Wednesday 26 August 2015

The Good Life

Looks like we've been on one of our trips out, doesn't it? To a nice country place, with lanes and cute houses.

It's easy to be fooled.

This is actually in the heart of inner city Nottingham. It's St Anns Allotments, the oldest allotments in the world and a grade 2 heritage site. We went before a while back and came away wanting to be part of it all. So we put our names down and waited.
When we took over the plot last October, we opened the gate and beheld a field of waist-high weeds. The only thing to do was slash and burn. I have pyromaniac tendencies, so spent many a winter day stoking the flames with my eyes streaming, going home smelling like a smoked kipper.

He's done most of the hard work. All the landscaping has been done using the bricks of a collapsed Victorian building found on the site. I wanted to rebuild it, but he's got ideas of his own. That serpentine path is a thing of beauty. My job is weeding. I take it very seriously. I have instigated a war on thistles. Brambles and rosebay willow herb are in my top secret dossier too.
Peas straight from the pod. So sweet. 

Flowers everywhere. Mother nature is kind. We've had wild roses, sweet peas, bluebells, forget me nots, ladies lace. The list goes on. But we also decided to plant a flower border as you come in. I did a patch of cosmos next to a patch of snapdragons. The morning glory hasn't really taken off, but really we can't complain. Practically everything else has.
Those are beans there, Trail of Tears they're called. They are a native American bean, delicious, they squeak against your teeth when you eat them. We've planted them in with the sweet corn, just as they do. 
We've been eating like kings. I think I've consumed more potatoes this summer, than in the last three years. We've had them every which way we can think of. Boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted, sauted and fried, we've even had dauphinoise. Yeah, check us out!
Beetroot houmous, so delicious and the colour is amazing. That's broad bean pesto in the background. To die for. Seriously.
We have had to give courgettes away to anyone who crosses our path. Again, we have used every recipe we can possibly think of. Although he tells me I need to make a cake next. Haven't done that yet.
Kale with courgette and roasted cashews, with an olive oil, honey and lemon dressing. Heavenly.

Spinach daisy. We're turning into Tom and Barbara. Just need some pea pod wine...!
Apple blossom in spring and plums ripening in the sun. I like the life of a farmer's wife.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

When is a chair not just a chair?

A couple of months ago, these lovelies came to Nottingham for a day of chatter, laughter and second hand shopping. It went well. We chatted a lot, laughed a lot and bought plenty.
Our normal fare is vintage clothing. We ticked that box, but when we walked into Sue Ryder in Sherwood, we entered new blogging-get-together territory. I bought a chair!

I'm a bit of a sucker for chairs and this one had just been reduced from £25 to £10, which seemed a bargain. I'm also a bit of a sucker for a bargain, so the deal was done and we carried on.
When I got it home on the Monday, I did a bit of investigating. The back cane was broken and needed fixing and the seat pad needed updating. When I unzipped the cover to see what the pad was like, I squealed with excitement. There right in front of me was a CC41 label. As I'm sure a lot of you will know, that label dates the cushion to the 1940s, during and just after WWII, when most commodities including food, clothing and furniture, were rationed.
I love this postcard of my dad surrounded by his parents in 1941. His father, George, was a Desert Rat and so was away in North Africa for much of the war. This postcard was sent home from Egypt, hence the pyramids.
For me that has a lot of resonance. My father was born in August 1941, in London, in the middle of the war, a few months after the end of the Blitz. I grew up listening to tales from my grandmother who spent the entire war in London. Immediately I saw the CC41 label, I started imagining somebody sat in the chair, by the fireplace, listening to Winston Churchill making all those historic, rousing speeches. That chair went up in my estimation!

Anyway, now the chair was intertwined with my father who was born at the same time as the label. It so happens that he died 20 years ago yesterday, two days after his 54th birthday, so as you can imagine, he has been a lot in my thoughts. So when I started re-caning the chair, I went and changed into a pair of shorts belonging to him.
I used this great video to learn how to cane the chair. Isn't youtube an amazing resource?
Here's a picture of him wearing them, standing on top of a landrover, in the bush on his way down to Juba, which then was part of the Sudan and now is the capital of South Sudan. At the time we were living in Khartoum, the capital, in the North. He was a Diplomat, and during that posting, he was responsible for infrastructure; bridges and roads, and also the physical reality of tourism, so he would go and visit little complexes of huts being built with swimming pools, which apparently always ended up with cracks in them! He loved Africa and he loved that role, because he got to work with the local people for whom he had a lot of respect.
There we are in Switzerland circa 1972, at some friends' house for dinner. That's him on the left, Lambert, David George MBE, and that's me; 3d 1966!
He was a really good man, a dad to be proud of. I often ponder how things might have been for our family had he lived longer, and I often wish he were still here so I could know him as an adult, ask him for advice or listen to his stories. But that's life. We're here, it's now and we've got to make the best of it. So when I look at the chair, I intend to think of him and remember the good times.
I have covered the pad in some 1940s barkcloth from France. That fireplace is the next project. We've got some fab tiles to go in there. 
I'm pleased with how it turned out.