We grow accustomed to the Dark

We grow accustomed to the Dark –

When Light is put away –

As when the Neighbour holds the Lamp

To witness her Good bye –


A moment – We uncertain step

For newness of the night –

Then – fit our Vision to the Dark –

And meet the Road – erect –


And so of larger – Darknesses –

Those Evenings of the Brain –

When not a Moon disclose a sign –

Or Star – come out – within –


The Bravest – grope a little –

And sometimes hit a Tree

Directly in the Forehead –

But as they learn to see –


Either the Darkness alters –

Or something in the sight

Adjusts itself to Midnight –

And Life steps almost straight.

Emily Dickinson,

(Emily Dickinson being as consoling as ever and with an unexpected humour in the lines on bumping into trees.)

Nina Cust

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I came across this wistful-looking lady through the book below, which I’ve been devouring. She had good reason to be sad.

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The youngest Wyndham sister, Pamela, was hovering on the edge of a marriage with Harry Cust when one of Cust’s most regular mistresses, Violet, Duchess of Rutland, encouraged her young relative Nina Welby to begin an affair with Cust in order to keep Violet’s own hold over him.

The scandal when Nina was found to be pregnant tore the aristocracy in two and effectively ended Cust’s political ambitions, with Arthur Balfour – widely believed to be in love with the eldest Wyndham sister, Mary – undertaking the negotiations to preserve all parties’ reputations and try to secure Pamela and Cust’s marriage. Nina herself was widely believed to have been forced into an abortion by Cust in order to cover up the affair, which made their subsequent ‘respectable’ marriage even more hollow.

The portraits above and below are now found in the National Trust property Belton Hall in Lincolnshire.

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Nina painted by John Collier and Florence Seth.


Having seen the plain interiors of dissidents’ living quarters a few times, I was struck that they nearly all had the same atmosphere. There would be a solid desk, a chair and a good reading lamp: the spare and ordered rooms of an academic. The books on the shelves would be wrapped for protection the way that I had been taught to wrap them as a child after the war, in thick grey or brown paper, the flaps folded over into sharp triangles. But if I now expected the familiar austere surroundings, I was in for a surprise. Without a word, Palous took us into a panelled room with worn leather chairs, dark brass objects and knobbled books bound in maroon leather stamped with gold lettering – his family’s original library, a collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century books from imperial times.

From ‘Once Upon Another Time’ by Jessica Douglas-Home. I enjoyed her descriptions of the landscapes, cities and the hand-to-mouth provisions made by the supporters back in England far more than her personal views on the dissidents she met, which I felt tended towards idealised fantasy. But her commitment comes through in this fascinating read of a brave enterprise that clearly embarrassed many of her social acquaintances.

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I love the interplay between the marbled fireplace and the Paisley quilt on the bed, the quilt and the rug and the rug and the bolster. Also, the light streaming in and the colour of the walls – so English & reminds me of my friend Alex’s parents’ house.

Photo by Simon Upton for March 2014 Home & Gardens, fireplace by Jamb Antiques.

Blog of the week

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Addison Embroidery at the Vicarage was a blog that I found via a former old favourite, and where I started devouring the back catalogue instantly. A singer and former librarian at an Oxford college, vicar’s wife, baker and needlewoman, who says firmly that “I run from the sweet, the twee as I would from a serpent”, Mary sounds delightful. Embroidery gifts are often given to friends at important occasions in their life and give the opportunity for reminiscing:



Most of all, I find it comforting seeing such a warm, steady record of family life, friends and community.


The church biscuit (yummy, but usually involving frantic last minute baking on Saturday night – reminiscent of my mother’s battles with photocopies and printing arrangements for the hymn sheets) features weekly.



All photos from Addison Embroidery at the Vicarage.



An Elwin Hawthorne again, this one of the almshouses in Mile End. That sky tells you all you need to know about how strongly the wind is blowing. The picture also reminds me of the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton and the 18th century architecture around Old Street/Shoreditch, a favourite part of town for exploring.

Blog of the week

Reading my tea leaves was actually a referral from a previous Blog of the week, Cup of Jo. I like the way Erin’s style is minimalist but still warm; too many homes in this style are just joyless and uncomfortable. There is nothing good about living in a house that look like it’ll be freezing cold with a strange smell in the corners, even if it is the fashion.

Here are a few sample articles:

  • Tips for living in small spaces, with a young baby
  • A list of free gifts (that you could actually do any time and wouldn’t be crappy)
  • Gift ideas two ways: I like the different twists on the same themes, so apologies for any friends who receive a shamelessly copied present from here.
  • A gift advent calendar: again lots of the ideas can be adapted for when a friend needs some fun & I like the idea of giving a month’s worth of presents.

The photo is of Helen Levi’s ocean mug, which I came across through the blog.