Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Twas the Day before Christmas Eve...

Walking around in the drizzle - though the day is quite mild
I see...

that the artist Berch has decorated the barber shop...

that there are lots of wet berries on the holly on 22nd Street

and balls hanging from the trees.

The florist on the corner of 8th and 22nd is bursting with color.

The man handing out Metro bears a strong resemblance to St Nick.

Misty windows at Le Granne

and Santa's helpers at Bergamot

with charming hats.

Back at home the usual crew decorates the desk.
Remember trolls?


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Reading

When not rushing around taking photos, writing, walking the dog,  gardening in a very confined space and, occasionally, cooking, you will find me with my nose stuck in a book. It was ever thus. I think I like books better than real life...they take most of the really boring bits out except poor Tess laboring in the fields in the opening of Hardy's novel and, of course, the even more wretched Ivan Denisovich...
One reads to explore other worlds, other lives.
However, a super book rather close to home - though written almost a century ago - is

The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher in which a woman is perfectly miserable at home - though a meticulous housekeeper - and manages to make her family perfectly miserable too and then...well...things change.
I hate knowing all about a book's themes before I begin it.  (I'd read the preface afterwards!) This book should have felt a bit schematic and predictable but the author breathes such life into her characters that one really wants good things for them.
I read it in two days.
I also recently loved Margarita Laski's Little Boy Lost - a most moving but brisk and uncloying account of a father's search for his son in post-World War II France. It was originally published in 1949 and captures the gloom and poverty of Europe immediately after the war. 

My third recommendation is not a novel but a family history, A World Elsewhere,  is beautifully written and utterly gripping. In brief, Sigrid's mother, a young American abroad in Europe in the twenties of the last century, meets and marries a most charming, handsome, romantic - and impoverished - aristocrat. This all sounds wonderful - but this idyll turns into a nightmare when Germany goes to war.

So, happy reading in these long dark evenings!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Deck the Halls...

Well, actually no holly here though the holly trees round here are full of berries.
At the green market however...

there are wreaths galore

and garlands

and berries

bows offered if needed.

There is a strange pale sort of lavender

and  the hellebores - also called Lenten or Christmas roses...

 and skinny trees  - the kind I like better than fat ones.

Last of all a wreath made entirely of herbs.
So pretty
So practical.

Friday, December 12, 2014

It's Getting to Look a Lot Like...

Mid December and the days are getting shorter
and the dawn coming later...

The birds are enjoying the last red berries on the trees outside our building. (Top right is a blur of one flying away!)

I always like nice skeletal trees.

Bird and building...

Time for shopping - or window shopping anyway. Here is Myers of Keskwick, the English shop on Hudson Street bursting with cool stuff to eat - mostly chocolate!

An angel in the barber shop in London Terrace

and a swanky French shop in the same building.

This is Buster in Crate and Barrel - I like shops that let the dog in...

Anyway, he was very bemused by the faux forest creatures

especially the owl!

Some apples on a very old English plate. Sort of reminds me of home!

Thursday, December 4, 2014


This is one of my blog posts to be filed under 'other places'.
I think the place where you spend your first ten years is more firmly etched in your mind than anywhere you may subsequently live. This is certainly true in my case.

I had the good fortune to grow up in a particularly magical place  - Thorndon Park in Essex in England - where we lived in what had once been a gamekeeper's cottage on a grand estate. Our garden opened directly on the huge acreage that had been the deer park and grounds laid out by Capability Brown for Lord Petre in the 18th century.  Back in the 1950's we children were allowed to wander in the woods in search of adventure.

Deep in the woods was the neglected little Roman Catholic chapel where the Lords Petre and their servants were buried. I only ever went inside once with my mother. A woman was scrubbing the black and white flagstone floor and multicolored lights from the stained glass windows speckled her back. An image that has remained with me for ever. I only discovered recently that the Chantry Chapel was designed by a friend of Pugin's (Pugin designed the Houses of Parliament!) 
Anyway, these woods and Thorndon Hall

are the setting for Jane in Winter a children's book I wrote some years ago. Though aimed at readers between the ages of about eight and twelve it's also a memoir of childhood.
For the fantastical parts of the story - the domain of the evil Queen Ida deep under the lake - I used my memories of the splendid Palais Gharnata in  Marrakesh, Morocco -

a most amazingly decorated place.

Jane in Winter is about autumn in England in the 1950's - and family and food and the days leading up to Christmas. I've recently re-edited it to remove errors. It's available both for Kindle (only $2.99) and as a paperback. I think you'll enjoy it!

A view of Thornton Hall - Myrtle Hall in the book - from the Brentwood side.
So if you need a little light nostalgic reading or a present for a young reader...
For my other books go here.
Happy reading!