Jul 222014
 

july table

I am documenting the year with monthly photographs of my kitchen table. Capturing the jumble that accumulates here, at the heart of the kitchen, is also a way to record some of the domestic stories of our family life.

The July table has rather a holiday feel to it. School has finally broken up for the summer, and my thoughts are filled with plans for seashore and sunshine. The notebook, sweetly bought for me by D from a little shop on the harbourside in Mousehole, is by Mini Moderns. I love its design (there are even seagulls on the back), so redolent of days at the coast, and it serves as a sweet reminder of our Cornish trip and my little pilgrimage to the lighthouse. I saw Keith and Mark, the duo behind Mini Moderns, speak at Blogtacular, and they came across as talented, inspiring and funny too. The pencil, with its appropriate, ‘I need a holiday’ slogan, came from the same conference, in one of the goodie bags.

Most of my scribblings at the moment are lists: things to do, bake or pack. It feels as if we have waited a long time for today to come, but the holidays are finally here. Once again, we have written our annual summer list on a long sheet of paper and affixed it to the back of the kitchen door. ‘Visit Giffords Circus‘ was one of the first additions requested by the boys. A trip to the circus is now an annual family tradition and, given my fondness for Bridgewater pottery, a souvenir mug is an inevitability. Giffords boasts a fabulous collection of Bridgewater (circus owner, Nell Gifford, is Emma Bridgewater’s sister), with the giant teapot a particular favourite. This was last year’s mug and it’s perfect for a large morning cuppa (if you are particularly eagle-eyed then you may have noticed that my 2012 Giffords mug appeared on the table back in January!)

This little teapot was purchased in preparation for last week’s camping trip (we are in the process of upgrading our camping crockery from cheapie plastic to hardwearing enamelware). It is so lovely in form, and perfect in size, that it seemed a shame to relegate it to the camping box. I’m taking care of it in the kitchen until our camping trip to Dorset next week, after which I suspect that it may well find its way out of the camping box and onto the shelf once again.

The sea urchin skeleton was found in Oxwich Bay on our trip to the Gower last week. Its the only beach on which I have ever seen them, and they are plentiful there. Finding a perfect one is a challenge, however, and bringing it safely across the sand dunes and all the way home is particularly tricky. Last year’s sea urchin didn’t make it beyond the beach, which is why I am glad that I photographed it for posterity. This year, I was determined to bring one all the way home, and thanks to some careful wrapping and delicate handling, managed just that. Having pored over one at our holiday cottage in Cornwall, I have ordered myself a second hand copy of the Sea and Seashore Guide, in the hope that it will help me to identify the urchin, and other future beach finds. Our next camping trip will be to Dorset’s Jurassic coast, so we are hopeful of tracking down some fossils. Last time, we found a couple of partial ammonites, but the hunt is on for a more perfect specimin.

Finally, the hydrangea. It’s a pink lace cap, from the prolific bush in our front garden. Is it just me, or are they flowering earlier this year? I have to confess that, until a few years ago, I thought of them as rather old fashioned flowers, but my sister-in-law had them on the tables at their wedding in Brittany, and they couldn’t have looked lovelier, after which I revised my opinion. When we moved into this house I was rather delighted to find a large hydrangea bush. My green-fingered Dad has several, and manages to successfully nurture purple blooms, of which I have requested a cutting for next year. This particular stem now sits in a vase on the sitting room mantel, having featured in my latest experiments with polaroids.

Blue, white, cream and pink: the July table.

The kitchen story so far:

{the January table}

{the February table}

{the March table}

{the April table}

{the May table}

{the June table}

 July 22, 2014  on the table 6 Responses »
Jul 142014
 

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The moment that I love the most when camping is waking up, unzipping the tent and letting my eyes rest upon a view of the sea. It’s such an uplifting start to the day. Other than a glorious evening on the Friday, the weather was not kind to us for our trip to the Gower this weekend. We managed to have a whole lot of fun, nevertheless, even whilst barbecuing in the pouring rain on a misty cliff top, which is a testament to the unfailingly good company of the wonderful friends with whom we camped. In every available dry spell we made our way through the sand dunes to the expanse of beach below. There were football matches, surfing lessons, dune jumping competitions, foraging expeditions and sand castle building extravaganzas. Every delight that a wild beach has to offer on a drizzly day.

The boys were in their element and would have happily stayed forever. I was not sorry to return to a warm dry house, but in between the mounds of washing, I have spent the whole day daydreaming about the beach and our time there together. I’m already checking the long range weather forecast for our next camping trip. The siren song of the sea is calling.

 July 14, 2014  weekending Tagged with: , ,  8 Responses »
Jul 092014
 

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This weekend, we are heading to the Gower for our annual camping trip with some friends that the boys have known all their lives. I’m making list after list and assembling piles of gear in preparation. The tent is packed, and with it, the bunting (to my husband’s eternal chagrin). We never quite achieve the glamping vibe, but I do like to squeeze in a little prettiness amongst the mud, and this year have treated myself to a small, sweet enamel teapot to cheer my morning cuppas (I suspect, with a one year old in the tent, that they will be very EARLY morning cuppas!) The boys are counting down the sleeps and the weather forecast is gradually improving. We couldn’t be more excited to be returning to the sea urchin beach, and this year, we’re determined to bring one safely home.

This trip, for me, always marks the start of the summer and the freedom and adventures that it entails. With the baby now walking, and very much a part of the action, it’s all set to be a busy summer, but a magical one too. It’s inevitable, over the coming weeks with all three boys at home, that I will have less time available for blogging, but I shall be popping in to this space from time to time. ‘Live first, blog later’ is a blogging cliche that is particularly applicable in the summertime, I always think.

I hope that you all have truly wonderful summers, and I look forward to sharing snapshots of mine with you over the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’ll be over on Instagram, as usual: do come and say hello…

 

(I am showing my age and indie kid roots by having this song by Ash in my head whilst writing this post!)

 July 9, 2014  out & about Tagged with: , ,  12 Responses »
Jul 042014
 

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We had heard of Purton Hulks, the ship’s graveyard on the bank of the River Severn, and had even seen photographs, but it was not until last Sunday, when we found ourselves without plans, and craving adventure, that we decided to go and explore for ourselves. With the baby asleep in the sling, we meandered along the canal path in the morning sunshine, idly watching the cygnets and the canal barges moored alongside.

Stepping out into a green space, we stopped to study the sign which demarcated the beginning of the hulks. The eldest boy, bored, sat down on a concrete ridge to look out at the river: ‘I can’t see ANY shipwrecks’, he sighed. Suddenly, my husband exclaimed ‘But you’re sitting on one!’ Partially sunk into the riverbank was the remains of an enormous concrete barge, its metal rudder dipping down into the mudflats. The boy jumped to his feet and we all began to look more closely at the landscape around us. Camouflaged against the mud, we now saw the outlines of more concrete barges emerge before us, their immense bulk edged by a feathery fringe of swishing grasses. As we walked along the path through the salt marsh, boat after boat appeared in the landscape. Huge concrete hulls loomed above us, rusty metal tugs were sunk into the ground, the rotting ribs of wooden boats formed stark decaying skeletons, one with a ghostly porthole still intact.

Although my camera did not leave my hand for our entire visit, photographs can capture neither the the scale and atmosphere of this remarkable place. It is infused with a compelling, melancholy beauty. A century ago, a storm caused a landslip, which threatened to breach the narrow bank between the canal and the river, which runs parallel. In order to plug the breach, old boats were towed into the river, just prior to high tide, and then released so that they sped directly into the bank. At low tide, holes were then drilled into their sides, anchoring them with mud, sand and water. Over 80 disused vessels met their end at Purton between 1909 and 1963. The plan worked, shoring up the bank into a wide strip of grassland which is littered with maritime remains, in varying degrees of decay, some entirely buried.

It is a beautiful spot for a walk, endlessly fascinating and irresistibly poignant. The boys were delighted by it, exclaiming over every new boat carcass and examining the small plaques giving the names and details of each. I too was captivated by the strangeness of the place, and later, editing my photos, I felt an involuntary shiver. Purton Hulks’ history is infused with a curious magic: they are not easily forgotten.

If the hulks have intrigued you, you can read more about them here and you can find out about the campaign to protect them here. You can see more photographs of them in the Flickr group.