Between work, a lunch at Burford Garden Centre

So, figuring that we can’t actually work all day, we decided to go have lunch at the Burford Garden Centre.

You’d love it here. Walking into the huge, multi-layered, multi-spaced complex and hitting this wall of jasmine was just magical, and, as you come with me, imagine the scent paperwhites and hyacinths and orchids of every description following you around.
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There is everything here you could imagine, and I fell in love with the hand-spun and naturally dyed wool products, like these blankets, and the hand woven market baskets. The lovely thing is that mostly all of the products are made in England by small British enterprises.

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Robert and I planned on how we can construct a barn board table like this one.
I thought about painting some fabric for pillows.

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Or maybe just stitching up some gingham pillows for the spring. Aren’t they fresh and lovely?

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And they have the loveliest collections of old china.

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And tea services.

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Then we got silly trying on the hats. (no sniggering at the “thing” behind me please)

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But of course, since this is a garden centre, there are garden supplies, and loads of beautiful rustic pots. Those are my favourite.

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And, apparently, it’s time to think about planting potatoes and onions. Not in this soggy ground, I’m afraid.

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But then, I bet there’s still loads of time. :)

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Shopping for prezzies for the Clover

Junk shops + vintage shops + thrift shops = Happy! Because the one thing I absolutely love doing is finding one-of-a-kind, unusual things for my children (and me). And thank goodness for my iPhone. Happy little iPhone; clandestine little photo taker. :D Let me show you a favourite shop in our market town: The Old Pill Factory.

I absolutely fell in love with this little mirrored photo frame,(and the enamelled jug), but the frame was a bit pricey at about £28 (if I remember). Might have to go back for it thought because the more I look at it the more I love it to pieces.

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Old books are absolutely my weakness and look at these beautiful covers!

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I loved the gentle girliness of this bench and pillow, and I love that the cover on the bench isn’t perfect matchy matchy. That’s how my quilts usually turn out…lol…so I feel most gratified.

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And look what I found! Now this is the perfect man-cave that I can live with. Aren’t those chairs and that sofa just to die for? I can see them being in some ol’ boy’s club in Oxford, smelling of cigars and scotch. That wine rack would be full of lovely wine bottles and on the wall facing the sofa would be a roaring fire with those plush fire guards, you know, the ones you can perch on. Heaven. Actually, I think I might expropriate this man-cave for myself and call it a girly-grotto.

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I took at least an hour exploring the nooks and crannies of this lovely store. It’s impossible to see it all in one go. I think I might have to go back next week. :)

Hope you’re having a relaxing weekend across the ol’ globe.

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Road trip!

Robert bought a new boot lid, (trunk lid), for his new experimental mini on Ebay.UK. So we jumped into the mini, (what else would we drive to another mini enthusiast’s?), and we drove 42 miles away to Old Stratford to pick it up.
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Beautiful day for a road trip. We started off on the A40 (it’s a highway) but soon left the tall banks of the A for the scenic, smaller country roads.
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Today was perfect with that silvery, low, cold winter light.
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We chose smaller roads,
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then lanes, driving from tiny village to tiny village
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we peeked thru every gate,
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We appreciated each village church,
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And we were very careful to share the road.
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We got lost once…
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…OK twice…
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…and we drove thru some flooded marsh lands which splattered the windshield and broke a fuse which cut the fuel pump and the indicators. Suddenly Robert was without power. We coasted to a stop and Robert rewired the fuel pump, started the mini and…
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…cleaned off the windshield so I could take some more photos. :D (Love that man)
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We found our destination, got the boot lid and turned round and headed for home under beautiful Buckinghamshire skies.
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We drove on till we got to Oxfordshire…
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…crossed the Thames and we were home.
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Lovely day :D

A museum afternoon

The thing about our birthdays is that we’re usually always together for mine in July and 50/50 for Robert’s in November, so we make up for it when we can.

Eleven am Robert said, “let’s have my birthday day at the museums today!” and so we jumped in the car and drove to Oxford and took the train into London.

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It’s so easy to get to London via train, and, if you catch a fast train, you can be in Paddington Station in 30 minutes. We bought the economy train/tube pass and so walked out of Paddington and jumped on the tube to Earl’s Court and walked over to the museums.
I love Paddington Station, not just because of Paddington bear, but because my father had a huge old English sheep dog, who was the dirtiest mucky pup in the world and he was called Paddington after the dirtiest train station in London. :D

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The greatest thing about London museums is that they are free! So one doesn’t feel guilty about just checking out a section or two only instead of trying to get the full admission’s worth. It takes so much pressure off…do you know what I mean?

We started with the Natural History Museum. The outside of this beautiful building was being refurbished last summer and had green plastic and scaffolding down the walls. Now it’s completed and shining. I asked Robert what the building used to be and he told me it was built in Victoria’s reign to serve as the museum. Wow! Love those Victorians.

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We walked thru to the mammals. We walked around that wing and then we got hungry but we didn’t fancy anything in the little restaurant there so…

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…we walked past the skating rink to the Science Museum.

I wanted to go have a skate so badly, but there wasn’t time this time…because there is so much more to explore.

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The Science Museum is right next door to the NHM and this museum is really our favourite. When you walk in you see a giant three story ring which flashes and spins brilliant lights which occasionally collide to reveal text. Most spectacular.

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We had lunch in one of the little restaurants and R started photo bombing all my photos. :D

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R’s favourite section is the engine section. He asked me to thoroughly photograph two engines for him.

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Then on to my favourite section, the Steampunk Wing! Actually, it’s the King George III Collection. But it’s just sooo Steampunk! I love it! I was jumping around pointing at things and taking about a million photos while my long suffering darling looked on.

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But I couldn’t help myself. :)

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One more look at the giant ring, a good explore of the Who Am I gallery and off we went…

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…across the street…to the…

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V&A!
By now it was getting pretty late and it was the best time to explore the Victoria and Albert because most of the people had left.

I don’t know what it is about me but when I see a North West artist’s work I feel so connected. Who else loves Dale Chihuly? That one year he did an installation at RBG Kew is still so memorable.

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So Robert and I ran thru the exhibitions picking out our future house looks…lol.

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But then we came to the Ballroom and it took my breath away. If only a waltz was playing.

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But then the day was really getting on and we were thinking of poor starving Theo tapping his toes on the window sill waiting for his supper, and we still had at least an hour and half in rush hour traffic to negotiate our way back to Paddigton and back to Oxford, so we had one last walk around the garden at the heart of the V&A…

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…and walk across the street to the nearest tube station…and went home to cuddle and feed Theo.

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We had such a lovely time that we’re already talking about going back in the New Year. :)

Visiting Sezincote House

Yesterday my dear friend Elaine and I went to visit a private house.

This is Sezincote House, a stately English house, which was built in 1795 by Colonel John Cockerrell (grandson of Samuel Pepy’s) in a Neo-clasical, Neo-Mughal architecture. However, the interior is pure English country home.

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This house is the private home of a young family, and, indeed, we heard children screaming with laughter and a movie playing from the open windows of the third floor. The rooms we could see into from the outside had children’s drawings hung up with scotch tape, and, at the end of the day, someone was playing the drums. :)

We walked to the house across a bridge with four Brahma bulls and looked down into a beautiful grotto garden which looked like the fabled overgrown morass of old India and Poe.

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Walking up to the house and around to the Orangerie gave two impressions, one: it sure is a lovely exotic looking house and two: a family lives here.

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Soon we were greeted by the family dog and cat who were greatly petted and entertained by the visitors. Friendlier than anything, they came for pets and the dog chased several tennis balls and other toys which the visiting children threw for him. He seemed to have endless energy.

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Tea and cakes were served inside the Orangerie. The lady of the house loves the smell of jasmine and huge jasmine plants took centre stage on the walls.

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Red and purple fuchsias grew in the open windows and I fell so in love with this space that I didn’t want to leave here.

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There also were other exotic plants, such as gingers and passion fruits, and the entrance to the Orangerie had colourful stained glass details which were picked up by the colour of the fuchsias.

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Did I tell you I loved the Orangerie? Lol, One more photo and I’ll stop. The ends of the gallery had mirrored windows extending the space. Don’t you love mirrors in garden spaces?

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The house from the formal garden. I loved the lily filled reflecting channels and the central fountain.

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Oops, I said I’d stop. Oh well, one more photo of the Orangerie. :)

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Then it was time to meet fellow visitors at the front door for a tour of the house.

I’m sad to say that interior photos were not allowed. You know, I don’t understand this at all. If this were my home I’d love for people to take photos and share. It must bring some publicity and more visitors paying £5 per person for the tour. Oh well, I can describe it for you.

The interior was partially wrecked by Canadian (gulp) soldiers when the house was conscripted for service during WWII, but later renovated by the famed interior designer and decorator John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler fame. The interior is part fantasy, part English country-let’s-impress-with-the-best-marble-the-best-paintings-the-grandest-four-poster-beds-available.

There are several beautiful Aubusson tapestries, some valuable Chippendale and Biedermeier furniture pieces, some important paintings, marble staircases and golden coffered and vaulted ceilings, but the overall impression I got of the interior was of warmth, exotic grandeur and a wonderful fresh, exotic scent, which, I learned from the guide, was jasmine candles, (the favourite scent of the lady of the house).

This is the only interior shot I took (very naughtily) is of the entrance hall thru the glass-panelled front door. It shows some important paintings of the grounds plus the house by Thomas Daniell, and a replica Sezincote on the left side commode, which is actually the house cigar box! You can just see the sweeping marble staircase. Oh, and the sweetest thing, the very important Biedermeier chairs had a teasel seed head tied with a ribbon on the seat to prevent visitors from using them. I thought that was charming.

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After our house tour Elaine and I stopped for a cup of tea and went for a walk thru the grounds. The grounds were designed by famed garden designer Humphry Repton.

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There is a beautiful working farm on the estate but it was closed to visitors. It had a large clock tower and the clock chimed each quarter hour, so it was lovely to talk the garden listening to it chime. We walked past the elephants of the formal garden, walked past the little pavilion above the tennis court, past the front of the house along the ha-ha wall…

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…to the grotto garden. In order to walk under the bridge you had to step on these cement stepping stones in the water. We walked under the bridge and found the loveliest cement bench int he middle of the stream and stopped there for a while and listened to the bubbling water.

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The garden twists and turns along the stream which opens up into several small and one large pond. There are beautiful mature trees, some having swings hung from the branches, fields on either side with beautiful beige cows, and marsh type plantings.

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We had the loveliest afternoon visiting this house and garden, got caught up on each other’s lives and then drove back home to Northmoor.

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Hello from Saturday night and Catherine’s home

Last night, as we were driving to Catherine’s, Robert said, “ten years ago, if someone were to say to you, in ten years time you will be hooning X Oxfordshire in a turbo Astra to go to a garden party in a garden you’ve designed, would you believe it?” I added, “with the man I love?” He said, “yes.” I said, “no.” and we laughed.

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Catherine’s house was all sparkly and shiny and completely set up for a lovely group of people to visit.

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Andrew brought his beautiful white German Shepard called Cody. He was kept on a leash for a short time until he got used to the people.

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Will was in Catherine’s kitchen preparing some very delicious dishes. Will owns a beautiful organic cafe in Oxford in the vaults of St Mary’s Cathedral. The restaurant is called The Vaults and Garden Cafe.

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I loved watching him cook.

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Will made brown rice with veggies, a lovely coconut curry, roasted potatoes and a slow cooked lamb. Out of this world delicious. Then for desert he made a huge Eaton Mess. Have you ever heard of Eaton Mess? So good! But he made it with tangy creme fraiche instead of whipped cream.

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People started arriving and Cody was in his element as an organic door bell announcing everyone’s arrival.

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We loved that big boy.

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Soon it was twilight and a little too cool to stay outside and so we all went into the conservatory.

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I took way too many photos and so I made a little 12 second video to show you.

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We had such a lovely time in Catherine’s beautiful twinkly house with our friends and beautiful Cody at our feet.

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Took these photos with my iPhone. :)

Random Friday thoughts

I’m starting to love Nancy’s Friday random thoughts. It’s hard to chose just five, but we must be disciplined!

I also love Oxfordshire in late summer. It’s so golden and beautiful. I want to paint every thing I see and capture it on canvas to remember for the rest of the year.

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This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen so far: Little test tubes full of herbs and spices. Very pretty and I’m sure loads of people will get sucked into buying them or giving them as little gifties…

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…but even if they come with this pretty little display case, can you really see yourself with your messy cooking hands trying to uncork one of these little vials to add a pinch of this and a pinch of that to your meal? Yeah. me neither. And then you go and make something like a chili and then there goes at least three test tubes full. At £2 each, that’s $ 9.85 Canadian worth of chili…whoa! (Robert just said “hatchet job” as in I’m slating someone’s product again, and I’m like, “what?!???”)

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How much do you love this guy? I’m so over the moon in love with this Highland cow it’s ridiculous. Those are real horns and bits of material everything else. It’s life size and costs £600, that’s…well…completely unaffordable, so the only thing is to make one. How hard can that be? :)

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Robert did the sweetest thing for me the other day. Remember I said last week that I was going to buy a mini shell and restore it to a beautiful mini for me? Well here is a picture of the swamp monster mini shell and after Robert spent several hours steam cleaning the exterior to see where the rust and damage was. Then he put some mini hubcaps on it and took some photos for me to see what it will look like. (The inside is still a bit swamp monstery, but well get to that soon.) I’m thrilled, it’s going to be a beautiful little car for me.

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Yesterday I took some photos of the almost full moon rising up from behind some clouds. I steadied the camera on the roof of the car while I released the shutter and it went khaaaa…….lick.

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I’m so excited for this new garden

Each time I design a garden I do a through examination of my client and my client’s space. This time I’m lucky because my client is also my very good friend Catherine.

Catherine lives on the chalk downs in Oxfordshire and has this spectacular view over the fields and gentle hills.
However, since her garden is the only garden around, all the slugs and snails in the neighbourhood make a bee line for the garden plants.

And they have perfect homing instincts! I actually accidentally knocked a couple into the garden pond and I’m like, ” Oh my god I’m so sorry!” and they just came sliming out of there 10 minutes later!

So the plants I chose had to be bullet proof and slug and snail resistant.

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Today was the day that I look forward to the most; the day of plant buying!

I went to the Burford Garden Centre, and one has to walk thru the “pretties” to get to the plants.

Oh my gosh, look what I saw on my way thru!!! Assorted mismatched tea cups and saucers holding beautiful little orchids!

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You know, this would be the best and easiest little project to do at home. The problem with this set up was that there was no drainage hole in the bottom of the tea cup.

I know the secret to drilling a hole into china. You have to drill with an appropriate drill bit for ceramic and drill the tea cup while it is immersed in a pot of water and drill thru it into a hockey puck. (I’ll show you when I get back to Vancouver because there’s a definite lack of hockey pucks here in England…lol)

But wouldn’t that be a lovely way to display all our orphaned cups?

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But I was there on my clients time so off I went to do my plant selection and this is what the car looks like just now!

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After a while all my cars end up being gardener’s cars…lol

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Even the passenger seat is taken with plants. You can just see the steering wheel thru the crocosmia.

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Anyway, I’m so looking forward to planting up this garden tomorrow and then Catherine is having a garden party this weekend! It’s going to be so beautiful. :)

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The last two Sundays at races with the turbo mini

Oh my gosh time is just flying so fast! I’ve designed and am installing a rather large garden for my friend and client Catherine, that I haven’t had much time to update.

But things are starting to slow a little and here’s my chance to show you our last two Sundays out with the turbo mini. We had a terrific couple of Sundays hooning cross country, over hill and dale and thru quaint little Cotswold villages in the turbo mini. People couldn’t help but turn their heads at the sound of the powerful side pipe exhaust. Mostly we had smiles and nods from people and loads of thumbs-up and waves from little boys, and we always smiled and waved back. We were happy about that because driving the powerful mini on a Sunday morning thru sleepy little villages, well, you could just imagine. :)

The races were at a hill climb called Prescott, (home of the Bugatti club), and Prescott Hill is in the middle of the beautiful Cotswolds in our neighbouring county Gloucestershire.

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Two Sunday’s ago: This was a Sunday of new things.

The first new was this beautiful bespoke car. This was a Salmson. (Never heard of it and I’m a car nut!) We spent a long time talking to the builder and I photographed it in detail as reference for Robert’s crazy wonderful new innovation Medusa, which he’s building at the moment.

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The next new was this: a Marcos! Such a beautiful car, like a piece of sculpture. I thought I loved Jag E-types the most but I might be changing my mind!

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And then, a new friend. This is Trudi and she paints the loveliest acrylics.

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She loves to paint around her home in the Gloucestershire hills. Her lovely website is here.

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We parked up the mini and revealed the engine and, in no time, the beautiful beastie started attracting attention.

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The the race announcer came by and spent twice as long interviewing Robert than any of the other car owners around. This was broadcast over the loudspeakers thru the whole venue and soon the mini had loads of admirers. And no wonder, the beastie has 248 bhp and is the third fastest five port A series road going turbo mini in the world!

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While this was going on I found this beautiful TVR. R has a deep ruby red one and one day soon we’ll take it racing too.

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Then I found more Marcos!

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Last Sunday it was back to Prescott Hill for a Retro Rides get together and I was really excited because a lot of our turbo mini club was going to be there and a lot of the minis would be parked up together in a club stand.

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We soon met up with our friends and caught up with everyone’s adventures.

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The minis and honoured guest cars were parked up, bonnets removed, engines exposed for all to admire.

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There was a lot of car talk and innovative information was shared.

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And we went to watch the hill climbs.

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There was a small parade of very special low riders and then the cars started racing up the hill. This car was a bit of an oddity. It was an American racing car called a Chaparral with some terrific improvements. :)

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We had a couple of the loveliest Sundays this summer and enjoyed ourselves to the max.

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Scriptum in Oxford

There is a store in Oxford I love more than anything else.

It’s called Scriptum, and it is a writer’s dream.

You find it at the end of a small lane and if you didn’t know it’s there, you’d walk right by it.

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Because there’s only a very small front window and an unassuming wooden door, but inside there’s a narrow, two story, funny shaped space full of fantasy and whimsy.

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There is so much imagination there that I could spend a week discovering new things and still not see everything.

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Among the fine stationery, ink wells, feather quills and hand crafted papers are the most unexpected things like scruffy, loved-to-death teddy bears, stuffed owls and Venetian masks.

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But the things which bring me back every year are the most exquisite leather bound journals and notebooks, many with gilded edges and marbled papers.

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This summer I found this! A working praxinoscope! (Wonder if I can make one…how hard can that be?)

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There are also books. Not just ordinary books. Scriptum carries the most beautiful, special editions of the most beloved books.

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But the real reason I come here is for my most favourite journals. I love these larger leather strap wrapped beauties in the rich, dark brown leather. I love these to pieces. They are filled with beautiful paper which is an absolute pleasure to draw and write on. You know how some journals grab the ink and the pen scrapes over the paper? These papers are so smooth and the pen/ink/pencil just glides making each important mark just perfect.

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