Holiday reading

Yet again, a month has gone by.  My autumn resolution is to get writing weekly or fortnightly – there is something about the rhythm of the blog that needs the nuance of the week-by-week changes in life, that we all know are lost when the perspective is monthly. But of course, it’s been a strange time, and with so much time out of the office, and so much to catch up on, as well as living life itself and not just recording it… well, sometimes not everything can happen at once. As I am sure you know.

The weeks after Dad died were quiet; his funeral was very small, but perfect. I slowly eased my way back to work. I can’t remember a more beautiful July in Dorset. 

The church roof is nearly finished. The work has been done beautifully. When the scaffold is down, later this month, I’ll give a full report. 

We took a lot of early morning walks to avoid the heat of the day. This is early, early in the morning, but the sun is already fierce. 

A brilliant day’s sailing in beautiful Weymouth Bay with my brother and his family…. 

And then home at the end of a sparkling, brilliant day. Charlie’s pumpkins and marrows have taken over the meadow – it’s completely beautiful. 

S C O T T I S H   I N T E R L U D E

The following weekend, we’d had Bridie coming to stay in Dorset – but we’d decided we needed to check up on Bothy progress.  So instead we proceeded north, on the sleeper. Here we are in Glasgow after a good night’s sleep. Charlie had picked a huge bunch of sweet peas for our neighbour Mo. Amazingly they had survived the journey so far…

The open road beyond Loch Lomond – always a moment of joy. 

And, another moment of joy, rounding the bend and seeing my favourite small town in Scotland, Inveraray, with the funfair in town!

We stopped for a few bits and pieces, before getting on the road…

Bridie and Charlie inspecting the little tin shed that’s the village hall.

And then we arrived. Everything was looking…. great!!!

New roof on!! Windows in!!  Here is the bothy…

And here is the cottage. 

Here is the inside. We’ve gently restored the old Victorian pitch pine paneling; it’s been mended and washed, nothing more. We want the place to look as if it hasn’t been touched for ever.  We’ve re-wired and the builder lifted the strange ceramic floor tiles (I guess installed in the 60s or 70s?) that revealed old wooden boards underneath, in good condition. 

After our meeting with the builder we went for lunch and then a long and beautiful walk on the Taynish peninsula, dreamlike, ancient oak woods.

Magical, dreamy Taynish House. 

Back to Crinan, for the hotel and supper. A lovely night. Music in the bar and a bit too much to drink. We rolled in to bed and slept like logs. 

We had an early start the next morning. We were popping back to see the cottages before heading to Jura.  

I love the fuchsia hedge but it’s completely overgrown and leggy, and the fence is horrible. The next time we come (which is next week) it’ll all have gone… exciting…

Inside the bothy.  We are keeping it just like this for now. Watertight and repaired, but no more. The yellow windows GLOW!

We met Nicol the Jura boatman as planned and set off on a blustery trip…. This is the last known photograph of Bridie’s BRIDIE hat shortly before it blew off to a watery grave….

Nicol took us high up to get our bearings…

Then we went for a wonderful walk along the beach back to Craighouse.  The Paps of Jura were hidden in cloud…

It was a sparkling day. 

The beautiful Jura Manse.

Historical photography exhibition of the island in the little chapel.  Brilliant. We need to come back here…

And then after a fine lunch in the Jura Hotel, home…. We went for a walk along our peninsula, looking back to Jura and where we’d just been. 

Scotland is a dream, so exciting, and at last all taking shape. I’m not quite sure when we’ll be able to move in – September we are hoping. After everything so sad that’s happened this year, I will admit it’s pretty amazing to have something fresh and happy to look forward to.

After a few days in London, we were back in Dorset.  The garden is reaching that tipping point, balancing on the tautly-stretched wire suspended between summer and autumn….

That evening, it was our friend Monica’s birthday party down by the lake.  Dreamy. Mo had planned a tent and trestles and a delicious dinner, by candlelight. There was a bit of setting up to do but so worthwhile.

The following morning, the day was bright and breezy. Lunch at Bettiscombe – heaven. 

Back home to the westering sun. 


This week, rather an amazing night. We’d been asked to stay at Chatsworth for a night… the dream.  We arrived on Thursday evening, and had a wonderful tour of the garden as dusk gently fell. 

On the site of Paxton’s famous glasshouse:

Inside the extraordinary vegetable and cutting garden, grown by Charlie’s friend Becky Crowley and her amazing team. We’ll be back there tomorrow. 

The grotto – and a huge Gunnera, reflected in the water. 

And then this view.

Waking to this…

After breakfast, a tour of the building – intense, remarkable.

And then we spent the morning wandering more slowly in the garden – Paxton’s beautiful “Conservative Wall”…. dreamy…. 

Glasshouses full of grapes, deliciously sweet. 

Back to see Becky…

Charlie and Becky in deep flow… discussing dahlias..!

The whole garden is planted with nature at the forefront. 

Charlie having deep shed envy. 

Greenhouse porn, there is no other word for it. 

And these extraordinary hollyhocks, which are so beautiful – one of the most amazing sights of the whole garden, curiously.  None of us could quite say why….


It was a brilliant, brilliant day, as you can imagine. We left this gleaming palace and took the train from Chesterfield down to Exeter. We were going to our friend Flora Starkey’s party…. cross country trains were the perfect answer.

And then home. It’s been a quiet, quiet weekend for me – yesterday afternoon, Charlie went up to London to collect the dogs and today he’s catching up with a group of friends in London for one day only.  The house with only me and Henry in it feels crazily quiet and empty.  But I’ve pottered around and run a few errands and caught up with some work and had long sleeps, and – as you will have now realised, I’ve found time to write a blog. 

Last night, I put a post on Instagram saying how quiet and still it all felt at the Parsonage. Something about my words seem to strike a chord… It really is that month, now, August, where we wait, almost in denial, before tipping headlong into autumn. I like Autumn, a lot – it’s a time of year that suits my mind well. Strangely I find it to be a time of renewal, not of decay – I’m thinking more about spring bulbs than approaching winter. And this year, more than ever, I’m looking forward to that sense of renewal, of new times starting.

But just for now, I’m rather enjoying holding on to summer, for a final re-charge of the batteries before the nights draw in and the year hurtles to its close.

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