Tuesday 20 November 2012

The last time...

Cornwall at its most achingly beautiful and melancholic.
All the shades of a gently fading hydrangea.
Antique colours and soft cool air whispering over the dinghy as the season wanes.
Sometimes you find a place through serendipity...that was true of this house. 
Old stone walls encircled four generations of this family. Cradling us through Christmases, Birthdays, New Years...
one by one the years clocked over to the next here. 
And so the years and then decades passed, engagements, regattas, babies. Parties, lunches, barbecues. Laughter, rage, tears.Grazed knees, sailing lessons, crab claws. Tall Ships, tall tales, Doom Bar. Singing, charades, log fires. 
The family grew and so did the cottage, new parts added to accommodate us all.Still we burst the cottage seams, sleeping bags and mattresses tumbled into the hallways on high days and holidays.
Mostly this house was stuffed to the gunnels with love and a warm welcome for all. Not only did our family enjoy this house but so did the clans...a gathering of families across the years. Grannies and Aunties, dogs and other strays welcome. My nieces and nephews have always known this place, all their lives it has been host to summer shenanigans and Christmas excitement.
Mr Lane has enjoyed this place for the best part of his life too.I came much later into this magical world, eyes wide with joy and appreciation.I came to know and love the special people who live here, people who filled my days with sunlight and inspire me still.

 Perhaps I knew one day it would end? Everything has its time. And that time has come...36 years of memory and family distilled into some newspaper wrapped treasures in cardboard boxes stacked against those old stone walls. I wonder if something of us will still echo through these rooms?

Through my rose coloured spectacles it will be forever preserved in my  memory looking just like this...

We left it behind, on Monday...
tear filled we bumbled up that eccentric narrow Cornish Lane where the grass grows in a strip down the middle of the tarmac...the last time...
...I fall on you for anything I like...
some of us will never leave...I shed my heart's confetti all the way up that silly Lane. 
And you, who remain are with us always...

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Fair Trade

It would be a "Fair" assumption that Saturday's Selvedge Winter Fair was a triumph, especially if you are of a similar persuasion to me!
Such a lovely venue, Chelsea Town Hall. 
Oh, and to be wandering along Kings Road early on a Saturday Morning was bliss for this Lane girl. Flat white and almond croissant in hand, humming to myself as I gazed at Christmas behind glass.
Anthropologie is situated in one of my favourite tiled buildings on the corner of Flood Street ~ I have seen this building in several incarnations and this is definitely the happiest fit.

Arriving early, I queued along with several other early birds...quietly enjoying their banter and admiring their style, for there were many stylish peeps to look at. Drifted off into a reverie gazing up at the cornicing and window details...Did somebody blow the whistle? Suddenly we surged through the doors...
...and I found myself delivered straight to Gil Fox, the purveyor of glorious hats and other embellishments. Gil's stand was brimming with twinkle and soft pinks and muted greens and palest duck egg. Corsages and brooches nestled amongst a forest of tiny snow dusted fir trees.
You can find Gil's Hats here.
Next, I spy Jessie Chorley, you may remember I have posted about Jessie's wonderful workshops here and here. Jessies' stand was brimming with her beautiful hand stitched treasures and her up-cycled pieces. I fell in love with a gorgeous fob watch brooch made my Jessie's Mum, Primmy....it was snaffled up almost immediately by someone else! Jessie had also fashioned a wonderful bird garland embellished with pearls and great long tassels...brilliant! 
So thrilled to see her and looking forward to joining her at one of Columbia Road's Christmas shopping events have a look here for more information, it's wonderful.
You can find out about Jessie here.
Then I gazed longingly at Claire Fletcher's Tambourines on the Made in Hastings stand...another favourite Christmas hangout! In fact all of Hastings Old Town is well worth a visit if you find yourself over this way...
Next! Lampshade obsession indulged thanks to the wonderful work of Polly from Folly and Glee
Wow some gorgeous vintage barkcloth and a string of mini lampshades later, oh and did I mention the triumph that is Barkcloth sticky tape? Sorry my pants photos are doing a diservice to the lovely shades, fear not, when I have them all set up in the Cowshed I shall post some good pics!
For my final flourish a little trip back to Anthropologie where I fell in love with this swan and robin
...and I marvelled at the amazing exhibition of Su Blackwell's Sleeping Beauty delicately cut paper sculpture, there is a gorgeous book... 
...The Fairytale Princess, featuring Su's work published by Thames and Hudson...on my Christmas wish list
The Fairytale Princess
I am off to read all about your weekends, seems Christmas shopping is well under way! 
You know...one for you...one for me...present shopping!

Monday 5 November 2012

The undecided blonde

 "Still undecided then Margie?" followed by a chorus of laughter...
This is my Granny. 
It seems incredible to me that she left her sleepy, idyllic childhood home in the South Hams when she was barely more than a child to join the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) at the beginning of WW2. 
She lied about her age and was accepted. She went from running barefoot on the beach in her Devonshire home to manning barrage balloons in an effort to force enemy bombers to increase altitude thus reducing the accuracy of their bombs.

Later she was trained to service instruments, specifically in Lancaster Bombers. Granny was part of the ground crew at RAF Binbrook...this is where she became "the undecided blonde".
Having only enough bleach to colour the front of her hair she had a trade-mark blonde roll poking out from her headscarf. When seen without her scarf or cap she was quite clearly mousey...the lads had a great time ribbing her.
In January of this year Vikram Seth appeared on Desert Island discs. His third choice was "BBC sound archive - Nightingales and Lancaster Bombers recorded in a Surrey wood in 1942". This clip was a revelation to me. "Heartbreaking in it's counterpoint" as Seth describes it. Listen here.

Beatrice Harrison was a leading cellist of her generation, and friend of composers such as Delius and Elgar. She had the habit of playing her cello in the wooded garden of her cottage in Oxted, Surrey.
 One evening in 1923 she was joined by a nightingale and was so enchanted by the sound that she persuaded Lord Reith, the director of the BBC at the time, to broadcast the cello-nightingale duet on live radio. Accordingly on May 19, 1924 the first ever live outdoor broadcast was arranged. This went on to become an annual event.

On May 19, 1942, three years into the Second World War, the BBC was back in the same garden planning to broadcast the nightingales (sans cello). But 197 bombers, Wellingtons and Lancasters, began flying overhead on their way to raids in Mannheim and the engineer realized a live broadcast of this event would break security. The recording went ahead anyway since the lines to the BBC were open and a two-sided record was made, the first side with the departing planes, the second with their return (eleven fewer).This is the recording that Vikram Seth chose.

Most weekends we bowl across to Ashdown Forest (AA Milne's 100 Acre Wood ).We love to walk up there...originally a deer hunting forest in Norman times, Ashdown Forest is now the largest free public access space in the South East. It is a great place for walking and on a clear day the views are breathtaking. We are still only scratching the surface of all the walks here.
In the summer we discovered a lovely new route across the southern slopes of the Forest towards the village of Nutley. The views towards the South Downs are beautiful and we were so busy waxing about them we barely noticed the tiny walled garden that surrounds the Airman's Grave until we were right on top of it.
You can see more of the Airman's Grave here
There is an indescribable sense of peace in this place, I am moved every time we pass, that first day we stood quietly in wonderment and read the names of the six crew members of a Wellington Bomber who lost their lives here...

On the night of the 31st of July 1941 the aircraft was returning from a raid.The weather was bad and the plane was flying on only one of its Rolls Royce Merlin engines. It was imperative for the pilot to reach an airfield as close to the English coast as possible.
Sadly, the aircraft could keep going no longer and crashed, nose down on the southern slopes of the Forest.
Tragically all six crew members were killed on this their 13th Wellington Mission.
A while after the crash the 2nd. Pilots' mother, Mrs Sutton, came to live in nearby Nutley Village and it was she who put the original wooden cross at the place where her son died.
In 1954 a stone cross was erected and a fence put round the area to keep the grazing sheep out. 
In 1971 a beautiful wall constructed of the local Forest stone was built in place of the fence, and this was done by the Forest Rangers.
Gradually under the care of the Rangers, trees and flowers were planted to make the site one of great beauty. The day we first saw it, a wonderful white rose was in full bloom leaning towards the cross.
Probably the horse riders started it all, for in latter years the site has become one that sees huge gatherings every year on Remembrance Sunday. The service from the Cenotaph in London is relayed, the Silence is kept and the Remembrance ends with the emotive notes of a bugle.
They gather in their hundreds, the people who come to remember on the Forest. 
Riders with horses, walkers with and without dogs, children, all stream quietly down Forest tracks. 
That so many people, four hundred last year, with accompanying animals and children can gather so quietly and so respectfully is a wonder. The dogs do not bark, the horses give a rare whinny. The children seem to catch the strange, wonderful atmosphere and watch and listen. 

My knowledge of this is all thanks to a wonderful man called Frank Wilson who is an acknowledged expert on the crash. In years gone by, he would go to great lengths to collect his private aircraft, load it with sacks of paper poppy petals and head for Ashdown Forest. At the appropriate time he would fly over the spot where the crowds would look up in anticipation of his arrival. Passing overhead, Frank would send thousands of poppy petals fluttering down in a red cloud, gently landing on the grave, the forest, and on the heads and shoulders of those gathered. I am sad that I will never experience this spectacle but so very grateful to Frank for all he has done to tell their story.

The Remembrance is held every Remembrance Sunday in November under a vaulting Forest sky.
This year I hope to be there to honour those that have given their lives that we can stand free in that lovely place.
We once had a "fly over" by a Lancaster bomber at our village fete. The drone could be heard far in the distance, long before we could see it. And then, it appeared, banking slowly, the noise was incredible, thrilling, bass tones catching in my chest and my throat I coughed an involuntary sob. I looked around, all eyes were transfixed and heavy with tears. Later I described this moment to Granny...she gazed into a faraway place in her memory, smiling.
Pulling the threads together...
 here we are, three generations...me, Granny and Magpie. 
Yes, despite some terribly close shaves, Granny is alive and well, thriving in fact, back in her home in Devon.
 I feel so privileged to be able to ask her about her experiences in the war.I love to sit with her and hear the living history and to tell her how proud of her I feel.

This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday and also it is Granny's 87th Birthday. Yes! Granny ~ born on the 11th day of the 11th month so you see how the two events are entwined in my mind.
I hadn't realised, before today, that the crew that died that night on Ashdown Forest, back in 1941, had flown out of RAF Binbrook...and so the circle closes.

Happy Birthday Granny, I am so honoured to be descended from such a line!

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them...