Summer haiku

Finally we are having some glorious, hot sunny weather, without a cloud in the sky, an unheard-of heatwave, and brown lawns! We in England all welcome the fine weather and hope it stays till we fly to the States!

A few days ago, Dad and I were sitting at our table under the umbrella in the back garden, writing and reading. Dad was reading the London Review of Books and I was writing a fairytale called ‘The Blue Rose’. We had our notebook out, mainly used for shopping lists, and Dad decided to capture the summer glory with a haiku. Here is our haiku exchange for July 2013; maybe we’ll do more. Dad writes first, then I do, back and forth.


White philadelphus
Apricot rose, pink foxglove
Mum in mint-green pants


Towering foxgloves
Swaying in the sultry breeze
Birdsong in the air


A hush in the breeze
Pigeon sits, unflappable
Nightgown on the line


Canterbury Bells
Like spectacular trumpets
Peachy roses sway


Alium flower
Buckyball world out of joint
Geodesic doom


Shade kisses sunlight
Daddy’s watch ticks time away
Ticks summer away


A starling’s scolding
A lawn-mower is grumbling
A girl is writing


Bees drinking pollen
Dad reading the newspaper
The sun is setting



Spring into summer


Dressed for a Victorian outing at Blists Hill, May 20th

A few shots documenting our slow progress into full summer – now that it’s arrived, it’s looking like payback for last summer’s washout. Wimbledon finals weekend shows temperatures in the 80s (F) – American-style heat!


The allotment on June 1st – well behind its usual point this time of year, due to the cold spring


Pastel shades – tie-dye, nails, foxgloves


A gift of sweet peas from John Carrier, master grower – June 22nd


First salad


White roses out under the apple tree


Early artichoke – July 6th


The strawberry tide begins (with spinach and chard)


July 8th, after a weekend of heat


Morello cherries on the ripe


A field labourer picks berries


Red, white & green – berries, cherries, lettuce and new potatoes

Peace Festival


Catching up, a few shots from last month’s Leamington Peace Festival, always a reliable wig-out. This year we picked up a vintage garden spade along with a couple of T-shirts.


A vintage salesman eyes fickle buyers



Old tools are the best tools



What’s so funny about peace, love & understanding?




The solemnity of the didgeridoo tent





English Walk

Yes, I’m still alive! Apologies for being absent from this blog for so long.

Today was such an absolute stunner of a day, that there was no other option but to go a wandering in the English countryside (after all the sun doesn’t show itself all that often on this island so we better make the most of it). Of course I took my camera, thinking if I got bored I could at least have some photo opportunities. As it turns out, it was a very successful walk through the fairy-like woods at this time of year filled to the brim with bluebells.

There was a brief (ahem) stop at the local garden centre.

There was a brief (ahem) stop at the local garden center.

She's got the shades.

She’s got the shades.

It was super dry.

It was super dry.

Magical fairyland.

Magical fairyland.

A beauty amongst beauty.

A beauty amongst beauty.

A sea.

A sea.

Why, hello there.

Why, hello there.



Spring break in Venice, ‘half fairy-tale and half tourist trap’ according to Thomas Mann – but fortunately we found a spot in the third half, working Venice, in the remote northwest of the Cannaregio district. A low-key but atmospheric neighborhood, near the Ghetto and the Sant’Alvise vaporetto stop, it’s a place where there are hardware stores and supermarkets as well as canalside trattorias, where kids ply their scooters home from school, and where – we suspect – allotments are tended by the locals, just up from the park adjoining Calle della Rotonda where we were staying.

Looking along the Fondamenta Riformati

Looking along the Fondamenta Riformati


A bit of calcio practice outside Sant’Alvise

But it’s still Venice. Water, water everywhere – especially our first two days, when it rained like Genesis, and Andrew, Kate, Naomi and Jacob had to ford alta aqua levels of rising lagoon on the way back from dinner one night. Someone – maybe the Rough Guide? – has pointed out that no city is both so closely involved with the rhythms of nature and at the same time so completely an artifact of human ingenuity and construction.


Where brick meets water

Steps into greeny depths

Steps into greeny depths

You can easily forget Manhattan’s an island, but in Venice you never do. The great fish market at Rialto is another reminder – we wended our way down there on our second morning and had a hard time choosing dinner. The produce was overwhelming too – pyramids of purple artichokes (carciofi), blood oranges, salate, and herby bunches of what turned out to be young hop shoots (bruscandoli), which we used to make risotto.


A corner on the Rialto market


Didn’t get to try these, alas

Crates of chokes

Unloading crates of chokes


Fruits of the sea – orate (bream)


It’s what’s for dinner

Venice is improbable because it’s built on sticks, stones on top of silt and sticks, but what’s also improbable is the crazy profusion of styles and structures and artworks, sacred and secular, that rise on top of its rickety foundations. East meets West, dark meets light, stone meets sea, and everything curves like a mermaid’s tail. No wonder Ruskin was knocked for six when he first encountered the city. A few of the standout places for us on this trip were the Madonna dell’Orto, Tintoretto’s own parish church, the jewel-box that is Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the collections at the Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim museums, the canvas-packed Scuola Grande di San Rocco – a kind of orgone box for aesthetic stimulation – and the Palazzo Grimani, where ceiling art is raised to the level of, well, art.


Madonna dell’Orto – in our ‘hood


The creamy gorgonzola marblework of Miracoli


Puh-lease – sculpture at the Peggy Guggenheim


Zeus’s eagle abducts Ganymede through the ceiling of the Grimani Palace


Mirrored hallway at Grimani

The most haunting of the places we visited was Torcello, both for the mosaics in the basilica and the island’s air of being abandoned long ago.


Vineyard and statuary on Torcello


Outside the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta (founded 639 AD)

Venice is also an intensely social city – home of such excellent traditions as the giro d’ombra and cicchetteria – and we were lucky to be able to socialize with the Vienna wing of the family.


Outside the Accademia


Inside the Guggenheim


Cousins by the wellhead


Abbracio from a nephew


Enjoying a spritz con bitter by San Trovase

“It is held by some that this word VENETIA signifies VENI ETIAM, that is, come again, and again, for however oft you come, you will always see new things, and new beauties.” So says Jacopo Sansovino, and he ought to know.




Ciao bella


One could get used to this spritz ritual


Pollici in su, Venezia

Photo of the Week!

Because of my new camera, I’ve chosen 5 photos for this week, and also because I haven’t done a photo of the week for a long time.

This was before the snow - when the weather was plain cold and dewy.

This was before the snow – when the weather was plain cold and dewy.

A walk around the neighbourhood, and this window caught my eye.

A walk around the neighbourhood, and this window caught my eye.


Jumping to the sky.




Moss and stone. For some reason moss and lichens on stone really interest me, so I’m thinking of doing a photography project on that subject.