Showing posts with label Dorset. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dorset. Show all posts

Monday, 3 December 2012

Getting organised for Christmas

My mind’s been on Christmas since the summer. That's when I sat down to write my latest novella, White Christmas. As the rest of my family whizzed around enjoying the sunshine I was in a world of my own, dreaming about Christmas trees, advent calendars, carols, presents and snow.

But now my ebook is done and dusted, I’m busy getting sorted for Christmas. With friends and family scattered all over the place, it means being hyper-organised for once and making sure that the right presents get sent to the right place at the right time. I’ll never forget the awful year when I finished work in London on Christmas Eve, drove down to my parents in Dorset, laden (or so I thought) with presents, and then discovered I’d left the most important ones behind.

My problem is that I always get lulled into a false sense of security. I usually start my Christmas shopping in October, get loads done and then grind to a halt. Around the middle of December I have a major panic when I realise I haven’t done nearly as much as I thought I had.

But this year is different. Why? Because instead of keeping everything in my head (not a good idea when it’s clogged up with other stuff), I’ve actually written a list.  I’ve also downloaded the brilliant Red magazine's Christmas Kitchen Lifesaver app, which is keeping me on the straight and narrow about all the food I’ve got to buy.

But back to presents, my list is a work of art. I’ve scrawled the names of everyone I’m buying presents for in one column and when I need to post everything in the next. I’ve written my Christmas cards (well, most of them), sent my goddaughters’ parcels off by Parcelforce already (they are a dream to buy for) and if I say so myself, I’m not doing too badly at all.

Getting ahead for a change and sending my presents off early has been a revelation. Instead of panicking I’m enjoying these pre-Christmas weeks. I just hope I haven’t forgotten someone...
PS. I've even bought a Christmas pudding - from Meg Rivers Cakes (see below). Thanks to my friend Jackie, I've just discovered their cafe near Broadway, in Worcestershire, and it's a great place for lunch.

Monday, 9 July 2012

The day my daughter made me a CD

The windscreen wipers were going at top speed as we drove home from the stupendous Laura Marling concert on Saturday night.

But the singer’s performance had been so uplifting that nothing could dampen our spirits – not even the torrential rain, nor a disagreement (I mean discussion) about which radio station to listen to. My daughter rejected Radio 4 as “boring,” while I only had to hear the first few bars of a Sean Paul dance number on Capital FM to shudder in horror.

So my daughter rummaged around the back of the car to try and find a CD we’d both like – and amazingly found THIS. She shoved it in the CD player and it was like going back eight years in time.

In the summer of 2004 my mum was gravely ill and I spent as much time in Dorset with her as I could. My daughter, who was only 12, often came with me and as we headed south down the A34 she always took charge of the music. Neither of us had an iPod back then and in an attempt to cheer me up in troubled times she played DJ. With a stack of CD cases on her lap, she’d constantly switch from one to another, playing a track off a Joan Armatrading CD, then one from a Rolling Stones album, and then one from The Stereophonics, all the way to the Purbeck hills.

That Christmas, my daughter gave me one of the loveliest presents ever. It was a compilation of all the tracks she’d played me in the car during those dark months. I played it so much that I’m surprised it didn’t wear to bits. But then I bought my first iPod and CDs became a thing of the past. Until Saturday, when she played it all over again… 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A country wedding in Dorset

Whenever someone asks me where I come from I look vague and say I’m not sure. My father was in the RAF when I was little and we moved house so many times I lost count. Actually, thinking back, nowhere really felt like home till we arrived in Dorset when I was 11.

This weekend we were invited to a wedding in the wilds of Dorset and as we drove through country lanes filled with cow parsley, foxgloves and buttercups, it suddenly struck me that if I come from anywhere at all, it’s there.

Once we’d passed the suburban sprawl of Bournemouth, where I went to school, every village signpost brought memories of the past flooding back. The pub where we had lunch with my mother every Saturday for years, the fields where we’d picnic, the beach I took my husband to the first time he visited our house, the hill my children used to roll down, laughing hysterically as they gathered speed and ending up in a heap at the bottom.

The other striking thing about Dorset is the weather. The sky was a murky shade of grey when we left Oxford at the crack of dawn but when we arrived in Dorset, the clouds lifted and the sun came out. The fields were so lush and green after last week’s torrential rain that the landscape looked like something straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel. Speaking of which, I’ve just heard that Radio 4 is recording a new version of my favourite Hardy book, Far From the Madding Crowd, to be broadcast in the autumn.

Finally we arrived at Minterne House in the village of Minterne Magna, where the wedding was held.  A stunning Edwardian manor house that’s been used for scores of films (Far From the Madding Crowd among them), it was the perfect setting for such a happy day. A choir from nearby Beaminster sang, the bride and groom made their vows beneath a painting of the Battle of Trafalgar and when it was all over they roared off down the drive in the bridegroom’s gleaming classic Morgan. In his book, England’s Thousand Best Houses, Simon Jenkins called Minterne House “a corner of paradise” – and he was right.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Famous Five's Sapphire Jubilee

The Queen isn’t the only one celebrating a major anniversary this year. The Famous Five are too. Did you know that Enid Blyton’s classic stories of Julian, Dick, Anne, George and George’s mongrel Timmy have been entrancing generations of children for a magnificent 70 years?

I was one of them. I loved Enid Blyton books so much that every Saturday morning I’d spend the whole of my two shillings and sixpence a week pocket money on a new story. Some weeks I’d go for a Malory Towers or St Clare’s tale, but more often than not it would be the Famous Five.

The first story to be published was Five on a Treasure Island, which came out in 1942. It was one of my absolute favourites - so much so that I recently downloaded it as an audiobook to listen to in the car. And guess what? I was as captivated as ever. The story sounds ridiculously old-fashioned, with children who spend their days swimming at a Dorset cove, taking Timmy for long walks and solving the mystery of an ancient shipwreck, but it’s still completely gripping.

These days some critics knock Enid Blyton for her simplistic language, while others accuse her of being elitist, racist and sexist. I know prissy Anne and her fondness for party frocks and dolls are a bit hard to take but the best thing about Blyton was that she could spin a great yarn. The fact that her stories have sold a mega 600 million copies is proof of that.

What struck me as I listened to Five on a Treasure Island was the freedom children used to have. Julian, Dick, Anne and George are all aged between 11 and 13 but they leave the house after breakfast and don’t come back till tea-time. They’re allowed to row out to Kirrin Island by themselves and camp there alone for two whole days.    

To mark the 70th anniversary, Hodder Children's Books have reissued five Famous Five stories, complete with drawings by some of the best children’s illustrators around, like Quentin Blake and Emma Chichester Clark. Not only that, from this month (June) you can download the Famous Five Adventure Trail, which takes you to some of the Dorset locations that feature in the Famous Five books. I’m half tempted to try it myself…

PS. Did you know that a 70th anniversary is a sapphire jubilee? No, me neither.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A winter let in Sandbanks

Sandbanks in Dorset is famous for its eye-wateringly high house prices. A narrow peninsula jutting into Poole Harbour, it boasts golden sands, vast mansions, stunning views across Poole Bay to the Purbeck Hills and a plethora of luxury yachts sailing by. A chain ferry clanks across the harbour mouth to Studland all day long, so within a few minutes you can be strolling along glorious Shell Bay, one of the loveliest beaches in the country. 

Houses at Sandbanks don’t come up for sale very often but there’s bound to be loads of interest in the latest, a five-bedroom beauty that’s right on the beach and has been in the same family for 44 years. The only downside is that it costs £5 million.

If I owned a house at Sandbanks (if only) I’d never move. My family lived there for six months when I was 11 and it was completely glorious. Our garden backed straight on to the beach and me and my sister spent hours building sandcastles on the shore, skimming stones and leaping into the waves. We could see the sea from our bedroom and watch dinghies tack back and forth as we did our homework.

Our house was a very ordinary-looking white-washed bungalow called Flintshore. We rented it over the winter, when the beach was deserted and rents were low. Sadly, when Easter came and the summer rental season burst forth, our short, blissful sojourn at Flintshore was over.

Funnily enough, Flintshore hit the headlines a few years back when it went on the market for a cool £4 million. With a location like that, I’m sure some billionaire or other snapped it up in a trice.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

1976 - the best year to be a child

1976. The year of Raleigh Chopper bikes, Abba and the longest, hottest summer in living memory.

I remember it like yesterday. But even so, it was a surprise to discover that 1976 has been voted the best year to be a child. Apparently children spent an average of 810 hours outside, went on ten weekend family trips and unlike today, 90 per cent of us felt safe. In contrast, 2011 was the worst year to be a child, with a staggering one in seven youngsters spending just 26 hours playing outside during the entire year.

So what was life like in 1976? I was a teenager and even though I was supposed to be revising for exams I spent most of that glorious summer lying on a Dorset riverbank with my school pals. A friend called Larry bought hundreds of old copies of Jackie magazine for a pound at the village fete and we spent virtually every afternoon reading soppy love stories and pouring over Cathy and Claire’s problem page. Not surprisingly, my exam results were utterly dire.

The girls all wore floaty Laura Ashley dresses and lace-up espadrilles while the boys had long hair and side burns. Me and my best friend Angie listened to Eric Clapton and Jim Capaldi on an old-fashioned record player and lived on toast and homemade biscuits. One afternoon I burned the toast and set the school fire alarm off. The whole place had to be evacuated midway through exams. Not surprisingly, I was the heroine of the hour…

Saturday, 5 November 2011

House With No Name Weekly Digest: From Laura Marling in concert to Nicolas Sarkozy’s kind gesture to David Cameron

Every Saturday the House With No Name blog features some of the highlights of the week. I took this picture, by the way, as I walked along London's Marylebone High Street and spotted Emma Bridgewater's gorgeous shop window.

House With No Name Book Review: David Walliams’s Gangsta Granny
House With No Name Music Review: Laura Marling plays Birmingham Cathedral
House With No Name Culture: Where you can buy a work of art for £45
House With No Name on No 10: Nicolas Sarkozy’s kindness to David Cameron
House With No Name Lifestyle: Who does the school run in your house?

PS: Five days into the NaBloPoMo challenge and I'm still going. But a friend from my days as a trainee journalist made me stop and think yesterday. She writes a lovely blog called The World from My Window, about life in rural Dorset, but she's dubious about blogging so often. "I find it self-indulgent inflicting my blog on people twice a week, let alone every day," she wrote. Hmmm. She's definitely got a point, especially as in our early hack days we were instructed not to use the word "I" in news stories. What do you think ? Is blogging every day self-indulgent? I'd (sorry) love to know.

PPS: The most uplifting story in the UK this week was Adam King's proposal to his girlfriend Lucy Rogers on the 19.57 commuter train home from London Euston. If you haven't seen the YouTube video yet, you can watch it here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...