Advent Thought For The Day: 13

December 13th: The Trouble with Tinsel Invented in Nuremberg in the early 17th Century, tinsel predates most other forms of Christmas decoration, including glass baubles, electric lights and foil-wrapped chocolates. It was originally fashioned from pure silver and used to decorate sculptures, religious icons and nativity scenes, where it represented a starry, night sky. Over […]

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Advent Thought For The Day: 12

December 12th: Caroling, caroling We learn them at school, we sing them once or twice a year and recall them for life, the first verses at least. Christmas carols are as familiar to us as nursery rhymes, the Lord’s Prayer, old episodes of Fawlty Towers and the National Anthem. They are both rousing and moving, […]

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Getting Real

  How comforting – Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson had plant casualties. They were like the rest of us, after all. This amusing revelation comes thanks to The National Trust’s renewed efforts to restore some of the ebullience and gay abandon that Sissinghurst’s creators strived for when they were alive. Sissinghurst is getting real, and […]

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Il Giardino di Boboli, Florence

  The Medici of Florence were not only one of the richest families in Europe for a time, but also phenomenal garden makers. They laid out the grounds of their multitudinous palaces and villas to demonstrate power and control, making extensive use of precious water, shading trees, citrus fruits and fragrant roses. The Medici gardens […]

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Sunshine and Showers at Saltwood

I have met some Americans who believe all us Brits live in quaint thatched cottages and are intimately acquainted with The Queen. We might also happen to know a distant relative they might have in Kettering, Peterborough or Cumbernauld. It’s a small country after all. As a proud Englishman I am more than happy to […]

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Hidden Talent

I have always thought of my paternal grandfather as a practical, gentleman gardener. When I was a child he was head gardener on a country estate in Buckinghamshire, playing his part in the steady decline of a once great walled garden and its modest range of glasshouses. It was the end of an era, a […]

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Bruges, Venice of the North

Judging by the number of tourists visiting Bruges annually, reckoned at 2 million, this Flemish city needs little introduction. If you are looking for classic Belgian attractions – finely gabled buildings, luxurious chocolates, strong beer, indulgent waffles or moules et frites – then satisfaction is guaranteed. Finding solitude, however, might prove more of a challenge. […]

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