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Glimmers of hope



Ben

Regular readers of the blog will again be aware that a post hasn’t popped into their email address boxes for a week or two. I am sorry…. it’s been a rather busy time.  Work in the office has been rushing. Life rushes by generally, and yet spring seems painfully reluctant to rush along. Still, amongst the rainfall sweeping through Dorset and London, I detect glimmers of hope.

W E E K   O N E

A week before Easter, Charlie and I had the Frugal lent lunch at the Parsonage.  Here is the kitchen table laid, just before everyone arrived…  The yellow gloss walls looking particularly… yellow.

(sharp eyed viewers will realise I hadn’t wound the clock).

Soup bubbling on the stove.

In the dining room, blue.

The problem with Charlie is that he doesn’t ‘do’ frugal very well… 

(although actually, to be honest, those cheeses were sort of left over from some people coming for supper in London a few days before…)

Easter may have been coming but the countryside is drenched and bitterly cold.  Not a glimmer of spring.  March is, I think, perhaps, the darkest month of the year…. the changing clocks trick one into thinking that life is returning, but it’s not, quite.  The trees and hedgerows feel like they should be in leaf, but they are not, not yet. 

The palette of our walks is entirely green and brown and wet…

… and ash grey.

W E E K   T W O

More grey-ish skies, but at least glimmers of sunshine and NO RAIN (it seems at the moment you have to go to Scotland for that). On Good Friday I was near Inverness, visiting our project at Tornagrain – the Earl of Moray’s new town that we are designing. Again – regular readers will know the story (which you can read about here, and here) of our work here.  It’s incredible to see how much has grown and been finished even in the months since I was last up north.  Here are a few photos.

At moments like this, I really do feel pretty happy.  The community is growing fast, and nothing that we are doing feels too at odds with the lie of the land or the spirit of the place… in contrast, I might add, to so much new development in Scotland – which tears the heart and soul out of the place that it builds upon.

But by Saturday lunchtime I was back down in Dorset, and so happy to be down.  It poured all day. Do you detect a theme?

On Sunday – Easter Day – the weather was still cold, first thing, but sunshine almost shone through.

In Charlie’s vegetable garden, the tulips are coming up – way later than a year ago, than two years ago, but they are coming.

We’ve been dog sitting our friend Lexi’s Bertie this week.  Sibyl is nowhere to be seen in this photo… but some readers will notice that Charlie is, basically, turning into H.M. The Queen, with his granny’s silk headscarf acting as a very suitable prop.

The dog walking garb is flipping hilarious.  I can’t stop laughing.  Wait until Sibyl can come too – one more week before her jabs are done. It’s going to be insane.

Still all brown and green, but something is shifting perhaps, on the hills?

We went to Easter service in Long Bredy.  I’ve always loved these little cottages at the green by the road to the church.

This is a house which until two or three years ago had horrid plastic windows.  The new owners, Colin and Sue Dyer (who you can read about in last year’s Melplash show blog here) restored the house perfectly.  A dull, ugly corner had new life breathed into it; a little house that had been disfigured has been brought gently back to life.  

I love that sign, amongst the daffodils bedraggled by snow and rain. Not a good year for the daffs:

The bank leading to the church is thick with primroses.

Inside, a good service; afterwards, tea and coffee and Easter eggs.  I was obsessed about the stained glass windows. Would these patterns not make a beautiful printed chintz?

An Easter garden competition had been run, of which this was my favourite entry.

I love the back of Long Bredy church, and the fact that its great West Tower entrance is also a garden shed, home of lawnmowers, watering cans and flower pots – and those narrow steep stairs, leading to the bell ringers’ chamber.

More beautiful glass.

And the profound poetry of electric meters and Piero della Francesca (or some other Renaissance artist, sorry, I can’t tell at this distance). 

Long Bredy church also has brilliant kneelers.

And a perfect churchyard.

Here is buried Jill Maltby, who planted the snowdrops I wrote about a few weeks ago, surrounded by the folds of the hills that come down and embrace this magical place:

Back home, in the garden, I tried to get Sibyl to pose the perfect Easter pose to announce my sort-of return to Instagram (I’ve enjoyed not being quite so glued to my phone these days, I’ll admit).

She looked to the right.

To the left.

And then, for a second, she gave me the perfect naughty eye that is her trademark.  She’s been terrorising poor Bertie (who went home today) for the last week, as well as the rest of us. But with a face like that, everything is forgiven.

There is one final thing, and I am afraid this is going to get boring, but we are desperate.  Our church.  As you know – I’ve written about it before on the blog, Our roof is falling down.

Now whatever your religious views, I know, if you read and enjoy my blog, that you will appreciate the beauty of the tiny church at the end of our garden.  It is medieval in origin, but was beautifully repaired and extended, in the 1850s, by Benjamin Ferry, the remarkable Victorian Gothic architect who worked alongside Pugin, and who started his practice so close by to where I am writing this evening in London – in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, in 1834.

Our church is one of the most beautiful I have been in, but is deeply personal to Charlie and me  not just because it is next door, but also because it was here, back in 2015, that we were given a blessing to celebrate our marriage – led by our vicar Stephen, who is now so cruelly afflicted with Motor Neurone Disease.

For five years, the village has been fundraising to carry out urgent and essential repairs to the church, and especially to the roof. The entire stone roof is disintegrating and needs major work. As you can imagine, I have become rather involved.

We have raised an incredible amount of money, given how small we are – from amazing village events, from private donations, and from grant-giving trusts. But, we now have a final £22,500 (of £100,000) to raise before works can commence, which we need, and hope, to start later this summer/autumn.

This is a small plea, then, to readers of this blog, to help now.  I can already say that some incredibly generous and thoughtful readers have already over the months written to me – un-asked – with very kind donations. Now, I am stepping into a new territory by asking more directly for your support. I hope you don’t mind.

I’ve set up a just giving page here to make it easier.   If every person who read this blog donated a pound, I think we could raise our money in a few weeks!

And if this took off, I could think of a few other causes that could do with our help out there.

Thank you, in advance, for whatever help you can offer.

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