I love quiet dark Sunday evenings in the winter. And it’s amazing how dark it suddenly was in Dorset this afternoon. A storm is blowing in, and as I write rain is lashing the house, the shutters are drawn, a low fire is burning and apart from the sound of the wind in the trees and the rain spilling over the gutters, everything is completely silent.

It’s at moments like this that I recharge. It’s been quite a week.  Our lovely (blog) friend Deby from Canada invited me and Bride round to a lovely dinner in Spitalfields on Tuesday, complete with The Gentle Author, and Fiona Atkins of the beautiful Townhouse where Deby was staying (you too can stay here). I admit I left a little early suffering from a minor case of major tiredness. Wednesday was manic. Thursday saw a very early start down to Dorchester, where Leon Krier, the Poundbury masterplanner, was in town. Prince Charles came the following day for the 20th anniversary bash. On Friday we had fireworks (just) and a fine bonfire, in the pouring rain, in the village, and a very riotous evening to follow.

So I’ve had one of those days where apart from the odd phone call I haven’t seen or spoken to anyone. Bliss. My friend Will was staying yesterday but needed to head back to London early this morning. He tore off in his new (old, 1995, it’s all okay) Porsche, which we’d spent the day having a fun time in up and down the coast, and today I’ve had the quietest day ever known to man. Time to recharge.

I planted paperwhites:

There’s something very satisfying on these dark days about planting paperwhites. I had a little look back and you can see what I was up to a few years ago around about now. I think I said last week that I’m a creature of habit.  There is no evidence to offer to the contrary. (And basically, if I see a cracked china bowl in a junk shop, I’ll take it).

Okay… I think it’s true to say the bulbs have been in their box a week too long. But they will sort themselves out.

We’d had a great day yesterday. We popped into Bridport, and bought some beautiful books at my favourite bookshop in the world, more on which later. We made a last minute booking at Hix in Lyme Regis, which lived up to expectation. We went to inspect the crazy waves blowing in from the southwest on the Cobb, and noted that the Lyme fireworks display at 6pm might have been grander (but doubtless less personal) than ours in the village the night before.

I love Lyme. It’s the perfect little seaside town.

(I realise I’ve taken just about identical photos a couple of years ago). And then we called back via Jane and Johnny Holland’s, where my godson Gabriel was quite excited to have a sit in Will’s car with his dad.

I’m not sure Gabriel is quite so excited about the imminent arrival of his baby sister, but we are!!!

This afternoon I had a good look through some of the books from Rose and Caroline’s brilliant bookshop, Bridport Old Books.  There were these:

I’d heard of, but didn’t know, Alphabet & Image, edited by Robert Harling – who I’ve written about before here. Look at these beautiful pages:

(engraved letters by Reynolds Stone, who one day will surely be a subject of the blog)


(and very cool advertisements)

Basically, perfect.

Will had bought this beautiful little guide book (on the left) to Clouds Hill, T. E. Lawrence’s cottage, now owned by the National Trust.

How much more beautiful, we are all thinking, to the new guide book on the right.

One of these days I’m probably going to write a blog about the dumbed down National Trust. Most likely after a day encountering some well meaning but utterly grim “COSTUMED INTERPRETER” who I have been noticing a lot on recent visits. Dreadful.

But it was interesting to compare, briefly, the beautifully produced, beautifully written guide book of 1977 with the modern day copy. What was really weird – and this is what I mean by dumbing down – Will discovered that whereas the 77 book writes movingly and eloquently of Lawrence’s death, and reputation, the current guide book decides to ignore those questions entirely. Strange.

I love old National Trust guide books. I’ve got a whole stash which I found years ago in a box in a bookshop and bought the lot. I’d love to know who was responsible for this quiet, universal, timeless design. Perhaps someone will be able to let me know?

(nice colour there…)

(really nice colours…!)

The guide to Ashdown, which I failed to get to the other week.

Well dumbed down Britain will have to wait for another blog. For now, let’s enjoy the simple things in life; and dark, windswept evenings like this one, and days of doing absolutely nothing other than a bit of catching up, and bulb planting, and discovering some new books, and being very quiet indeed.

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