On to Ravello

From Amalfi our coach driver took the hairaisingly narrow and winding road away from the sea and up into the mountains to the small town of Ravello. Some bends were so tight that the coach drivers had to manoeuvre forward and backwards to get around. At the top Villa Ruffalo with its terraced gardens offered cool shade and views of breathtaking colour.

Then the route over the mountain ridge brought us back to the plains where Vesuvius reared up, its summit wrapped in cloud (not smoke) and brooding across the vast conurbation, just as it did in Roman times. But the only fire we saw erupting was from evening fireworks in Sorrento harbour.

Drive to Amalfi 

It was an early start today as we set off to be driven along one of the most famous roads in the world. Subject of numerous films and adverts, the Amalfi drive clings to the cliff edge and winds torturously along the mountainous coast. Progress was slow and stunningly beautiful.

At first the skies were grey and everything was cast in a silvery light. Sun was breaking through the clouds at Positano, and by the time we reached Amalfi the Duomo and the square were under blue skies.

The Duomo was full of noise, singing and applause, packed with Italian families in their Sunday best. It was a confirmation service and the enthusiasm and joy was infectious as everyone celebrated, crowding out onto the steps for photos. Inside the building was filled with music and  a golden light.  The peaceful cloisters and crypt held fascinating reminders of early Christians, and relics of St Andrew, the first disciple to respond to the call of Jesus.

We bought handmade paper at the old paper mill and drank iced drinks in the square soaking up the happy atmosphere.

A place of myths 

Today we woke at dawn in a new place. The view from our window was of a silver sea and an ancient volcano floating, apparently serenely, on the horizon.  The bay of Naples had been a sprinkling of lights when we arrived late the night before, and Vesuvius a lurking shadow, but this morning it was bathed in Mediterranean sunshine. 

A leisurely stroll around the ancient town of Sorrento started our holiday here. We wandered down narrow streets of touristy shops, and passed elegant old villas and churches, some now hotels and art galleries. There was a strange mixture of Armani luxury goods and cheap souvenirs of tea towels and lemon soap. Sorrento has been described as sunny, scruffy and charming, and we found it so, even though clouds rendered the mountains misty by the afternoon.

It was here that Odysseus was said to have been seduced by sirens, and today has been a gentle and sensuous start to our Neopolitan holiday.

Colour play day

Last week I had a treat. A chance to meet a hero of mine, and a day to work under his artistic guidance. My sister booked us on a workshop with colour guru and textile artist Kaffe Fassett, whose work has inspired me for many years.

Arriving at the venue, Lady Sew and Sew in Henley, we were greeted by rows and rows of fabric, an overwhelming rainbow of colour. Kaffe and Brandon, his partner,  set us to work, but encouraged us to play, to experiment and see what happened when colours met each other. We were following Kaffe’s “Seed Packet” design from his book Bold Blooms, and it was exciting to see what grew in front of us.

After a day of cutting and placing, everyone’s designs were as individual as their creators. Kaffe commented and made suggestions, and signed books before we packed up our mess and left, exhausted but on a high!

All that has to be done now is to finish it! I have been making progress, but there’s a long way to go yet. Watch this space…

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Ruby days

This weekend marks our fortieth wedding anniversary and we have celebrated by  visiting some beautiful places. Yesterday we went to RHS Wisley, where we were treated to a feast of orchids in the glasshouse, and glorious magnolias in the woodland gardens. So much more besides, it will require another visit before too long.

Today we found Leith Hill Place, the childhood home of Ralph Vaughan Williams, with an unspoilt atmosphere, live piano music and the smell (and taste) of fresh baking. The views were never ending at this magical place.

By contrast the palatial Polesden Lacey was so ostentatious it felt almost over the top, but still had some amazing sights.

A special weekend to mark four happy decades! Thank you Steve xxxx

Mother’s Day tulips

I have now managed over twenty five years of Mother’s Days without my own mother. The years get more, and sometimes I feel the missing more too. Today I felt it, but the weather has been beautifully sunny and I spent a happy hour in the garden gathering a watercolour bouquet of tulips, which were opening to the warmth of the sun.

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As I was contemplating the bursting flowers and new leaves on the trees, I was reminded of the words of a Philip Larkin spring poem I read a few days ago. Sometimes we think that the new life of spring is all a new birth, and an escape from the progression of time. But no, this wonderful fresh life is still marked by the passing of the years;

The recent buds relax and spread, Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again, And we grow old? No, they die too.

Their yearly trick of looking new, Is written down in rings of grain.  (From “The Trees”) 

The message of this day to me as a mother is that the promise of fresh life and new beginnings is real, but the past is not forgotten. It is written in the wood, the grain of who I am. And being a mother is not a simple thing, a one off giving birth; there is a deeper, longer story being laid down. The passing of years, the aging process and the adding of “rings” to the grain, does not make the new beginnings any less wonderful.

And as a daughter, today I remember my mother. Her gift of life to me required effort on her part, and was the work of many years. It wrote lines in her life as well as mine. So here’s a bouquet of tulips to you, Mum! I have not seen you for so long, but the fresh flowers on this sunny Sunday remind me of your gift to me of being alive, and all the “rings” you wrote in my life.

Thank you.


Spring bling!

What better excuse than the spring equinox to post pictures of beautiful flowers. A walk around the garden reveals blossoms at every turn.

Shades of yellow daffodils and primroses, and hyacinths large and small.

Luscious pinks of camellias and hellebores, and the multi flowering stems of heathers and pieris.

What treasures!