Thursday, October 8, 2015

A look at Lecce

Last weekend I went to Italy with my husband and a tin of coloured pencils.

Breakfast on our flowery roof terrace was served with the recurring quarter peal from a dozen Baroque bell towers.

The sandstone of the Duomo throbbed in the afternoon sun.

We ate olives in the piazza,

ordered coffee from a barista who spoke mainly with his hands,

and simply enjoyed watching the world go by!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Darsham Nurseries… good things come in threes... Nursery, Cafe, Shop

Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.
Rudyard Kipling

Last Saturday I pulled a shameful amount of weeds from my vegetable patch.
So the following day I felt perfectly justified in wandering around Darsham Nurseries trilling ‘Oh how beautiful’.

Forget the shade bit, I enjoyed coffee and incredible pastries in the autumn sunshine and discovered the most enchanting potager.

There were cosmos bobbing among the cabbages and onions sauntering through garlands of amaranthus. Chives elbowed their way past purple ageratum while haughty zinnias commanded over regiments of salad.

In my exuberance I stopped the gardener in his tracks. I detained him with questions about lettuce seeds and climbing beans, annuals and artistry, then departed, inspired to exchange weeds for flowers in my own patch next year.

And the gardener? He got straight back to work of course there's no sitting in the shade for him!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A fishy tale

A few months ago I was sheltering from the cold and rain in the Brighton Sausage Co. shop. 
What I needed there and then was one of their famous hot sausage rolls. 
What I didn’t need was a can of cold soup. 

But scanning the shelves, this Soupe de Poissons tin caught my eye. 
Classic French typography, jolly colours and some disconsolate fish swimming around in a large citrine tureen. 

I recalled a quip from my local scrap metal merchant... 

“If I only sold people fings they need, I’d go broke.” I put the fish soup in my basket along with my hot sausage roll.

I was back at the scrap merchant's this week. 
I found a battered ex-army jug and an aluminum jelly mold. 

I didn’t need them, and my £3 will hardly make the proprietor wealthy, but my purchase might well be invaluable for my next painting.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Almost caught out….

Last spring, after much umming and ahing, I replaced some disintegrating willow hurdles with a Rosa rugosa hedge. It backs the mixed border that edges the front path. I wanted something that would provide a long season of interest, plus a harvest (rose-hip syrup) and be beautiful to paint. Who says I’m demanding!

Kept in check, it should provide me with dense glossy foliage from spring to autumn, floppy magenta blooms all summer and corpulent orange hips in the autumn.
And... the old hurdles will make nice dry for kindling for the woodburner!

Having planted the thorny twigs with plenty of compost I kept my fingers firmly crossed. 
As self elected ‘bud monitor’ I watched closely for the first signs of life. Sure enough, over the next few weeks, ruby red swellings erupted into fresh green foliage. And all summer I have enjoyed vibrant splashes of pink followed by those unbelievably glossy hips. Perfect!

Only I never quite got around to painting the wretched things. Until last week. I picked what is probably the last flower of the season, wet my brushes, made a nice cup of hot tea, and settled down at my desk

Monday, September 7, 2015

It's that time of year again..

"A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing" 
Samuel Johnson

Funny, I really have just thrown out a jar of vintage 2013 pickled cucumber that I found languishing at the back of the larder. 
I have also found seven cucumbers partying in the bottom of my fridge. 
Armed with this nifty recipe I illustrated for Waitrose Kitchen recently...
I'm about to spoil their fun! 

Friday, August 28, 2015


A few days away, inhaling sea air. 
Searching for a horizon where mist meets sea spray. 
Prying into rock pools where salt water ebbs and flows.
Picking up pebbles, 
imagining their story. 

Equally content to be back…

Monday, August 10, 2015

monday, washday

It’s a beautiful day and if I can’t sit outside under the magnificent Indian bean tree to write my blog what is the sense of working from home? I don’t even need the excuse of a tube strike! 
Ever alert, the chickens have rushed over as close as their fence will allow, hoping in vain that my cup of tea might instead be tasty scraps for them. 

The bean tree is laden with white blossoms, each little bonnet trimmed with a perfectly ruched edge. 

I’ve just put my gardening shorts in the wash, domestic detail but by the time I’d laid out the contents of the pockets I sensed a quick sketch was in the air.... all those irresistible textures!

exhibit a. a net bag

We have a couple of young walnut trees from which I have never yet enjoyed the crunch of a single walnut. Oh yes, the trees produce plenty of nuts but the squirrels know that too and pinch the lot before they’re even ripe. 
Our lovely neighbour who has been growing trees all his life has the same problem. He already has a pair of step ladders parked by the trunk of his walnut tree and is contemplating his strategy. I sense we are locked in friendly combat and will be comparing our harvests come the autumn. Meanwhile I am salvaging every net bag that would otherwise be heading for the dustbin and plan to tie one around every walnut. 

exhibit b. bee identification chart 

Moderately useful, frustrating how most bees seem to be a cross between two or more of the illustrations tho’. So I’m not really much the wiser.

exhibit c. pencil stub for writing on seed markers

No matter how sure I am that I’ll remember where I have tucked an extra sowing of lettuce seed, I’ve finally learnt that a seed tag avoids the inevitable confusion.

exhibit d. strips of my daughter’s ripped school tights 

Some women might carry a spare pair of tights in their handbag, in case of a snag. Well, frankly, I cherish the laddered ones! Cut horizontally into strips they make fantastic stretchy ties, indestructible and perfect for keeping my tomatoes erect. 

exhibit e. feather from a Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Simply beautiful.

exhibit f. a parsnip seed head

Waiting to be popped into an envelope ready for sowing next year. 
Now that wouldn’t have fared well in the washing machine!

Is it a tomato?

Is it a peach? 
No it's a walnut but is that enough to fool the squirrels?