Round here

I can’t believe how fast the month of July has trickled thru my fingers!
Where did it go? I also can’t believe that a whole month has past here at West Cottage. Sometimes I wish I could make the time stand still.

Spoke to Chloe today on Skype. I miss that girl of ours so much, but isn’t it a wonderful world we live in that I can see her live whenever I want to? I also love that she’s finally (after I threatened to not renew her web space if she didn’t do something with it), keeping her blog. And, can I just say that her photography skills are so amazing now! She’s got my professional Canon in Van and has learned to use the tripod and timed shutter release and some of the photos are taken that way. But all are taken by her!

So lately I’ve been gardening weeding waging total war on weeds in some pretty impressive heat, while watching the beautiful Oxfordshire skies for approaching thunderstorms, and having silly fun; like raiding Catherine’s pebble drive and collecting odd pebbles and flints and designing prehistoric families. (My prehistoric man had an impressive cod piece for a while but Robbie waved the subtlety flag.) :D

in Oxfordshire

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This morning R had to run some chores just very close to Oxford and so I begged a ride into town. Thursday is the antique market in town and I was dying to visit the map seller. I usually buy a lot of damaged old maps form him that I can paint on.

Things worked out pretty well as R was going to be about an hour, and so we agreed to meet in 50 minutes and I hoofed it the last mile into town. Good thing I did too. The traffic was a morning grid lock and, despite the ridiculous number of students clogging the sidewalk, (for the summer months), I got to the market in ten minutes.

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OMG! So many beautiful things to see! I want to come back and buy some lovely blue and white plates for Kerstie’s collection, and this dress! If I were to get married I’d so chose a 1940s gold embroidered beauty like this rather than any new gown in the world. (Oh, and also have a couple ribs removed to fit into it! LOL)

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But mustn’t get sidetracked by the shiny sparklies. (I swear I’m half magpie)

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Here is what I came for. This wonderful seller has a box of damaged maps. Just perfect for me and my art. I never want to use perfect old maps. I love the broken, ripped, drawn and written on ones. You know, the ones which have a history; which have been loved to pieces.

Unfortunately, before I got to the map bloke, I came past a tool bloke and got seduced by a sexy chisel. I did have £30 to spend, but, after my chisel I only had £24 left. I chose the maps I wanted and explained to the nice map man about how I couldn’t help myself with the chisel and he laughed and said, “Let’s see what you want and I’ll give you a deal.” Then he totalled up my maps, which came to £30, and said he’d take £20 for the lot! Wow! So I went to a used book stall and spent the last £4 on some more maps! Hooray! Now I have loads of maps to paint on. :D

So happy.

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Later this aft, I took a couple of hours to do some work on the blackbirds. I walked out to the fields and picked some fireweeds and drew them around my blackbirds and began painting them in. Lot’s more work to do still, but I like the way this little painting is coming along.

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And, the village flower and veg show is coming up, so I might enter the blackbirds into the painting competition.

So tomorrow is August. Welcome August! I’m settling into the summer grove and loving life.

And speaking of love, I’m crazy in love with the beech forests right now and R has promised me a walk thru them. Can’t wait. But first we’ll go for a walk beside the Whomping Willow, (which is really a huge chestnut, but C called it that about 10 years ago). I love it there. We always see some deer. Actually, I surprised a muntjac deer yesterday evening. He walked out of some tall grass right in front of me, got scared, ran off and barked at me from the trees. Boy are those little creatures loud!

I think I might go for a walk this evening again to see if I can find him under that amazing sliver of a new moon out there. :D

Big hugs to everyone. Hope your last July day is a sunny and warm one filled with beautiful moments.
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Messing about in boats

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And the Water Rat said:

“If you believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing, half so worth doing as – simply messing about in boats!”

(Wind in the Willows)

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The phone rang. Robert asked,

“Would you like to go out in an Edwardian Canadian canoe launch with Geoff and Dawnie around 2 PM?”

I must admit I had to get my mind around that one; Edwardian, Canadian, canoe, launch?

R explained: a 1908 restored launch form the Edwardian era, made to resemble a Canadian canoe, down the backwaters of the Thames, to the lock at Henley on Thames, and back.

Are you kidding me! :D

You know, sometimes in our lives we just have to stop and take stock. I remember one of the first times R was at my cabin with me and he though, “here I am, in the middle of nowhere, backwoods Canada, with bears and coyotes all around. Surreal… :D ” I must admit this was one of those times for me.

Geoff had arranged to borrow the Beazie, a beautiful, wooden, fanciful, canoe-type boat with a super quiet, electric engine, from his friend Richard. Tulip, Richard’s dog, was really pushing to be allowed to come along. She jumped into the boat three times and three times she was very gently but firmly evicted. Poor Tulip. You can just see her disappointed, little, mushy face.

So off we went, under the willows, past swans and cottages with roses, thru the little backwater channel, to the main stream of the Thames and huge mansions. There was a lot of boat traffic on the main river. Lots of children in summer camps and people paddling, camping, swimming, having all sorts of fun, in all sorts of boats. We came past some boys who were tired form their paddling and gave them a tow much to their delight.

I so wanted to see a kingfisher. More than anything. I kept looking for one but there were none to be seen. Then, a blur of blue, and Geoff turned the launch around, and just there, on a small branch above the water, sat my kingfisher in his azure waistcoat and orange socks. He held tight to his fish prize and, as we got closer, flew off.

Could a day be more perfect than this day?

Sharing with the WordPress weekly photo challenge: Summer Lovin’

First, Nathan Ford and the most brilliant idea!

As I was rushing thru the Painters marquee to get to the first practical class I booked myself in to. I saw loads of artists busily painting away or chatting to people in the middle of their stalls filled with paintings, postcards and posters, and then, I came to the stall of a young man named Nathan Ford.

This stall was empty except for a stool on which sat Nathan, a table with a box of used pencils and a large, toned canvas hanging on a wall.

He smiled at me and handed me a pencil.

I walked up to the canvas, completely overwhelmed, and drew a little ladybug on a small empty space, above someone’s heart.

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Then I stepped back and looked…

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and looked some more.

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And within two seconds of me moving away from the canvas, my position was taken up by more people with pencils, and then their position was taken up with others and so on and so on.

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And I stood there, took photos and watched, and it occurred to me that this is the most brilliant community project. Reflecting a community of people who share in the arts. Who are we there? We’re artists, and craftsmen, and laymen, and philistines, and children, and volunteers, and bored spouses, and ageing dreamers.

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And here, we’re all invited to make our mark.

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And, you know what? It’s irresistible. We all do. We step up to that canvas and mark it in our own way. We leave our own signature, or hand print, like a prehistoric man on the cave wall. It’s in our nature. I saw parents holding their children up to the canvas, I saw pensioners rolling up in their wheel chair, I saw strangers nudging each other, holding dog leashes, holding bags sunhats for each other, all for that precious mark on that wonderful canvas…connecting everyone.

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We’re royalty and we’re beggars, but we all come together to somehow celebrate art…somehow…in our own way, whether we disdain it and are being dragged along by our insufferable other, or whether we’ve flow half way around the world to be there. We are there, and we find something beautiful. And I don’t know if that something is simply the pretty girl walking past in the sexy sundress, or the amazing artistic expressions on display, we all find something, somehow, to admire.

And in that moment, we are all united. That’s the power of art.

By the way, Nathan won the Best of the Best award, chosen by all the demonstrating artists.

Art in Action 2014 part 1

Hey you!!!

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It’s Art in Action time!!!! :D

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Time to discover new things, learn new techniques.

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Have I got your attention?

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Are you sitting up in anticipation now?

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Good, then follow me… :D

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Over the next few days we’ll peek into some of the 30 marquees to discover new arts,

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We’ll invite ourselves into free classes,

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We’ll pick up tips for using new tools,

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We’ll learn new arts and new techniques in the practical classes,

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We’ll marvel at new designs and new ideas,

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We’ll see things we never knew could be done,

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We’ll flip thru artist’s sketchbooks, try our hands at artist’s designs,

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And find new ways and new products to express our art. :D

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I know I’ve posted about this wonderful adventure in years past, and, each year I visit, it’s newer and fresher and more inspiring than ever.

This year I’ll tell you everything I learned about silk painting, sculptural wood carving, mixed media, felting, illuminated manuscript illustration, freedom to draw exercises, woodcarving printing, and much, much more.

And, if I can do it, so can you. :D

So grab a cup of tea and join me for this year’s extravaganza.

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A day at Aston Tirrold

Today Robert and I went to the lovely village of Aston Tirrold to help R’s sister Catherine prepare for her house move.

She took us out to lunch at the local pub The Crown.

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Do you know English village pubs? If you do, don’t you just love them?

Most have an outdoor patio…

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…and that quaint Old English feel inside.

According to Wiki, there are 261 different The Crown pubs in England and they have nothing to do with each other, unlike The Slug and Lettuce pubs which are a chain…go figure. :D

Pub and house names are an ancient tradition round here. Most likely, some proprietor of this The Crown, wanted to show his loyalty to the royalty of the day. House names rarely change round here.

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We three ordered the first three things on the menu and had a seat and looked around.

I know that sometimes estate firms offer “a wealth of old oak” as a selling feature for period homes, but this pub really does have a wealth of old oak, from the lovely beams and special little iron brackets to the floors.

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And, of course, the obligatory beers and ales on draught.

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Later in the afternoon we relaxed in the garden with Catherine’s cat Jet.

He’s a big, soft squishy bun of a boy. We were wondering who is bigger, Jet or Milo. Then we wondered what would happen if we could put them nose to nose to compare. Probably a lot of fur would fly…lol.

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We coaxed shy little Sable out from the tall grass…

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…and, eventually, Lynx came back from the fields for a cuddle, and proceeded to dribble all over everyone with sheer teenage happiness. Lynxey is a very young cat and, like most teenagers, was squirmy and impossible to hold still, so sorry about the blurred photos; these were the best out of at least 20, but you can sort of see how pretty she is. Also, I rarely get to see her because she’s always off in the fields killing something, so this was a big treat for me.

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We had a lovely day, and it was wonderful for me to catch up and see the garden and the kitties.

Looking forward to seeing you again next week Catherine. :D

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Summer at home tour

EDIT: Winner of the chickadee/bluetit painting is number 3 Patricia
and Winner of the towhee painting is number 37 Marion

It’s been an exciting few days of trying to figure out exactly what where home for the summer is.

I sat in my studio and started to paint and came up with this image: The impossibility of my West Coast chickadee on the same bird feeder as my British blue titmouse. Both the same species of birds, both hundreds of miles apart. And that best describes my life, my friends, because Canada may be my country, but Europe is my home town.

Most of you know that I was born in Prague and now live between Vancouver Canada and Oxfordshire UK, so this probably doesn’t come as a surprise.

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As far as I can remember life has always been like that…an adventure, and this site is a way for me to communicate that adventure with you.

This is where I live for 7 or so months of the year: a 1920 Craftsman cottage nine streets away from the Pacific ocean. Where I have a studio in the loft, with a rather large green and oak trunk, which holds C’s summer journals.

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Chloe has been keeping summer journals practically since she could write. I looked at the journals yesterday. I flipped thru the pages and remembered us in Geneva, in Vienna, in Prague, in Venice, in Paris and in England. Every summer, ever spring, every school holiday and sometimes when there was no holiday but we said, “Stuff that for a game of soldiers, let’s get out of here!” And we lived there. Really lived there. Rented an apartment, spoke the language, cooked the groceries we bought, entertained the friends we made, hiked the country, rented a car and ended up in Lichtenstein, got on the fast train to Prague and spent the night in Berlin (oops)…really lived.

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I’m so glad we glued C’s photo to the front of each journal as a reference to that year. These journals are put away now, safely, for her future, but each one is a treasure of summer memories.

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Right now I’m about five days away from switching city for country, pavement for meadow.

The quirky 1920′s cottage in Vancouver for an equally quirky 1950′s cottage in Oxfordshire with a name rather than an address, West Cottage, five fields away from the Thames, where my love is at the moment.

Switching my beautiful blue/green ocean…

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for my beautiful blue/green river.

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Where I always stop for tea and dream up new art, new techniques, new media…

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Like enamelled copper, pottery, stone carving and lino cuts.

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Where my vintage mini and land rover wait for me to join Robert’s one-of-a-kind cars and our friends at races and car shows.

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Where I hound car boot sales and come back with way too many treasures to cart back to Vancouver at once.

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But this summer is a special summer. I’ll be going to Prague first. Back to the heart of my home, my spirit, my wandering Bohemian nature. I’m going where the light is pink and my grandparents sleep in the warm earth. Going to visit family and friends, to speak the language, to walk the streets, to touch the city and connect with my home.

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And then, then I’ll fly back to London, and Robert will pick me up and we’ll drive thru Oxford…

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and we’ll go home.

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And we’ll stay at home till the weather turns and the early autumn fogs start rolling over the meadows and all the wildflowers turn to seed…

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…and the wind will change direction and we’ll feel it and see it in the willows, and I will leave my river…

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…and return to my ocean.

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Do you remember a couple of posts back I said I would give away this image (below)? Well, I decided to give away both the chickadee/titmouse and the beginning of this post and this towhee image below, plus a few of my greeting cards, and any other silly and wonderful goodies I can think of, to two random generator numbers, so, if you like, please leave me a comment and I’ll draw the name on Monday morning and post it off PDQ before I leave on Tuesday, (so please leave me a way to get in touch to get your addy). Also, I’m off to visit with my daughter Kerstie and my three granddaughters for the weekend (and this requires hours of driving), so might not have a chance for replies till a bit later, but, since we’re probably all bloggers and you all feel the same thrill, am every so grateful for each and every comment and connection. :D

Also, sending out a great, big, THANK YOU to Kelly who invited me to take part in this lovely blog tour. Please pop over to her site. You’ll love her warm and gentle nature as much as I do.

Here is the updated blog tour list for everyone to visit these lovely gals.

Wednesday,  June 18th

 On Sutton Place

Stone Gable

My Soulful Home

Thursday,  June 19th

 Country Design Style

Cedar Hill Farmhouse

Lilacs & Longhorns

Friday,  June 20th

 Thistlewood Farms

At The Picket Fence

Jennifer Rizzo 

 

Saturday,  June 21st

Our Southern Home

Southern Hospitality

Debbie Doos

Veronica Roth

Finding Home

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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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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. :)