I am sorry – that’s all I can say. I can’t believe quite how much time has passed since I actually last wrote… time has been flying; since I got back from New Zealand I was in those hectic two weeks hurtling towards Christmas, and then to New Year in Scotland, where we spent most of the time completely without phone signal or wifi – a good way to start clearing the brain a little!
So this is a long blog in various parts because so much has happened – a dip into antipodean summer, back to Dorset, Christmas in London, New Year in Scotland.
N E W Z E A L A N D
It was a flying visit really – I think I was there for only a week. Charlie stayed on but for various reasons at work it just wasn’t quite the time for me to take 3 weeks out of London…. we were there for Charlie’s cousin’s wedding, and then also – mainly perhaps – to meet our new niece Charlotte McCormick, just 9 weeks old.
Christchurch glowed as usual – we made our usual trip to the beautiful botanical gardens.
I didn’t take lots of photos in the city, but the momentum is clearly picking up which is so good…. And then the next day, down to Mayfield, and all those long, straight, empty, green roads.
We called in to Charlie’s grandfather Hamish for the annual tour of the garden.
Completely incredible to think that all this garden has been created by Hamish, and by his late wife Enid, over the last sixty years. Inspirational indeed. Incredible rhododendrons and azaleas grow to great heights now, all planted by Hamish.
Wild foxgloves are everywhere. Time too for the annual beers and catch up on Hamish’s deck, putting the world to rights. Hamish hasn’t ever really traveled very far (he’s been to Australia and to North Island once or twice) but he knows absolutely everything about international politics and affairs, in great detail.
Back at James’s farm:
We didn’t do much in our week there – just spent quiet days doing nothing at all. One day we made a trip to Little Mount Peel, and the Peel Forest…
And a little Gothic chapel, made of timber:
As usual, the porch is my favourite part of the church:
And then all too suddenly, my New Zealand week was over. The weather hadn’t been hot but there is still that amazing fact of the blast of sunshine and daylight at the darkest time of year back home… such a huge tonic.
The long journey back went quickly… drifting over New Zealand…
And across the Pacific into sprawling L.A…..
Taking off for London…..
And then back home. So, so good. The dogs were very happy to see me!
A few quick days later and Charlie was home too. We had a weekend in London with friends staying, ironically all the way from NZ, and did lots of brilliant touristy things like going around the London Eye that I had never done, and walking up to Buckingham Palace and though the West End.
D O R S E T
A week later it was a huge relief to arrive down in Dorset in what felt like the first time in an age. I suppose the real purpose of travel is to remind you how much you like home.
Charlie had put his garden to bed before we had left. I actually love this time of year, structure laid bare.
The next day we had a big family lunch – my whole family coming over for Mum’s 84th birthday…
It could be argued that Sibyl was the star of the show. But a nice photo of Mum too! Notice anything different about Charlie’s hair?
Grey days in Dorset, grey walks:
L O N D O N
Then back to London for Christmas:A walk on the Heath with the dogs –
And a long, lingering Christmas lunch with our fiends Maggie, Roland, Amy – and Elspeth from the Art Workers Guild. Fantastic.
That night, we popped up to see our friend Flora to see out Christmas Day!
S C O T L A N D
An early start for the drive north but we soon recovered and had a lovely day in Edinburgh, in beautiful watery sunshine.
One of my favourite cities on earth. In the afternoon we drove up to Darnaway to stay with our friends John and Cathy.
A brisk walk on Findhorn beach the following day, long shadows stretching across the sand.
Sibyl was probably rather surprised by the length of her shadow.
Rainbows in the sky and the Black Isle in the distance. Close to heaven.
We had two quiet evenings at Darnaway and then crept off at first light on the long journey down to the Mull of Kintyre, where we were spending New Year. We called in for two seconds to the new town at Tornagrain, on the way….
Up past Loch Ness…
And a great long journey through the Great Glen. We arrived at Saddell at dusk.
We were staying in the little Landmark cottage, Cul-na-Shee, which we’d stayed in a couple of years ago when Mavis was still a puppy. Strange looking back at that blog now, because it was on that trip that I have just read that Charlie and I first began to daydream about buying a little house in Scotland.
The following day – we went to our bothy to meet the builder! It’s all beginning to happen. I’d say it was looking a little bleak the day we were there…. but so exciting to be getting going on phase one of the restoration – getting the buildings dry and watertight.
We had lunch at Crinan…. misty and grey…
And back to the cottage where Charlie and Sibyl trounced me in bananagrams (for once).
Lots of walking on the beach – admiring the sculpture by Antony Gormley, that seems to be permanently installed now, I’m happy to say:
I took exactly the same photos of seaweed as last time:
Rocks, and rock pools.
I’m afraid I think dogs are banned from the sofas in Landmark trust cottages (but we did super-clean them before we left):
We had a brilliant New Years eve, unexpectedly jolly courtesy of our German and Italian neighbours in Ferryman’s cottage – who very generously invited us over for dinner. So we didn’t go to bed hours before midnight, as expected…
The following day was clear and bright.
We had a New Year’s day walk at Carskiey, for lunch – in the far bothy, that is just a tiny dot in the middle of this picture (not the roof in the foreground):
Lunch for 15 was magnificent, complete with langoustine and scallops and stew, followed by camembert baked on the fire, and a pair of musicians piping away. Thank you Tom and Lisa!
The walk home as dusk fell.
And then early the next morning we slipped away and back to London.
It’s been the quietest weekend in Dorset. Lunch with Mum and Dad, the odd walk, a regular Saturday morning trip to a very quiet Bridport.
Last night we had our friend Kate over for supper – who remarked a truth that I had never thought about before. What a long month January is…. like the first week of a three-week holiday, it seems to go on for ever, whereas the last week rushes by in the blink of an eye. There’s something in this, I think. How slowly do the days pass in January – compared to the frantic weeks of October or November or December, as we hurtle towards the end of the year. So let’s relish the quiet time, before the year starts to rush.