Material comforts

IMGP1931IMGP1929 IMGP1914 IMGP1923 IMGP1838 IMGP1824 IMGP1743 05 04 03 02 01 IMGP1857 IMGP1856 IMGP1898 IMGP1887 IMGP1873 IMGP1872 IMGP1867 IMGP1865 IMGP1858IMGP1911 IMGP1927I first visited Blenheim Palace in my first year as undergraduate in Oxford. That was eight years ago, and I only went back few weeks ago now. It is an interesting place – the house is impossibly grand (think Downton Abbey, multiplied by six and then turbocharged), and by now it resembles an “English country house theme park” more than a private, lived-in house with its champagne bars and visitor centres. But leave the house to walk the park, and even in a bank holiday weekend, magic happens. Not many people venture into the far corners of the park, and we had a bench by the lake all for ourselves. We sat there for a long time watching the birds and listening to the slightly menacing noises of the woods. The whole park a marvel – it was redesigned by Capability Brown in the 1760s, who built the (by British standards) huge lake with its waterfalls and planted the enormous trees. There’s something uplifting about the idea that 250 years ago, he set out to create something he knew would not reach its peak until many generations after his death. I’m not sure if I’ll ever visit the house itself again, but I definitely want to go back and sit on that bench again.

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Lately

Is it autumn yet? has been the question my friends and I have been asking a lot lately. Some cling to summer, while others, like me, rejoice in the autumn. Late summer – that brown, dull, lagging, almost-but-not-quite warm season of cobwebs and rain – is, together with late winter (also brown, dull, lagging and almost-but-not-quite warm) my least favourite season. Autumn promises new harvest, colour, gently darkening evenings. In the autumn the year begins anew – will we ever break that cycle of school year in our minds?
Hearty meals. Red wine. Candlelit dinners and asters.
And rain. Somehow autumn rain isn’t quite as disheartening as summer rain. It belongs. It brings mushrooms, and gives permission to stay indoors. To wear warm clothes and wellies. To feel a bit sad, but in a cosy, forgiving way.
There are also all the autumn walks in breezy, sunny days, the dramatic cloudy skies, and landscapes ripe and dry.
And all those autumn flowers – every seasons seems to have its colour, and the colour of autumn flowers is purple. Michaelmas daisies, asters, crocuses, morning glories, oh my.
I didn’t really mean to take this picture – my finger hit the button by accident when I was putting the phone away. A rather happy mistake.
Turner’s cows, Constable’s clouds. They both stood here, looked at this same view, and were inspired. How could one not be?
The peacock of The Trout. Every pub should have one.
Off the bucket list: walking home through Port Meadow at night. We had the perfect evening for it, even a nearly-full moon.
I love, love Victoria and Albert Museum. I’m a bad museum goer in that I never learn anything, I just admire the aesthetics of the displays. And I’m drawn to the same displays over and over again, like the Egyptian gallery in the Ashmolean and the performing arts gallery in V&A. The model of Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach is new since my last visit.
I finally finished reading Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple novels last Saturday – I started this project at Christmas, so it has taken me rather embarrassingly long time. I think Jane Marple really would deserve her own post, but until then: Sleeping Murder is still my favourite. They do it with mirrors is the weakest of the 12 novels, even if I do love the adaptation, with Penelope Wilton and Joan Collins playing somewhat implausible sisters. I could remember most random details from The mirror crack’d from side to side, and after finishing that novel, went around for weeks ordering daiquiris in bars. Now I just need a new project…
When Instagram introduced this new feature, I resisted pretty hard. Guess what happened next? I call this photo hipster breakfast – the eggs are from organic chestnut maran chickens, the toast is NY sourdough, there’s coffee and Palomino Blackwing pencil and knitting, and all the colours match the plums. I’m morphing into one of them.
Carousel horses. St Giles fair is over and gone for another year, and the summer is over.

Lately

Suddenly, summer. Long evenings, warm, humid days, that itch to escape the town and spend the nights fishing.
Dinners with friends.
Music with legends…
…and with some future legends.
Barbeques and bonfires.
Somewhere in Oxford: my spirit animal.
The Arts Festival got off to a dramatic start…
…but you can’t keep a good event down, so off we got, on Bonn Square. Neither the fire nor the occasional rain sullied our spirits, and we managed to have a great day, despite the clouds and even the occasional rain. Now two weeks’ onslaught of culture, and summer holiday.
We even had an audience.
The Arts Festival Oxford runs till 3rd July. You can find the Festival diary and buy tickets here.