Frilled linen


And then, opening her eyes, how fresh, like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays, the roses looked; and dark and prom the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white, pale – as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks cane out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day

Mrs Dalloway buying the flowers herself, and the very much not-for-sale roses in Regebt’s Park.



The Music Room, Lancaster – a converted summer pavilion built in the 1730s and showing the muses, Apollo and various Roman emperors around the wall.

All photos from a visit, May 2018.


In winter, you wake up in this city, especially on Sundays, to the chiming of its innumerable bells, as though behind your gauze curtains a gigantic china teaset were vibrating on a silver tray…You fling the windows open and the room is instantly flooded with this outer, pearl-laden haze, which is part damp oxygen, part coffee and prayers.

A bit of an odd choice to read about Venice in winter in June, but Joseph Brodsky’s essay was just what I wanted for a bout of travel lust. Each winter for seventeen years he’d return to Venice for a month:

This is a time for reading, for burning electricity all day long, for going easy on self-deprecating thoughts or coffee, for listening to the BBC World Service, for going to bed early.

”Waterlogged” by Joseph Brodsky


4th July


In the Second World War, John Steinbeck wrote a weekly column for the American press about the war. It was heavily censored, and certain themes (the tough decency of the American soldier, in particular) got repeated a lot. But one of the best was from the first 4th July in London after America entered the war. In a few hundred words, Steinbeck both pays gratitude to the English girls trying so hard to be neat in their worn dresses, making friendly conversation, and ruefully acknowledge that the cake and sandwiches can’t beat hotdogs, sweet corn and lobster on the beach, that the cool dancing in Trafalgur Square can’t replace the raucous chaos of Coney Island not the friendly girls “Mabel on the Ferris wheel”. It’s a brilliant snapshot of nostalgia and two nations.

Detail from a painting by Childe Hassan; Steinbeck’s collection “once there was a war”