There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie


Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.
~Rumi

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Winter Deepens


During the spring and summer my favorite
time of day to be out and about in Oxford
is  in the early mornings, but in winter it's
the twilight that holds the magic.


A waxing moon over All Souls.



Thursday, 18 December 2014

All Tucked in for Winter

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel 
the bone structure  of the landscape.....
Something waits beneath it.  
The whole story doesn't show."   
~Andrew Wyath 

A soggy, drippy morning.
When I went out to pick herbs this morning, the rain was coming down in buckets, streaming down windows, and clogging up drains and eaves, so I had to make a run for it with my umbrella.  When I came back into the kitchen I heard part of the M25 had collapsed from rain and I thought, 'Here we go'!  The winter of 2014-15 is well under way.  I looked at my sodden pansies and all the moss making headway again and knew it was truly time to tuck the garden in for it's winter's sleep. It was time to say goodbye to my flowers and get those bulbs sitting on my garden bench planted--they were definitely not going to plant themselves.  But how to do it in the kind of deluge that collapses motorways?


By noon though the trifecta I had been waiting for finally happened--the skies cleared, the sun came out, and I had an afternoon free. I couldn't get out to my garden fast enough.

Our garden is separate from the house, surrounded by a tall hedge and accessed though a little gate, so there are days I don't even set eyes on it.  I also hadn't done any garden clean-up since Gonzalo blew through, so I had no idea what would greet me.  But I pulled on my wellies, scooted Max out the door with me, garden gloves and daffodil bulbs in hand.

What greeted me when I opened the
gate and walked up the flagstone steps
wasn't so bad.  Max and I would have
it sorted in a couple of hours.

My pineapple sage was in full
bloom, with it's beautiful red spikes.

And now with the trees stripped of their leaves,
one of my favorite things about our garden
was shining there, in it's full glory--
the college towers that surround our garden.

New College Tower backdrop
and an ivy geranium heading
into it's second winter.


As I raked and Max patrolled the 
garden, the Harris Manchester 
clock tower kept time for us.

"The Spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and joy, with pinions light, 
Roves round the gardens,
Or sits singing in the trees"
~William Blake


It didn't take long to rake up a gargantuan pile of lavatera, hollyhock stalks, allyssum skeletons, rose thorns, and lavender, along with the millions of leaves that fell from overhead, down from the ancient walnut tree that is the master caretaker of our garden.

Then it was time to clean out my summerhouse and close it up for the winter. Lingering spiders were banished, my desk tidied up, garden tools tucked away neatly in their basket, and windows shut tight.  




There used to be several, small, 17th century cottages standing where our garden and parking area is today. Because of this, every time I dig to plant flowers or bulbs, our garden actually gives back!  I'm always finding small pieces of transferware and pottery, and even an ancient, encrusted door hinge that must be several hundred years old.  Each one is carefully wiped off and added to my growing collection in the summerhouse. 


Last winter we had a guest come and stay with us whose grandmother was born in one of the cottages.  I love it when history comes alive, even in our back garden.


As dusk fell and the shadows lengthened over the college towers, Max and I finished up.  The garden is now put to bed for the winter, the bulbs are planted, and the summerhouse is clean and tidy.  It will be out there all winter safe and snug, quietly waiting for the spring~which always comes.

"Winter is in my head, 
but eternal spring is in my heart."
~Victor Hugo


Monday, 15 December 2014

It Must Be December......

.........turkeys and mistletoe hang overhead in the Covered Market.


' "Do you know the Poulterer's, in the next street but one, 
at the corner?" Scrooge inquired.  "I should hope I did,"
replied the lad.  "An intelligent boy!" said Scrooge.  
"A remarkable boy!  Do you know whether 
they've sold the prize turkey that was hanging up there?  
--Not the little prize turkey:  The big one?"  
"What, the one as big as me?" returned the boy.  
"What a delightful boy!" said Scrooge. '

Oxford's Covered Market ~ December, 2014

"It could have been the steeple bell, that wrapped us up 
within it's spell.  It only took one kiss to know.....
It must have been the mistletoe!"




December in Christ Church Meadow

Before we left Oxford for our Christmas holiday,
we took one last walk around Christ Church Meadow.
It has to last us nearly a month and it was a lovely
way to say farewell to 2014.


Tom Tower, Christ Church, St. Aldate's Street

Tom Tower and Christ Church Cathedral




Lone rower on the Thames.

Merton and Christ Church from the Merton playing fields,
where Stuart played rugby and football as a young boy.


Merton College



Radcliffe Square


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Our Oxford Year


As 2014 is drawing to a close, Stuart and I can't help thinking about what a wonderful year we've had here at No. 14 Holywell Street. We're thinking back and remembering all the special people that have come through our door, while looking ahead--wondering what the New Year will bring and what new friends we'll be sharing our beautiful city with.


2014 began with changes to the B&B, especially the New College room.  A new, ensuite bathroom was 'constructed'--quite literally, out of nothing.  Four foot thick Cotswold limestone walls were drilled through, ancient floor boards and beams were uncovered, and up to 8 workmen were in and out of the house for a month, all the while hoping that this 16th century house would be up to the upheaval.  But she held on, pulled through, and the end result was a beautiful and improved New College room.





When I think back to spring I just think about flowers--and mostly daffodils, as the dark winter days give way to their bright yellow.  They usually appear first in our window boxes and in the bike outside that leans against our front window.





Garden at Hill Top Farm 

We always make sure we close the B&B for a week and take a break in the spring, especially before the busy Oxford summer begins.  In March we escaped the city to the back of beyond of the Lake District.  We stayed in a small cottage in remote Eskdale, took long walks accompanied only by Max and the neighboring farmer's border collie, called in at Hill Top Farm to say hello to Peter, and mostly didn't cook breakfast for a week.


Late evening walk in June.


Summertime brings busy days for us and this summer was no different--guests flowed in and out; graduates returning for their degree ceremony, Downton Abbey or Inspector Morse fans here on a pilgrimage, conference goers, and first-time travelers all were greeted at the door by Max and I.  Stuart's tours went from what seemed to be dawn to dusk, and the evenings were long--perfect for punting, Pimms, tending flowers, and Shakespeare in the college gardens.




Shakespeare in Wadham College Garden

Welsh Station Master


After the heady days of summer we were ready for our September break and off we went again, this time to the back of beyond of Wales.  We took narrow-gauge trains that wound their way through the valleys and up into the mountains, a dolphin cruise off the Ceredigion coast, had stupendous blue skies, and again, didn't smell like bacon or sausage for an entire week.  Sheer bliss.











Then it was Michaelmas Term and Fresher's Week in Oxford, and students descended upon the city with the autumn colors.  It's the golden time of year, when the leaves and autumn sun burnishes the Cotswold limestone into a deep and tawny gold.





Which brings us to these days leading up to Christmas.  Christmas lights and trees started appearing all over the city, mornings became frosty, students were trundled back home again, and Christmas music filled the air in Oxford.  The year ends with The Messiah at the Sheldonian, Advent Carol services in college chapels, Christmas Carol concerts performed by angelic choirs, carolers on Cornmarket Street, a Christmas Market on Broad Street, and the 'Cold Moon' over the dreaming spires.



Advent Carol Service

A Christmas celebration in a college dining hall.



The Covered Market at Christmas


And now today our suitcases are packed, our 2014 booking diary is full and put away, and we have the month ahead to enjoy family and friends back in the U.S.  We'll bring in the New Year with all of them and then come back home to Oxford, home to this city we love so much, excited to see what 2015 will bring.