Beek 

    Somewhere a woman waits, while a Tempest brews.

    Miranda, John William waterhouse

    The French Lieutenant's Woman

    From  The witch's curse by W. S. Gilbert.
     illustrations by William Russell Flint. Published 1912 


    Marikka Nakk Velvet Princess Coat
    Colours of a tempest by Fired Earth

    Shhhh! We must be still now, Faerie Revels and sweet potions have overpowered all and they lie sleeping.

    Arthur Rackham
    Potent potions in tiny Czech apothecary bottles
    Velvet robe by Toast
    Sleeping Beauty, Henry Meynell Rheam

    Titania Sleeps, by Frank Cadogan  Cowper

    Alice Liddell asleep by Lewis Carroll

    Undine, Arthur Rackham


    by: Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

    I have tried to find the source of any images I have used but some remain unknown. I will be pleased to credit should someone tell me.

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  • 08/28/13--08:10: I HAVE A DREAM

  • Martin Luther King

    Come senators, congressmen
    Please heed the call
    Don't stand in the doorway
    Don't block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled
    There's a battle outside
    And it is ragin'
    It'll soon shake your windows
    And rattle your walls
    For the times they are a-changin'.

    ~ Bob Dylan

    I remember the long hot summers of my childhood spent in Northern California. Though memories dim as we grow older some sights, sounds and scents remain hauntingly fresh. Moments which changed not only your life, but the world. Few would disagree that 1963 was one of those years.

    My family moved a lot but stayed in the same town. It was so hot the tarmac would melt and stick to your bare feet. Cars had no air conditioning and the seats burnt your legs if you were wearing shorts. I had a beach towel I would sit on. The outside world had not yet touched me. I was fascinated by the dark purplish red grapes on the vine at my Grandmother’s house, covered in wasps so dazzlingly bright they looked like moving jewels of black onyx and fiery amber. I was beginning to understand that our family were poor and that this limited my opportunities. My Mother made my clothes, they looked old fashioned and second hand. I dressed like a little girl and stood out against the worldly wise more mature girls and boys at the mixed sex predominantly black school. I was not alone in being poor, but I was rare on two counts, I was a white girl and my parents had married and were still married. Family life was fractured or non existent in our neighbourhood where we rented a small home.  By 1963 music had already begun to weave a soundtrack to my life but it was all home grown, The Beatles and the British Invasion was not to happen until 1964.  Cultures mixed, daring black boys taught white girls to dance, and Mexican and Puerto Rican girls taught us to speak Spanish and put on makeup. Their brothers took us for rides in their fantastic 1950s cars which had cost them a lot of labour and few months wages.

    The Supremes circa 1963
    We all tried to imitate our big sisters who wore tight shift dresses, stiletto heels and beehive hairdos. We coveted our older siblings clothes and record collections. My little mind struggled to keep up with history as it was being made. The tension in the air was constant, everything was changing. We were full of promise and Hope. We could dance to our emotions, but we did not know how to put it into words.

    Bob Dylan and  Joan Baez
    during the  'March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom'August 28, 1963

    But some people did. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.


    From ‘This Is the Day: The March on Washington’ by Photographer Leonard Freed
    Today is the 50th anniversary of  Aug. 28, 1963, when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the Jobs and Freedom March on Washington, at which he delivered his “I Have a Dream” civil rights speech at the base of the Lincoln Memorial.
    Real signs of the 60s

    I am certain that those who did not live in those times can never really understand what segregation was like and how just being seen with a black friend caused you to be an outcast from both black and white people. Even if you were a child. My best friend Cynthia was half black, her Mother a single white woman, her Father a black jazz musician. They had trouble finding a house to rent, landlords showed their disapproval by refusing to let to them. Cynthia and I had a lot of interests in common. I never fitted in either and always felt as if I were just passing through. I knew I was going somewhere but had no idea where, or when.
    Her Mother encouraged us to read, learn about politics, attend concerts and poetry readings. She was exotic, she had long blonde flowing hair, wore lots of jewellery and African printed kaftans and sandals. Their life was very different to mine and I felt I belonged with them, that they were free of all the expectations and shackles most people faced. She was the one who first read Jack Kerouac to me, played Dylan, (and Woody Guthrie) and took us to folk festivals in that long hot summer.

    She marched in protest marches and attended political rallies. We held hands and wept when we listened to Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. None of us could know what the future held or how prophetic his words were, and yet we knew that we were watching history unfold which would shape the world for decades to come. It was exciting and a little scary.
    photo by Brant Ward 'Summer of Love'

    We had a few summers together. Although the death of JFK was shocking it also spurred us on. We were interested in politics and we vowed to study law. We believed that we could make a difference - that our generation would change the world. Her Mother drove us to the airport to meet Jim Morrison when the Doors came to town. We were barely in our teens and yet felt terribly grown up wearing our Nehru collared pantsuits with Indian braid on them. The summer of 1967 is forever remembered as The Summer of Love but this was a day, a week, an idea. It was a swansong, riots had erupted as early as 65 and unrest continued.
    In April 1968 we lost Martin and by June Bobby Kennedy was gone too. I think my family moved again late that June. My last memory of Cynthia is the day news broke about Bobby Kennedy.  We sat huddled together half the night with the lights off and a hundred candles burning while we played Dylan. They were wrapped in grief, but I was already looking for leaving.

    My family moved far away to a more affluent neighbourhood so that I could attend a better school and we lost touch. No mobiles, emails or facebook in those days. No internet. A decade later when I left San Francisco for Europe and had to sort my belongings I found the Dylan album they had given me all those years ago. By then my life had for sometime been more influenced by European events than local and my soundtrack was British bands, The Animals, Yardbirds, Who, Stones, Led Zeppelin, moving on to the so called 'new wave' including The Clash and The Jam. I knew I was leaving never to return and I had one last romance with California in the summer that The Eagles brought out Hotel California which seemed for me to capture that indescribable loss of innocence that occurs as if summer has forever ended.

    I was no longer the innocent wide eyed child who looked and listened in wonder. I knew that Summer had gone.

    And yet a fire had been lit that will burn forever.


    Thank you to the Rev Martin Luther King and to Cynthia and her Mother, wherever they are today. I hope their lives were filled with Joy and Freedom.


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  • 08/13/13--07:25: BOOK PORTALS
  • This book proved impossible to resist.

    We had a third floor in our old cottage in Devon which was comprised of a large 3 roomed attic in the eaves. The smallest room became our study, the cats lounged on the mezzanine central room overlooking the stair rails and the largest room accidently became a library.

     It was bliss, which alas, we had to give up due to the rather crippling mortgage. For 5 years we had collected books which lined all the walls, and more than half of them had to go when we downsized. We still have far too many books, and yet .... every now and then I must buy just one more.

    I really need to live here, at Hereford Castle which has this magnificent Library. Even then I am certain that I could fill it in no time at all.

    My kind of room - Hereford Castle Library From Here:

    This latest acquisition is a rare edition of 'Nursery Tales, Told to the Children' by Amy Steadman with illustrations by Paul Woodroffe. Published by T.C. & E.C. Jack, London/E.P. Dutton & Co., New York circa 1910. 

 This is Number 24 in the ‘Told to the Children’ series edited by Louey Chisholm.This uncommon edition of fairy tales, includes eight lovely colour plates by the British illustrator and stained-glass artist Paul Woodroffe (1875-1954).

    John Russell Taylor writes of Woodroffe (in The Art Nouveau Book in Britain, 1966): “His first illustrations, closely imitative of Walter Crane, were for Ye Booke of Nursery Rhymes (1895) … with music by Joseph Moorat, a friend of [Laurence] Housman’s. He would seem to have been adopted early by the Housmans, Clemence engraving his illustrations to The Confessions of St Augustine (1900), which Laurence supplied with a title-page, and his illustrations to Laurence’s translation of Aucassin and Nicolette (1902) … Once removed from the direct Housman influence he drifted into other artistic activities …”

    Nursery Tales dates from Woodroffe’s post-Housman period, the illustrations similar in style to those in his lavish colour-plate edition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, published in 1908.

    I have only once seen this edition and that was many many years ago.  Despite having no space on any of our shelves I had to buy it!

    As you can see this is the tale of Goldilocks and The Three Bears.

    We have had the best few weeks of summer. Long languid days and nights, humid rain showers, wild flowers, Bees, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Birds -  and now the garden is full of change. It seems only yesterday the lush blooms of Peony, Damask Rose, Clematis and Honeysuckle were scenting the air and filling as far as the eye could see with colour. Now the seed heads of Lavender and Poppy have appeared and the upright stems have lain down. The Tree Bumblebees have flown their nest and only a few sleepy Wasps and gentle stripey Hoverflies remain. With Autumn on the way my thoughts always turn to the woods, and the fairy tales that tell of them.

    Red Riding Hood and The Wolf

    Cinderella, her black cat and her Fairy Godmother
    in a red cape!
    I like nothing better in Autumn and Winter than curling up with the cats and a book by the fire. I have discovered that many of my most treasured stories involve the colour Red. I have always loved Little Red Riding Hood, and was thrilled and delighted when Chocolat was published and later filmed that Joanne Harris used red in her stories and it was her favourite colour. I always feel empowered with cherry red nails and lipstick. Of course there are those Ruby Slippers too! And here, how fascinating that the Fairy Godmother of Cinderella has been illustrated with a red cape.

    Brunhild by George Frederic Watts
    oil 1880
    I'm off to London tomorrow for a wander in Kensington and a pre-Raphaelite adventure with a German friend who is visiting London. Hopefully we will see some paintings by Watts which I have not seen before. But my thoughts will be straying home as I have two cats who are each a bit below the weather. Mrs Black recently had a funny turn. She is an ex feral and a mature lady of a certain age now so each illness has to be taken seriously. She was a bit off colour (but still black!) for a few days and after a visit to the local vet hospital she seems to be improving. We think perhaps she was over ambitious in her control of the moth population. Now that she no longer needs to watch her weight as a little plumpness is nice in older cats she cannot resist a mothy tidbit. She has rallied and is now busying herself in nursing her Naughty Kitten who is very poorly indeed. She has a high temperature and is under the care of our vet who has taken blood samples and given medication. She was allowed home because she frets so if not with Mrs Black and us. But she may have to be admitted to hospital if that temperature does not go down. She is curled up in a basket by the fire now. Please keep her in your thoughts.


    Joanne Harris is one of my very favourite authors, I feel a part of her stories of Vianne Rocher and her daughters . If you have not done so read her books and see Chocolat. Her own website is here:
    And she post witty and informative things on Tumblr, HERE:

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    Dalziels Illustrated Arabian Nights Entertainments
    London: Ward, Lock, and Co. 1870.

    A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw:
    It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight `twould win me,
    That with music loud and long,
    I would build that dome in air,
    That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
    And all who heard should see them there,
    And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
    His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
    Weave a circle round him thrice,
    And close your eyes with holy dread,
    For he on honeydew hath fed,
    And drunk the milk of Paradise.

    The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    A visit to London is a rare treat. I always enjoy the hustle bustle of the streets, people watching, window shopping and looking at the architectural delights which reveal themselves unexpectedly. 

    Kensington and Holland Park are two of my favourite places because of close proximity to museums, architectural gems and parks. One day is not really long enough to see it all. As the afternoon came to a close I felt a bit like Cinderella as I rushed to take a few last photographs before running for the train back to the countryside. I think I will have many posts to share about this day.

    Like most little girls I was fascinated by Tales from the Arabian Nights and I had a modern copy. These dark Princes and exotic settings entranced me. In one very dusty library in a seaside town I once lived in I found a Victorian copy of the tales. I kept it checked out as long as I could and then reluctantly took it back. I have never forgotten it or the way it transported me to far away magical places.

    Leighton House Museum

    Our main destination lay in an unbelievably quiet little road, just off Kensington High Street. When Frederic Lord Leighton the painter, sculptor and illustrator decided to build himself a home in which to rest his treasures he collected from around the world he chose well. Everything close at hand should one need it and yet very private and peaceful. From the outside you would never suspect what lay inside as the front of the house is unassuming. The back however reveals the wonderful gardens and the building is so much larger and prettier than expected.

    Designed by the architect George Aitchison, Leighton House Museum remains the only purpose-built studio-house open to the public in the United Kingdom,  and it is in a neighbourhood rich with artistic names including G.F. Watts, William Burges and Millais. It was created to his precise requirements and extended and embellished over the 30 years in which he lived there. He had a vision of a ‘private palace of art’ which would feature a wondrous Arab Hall with a  golden dome, intricate mosaics and walls lined with beautiful Islamic tiles.

    He must have been a very interesting man. And, from the paintings of him, a handsome one too.

    Lord Leighton self portrait

    Like many Victorians Lord Leighton was clearly enamoured of Gods and Goddesses and climes distant from his England, although he chose to give himself and all of many treasures a home in London. From the moment you enter you notice that the woodwork is painted black and the door frames are carved with the symbol of Turkey, the Tulip. These and other details are picked out in gold.

    Black gilded woodwork
    Photo by Colour Living
    You also cannot help but notice the magical turquoise tiles on the walls, or the stuffed Peacock who sets them off perfectly.

    Photo by Tina Bernstein
    from Colour Living

    The floor in one room is painted a bright rich blue, and another red. Ceilings are gilded. The interior is dark, yet so carefully planned that what light there is serves to embellish and make the interiors even more exquisite.  The carpets are a delight to see and to walk upon. In one room hangs an astounding Murano glass chandelier from Venice, a spun confection of clear, raspberry and turquoise glass.  Fireplace mantles and pieces of inlaid furniture are enlivened by Dragons.

    Leighton House Arab Hall.
    This view shows the staircase to the upstairs rooms,
    the wonderful turquoise tiles and the detailed mosaic floors.
    As with most historic homes and museums no photographs were allowed so we cannot share with you through our own eyes what delights thrilled us - but there are some images available which have been taken for official use, and we can share those. We have also shared a few images from the Colour Living blog, who visited the house in January of this year and were allowed to photograph it. The link is at the bottom of this post.

    In his travels Lord Leighton had collected over a thousand Islamic tiles and wanted to build a room to display them. In 1864 the Arab Hall, a two story domed courtyard style room which is adorned by a central fountain was designed in the centre of Leighton House.

    Photo by Tina Bernstein, Colour Living

    You feel as if you are intruding upon some very private scene in The Arab Hall. It reminds me of the Waterhouse painting, a favourite of mine entitled 'dolce far niente'.

    John William Waterhouse, dolce far niente
    translation literally 'sweet doing nothing'.

    There are many influences here, Lord Leighton obviously wanted to evoke a Roman villa, a Turkish palace and some European palatial mansion which he may have come across on a grand tour. 

    The decoration is jewel like in all of it's textures, colours and display. The floor in the entry hall is composed of tiny fragments of white and black mosaic and mythical animals and plants swirl their way across it towards the lavish oriental carpets. The walls are covered in turquoise wall tiles, both bright and dark at once, and detailed Turkish tiles depicting art nouveau style flowers. One of the first sights you see as you enter is a stuffed Peacock whose feathers match the colours of the hall. It is hard to take it all in and to appreciate it you need to visit on a quiet day and give each view time.

    The Arab Hall showing the seating and the pool.
    Photographer: Will Pryce
    The domed ceiling in The Arab Hall

    Casbah seating at the sides of the pool.
    Photo by Tina Bernstein from Colour Living.

    The serene pool of water is flanked on two sides by deep Casbah style couches which you want to sink into. The window above is shuttered with intricate lattice blinds just allowing enough light to filter through to cast a dreamy aura over the room. If you look up above the entrance to the room there is a carved balcony, again shuttered and only allowing those ensconced upstairs a glimpse of what is downstairs.

    The balcony overlooking the Arab Hall is only revealed once you go upstairs,

    It is easy to image incense wafting up and music playing softly.  This is a room which needs to be graced by an Emperor, a rock star, a pre-Raphaelite muse and of course, Lord Leighton himself.

    The Arab Hall and fountain fascinated visitors since
    Victorian times

    The Arab Hall is indeed the biggest jewel in the crown of the house, but the other rooms are full of surprises and delight as well.


    The green silk room hung with paintings and lit from the skylight above.
    Photographer: Will Pryce

    The Dining Room with Pugin like red flocked wallpaper
    and a collection of Iznik pottery

    One end of the studio
    with the fantastically painted bright blue wall.
    You can just make out the print of Flaming June

    Lord Leighton's studio
    For me, although the Arab Hall was opium like in the intensity of it's beauty and yet I found that the room I most wished to linger was his studio. This is where he worked, showed his paintings and held music and art evenings for his friends and fans which included royalty and the art world.

    I loved the way that he collected bits and pieces of ancient artefacts and they are displayed casually here. A citrine coloured scrap of fraying velvet fabric accents the ivory plaster of a relic. Letters to and from friends are left half read, a ladies silk shawl is draped over the back of a delicate looking chair as if a Goddess has just departed. Not everything here is valuable, you can tell that he did not chose what he collected because of what it would fetch at market but because he loved them. They were probably all priceless to him but upon one wall hangs a real treasure, an ancient carved piece of the Parthenon.

    Following the death of Lord Leighton most of his belongings were removed from his home and the curators of this museum have done a remarkable job is getting so many of them returned to their rightful place, and recreating the look the house would have had when he owned it.

    In the dome of the Arab Hall and in his studio are little bejewelled windows which are heartbreakingly exquisite. Although they evoke Arabian Nights they are also Elizabethan in their intensity.


    Of all the items which we saw I most wanted to take a picture of them even though I knew no photograph would be able to really capture the quality of light through this glass. But I am grateful to have found these two.
    One of the stained glass windows
    Photo by Tina Bernstein of Colour Living

    There were not as many works of art displayed as I expected but those that were did not disappoint.  Some by Lord Leighton, others by his peers. Though he lived in their time Lord Leighton, like Alma Tadema, was not a pre-Raphaelite and he preferred Gods and Goddesses with a more Heavenly aspect and less sultriness than those immortalised by the pre-Raphaelites.

    Clytie, by Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896)

    Lord Leighton by G.F. Watts
    His studies for some of his masterpieces show how adept he was at capturing the folds and the sheer quality of the dresses his Goddess like women wore in his paintings. His use of colour is remarkable as is the way that he could paint light into the sky or his subject's hair and clothes.

    We did miss his best known painting, Flaming June, and we were cruelly reminded of our loss when we came upon a print of it in his studio. What a triumph she was and it is a shame that she is not here in his house. But works of art of this calibre, whether they be the Parthenon, or a Goddess captured on a canvas are always in demand by all who appreciate beauty and it will remain impossible to keep them all where they belong.

    Flaming June herself
    I have posted about her previously

    Lord Leighton's small, austere bedroom
    Although it is impossible to imagine a more splendid interior there was a sad note. His home has just the one small and austere bedroom. Beautiful wallpaper and prints cannot disguise the fact that this is a bedroom for one. He expected no guests to come to stay and Lord Leighton never married. No dalliances are known. It appears that this romantic man who built a pleasure palace and painted Goddesses lived his whole life bereft of love. He never found his own Venus. 

    Perhaps like us he had given his heart to Flaming June. 

    Queen Victoria raised him to the peerage just three weeks before his death and it was only issued the day before he died. I really hope that he was well enough to know he had finally received the honour so richly deserved. Lord Leighton died on January 25 1896 and he left his home and all the contents to his two sisters. They cared not and sold everything, even the furniture that had been made for the house at a Christie’s sale which lasted for eight days. By the 1920s, ownership of the house had passed to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who opened it as a museum.

    If you have the chance visit Leighton House. It seems to me that those who have been entrusted with it's care not only wish to preserve the house for future art lovers but also the memory of a remarkable man. It is so very sad that his own family did not.


    Leighton House Museum is HERE:

    Colour Living, the blog of house hunter, designer and writer Tina Bernstein is  HERE:

    Lord Leighton Wiki page is HERE:

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    Two Doors Down

    Once upon a time in the 1980s I lived in an ordinary looking house in a terrace, (especially on a bright sunny day as this), in East Twickenham, by the river Thames, two doors down from The Witch.

    June was a good Witch. She lived in the biggest house on our street, on the corner of our terrace. A large Edwardian with leaded glass winking in the windows and a little attic dormer. Suitably distressed it had a lovely porch with gingerbread pillers and red clay roof tiles. The entry hall was so large that there was a fireplace on one wall. The room was painted violet.

    In those days I did not own a camera so sadly the images used here are borrowed, or from much later after June had died.  Even then, looking sad without it's Witch it was still charming to me for I knew what enchanting times this house had known.

    The Witch's house, taken by me much later

    I know that many people believe that we do not hold to Halloween and Trick or Treat here in England - but that was not true of that road in Twickenham where The Witch had lived for those many years. I do not know just how many years that June lived in the house by the river, but each Halloween she opened her home to all the trick and treaters of the neighbourhood and she had thrilled (and scared) generations of local children.

    She spent many days before All Hallows decorating the house, especially the old porch where there would be a skeleton and frightening music when you rang the bell. A specially prepared Halloween feast awaited those who dared to enter.

    June had pointy toed lace up boots and always wore a long black dress with a cape or interesting cloak. And, of course, a pointy hat. She could cackle too, but usually just got a fit of giggles.

    pointy toed Witch boots
    I was young when I first celebrated Halloween at the Witch's house and I had to buy a black hat to be allowed inside. Many years later I would dress up my Godson and take him to meet June and play with her Grandchildren. It was inspiring to see that children who grew up returned with their children. Looking back I'm not sure that I knew then what June meant to all of us. She had a bit of Bell Book and Candle, Bewitched, The Aunts in Practical Magic, and Minerva McGonegal in her. But most of all she was pure June. She was The Witch, the local storyteller of many tales.

    She was The Witch

    I met June, and ended up living two doors down due to my then boyfriend having once lived in that very street with his parents. He had been one of June's charmed children and then officially a Godchild of hers. His Mother had died when he was young and returning there, two doors down, was like coming home for him.

    June's middle initial was E and the names of her four children all began with 'E'. I never did find out why. She loved children and always said that had her 4th pregnancy not been a difficult one she would have carried on having them for who knows how long. The thing she wanted more than anything was Grandchildren, and she did get them. One of her children had given her a framed photograph of Margaret Hamilton as The Wicked Witch in Oz. I gave June my little felt mouse dressed in a Witch costume which was one of my most treaured possessions brought with me from San Francisco.

    Visiting June's house felt like coming home.
    The Practical Magic house.
    June took me under her broom and she was the first person who made me think that perhaps I too was a Witch. One of my own first memories of Halloween, when I was about 5, was dressing as a Witch to trick or treat our small Californian neighbourhood. June did not have a cat as a familiar. She did have a Tortoise in the walled garden whose name escapes me but I recall them putting it away for winter to hibernate and one year when it broke out before anyone thought it was time to awake.  I had four cats who all used to walk along the top of the terrace and visit June's house. One cat, a ginger tabby named Macavity, climbed to the very top of the house which was the office of June's husband and we spent hours trying to talk it off the roof through the attic window.  

    The house endlessly fascinated me. The top floor was known as the nursery and was mostly given over to the children who had a train set which covered a vast area, always set up ready to play. Who would not love a house with both a cellar and an attic? It had French oak floors and the staircase rail was beautifully carved and twisted.  Things were always being revealed to me there. One day we decided to enquire what was in the garage. It turned out to house a very old, very beautiful Alvis.

    Along with Halloween and Margaret Hamilton, June also loved The Day of the Dead. On the top of a bookcase in the dining room sat a skeleton scene, arranged around a dining table at a meal. She loved Toucans and we marvelled at how she could drink Guinness even though she was a tiny Witch.

    A good cook, as you would expect of a Witch, she liked collecting mushrooms and made the best mushroom soup I have ever tasted.

    June was not the only magical being in the house at the end of the terrace. Her husband was a word wizard. He knew all sorts of things most people had forgotten. He could quote from Wilde, Shakespeare, Lewis Carrol and many obscure writings. He was an editor and a man well known for his charm and wit. During his working life he made magic for The Sunday Times, World of Interiors, and The Church Times. It was he who first introduced me to Edward Lear and to an antique/junk shop in St Margaret's called Cheney Galleries. I mostly kept a carved oak chair I bought there to remind me of him. On one visit there we found a small sketch which we believed was an Edward Lear. Alas, I do not know what became of that. He was a perfect host and loved having people over for drinks on New Years. On Halloween he stayed out of the way of all the Witches and Ghoulies. He could usually be found in a corner in an old chair, his glasses perched upon his nose behind a newspaper. When anyone was talking a bit of nonsense he had this way of raising one eyebrow and looking at them from over his glasses.

    It was a wonderful community to live in and I miss those days. Sundays were spent at a local pub, a walk across the river over Richmond Bridge.

    My boyfriend and I moved away from Twickenham and we parted ways. I did not see much of June but I kept in touch. I am very glad that June was still alive when Practical Magic, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings were made into films. I hope that she was able to see them all, she would have loved knowing that the magic of storytelling was alive and had been handed to a new generation of children.  The last Halloween she sent me a note to tell me that she was grounded due to being unwell. I meant to but I am not good at saying goodbye and I never saw her again.

    I noticed a few years ago that the house came up for sale once more. It had been 'developed' by someone and all of the charm hidden behind the persistent trend for black and white kitchens, knocked through rooms, endless white and parking spaces.  The photographs sadddened me.

    all white and neat now

    a reminder of the once leaded glass windows

    One of the ornate fireplaces survived the modernisation

    I often think of June when I see little enchanting things and know that she would like them. In our village I am The Witch. I dress our cottage with pumpkins, spiders, bats and lanterns for the small ones who make their way to our door. Each year there are more and I find June's pointy toed boots a hard act to follow, but I will try.
    I suspect that every now and then I will go past the house where The Witch and The Word Wizard lived two doors down. Just to check on it. Maybe one day it will transform itself back to how it once was, how I remember it. Like this.

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  • 11/04/15--11:55: And Then There Were Three
  • Minerva and Morpheus Black

    Mrs Black and her naughty kitten Isabella

    We have been a family of two cats since November two years ago when Mrs Black, missing both her late husband Morpheus, and their much loved kitten Isabella,  decided to take in a lodger. He turned out to have quite a tale to tell. He was a distant relative of her late husband who had fallen on hard times when his elderly owner died and his old house was sold from under him. He had lived by various names but he explained in his letter to Mrs Black that his true name was Monsieur Munchkin Lestrange.


    He very much regretted that the reputation of his ancient family had been tarnished by the behavior of cousin Bellatrix made famous when J.K Rowling collected the lore and wrote those Harry Potter books.

    Mssr Lestrange potrait
    by celebrated Dutch artist Marie Cecile Thijs
    website HERE:

    Munchkin had endured being cat napped from his home whie his mistress was gravely ill and bustled off to a new home 10 miles away. Desperate to return to his beloved mistress he escaped and wandered the miles between until some 6 months later he came home. Sadly his mistress had died. Cast out of his home by the new cruel owner who sent the dogs out to kill him, he took up residence in the gardens and solicited the assistance of a neighbour who had long admired the handsome half Maine Coon. Despite her family being allergic to cats, she fed him and helped him find Mrs Black. Nearly three years after the death of his mistress Munchkin finally came indoors to a life of total comfort.

    Mssr. Munchkin Lestrange
    Mrs Black adores him and is ever hopeful of some tale of his travel adventures, but he dislikes other cats preferring to spend his time in my studio at the bottom of the garden writing his memoirs, or overseeing the maintenance of the 13th century Norman church behind our cottage. Obviously after such tragic times he can be a little tetchy and cuddles must be kept to a minumum. He has been known to bite the hand that feeds! Two winters living outside in snow took their toll and he suffers arthritis but takes his medicine well, as long as there are treats to hand. He has a fierce hiss and growl (cat swearing) but thankfully there has been no sign of the dark spells which cousin Bellatrix was famous for.

    Mssr Lestrange in the graveyard

    Not being as companionable as Mrs Black had hoped she continued to long for a kitten to brighten her old age. One day, out of the blue, she said that if Munchkin were to pass on before her she would like, more than anything, to have a completely black kitten named Puff. I pondered this confession, and thought how typically considerate of her, knowing Munchkin hated other cats, she would wait until he had passed on. I mentally made a note to warn the husband that a black kitten may be in our future somewhere.

    At the end of August while admiring the blood moon from a field at the bottom of our lane the husband and I noticed a young black cat catching a mouse. A bit startled by us she nevertheless carried the struggling mouse out of the field but she lost it in the lane. As I looked over towards her she meowed piteously and ran towards some old sheds which were once field shelters.

    We then saw her about the village and in particular underneath our bird feeders at the front of our cottage. She was timid and would always run away. In mid-October things came to a head. Leaving the house to go out I saw the black cat jump onto the bird table to eat the fat balls which I had put out for the birds.

    I put down a bowl of cat food. And so it began.

    Cat shelter
    made from old compost bin, newspaper 7 straw.

    Two weeks later after building a cat shelter from an old bin and feeding twice a day, we enticed the cat into our cottage with a bowl of food and shut the door. Since then it has lived in our spare bedroom in order to determine it's state of health before introducing it to Mrs Black and Munchkin.

    The black cat is a she, between 6-9 months and absolutely, completely, black. Everywhere.

    Her name is, of course, Puff. It seems that Mrs Black has been doing some conjuring and the magic of the season helped her to guide this poor homeless waif to her.

    Puff passed initial vet checks but we anxiously waited the blood test results to be certain that she was clear of Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Aids.  Both Mrs Black and Munchin have compromised immune systems and very heartbreakingly were Puff to have one of the fatal cat diseases she could not stay with us. It would be too much of a risk to them.

    Introducing Puff.

    There was much celebrating when our vet rang to give us the all clear. Puff is not micro chipped, and we have no history for her. She is timid and frightened of people and although she will cuddle and purr she hides under the chest of drawers when we are not in the room and shies away when you first extend a hand. She has probably been lost or abandoned since a small kitten, but must have at some point been handled and loved for she is not completely feral. We are quite sad that whoever may have owned her before will not know that she is safe and loved not just by us but by Mrs Black.

    The vet is unable to be sure if she has been spayed so we must wait and watch to see if she comes into heat. She could even be already pregnant, if she is, it is too early to tell. She is underweight and infested with parasites from the birds and mice which she ate to survive. She must be a very brave and remarkable cat to be able to look after herself from such a young age. But she will be fine and soon introductions can take place between her and Mrs Black. Munchkin no doubt will be completely unimpressed and insist this young cat has no access to 'his' studio in his garden.

    We will need to hone our photography skills in order to get good images of Puff, she is so dark.

    We are very grateful for being able to help this beautiful homeless cat.

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  • 12/16/15--14:10: in the Company of Wolves
  • A mystical version of Santa Claus
    from Arthur Rackham's Book of Pictures published in 1913.
    This painting was done in 1907, pen, ink & watercolour on paper, and is in a Private Collection.
    Photo © Chris Beetles Ltd, London / The Bridgeman Art Library

    I've long been fascinated by the symbolism of the colour red in folklore and how this permeates into our daily life, often without us realising.  At this time of year if we think of red, it will be Santa Claus whose red costume springs to the mind of a lot of people.

    Stag hook with red stone and red + blue wool blanket.
    From Plumo.
    There is something comforting about red in the dark winter months. The glow of a fiery hearth warming our homes and soft wool blankets and throws. And who does not love a red winter coat? Bright red ribbons tied around lovingly given Christmas presents. Shiny red glass ornaments hung on a tree, and the lush red berries of holy in wreaths, and dropped in the snow. If we are lucky enough to live where they do we may even see the Red Cardinal. Here in England we are charmed by the tiny but fierce Robin with it's red breast and he adorns many a Christmas card as well as being England's national bird.

    Robin and holly
    Red is a complex colour and has another, more dangerous side and many associations with myth and magic. As Autumn turns to Winter and the trees shake their colourful leaf cloaks to the ground my thoughts always turn to the woods. I love the architectural shape of bare trees and the idea that you may just glimpse something magical there in the woods which at other times of the year would be hidden to your view. We may dream of Unicorns, but If we are very lucky we might really see a White Hart. I often see the Deer who live in our local woods and I have seen the White Hart in the New Forest and in the royal hunting park near Hampton Court, Bushy Park. 

    The Mystic Wood by John William Waterhouse
     But it is the Wolves which I secretly long for. Or at least a ribbon of red cloth, caught on a tree as if someone who had strayed from the path hurried past.

    All colours have meanings and the power to change our moods. Red is not a colour for wall flowers, it is primal, capable of elicting extreme reactions. How we feel about red today began in the distant past when red was known as the color of fire and blood, associated with Mars the God of war,  and confusingly, both mahesty and liberty, therefore revolutions. It also symbolised passion as the colour of love, and of sin.

    Tudor Rose, Elizabethan lady in red velvet,
    Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester.
    Both majesty and revolutions
    Immortal passion. Gary Oldman in the red cloak of Dracula. Terrifying.

    Even when used in small amounts it has a potent effect and a deep poignancy. Few colours can evoke such emotion.

    This is a celebration of the colour red in a few of it's guises. The history and folklore of red has been academically covered by many and for those who wish to read more serious considerations I have included some links at the bottom of the page and am happy to add more should you know of good sources which I have left out.

    I've collected lore about the colour red all of my life and am always delighted when another story appears where red is used. I do love them all.

    Alas we have no snow this winter, it is just grey and very wet here in the English countryside. I long for that burst of red against a blanket of white, and this greyness inspired me to share some of my favourite reds.

    Little Red Riding Hood
    Sir John Everett Millais P.R.A.
    The model is his daughter
    oil on panel, 1864
    35.5 by 25cm., 14 by 9¾in.
    see bottom of page for details about this painting

    Sarah Moon's rendition.
    An urban black and white tale of dread.
    The model is her daughter
    Superb in it's simplicity.

    Tribute to Red
    from Surface View

    The Red Hat, Charles A Buchel, 1910
    Imagine winter nights in this

    The lore of Apples.

    Bette Davis wears a red ball gown in 1938 and ruins her reputation
    as ladies should wear white

    Scarlett O'Hara on the red stairs
    Gone With The Wind 1939

    Modern Folklore. David Hemmings drives past the red buildings in Blow Up, 1967.
    Sammy Hagar pays tribute with his 'Red' album of the same street scene in 1977.

    Angela Carter. The Bloody Chamber, 1979
     new stories from the base of old ones
    including In the Company of Wolves which became the Neil Jorden 1984 film

    Red Shoes  & Ruby Slippers
    The Red Shoes (film 1948), The Wizard Of Oz (film 1939)
    Vianne from Chocolat (2000) & The Lollipop Shoes (2007) by Joanne Harris

    For sheer poignancy, a real life story
    The girl in the red coat
    Schindler's List 1993

    For some it may be difficult to chose a favourite tale which has red at it's heart, but not for me. Thankfully the legacy lives on as new storytellers weave tales of dread and delight around bright red tendrils.

    Modern Red, in the Cotswolds
    Have you guessed which tale of red might be my favourite? Yes, it is Little Red Riding Hood. I think the reasons that I like it so much are tied to the Arthur Rackham illustrations which I have had since I was a child. And I love the dual nature of red. I always wonder if this is one of the reasons that the French version with it's sad ending, and the Grimm's version with it's happy ending. both work.

    Arthur Rackham
    detail from She Met a Wolf
    And, in a twist and colour deviation from the red hood there is another lesser known tale which insists that in fact the hood or cape was golden, and enchanted. Andrew Lang included it in his Red Fairy Book, 1890, and called it 'The True History of Little Goldenhood'. His tale was derived from the earlier work of Charles Marelles. This version claims that before now the story has been incorrectly told. Goldenhood is the girl's name as well as her cloak and she is saved not by the huntsman but by the hood which burns the mouth o the wolf as he tries to eat her. You can read this tale in full, follow the links below.

    One version of Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book
    bought from Abe's Books Here:

    The only known illustration from Golden Hood
    you can see clearly she is wearing a hood
    and not cloak with a hood.

    I tried to photograph a few of my Red Riding Hood pieces which I have collected for years, but Puff the half kitten rather got in the way. She likes to lay amongst them and because she is a magic cat the camera always focusses correctly upon her and not other subjects.

    Puff with my Red Riding Hood figures.

    This is a detail of the small Staffordshire figure. The Wolf seems rather shy as he is hiding under Red's skirt. This figurine is quite old and has a crack running through the bottom. 

    Small Staffordshire 'Red' detail
    I like to display a Parrish Relic on the large Parian figure of Red. Jen Parrish uses antique images in her beautiful creations. This one has nothing to do with the tale of Red Riding Hood but I like to combine pieces of Wolf lore with that of Red Riding Hood. Parian is a soft clay and delicate. This piece is missing a paw and a handle of Red's basket. I still love her.

    Parian Ware 'Red' adorned by a Parrish Relic of Wolves

    My little Red
    And a favourite of mine. Tortoiseshell and Calico cats are brave and fierce and like to play in the  woods, real or metaphoric. This little painting was a tribute of the artist to her own Calico who she lost, and to mine. It is very precious to me.

    Further reading and sources:

    Obviously any self respecting fan of Red, and of Wolves needs to read the tale as recorded firstly Charles Perrault, and later told and retold in different versions by the Brothers Grimm.  The earliest known printed version was called Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, by Charles Perrault and may have had its origins in 17th-century French folklore.  It is believed that it was he who introduced the red hood or cap, but it is not known whether this idea was his own, or came from folklore.

    For the alternative tale, The True History of Little Golden Hood from The Red Fairy Book, read more on Tales Of Faerie  Here:and the complete tale on Sur La lune Fairytales Here:

    I love the writing of author Joanne Harris and have read, and re-read all of her work. She weaves an intoxicating tale with subtle under and overtures. Her own website is Here:

    Being a city girl originally I was immediately struck dumb (and captivated and frightened in equal parts) by the urban depiction of Sarah Moon's Red, Here:

    Terri Windling who does not just write about the land of Faerie but embodies it has written so many informative and wondrous pieces on her blog, her article about Red, Here:

    Kristin's wonderful site Tales of Faerie and her piece about Red. Here:

    Article about Sammy Hagar's Red album and the Blow Up connection,

    The Girl in the red coat, the real story, Here:

    Parrish Relics own website, Here:

    Surface View who offer wonderful art for your walls and home in all kinds of mediums,

    Red Riding Hood by Sir John Everett Millais P.R.A.

    This was sold at Sotheby's in a sale of British and Irish Art, 19 November 2013,for the amount of 98,500 GBP  including the hammer price with the buyer's premium.  
    This note is from their catalogue of that sale.

    "Painted in 1864, Red Riding Hood depicts the artist's eldest daughter Effie (later Mrs James), aged six, carrying a basket of vegetables and wild flowers, at the door of Grannie's house. It is one of a series of charming portraits of Effie, dressed in various costumes, including My First Sermon and My Second Sermon painted in 1863 and The Minuet of 1866 (private collection). He often used his daughters as models and Effie's sisters Mary and Carrie appear in Waking (Perth Art Gallery) and Sleeping (private collection) of 1865. As has been pointed out, 'With child models readily available Millais was able to give free expression to feelings of parental pride and joy, as well as offer comment on the growth of his offspring, with an eye on the market for endearing images of children.' (Jason Rosenfeld and Alison Smith, Millais, 2007, p.172) Millais was probably inspired to paint Red Riding Hood following the success of James Sant's Little Red Riding Hood of 1860 which had been printed in 1863 in the Illustrated London News as a large chromotype which resulted in the sale of vast numbers of the magazine. The subject was also painted by Watts and Landseer. The moment depicted by Millais captures the tension as Red Riding Hood is about to enter the house to find the wolf dressed in her grand-mother's clothes. However the horror and danger of the story that had been first told by Charles Perrault and retold by the Brothers Grimm, is only implied."

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  • 02/06/16--09:17: The Kindness of Strangers
  • 'Catching Butterflies' by Colleen Parker
    I don't publish blog posts as often as I mean to. I have a folder full of subjects and images which whisper to me, spinning their stories like dream catchers. I continue to be delighted at the kindness of strangers (and friends) who read my little pieces and who take the time to comment, and in many cases to share information with me which had thus far eluded me.

    The Dyng Year, Albert Klingner

    We are well into the New Year, and although I do not like to commit to resolutions I think it is not a bad thing to just try harder to finish those things which mean something to us and enhance our lives, and possibly the life of someone else too.

    People often ask me why that I write. I think most people who do so would agree with me that it fills some need. I simply must.


    Butterfly gloves by Tiny Owl Knits

    I almost always have thoughts floating round my head and must capture them and put them to paper or page before they fly away. I dislike things being forgotten whether that be people, places or words and images.

    The past is full of wisdom and the older that we get we become full too. Where does it all go when we die? It is the ordinary folk who are often forgotten, and with them volumes of stories. So I think I write to share those stories.

    from the things we say

    The Storyteller, Albert Anker (1850-1899)

    When I was little I was often sat enthralled by the old storytellers in my family, little did I think that one day it would fall to me to tell their tale along with those of many others, and my own.

    I usually begin each new year looking backwards at the old one. Just briefly. I am not very good at goodbyes and I like to linger for a little while before moving on.

    Joan Crawford in an art deco revolving door

    The past to me is not a door which you shut firmly behind you. For me it is a revolving door which goes both ways. Always.

    Like most of you, last year I said farewell to many familiar people and places. My world is less certain without the guideposts they provided and it will take more time for me to find my balance again. Over the next few weeks I want to try, very hard, to do them justice in putting a little of their stories to the page and sharing this with you so that hopefully, somewhere, sometime, someone will find them again.

    Of course this year began with the death of two best beloved storytellers, David Bowie, and Alan Rickman. The loss is felt greatly by many, myself included, but then there are all of the little people who told stories quietly in smaller worlds and yet released them just as well.

    Lost things often do become found and in so doing they are new again. If things such as us are remembered I believe we never completely die. Only a part of us does.

    Lizzie Riches
    more HERE:

    I posted last Spring about paper mache eggs and boxes (which I collect) and ended the post with a lovey painting that has haunted me for sometime. I asked readers to leave me a comment should anyone know whose artistic hand had created this piece. The original post is HERE:

    Woman by the fire
    Lionel Percy Smythe

    And, someone did. Thank you very much to Paresh Dholakia! It was especially interesting for me to have the name of this artist, Lionel Percy Smythe, because this time last year his work touched me quite deeply when I accidently came across it on a gallery catalogue. I posted a bit about him, and the story of the painting in the catalogue, 

    I had not guessed at all that this too was by his hand and without the kindness of strangers I may have never known.

    I have always depended on the kindness of strangers, is a line from Tennessee Williams'A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)

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    Bowie fans lay flowers at the mural created in 2013 by Australian street artist James Cochran.
    The wall of Morley’s department store, in Tunstall Road, Brixton. It was
    commissioned as part of the exhibition, 'The Many Faces of Bowie', at Opera Gallery.

    David Bowie,
    January 8, 1947 ~ January 10, 2016

    "For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
     And tell sad stories of the death of kings"

    ~ Act 3, Scene 2, Richard II, William Shakespeare

    David Bowie by Bab Webbs

    The path out of the woods, just as the path in, is littered with mysterious things,  wondrous adventures, and confusing signposts. As I grew up and began to leave what others declared were childish pastimes behind me, I thought I was turning the page upon those fairy tales, dark towers, haunting characters and glass slippers. But as is often the way, the path which I stumbled upon taking me out of childhood was as strewn with potent magic as all of those tales the Brothers Grimm collected and I cherished.

    Gareth the Goblin King ~ Bowie in Jim Henson's  Labyrinth
    Fantasy designer Brian Froud says he drew on inspirations such as Marlon Brando in The Wild One and vivid scenes from Brothers Grimm fairy tales, like the knight "with the worms of death eating through his armor."
    Some would imagine that modern culture - rock music, art and fashion would not offer much in the way of education. But this would not be at all true. I was a teenager in the days before the internet, the days when households had one tv, no PC and music had to be bought at record shops and played on record players which were likely shared with the whole family.

    A real treat was to record favourite songs onto a rickety cassette player so that you could turn it up as loud as you liked out of range of your parents.

    We often listened to the music which meant the most to us on very poor quality recordings, but it did not matter. It was thrilling. Music, art and fashion were all linked and because we were so young most of us middle class teenagers had not encountered any of this before.

    How worldly the rock stars seemed to us, though in fact they were just a few years older. The subjects contained in their lyrics intrigued, and we investigated. It opened doors to new worlds we may not have discovered by ourselves.

    Maybe we could be anything. (We could be heroes, just for one day)

    source unknown
    I lived in California in the 70s where I got to see and even speak to several rock stars who lit up the local concert venues as they passed through. All were fascinating to us,  the music, tales of far away places and the fashions. Especially the British musicians who dressed and spoke quite differently than the local bands. 

    At home in Beckenham, early 70s

    Singers stick in the mind since they are centre stage. Marc Bolan, a minature perfectly formed member of the Faerie, Freddie Mercury, stunningly beautiful, elegant and graceful with a huge presence, Bryan Ferry, very masculine, handsome and charming. Robert Plant, as he himself proclaimed, 'a Golden God'. Mick Jagger, mesmerising and in command.
    The Winterland poster for David Bowie
    October 1972

    My friends and I did not meet, or even speak to David Bowie. But we did have the pleasure of watching him at close quarters. Because we knew the support band we were backstage when Bowie headlined in San Francisco in October 1972, at Bill Graham's Winterland.

    Bowie puts on his Ziggy Stardust face
    Unbeknownst to us, sunbathing and still revelling in the long lost 'summer of love' on the shores of the San Francisco Bay, Bowie already had a musical and performing past before he released two albums in 1971, 'The Man Who Sold The World' and 'Hunky Dory'.

    The Ziggy Stardust album followed in 1972.

    We could only read in the English musical press how that Ziggy hysteria was in full swing in London where fans attended a show at The Rainbow dressed like Ziggy.

    In the summer of 1972 he produced Lou Reed's Transformer which included the dark tale of Candy Darling taking her 'Walk On The Wild Side'.He had co-produced Iggy and The Stooges Raw Power. But that was New York, and we were San Francisco where things had a different sound and look. It took awhile for news of this extra terrestial with his Spiders From Mars to be beamed cross the hinterlands of America and land in laid back California. He was a fascinating enigma. Here was this other worldy being, somewhat ethereal, holding court over much harder edged creatures, sounds, looks and words.

    He played two nights, October 27th and 28th and spent his days off in San Francisco where Mick Rock shot a promotonal film for The Jean Genie. The song was composed while travelling across the US on a chartered Greyhound bus, recorded in New York and released that November. The promo was filmed at an infamous flop house of a hotel called The Mars. It was located at 192 Fourth Street, corner of Howard, but has been demolished for some years. The location was already part of Northern California folklore, Jack Kerouac had stayed there. Bowie's presence added another layer. Later, in 1974 The Grateful Dead recorded "From the Mars Hotel" at the nearby Automatt. I can remember waiting for a bus in that part of the city and scurrying past The Mars fast. You did not wish to linger there.Although the seedier side of life in a metropolis has always fascinated me. An urban Grimms.
    The Mars Hotel, San Francisco
    David and Cyrinda Foxe shooting the promo film
    by Mick Rock for The Jean Genie
    The support band Sylvester and his Hot Band were fronted by a cross dressing boy with an amazing voice and great dance moves. The audience was small, and comprised of many local gays who followed Sylvester about dressed up in their best finery and full make up.  When Sylvester played it was always a party. We were all dancing, girls with boys, girls with girls and boys with boys.

    Bowie's visionary manager Tony DeFries had insisted that concert promoter Bill Graham have a temporary wall built so that no one could actually see Bowie as he ascended to the stage, and the full impact would only be apparent once he was in front of us. This was an audacious request for those days but something was done so that the entrance of Bowie was quite dramatic. (It would have been anyway). Having been involved with the San Francisco Mime Troupe Bill appreciated theatre.

    Ziggy Stardust

    The Bowie entourage was growing at each concert venue as the tour progressed. It had a mood - slightly intimidating,self assured and almost as interesting as he. RCA had invested a lot of money to promote Bowie. Tony DeFries told the entourage that if they acted like stars people would believe them. (Which nealy fits with Andy Warhol's," Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." quote. Bowie's tour group included bodyguards, an official photographer, a hairdresser / wardrobe mistress and administrative staff, plus all of the friends and fans who tagged on. In those days before the internet, before mobile phones and digital cameras few people took photos of everyday life as we do today. I can find no photos of him onstage there. Bowie's management MainMan banned photographers at the Ziggy Stardust concerts other than those sanctioned by them.

    We sat backstage and watched. He and the band wore amazing clothes, and there were costume changes during the set. He was hauntingly pale, this red haired vision, so beautiful. We knew next to nothing about him but we did know that this creature who had lit amongst us was not one of us.

    Ziggy Stardust

    Michael Collins Morton wrote a wonderful review of these shows in 2009 on his blog 'Nonfiction'.

    "The show at Winterland began late, but finally commenced in an impressive manner, with the flicker of a strobe light slowly increasing in speed, and the glorious sound of the "Ode to Joy" from the Symphony No. 9 in D minor by Ludwig van Beethoven, played on a synthesizer, booming out from the speakers. Although the attendance at the show was scant, it was quite clear to me, once David Bowie had taken over the stage, that the imaginative songs and alluring bisexuality of the fey Englishman had an unusual appeal. His orange hair (which had an unearthly glow and stood straight up on the top of his head), his artful use of makeup, and his striking garments all gave him the air of an otherworldly being, which he highlighted with a tempting smile and a polished display of nimble gestures. In his eyes there was an alien gleam, hinting at a hidden realm of strange practices and wayward pleasures."

    I really love that last sentence. It sums up perfectly the first impression we had of David Bowie, and his alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

    You can read the whole post about the night, and Bowie's later days HERE:

    Many of us would love to have a time machine to take us to the Hammersmith concert where Ziggy Stardust performed for the last time. I was in another country. I never saw Bowie again, tickets sold out, other events took precedence. I was left with a vision of Ziggy, and how he played guitar. Rumour suggested that Bowie had partly created the character from Jimi Hendrix. Many rockstars were otherworldly in those days. When The Who were on the Dick Cavett show he asked Roger Daltrey where he was from and Daltrey quickly replied, 'Mars'. There was so much stardust about.And I wanted to gather armfuls of it while I could.

    gathering stars

    As I grew up, moved around and lived my own life David Bowie was part of the soundtrack in the background. I never knew him, but he often touched me. In hard times when I felt out of my comfort zone,a stranger living in a suburban town where I felt I did not belong, I reached for his music.

    The man I married confessed that Bowie was his favourite artist and that once in a play he had turned his grey leather bomber jacket with an orange satin lining inside out to be Ziggy. Every album Bowie brought out made it's way to our house and played in the soundtrack of our lives.

    Bowie and Cyrinda, San Francisco

    Earthling tour, wearing Alexander McQueen, 1997.
    Maybe, just maybe, my favourite photo of him

    Since he has died the press have struggled with words, failing to capture what he was, who he was. All that he was and could be. What a massive legacy he left us.

    'Chameleon' has often been used to describe him. It's true he had a changable quality, but not like a chameleon who alters to be invisible in it's surroundings to protect itself from predators.

    Bowie was not hiding, he enjoyed being in plain sight, though he teased us with his role playing and his clues. He was storytelling.

    He was shapeshifting. He was mercurial.

    He knew he could show us things we had not even dreamed of.

    I did not love every song or era which Bowie presented to us. But often I would return to it later. I would not have even said that he was my favourite artist, and yet I know that everything that he did was absolutely astonishing. He was not a rock star, he was more, so much more. He was a master of the craft. An Artist who brought so much to his work, who lived in many cultures and places. Shape shifting, shedding skins and taking on new ones.

    Mr. Fish's Man Dress, designed by British fashion designer Michael Fish.
    the cover of the U.K. release of The Man Who Sold The World

    It is especially interesting to me to look back now and realise that although "The Jean Genie" spent 13 weeks in the UK charts, and peaked at no. 2, as Bowie's biggest hit thus far, in the US the best it achieved back then was No. 71. It took most of America a very long time to get Bowie, but he still chose to live there. And oh how England missed him.

    DCI Gene Hunt, Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes
    Eventually Bowie's music found it's way into many unexpected places and the BBC created the television series Life on Mars and character  DCIGene "the Gene Genie" Hunt, who periodically refers to himself as 'The Gene Genie'. In the episode "A Conflict of Interests" it is playing as they enter the club. Gene Hunt also refers to himself as the Gene Genie more frequently in the sequel series, Ashes to Ashes  and his individual theme music on the latter programme is an instrumental version of "The Jean Genie" (retitled "Gene Genie"), created by series composer Edmund Butt.

    A line of his character Gareth, The Goblin King, from Labyrinth
    Most people know the story of how Bowie's health caused him to retreat following a heart attack while touring. He may have been out of the limelight for sometime, but his skill did not dim, nor his ability to astonish wane. Bowie was always at least one step ahead of us, but not hurrying away. Looking over his shoulder, beckoning us to follow his riddle strewn path.

    We hadn't forgotten about him, we missed him. And then, in January 2013 he returned as quietly as he had gone. And it was as if he had never left us. The single 'Where Are we Now' appeared on iTunes on his 66th birthday, with no explanation, as if we had conjured it. The timing and the method was his own idea. The video has all of his old magic, puppets and snippets from his life. He left Tony Visconti to be what one reporter called, 'his voice on Earth' and field questions from the press.

    ‘The Stars Are Out’ was the second single and the video for the song appeared in February. It's a beautifully filmed and bizarre story (by Canadian Director Floria Sigismondi)with Bowie and Tilda Swinton as a handsome, immaculately dressed older couple living in a perfect home. For some reason it is fascinating to watch them shopping, perfectly attired and coiffed, bringing their goods home in a plain brown paper bag to the small but classic kitchen. Tilda's stroke of pale blue eyeliner is genius. They do ordinary things so elegantly but watching this confirms your suspicions that David Bowie could never have been ordinary. Their lives are magazine covers until they are 'bothered' by young neighbours who follow, haunt and torment them. The characters slip in and out of each other's roles, the older Bowie meets the younger one, and the perfect Tilda, driven mad by 'the stars' ends up serving raw chicken to her husband.  Andreja Pejic and Saskia de Brauw are 'the stars' who make their life a nightmare. A young Bowie is played in the video by Iselin Steiro. Maybe this was his way of saying how that we never escape the past, it is always a part of us. This must have been great fun to film and I have not yet tired of watching it.
    The Stars (are out tonight)

    The album 'The Next Day' followed in March with a video, again directed by Floria Sigismondi. It stars Bowie as a prophet like figure in a rock band, Marion Cotillard (who would play Lady Macbeth in 2015) as a gorgeous and beautifully made up Mary Magdalene figure with Gary Oldman as an unreliable, sexy priest.This dark, gothic tale abounds with religious symbols. There are cardinals, Joan of Arc, a virgin figure, and that woman with the crazy eyelashes. It's imagery could be seen as against the church, and there is near nudity which caused youtube to take the video down, but it actually seems to be a moral tale of some kind, which ends on a light note with Bowie thanking the participants and disappearing into thin air. There is a little bit of The Tempest here I think. A visual feast, but this one will take a long time to understand. For me at least.

    'The Next Day' video characters gathered

    Later in 2013 'The Next Day' was on the Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize list for Album of the year, and Bowie premiered a video to another single he had released from the album, 'Love is Lost'. The footage included wooden puppets of Pierrot and The Thin White Duke created for him by Jim Henson's Creature Shop for an unreleased video in the past. It was Bowie's idea, written, and shot in his New York office just a week before the awards ceremony. Apparently the cost of creating the video was a mere $12.99, the flash drive he bought to be able to save the video onto his camera.

    All of the personas which he created remain untouched by time, somehow as fresh as when new, whole for him, and for us, to revisit. Bowie was always comfortable flitting in and out of his past, time travel was easy for him. New generations can wonder. Bowie was a master storyteller in the very best tradition. Each of his fans have their favourite period, but most of us were touched by them all.

    Bowie and Twiggy, the cover for Pin Ups, 1973
    Diamond Dogs 1974
    In 1978 Bowie narrated Peter and the Wolf
    with the Philadelphia Orchestra
    Ashes to Ashes,1980
    The Blue Clown, or Pierrot, was made for Bowie by costume designer Natasha Korniloff
    for his Ashes to Ashes video, and was also used on the cover of Scary Monsters.
    The man Who Fell to Earth
    Nic Roeg's science fiction film

    The Thin White Duke, by Norman Parkinson
    1976 persona and character, primarily identified with his album Station to Station

    Heroes album cover shoot, 1977,
    photograph by Masayoshi Sukita.
    © Sukita, courtesy the David Bowie Archive

    The Hunger
    As Nikola Tesla Christopher Nolan's 2006 film
    "The Prestige"

    Alexander McQueen on the cover of his 1997 album,
    Eart HL I NG. The year McQueen won the British Designer of the Year award.

    It would be easy to say that in his early years, as he came into our atmosphere, he was a raw talent. But this would not be entirely true. He exuded an electricity that was startling, but never raw. He took careful aim and always seemed to know where he was going. He was not an overnight success, he was always on that path. We noticed him when each of us were ready. I am reminded of his words, "there's a starman waiting in the sky, he'd like to come and meet us but he thinks he'll blow our minds" Compared to him we were all absolute beginners.

    In mime makeup, 1968
    by Ray Stevenson
    The Man Who Fell to Earth

    Although outrageous when young, Bowie aged gracefully. A rarity amongst rock stars and celebrities. He was unlike others. More than all of that.  He transcended categories. That beautiful bone structure. The fascination in his voice. The straight at us gaze.

    Just days after his death, Suzy Menkes from Vogue would say in a tribute to him, "He pushed boundaries that by now have grown into an entire fashion landscape".

    Tweeter Center, Tinley Park,IL. August 8, 2002.
    Photo by Adam Bielawski.

    backstage at the Glastonbury Festival,
    coat designed by Alexander McQueen
    June 25, 2000
    With his daughter, 2000
    Camera press, Brian Aris
    a ragged suit and scarf in 2004
    his last tour
    Once barely known the now many recognitions, tributes and celebrations are much deserved. It is said that he was offered a knighthood, which he refused because he said that he did not need one.

    Kate Moss channelled Bowie for the cover of French Vogue in January 2012.

    Kate Moss

    German Vogue also paid homage to Bowie as Daphne Guinness donned Ziggy Stardust makeup and was snapped by photographer Brian Adams.


    In March 2012, The Crown Estate unveilled a commemorative plaque to David Bowie’s  creation, Ziggy Stardust, marking the 40th anniversary of his album, ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars’.

    23 Heddon Street, just off Regent Street, London, W1
    shot by the late Brian Ward in black and white and then hand coloured by artist Terry Pastor.

    23 March – 11 August 2013. 'David Bowie is' exhibition spanning his whole career at The Victoria & Albert Museum, London. The David Bowie Archive gave unprecedented access to the V&A who featured handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs and Bowie's own instruments. It was the fastest selling exhibition in the long history of the museum.

    The exhibition is now touring internationally.

    David Bowie at the V&A, the fastest-selling exhibition in the museum's history

    Louis Vuitton's October 2013 advert L'Invitation Au Voyage gives
    a nod to the ballroom scene from Labyrinth.

    David looks right at home in Louis Vuitton's costumed
    ballroom scene. 

    One of three images chosen for Nothing Has Changed 2014
    designer Jonathan Barnbrook

    Thought to be the last photograph session.
    For Black Star, by his friend Jimmy King
    Wearing a Thom Browne suit

    David and Iman

    I am so sorry that his life was not longer than it was and my heart breaks for his wife,  children and all of those fortunate enough to have known and worked with him. I am glad that he had found haven with his family and that he also found the energy and inspiration at the end to work once more.

    Looking back while writing this, listening to his music, watching the videos, reading tributes, remembering. It becomes impossible to include everything, it is so vast. And I did not set out to write a definitive guide to David Bowie. Just to bow before him, say thank you and share some of my own favourite images and times in his life.

    He did so very much and also refused offers of this much again for work he either did not wish to be a part of, or was not able to complete in his time allocated. We know that there would have been so much more to come had his light not gone out.


    He liked to revisit many of the stories which he previously told us. The single he released unexpectedly in 2013,  'Where Are We Now' was full of references about his days in Berlin. Now there are even more hints to unravel. Characters, costumes, places and traces of songs of which he, and we, are fond. His last wonderful gift to us, and a massive legacy, which may take us sometime to understand fully. What it means to each of us is immeasurable.

    The girl with the cat tail.
    In a Labyrinth like landscape
    Remember the cat like girl in the Absolute Beginners video?
    Major Tom, alien landscape and the girl with the tail
    Is Major Tom a jewelled skull?

    I will always remember the time he passed so close to where we sat. A momentary, genuine smile on that long ago night of 1972. It appeared that he glowed, as if he emitted some low voltage light in which we danced. Maybe he did. He was not one of us but I am so glad that he came amongst us. It is so painful to imagine that we will not hear or see any new things from him. I miss him already and will think of him every time that I look up.

    Gathering Lost Stars, unknown source

    The stars line up
     The stars line up for us tonight
     The stars line up
     The stars line up tonight to see
     To see who we are, baby.
     Let’s write our names
     High up inside the sky.

    Angelo Badalamenti, Marianne Faithfull

    Some of the best Tributes:

    "We're painting our faces and dressing in thoughts"
    Tori Amos, on twitter January 11th

    The Shepherds Bush Empire
    farewell from Brixton Acadamy

    Heddon Street fans memorial
    Poignant fan photograph. Saying goodbye.
    The Stars Look Very Different Today
    The New Yorker
    Charlie Brown
    source unknown
    Paper Angels left by fan in Manchester
    Remembered by fans and friends. Kate Moss.

    "After 40 years of experimentation, reinvention and innovation, during which he revolutionized the aesthetics of rock and fashion, David Bowie passed away January 10, at the age of 69. A cultural icon, he challenged traditional codes throughout his career as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, progressing from his mod behinnings to pioneer androgyny as performance art with his legendary Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Halloween Jack alter-egos. We pay tribute."

    London newstand following his death


    The very emotional tribute at the Brit Music Awards


    Sources: I like to credit sources and have done my best, but have failed in many in this post. This may be a post that I revisit after time has passed. If anything I have shared belongs to someone uncredited I am more than happy to include if you let me know.

    And on this subject I must say a thank you to my friendAbigail who posted on facebook the quote from Shakespeare. In doing so she perfectly captured how many of us felt and sparked the idea for this piece.

    "For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
     And tell sad stories of the death of kings"

    ~ Act 3, Scene 2, Richard II, William Shakespeare

    A Tumblr account
    Did this tumblr page belong to Bowie?
    Interesting theory here about a tumblr page which surfaced just before Bowie released his material to the public. Beautifully fascinating.

    Read more about Bowie and all of his material from these sites:

    David Bowie Official Site

     Golden Years 

    VOGUE MAGAZINE 11 January 2016, Gender Blending - David Bowie Fashion Legacy,by Suzy Menkes  HERE:

    Red Cotton Candy - A very good post on how he influenced fashion, beautifully illustrated with images HERE:

    Michael Collins Morton's blog Nonfiction HERE:

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  • 04/15/16--05:48: The Gothic Wardrobe

  • The elaborate carvings at the top of The Gothic Wardrobe
    of vine leaves, gothic arches and Tudor roses

    I'm busy Spring cleaning and have just dusted the carvings on this Gothic Wardrobe. Which reminded me that I have yet to tell this tale. Being an Autumn child this season usually brings me interesting adventures and forays. Last Autumn we found ourselves making a very long drive to pick up a magical wardrobe which I found for sale on ebay.

    This post could have been called 'the haunted dressing table', as the antiques dealer we bought this gorgeous and unusual cupboard from shared a very scary tale with us about a dressing table she had bought from a seller who insisted that it was haunted. A ticket which she found in a drawer led her to believe the story of the piece of furniture. But, this post is just about our wardrobe, which we love. Perhaps another time the storyteller may allow me to share her tale.

    The Gothic Cottages
    prettiest cottage of those in which we live

    The workers cottages in which we live are known locally and on history pages as 'the gothic cottages'. They are rather simple, nothing elaborate, but they do echo some gothic design in their front doors, leaded windows and the garden paths of black stone bricks.

    Mrs Black strikes a pose in a gothic leaded window
    I have always loved the decadence of gothic revival and have a small collection of items which sit quite at home in the cottage.
    An oak carving of a Queen's Head
    My husband's gothic mantle clock
    which strikes prettily at the hour

    One of my gothic candlesticks
    A little gothic Owl

    But I longed for something larger. And then I found it!
    Strawberry Hill by Johann Muntz

    When we lived near London we were walking distance to Horace Walpole's famous Strawberry Hill, the fantastical gothic house which he had built in Georgian times. In those days it was in need of refurbishment but it has since been saved and is as resplendent as it was in his day.

    The moment that I saw the wardrobe on ebay it reminded me of Strawberry Hill.

    Strawberry Hill library bookcase detail

    The Gothic Wardrobe carvings

    A niche at Strawberry Hill

    A carved gothic arch on our wardrobe
    I did not mean to look for a wardrobe on ebay, and I certainly did not need one. I did not really mean to buy it either and it cost nearly a months wages. But everyday I continued to look at it in awe and worried that someone else might buy it before I had. I've never seen anything like it.

    The Gothic Wardrobe in all it's glory

    I love dark wood, especially oak,  and it had been painted, but the colours highlighted the carvings and the pale blue would go so well in the newly painted spare bedroom. There is a purity to pale blue shades, they seem to shine with an eerie ethereal light that is both haunting and illuminating. A bedroom has been painted in Farrow and Ball 'Borrowed Light' and if you saw how it reflects the light in the mornings and at dusk you would know that the name is perfect.

    How many times have you seen something which really delighted you and which better judgement prevented you from having? These are some of mine.
    Gothic looking Royal Albert roses teacup

    Art Deco black cat brooch
    This red velvet Opera coat on Etsy. Sigh.

    Yes, me too, the long list of beautiful things forsaken, yet remembered. I had to have it.

    The Gothic Wardrobe
    We drove to Herfordshire to pick it up and had a wonderful rare day out visting Ledbury and Hampton Castle. It is a beautiful area of Britain. I love the black and white houses and can imagine how fabulous it would be to live in one.

    Black & White with leaded windows in Ledbury

    Hampton Court Castle

    Being solid oak it took four of us to lift it into the back of our car. The seller did warn us, (while stiffling a giggle)  that it was extremely heavy when I mentioned that I hoped it would go upstairs in our spare bedroom. We had to remove the door to lift it into our cottage. I can laugh now, but it was definitely an adventure. Despite measuring we found that it would not go up our small winding stairs. It was just that bit too wide, and far too heavy. Sigh. It would have looked so beautiful in the bedroom.

    One of our old galleon models sits on top of The Gothic Wardrobe.

    It dwells in our garden room taking up a whole wall. The previous owner of our cottage loved blue and this room has pale bue/grey tiling and window blinds. We use this room as a dining room and have an old oak carved table and bench which are more Arts and Crafts, but goes well with the wardrobe.  Technically it will cease to be a wardrobe soon as we plan to add more shelves as storage for china and food items. An old model of Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind sits upon the top of it.

    It's beautiful right down to the bottom
    where a small heart is carved into the heavy oak

    I've had to sell a very nice mid century, wallpapered kitchen cupboard to make room for this, but I think the old cupboard suits us better. Upon asking if there was any history for it the seller told us that she had bought it at a local sale but that her Mother had said that she had seen cupboards just like in churches by the confessionals where you would hang your coats. I'd love to know more about it and if anyone has ever come across one similar please leave me a comment.

    So .... what am I going to put on that wall in the bedroom? Watch this space.

    The website of Strawberry Hill is HERE:

    Read and see sumptous photos of Strawberry Hill on Jacqueline@Home

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    The Queen Mother with the then Princess Elizabeth, 1937

    Happy 90th Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II.

    This week seems to be one of anniversaries, some good and some bad. The 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Bronte, the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare who is believed to have died on what would have been his 52nd birthday, and of course, the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest reigning monarch. Which is perhaps all the more remarkable because she was not born to be Queen.

    In the beginning
    Princess Elizabeth in her pram in 1929

    I understand that not everyone believes that having a monarchy rather than a republic benefits ordinary people. But I do. Having been born in a country without monarchy and now lived more than half of my life in Britain I have seen what differences there are and I prefer the royals, for better or for worse. It is a misunderstanding to believe that getting rid of a monarchy will make it's citizens more equal. All that will happen is that the castles will fall down or be lived in by politicians without any sense of duty or history.

    Princess Elizabeth aged 7, 1933
    Philipe de Laszlo
    Sure, they do live a privileged life and perhaps some of them do not live up to the expectations of what the public thinks a royal should be - but the Queen has devoted her life to her people and her country and she has worked hard and long making sacrifices.  I admire her greatly. I think that she has grace, something lacking in so many celebrities and politicians. I've seen many behind the scenes things which the royal family do for ordinary people that would not resonate as much if a politician carried out these deeds.

    And anyway who wants a collection of political memorabilia when you can have a royal collection?

    There is nothing like a crown, as I am certain William Shakespeare would agree.

    Queen Elizabeth I,
    Coronation portrait by unknown artist
    National Gallery London
    The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
     Some of my favourite moments, and portraits in the long life of Queen Elizabeth II.

    Formal portrait by William Dargie

    By David Poole
    The official Diamond Jubilee portrait
    Riding down the course before racing
    at Royal Ascot 1961
    Riding in Windsor Great Park

    Epsom Derby Meeting, with the Queen Mother.
    "I told you that would win!"

    Daniel Craig picks her up!
    (under the watchful eyes of those Corgies)

    The Queen's homebred fily Estimate wins the
    Ascot Gold Cup for her.

    If you enjoy the momarchy you might like to read two other posts about them.

    The story of how we went to London to see the Queen on the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, 

    And you can read about The Sport of Kings, Here:

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  • 04/22/16--08:18: Sweet Prince
  • Resplendent Prince

    His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
    Weave a circle round him thrice,
    And close your eyes with holy dread
    For he on honey-dew hath fed,
    And drunk the milk of Paradise.

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan 

    Prince in his Little Red Corvette.

    Growing up in California in a fairly poor family and a run down area I had to find entertainment which cost nothing. A favourite past time was walking to the Boulevard and watching cars go by. There was a well to do neighborhood nearby and I could always tell which cars came from there. One in particular which I loved. A Little Red Corvette.

    The man pushed boundaries
    but he sure could dress
    We moved to another area where white girls were in the minority at school. Looking back it may be that this was where both music and fashion came into my life. The mixed race kids knew all the best songs and dance moves. They had little money and yet they oozed style. Although young, the girls wore a lot of make up, and the boys dressed. I think all their money, whatever that they had, was spent on clothes and records.

    Life was hard and childhood was short. Even before a lot of them left school they had children to feed and too many bills to pay. Most of the kids who attended this school did not dream of other lives, or doing great things. They knew their reality and they just wanted to survive the best that they could. And have some fun. They lived life fast, as if they were scared that it would run out before they had used it all up. They taught me so much and imparted the most important lesson upon me - You have to dance, and love hard, while you can.

    "What's missing from pop music is danger."
    ~ Prince

    By the time that Prince came onto the scene I had been grown up for a very long time and was living in a different country. Listening to him brought back memories of those early days, how free it was when we danced. And when I first heard Little Red Corvette I was mesmerised. Those lyrics, at once risky and liberating. He was the Prince of one night stands. The love child of 'Will you still love me tomorrow' and Little Richard.

    Prince and his magic wardrobe
    Surely a boy was never better named than he. Who was this man with the magical wardrobe as fascinating as the one in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe?
    All gold leaf, with serpent eyeliner, like a Jackie Morris painting
    For such a small man, at just five foot 2 inches, he sure had a LOT of swagger. Like something out of Grimms he flaunted and teased and he delivered. Here was one who dreamed, and knew that he had other lives to live. He got out. I wonder if he knew that he played for those other people who could not and did not? I am pretty sure that he did.

    bedecked, bejewelled, embellished

    As news of his death was released shocked fans began to pay tribute. City Halls lit up with purple lights and twitter sang his story.

    San Francisco City Hall illuminated for Prince

    Hard Rock Cafe, New York

    New York's Hard Rock cafe paid tribute to him by featuring his lyrics on the front of its restaurant in the heart of Times Square - in the city where he announced just last month that he would be writing a memoir.

    Projected on a purple background the sign read:

    I never meant to cause you any sorrow
    I never meant to cause you any pain
    I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
    I only wanted to see you
    Laughing in the purple rain

    RIP Prince

     "And just like that ... the world lost a lot of magic."
     Katy Perry on twitter

    MY NOTES: 

    Tori Amos in concert in 2014. I love how she has combined her version of Little Red Corvette with Stay With Me, the torch song by Shakespeare's Sister.  The sound quality is not great, but close your eyes and listen. If only Prince could have stayed a little longer.

    Tori Here:

    Prince here

    The idea to turn City Hall in San Francisco purple came from local writer Eve Batey, who made her request on Twitter.


    Jack Hamilton writes

    The story behind Little Red Corvette

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    William Shakespeare detail from The Cobbe portrait
    Known to be Shakespeare

    "He was not of an age, but for all time."

    William Shakespeare is a man for all seasons though in truth we barely know the man himself at all. Many of the images purported to be of him are not confirmed, and although we believe that he was born on the 23rd of April and also died on that date 52 years later, this too is only a best guess. It is amazing that so few details exist of a man whose words remain woven deeply within the tapestry of so many of our lives.

    The Grafton Portrait,
    possibly the young Shakespeare
    Ralph Fiennes
    how we see The Bard
    Shakespeare In Love

    We often quote him in our daily language, without even knowing it. Much of the art created to illustrate his characters is familar to us all. Artists continue to illustrate his words and writers to pay homage to his lines with new poems, plays and novels spun from fragments of him.

    A best beloved Shakeseare painting
    The ethereal Miranda from The Tempest
    John William Waterhouse
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    Arthur Rackham

    Royal Doulton plate
    Michael Fassbender and Marion Corillard in a magnificent version of MacBeth

    Many are the actors who have graced the stage and screen as one of his players or paid tribute to his time in films about him.

    Judi Dench, a magnificent Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love

    So much has been written about his skill to conjure images with words that I doubt I can add anything to the tributes for him in this 400th anniversary of his death.

    * copyright RSC and the BBC

    There will be events throughout the year, both large and small to commemorate him and his work, some of which I am lucky enough to be attending. This special celebration, by the Royal Shakespeare Company, conceived and directed by Gregory Doran and hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate may remain my favourite. A wonderful cast of players took part, (with a surprise appearance from Prince Charles!) the content was inspiring, the stage imaginative and the costumes magical.

    Ralph Fiennes at Shakespeare's house in Straford
    * copyright RSC and the BBC

    It was lovely to see that in an attempt to bring it to a wider audience than those who could be present at Stratford it was screened at cinemas around the world, shown live on the BBC and it will be available to buy on DVD shortly from the RSC Shop.
    Fairy wings, glimmering
    * copyright RSC and the BBC

    To Be, or Not To Be
    Hamlet with Judi Dench, Tim Minchin, Harriet Walker, David Tennant, Paapa Essiedu, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Kinnear & Sir Ian Mckellan.
    * Photo by Helen Maybanks copyright RSC

    It is splendid throughout with scenes from many of Shakespeare's most loved plays including Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, Twelth Night, Much Ado About Nothing and,  the Scottish Play. My own favourites are at the end when Dame Helen Mirren, David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Dame Judi Dench and David Suchet speak the parts of Prospero, Puck,  Titania and Oberon and bid us goodnight. Bravo to the whole company!

    Dame Helen Mirren as Prospero
    dressed all in black against a black starry stage
    * copyright RSC and the BBC

    Our revels now are ended.
    These our actors, As I foretold you,
     were all spirits and
     Are melted into air, into thin air:

     And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
    The cloud-capp'd towers,
    the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples,
     the great globe itself,
    Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

    And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind.

    We are such stuff As dreams are made on,
    and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.

    William Shakespeare From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1

    David Tennant as Puck
    * copyright RSC and the BBC

    Enter PUCK.

         Now the hungry lion roars,   
              And the wolf behowls the moon;   
            Whilst the heavy ploughman snores,   
              All with weary task fordon
            Now the wasted brands do glow,   
              Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud,   
            Puts the wretch that lies in woe   
              In remembrance of a shroud.
            Now it is the time of night           
              That the graves, all gaping wide,   
            Every one lets forth his sprite,   
              In the church-way paths to glide:
            And we fairies, that do run   
              By the triple Hecate’s team,           
            From the presence of the sun,   
              Following darkness like a dream,
        Now are frolic; not a mouse   
            Shall disturb this hallow’d house:
            I am sent with broom before,          
            To sweep the dust behind the door.

    A Midsummer-Night’s Dream
     Act V. Scene II.

    David Suchet & Judi Dench
    Oberon & Titania
    * copyright RSC and the BBC

    Enter OBERON and TITANIA, with their Train
      Oberon.  Through the house give glimmering light   
              By the dead and drowsy fire;   
            Every elf and fairy sprite           
              Hop as light as bird from brier;   
            And this ditty after me   
            Sing and dance it trippingly.
      Titania.  First, rehearse your song by rote,   
            To each word a warbling note:           
            Hand in hand, with fairy grace,   
            Will we sing, and bless this place.
      Oberon.  Now, until the break of day,   
            Through this house each fairy stray.   
            To the best bride-bed will we,           
            Which by us shall blessed be;   
            And the issue there create   
            Ever shall be fortunate.   
            So shall all the couples three   
            Ever true in loving be;

    With this field-dew consecrate,   
            Every fairy take his gait,   
            And each several chamber bless,   
            Through this palace, with sweet peace;           
            Ever shall in safety rest,   
            And the owner of it blest.   
                Trip away;   
                Make no stay;   
            Meet me all by break of day.

    [Exeunt OBERON, TITANIA, and Train.

    Oberon & Titania and a sea of fairy lights
    * copyright RSC and the BBC

    David Tennant and cast
    * copyright RSC and the BBC

    Puck.  If we shadows have offended,   
            Think but this, and all is mended,   
            That you have but slumber’d here   
            While these visions did appear.
            And this weak and idle theme,           
            No more yielding but a dream,   
            Gentles, do not reprehend:   
            If you pardon, we will mend.
            And, as I’m an honest Puck,   
            If we have unearned luck           
            Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,   
            We will make amends ere long;   
            Else the Puck a liar call:   
            So, good night unto you all.
            Give me your hands, if we be friends
            And Robin shall restore amends. 



    Images marked by a * are copyright of the RSC and the BBC

    Watch Again, Until the 23rd of May, you can watch it on the BBC iplayer,  Here:

    Read more about the Royal Shakespeare Company, Here:

    Read More about this tribute Here:

    In the Daily Mail, Here:

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  • 06/30/16--03:02: Mid Summer Dreaming

  • "If a June night could talk,
    it would probably boast it invented romance."
    - Bern Williams 

    This summer in the English countryside has seen no sign of Flaming June. It has been a landscape of muddy blues and greens and purple haze. As June comes to a rainy end we revisit the revelries which happened on one warm night.

    The Queen of Fae was bored, with daydreams and rain,
    her subjects heard her say ~

    Time for a midsummer soiree! 

    Much effort was put towards what they wore,
      splendidly attired so as not to offend


    When they could do no more,
    those whose wardrobe was yet amiss

    A scary Faerie seamstress did amend.

    Oh! That silken night robe you wore was so divine,
    you said you had nothing to wear ~
    I want it to be mine!

    Nature's bounty came in spare ~
     wound round shoulders
     and twisted tight in hair.

    Magic gleamed on every guest
    the jewels were the very best ~


    Who grabbed that passing winged thing,
    and pinned her to their breast?

    Gloriously garbed, all bowed
    to the King and Queen,

    it was her party

    And she wanted to be seen.

    Faeries underdressed were forced to flee!


    Mrs Black, Puff and Munchkin were invited too


    Did you bring your Beasts with you?

    Who could help but stare?
    She brought a Unicorn, and over here ~
    those charming Shy Sisters brought their Deer!

    Some were near, others did travel far

    Or met hardship along the way

    The valet looked after every car
    During our stay.

    Alice and her Rabbit were very late

    The rest of the party really could not wait! 

    Such pretty places to sit and rest a spell
     Full sympathy for all of those
    Who now have stories to tell.

    who forgot not to dose,
    and kept company in their sleep,
    you'd rather not keep.

    There was such fine entertainment

    a travelling musician or two

    and a disc jockey spun records
    some old, some new .....

    of course the food and drinks were plenty

    If you dared to eat or drink,
    you are far braver than me

    And if you grew weary of the music and the meet
    you may have felt inclined to take a seat

    or wander in the wood,
    so dark and deep


    Did you remember to beware?

    perchance you fell asleep
    while there.

    The ballroom was so crowded
     we spread out onto the lawn

    By then I had to change those Red Shoes!
    or dance until the dawn.

    I saw you danced with the gentleman most strange
    With thistledown hair, and green coat

    I think it was he who arranged
    That Dragon in the moat!

    As we watched Dawn begin to weave
    light across our play,

    We wondered if we should take our leave,
    but decided to go inside, and catch some sleep
    before another summer's day.

    Our hosts bid us all a gentle goodnight 

    Just as Alice arrived, so like her!, 
    said Puck, the mischievous Sprite, 

    "remember ~ having spent these hours in Faerie,
    You may not be who that you were."

    The previous post to this was a tribute to William Shakespeare, who I never tire of. As you may have guessed ~ this is a favourite book of mine from Rare Books.

    CREDITS ****

    Please ~ do not despair
    Indeed we too care ~
    All images will be credited to owners and creators in due course, once we have recovered from the Midsummer Night's Dream!

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    Beatrix Potter levels her strong gaze at the camera as a child

    I hate missing anniversaries, and of course as history steadfastly carries on further down the path the chances to stand still to enjoy an anniversary becomes more scarce.

    Beatrix aged 10
    I love the little pointy hat!

    But this one seems impossible to ignore. Resist the pull of time to take just a moment to remember the magic of Beatrix Potter on what is her 150th birthday.

    Beatrix Potter book shelf, from Stella Books,
    where you can usually purcahse vintage copies of the books.

    As a child I did not come into contact with the wonderful words and illustrations she created. Alice, Oz and Wind in the Willows were my childhood companions. My first encounter with Beatrix Potter's world came much later when I began to spend a lot of  time in libraries and back tracked to all the children's literature that I had missed.

    Beatrix often claimed that this book was her favourite and she certainly put a lot into the research for the text and llustrations. The story was born in May 1894 during a visit to her cousin Caroline Hutton at Harescombe Grange, which lies five miles south of Gloucester. There she heard the tale of John Pritchard (1877-1934) a very poor Gloucester tailor commissioned to make a suit for the new mayor. When he fell ill it looked as if the suit would not be completed in time. But he returned to his shop on the Monday morning to find the suit completed except for one buttonhole. A note attached read, "No more twist". His assistants had finished the coat in the night, but Pritchard encouraged a fiction that fairies had done the work and the incident became a local legend. The real Pritchard lived at the same time as Beatrix, but she set her tale in the 18th century and made her poor tailor an old one so poor that he could only afford to rent the kitchen in the house where he lived near to his shop.

     Beatrix visited Gloucester and sketched the street where the tailor's shop stood as well as cottage interiors, crockery, and furniture. The son of Hutton's coachman posed as a model for the tailor.

    The new suit for the mayor
    The Victoria and Albert Museum page on the book says, "Beatrix went to extraordinary lengths to create an authentic setting. Passing a tailor’s shop in Chelsea one day, she deliberately tore a button off her coat and took it in to be mended so she could observe at first hand the tailor’s posture, tools and workbench."

    "Her sketches are so accurate that it is possible to identify the original garments, including the mayor’s waistcoat, ‘worked with poppies and corn-flowers’, in the V&A’s collections."

    She visited the costume department at the South Kensington Museum to observe details of 18th century dress.  

    I come from a long line of seamstresses stretching back farther than I know. My love of textile began in my early years playing at my Great Grandmother's feet with velvet and silk scraps she used for making patchwork quilts. We sewed because of being poor not because of any great talent or need to create. But still, there was a kind of stitch witchery at work as being able to do so gave us great satisfaction as we honed our skills.

    No surprise then that my favourite Potter illustrations are those which involve the art of stitching. The Tailor Of Gloucester is so delightful. I love Mice (remember the sewing Mice in Cinderella?) and the illustrations of them are so charming. I also love how the unsuspecting Tailor has help to finish his wares, and the drawings of Simpkin the Tailor's Cat are wonderful. As are the architectural illustrations. Beatrix Potter was a lady of immense talent. (The latest drawings found at Melford Hall are masterful). 

    From The Tailor of Gloucester
    Simpkin and The Tailor set out for work

    The Tailor at work, with help from the Mice!

    The Tailor off home.

    Simpkin and his master

    Beatrix Potter with Her Pet Mouse Xarifa, 1885. Cotsen Children's Library.
    Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.
    Princeton University Library

     This book always makes me smile when I take it from the shelf and find once more the little Mice amongst the wonderfully pretty china that I should very much like on my own china dresser.

    Simpkin hides the twist from the Tailor
    Out stepped a lively Mouse who made a curtsey to the Tailor.

    The gentleman Mouse bows.

    Beswick tailor Mouse

    I was late to discover Potter but as soon as I did I knew she was a keeper. I cherish the book I have and a Beswick Mouse inspired by her story.

    The Beatrix Potter Shop & Museum in Gloucester

    Simpkin in a drawer in the shop!
    I have visited places where her spirit lingers. No surprise that I especially love the Beatrix Potter shop and museum in Gloucester. It's set in the most perfect little alley and the inside is as charming as out. It seems impossible that it is real and you feel as if you have fallen into her books. Which is a deep magic that all authors dream to find.

    Their own website says, "After an appeal in the local newspaper, in 2006 funds were raised to purchase the freehold of the building. The heritage behind the House of the Tailor of Gloucester is secure. It is now a museum with a gift shop run by volunteers. Visitors may enjoy the tailor’s kitchen where Simpkin keeps watch over his captured mice. Upstairs they can read a brief history of the original tailor, John Prichard, and view a small collection of Potter memorabilia. After watching the automaton where the mice work on the waistcoat, there is the shop where there is hopefully something for everyone. This magical experience is free and everyone can enjoy it."

    I loved Miss Potter the 2006 film about her life and work and think that it captured her as I feel that she was. That twinkle in her eye, the smile at the corners of her mouth, and finally the sorrow which haunted her for the rest of her life when her fiancé died so young. She was a strong woman, and looking at the photograohs of her as a child I note that she had no fear of the camera. her gaze is steady.

    I'm so glad that the great gift which she left to history, and the home she gave to the National Trust preserve her memory and her work for future generations to enjoy. 

    Beatrix and her Brother Bertram

    The most wonderful shot of her
    Beatrix aged 25 with rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer, 1891. © Frederick Warne & Co.

    From Miss Potter


    Victoria and Albert Museum, Here:

    Her Wiki page, Here:

    Stella Books, Here:

    The Tailor Of Gloucester shop, Here:

    Recently found unknown sketches by her, at the National Trust property Melford Hall
    Read about them, Here:

    A really lovely article about the book,  from 2012,  which includes the pages that were edited out of the pubished book about how Simpkin wanderedr the streets in the snow on Christmas Eve and could hear the animals talking . on, Here:

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