Weeks of endless Summer

Where has the time gone?  I’m afraid you must have been wondering if I was ever going to blog again, but at the same time, I also know that you know that I will eventually- it’s a question of when, not if.

First of all, I’d like to thank all the comments last time from people offering to contribute to the church roof cause. That’s an unbelievably kind offer.  I haven’t had time to think about the easiest way to do that, but Bridie and I have been thinking, as a result, that it would be a wonderful thing if the blog could start raising a small bit of money here and there for good causes, especially the unusual ones that you never hear about and where some fundraising could make a difference.  We’ll give it a bit of thought…. work in progress. Thank you again.

It’s been a happy few weeks – we’ve had Charlie’s aunt Catherine staying, followed hot on her heels by our great friend Anna,nover from New Zealand as well. I suspect Charlie can’t quite remember how many trips to Mapperton, Soulshine, Brassica and our other ‘Dorset visitor haunts’ he’s made. I’ve been a bit more tied up with work but have been managing not to be too crazy, for once. Bliss.

And what long, hot summer weeks we’ve been having. Here, in four acts, is the last two weeks…

One: Jasper’s party

Two weeks ago, our friend Jasper Conran gave a brilliant party at his house in West Dorset; the theme: ‘Pastoral’. Charlie and I went a bit crazy on the fancy dress. I spent the morning making a floral hat, which I was a lot of fun, despite the fact that Charlie would have probably done it better. It got crazier and crazier.

We arrived in deepest, darkest West Dorset to blue sky and hot sun.

Lunch, which was as delicious as the setting was bucolic, was being cooked in the stable by Margot Henderson. 

Scenes from the garden:

The fantastic Fisher children! Will Fisher runs Jamb, one of the most beautiful shops on the Pimlico Road. 

Conran spring summer ’18:

Julian Bannerman dressed as rustic peasant. 

It was the perfect Fete Champetre.  You couldn’t help but think of Cecil Beaton at Ashcombe.  A heavenly day. Thank you Jasper.

Two: Camels at Buscot

I think I’d mentioned that we were going to the wild camel preservation lunch at Buscot?  You couldn’t really make it up.  So last Sunday, we found ourselves driving up to the Cotswolds.  I’d never been to Buscot Park and had been longing to go. The garden and park is outstanding; the house looked pretty perfect too, in its austere Georgian way, but was completely covered in scaffolding, so you may want to save your visit for next year.

Dream Edwardian gardens were laid out by Harold Peto.

Delicious pale yellow planting on the terrace.  

The first glimpse down to Harold Peto’s famous water garden.  

Back on the other side of the grounds the camel event was going mad.  We didn’t quite get to ride on the camels; but some people were enjoying the rides…

Some less so.

It was a brilliantly eccentric day. We had Scottish piping:

Mongolian wrestling….

Camel dressage:

Tug of war:And a delicious lunch of Mongolian salads eaten in a Mongolian tent (which I completely forgot to photograph).  

But I did get a photo of the resident camel lover.

A last glimpse of the walled garden.

We made our way gently home through Wiltshire, arriving in Dorset in time for a drink with Jim and Nic.  

We suddenly had the idea that we should get up to the top of the hill to watch the sunset.

On top of the world:

Three: Hampshire gardens

The next day we were setting off to visit two beautiful gardens, starting at Bramdean, with Victoria and Hady Wakefield. Years ago I’d helped design a house on the estate, and I’d always wanted Charlie to meet Victoria and see her remarkable garden (and sweet pea collection).  Here she is on the steps, a formidable British Gardener.

The garden is sublime.

Inside the walled garden.

Ancient sweet peas, highly scented.

The summer house has a door painted sky blue – from a distance it looks as if you are looking straight through.

In the newly-planted meadow.

Victoria’s famous double border, with the sky blue door at the end. 

The flower room:

When awards were worth winning:

We had lunch at Hinton Ampner, and revisited the house, now owned by the National Trust, that I’d first been to when I was about twenty, I reckon. It’s a strange place, unsettling. Something doesn’t feel quite right.  So my camera generally stayed in my pocket.

That afternoon we went on down to Kim Wilkie’s farm.  I had a client meeting with Kim for a project we’re working on together.  After everyone had left, we had a wonderful walk and an even more wonderful gin, overlooking the hay meadow, before I took the late train back to London and rolled into bed.   

Four: Just mooching in London

Dear Anna went home yesterday. We had to take her to the airport very early – but on Friday night, her farewell from London, we went out with friends for a night on the tiles. Things really could have been better on Saturday morning. We decided it was impossible to drive on to Dorset, which had been the previous plan. “Who did the driving to the airport” someone asked us that afternoon…. “The train driver” I replied, which was definitely for the good of all.  We came back into London and settled into a stupor. But then we took Mavis for a lovely long walk on the Heath, which felt like a dream world. It’s unreal to think how close London is and how far away it feels. The air was hot and heavy with high summer.

Blackberries are ripening fast. There is the tiniest hint of autumn already.  

Kenwood looking serene.

The walk ended with a long swim. It’s so exciting that Mavis has suddenly taken to the water.

And then we had the laziest afternoon, visiting Bridie in her sublime new house (watch this space) and going for a long lunch at the brilliant Duke of Cambridge, and rolling up to supper in Belsize Park, planned at the last minute. Such fun. Today we had every intention of getting up early for Columbia Road. It was not to be.  Sometimes it’s the times that you don’t bounce out of bed that are the best.

We have’t had a weekend in London for months and months. It was the ultimate treat; quiet to the point of nothing happening at all; no plans, just nice times.  And that has been the sense of this summer for me: long sunny days, drifting by almost endlessly, quietly abating the confusion of the world around and about. Today in London the temperature has dropped. It feels like those weeks of never-ending summer may have turned.


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