Summer cure

Well, thank you… for a lot of amazing comments at the end of the last blog. Life’s a lot more cheerful this Sunday than last, I’m glad to report. What a difference just a week can make in life…combined with a fair dose of happily optimistic planning, a little bit of research, and a lot of long-distance phone calls to the ends of the earth (literally). Watch this space…. I think it’s all going to be okay. Maybe.  Just.  Which is better than I was feeling last Sunday night.

It has certainly been a roller coaster. I slipped out of London as dawn broke on Friday morning, leaving the detritus of the birthday party I’d thrown for my friend Mo in the flat the night before. There’s nothing at these moments quite like escaping to Dorset. If I ever wonder, from time to time, why I try and make it all work to live in two places at once, Friday explained it all. The cares of the world fall away as quickly as the miles pass. The journey, so familiar, passes like a dream. Do you ever have that moment when you are travelling a deeply familiar route where you suddenly realise you’re not quite sure where the last 50 miles went?  As if you have suddenly been picked up and placed down again further down the road? That was my going to Dorset on Friday morning.


The house was sleeping, shut up, and the valley was heavy with heat. I love this moment of deep summer, when nights and mornings are stifling, and you think it will never end. And I love the moment of arriving at the Parsonage when I haven’t been there for a while, walking around the garden, seeing what is new and what is over, and then the house, opening shutters, opening windows, bringing light and life to darkened rooms. In the heat of the late afternoon I caught up with a few bits of work, almost reluctantly… and called my neighbours Ed and Christine for a catch up. Gate crashing one of Christine’s amazing suppers is always a pleasure.

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We talked long into the warm night.

The morning was beautiful. The vegetable garden has reached a stage of manic productivity. It’s so hard to think of six months earlier, or six months from now, when all of this will be cold, bare soil – that moment feels a million months away. I suspect it will be here sooner than we can imagine. For now, it’s blissful to wake incredibly early and enjoy the garden as the sun rises over the house.

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Mornings are about the vegetables. Evenings are about the rest of garden, and the valley beyond.

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I’d been for a catch up with Glen and Mandy down in the village, and now was heading through the valley to dinner with my old friends and neighbours, the Sykes. When I started in Dorset it was with them and I’ve always adored Anthony’s mad and beautiful interior decoration and architectural style. You would have no idea that this house, which Anthony designed, was just 15 years old. It’s a stage set, but the most brilliant stage set I’ve ever seen.


Here is Anthony, never happier than when he is giving a tour (in this instance, a tour to inspect the remarkable programme of gilding that has been underway).P1040237

If you are partial to Anthony’s pale-blue trompe-l’oeuil columns, do not forget that they are for sale in the shop (we are the only stockists in Britain of the last remaining stock). They are brilliant, and beautiful.P1040238

A few years ago Anthony and Harriet decided to tent the dining room. It’s  magical place to eat. The view to the south is remarkable.P1040241

My friend Argus (who knows a thing or two about such matters) always says that the Sykes’ house is the only well-sited country house in the whole of Dorset. He has a point. Most of them have some strange flaw.P1040252

Dinner with Anthony and Harriet is a riot. Even more so, if it’s possible, than with Ed and Christine. There’s nothing like keeping busy and getting drunk and eating the most delicious food to cheer you up, after all.P1040256

I woke incredibly early, at dawn, my head feeling a little the worse for wear, it may be true. But I picked a hundred dahlias for Bridie, and beans, and packed up the courgettes I’d picked the night before, and jumped in the car again to head home. I had a morning date with Maggie Owen at Matisse.

“PLEASE DO NOT TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS” said the guard. But how could you avoid wanting to remember this?


Or this?P1040261

It was brilliant, and Maggie and I left The Tate with buzzing heads and happy hearts. It’s a great show, and I loved it. A bit like eating raspberries and ice cream all day long, in extreme heat… not a diet for the rest of your life, but perfect for a summers day.

The afternoon was at Bridie’s house. We lingered and languished and talked and laughed and munched our way through 100s of yellow courgette pizzas. P1040276

A bit of football went on (The cartwheels were slightly more spectacular than the goals)….P1040277

… And a lot of laughter.P1040281

The bar, which had started life as the most elegant thing you’ve seen outside of ‘the Peak of Chic’, descended, like all of us, into a happy but slightly messier state of affairs.P1040283

And as afternoon slipped into evening, it was time to leave. I reflected, when I got home, that there’s nothing like being busy doing nothing at all to keep you happy.  photoBack home, dusk fell at Queen Square, and I dreamed of the other side of the world all over again, and wrote this diary, and thought – as I always like to do on a Sunday evening – about the week to come.

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