Too cold for snow in Old Windsor

snow in OW

Well, knock me down with a snowy feather! I emerged from Old Windsor Rec on Wednesday, one of the mildest November days on record, only to see the car park of the Fox and Castle, covered in snow. Not to mention a whole bunch of Christmas trees. Behind the scenes was less pretty, of course, as a long pipe supplied the white stuff. But the effect was stunning – if slightly confusing

snow OW 2

There was a lady from the National Lottery, who explained to me that this gimmick publicity stunt is part of their ‘making dreams come true’ campaign. They apparently worked out that Old Windsor is one of the least likely places in the UK to get snow, and so they took it upon themselves to surprise us all. I’ve lived here for 17 years and thought we had seen as much snow as anyone I know in the UK. I certainly never thought of O W as somewhere that lacks snowfall – there have been several days off school for C to go sledging over the years, and we had to get rid of our BMW convertible after the winter of 2010 because it was rear wheel drive and couldn’t cope with the ice and snow on the bridge over the river. As I recall, the snow was so thick that year that we also hit a pothole in the road and the damage was so bad that we had to abandon the car and get a lift home. Perhaps I am slightly cynical, but the whole thing seemed a bit odd. Never mind: it’s very pretty and I am sure they can fully justify the use of these resources. I won’t get all bah humbug because the kids will no doubt LOVE it

Art Nouveau is back!


Source: Art Nouveau is back!

Please just take a look at this lovely post, which I just found. I think she makes a very good point for an Art Nouveau revival. We really do need beautiful things in our lives and there is nothing more lovely than the curves and strength of Art Nouveau. And take a look at the Butterfly Chairs by Eduardo  Garcia Campos – aren’t they amazing (wish I could afford a pair)!

Drifting in Islington


madonnasite2I am in danger of becoming old before my time. I’ve noticed recently that when anyone asks me if I still love London, I reply that I love it but that I also find it tiring. I don’t know where the habit crept in of adding the caveat. The truth is, I do still love London and still find its villages fascinating

We took Charlotte to a gig in Islington on Sunday.  The evening was too warm for mid-November so having enjoyed a meal at the Masala Zone, Baz and I wanted to walk it off. I used to spend a lot of time in the area and I lived a short walk from Upper Street, or ‘Supper Street’ as it is now nicknamed, during my twenties. There is a wealth of Georgian, Regency and Victorian buildings that remain, particularly noticeable at the top end of Upper Street and on the side-roads that run down towards Essex Road

Unfortunately we didn’t take our cameras (it was dark, to be fair), so we had to rely on Baz’s phone as mine had no charge. Hardly well-equipped, but we snapped the fabulous Madonna mural with the legend ‘Queen, Rebel, Icon’ as well as this charmingly observed mural


As I looked in the windows of an interiors shop near the corner of Essex Road when Baz called me to say, ‘P, you have to see this’


Predictably the shop is called ‘Get Stuffed’. Should I even call it a shop? I love animals so taxidermy is not my thing at all, but there is something so intimate and compelling here and it looks more like an animal sanctuary than a stuffers


 It was hard to do it justice with the phone through the metal shutters but I think Baz captured how the creatures actually seem to engage with you and with each other, are almost living, a community. It was very affecting

There is something special to see on most streets in London. All its villages still have their own personalities after hundreds of years and their commerce and architecture is diverse. Even on a dark night when the shops are shut, you can never be bored

One man’s humour is another man’s squirming discomfort

I know that Woody Allen has fallen from grace with the biggest thud, but I for one will always think of his films with great fondness and admiration. When I first saw ‘Sleeper’ I was about 13 years old and it was the funniest thing I had EVER seen. I know I am not alone in this, and so I have chosen the famous Mr Allen for the 3 quotes for today to balance the inspirational quotes of the last 2 days

Yes, I found them on internet sites

Yes, we have all heard them before

Yes, I think they are worth hearing again

“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons”

“Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.”

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”

There are also many Woody Allen quotes which really are gems of wisdom, but I have made a conscious choice to opt for the silly ones. I hope you get a little giggle out of at least one of these. It’s such a specific style of humour and it immediately summons up his character’s facial expressions and gesticulations

When Charlotte was a baby we sat at a table next to Woody Allen outside a bar in downtown Miami. It was after all the squidgy stuff had hit the fan, but it was exciting, nonetheless. I was surprised at how skinny and worn he really looked, but he was probably closer than ever to becoming his on-screen character

3 Days 3 Quotes – How not to be a quitter

Jack Dempsey - heavy hitter
Jack Dempsey – heavy hitter

Today is the second day of the challenge and I am turning to sports people for inspiration. I am not an athlete myself, but I love to run (ask me another day and I’ll say I hate running too). I will never be fast but with the help of some great running buddies I have achieved five half marathons so far and I have never not finished a half marathon, however much pain I have been in from injury. I don’t judge others by this. I simply need to know this of myself; that when I say I will complete something I do not quit until it’s done

Surely sport is inspirational in itself – a great boxing match, an exciting game of rugby, a nail-biting triathlon finish. People devote their lives to bettering their own performances, often in the face of adversity and disability. They entertain and enthral us. And who is not moved by great sporting performances?

These 3 quotes for today are all from truly respected gentlemen in their field

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing” – the great Muhammed Ali, whose charisma and style were as exceptional as his skills, but who got to the top through sheer grit, hard work and a refusal to quit

“A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t” – Jack Dempsey, 5-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer of the 1920s, whose punch was so heavy it was claimed that he had weighted gloves

“The more I practice, the luckier I get” – the much-loved gentleman of golf, Gary Player. I have moved away from the boxing theme here. I am not a golfer but sportsmanship and being a nice guy go a long way. I mean, have you ever heard anything bad about Gary Player? Nor have I

Whether or not sport is in our lives, we can all admire guts and discipline

Like a rabbit in the headlights…Winstonisms

after Edvard Munch**

… I have been nominated by the Mr Magnet for the ‘3 Days 3 Quotes’ Challenge

I have walked, climbed and run hundreds of miles over the years when asked to do so for charity, and even more so when I was told I would not achieve the goal in sight. Yesterday I signed up to the next physical test (54 miles of Scottish terrain in one day) and I very much look forward to it

Mine is an awkward nature and I will not apologise for that. So, Cameron, bring it on!!

I realise that Winston Churchill has been quoted more that almost anyone in history (Oh no! She’s only going to quote bloody Churchill!’ I hear you cry), but it’s usually the same few biggies that are trollied out, where he either rallied the country to chew up and spit out the erstwhile enemy or insulted people in truly monumental fashion. There is a wonderful Winston-ism on the wall of my local, the Horse and Groom in Windsor, which compares the way that people see their businesses, but I can’t see it on the internet and it’s lunchtime right now so they’re going to be too busy at the pub to read it to me over the phone. It’s a shame because it really speaks to me as a business owner myself, so I’ll try to include it later. In any case we are rarely short of something our Win would have said.

To reflect Cameron’s uplifting and honest blog I have the theme in mind of self-improvement:

‘To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often’

‘Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb’

‘It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time’

Please excuse me for relying on the best-known quote-generator of the 20th Century, but there are good reasons why some people are quoted more often than others

**In case you are wondering, this is an entirely gratuitous shot of my kitchen floor, which just happens to look exactly like ‘the Scream’ by Edvard Munch. It’s not at all relevant, but I felt like sharing!

Now, am I supposed to nominate someone as well? I really should read the maps instructions I am given!!

Online romance, unkempt loveliness

Dust? What dust?
Dust? What dust?

This is my first online relationship. Somehow I identified this house as my soul mate among all the other potential candidates on the property equivalent of Tinder (what Baz calls ‘house porn’). I had little idea what I was looking for in my partner, only that it would be French, considerably older than me, and would hopefully introduce me to some good walking and a bit of skiing. I didn’t care how it was dressed, what sort of health issues it might have or what its relationship history would be. In fact I don’t even remember what especially piqued my interest when I saw it, but I committed there and then. I could not wait to be face to face, so I booked the first possible flight over, and it felt good. Now I spend my time dreaming of being back there when I’m not …


But what if fate and the internet hadn’t brought me to this old unloved and unfashionable house? No doubt it would have remained empty for another 40 years, and there would eventually be a sign on it – like the one further down the road where the stonework is now partially naked and the front door is rotten through – which unashamedly invites people to ‘make me an offer’

Brazen and almost naked
The brazen neighbour now almost completely exposed

I cannot imagine these beautiful old buildings having no souls, nothing beyond the simple fabric of which they are made. They have withstood so many changes, outlived all the people who dreamed of them, built them, and several generations living in them. They have energies – some are less than positive

It’s also difficult to comprehend how little monetary value they have and how little interest they get. The estate agent had the front door key but hadn’t bothered to free up the lock so that we could use the front door when I went to view. As a result, my first sight of the house interior was while negotiating my way though a garage full of junk, and this made it feel like a bizarre film set, not a place to live. Once we finally completed the sale and wrestled the key from the agent it took Baz 30 minutes and a bit of WD40 to get the lock working. The house immediately felt like a very different prospect – a home with a future

As a footnote, the plans arrived in my inbox this morning. An architect has painstakingly put together detailed plans of the layout to enable me to work with a small local team towards stabilising and saving this lovely building. This is the first essential element of progress. I’ve been told that the plumber and the builder apparently think we are ‘very brave’ to take it on. Should I be panicking?!!!


a trip down Memory Lane, Palmers Green N13

I got lucky. I made the only bid on the lot I was watching and was delighted that I paid less than expected. The seller told me all the other people watching must have all been watching X-Factor when the auction ended. She lived very close to where I grew up and she even had the same forename as I did.  We arranged to collect from her house and as we got close I started to recognise everything, though I hadn’t been there for 30 years

the boating lake and bandstand at Broomfield Park
the boating lake and bandstand at Broomfield Park

I get very nostalgic about where I grew up: I’m sure we all feel like that. People say that you should never go back but I wish there had been some time to look around while we were there. I often think about Broomfield Park, which had paths with lovely borders, a playground and the lake where our toy boats were sailed and sometimes sunk – requiring a parent to wade in. There were also tennis courts, an aviary and the sports track used for our school sports days, as well as a beautiful Memorial Garden. I assume and hope that these are all still there. One of these paths also has the dubious distinction of being where I got flashed by a man in a mac at the age of 11 on my way home from the library!!

the house as I remember it
the house as I remember it

Broomfield House, which was built in the 17th Century, and which sadly burned down in the early eighties, was a beautiful building which was used by everyone. We rather took it for granted, I suppose. It held a small museum downstairs with some fairly terrible taxidermy – probably the first time I’d ever seen a real fox – a fairground laughing policeman and a few other seemingly random bits and pieces, but the best bit for us as kids was the bee hive with a glass screen where we could see them coming in and out. There was a railing we used to climb up on to get a better view. The museum may not have been great, but we loved it and it was free, with an ice cream booth outside at the back that used to sell wafers with a chunky slab of Cornish vanilla ice cream. When I was a young child I had to attend a clinic upstairs at the house. I have no idea why I had to go there, but they used to give me rosehip syrup (has anyone else remember having that?). I remember the very grand hall and the beautiful staircase with red carpet which had a rope across to stop the general public straying upstairs. Over this staircase the ceiling was covered in a sumptuous mural of dark theatricality

Lost, but wasn't it beautiful
Lost, but wasn’t it beautiful

Several years ago the remainder of the shell of Broomfield House was featured on the Griff Rhys-Jones programme ‘Restoration’ where viewers voted in some kind of competitive frenzy for their favourite ruined building to receive funds (very much like the X-Factor, in fact). It was a ‘yes’ from me but Broomfield House did not win and is still awaiting the attention it requires. Truth be told, the old building was completely wiped out by the fire, and I am not sure how I feel about that. When something is lost, really lost, then surely restoration is just re-creation?

I have ‘lifted’ the pictures, taken around 1980, from the internet, mainly from the Friends of Broomfield Park. I hope they will not mind

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