huts and hideaways

you always have a wish list in your life – and as you get older, you find that the list gets longer….  but finally i got my dream – the suffolk cottage has 5 huts and sheds;  some are just big old boxes to store the wood and paint, but 3 of them are perfect hide aways, though all 3 of them need a bit of tender loving care and restoration.   robert says i bought the cottage because of the sheds – he may be right……

on my list was a shepherds hut or a gypsy caravan in a big rambling garden ( oops thats 2 of my wishes – the big rambling garden) – there is a long sweet garden, made beautiful  and practically easy to maintain by my friend Laura Arison, award wining gardener and landscape artist at Hampton Court garden show.

have a look at the lovely retreats  from the hideaway and remember you can always stay at the wonderful shepherds return – another of those things on my neverending list.  if you pass by dix sept in framlingham, take a look at the wonderfully atmospheric shepherds hut, built from found materials, its everybody’s dream hut.


its all the rage, glam camping – i keep reading all about it – i must give it a go – not with robert of course, but one of my bohemian girlfriends who will appreciate the rustic natural life.   someone sent me this info and it looks really cool for a girlie weekend.

Introducing Mad Dogs & Vintage Vans – boutique glamping in the heart of the Wye Valley.  Come and stay in our beautiful vintage caravans in the grounds of a Grade II listed Rectory , nestled in the rolling hills of Herefordshire with stunning views out to the Black Mountains.  All our caravans have their own characters and are packed full of period features and vintage charm.  Bring the family or glamp it up with girlfriends, it’s the perfect place to relax and reconnect with nature.”

came across this website that looks very interesting, fun things to do with friends or with an adventurous family – vintage vacations.  my friend has this lovely 70’s caravan right near the beach in whitstable – a much cheaper alternative to a cottage and much less maintenance.

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strangers in a strange land

so to my next guest writer ….

Saying goodbye to old Soho and his season ticket for Craven Cottage journalist and raconteur Jonathan Futrell moved his shoes and vinyl collections, and his humidor, to an Edwardian red brick house overlooking Cornwall’s windy north coast. Between endless beach walks with his artist wife Kim and their dog Asta the former travel writer has scratched the surface of this maritime idyll to reveal a community of peripatetic likeminded immigrant ‘locals’.

Strangers In A Strange Land
for Christina
by jonathan futrell

I can see her now, over 20 years ago when she will have been younger than I am now. In a black one piece swimming costume, slender and erect.
The waist of a model and the shoulders of an athlete gingerly stepping over the pebbles towards the shallow waves breaking upon an empty Cornish beach. Watched only by her two black Labradors, sat open the foreshore, and my wife and I unseen on the windy path from the town. She cut a lonely figure slipping through the spine tingling elements of sea and sand and sky.
She was there every day of that holiday, apparently impervious to the icy cold of the north Atlantic whatever the weather (and there is a good deal of all kinds here), swimming slowly but strongly against the current for two minutes. Her gamine head of nickel hair protruding above the water like the prow of a ship. Indomitable. Fearless.
Asking around I discovered that our siren of the seas wasn’t ‘local’ – in the strictest sense of the word. She’d arrived from the other side of the country several decades prior, dazzling the people along this barren stretch of the north coast with her easy laughter, her Jean Muir dresses and Afghan coats, and her and her late husband’s predilection for the sort of British sports cars favoured by sixties rock stars and secret agents. They’d arrived at a time when many hereabouts boasted they’d never ever left the town.
In a region popular with retirees whose sole ambition is to sit by the window in zip-up fleeces, and gaze upon a platinum horizon until the day their daily nip of sherry misses their lips and the dribbles begin this chic immigrant, with a dash of rock ’n roll, had sought life on the Cornish coast not death. Her journey west was for her a beginning, not an end. She’d sought somewhere to feel alive in. A place to sharpen the senses. Be seduced by the elements. Where the colours of the big sky in the sea are never the same twice. Not for her the last resting place of grey daytime television mediocrity.
Monica chose the relentless Atlantic that ceaselessly forges new beach contours and reveals sunken wrecks. A place where distant forests disgorge coal and timber to feed the stoves that scent the winter air.
Her name is Monica and she is sat in front of me. We are in a room that I always imagined Miss Havisham inhabits in Great Expectations, where brass and wood garnitures are linked by drifting cobwebs. There is a fire at one end. Alcoves of leather bound volumes. Solid settees and heavy frames. There is a demi lune bearing ornate crystal glass, and the aroma of old dog, wood smoke and elegant neglect. We are a long way from the blue and white china, factory prints of fishing boats, and table lamps made from pebbles of most of the cheerily gentrified homes nearby. No attempt here to create a Disneyesque faux maritime world. Monica doesn’t need a clothes rack fashioned to resemble a rowing oar, or an occasional table purporting to be contrived from driftwood (arriving in a cardboard box with a label that states made in China).
Much is made of locals from “back along”, whether Cornish or Cockney; the descendants of people born, raised, and subsequently themselves rearing within yards of their ancestors. I, on the other, admire the ambulatory itinerants. Those who choose to live miles from where they grew up. People who have grabbed their lives by the jugular and taken them where the wind suits their clothes.
Of course many have no choice where they end up; they up-sticks and move for work. Or they are driven by war or famine. Others, like myself and Monica, step off the train for no other reason than to be in a place like this, surrounded by an ocean at the edge of the world. Far enough away to be other worldly. Somewhere to be forgotten in. A place where clifftop walks are treacherous and exhausting but which nourish the soul in a way the even the best martini cocktail fails to. Ok, maybe. Alright, a great vodka martini with a twist does have the edge, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.
My town is peppered with Monicas; not as modish and sophisticated perhaps, but there are of many from very different backgrounds, each lured by the freshness of the salty air and the shifting scenery:
Benjamin was stationed oversees when he asked his wife Celia to find them somewhere to live, on a budget. She found a former bank with the vault still intact in the basement and a hallway large enough to host five a side football.

The entire building is leaning towards the sea with every piece of furniture on the west and eastern walls kept on an even keel with blocks of wood. John is from Portsmouth and fell in love with a Cornish maiden. Sue, hailing from a stucco mansion in Belgravia, keeps house for the local gentry in a magnificent pile that dates from the 16th century. For a time she lived in the old coffin store halfway along a ginnel that runs beneath and between ancient homes. There are many narrow, subterranean thoroughfares hereabouts. Sue was drawn to the endless beach and the sky but misses those essential decadences on sale in London’s Jermyn Street. I’ll wager her’s was the only coffin store on the planet with a bathroom decked out in Czech and Speake.
Tamsin divorced and followed her son here, hooked on surfing since his first holiday on the north coast. He works as a coastguard and among Tamsin’s multifarious activities is running an exclusive and very bohemian cinema club from her front room. She lives next door to a tall man from Los Angeles who, when he is not dreaming about plastic surgery, writes and quaffs Pinot Grigio and irks local restaurateurs (the way every Americans does) by redesigning the simplest meal. I’ve yet to meet an American who can accept even something as undemanding as a sandwich on face value.
Then there is the local musician and raconteur, Paul from Liverpool, who hosts a Friday night soiree in a bar overlooking the quay. He plays the bars and restaurants in a number of guises hereabouts; sometimes with his daughter on jazz vocals, and on others with Big Dave or The Lost Yankees.
Monica grew up in East Anglia, where she must have given those muddy farm boys sleepless nights. Whenever I see her I hear Dave Rawlins’ ‘Short Haired Woman Blues’. She’s never worked. By all accounts never given it much thought. She’s been too busy being beautiful and reading to do anything so plebeian. She reads everything she can get her long decorous hands on. There are books everywhere in her long shadowy home of bitter memories. Books line the stairs. They fill the alcoves. And although I’ve never seen them there are many more she says beneath her mahogany four poster bed where at night an illuminated dredger boat throws Christmas lights on her ceiling.

Monica reads everything, although she tends to avoid novels. She steered me towards Lauren Bacall’s autobiography after something I said about Bogart, and thence a wonderful book about clouds: I now sit in my kitchen and stare at the alto cumulous strativarus that interlock like celestial chainmail, and monitor the nimbus clouds soaking Rough Tor and Brown Willy on the horizon. She insisted I read Nana, Emile Zola’s study of prostitution and despair in 18th century Paris, and her favourite book, The Rings Of Saturn, by the German writer WG Sebald, because it chronicles an immigrant’s odyssey through the county towns and coastline of her youth in East Anglia. It contains as a passage about I am pledged to recite at her funeral, heaven forbid. In the book Sebald follows the coast from Great Yarmouth to Southwold, dwelling on many places I have visited over the years. I particularly like the section in the Seaman’s Mission and another about a palace near Lowestoft. Sebald’s previous book, The Emigrants, published three years earlier in 1992 (ironically a gift from the American who exchanged California for the blustery tranquility of Cornwall) recounts the experiences of four characters who have left their native Germany for new lives in this country and the United States.
Monica is alone much of the time. Her family is all gone. Just her with her sepia photographs and books, and her dogs who share her passion for beach walks, and dunes, and long nights by the fire.
She told me once she’d found that black swimming costume I’d seen her in that first time, on the beach. In fact, she has a wardrobe full of swimming costumes, hats, shoes, sun tops, sweaters and scarves, all saved from a watery grave by an immigrant from back along.

original as water, plain as air

one of my favourite poems by michael parr, my son bought me this poem book

original as water

plain as air

there is no other

in these wits as you are

sweeter than grass

holier than soil

you have an iron grace

and stiff-necked soul

and here now the daily blood

sings within the heart

whispers and smokes and bleeds

in shadow and dream and hurt

that has made me fine at last

that makes you live

all that I have that I have lost

to the ends of love

taken from the green fig tree by michael parr



if you’re in suffolk on a saturday, then Framlingham is a great day out for antique shopping and sightseeing.  the town square holds its weekly market, fruit, food, bread and other lovely things to stock up on.  a few shops are only open on saturday, otherwise you can pre arrange to visit by appointment.  in da cottage and goodberry are full of china and curious bits and dix sept, has a great collection of glass, garden and house objects – you won’t fail to purchase something from there.  there is of course the medieval castle to visit -next on my list- the time seems to fly by when you are in suffolk. recommended to eat is the station hotel, but what i always do is pop by darsham nurseries to eat their consistently good food.  by the way, i am now selling some of my cards in darsham nurseries.

some of the china i have picked up in suffolk to make the cottage cosy


fliff carr

have always loved  fliff’s beautiful pots, so its such a pleasure to be learning ceramics with her.  she is so knowledgeable, but gentle and nurturing, so there is no pressure to achieve, just time to experiment and discover.  her classes run in 6 week blocks, usually there are just 2 of you, and you learn everything from hand forming,  decorating, making moulds and i even had a go at the wheel – which i must admit was much harder to control than i envisaged.   its such a joy to see your work progress from a lump of clay to a useable pot or plate.  you need a lot of patience but its very therapeutic and meditative and such a surprise to see how your pieces progress as they go through all the drying, firing, glazing processes.  here are my first couple of pieces that i made.

if you are interested in trying out a session of pottery, then see ‘Hey Clay’, from 7- 9th April, run by the crafts council.  one of my favourite pottery shops is in marylebone – gallery eclectic – such beautiful pieces.



so we finally got to see this film, ‘moonlight’- at first i found it disturbing – bullying and violence are not what i like to see, but towards the end, the film was SO tender – the cinematography reminded me of ‘in the mood for love’ by Wong Kar Wai – the colour and hand held camera were poetic essays of life.  the acting is what really struck me most , so the film is definitely high on my recommendation list.

the harvest moon at padstow, one of the images from my book stolen glimpses;  there is also a print available in Brixton Circus.

i also watched the last episode in the series of ‘call the midwife’ – although its a bit cheesy and always weepy, its such a good social history lesson of a period of britain to which i was born into.  how times have changed for women – can’t wait for the next series.  to make me even more broody, i shot some pictures of my friends baby Tomio, what a darling!