Friday, 23 October 2020

The Secret Garden


Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett has never been my favourite fable. I could never understand why two children living in one house were kept apart. Possibly, they might have exerted undue influence upon one another. Or why said children were forbidden to enter the walled-about, cultivated patch outside of the house. Somebody, it seems, took ill and died there. Yes, but surely….etc.? Half a century on from my first reading of the book, I can see clearly what Ms Hodgson Burnett has done, that is, taken a number of standard storytelling elements and jigged them into a heady, Gothic-lite parable on the healing power of nature.

Take one, orphaned young heroine – tick – remove her to remote big house – tick – headed by distant, choleric Uncle – tick – and run by Mrs Medlock, a taciturn Mrs Fairfax cum Mrs Grose-type housekeeper – tick – and add mysterious voice crying in the night – tick, tick, tick – and seal off a patch of nearby real estate from humanity – tick – and the author could not fail to create a bestseller. But maybe I am being cruel? Ms Hodgson Burnett’s master stroke is no doubt the creation of Dickon, relative of housemaid Martha and gardener’s boy, a curious cross between a nature spirit and a horticultural wizard. Dickon becomes Mary’s best friend and the author hints, her lover.

That Mary’s inamorato is Dickon and not her finely-bred cousin Colin could be the result of Ms Hodgson Burnett’s early 20th-century burgeoning social awareness? Or maybe the Victorian mania for marrying first cousins had grown thin? Or maybe, by 1911, no one could imagine the level-headed Mary falling for a spoilt upper-class twit, no matter how much he heals, in the course of the narrative. Getting the kid from his bath chair to the begonia borders is one matter, but holy matrimony – nah! The action of the latest film version of The Secret Garden (Marc Munden, 2020) has been pitched forward to 1947. Fine. But the garden has been transformed from a clutch of honest vegetable patches and sweet-pea canes to a CGI-generated, fantasy forest – not so good for a fable grounded in realism. Whatever, it’s half-term, so enjoy.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

White (company) Magic


I have written about the White Company before and I do so again, with gusto. In summary, I just cannot get over the sheer civilization of that brand, the order of its stores and concessions, the quality of its merchandise, the harmony of the tones and graceful lines of its bedding accessories
and clothing. The White Company goods are not all white, of course, but occupy every shade on the monochrome register, from purest daylight to the grey of charcoal, twilight, and darkest night. And beige and champagne and mushroom, to the tones of darker earth. Indeed, stepping into a White Company store or concession is rather like, I imagine, being on the set of one of those glamorous, glorious 1930’s Hollywood movies, with Fred or Ginger about to begin tap-tapping about one of the bedroom showcases – white tie and tails, indeed! But it is the White Company CEOs who should take a bow, being ever at the helm of a brand that recognizes the need for calm in this ever-frenetic world. The WhiteCompany brand caters to the human appetite for harmonious surroundings, and comfortable yet stylish night attire and leisure wear as a relaxing downtime foil to the multi-coloured cacophony of the daytime world. On that note, I finish – but I have no doubt that I will return to this subject.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Our Gull Friend....


The media is filled with such tales of greedy, grabby sea gulls, that it was a delightful surprise to find, on this day out, a gull as polite as any human trained in the art of table manners. He waited patiently while my friend and I dined on the cliff top at Birling Gap (Sussex), and then graciously and gracefully accepted the scraps that we cast at him, - truly, I believe that this Birling gull deserves to be lauded. Follow this link    now

Sunday, 23 August 2020

The Lady Vanishes

I have just taken this selfie while standing full square in front of a pair of mirrored doors. Weird thing is, I don’t appear in it. The answer is simple, of course, both doors are slightly open at about a 20-degree angles, so that the deflection of light does not capture my image. And it makes me wonder about the plethora of internet images of time-travelers, ghosts, etc, appearing and vanishing suddenly while crossing roads or romping in playgrounds, wherever. While I do not disbelieve in such phenomena, I would encourage experts to take a closer look at how these “weird or what” images are constructed.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Cool as mint.......

The dog days are upon us once again; those sleepy, sticky afternoons in August where nothing is happening and the world seems to be in waiting. What better way to blow a breath of fresh air through your life – and your rooms – than with a lovely blend of scented oils? Just now, I am channeling Wilko’s fresh basil and garden mint combination, expertly diffused by this clear glass and silver outfit. The scent, fresh and tangy, cuts a cool note in hot interiors, and without the use of those annoying fans. The spray bottle (100 ml) retails at £2.50, while the diffuser kit (100 ml) costs £5.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Shere delight in the Surrey hills.......

If you do not fancy a summer excursion to an olde English village so idyllic and so rarefied, that their ducks are granted special status, and numerous heritage-standard cottages and gardens that, added together, boast more flowers and plants than reside in all of Kew, then do not go near the delightful little village of Shere. Nestling sleepily in a hollow of the Surrey hills, Shere is the atmospheric spot in which to enjoy afternoon tea, followed by working off those calories on one of the many walks around the town. You can simply wander about, visit the twelfth-century church or go on a country walk to the Silent Pool, site of a legend connected with King John. Of course, it helps to have a car, though buses do travel that way from Guildford. And just up the road, enjoy the stunning view from the elevated Newlands Corner. All in all, a great day out….but if you don’t like that sort of thing…?

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Wonderful Winkworth Arboretum

If you live in Surrey and are seeking a pleasant country interlude, this summer, you may find Winkworth Arboretum to your taste. Located on Hascombe Road, not far from the town of Godalming, the arboretum is actually a hillside nature reserve that encompasses a large pond, various meadows and a number of woods, including Magnolia Wood, Bluebell Wood and Holly Wood – ah! - what’s not to love? Like all reserves, the arboretum is laid out in a number of walks, for instance, “Taste of Winkworth”, 1.6 km approx, and “Challenging” walk, 3.6 km approx. Because of the present extraordinary circumstances, access to facilities are limited, but there is a tea room and bathroom, and normally, a natural play area and boat house. Dogs on lead are welcome, but hard ball games, bicycles, scooters and “garden toys” are not permitted. Entrance is by timed ticket, so you will have to phone or email in advance (01483 208477) But the wait is well worth it, believe me.