Monday 29 August 2011


Vesta (or Hestia to the Greeks) is the classical goddess 
of hearth and home.
Although she was very rarely represented in figurative form, 
here she is carved into the arch over the main entrance 
the lavish Art Deco house built by Stephen Courtauld 
on the site of the 14th century royal palace.

In ancient Greece the Hestian soul was put into the house 
in the most literal way.
When a young woman married and set up home
her mother would light a torch at her own household hearth 
and carry it before the bride and groom to their new house,
lighting their new fire with it.

A similar custom can be found in Russia, where the household
spirit of the hearth was known as a domovik.
If the family moved house, they would carry brands
from the old stove and light the stove in the new house from them.

She is a sociable goddess: she presided over the preparation of meals
and the first mouthful of the meal was always
consecrated to her. In Roman times, 'To Vesta' was a common grace.*

Eltham was self-consciously luxurious.
In winter the rooms were if anything regarded as too hot.
All the baths could be run at the same time if necessary
so that guests could dress for dinner in comfort.

Cecil Beaton wrote in Vogue in 1933:
'The clock strikes, and there is a cocktail to impregnate one
with energy enough to move from the depth of the sofa,
to climb the stairs, and then there is the
extravagance of soaking in a bath cloudy with salts.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother paid a private visit 
while still duchess of York on 12th July 1936.
She commented that she thought the modern part
a little overdone - but it was all very interesting,
and 'my goodness what a good feed we had!
And good champagne!'

It was a 1923 Veuve Cliquot and the menu
consisted of:

Consommé Estragan
Lobster Cocktail
Veau à la Mode
Petits Pois
Pommes Nouvelle
Bombe Mexicaine

Even if you visited at teatime (4.30)
you could expect to be well warmed and fortified.

Mollie Butler (1907-2009) who married a Courtauld cousin
recalled arriving one Friday in the late 1930s to have,
'an enormous tea, with muffins and crumpets and everything.
And Ginie always had a tiny little bottle of brandy
on the tea table which she put in people's tea.'

The secret to a long and merry life perhaps.

* Spirit of the Home by Jane Alexander.

Friday 26 August 2011

Is it autumn?

Or is it spring?

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Chattels and shackles

What have I got to show for the past few days?

Well, there's been continued donating, chucking, selling and 
putting-out on-the gate post,
which is my cunning method of 
getting rid of miscellaneous items, not quite suited
to the charity shop, the dustbin or ebay.
Almost everything goes within minutes
and I never see it happen.

I have also had some sadly salutary lessons in 
what happens when you get very old
( two sets of 90 year old neighbours)
and haven't addressed your superfluity of possessions.
They swell like ocean waves, lap at your feet
 and threaten to drown you.
Then someone else has to come to the rescue
whether you like it or not because it is all so insanitary
and dangerous.
This is time-consuming and very depressing
for everyone.

I want somehow to ensure that I don't end up 
in a tiny body-shaped space in a house full of rubbish
which will engulf me if I attempt to leave my chair.
Now is not too soon to start because...

the end is finally in sight for part one of our
retire to the country plan,
but it has been such a long time coming,
and so riddled with inexplicable setbacks that
weariness, disillusionment and much perplexity
about the way that people behave
have made it impossible to blog about.

It's not that I want to be secretive or mysterious.
I just don't have the stomach for it. Yet.
No pretty pictures, no amusing anecdotes,
heck, even Mrs Miniver can't help me.
So I have littered this post with some of the stuff
 which I am struggling to part with.

This one is for Rachel.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Duck therapy 2

If running away to sea is not an option,

hiring a park pedallo,

 listening to the lazy gulping splosh of the paddle,

and breathing in the cool goosey green air,

is as good a way as any of distancing 

landlocked worries.

Thursday 18 August 2011


The sun has not shone today.
For various reasons it has been
gloomy without and within.
Some days are like that.

A horrid letter from a solicitor didn't help.
The infirmities and indignities of old age (not mine)
have been a sad concern.
I have a painful swollen gland on one side only of my neck.
But on the bright side:
my friend's son got the A level grades he needed,
O and I have made two nice meals and had a walk in the woods,
and for the first time
I have succeeded in growing these
Heavenly Blue Ipomea.

Wednesday 17 August 2011


Self-sown sunflower.

Self- sewn cushion covers.

Self-satisfied me.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Country fair

I don't know what our visitors would have made of this,
but as they had popped out for a weekend in Paris
they missed it. 

There was a brass band of course.

A spinning display.

 Very good homemade icecream.
Plenty of bric a brac.
A raffle.
White elephant.
Throw the ball in a bucket.

(Just thinking about explaining any of this is giving me a headache.)

And best of all -  a dog show.
Here are the dogs checking each other out.
The judging was very earnest.
Rosettes were awarded, but
although I watched for quite a while
I never had the slightest notion
what the winner had done
to deserve it.

A consolation pat perhaps?

I sense a disappointment here.

Saturday 13 August 2011

In the Pink

From pretty far east to
Mise at Pretty Far West.
Thank you so much.
If you don't already know and love
her funny, clever, quirkily irreverent blog,
go there. You'll be glad you did.

P.S I would have waited until I'd slipped down the page
 a little further
but I was taught to write my thank you letters 
on the same day that I received the gift.