Posts Tagged ‘ helena attlee ’

Moving On

The time has come. Nine months ago we first conceived the idea of moving; as of today our home for the last sixteen years is up for sale. UPDATEHere is a link to the house details with the correct location. The agents’ office can be found here. If you know of anyone who might be interested in moving to Presteigne (according to Country Life magazine one of the three best places in Britain in which to live), please spread the word. Leaving our little rus in urbe will be a wrench, no question, but we’re sure it’s the right thing to do.

the kitchen garden

south front, with irises

summer in the 'dining room'

Other, though lesser, news: a feature in the March issue of The English Garden on Trevarno in Cornwall, written by Katherine Lambert. This garden also appears in Gardens of Cornwall (Frances Lincoln Ltd) by Katherine and myself, which will be published on the 1st of March.

Trevarno, Cornwall

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Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

Tyrrhenian Sea

A view with a room

Just back from Calabria, a fleeting visit for which I had no excuse other than to accompany Helena Attlee on her research trip to the Jewish citron harvest. This peculiar event will soon be properly described by Helena in her forthcoming book on the role of the citrus family in Italian culture. Briefly, though, the citron (etrog in Hebrew) takes a central part in the annual Feast of Tabernacles (sukkot); what’s more, each fruit has to be absolutely flawless. We met a citron merchant from Brooklyn who talked us through the business, at the same time giving us a crash course in elementary Judaism. Who knew, for example, that the only commandments that apply to us (non-Jews, I mean) are the seven ‘Noahide’ commandments – six of which were given to Adam before the Fall and the seventh to Noah after the Flood?

citron (citrus medica)

A perfect citron

Harvesting these fruits is a brutal job – the trees are covered in vicious spines and grow low to the ground, so that the pickers have to crawl on all fours and pick the fruit while lying on their backs. All this in the furnace heat of a Calabrian summer. And then each fruit must be washed and checked by the merchant for the slightest imperfection, variation in colour, etc. before being packed in bubble wrap and foam rubber like a piece of glassware.

citron harvest

Looking for the perfect fruit

Citron merchant

The citron merchant

Citron farmer, Calabria

The citron farmer

Checking the citrons

More pictures may be found here. After a brief break for beach time it was north to Amalfi to look at the precipitous and beautiful lemon gardens that hang above the Tyrrhenian Sea. The first picture on this post shows the view from our room, so high above the sea that we could just make out the mountains of Sicily 100 miles distant. Then home – and within 24 hours we were swimming in the rain in Hampstead Ponds. Funny thing, travel.

Amalfi lemons

Amalfi lemons

Amalfi lemons

Amalfi lemons

Ways With Words

Just back from a lovely couple of days doing Ways With Words at Dartington Hall, I think the nicest festival we’ve yet taken part in. A fantastically beautiful setting, of course, and a pleasing intimacy of scale about the whole affair. The organisers couldn’t have been more hospitable, and meals in particular were something to look forward to – generous quantities of food and wine, and invariably interesting neighbours to chat to (even at breakfast). Great Gardens of Britain drew a good crowd to hear Helena and myself in joint conversation with Lorna Duffin, discussing the book and the whole process of working together. We went to as many events as we could fit in – one highlight was Helen Dunmore speaking with subtle clarity about researching and writing The Betrayal, set during Stalin’s final months. Another was Peter Snow’s brilliant high-speed exposition of Wellington’s campaigns during the Napoleonic wars. Anyone who remembers him with the famous election swingometer will get the picture – he gave both the clearest and the fastest description I have ever heard of the battle of Waterloo.

We finished with a quick trip to smell the sea at Brixham, and rounded everything off by staying a night with friends near Totnes; a perfect few days away. Pics below.

Ways With Words, Dartington Hall

Readers queue for the next event - ours, perhaps?

Fishing off the sea wall at Brixham

Summer on the English Riviera

Great Gardens of Britain

Stourhead

Great Gardens of Britain is out at last and so far to a good reception, judging by the first reviews. We’ve enjoyed seeing the other European editions, too – Germany is currently in the lead for the best foreign title with Gartenlust. Should you happen to be in Devon and anywhere near Totnes tomorrow (Tuesday 12th July), Helena Attlee and I are speaking about this book and related matters at the Ways With Words festival at Dartington Hall (4.00 pm.). And if you can find a moment, we’re always grateful for reviews on Amazon!

Just one other picture with this hasty blog post, but I couldn’t resist it – freshly churned butter in the artist Anne Belgrave‘s ‘Self-Reliant Kitchen’, open as part of the local ‘eco weekend’.

real butter

Of Courts and Courtiers

A spell of feverish activity has at last resulted in my finishing The Gardens of Cornwall. The mad rush at the end was caused by a summons to undertake jury service, a potentially open-ended and unavoidable commitment. About the case itself I can say nothing at all, for obvious reasons, but it was one of the most absorbing weeks I’ve spent for a long time. Having someone’s future in your hands concentrates the mind wonderfully. The drama is intense, however trivial the matter. The faces, the body language – are they lying, are they simply nervous? And then the atmosphere of the court, all heavily grained Victorian woodwork with the hook still to be seen where the judge’s black cap once hung.

From one court to another. There’s been a royal visit to David and Sara Bamford’s carpet workshop here in Presteigne. I found myself on the royal press rota and being firmly briefed by the (glamorous and charming) Clarence House press officer as to what I might and might not do. It’s tricky, trying to photograph people and yet keep moving backwards in front of them, so that it’s as if you don’t exist and they are moving freely through an empty room. A strange illusion of total freedom for the royal couple, who are at all times surrounded by staff anxiously counting down the seconds until the next stage of the occasion.

Meeting and greeting

A pat on the back for Phil

The Cornish book finished on a definite high with a wonderful last day, an early morning at the open-air Minack Theatre, with low sun striking across the waves beating at the cliffs below the amphitheatre. More Cornish pictures to be seen here.

The Minack Theatre, Cornwall

The Minack Theatre

The ancient chestnut trees at Dartington Hall

With that out of the way I’m free to concentrate on the imminent publication of our latest book, Great Gardens of Britain, due out on the 15th of July. We’ll be holding a small event locally to celebrate, about which more information later. Helena Attlee and I are also speaking about the book at the Ways With Words Festival at Dartington Hall near Totnes. That will be at 4.00pm on the 12th of July (all information on their website, www.wayswithwords.co.uk). I hope we’ll also get a chance to tell some stories about the weird and wonderful things that have happened to us while working together on our books. Incidentally, there are a couple of good reviews of the book out now, one by David Wheeler in the current (July) issue of Gardens Illustrated and the other by Claire Masset in the July issue of The English Garden.

The present order is the disorder of the future - Saint-Just. Little Sparta, Scotland

A new feature – more Italian gardens

In tomorrow’s Telegraph Magazine (Saturday October 9th), the first extracts from Italy’s Private Gardens. I imagine this means it’s now officially out there in the wide and savage world – please be gentle with our latest infant. The Telegraph has chosen to feature some of the Sicilian gardens we visited – a good choice, as they’re not often visited and completely different to anything you’ll find elsewhere in the country.

 

stena paterno

An expectant Stena Paterno next to a Chilean wine palm in the Paterno garden

 

 

garden photography often requires patience

 

 

Behind the scenes at San Giuliano

 

 

helena attlee

The author at San Giuliano

 

I’m just back from a few days in Oslo, shooting a gigantic building in the city centre for The World of Interiors. Less than straightforward, having to shoot on film with the most mixed collection of light sources imaginable, most of which could not be turned off. The building was the size of a young power station, and it also rained continuously for three days. Not an unmixed delight, all in all.

 

laughter

actually it read 'slaughter', but I was feeling optimistic that day

 

A new feature – Bramafam

A new garden feature in this week’s Country Life magazine (29th September issue), written by Helena Attlee. It’s about the clifftop garden of Italy’s most distinguished landscape architect, Paolo Pejrone.

Paolo Pejrone's garden at Bramafam

The villa in the mountains of Piedmont

Paolo Pejrone

Paolo Pejrone and young friend

gardeners

topiary work

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