Home and away

Lovely to catch up with my friend in London.  While I was there I managed also to read an extraordinary book, Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking", about the sudden death of her husband of forty years.  I have never read anything so intelligent, so thoughtful and written with such clarity and coolness about death and grieving.  Sounds as if it would be depressing but in fact it wasn't.  Fabulous.

It was the most flying of visits, getting to London on Monday afternoon and coming back late on Tuesday morning using the cheapest trains I could find.  The tube strike was still on when I got up on Tuesday so I walked up from Waterloo, where my friend lives, to Euston station, taking my time, stopping once for a coffee and to read the paper, wandering, sauntering.  This is my part of London: Waterloo bridge, Westminster,  Fleet Street, Bloomsbury, all that area West of the City but not as far West as Oxford Street or the West End.  I went to university on the Strand, worked on Surrey Street and came back, after a few years away having babies and living in the suburbs of Manchester, to work on the Aldwych .  I still remember that surge of energy and excitement I felt walking over Waterloo Bridge on the first morning of that new job and feeling once more at the heart of things.

I still love the view from Waterloo Bridge, St Pauls and the gherkin on one side, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament on the other and the river always full of life and movement.

Up from the Aldwych I walked on through the squares that lie between Southampton Row and the British Museum.  I like these too.  They are quiet and calm away from the traffic and the rush of pedestrians.  People sit in the squares or, if they are walking,  it is the not the walk of the rush and the shove and the pointed elbow.  Even if it is  purposeful  it is still a walk with an eye for what is in flower, for dalliance on benches and scuffles of sparrows.

It was good to be in London again and it was good to be back home.  The hills were green and gold in the sun and the hens were pleased to be let out, scratching and gossipping under the yew tree.  My salvia cuttings in the greenhouse were all ok.  There were more tomatoes and more autumn raspberries to be picked.  I felt as if I had been away for a few days, not less than 36 hours.

And this morning was perfect, utterly still and full of the glow of autumn light.
The dew on the alchemilla mollis.
The pears are ripening.
We picked bags and boxes and wheelbarrows of apples from the orchard at the weekend but the ones in the kitchen garden are always a bit later.

In the new mixed native hedge the rosa rugosa hips shine.  Shall I pick them and have a go at rosehip syrup or should I leave them to be beautiful through the winter?

Here is the orchard closely mown following Ian's scything.  I need to do more planning and sowing and planting for the wildflowers here.
I don't need to do anything at all here though, except look at it.  It is good to go away.  It is good to come home.


  1. That sounds like you make the very best of both of your worlds - I'm not sure you're someone who's ever going to let go off city life completely. Fascinating post.

  2. That's how I see the city now since we moved away from it into the Midlands - a big thrill, but only on occasions! It's too fast, too fast - or am I getting old?

  3. A beautiful post. I love those London squares which I always associate with 'Cats.' And as for walking, central London is actually quite small and it is remarkable how quickly you can get from A to B on foot seeing all sorts of wonderful things along the way.

    I remember a post you wrote when you were working in London about how your colleagues couldn't understand how you had to rush home to seize even a single hour of daylight. But what a home you've got to return to!

  4. your orchard sounds so wonderfu. Pears too? Did you ever see the Movie with Vivian Leigh Waterloo Bridge.
    She was great in that.


  5. OOh, what a lovely break. I always feel a very timid country mouse when I get on the train to Waterloo. Which is fine, but not so good for the mouse.

  6. I used to walk over Waterloo Bridge every morning from the station - to Surrey Street. Perhaps we both used to work for that great big international company that is no longer? How funny would that be? (God I hope we didn't hate each other in a former life. I can only remember hating a few females at that job though.)

  7. Chris - I think you are right. I don't like limiting my options so I do tend to keep a foot in both camps. Country life is definitely my choice but the odd trip to the big city is always going to be a pleasure.
    Fran - yes, can feel too fast. don't think I want to live there or work there any more but still not immune to its magic.
    Fennie - I love walking in cities, not just London but all cities. You see them in a different way.
    Yvonne - yes, love that movie. Waterloo Bridge is a icon!
    Maddie - I am fine when I get there but very aware of the hayseeds before I get going these days.
    EPM - yes indeed, that is the one. Don't remember hating anyone when I was there though. Might have been the odd very senior one I could have left alone. Were you a very senior partner? If not, we're safe.

  8. I love the sentiment behind your post - it's so lovely to go away and even better to come home again :)

  9. Oh goodness - after all this time the contrast between london and home (wales) is quite shocking to me when I see the images you have posted. Strange to think I once lived there.

  10. Oh my goodness, I went to college in Southampton Row. Your post takes me back more than 30 years with a huge jolt. I remember how it felt to be part of that area of London, how far we have all come, how much we have changed (and stayed the same).

    I remember walking down to Covent Garden at lunchtime whilst it was still being built and looking through "peep holes" in the fencing which surrounded the building site. Wish I had spent more of those lunchtimes in the B.M. whilst I had the chance ...

    PS: love the new header photo

  11. We need to compare notes!!! How funny.

  12. 4 Pics of London, and 6 of the garden. I can see where your priorities now lie. I still love London (all ex-Londoners do), but now find it so exhausting. Give me the peace and quiet of the garden any day!!

  13. Lovely post. I'm a country girl (and a flatland girl) so working from my home in Suffolk feels comfortable.

    I never feel excited about going to London - but when I do I come back rejuvenated by the energy, diversity and inspiration of the city.

    You're photos of the river and the squares make me yearn for another trip into London.

    So I wouldn't be without both.


  14. You were in my manor and agree that the view from Waterloo bridge is one of the best. I can see why you might be glad to be home though


    p.s. love the header image - that blue against the reds.

  15. I haven't been in London for years, lovely photos and views.

  16. I hardly know London at all, so it's always a magical place, full of surprising little corners and unexpected green spaces. I always enjoy it so much more if I'm with someone who doesn't want to shop!

  17. How I agree with what you say - it is lovely to go to London, but it is lovely to come home to the countryside again too. Love those drops of water on the alchemilla leaves - no plant displays water better than lady's mantle does it.

  18. Elizabeth - I enjoyed the London tour too! Like Posie - it's years since I've been there! But even a day away from the garden and things have changed and grown!

  19. I used to love going to London when I lived in Berkshire and I did quite enjoy it when I went to Chelsea but I now really enjoy coming home, feeling that sense of things slowing down the closer I get to home. I think a trip to the city makes us appreciate home more

  20. The best of both worlds; enjoy the city, but then escape back to the countryside :)

  21. London is great to visit I agree but it is good to get back to the hills. I have read the Magical Thinking book too and agree it is a fabulous read.

  22. You've had the best of it, then - a treat to be away and a pleasure to come home.
    I loved The Year of Magical Thinking - enjoyed the play too.

  23. Cyndy - it sounds a cliche doesn't it but it sharpens your appreciation of home to go away sometimes!
    Karen - you are right, the contrast on coming home seemed almost shocking, more shocking to come home than to arrive in London this time. Sometimes it is the other way round!
    Bilbo - you are so right. I love the BM but am far more likely to go now I live in Wales than I was when I lived in London!
    EPM - would love to!
    Cro - I like to go when I have no pressing reason to if you know what I mean. Then it is just a pleasure.

  24. aargh, just replied to lots of comments and all disappeared. perhaps should go to bed.

  25. Love the photo of flowers in the blue jug. Perfect.

  26. Dear Elizabeth, Away from it all and home again!! I always think that short, rather spontaneous events such as your visit to your friend are the best. Long holidays require so much preparation that one is exhausted before one begins and, sadly, the anticipation is rarely matched by the reality.

    Your house in the country looks to be lovely and I am sure gives you a great sense of calm and peace that somehow London cannot.

    Thank you so much for leaving a comment on my 'Nantiago' posting, to which I have made reply and, through which, I have found you!

  27. the last picture is always my favorite, so,so, lovely.


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