you only have to take a walk through regents park to admire the beautiful blossom trees everywhere – we are so lucky to have so many beautiful parks in london.   blossom time is such a joyous time – it signals the start of spring, of new life, beauty and the delicate petals blowing through the air adds a romanticism to our day.   enjoy them before they fade away….

symbolically the blossom reminds you that life is short and beautiful, just like the cherry blossom that falls from the tree after just a few days.

Spring is in the air – I shall be starting to do some Qigong classes out in our parks soon – and one good thing to do, is to eat seasonally. Eating more greens and  bitter foods, such as celery, lemon and lime help support and strengthen the liver which is the organ associated with Spring; they call the liver the general of the body, whose role is to keep things flowing, controlling emotions, allowing a smooth flow of Qi and blood.  The liver ‘opens the eyes’, so it’e important to look after them – take breaks from the computer and mobile, especially just before bed time.  When you are feeling restless and irritable, use the power of breath to calm the liver – the liver is about compassion, forgiveness  and kindness, but also about releasing anger in a healthy and positive way. Like the trees, we shall be rooted and grounded through our practice.

mothers day

to all you wonderful mothers – have a relaxing and lovely day!

did you know that we have been celebrating mothering sunday since the 16Century?  in the UK, mothers day always falls on the 4th sunday of Lent, which is why it never falls on the same day each year.

Mothering Sunday was also known as ‘Refreshment Sunday‘, ‘Pudding Pie Sunday’ or ‘Mid-Lent Sunday‘. It was a day in Lent when the fasting rules were relaxed, in honour of the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’, a story in the Christian Bible.

today, it feels like another form of commercialism and something that you ought to do because everybody else does it – i think that every day we should remember how special mothers are – their job at times is a thankless task that we all take for granted.  what is lovely, it’s a day in the calendar that brings mothers and family together again. it’s also a good day to remember those mothers who have gone as well as those that are still with us.



in chichicastanago, guatamala the flower girls strewn their flowers for sale on the famed church steps – the petals were used as part of the religious thanks.  it was such a memorable place – its somewhere i would want to visit again.

whatever you are doing, have a lovely day!

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i still remember these lovely flowers that  little maude picked from our garden and sweetly put them in a egg cup – such a precious little thing and such a good idea for putting your flowers in!

inspirational women

today is officially named international women’s day to celebrate equality for women, from simply being more appreciated, respected and loved to acknowledging economic, social and political achievements – i think that every day should be like this whether you are female or not –  so many women are undervalued, especially the role of a mother.

i admire that quite a few of my girlfriends have changed their careers and now are amazing therapists – nutritionist, osteopathy, pilates, hygienist, psychotherapist and  acupuncture – plus i get to learn more about natural therapy and am treated to more alternatives to standard medicine!

i love that women are not challenged by anything – dont ever think that you are too old to start something new!  i was inspired by the fact that Julia Margaret Cameron started her photography career at 48.  I have changed my career so many times and each one has been fulfilling and challenging but also full of good memories.  since the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, I have been learning and teaching Qigong to my friends – it really has grasped me and I spend a lot of my spare hours studying and practising more moves, and getting to understand what the philosophy of Qigong is about.  for many years, I have thought it a gentle exercise for very old pensioners, like my mother, but I have now realised its power to build strength and suppleness, not only to the body but to the mind too. If your mind feels balanced and in control, then your body naturally responds to this harmony and keeps stress at bay – stress is renowned for being the cause of a lot of health problems. If you feel stressed, it is difficult for your body to recover; qigong is not a miracle cure, it just helps relieves stress, lengthens the ligaments and keeps the joints moving, and hence allow the Qi (energy) and blood to run more smoothly through the body. I have also been combining the Qigong with watercolour classes – and this has been very well received by the local community in Suffolk. I am self taught with watercolour, but with a few simple techniques, you can learn, it’s not about achieving something professional, more about allowing yourself to be creative and explore. watercoloring is so loose, but it also has a meditative quality. what it means is it’s never too late to start a new hobby, passion or career. I am now feeling confident to hold these classes in London – confidence is something that has taken me 60 years to gain, but the great thing about getting older is that you lose all those self conscious worries and wanting to share the good things in life becomes more important.

Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou

The incredibly prolific and inspiring American poet, author of seven autobiographies, actress, civil-rights activist, producer and director passed away in 2014, leaving behind a huge volume of work celebrating black beauty, the strength of women, and the human spirit. In 2017 her life was celebrated in the documentary Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, which featured interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Clinton, Quincy Jones and Maya Angelou herself.

‘You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.’

here are a few of my inspirational ladies who have allowed me to photograph them….

I cant resist a haberdashery shop, so cadiz is an aladdins cave of ribbons, bindings, threads and trimmings – there are so many to choose from that I never fail to bring something home. I use the ribbons and bindings to repair tears in dresses, blouses, pillowcases, using the sashiko, Japanese repair method. I used to be so obsessed about perfection, and as I have grown older (and wiser), I find that the imperfect is what I am seeing – the oddity of a flash of colour or a sprig of gingham on an otherwise plain cotton summer dress brightens the item and makes it more individual and personal.


If you have never been to Cadiz, then you must – its a charming old city, especially around the fruit and fish market, which now re-opens in the evening – I had never noticed this before, but i am guessing that to get the full experience you should come in the morning for the produce, but there are lots of food and tapas stalls around the outer edge that sell snacks and typical spanish delicacies.

Cadiz was one of the least well known of the spanish cities -built on the atlantic coast, its crumbling buildings are reminiscent of Havana.  fishermen line the coastal walls to catch their daily fish ; wander through the many stalls of the fish market of locals selling their freshly picked home grown herbs and veg – anything from camomile flowers, chestnuts, sage flowers to wild asparagus.  its great to see that market life is still in abundance, when in many cities, the growth of the supermarkets has killed local trading.  I love the fact that spain still has shops that solely sell one thing – scissors and knives, tobacco and cigarettes, ribbons, ham…..

in london, I love to browse in V W Rouleaux –  you can choose beautiful ribbons, trimmings and lots of other interesting flowers and tassels – everything and anything to make your hat or costume pretty, or just to simply find the  essential tie backs for your curtains. another favourite shop is Ray Stitch in Islington, full of ideas and patterns, plus many gift ideas. Halesworth in Suffolk also has a useful haberdashery, selling everything from remnants to ribbons and buttons.

andalucia house is available to rent

Happy Chinese New Year

happy new year of the rabbit!  Jan 22nd is the official day for new year, but the celebrations can last for up to 2 weeks. 

1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

we are leaving the energetic Tiger year and entering the more quiet and introspective Rabbit – the Rabbit is a symbol of intellect and cautiousness and this year we should all be focusing on rest and working smarter not harder – take a moment to think before action, not rushing into something that you may later regret.

taking a pause and a breath is a really useful tool for calming the system. Qigong helps to cultivate calmness as well as compassion and kindness – movements are uncrushed using fluid, intention based movements to allow our thoughts and body to work in a balanced way. for more information about my Qigong classes, both online and in person, please message or email me.

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are articulate, talented, and ambitious. They are virtuous, reserved, and have excellent taste. Rabbit people are admired, trusted, and are often financially lucky. They are fond of gossip but are tactful and generally kind. Rabbit people seldom lose their temper. They are clever at business and being conscientious, never back out of a contract. They would make good gamblers for they have the uncanny gift of choosing the right thing. However, they seldom gamble, as they are conservative and wise.

Venice in winter

It was exactly 3 years ago that we were in Venice – celebrating our 25th anniversary – Covid was present in Italy, but at that time, it was relatively unknown about its vulnerability and the devastation it was going to cause on a worldwide scale. It was really nice to revisit for our 28th anniversary. We booked again with Kirker who have a reliable standard of quality with their hotels and restaurant recommendations. It also helps with the general flow of arriving, getting to the hotel and transportation. We took a very early flight, so arrived in time for lunch, eating at Do Forni, a very good classic Italian restaurant, and full of locals. There are so many restaurants in Venice, and generally quite expensive, so it can be quite daunting deciding; this was also not far to walk from the hotel – Hotel Splendid. Again, this hotel was reasonably priced for it’s prime position and the rooms very comfortable. Do Forni is a more pricey restaurant, but it obviously depends on how many courses you are going to eat, but the food was very good – we just chose a pasta dish each. In the evening we ate in a local family trattoria, Trattoria Alla Scala, which offered fish at a very reasonable price and was very good. Other restaurants that we ate in was Osteria all Testiere, a small restaurant with great sea food, not a big menu, but its all very fresh, seasonal and considered. It’s one of our favourites and we went there last time we came. You definitely have to book in advance as this only seats 22 people.

There are several types of eateries, Bacaro are essentially bars serving snacks and sandwiches, but this is all you need if a big dinner is planned or you have had a major lunch. Good areas for Bacaro are Dorsodoro, around the Academia, or near the Guggenheim museum – much less tourist area with locals standing at the bars enjoying their drinks and taking in the selection of Italian snacks. Around the Rialto fish and fruit market are lots of eating places, a good choice for snacks and light meals; it is very atmospheric there. The market is a wonderful place to see real living, in what is essentially a tourist city. Wonder at the colourful variety of fruit and vegetables – some so unusual.

Anniversary dinner was at Bistro de Venise – another old school classic Italian eatery – think Sheekey’s – lots of waiters milling around in black and white, incredible service, delicious food, much more refined, but simply presented in plain bowls and tableware. Again depending on how many courses and drinks you choose, expect to pay around 140 euros for 2 with wine. Our final lunch was at a trattoria – pizza, pasta and salad, very reasonable and tasty – Barbanera – the pizza and homemade tiramisu delicious – this was around 60 euros for 2. our big treat was to have a drink in the atmospheric Gritti Palace Bar, full of glamour and sophistication, but a lovely place to sit and escape the rain. its very romantic and comfortable and we just had a beer and tea around 5pm. It’s ideal for a pre dinner drink, but of course you are paying for the privilege to sit there, but see it as a theatrical treat. The Danielli Hotel is a similar experience, but we did find that a lot of the usual things that are open in January were closed for most of January – maybe Covid had an effect, but there did seem to be less open. Lots of places were refurbishing ready for Carnival which starts early February in Venice.

The weather was not great, a lot of rain and grey clouds, but we used the time to visit some galleries. Peggy Guggenheim is always good to see, and worth walking around the surrounding streets, as quieter and less tourist; Venini – an incredible installation of glass lamps designed by Carlos Scarpa – some reconstructed from 1961. Again use the opportunity to take the boat to the next stop along to the Giudecca and feel what it is like being in a part of Venice where people live rather than just tourists, its just a short boat ride opposite San Marco. Boat rides are very expensive – 9.50 euros each journey, so its worth buying a 2 day ticket which allows you to freely get on and off, this was 35 Euros per person for 2 days. Lee Miller and Man Ray – another interesting exhibition showing the relationship between 2 great photographers, housed in another lovely Palacio. It’s a good chance to see inside these Palacios and see the grandness of 16C living. note that a lot of the galleries seem to close on a Tuesday, so good to plan your day in advance.

Venice is for walking and getting lost, you can try and look at the map, but it just frustrates you, give yourself enough time to find your proposed destination and if you get lost, even google maps can be confusing –  you will always find a sign directing you towards either san marco or the rialto bridge, which means you can then hop onto a boat back to your hotel or a recognisable site.  by the end of our visit, we realised that it was actually quicker walking everywhere than taking the boats. Another museum worth seeing, the museo fortuny, a beautiful old palazzo owned by the artist Mariano Fortuny Madrazo, which he restored to be his home and work studio, producing beautiful fabrics, artworks and clothes – remember those gorgeous pleated evening dresses;  on his death, his wife left the property to the council as a preservation of art, and so now it houses temporary exhibitions.

You can also read about our other Venice trips on previous blogs.

12 days after xmas

Friday is the twelfth day after christmas and is traditionally the day that you take down your xmas decorations- so dont forget!    jan 6th is epiphany and is the day the three wise  men (magi) brought their gifts to the young Jesus;  so especially in Latin American countries, the 6th Jan is usually the day that presents are given rather than 25th december.   On the night of the 5th, instead of stockings, kids leave their shoes out, stuffed with straw. It’s not Santa who comes in the middle of the night leaving the children presents. Instead, it’s the three magi who come bringing gifts for the kids, just like when they gave the baby Jesus presents in honor of his birth. The straw in the children’s shoes is for the Wise Men’s camels to eat.

To celebrate the Epiphany in Spain there are often parades featuring the three magi…  it seems it doesnt take much excuse to put on a parade in spain, throughout the year there is always a festival, parade or street party to either celebrate a saints day, or notable date in the calendar! thats what I love about spain, its cultures and traditions that are still family celebrations.

I wish that I was there in spain to celebrate – have never made it at this time of year – one day – its even been mild and sunny above 20C!


winter solstice

Known as the winter extreme in Chinese wisdom, the 22nd December sees the Winter Solstice – a magical time of year when the daylight is at its shortest and night is at its longest and darkest. Its the moment when yin reaches its peak, pauses and the spark of yang ignites and the ascent into light begins again.  Its this precise meeting of yin and yang that heralds the possibility of new creation, both spiritually and emotionally. In this moment of stillness feel that anything is possible.  It’s time to say goodbye to the woes of the year and look forward to the brightening of the longer days and the goodness of the future. 


one year i managed to catch the full moon known as the ‘harvest moon’ – so called because it signals the time when corn, pumpkins, squash, beans and wild rice – the chief indian staples are ready for gathering.   here is the full moon on the padstow estuary – its the view from my friends’ house. its actually one of my favourite images in my book stolen glimpses.


buying gifts is such a difficult thing….

what to buy each year becomes a dilemma – here is my list of what usually works for most of the family.

  1. curzon  cinema vouchers or membership to local cinema, could be any of the lovely independents that are around ,  2. tate, v & a membership or any gallery subscription – older kids seem to have preferred the Barbican, which also gives you discounted access to the gallery and cinema, 3. ticket or gift voucher to the theatre, maybe somewhere unusual like Wiltons or Sam Wanamaker theatre or National Theatre, 4. daunts book voucher or again any local bookshop, 5. anything from aesop, 6.  anything from the wonderful art shop cornelissen 7.  food gifts from la fromagerie ,Lina stores or my favourite Italo in Bonnington Square , 8.  jewellery from Tidy Street, Liberty’s or  sweet pea,, 9. ceramics – Conran, Japan House – at the moment, I love Japanese bowls from Sway gallery 10. candles from cire trudon or Tom Dixon’s fab new shop 11. a treatment from the Cow Shed, my husband got me a voucher last year for my birthday and the pedicure was pretty amazing. 12. of course there is a night’s stay in a hotel somewhere in the countryside, and there are so many lovely hotels to stay in and one extra – a course in ceramics, a language, drawing or just about anything – there are so many courses on offer at city lit and the neighbouring adult colleges. lots of independent shops such as Momosan, Native and Co, Tidy Street, Couverture and Garb store, Vanil. remember most of these places have a website and you can get gifts delivered.

Robert and Alfie’s favourite shop for classic  men’s clothes with style,  visit  J.Simons  shop on chiltern street –  it brings together a handpicked selection of American, Continental and British brands, classic loafers, harrington jackets, jeans and even includes a few vintage pieces – perfect if you want to find your male partner or friend a gift.  i love the pendleton shirts!  you go in there wishing that they did the same things in womens sizes.

struggling to find presents for men, go along to the aesop shop in soho – their products are all plant based, high quality and specially made to benefit the skin and absolutely smell beautiful. last year i bought a foaming shaving balm for my husband with a steel dish for him to whip up the foam with his brush – he is very old fashioned and still likes to wet shave.  a lot of men hate bits and pieces, collective memoirs, so finding something to buy them  can become a bit of a challenge.  a guess this means that you have a limited list;   here are a few places that i know robert will always be pleased to receive from  -any products from  kiehls,  scarves and silk handkerchieves from peckham rye, vintage books and out of print books  from the numerous antiquarian book shops on cecil court, poetry books from  daunts, I still think that they have the best choice of books, and the re issues of classics such as Agatha Christie and Dickens are so beautifully presented that they can be the start of a collection, travel notebooks from smythsons – you can even have your own initials embossed on the beautiful leather covers, margaret howell for vases and accessories , rapha for absolutely anything cycling, brooks for classic cycling bags,chapmans for classic bags.

the boys love fresh boxers, from the great basic uniqulo boxers to the supremely quality cotton boxers from sunspel – their cotton is just lovely; even the girls like to wear them for holidays.

forever autumn

such an apt song for now , forever autumn justin hayward;  autumn is one of my favourite times of the year – its the gentle closing to summer and the breaking in of dark winter nights.  some may say its a bad time as it ends the long balmy nights, but i quite like wrapping up warm on an evening, curling up on the sofa – too lazy to venture out in the dark……

one of my new art cards available from my website

one of my favourite images – from my stolen glimpses book