At seemingly random points across the composition (but not at all random in reality) the page is studded with tiny squares of gold leaf. These are the stars in the constellation depicted. The text, which runs to several pages, explains that the stars rotate ceaselessly between the celestial poles, and that these are guarded by the bears of Crete, who had protected Jupiter as a baby from his cannibalistic father, Saturn, in return for which they had been set in the sky to mark the poles. They are known as Helice of the seven stars and Cynosura, who has never deceived Phoenician sailors guided by her. Between them…runs a giant snake, like a river, with stars along its body…These are the constellations which we still know as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, with the Plough.


Tantalising writing by Christopher de Hamel about the Leiden Aratea, here. Image from Medieval Fragments.



I came across this Virginia Woolf quote below, which reminded me of this favourite book, with its invitation to “those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine” to hire an Italian castle for the month of April. Yes please…


If life has a base that it stands upon, it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills – then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of lying half asleep, half awake, in bed in the nursery at St Ives. It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind. It is of hearing the blind draw its little acorn across the floor as the wind blew the blind out. It is of lying and hearing this splash and seeing this light…




A lovely feast, poised exactly between the winter and spring solstices, and a time of hope. It is also 40 days after Christmas, and is therefore the mirror feast of Pentecost, in this case for the presentation of Christ in the Temple (the prophetic word arriving in the sanctuary), rather than the flaming Spirit descending on earth (God’s revelation shared with and through us all).


These photos were taken in the dark of the week before Christmas, in Salisbury Cathedral. The installation of giant paper peonies and roses was suspended behind the high altar in a candlelit space, lavender oil scenting the air, and above duvets and pillows laid out so that visitors could rest and look at the ceiling. It is one of the most magical and peaceful things I’ve seen, and again had a dual twist of blossom/snowfall and the spirit at Pentecost.


All photos by me, December 2016.

Weihnachten fancies


As soon as I saw this picture of the Stadtschloss in Weimar I could imagine drawing up in a sleigh through the snow, ready for a ball. Maybe it’s time to finally read Fontane’s  After the Storm,  sometimes described as a German War and Peace, which has been on my shelf for about four years.

Gotha, Schlofl Friedenstein


Schloss Friedenstein Gotha.


On the otherwise hand, finding this lady and her coquettish bonnet and scarf on my photo roll, and then coming across this interesting article by Kathryn Hughes, has made me fancy a bit more George Eliot.

Euphemia White Van Rensselaer by George P. Healy, photo October 2016 from the Met. Schloss images via the German tourist board websites.

Eyes as big as plates



How phenomenonally beautiful is this idea & this photo from Karoline Hjorth and Riita Ikonen? Their Kickstarter page is here & I wish I’d seen it when it was open. Instead I’ll keep an eye out for their book.



The rhubarb camouflage made me laugh too – my dad has killed more rhubarb with his lawn mowing than a school kitchen’s worth of crumble, so this hideout would be perfect for him!

Words in the Square


Photos of The London Library’s festival to mark their 175th anniversary, May 2016.


Staggering to think of what this means – suddenly 1841 seems much further away than it sounds, and I realise that I’ll see the 200th anniversary celebrations.

Blogs of the week

It’s been ages since I posted one of these, partly because I’ve been enjoying exploring lots of new blogs from the fellow bloggers finding me (hi there! welcome, and thank you for visiting!), so here’s a double serving.

Firstly, The Wednesday Chef from Berlin. I’ve been following Luisa for some years now and even though I cook a bit differently (I can’t make bread; I don’t have a hungry toddler) I absolutely trust her writing and am happy to dream about being in her kitchen and life. Check out her books too!

Secondly, a newer discovery of Lottie + Doof, whose saffron-tomato sauce I cooked as part of my lunches last week.

The boat from Naples

“The Naples boat was on time. The crossing – it was May – had not been too gruelling. Lightly one stepped ashore and into the funicular, and, after a brief, slow, ascent, emerged into Piazza still warm under a late afternoon sun.

I was elated.”

The opening lines of Sybille Bedford’s 1948 essay on Capri. I’m yearning for this kind of sun:


image by Cressida Campbell.


jamb 1

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.