Surprising

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An unexpected find on a walk recently, I love the mix of beautiful and elegant scripts here that have been put together with as much love and care as colours in a painting.

Haggerston, October 2017.

Sissinghurst

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Sissinghurst was a place I’d long wanted to visit, and I’d tried to get there in July, but feeling rather tired had postponed it.

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But last month, spurred on my the imminent end of the National Trust season and last of the summer days I set off.

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If you don’t have a car, both google maps and the NT website make it unnecessarily complicated to get there from London. The quickest way is to take a train to Ashford and cab over, but it’s not the cheapest (it’ll be nearly £40 each way for the cab). Or you can wait for half an hourst Ashford, travel on another 20 minutes to Staplehurst and pick up your cab there (about £18 each way). Up to you if saving £20 is worth the extra hour on your journey. What you shouldn’t do is trust that the bus from Staplehurst will be there. It won’t – it leaves 2 minutes before your once an hour train from Ashford arrives, and on Sundays you’ll then have another two hours to wait.

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Moral of the story: learn to drive, or just look big and pay up for a cab. Either way, when you get there it’s completely worth it.

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Walled gardens lead off each other, doors opening into rooms of light and shade,

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colours clashed and melded and everywhere the wonderful orange brick set off the leaves.

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Around the edges were grand flourishes – an allee of lime trees, an abandoned statue, a lake,

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a pergola of roses looking up to the sky,

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and finally the orchards and vegetable gardens.

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Hard to believe that this is Kent and not the American mid-West when you look at these photos.

All photos September 2017.

Jacqueline Ayer

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The House of Illustration is very good at making me see artists I hadn’t heard of before (e.g. Linda Kitson), but who are very accomplished and had fascinating lives.

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Jacqueline Ayer’s parents had moved from Jamaica to New York in the 1920s and Jacqueline grew up helping her father’s ad agency, the first aimed at African Americans.

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Her observation for fabric and costume fed into her children’s’ illustrations when she moved to Bangkok in 1959, and after coming back to America in 1963 she founded a Thai textile line. I wish there’d been more room for her work with the Indisn government, her autobiography, and what was clearly a fascinating life, but I’d still recommend this to anybody.

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Laura Wheeler Waring

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Confident and dignified poses from these 1930s and 40s sitters,

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a great reminder of the African-American middle class,

and also these defiant faces. Images via Pimterest, but the discovery via the Women’s Art Twitter feed.

Feed of the week

At the end of a brief phone conversation, you tell the manager you’re speaking with that you’ll come by his office to sign the form. When you arrive and announce yourself he blurts out, I didn’t know you were black!
I didn’t mean to say that, he then says.
Aloud, you say.
What? he asks.

You didn’t mean to say that aloud.
Your transaction goes quickly after that.

I went on a massive reading jag on holiday – catching up on not having time and energy to read much earlier in the summer, and excited by new books and voices.

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At the perfect time, I discovered @sophia_stories, an Instagram feed for a PhD student studying modern Palestinian authors, and just #readingoutsidethebox generally.

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Poetry, rap, novels of childhood memories and observations of modern life all fill her feed. What I especially like are the double posts: Sophia will flag a book when she starts reading it, and then post again in a few days with her impressions – very different from the usual Bookstagram feeds where you sense that the book was read for its cover or compatibility with some flowers and never actually read.

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And the quotes…

“Instant coffee with slightly sour cream…”

“The English newsreader told me / home was a broken man, holding / a dying child, with flies round its mouth:
A story that didn’t tally”

“home begins with the spoon knocking against the rim of the pot of lentil soup”

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Starting stocking your bookshelves now…