23 Jul

Today we took our brand new kayak – Elsie, as I’ve named her – out for her maiden voyage.

We didn’t go very far as our fitness levels are … well, let’s just say neither of us is all that athletic. We strapped ol’ Elsie to the roof of the car and set off from Porthminster Beach in St. Ives. We paddled round to Harbour Beach where we stopped and gave Elsie a chance to rest in the sun.

We did the same, too.

After a pasty and some Willy Waller‘s ice cream (lavender & honey and Ferrero Rocher), we set off back for Porthminster.

Along the way, we saw these paddle boarders, who made me very grateful for Elsie’s comfy little seats.

It was wonderful to see St. Ives from the sea rather than the usual beach or town vantage point.

Finally, we had some last minutes in the sun on Porthminster Beach before heading home.

Where to tomorrow, I wonder?


For Luna Swimsuits

10 Jul

I’ve recently discovered the stunning swimwear sold by For Luna and designed by the one and only Esther Williams! It’s all vintage-inspired and is absolutely amazing to look at and to wear. I have the cherry one-piece halter pictured above and am already contemplating investing in this beauty as well:

(Thanks to India Knight for the tip!)

Roger Williams Park and Zoo

9 Jul

While back in the U.S. recently, I spent quite a bit of time at Roger Williams Park. Back when I lived in Rhode Island, I worked at the zoo (which is in the park) as a docent, so this was definitely a return to my old stomping ground.

It’s a lovely zoo. Big enough so that there’s plenty to see, but not so big that it’s overwhelming.

Because one of my very best friends is the zoo’s Education Director, we were given a personal tour. A lot has changed since my days, so it was great to get the inside scoop!

Every summer, the zoo holds a big fundraising event called Zoobilee which is an evening function with food and drink from over 40 local restaurants, along with live music and dancing.

It’s always great fun and I’ve volunteered at it often in the past – so this year, when it turned out that I’d be in Rhode Island that week, I helped out again.

This year there were also some ‘living art’ characters, including this fabulous plant woman who emerged from a giant flower pot:

The zoo is in gorgeous Roger Williams Park, a 400+-acre park in Providence.

With lakes, a boathouse, a Temple to Music, a carousel, a planetarium, the Museum of Natural History, a Japanese garden, a rose garden, and so much more, the park is a great place to visit.

It really is one of my very favourite places.


20 Jun

It’s that time again!

Who’s your favourite this year?

I’m not sure I have one. I haven’t had one since my beloved Marat Safin hung up his racquet a few years ago.

How is it possible not to love a man who said:

I am not a singer or a rock star. Tennis is tennis. If you want to see a clown, go to a circus.

I do quite like Marcos Baghdatis, but I’m afraid none of the top-seeded players really excites me these days. I suppose it would be good if Andy Murray won.

Tennis is more than just a sport. It’s an art, like the ballet. Or like a performance in the theater. When I step on the court I feel like Anna Pavlova. Or like Adelina Patti. Or even like Sarah Bernhardt. I see the footlights in front of me. I hear the whisperings of the audience. I feel an icy shudder. Win or die! Now or never! It’s the crisis of my life.

~Bill Tilden

And are you one of the lucky ones who’ll be there in person? If so, I do hope you get some good weather. The forecast isn’t brilliant, unfortunately.

If you haven’t got a ticket, you’ll be like me – having your strawberries and cream in front of the television. One of these days, I’ll get there in person.  Until then, enjoy!

P.S. Those bookish tennis fans among you might enjoy this literary tennis quiz, courtesy of The Guardian.


Trevoole Farm

19 Jun

Today was one of the three days during the year that the gardens at Trevoole Farm are open to the public. As part of the National Gardens Scheme, the privately-owned gardens charge a modest admission and all the proceeds go to charity.

Despite another wet day, we set off for Trevoole in Praze-an-Beeble and had a jolly time. The gardens are truly beautiful, with a cottage garden, a herb garden, a bog garden, a rose walk, a Victorian greenhouse and a potager.

As well as the gardens, there’s a lovely shop selling bunches of flowers, vintage china, jams and marmalades and lots more.

And there’s a gorgeous tea room if you’re feeling peckish. The owners had gone to a lot of trouble setting up tables and chairs outside, but it was really raining quite heavily by the time we got there.

However, we Brits are hardy. A little rain wasn’t going to get between these ladies and their cream teas!

The grounds were cleverly decorated with little seating areas tucked away in corners.

If you live locally, Trevoole is open again on Sunday 3 July from 2-5pm. And, if you’re lucky, you may even get some sunshine! If you don’t live locally, have a look at the National Gardens Scheme website and see if there’s an open garden in your neighbourhood this summer.

Morrab Midsummer Fair

18 Jun

In spite of a rainy start and definitely not feeling like midsummer, the Fair went off really well.

We sold bric-a-brac (I was on the bric-a-brac stall) in the library, along with cakes, crafty items (including gorgeous printed works by the library’s own very talented Alex Higlett) and, of course, books.

In addition to all the stalls in the library itself, there were stalls around the fountain in the Morrab Gardens:

There was lots of food, including these oh-so-pretty cupcakes:

And delicious treats from the lovely ladies of Ottoman Kitchen:

And stunning wrapping paper and cards by Desert Rose, which I couldn’t resist:

At the end of the day, a drawing was held for the BIG RAFFLE we’ve been running for the past months. Sadly, I didn’t win either of the prizes I had my eye on. This John Piper painting:

… or this Anne Bull painting:

Despite not winning and although my feet are killing me, it was an excellent day and lots of money was raised, which is the best part of all.


The Hay Festival

7 Jun

I’ve just come back from my annual pilgrimage to the Hay Festival, and what a wonderful time we all had! My friends and I rent the same old farmhouse not far from Hay every year. Each morning I thought how lucky I was to be waking up to this gorgeous view:

I went to hear loads of speakers, from Nigella to Naipaul. In fact, here’s the rundown of the events I went to:

  • Gaynor Arnold and Polly Samson talking about their latest collections of short stories
  • David Baddiel talking about his latest novel
  • Jo Brand being absolutely lovely
  • Marcus Brigstocke, my imaginary boyfriend, sporting some rather unfortunate facial hair, talking about the book based on his God Collar stand-up act
  • Lizzie Collingham talking about the role of food in World War II
  • Dan Cruickshank discussing the British country house
  • Andrew Davies giving the inside scoop about writing his screenplay for South Riding
  • Gilbert and George being their fabulous selves. And singing! They sang!
  • A.A. Gill being his usually prickly self
  • Daisy Goodwin talking about My Last Duchess

    Diana Quick (left) interviewing Daisy Goodwin

  • Nigella Lawson looking even more gorgeous than she does on television

Nigella Lawson

V.S. Naipaul

  • Mavis Nicholson talking about What Did You Do in the War, Mummy?, her collection of women’s remembrances of World War II
  • Virginia Nicholson, one of my perennial favourites, talking about her latest book, Millions Like Us, also about women’s stories from World War II
  • Allison Pearson discussing I Think I Love You, her book about a teenage Welsh girl obsessed with David Cassidy in the ’70s
  • Justine Picardie in what might have been my favourite talk of the week, discussing her amazing biography of Coco Chanel
  • Vanessa Redgrave talking about her life and getting the longest standing ovation of the week


Vanessa Redgrave

  • David Sedaris, someone I never tire of listening to

David Sedaris

  • Tim Smit making me feel inspired to change the world
  • Edward St. Aubyn being … Edward St. Aubyn
  • Sandi Toksvig and Sue Perkins doing their comedy lecture thing
  • Michael Wood talking about the book based on his ‘Story of England’ television series from last year
  • Lucy Worsley in a fascinating talk about the book based on her If Walls Could Talk (history of the home) television series
  • Michael Wright being endearingly nervous but not terribly funny, talking about his C’est la Folie books

Between the busy, bustling, buzzing festival site and the sometimes sleepy peaceful town, I spent a glorious week of drinking cappuccino, reading, listening, thinking and (far too much) shopping in the lovely bookshops of Hay.

Booth's Books

My friend Barbara and I also went to a wonderful free talk about Welsh blankets, given by Athene English in the garden of her shop, The Great English Outdoors.

Athene and her blankets

The garden hidden behind The Great English Outdoors

If you haven’t been to the festival before, I can’t recommend it highly enough. But if you want to go in 2012, book your accommodation now. It goes quickly!







St. Ives Food and Drink Festival

22 May

Between Friday’s farmers’ market and today’s trip to the St. Ives Food and Drink Festival, this has been an extremely food-ful weekend. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

It was great to see St. Ives buzzing and full of people.

And the weather couldn’t have been better.

We really only went to the food producers’ market along the pier, but that was enough to keep me dipping into my purse every minute or so.

There was local fruit and veg:

… delicious cheeses:

… smoked haddock chowder (which was scrumptious) and giant pans of paella:

…lots to wash it down with:

(The husband will report back with his verdict on the Boilers Cornish Ale later on, and I can already vouch for the yummy-ness of Polgoon’s Aval, which you can order online. It’s one of my very favourite tipples.)

…and plenty of sweet treats for afters:

I opted for Jaffa Cake which was homemade dark chocolate ice cream and orange ice cream swirled together with an orange reduction syrup type thing, and with chunks of Jaffa Cake mixed in. Heaven.

A splendid day. Shame we didn’t leave many crumbs for this fellow and his friends:

Hidden Gardens of Penzance

21 May

Today was the Hidden Gardens of Penzance, a wonderful opportunity to nose around some of Penzance’s loveliest gardens.

In spite of the spotty weather, loads of people turned out and the event was a huge success!

As well as seeing some fabulous gardens, I also discovered parts of Penzance I never knew existed – like the wonderful cottages on Penlee Manor Drive.

We walked to all 10 gardens, from Castle Horneck to the Promenade, and felt we more than deserved our cream tea at The Morrab Library at the end.

Here’s hoping next year marks the second annual Hidden Gardens tour!

Penzance Farmers’ Market

20 May

Today I helped out at the farmers’ market on a stall for The Morrab Library. We sold some books, some sandwiches, tickets to tomorrow’s Hidden Gardens of Penzance and raffle tickets. This is the fabulous John Piper painting which we’ll be raffling later in the summer (sorry it’s propped up at a funny angle):

And, of course, we all had time to wander around and do a bit of shopping as well. The food on the stalls was all so tempting.

How did I manage to miss taking pictures of all the lovely cakes, brownies and meringues? And the pasties and pies? And the gorgeous veg?

Ah, well. The plants and flowers will make up for it:

I came home with a bag full of asparagus, broad beans, peas, flowers and two of the biggest most luscious meringues I’ve ever seen.