Lavender – the Colour of Summer

What looked like a bruise on the landscape, vivid and dazzling against the hedges and traffic of Croydon Lane, proved to be one of Surrey’s best-kept secrets.  At £1 entry per person (under 16s go free) and plenty of free parking, that was a small price to pay for the opportunity to enjoy the warmth and aroma of Provence...in Banstead. Mayfield Lavender Farm, Shop and Café is a place for all ages – the children I saw were very happily running up and down the rows and watching the organically-grown lavender being hand-cut…Read more …

An Ode to Real Ale

Happiness is bottle-shaped for my DH.  And if it is accompanied by trains, travelling and food, so much the better.  So an Ode to Real Ale for his birthday featuring places visited and those to come should cover all angles... An Ode to Real AleRead more …

Spring Cleaning, Anyone?

If anything is going to put the drudgery of spring cleaning into perspective, it’s a behind-the-scenes look at Ham House’s conservation programme during the winter months.  Filthy filters from museum brush vacuums and bags of dust and dirt, meticulously recorded for study and scrutiny, shared table room with badger and hog hair brushes and pots of furniture beetles.  Two experts in stockinged feet padded around on a 400+ year old carpet, methodically and silently replacing furniture for the imminent re-opening of the house to the public.  Their description of the painstaking and lengthy…Read more …

In the Pink at the Medicine Garden

Guilty of eating too many calories and given up on your New Year get-fit-quick regime?  Glad to have seen the back of ‘dry January’.  Whether you’ve over-indulged over Easter or are longing for longer days and shorter hours of darkness, don’t beat yourself up.  De-stress with a shot of peace and well-being at The Medicine Garden, just a stone’s throw from Cobham High Street. Whether a cold, crisp morning or a dry, rain-drenched afternoon, your visit can still deliver the effect you’d hope for from a place with a name so suggestive of…Read more …

Dawn Raid Foiled by Great British Slipper

The night had been humid. Storms were expected. The windows were wide, devouring what cool air there was like a frog catching flies. Awoken by the rhythmic notes of bird song, I began to tune in to the regular tap-tapping I’d heard in the dawn hours over the past weeks. In that early morning dozing state, I dreamed that my neighbour was knocking at my door while his wife operated a pneumatic drill in the street. I turned my back on the early morning sunshine, resisting a look at the clock, slipping easily…Read more …

It’s a Waiting Game

Yes, I know, 1.30 pm on a Sunday is not the best time to go to the supermarket. It’s the window for the weekly shop or for legging-clad girls on a flying visit straight from aerobics. It’s for middle-aged husbands looking for alfresco lunch ingredients, and for young dads, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by the children.  I smile at the hen-pecked husbands, ringing home to check if Greek Kalkidis olives will be OK as ‘they’re out of Spanish Couchillo’. Although just green or black to him, he knows he’ll be for it…Read more …

A Nose between Two Thorns

Ahh, deadheading roses, cutting back Japanese anemones, typing up heavy-headed hydrangeas, all in the dappled sun of a late October afternoon. That’s my type of gardening.  For my DH, gardening is decimating hedges, hacking off overhanging branches, then, knee-deep in the wreckage, shredding every last frond and branch, and covering freshly-weeded flowerbeds with the resulting fallout. This is hardcore to my genteel dabbling, Wickes’ builders grippa  gloves to my floral Cath Kidstons. DH’s gardening usually turns into a two-man job, and sometimes I’m in the mood. Swapping my CK’s for some Wickes’ specials,…Read more …

Les Vendanges

Each year we watch our grapes grow from hard little green pellets to plump translucent beads of juicy flesh, but...just before we get round to picking them, boof, they've gone.  Whether eaten by birds, destroyed by extreme weather or pinched by the neighbours, we've never experienced a good 'vendanges'.  One year we did pick a couple of trays of grapes, juiced them and enjoyed a couple of bottles of 'jus de la vigne', but after a couple of barren years, we didn't have high expectations. However, a late-September visit to France, combined with…Read more …

Book Gaffe Resolved by Plant Purchase

Local charity - The Fircroft Trust - held their annual Spring Fair on Saturday 10th May.  After heading for the plant stall, I was diverted by some very interesting books, particularly a well-thumbed paperback by Honoré de Balzac, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and a couple of thrillers I fancied.  A bargain at 75p each, I tried to pay, soon to realise that the book stall was in the next room - these were from the centre's bookshelves... A straightforward transaction at the plant stall - home-grown tomato and cucumber plants and some container plants,…Read more …