Samstag, 20. Dezember 2014

Bookshelf Revisited: Wintersonnenwende

In two days will be the winter soltice ('Wintersonnenwende' in German) and as usual I am reminded of one of my favourite books, a true children's classic that has hugely influenced the kind of books I like and the stories I want to write.

I was quite obsessed with Wintersonnenwende (engl. The Dark is Rising) by Susan Cooper and with the whole series she wrote about the Light and the Darkness. I must have read it dozens of time and even had favourite music I would read the books to and that became connected with the story in my mind (Generator by Bad Religion, how weird is that?). And I will always see the cover of the 1980's German Paperback edition in front of my eyes, mustard yellow and bleak, although I found one cover for a newer English edition online which I really liked.

The book is actually quite dark and when I read an extract while sitting with friends around a fire when we engaged in a spot of wild camping, one of them squealed and begged me to stop as the book was too atmospheric and scary for this particular occasion ...

On 22 December we will finally be half-way out of the dark.

Much love,

Samstag, 29. November 2014

Roadtrip: Aldbourne, Wiltshire

It has been a weird day, foggy but sunny, and when all my Saturday chores were done I spontaneously jumped in the car and went for a drive.

Aldbourne is really just up the road, only three villages from Hungerford. The bus to Swindon passes through there and I kind of remembered that it looked pretty. I arrived around 3pm and the late afternoon light was extraordinary: hazy and brittle and somehow warm and chilly at the same time.

St. Michael's Church in Aldbourne, though mostly Gothic, curiously reminded me of the Romanesque St. Michael in Hildesheim (Michaeliskirche), one of my all-time favourite buildings and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. When I studied in Hildesheim, this was my go-to place on a rainy Saturday and even though both churches look nothing like each other, I instantly made the connection. Probably because both buildings look more like castles than places of worship and stand on a mound, overlooking the surrounding houses. Incidentally, Aldbourne also has the coolest bin on the planet. I imagine there are lots of them about, but this is the first one I have seen.


The coolest bin on this planet
The Goddard Monument in St. Michaels, Aldbourne

Yew tree in the churchyard

The pink library in the Old Forge

Sonntag, 23. November 2014

Hamish in Hungerford

A rainy Sunday just like today is the perfect excuse to curl up on the sofa, each way too much caraway pound cake, read the new Terry Pratchett and post a few cat pictures.

Since Hamish has arrived in Hungerford in April I was meaning to post a few photos of him and they have accumulated over the last months. After a short settling in period he seems to be happy enough in the cottage.

As I adopted him originally from a Spanish shelter he now is (involuntarily) a very widely travelled cat. Weirdly, he seems more attached to people than territory and a lot of friends have remarked that he actually acts more like a dog anyway. Seeing him basking in the sunniest spots available always makes me happy.


"We have been expecting you, Mr Bond."

Donnerstag, 13. November 2014

Roadtrip: Milford-on-Sea

After the longest period of absence from this blog to date (sorry, sorry, sorry) I am resuming my duties with a seaside post. Since being back in the UK I hadn't been to the coast and always wanted to find the time to go. Even if it is November. Even if gale force winds have been forecast.

A friend of mine had suggested Milford-on-Sea as a possible destination while on a visit in Hungerford but when she was here we opted for going to Bath instead. So today I packed an extra pair of shoes, extra socks, an extra wooly hat, extra umbrella and extra cardigan, dusted off my map of Central Southern England and finally went to the seaside.

After getting a bit lost around Southampton I found my way via Beaulieu (where I had visited the National Motor Museum in 1997) and Lymington to Milford-on-Sea, driving through the New Forest National Park. Unfortunately I didn't stop to take photos of the famous ponies ... I suppose I just wanted to see the sea as soon as possible.

I have never lived as close to the coast as I do now and I definitely need to do this more often. On arrival it was raining and the waves lashed against the walls of the promenade. I cannot remember being near the sea in such stormy weather and the noise it made was almost deafening, together with the howling wind. You can see the Needles on the west coast of the Isle of Wight from the Milford promenade but all of my photos seem hazy, as the spray from the waves was all over the lense (and my spectacles) ...

Sonntag, 8. Juni 2014

NGS: Conholt Park Estate

Today I visited the extraordinary garden at Conholt Park Estate which was open under the National Garden Scheme. The planting is truly inspirational - I loved the chives planted in drifts (see photo above) and the combination of foxgloves, bronze fennel and roses. Other stunning elements were white wisteria, masses of alliums and artichokes in the walled garden, a poppy garden and spectacular cedars.

foxgloves, bronze fennel and roses

white wisteria

masses of artichokes

the walled garden

one of the cedars

the arboretum

the poppy garden

Sonntag, 11. Mai 2014

True Blue

The bluebells have been out quite early this year and are one of the most amazing sights you can come across - especially if you do not expect to find them.

The weather has been really unsettled this weekend but it cleared up during Sunday afternoon. I decided to have a quick walk round the marsh but somehow felt the urge to take a much longer route to visit one of my favourite trees in the area.

favourite tree
I saw single bluebells here and there, most of them fading fast, then suddenly a blue mist through the hazel. Unfortunaly my camera does not pick up the true colour of the bluebells, which is a much deeper, almost royal blue against the fresh green of the first leaves of the surrounding trees.

blue mist

During the last months I have been visiting local gardens that are open under the National Garden Scheme and haven't posted any photos - here is a best of:

at Sharcott Manor

Sharcott Manor
before the storm
at Oare House

Oare House

more bluebells at Oare House

birches and bluebells

Sonntag, 9. März 2014

Sunny Side Up

This is the first warm, sunny weekend of the year and everyone here in Hungerford seemed to rush out to enjoy the warmth. You can literally watch the plants in the garden grow; some of my early tulips are already out, looking a bit moth-eaten due to two months of relentless rainfall. The two camellia blossoms that have opened during last week look remarkably different from each other, which is a lovely surprise.

chameleon camellia
I went for a quick walk around the marsh at midday, found a cherry tree in full bloom which was filled with bumble bees and butterflies and spent the afternoon reading in the garden. Even though the sun rises over the surrounding rooftops just for a short while, all the bricks and flints in the walls are heating up quickly - Spring has arrived.

St Lawrence and the Kennet & Avon canal

Freeman's Marsh

sorry - still obsessed with trees in bloom

Sonntag, 2. März 2014

In Bloom


ANOTHER grey and drizzly Sunday but today I managed to persuade myself that I definitely needed to go on a walk. I joined a guided walk of the local environmental group to nearby Chilton Foliat and we managed to get home before the rain really took off. On our walk I saw the first blossom-covered trees of the year and every Spring this feels like a punch in the chest (in a good way). Suddenly the air is filled with a sweet almond-y smell (almost like marzipan) and the beauty of these first blossoms is simply touching. I could not resist bringing a spray into the cottage ...

hazel catkins

favourite oak tree
cherry blossom in Chilton Foliat