Sunday, 29 November 2009

A Big Stick To Hold On To

The weekends here in the countryside just seem to hurtle by with a great flurry of activity. All unique to us, all fun and all within easy driving distance and without the stress inducing addition of traffic and London parking issues. On Saturday handsome husband took our smallest chap and I for late breakfast in our Ottolenghi equivalent high up in an ancient Saxon hill top town. We were served delectable homemade pastries, my favourite being a croissant stuffed full of cinnamon laced apples, which I wickedly dipped in to my rich and creamy hot chocolate, totally sinful I know but life is for living, and I knew we would be doing some walking to inspect the new boutique that has opened here.

On leaving the town we whizzed down the hill at great speed, hair flying in the breeze, towards our next destination and event, an open day at our favoured Organic Farm where we found novel wares on offer and (more) food. We were particularly taken with the Stick Man who makes the most extraordinary and elegant walking sticks which are exquisitely decorated and other enchanting wooden paraphernalia. Handsome husband likes to have a stick to grasp on our lengthy walks and chose one with a handle shaped as a human thumb, I think every gentleman should have a big stick.
The evening was taken up with a trip to our pub, where we ate heartily and were entertained by tales of a days shooting by some insanely macho chaps dressed in what I consider a rather dandy array of breeks (short trousers), waistcoats, check shirts and ties. Can men be macho and dandy at the same time became the topic of conversation with handsome husband, who explained that the correct dress code was imperative at these country pursuit events and there was nothing dandy about it. I will take his word for it as he can be quite persuasive, and as an avid reader of the Shooting Times is all knowing on issues of country attire.
We rose to the sounds of bells ringing out from the church and discussed while eating berries and warmed brioche in bed from my silver tray, what activities we should participate in. We had several options, the Victorian Christmas Fair with ice rink at the school (chilly), drinks at the pub with some friends (afternoon hangover), or a trip to a local antiques fair (liable to purchase something totally unnecessary). Instead of doing any of the above we opted for something far more earthy and handsome husband, the dog and I went on a winter wonderland walk here on a bright, crisp morning ensuring we put his big stick to good use.
For some naughty treats to eat visit Turnbulls for every gourmet whim.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Teachers Pet

We have reached that time in the school calendar when emails, phone calls and little notes begin to fly around with requests for ideas for the teachers gift. Now for those of you out of the school loop, there are various options here and that will often depend on the 'class rep' which after my first experience many years ago, I vowed never to hold this post again, a truly thankless task, unless you a. have nothing else to do in your life or b. are immune to rejection, needless to say neither of these apply to me.
Here are some of the options which I have witnessed over the years. Vouchers (boring), jewellery (why bother if it's not Cartier), bathing products (a slight suggestion of bad hygene) chocolates (assumption that the receiver doesn't care about her waistline), candles (no imagination). Of course with all these suggestions is the unquestioning acceptance that all class parents will contribute, and therefore will not need buy a gift themselves. Bluntly speaking this leaves no room for individuality, it simply implies that one just can't be bothered, well not me Mrs Class Rep, I'm Little Miss Rebel and I won't sign up to this sheep like mentality, I pride myself on always being able to pick the correct gift for each person, savouring the whole present selection ritual. So I ignore these emails, and suggestions of 'getting together over coffee' to discuss the selection, and I take myself off. I so much prefer shopping alone, it's not that I don't like the company of friends (or handsome husband), it is simply that I take this process seriously and require full focus and concentration on the task at hand, and when I shop with others, I tend to make errors, and that just won't do when choosing something completely exquisite for the teachers.
I began my search locally, just in case the ideal gift might be lurking in one of the little shops here and oh how fortunate as the tiniest shop in the world (really I mean this, handsome husband always says if he was feeling aroused in there he wouldn't be able to get out - show off), had some wonderful trinkets to choose from, and I calculated that as I hadn't had to drive, therefore saving on petrol I might be able to treat myself too.
The glamorous lady who runs the shop informed me that they had searched with great care to ensure they could offer their clientele exceptional and unique gifts and they succeeded. So I cleared my mind of distractions and focused on my mission of finding the correct gift for the teacher and her assistant. I began to delve through all the brightly coloured and sparkling goodies on offer the choice was dazzling, candles, soaps, mugs, earrings, rings, bangles,whisks, t-shirts, gloves, silk eye masks, hair bands, scarves, belts, roller skates, purses, flasks, torches and all divine and totally random, but not suitable for our special teacher. I knew there was something in here for her I had to think outside the box - of course OUTSIDE, and sitting right there in the little courtyard at the back of the shop was the gift of gifts for this teacher, a tiny herb garden all of her own in its own container and comes with matching snipping scissors. Our lovely fairytale teacher is always growing things for the children and on one of our before drop off chats she has told me how she loves to cook and wishes she had some space to grow her own, so now she can. For the teaching assistant who cycles everywhere I found a clever little gift of a bicycle picnic set so now she can cycle and picnic in style and comfort too. I was so delighted with my finds I had to reward myself with a big gold star, a dainty gold star brooch to be precise which will sit with pride on my lapel. What's on your wish list Little Miss Gorgeous?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Something Furry to Keep Me Warm

It has been getting quite chilly down here, now that winter has finally arrived, and I have been keeping myself cosy and warm by layering up with cashmere and silk, and staying close to the Aga. We are also fortunate in having large open fires (in most of the rooms), and handsome husband is quite a dab hand at getting them going, and early every morning he goes out to the woods and soon returns with some logs and kindling, holding his chopper triumphantly (clearly something he learnt at scouts)!

Once outside it is all a very different story and its completely freezing, and although I do have some warm coats, sheepskin lined, tweed and a sumptuous Ralph Lauren camel and cashmere piece, they just aren't keeping me as protected from the chill that I feel they should be, and I certainly don't want to spend the winter months indoors for fear of frostbite every time I step outside.

I was feeling quite disheartened as I stomped into town wearing so many layers of clothing and handsome husbands Loro Piana overcoat, I felt I might topple over with the weight of it all, when I spotted a fox heading towards the bakers. When I say fox, I mean a coat, a glorious specimen of fur. Now I know there may be someone now reading this who thinks it abhorrent to even consider such a thing, wearing a dead animal, but really when a girl is as despondent as this there simply is no choice, and I will be quite bold now and tell you that I completely adore fur, I think it was an introduction at an early age from my Grandmother, who's boyfriend was a furrier and she had what might be considered now quite a scandalous collection of fur attire, and I have been a devotee every since.

So I rushed home (not easy under all that weight) and began my search for the flawless fur. I was a little side-tracked in this quest by the lure of an antiques fair in one of the larger towns close by. At previous fairs I have often examined stalls trading in fur coats, jackets, scarves and hats, and have repeatedly been captivated by the gleaming, sleek assortments on offer, however, this was not one of those occasions, and the furs I did see were a sorry, sad looking limp excuse for the animal/s it had once been. Back in the haven of home, I reached for my bible of hope, and font of all knowledge on things elegant, Vogue. I poked the fire and began to leaf through the glossy pages and was transfixed almost instantly by a magnificent beast from Fendi, aah of course, the Italians always know exactly how to look understated when nobody else can pull it off. They are easily spotted in cities around the world, swishing around in their minks, foxes, sables et all, and with the obligatory sunglasses, suntans and dark swarthy looks and that's only the men.

After a phone call with a delightful Italian chap in Sloane Street, who knew exactly what I desired, I am glad to report that I am no longer remotely chilly when I venture out into the world, and handsome husband is so taken with the fur that he hasn't been in such a hurry to rush out with his chopper recently and prefers to stroke my wild animal.....If you fancy a furry friend seek out Fendi or if English is more your thing there is always Hockley.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Where I seal my fete!

I know I have been accepted here in my tiny town, as I received a personal invitation for the annual charity Coffee Morning, hand delivered by the woman who is the chair of the committee. Naturally, I invited her in for tea and (homemade) biscuits, and took her on a tour of the house, which thankfully had just been polished and scrubbed by my wonderful help here. I could tell she was eyeing up the space to see whether it might be suitable to host next years event, the giveaway was when she whipped out her tape measure, saying she was interested in the size of the sisal rug in our drawing room!
We chatted for a while about the town, the schools, the children, the new interiors shop, and the problems of keeping pets safe when fireworks are exploding, then she sprang it on me, would I consider joining the committee. I didn't want to rush into this as I hate to devote myself to anything until I have checked all avenues, and there may be an alternative charity group that I should be steering towards, so I stalled for time, saying that I was just finishing off with my responsibilities for the various charities I was involved with in London, and as soon as I handed these over, I would certainly be looking to become absorbed locally in charity work. This did the trick, and she left with a smile and wave, and a fistful of my biscuits she said her children would adore at tea-time - likely story.
The day of the coffee morning arrived, and fortunately it wasn't raining, which meant I wouldn't need to wear wellies, although I do possess a rather luxurious leather lined Le Chameau pair, they are not exactly elegant, I've never seen a pair of wellies that are, even my mothers Gucci ones, which do come close, but rubber is rubber and there is only so much you can do with it for your feet. It was important to be dressed correctly, overdressing might be considered ostentatious and jeans, although my current cherished pair are J Brand, might be thought scruffy. This was the ideal opportunity for me to bring out my latest purchase from Joseph, a pair of highly flattering trousers the same colour of my favourite chocolate bar, teamed effortlessly with a super soft Pringle pistachio coloured cable knit long cashmere coatigan (the new word of the season). I appraised my choice and concluded I looked very 'Bond Street on a Monday'.
Off I toddled with my Anya Hindmarch basket and arrived at a very beautiful house at the foot of the lane where the event was being held, hosted by a tall, handsome woman who was completely charming and who very kindly guided me around the rooms, introducing me to so many (mostly) ladies, there was no way I could possibly remember all their names. Her home is enchanting, and this was emphasised by the array of gleaming and sparkling goods on offer, all being sold in aid of charity. I began to make my way around the stalls, filling up my basket as I went with some sensational gifts, food, cards, clothes and jewellery, all of which was quite unexpected as I didn't anticipate that I would actually want to buy anything, and I was terribly impressed. These ladies were not amateur arts and crafters, they were the real deal, and after chatting to a few of the stall holders it transpires that many of these ladies have thriving businesses, and some supply to the very boutiques and stores I left behind in London. I thought it was very clever of the committee to invite all these marvellous traders and expressed this to one of them, whereupon, in hushed tones, she intimated that the hostess had a real struggle with the chair lady who had been completely against introducing items that people would genuinely want to buy, and felt it should remain very much a home made (not very exciting) affair. Does this not defeat the whole point of a coffee morning for charity?
Once I had filled my basket, and my arm was beginning to ache, I set off in search of coffee, this was after all a coffee morning, and sure enough in the hub of the house, the kitchen, I found a place to park my trim bum and plonked my basket down next to me, and there she was, the chair lady, holding court around the kitchen island, tucking in to more biscuits. I listened to the polite chatter and tinkle of laughter and was then asked if I had made any purchases - I began to pull out my acquisitions and told my attentive audience that this was by far the best charity event I had been to since leaving London, and how refreshing to find things that were not only perfect gifts, but were of the highest quality, and how very brilliant the chair lady had been in getting all the sellers on board, and how lovely it would be to do it all again next year, and perhaps she should consider a summer event too.
My fate is now sealed, as after this exchange, several of the ladies agreed with me, and insisted I join them in organising the whole thing, particularly as they had heard how large and beautiful my garden is, and that it might just be the perfect venue for a summer charity fete. Oh dear, how will I explain all this to handsome husband, perhaps if I promise a beer tent it might placate him....


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