Saturday, 25 August 2012

Tillypronie garden opening

Much preparation here for tomorrow's garden opening at Tillypronie: cakes being baked, signs gathered, paths raked, grass mown, borders weeded. The hedgerows are looking particularly lovely, filled with wild flowers that have blossomed in the last couple of days, and the roses are blooming, just in time (they've been later than usual this summer, after a rainy June).
Meanwhile, we went to the Lonach Gathering and Games today, to cheer the marchers and pipers and drummers and dancers and the terrifically strong men who toss cabers and hammers from one side of the ring to the other. This is the fourth time that I've watched the clansmen marching in, and they seem to become even more stirring each year.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

On the hill...

I've been down to London again this week, for work and a domestic drain crisis (ah, the glamour). But now back in the Highlands, where the heather is glorious, and the sun has been mostly shining. After lunch today, I went for a long walk, and grazed on tiny wild blueberries (otherwise known as blaeberries) -- they taste as fresh as the breeze. On the way home, a soft rain fell, which was oddly soothing, however much I love the sunlight and blue skies.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Tarland Show

Thank you so much to everyone who came to the Edinburgh Book Festival on Saturday evening (it was a lovely, lively, spirited audience), which I thoroughly enjoyed -- having dashed there straight after the unmissable Tarland show. It's the third summer I've been lucky enough to experience such a highlight of the Aberdeenshire season; this year blessed with sunshine and blue skies, Scottish dancing, prize-winning Highland ponies, a parade of vintage tractors, delicious homemade preserves (I stocked up on blackcurrant jam and crab-apple jelly). And then on to the horticultural show in the afternoon, to admire prize-winning sweet peas (the petals gloriously pretty, despite all those long days of rain earlier in the summer), jewel-coloured chrysanthemums, perfect pansies, and the most beautiful roses. The fruit and vegetables were equally impressive: painterly displays of garden produce, luscious gooseberries and raspberries, succulent green lettuces, sturdily handsome potatoes.
Alongside, entries of home-baked gingerbread (properly sticky and dark), chic cupcakes, traditional pastries, elderflower wine, intricate knitting, iridescent paintings, handwritten poems, and everywhere evidence of imagination, skilful practice, and immense hard work.
When all is well in the Tarland show, then all seems right in the world...

Monday, 6 August 2012

To the North

Just on my way up again to Scotland, and looking forward to speaking at the Edinburgh Festival on Saturday 11th. I very much hope that blog readers and writers will be there, to talk about Chanel and her Scottish connections (tweed, fishing, the Highlands and all...). Please do spread the word...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Beyond blue

I've just watched a wonderfully evocative television documentary on the colour blue (the second part of a series written and presented by James Fox on the history of art in three colours: gold, blue, and white; do watch it if you have a chance). It starts on the Venetian lagoon with the story of the arrival of lapis lazuli, a thousand years ago, and the way a stone that looks like a fragment of the sky was turned into the intense pigment of ultramarine that transformed the paintings of Titian and Giotto.
All of which reminded me of the magical few days of our honeymoon in Venice -- staying on Torcello at the Locanda Cipriani (a place that inspired Daphne du Maurier, Nancy Mitford, and Ernest Hemingway; I had known the Du Maurier connection, but not about Mitford, whose photographs are still on the walls, and who spent several months writing there). Just across the water from Torcello is Burano, where I took these pictures of a rainbow of houses (and a handful of Murano glass marbles), including the brightest blue I've ever seen, like the heavenly clear sky above...