Tuesday, 25 September 2018

In Search of the Stairs in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”

How lucky that there is no place in England that is more than 70 miles from the sea! I find this both amazing and amusing as I've always thought that I was an island girl but growing up, it took a lot of effort to get to the nearest beach. We didn't go on a big trip this summer as my husband started with a new job and after a week of travelling on the Coast, we went home and he started work the very next day (he's been to California two times, Dubai, New Jersey and New York since). Still, who needs to get on a plane when on your doorstep are the unspoilt British coastlines, the Mary Rose, the Jurassic Coast, etc. all those places we visited that are easily accessible from home (e.g., Portsmouth is an hour away; the farthest is Lyme Regis at two+ hours). 

We seriously considered a job opportunity for the husband in California. We would like for the kids to grow up in England, so an opportunity like that to arise when they're still very young was tempting. We thought three years would be enough, just for them to acquire the self-confidence of American kids when we return home. My aunt lives in Fremont, some 30-minute away from where we thought of moving. She helped raise me and having done everything on my own since moving to England, I just thought it'd be nice to get some kind of support and help, for a change. In the end, hubby received a much better offer for a role based here.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Jane Austen, Persuasion, family, Lyme Regis,The Cobb, Fine Books and Collections, writing, travel, children, Dorset, Jurassic Coast
These steps called Granny’s Teeth on the Cobb in Lyme Regis are the most popular candidate from where Louisa Musgrove fell in Jane Austen’s novel “Persuasion.” My little adventurous girl also climbed them but anyway, it was easier to go up than down! 

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Jane Austen, Persuasion, family, Lyme Regis,The Cobb, Fine Books and Collections, writing, travel, children, Dorset, Jurassic Coast
 Standing on the end of the Cobb on a good day very 
unlike the weather in that popular scene with Meryl 
Streep dressed in black in "The French Lieutenant’s 
Woman." 
Another late post of my literary travel article for Fine Books & Collections. "A walk along the famous Cobb, the wall that protects the harbour, must be high on the list of anyone visiting Lyme Regis. The town is known for the fossils found in the cliffs and beaches, which are part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. I was one of the many whose main purpose of visiting was not to search for fossils, but to see the stairs from where Louisa Musgrove fell in Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion. But there were others before me, most notably, Lord Tennyson, who walked nine miles from Bridport to Lyme in 1867, and when he called upon his friend, fellow poet Francis Palgrave, he refused all refreshment, demanded to be taken to the Cobb, and commanded, “show me the steps from which Louisa Musgrove fell.” You could read the full article over here In Search of the Stairs in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion

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Wednesday, 22 August 2018

M, age 7, singing the theme from Pokemon

This was M singing the theme from 'Pokemon,' of all things, a view of Chesil Beach behind her (which I wanted to see because of Ian McEwan's novel 'On Chesil Beach'). From Chesil, we drove to Portland to get a good view of the beach. 
The next video is also M singing the same song in what she calls her American accent (she’s not taking the mickey, just trying to copy the accent in shows like 'My Little Pony' and such). You could tell she's much more confident when her face is hidden.
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Thursday, 16 August 2018

'48 locks and counting,' my second article in Practical Boat Owner

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Practical Boat Owner, writing, Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome, boating, River Thames, Berkshire, books, British, fiction, Great Britain

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Practical Boat Owner, writing, Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome, boating, River Thames, Berkshire, books, British, fiction, Great BritainA bit late, but here goes - one of my favourite books from the Victorian Era is Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (1889), it's one of the funniest, wittiest books you'll ever come across. I’ve read this book a number of times. Practical Boat Owner (PBO) magazine here published in their Summer 2018 issue my piece about boating, Jerome and the river Thames (for those who are not from England: it is pronounced ‘Tems,’ just one of those words here that might leave you scratching your head as to why). PBO is Britain’s biggest-selling boating magazine, I’ve written for them before, about boating on the English Channel. Formerly by IPC Media, they're now being published by Time Inc / Meredith. 

Can't help but feel giddy that one of my photos fills an entire page. Or how big my name was printed as though I'm a sort of Jerome K Jerome or river lock expert (I don't mind either!). Our beloved boat is the beautiful white and green sportsboat in this right photo -- it's currently on the coast. The ocean, speedboats and very young children don’t go well together and to be honest, I'm very much a river person me-self. I grew up in a town which name literally translates to "mouth of the river," I guess I can't escape that!

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Practical Boat Owner, writing, Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome, boating, River Thames, Berkshire, books, British, fiction, Great BritainI wish I could say something profound or life-changing other than the end goal of my reading had always been travel. These two always went together and back when I didn't have resources to travel, I read so much to make up for it. Even with my writing, travel was always the end goal, I guess it's the reason why I don't have enough motivation to write these last few years, because of all the travelling, instead of just dreaming about it on paper. To see these places I only read about in books is such a dream come true. Over the years, I also got to document my own adventures by writing about them in international publications, both print and online. I still miss fiction-writing, though. There is a short fantasy story of mine called 'Swallowing Saturday' published on Expanded Horizons, an online speculative fiction magazine, in December 2013 (my second story with them). It is my love letter to the River Thames and to all mothers who are away from their children. It's also a sort of companion piece to this Practical Boat Owner 'locks' travel article. “Pacita received the invitation to Elvie’s wedding on the day her five-year-old swallowed Saturday for a fifth week in a row.” It’s still available to read if you click on here.
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Practical Boat Owner, writing, Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome, boating, River Thames, Berkshire, books, British, fiction, Great Britain

That weird, exhilarating feeling when one of your life’s greatest desires is happening to you: to write stories on a boat. (old photo). 

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Thursday, 19 July 2018

M at a Puppet Show (apparently a first in her Victorian school)

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com puppet show, Victorian school, school, art, The Lonely Goatherd, The Sound of Music, childhood, childhood memoriesOh to be seven and be a part of a puppet show! While we were waiting for the show, the final project of Years 1 and 2, to begin, Mrs. E asked Mrs. M who has worked in the school for 27 years if she's seen a puppet show performed in this school. Mrs. M said no, this was the first time ever that the kids would have a puppet show, as far as she was aware. I couldn't believe all the work they had put into creating this, and only during the last few months - M's school has again surpassed itself. The kids made their own puppets (M is holding hers here), they also wrote their own poems and music. And when the kids performed, they knew their lines by heart, even if their faces were not seen. M has always wanted to be a part of a puppet show -- I guess it's from watching 'The Lonely Goatherd' in 'The Sound of Music' since she was tiny, and this is another dream come true for her. Whilst we try our best to make her experience everything, whether it's by travel abroad or a water play at the lake or a little trip to the playground, it's the school and the clubs she's part of that make up for all the things we wouldn't/couldn't do with her. (Say, I won't even make her try sparklers, remembering horror mix-ups in factories in the Phils -- I'm funny that way -- but she did it when she was a Rainbow).
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com puppet show, Victorian school, school, art, The Lonely Goatherd, The Sound of Music, childhood, childhood memoriesgaslighthouse.blogspot.com puppet show, Victorian school, school, art, The Lonely Goatherd, The Sound of Music, childhood, childhood memories

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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Alfred Hitchcock's Stories to be read with the door locked

Alfred Hitchcock, mystery, books, anthology, Stories to be read with the door locked, Roald Dahl, Tales of the Unexpected, gaslighthouse.blogspot.com
Last Sunday at a miniature railway fun day out in our local area. This track is great; the trees cooled us down on a hot sunny day. Love our semi-rural life here in Berks, never boring and monotonous with all the surrounding lakes, trails and railways (big or small). The Thames is a bonus, too. Just couldn't get enough of the Home Counties! I wish Yorkshire was nearby. Sigh.

***

My husband gave this book to me many years ago after I'd finished another Hitchcock volume, Stories to be read with the lights on that I got from his grandad's library and thoroughly enjoyed. I read this book immediately after receiving it, very rare these days. These are stories compiled from different publications printed from the '40s - '70s (Ellery Queen, Weird Tales etc), I really love the mystery stories from that era. Roald Dahl's "Royal Jelly" is in this collection - his works for grown-ups are just as good as his children's books. I guess Dahl is from the Home Counties himself, having lived in nearby Great Missenden (Bucks) from 1954 till his death in 1990. I saw an adaptation of 'Royal Jelly' in Tales of the Unexpected (via youtube). Excellent show, not sure if it was shown in the Philippines (I would have been too little to remember).

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Friday, 29 June 2018

Frogmore House and Gardens Open Day


Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Royal Wedding 2018, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Windsor Castle, Frogmore House and Gardens, Open Day, Royal Wedding reception, Berkshire, The Long WalkThe last several weeks have been busy but I'll try to do some quick posts soon, probably some photo diaries. First among the series was our visit to Frogmore House and Gardens early this month.  We didn't go to Windsor during the months leading to the Royal Wedding, but there were still remnants of it, bunting still up and there was just a general celebratory feel.

(left) Prebooked our garden tickets online; one could buy the house tickets in person, just outside the house. there was a queue to get in in the morning and it was less busy in the afternoon, obviously most visitors thought the same thing, to get there as early as they could!
Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Royal Wedding 2018, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Windsor Castle, Frogmore House and Gardens, Open Day, Royal Wedding reception, Berkshire, The Long Walk
Frogmore House was where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now Duke and Duchess of Sussex, had their wedding reception last May and where the couple also had their engagement photo shoot last December. The place holds charity days for three days every year. We are very lucky to live close by. I went with my boys - requested for the husband to take the day off. We were there from 10:30 to 16.30, exploring the house and gardens. Too bad photography wasn't allowed inside the house. My favourite was Queen Mary's Flower Room - her collection of silk (artificial) flowers from the 19th century preserved in glass domes. There was also a room of paintings by Queen Victoria's children. She's my favourite Queen, I just love anything Victorian.



Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Royal Wedding 2018, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Windsor Castle, Frogmore House and Gardens, Open Day, Royal Wedding reception, Berkshire, The Long Walk

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Royal Wedding 2018, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Windsor Castle, Frogmore House and Gardens, Open Day, Royal Wedding reception, Berkshire, The Long Walk

We weren't being naughty, we were allowed to drive past the Windsor Castle gate and then on the Long Walk to get to Frogmore House, we really were! And of course, I had to photograph this as it's not everyday that you get to drive on the Long Walk. Otherwise they'll call it The Long Drive, wouldn't they? My late-father-in law used to walk his dog here everyday. From the Castle gate to the foot of the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse) is 2.64 miles each way. When I showed the photo to the little girl who couldn't come because it was a school day, she said, "it looks just like A Road to me." Oh sour grapes. Though can't blame her I guess, as her photo scootering to the Castle (right) is more stunning. H has got to have a picture in the car (below), as well, and please excuse the baking soda marks on his belt. (I use baking soda to mask off the smell when he gets car sick, though vacuuming and wipes don’t seem to be enough to get rid of the marks). M chose her next stage car seat that’s seen here, which means the little boy will have a pink car seat in the future.Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Royal Wedding 2018, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Windsor Castle, Frogmore House and Gardens, Open Day, Royal Wedding reception, Berkshire, The Long Walk

We had a picnic and explored the gardens some more in the afternoon. One thing I didn't expect was finding the graves of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, side by side, under a tree (photo below). I was fascinated with their story when I was a young girl, that time thinking that a man abdicating the throne to be with the woman he loved was the most romantic story of all. Of course, years later I would learn that there was more to their story than that, and it wasn't as romantic as I thought it was.

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Royal Wedding 2018, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Windsor Castle, Frogmore House and Gardens, Open Day, Royal Wedding reception, Berkshire, The Long Walk

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Friday, 25 May 2018

Oh to be young and be a student in Europe!

gaslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk University of Oslo European student days Jostein Gaarder Sophie's World Study Abroad
This article of mine originally appeared in Danish publication
“Study Abroad”

I posted a photo of an old article of mine on Instagram so this is for the three people who wanted to read the whole article (inserted right, please click to enlarge). Below is a shorter version of an e-mail I’d sent to a friend after receiving the good news. Later, when I met my fellow scholars, this was one topic of conversation, “what were you doing that very moment you received the good news?” In this letter I talked about a failed attempt to get a scholarship to the UK years before, and in a way, that dream also came true when I worked at a UK university months after moving to England. Dreams always come true in different forms, I guess, if only we all have the patience to wait. I’ve had lots of highs (and a few hurdles) after this, but these two years in Scandinavia and Portugal still rank as two of the best of my life.

Friday, 22 April 2005
6:20 pm 
Guagua, Pampanga
Mood: HIGH

Dear _____,

I CANNOT BREATHE.  Since I got here I consumed quail eggs, iced tea and just a while ago, a bar of toblerone and I wasn’t even aware of it.  I am so overwhelmed that I cannot concentrate.  So I switched on the television and gladly, MTV classic was on.  I sang with the artists for a while.  I want to scream. I texted Nica and she said that my excited mood had reached Manila.

It was the miracle I told you about.  And even if I’m not there yet, I still have to process my visa and everything, I’d like to share with you the good news. The most important thing is how I feel right now. Even if it won’t push through, I thank God for the hope that He gave me today, April 22, 2005.

The good news: I just got my letter of acceptance for a two-year programme study at the University of Oslo (UiO) in Norway.  Alongside this, I’ll be granted a scholarship amounting to something like 21,000 euros per year.  I’ll be able to keep the scholarship provided that I PASS THE TESTS EVERY SEMESTER.  My brother, Nica and the others are confident I can pass the tests.  I don’t know.  

I still plan to finish my M.A. in Special Education someday but this Norway thing will lead me to an entirely different path.  The programme is known as the European Master in Higher Education.  I’ll be spending period of studies in three universities – in Norway, Finland and Portugal.  

EUROPE, HERE I COME!!!

It started, as you may know, of how I badly wanted that scholarship to the U.K. in 2000. I waited a few years before trying again, because, from what I saw so far, it is very competitive and even if I have good grades, work experience, and even if another scholarship also paid for my Bachelor's Degree, I knew I had to polish my CV some more. 

I’ve been waiting for their letter through e-mail. I was getting sad because I knew if I didn’t hear from them after April 30th, it’d mean I wasn’t qualified.  And then I thought of going home today for my yearly pilgrimage to Sto. Cristo every April 23... Oh dear _____, I must be dreaming! I’m so excited.  It seems so unreal. I never knew anyone, I mean anyone personally, who has had a scholarship abroad before. Ma said they’d texted me about the envelope but I swear I never received the message. If I didn’t go home I’d have missed the deadline (I should confirm my acceptance by April 25th at the latest or they’ll give my place to those on the waiting list).  

When I got to my room my heart beat so fast when I saw the huge envelope.  If it was a rejection letter, it would have just been a short letter.  I knew it wasn’t.

I called my mom.  I hugged her and told her that her daughter would finally get that dream European education and that she could go telling people that her only daughter is in Europe not as a domestic helper but as a scholar! Please help me pray that everything goes well and that I can get into the University of Oslo.

Love from your (future) European friend,
Catherine

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Friday, 20 April 2018

M wins art competition

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com art competition secret life of the woods school Berkshire England
A few days ago I received an email then a phone call from M’s school inviting me to attend Friday’s assembly as she will receive an award for an Art and Poetry competition, topic was “The Secret Life of the Woods.” I had no idea they had such competition so I asked M about it. I pretended I saw some parents talking about it on Facebook as she might guess that she won if I knew about it — the school always contacts us for such awards/recognition intending for them to be a surprise on the day. The poetry and art works were unnamed, meaning the pupils across all year levels voted for everyone’s works without knowing whose work it was they voted for. There was an overall winner who won a trophy, the start of an award named after the late grandfather of one of the pupils; he helped in the school a lot and they raised funds and would give this award every year in his memory. All the winning works were displayed afterwards in the hall. I love how inspiring M’s school is and really pushes the pupils to give their very best. It was voted the School of the Year in 2017, not just in primary, but among all the schools in the entire borough. A while back, I told my husband that the other school near us (about the same distance as M’s school from our house, if not nearer, but to the other direction) is also an excellent school. But husband, said, hah, but it’s not the School of the Year is it?

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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Making music with other people (updated with video)


If you go full screen, you'd catch a glimpse of M
 just behind the dark-haired girl on the right;
behind her is the blonde with the white bow.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Berkshire maestros spring junior strings course Yellow Submarine BeatlesBe still my heart. As soon as we entered and heard the rehearsal right before the performance, I was teary-eyed.  M is given private lessons by a young, lovely violin teacher (who's also a sailor) since January of last year. I wanted her to learn the violin, sadly, they don't teach it at school and the most sensible option for us is to have lessons here at home. Last month, her teacher suggested for M to attend a spring orchestra course just to have a feel of what it's like to play in an orchestra. Yesterday, M was at the venue (a nearby day/boarding school) since eight in the morning and we attended the 15.30 performance of all the kids, which was spectacular. A plus that they played the Beatles - Yellow Submarine and Octopus's Garden. My two-year-old was still humming Yellow Submarine with me till after dinner!



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Thursday, 29 March 2018

Picture Book-making at the Story Museum in Oxford


gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Claire Alexander Oxford Literary Festival picture book-making workshop
Claire Alexander shows my little girl's
work-in-progress and praises her for a good
idea
I've been attending the Oxford Literary Festival since 2009 and have met wonderful authors during those times (Hilary Mantel, Kazuo Ishiguro, Julian Barnes, even the late PD James, and a lot more). As much as I love classics, it's also great to check out the current literary scene. Left photo: award-winning children's book author and illustrator Claire Alexander shows my little girl's work-in-progress and praises her for a good idea during the two-hour picture book-making workshop (March 17 2018 at the Story Museum in Oxford). I wasn't keen on the events for grownups at the festival this year but I thought M might want to join the workshop. It was geared towards children age 8-14 (one girl who had attended was 14) but at 7, I thought it was right up M's alley so after asking what she thought and she said she'd like to attend, I signed her up. Painfully shy, I was overly impressed with how M conducted herself, raising her hand when Claire asked a question (I guess she is never shy when it comes to these things). Oh my, in the end she was so enamoured with Claire that she said she'd like to see her again!


gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Claire Alexander Oxford Literary Festival picture book-making workshop
M's alicorn drawing at the hotel
Pictured on the right is M's random alicorn drawing to kill time at the hotel. Later at the workshop I asked Claire Alexander to sign it (she signed it top left). I love how my little girl draws from her imagination, something I'm never good at. Alicorns are pony characters in "My Little Pony" - they have unicorn horns and Pegasus wings.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Claire Alexander Oxford Literary Festival picture book-making workshopClaire graciously doodled a cat in my daughter’s sketch notebook after I told her how much the little girl loves her cat drawings. She drew Millie from Millie Shares and said she hadn’t drawn Millie in a while. How special that Millie in the book is alive in my daughter’s notebook, saying hello to her (left photo).

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Claire Alexander Oxford Literary Festival picture book-making workshop"The event took place in the Long Room of the Story Museum, the children sat around tables at the front while we accompanying adults watched from the back. I felt like a stage mother but I was giddy about my daughter attending her first writing workshop, where else but in historic Oxford, where a lot of characters in children’s books that we now love came to life. The museum itself, formerly a huge Royal Mail depot, felt so magical that it could be a part of Lyra’s fictional Oxford. It snowed all day on that Saturday, but it wasn’t freezing enough for the snow to settle (the first time in my 10 years of attending the festival that it ever snowed), as though encouraging the children to create their own Narnia, a world imagined by another beloved author in this very city."

I wrote about the workshop in full over at Fine Books and Collections magazine, including a few tips for those of you who are interested to write and illustrate for children. Click here to read.

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Sunday, 25 March 2018

M reading The Queen's Knickers by Nicholas Allan



Please excuse my daughter's fingernails caked with dirt (other times it's paints and markers). I can assure you these knickers are not from H&M!!!

When she was very small, I borrowed this from the local library and read it to her. Then, recently, she told me she read a very funny book at school and asked me if I've heard of The Queen's Knickers. I told her I had read that book to her when she was very small. There are probably a very few people who don't like this kind of humour but I remember how much we enjoyed it. I decided to buy a cheap used copy online to read to my two-year-old. And you could tell from the video that the book is also a success with him (he wouldn't stop joining in).

This was M's first go at reading this book aloud, I thought she did rather well. She's one of the advanced readers in her class. At 7, she's at level Rainbow, which means she's allowed to read anything that will suit her age.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com The Queen's Knickers by Nicholas Allan children's book humour


gaslighthouse.blogspot.com The Queen's Knickers by Nicholas Allan children's book humour
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com The Queen's Knickers by Nicholas Allan children's book humour


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Friday, 9 March 2018

Notes on a snow

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Berkshire England snow Beast from the East sledge The Ridges
Outside our gaslight house, a snow
angel found her way home.
I was born and raised in a tropical country but my first taste of life abroad was in Norway and Finland (not to mention one semester in sunny Portugal to complete the joint scholarship degree), so even after nearly 11 years living in England it still shocks me how unprepared we are for snow. It's a bit embarrassing sometimes, but then mostly understandable. The rubbish bins weren't collected on the day because the same bin men were driving the gritting lorries. As we hardly have any snow, it would be funny to employ people to grit the roads and have them wait around till there is snow (once every four years in these parts, if they're lucky). If we invested on snowploughs, they'll just probably rust from disuse. But on those few days when snow comes, something that's nothing in countries that are used to it, here, schools and offices are closed, motorists get stranded, there is chaos everywhere.

In the news, I saw children skating on what was probably a frozen lake. It was black ice. If I recall, that's dangerous, you're not supposed to do that as black means the ice can break anytime. I guess they didn't know?! I remember my private tea and chat with the Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder and how he urged me to ski in Sognsvann as that lake freezes during winter. As a newbie in Oslo back then, I asked him, wouldn't that be dangerous? He assured me that it was safe to ski on Sognsvann. When I told a Brazilian classmate about this, she said, "this is Norway, if it's dangerous to do anything, you'll see a sign telling you so."

***
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Berkshire England snow Beast from the East sledge The Ridges
M had so much fun sledging at The Ridges,
where her dad went sledging as a child.

I remember when we bought this traditional wooden sledge for M in 2013 after a snowy walk at The Ridges, when we saw the kids having so much fun on their sledges. And then it didn't snow the following year. I was having a chat with M's nursery teacher and complained about it. She said that her husband bought 10,000 sledges the previous winter to sell, and now they were all stored in some warehouse. Me and my one sledge, that shut me up. 

So the little girl had lots of fun sledging for the first time at The Ridges, where her dad went sledging as a child. There were steeper and more fun paths around the woods, but she was quite happy with this one that had a little bit of slope and a few bumps. 

We haven't had proper snow since 2013 so it was the first time we had used the wooden sledge! We'd just about gone out at the right time, by afternoon the sun had shone and most of the snow had melted. We didn't dare go out the previous day as there was still a snow storm. The snow was gone in places when we finally ventured out, but at least it was pleasant and not a cold, windy and horrible outing.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Berkshire England snow Beast from the East sledge The RidgesI love the calmness in the woods after a snowfall. But for the first time I wasn't sad about snow ending, those few days were enough! It was time to get on with our lives.
***
Can't believe this photo (on the right) was from last Saturday, we had snow when all the supposedly colder places are already experiencing the first bout of spring. More worrying are the floods/rivers overflowing in some parts of the country as the snow thaws. That the climate is all messed up is not good, and worse that it isn't something new. My husband's birthday is towards the end of March and it also snowed on the day he was born.
***
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Berkshire England snow Beast from the East Tod's Audrey Hepburn Mothering Sunday
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Berkshire England snow Beast from the East Tod's Audrey Hepburn Mothering Sunday
There were a few of these Audrey
Hepburn Tod's print ads that came
out in the 1990s, the one above was
the one I'd posted on my wall.
Our friendly neighbourhood UPS guy didn't fail me on a snowy day. Came by delivering my Mothering Sunday present straight from lovely Italy. Since Mothering Sunday was still days away, I told my husband, "Received the kids' present for me. Where is yours??" Tod's always makes me think of Audrey Hepburn on a bicycle with her dog - that picture was on my wall growing up (right photo).
***
Mike was away on those three snowy days for a
training/conference in good old (all together now) Birmingham, a two-hour drive away from our place (sorry, in my mind I'm trying so hard to pronounce the place as the locals do). I thought he'd be stranded. When he returned on Friday, the kids and I watched in horror from our window as he struggled to get the car up our snowy drive until he just gave up and left it parked on the street for the night.

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Tuesday, 27 February 2018

February's goodbye letter. P.S. Snow.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com railway tracks train snow Berkshire England English countryside
Photo from this afternoon - from school, the kids and I walked straight to the footbridge on our way home to wait for the trains. For two days in a row, it snowed when I collected M from her after-school clubs (gardening club on Monday and judo on Tuesday - her week days are nearly full, she's a very busy seven-year-old). I've forgotten how invigorating it is to go for a walk whilst or after a fresh snowfall, well, till it becomes ice masquerading as snow. It is one of the most beautiful things in the world. It snowed almost the whole of Monday and today but because it just melts when it lands, we don't have that much. Not complaining as I remember it's never easy to move the pushchair (or a suitcase) on inches of snow. You could see that in this photo of the railway tracks, how it's just like icing on a cake. It is not fluffy over frozen lake kind of snow, not Alpine mountain kind of snow, but still snow, and it was enough to make the kids giggle.


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Monday, 5 February 2018

Little village stories

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com English village stories escaped chicken
My two-year-old watches our neighbour’s escaped chicken from the lounge and hums the song 
“Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken
Lay a little egg for me!
Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken
I want one for my tea.
I haven’t had an egg since Easter,
And now it’s half past three,
So, chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken,
Lay a little egg for me!"

Nothing beats looking out the window on a busy morning and being met with different scenes from a little village life. Particularly charming is an English village life. My favourite scene is of the vicar running after the bin lorry, as he usually forgets to get his bin out and he misses the collection.

Here is a chicken story and what makes it special to me is it’s the kind of story that’s very common where I grew up, but not the kind I thought I’d experience in England. Today at noon, R our postman knocked on the door to tell me that one of our neighbour’s chickens is just outside their gate. “Could you just let it back in?” I asked, I didn’t know what else to do as their chickens haven’t escaped before. At 4pm on the way back from chicken, err, school run, three Year 6 pupils stopped me and the kids to report that they saw a chicken just walking around outside our house. We didn’t see the chicken but as we were about to get inside the house, I heard it squawking amongst the bushes. I texted our neighbour to say one of their chickens is in our garden. I thought it was safe there for the time being as it seemed it was trying to make a nest. The next time I checked it was farther, in our other neighbour’s garden. I didn’t have our neighbour’s wife’s number but I knew she’d be home soon. I got out of the house when I saw her car but before I could knock on their door, I saw her coming from the road around the back, the chicken in her arms. All’s well that ends well. Just two weeks ago, the same neighbours’ dog (a huge Alsatian) managed to unlock their front door and escaped, and just kept crossing the road, causing a traffic jam. Fortunately, he didn’t go to the main road or that would not have ended well.

Our house is very close to a junction but the chicken didn’t cross the road as it must have sensed that those aren’t the kinds of stories we like around here.

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Sunday, 28 January 2018

A reading chair, finally!

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Trianon chair in natural linen Graham & Greene Olivia Palermo's New York apartment
On the right is a picture of our Trianon button back tub chair in natural linen from Graham & Green. I took a random book from my shelf to photograph and realised only after taking the photo that it was Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory (published in 1940; mine is a 1941 edition, originally from my husband's grandad's collection. Shame I never met him, it seems we have the same taste in books, and interestingly, this is one of the few books I don't have in my Portable Graham Greene which I had left in the Philippines).

We bought this linen chair for the reading corner in our bedroom. It looks like an offspring of the two big Chiswick button back armchairs in our study (see fireplace photo below), bought from the same company some two years ago. I gave up on the dream of a built-in wardrobe and a window seat. I miss my uncles who are carpenters and who would have easily built these for me. Here, it is just too costly to hire carpenters. We've ordered another made-to-measure bookshelf from our go-to furniture-makers in Yorkshire and it should come in about six weeks.

For many years now, I've had this picture of Olivia Palermo's chair in her New York apartment (bottom left insert) in my computer files. I would often hint to the husband to have the same chair made for me. He wasn't a fan of Miss Palermo's chair, saying something like it looks wonky and won't be comfortable. We both agreed on the linen chair we got and I'm happy that he's also pleased with it as he insists Miss Palermo's chair looks silly.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Chiswick armchair Graham & Green wood burning stove
The chair was delivered last Friday, there was a lot of fuss over the delivery slot, 12 noon to 4pm. I told the delivery company it was fine, but that I would be out for approx. 30 minutes for school run within the given slot. Husband said he wouldn't be home, so I asked a friend to pick M up from school but after making all the arrangements, Mike said he'd be home after all. We waited the first three hours and they didn't come and I said I was sure they'd come during school run, which was what happened. We had all four hours, I was gone for 10 minutes, and they delivered within those 10 minutes (within those minutes I chatted with another mum I've known for a few years now, and I led our conversation to meat for some reason, and then she told me she's vegetarian). No complaints as Mike was home to receive the chair, but it was very typical of life, that someone would come knocking when you were not at home (an analogy you could apply to more serious situations). It's the direct opposite of when you randomly pick a Graham Greene book to photograph on a Graham & Green chair.

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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

A DiY branch coat stand in a Victorian entrance hall

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com DiY branch coat stand Victorian cottage
Our entrance hall - or what it used to look like.
I showed this picture (on the left) to my husband the other day and told him, our entrance hall doesn't look like this anymore. Actually, that's not entirely true. It's exactly the same, just imagine that there is a push chair there, lots of shoes and a stand next to the front door holding lots of coats (more on that later). 

I remember stepping into this hall the first time that afternoon when we viewed it. I'd seen pictures of the house before and it was already our first choice based on location alone. That day, we viewed two other houses, one a modern house and the other also a Victorian one, both houses in equally good locations. The other Victorian house felt really cramped, for some reason, and I guess stepping into this hall straight after seeing the other house, already sealed the deal for us. There was that feeling, almost akin to a sudden gust of wind, as we stepped in. The ceiling was the tallest amongst all the houses we'd seen that summer; it had the 'magnificence' factor of a massive house that we as a young family couldn't afford at this stage. We were instantly taken by it. 

Items in the photo include a working early 20th century telephone we bought at Eversley Barn Antiques. We actually used it till we found the time to shop for cordless phones -- man it was very frustrating to repeat the process when you miss dialling a single digit. The black and white painting is of our sports boat passing the Tower Bridge in London (something that truly happened during our honeymoon), one of those pictures that my brother did when he visited us. Mike did the green shutters frame -- I would have loved for the frame to have a rustic look, that could be another project. The red bag is a present from Mike, it is the same as Felicity's (Keri Russell) senior year bag in what would be the TV series of my youth. I could watch all four seasons over and over again. They stopped making the bag a long time ago, but a few years ago, during Mike's business trip to California that coincided with my birthday week, I asked him if he could have one made for me by the same company that made them (Vin Baker Tuscany Leather Bags). Mike said the woman he spoke to on the phone said she was "going to ask Vin if they would do one in red." She got back to Mike to say they had enough leather to make one more bag and it was mine!

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com DiY branch coat stand Victorian cottage
The branch coat stand that the hubby made - obviously, this is not how
this space normally looks.
As for the branch coat stand (right photo), we searched antique shops to find the best coat stand that wouldn't look out of place in our entrance hall. I wanted a unique one and in my mind, I already knew we wouldn't find it in an antique shop. So I searched online for a tree/branch coat stand and found several but they are not cheap, others were also from abroad and shipping cost a fortune. It happened again, around the same time that Mike was on a week-long business trip, and I was at our local woods  with my little girl. I found this branch in the woods that I thought would make a perfect coat stand. I hid it under a fallen tree trunk in case a dog-walker would also see its potential as a coat stand. So when Mike came back we went to the woods and I showed him the branch (luckily it was still there!) and he said it wouldn't fit in the car, he would have to carry it home. It was not a small branch so as we walked, with me pushing M, he suddenly wondered if it was even legal to get a branch from the woods and take it home. ("I don't know, you were born here, you should know," I told him). It took a while before he even got to do anything with it as he had to dry it out completely and then treat it first in case of woodworm. I wanted metal hooks, but in the end I liked his idea of wooden pegs. They look better, not that we even see them when we hang the coats. The last challenge was how to make the branch stand and one time we just decided on one of those stands they use for real Christmas trees.

Obviously, this is not how this space with the coat stand normally looks, it would, only if there's only one person living in the house who owns just one pair of shoes and a coat (in a girl's case, not likely!).

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