The Great Outdoors

Nearly a month has elapsed since the black and tan bundle of trouble we know as Higgins burst into our lives and changed them completely.  He has galloped frenetically through, pursued by cries of ‘Aaaaah, cute’ by all who have seen him and by me with a mop and bucket… But the time had come to introduce our pampered pooch to the big wide world…

So we went to the seaside.

It’s not easy when you are very small…

..but I think we’re getting the hang of it!


It’s all in the lighting…

01Celia’s parents had kindly invited us for a meal and Grand-mère Auzou seemed to have the perfect little nibble for an after dinner treat.

  So why was it so important to have photograph it as well?  The blogger’s curse!

There was an awful lot of this…

…and it came to this…

before we got this…


But they were a delectable end to a delicious meal.  Thank you Rose and Hubert!

(It really is all in the lighting!)




Rouen has been twinned with our nearest town Norwich for 45 years, and our family has done our bit towards Entente Cordiale by marrying a son of Norwich to a daughter of Rouen.  Very possibly Thomas and Celia had a rather different agenda when they tied the knot some years ago in Cambridge, but they now live within walking distance of the city centre along with two rather nice little boys, our grandsons.  Which explains why Rouen is currently our holiday destination of choice.

rue Eau de Robec

It is a beautiful city, every corner you turn presents another photo opportunity.  I have probably photographed  the same buildings every time I’ve visited, I am so struck by the shapes made by the timber framing, especially on the older houses which have settled, subsided and twisted over the years, and the wonderful colour combinations in which some of them have been painted.

quartier Croix de Pierre

Going under the clock on rue du Gros-Horloge you come into the old Market Place and the church of Joan of Arc.

rue de Gros-Horloge
Opposite the church is La Couronne, the oldest restaurant in France, which made me feel very inadequate about my window boxes!

La Couronne

Not far in the other direction from Thomas and Celia’s house is peaceful walk along the river bank to a water mill.  Peaceful to all but a nervous granny who could never get quite as near to the three year old as she would like to feel relaxed!

I am finding a reoccuring  theme to my  recent posts… look, I found another dahlia!

Hastings – hitting the heights!

Our third and last day in East Sussex before heading to France was dry, cloudy with a strong on-shore wind.  I’m used to the blustery gusts we get in our windy corner of Norfolk, but this was a relentless blow, with the flags standing out stiffly as if set in acrylic.

Just along the coast from Hastings is Bexhill-on-Sea, with a charmingly unspoilt sea front, no fun fair, amusement arcades, fish and chips, just a row of tall elegant houses and hotels overlooking the promenade and the Channel. I wonder how many period dramas have been filmed here? A location finders dream. Talking of which, Poirot any one?  He would have been perfectly at home with us as we took tea in the De La Warr Pavilion, an outstanding modernist building.

 It’s almost like an ocean liner, and in that wind, we certainly felt all at sea!

In the evening we went for a stroll prior to our evening meal. Tim had his eye on a likely looking pub spotted earlier in the day. We set off along another picturesque street…

…and it was then I had a ‘Life Enhancing Experience’!!  Family and close friends will know that back in the early nineties I succumbed to M.E. It’s been a long haul, and this year has been a time where I have at last felt I have been crawling out of a hole.  Last summer I finally got my system free of drugs which had been deemed helpful but in fact made more problems, and then I could address the weight gain brought about by years of comfort eating.  So I know this time last year all the walking this holiday had entailed so far would have been out of the question. Who can walk far carrying their airport luggage allowance at all times?

Hastings has two hills each side of the town, East Hill and West Hill both reached by their own funicular railway.  Our B & B, Cavalier House sits close to the bottom of the East Hill and the railway was closed for maintenance.

The castle like structure at the top end of the railway is perched above the town and has been taking people up and down since 1902 but I rather wondered why.  So when we spotted the steps on our way to the pub I had a sudden rush of blood to the head and said ‘Come on, let’s do it!’  Followed by a rather dubious husband (he’s the one who gets me out of the fine messes I get into!) I set off up the steps, all 190 of them.

Where we found we were here…

This was obviously a very good place to put a beacon…

..and filled with a huge sense of acheivement, a pretty good place to put me…

Fading light meant any further exploration must wait until the railway is running again, so we made our way back down the 190 steps, and THEN went to the pub!

Hastings – at sea level

It was fascinating stay in a place which seemed to operate on so many levels. We were staying in Hastings Old Town, and it didn’t take many steps to find a whole new aspect. Heading along the road away from the bars and shops there are the tall black sheds in which the fishing equipment is stored.

The beach is shingle, and as there is no harbour all the boats have to be pulled up on to the shore.

Including the lifeboat

lifeboat station

I’ve just realised how remiss it was of me not to go to the fun fair, what a lot of pictures I missed!

The Spare Bed

Well, I thought I’d seen it all when it came to Higgins choosing his own bed, but when it came to buying a second one to cover those damp moments when the the blue one is in the wash, I wasn’t expecting this…

You just can’t trust these chaps to go shopping on their own!

Great Dixter

It’s quite disapointing that having got SO exited about my trip to the gardens at Great Dixter and paying homage to the master, Christopher Lloyd, the reaction of so many of my friends and aquaintances has been “Where?” and “Who?”.  I have been an armchair gardener for many years, and have followed the television gurus right from the beginning.  Percy Thrower? Yes,  I started at very young age (and there was little else on television!) He had a greenhouse with no glass in the studio, and all his flowers bloomed in  black and white.  There was Peter Seabrooke on Pebble Mill at One,  the wonderful Geoffrey Hamilton, Alan Titchmarsh and the gardening woman’s crumpet, Monty Don. They all deferred to the great Christo Lloyd. As far as I know he didn’t ever do much on TV, he would occasionally turn up being deferentially interviewed by one of the above on Gardeners World and tantalizing glimpses would be shown of the house and gardens.  I couldn’t imagine that I would ever be in the vicinity of  Great Dixter for any reason to be able to visit, hence my great excitement.

The house itself is amazing.  Nathaniel Lloyd, Christopher’s father, bought the original farmhouse, immediate grounds and farm buildings in 1910.  As the  comfortably-off owner of a printing works, Nathaniel retired in his forties, and as the father of six, of whom Christopher was the youngest, he wanted to restore and enlarge the house.  With his architect, the now renowned Edwin Lutyens the house was enlarged.

As you aproach the house, the porch, and every thing to the right is 15th or early 16th Century.  Lloyd and Lutyens bought and transported the derelict remains of a timber house nine miles away to become an integral part of the main building.


Everything to the left of the porch is by Edwin Lutyens…

Lutyens wing

We hadn’t factored in a trip round the house, but having seen pictures of the interior, that is a must for the next visit.


But now, the garden…

We were given a clue as to what would be in flower, of particular interest to me as my own garden peaks about mid June and peters out into dull green and brown for the next seven months. Well I did say I was an armchair gardener, and who takes anything in anyway when gazing at Monty Don?

The Long Border at Great Dixter has always been spoken of reverentially…

long border

canna lily long border
long border

And I loved the tropical garden.  Christopher Lloyd was always wanting to move on and change things, and scandalised some of the gardening fraternity by ripping out his mothers rose garden to create this.  I’m always a bit wary of anything ‘tropical’ plonked in the middle of an English country garden and can’t get my head round palm trees and alien spiky things.  But this was tropical colour, and really worked.  Even banana plants.


I tried very hard to photograph a bee on a dahlia.  If you look closely you can just see the bee’s bum disapearing off the top right hand corner!

But I got him in the end!

And a friend!  Even the alien spikey things are photogenic,

and I just kept finding more and more textures and shapes…

…and kept snapping and snapping…

..until we reached the bottom of the garden!

I think I actually reached overload at this point, both in my heads and in my camera  and that is why it has taken so long to get to grips with this post!  So, without further ado, I shall press publish (and be damned) …