What should I do with Bloomsbury Bell?

I started this blog in 2009, is that really six years ago?! And it was originally a place for me to write about books, I met some great people through blogging and was lucky enough to be sent the odd free book from some lovely publishing houses. Then I moved to Oxford and things got a bit more hit and miss….I lived in a cottage and blogged a bit about my life in the country. Then I didn’t blog for a while. And then, last year I thought I’d try the whole ‘lifestyle’ thing which lasted 5 minutes….and now it’s 2015 and I don’t know what to do with Bloomsbury Bell.

So… how do you solve a problem like Bloomsbury Bell? Books?…Gardening?…Home-making?…Wedding planning (gulp)?…or should I scrap it and start again?

The hills are alive…

me on mountain

I don’t know where August went…. we moved house and then time seemed to go into warp speed. We went to France for a week with some members of the Dude’s family and stayed in a villa near Pau. Essentially, the week was spent eating meat, cheese and pastries and drinking many a G&T and imbibing all the wine the vineyards could produce. Or at least it felt like it. It was a great, restorative week which was much needed after moving house. I also got to demonstrate my considerable air guitar skills… but the least said about ‘air guitar gate’ the better.

For the final two nights of the holiday, the Dude and I stayed in a teepee near the Cirque de Gavarnie in the heart of the Pyrenees. The camp site consisted of four teepees with stunning views across the mountain range. It was simply breathtaking.

teepee 2

And talking of breathtaking, whilst we were walking on the Plateau de Saugue, the Dude asked me to marry him. I was, quite literally, stunned. The pictures of me prancing about like Maria Von Trapp were actually taken before he popped the question, so I can’t use that as an excuse. I blame the mountain air for my cavorting around, that and the fact that you can’t help but dance when the world is so beautiful.

me in mountain 2

Dear First Great Western…

I thought that I had finished writing idle rants, I was going to take the section off this blog. But last night on my way home from work, I witnessed an assault. The only thing I feel I can do to ‘help’ the victim, and process what I witnessed, is to write about it. I want some answers. 

My commute to and from work is part of my day that I enjoy, I walk through my local park and medieval streets, I amble through Oxford, and I get to people watch and read on the train. My personal safety is something that I consider when walking alone, so I change routes in winter and have always called a taxi rather than walk through dark streets late at night, because it’s sensible. But if I do need help people will come to my aid, right?

Last night at 6.30pm I was waiting on the platform at Oxford station, sitting on a bench and scrolling through my phone when I heard screaming. Loud, not having fun, screaming. A train was sitting at the opposite platform and was blocking my view, but someone was clearly being attacked. The woman on the bench next to me exclaimed as the train pulled away and we saw what was happening. A man was punching and kicking a woman who was lying on the platform, crying and screaming for someone to help her.

Four First Great Western station staff were standing about three feet away, watching them. This had been going on for some minutes and had I been on the platform I would have shouted at the staff to help her. The only thing one of the members of staff did was to ask the victim, “Is this a domestic?” She couldn’t answer, she was being assaulted. He asked her again, louder. “Is this a domestic, do you know him?”

The assailant kicked at her torso.

And again.

“Are you with him?” The staff member asked again, as the four of them stood watching. 

She managed to shout no. 

The assailant grabbed his bag and marched off down the platform towards the station exit. The staff members followed.

Meanwhile, three women (I think station staff, I’m not sure) who had been watching, horrified like the rest of us, scooped the woman over to them and asked her questions. They also exclaimed about why the group of FGW staff had not attempted to intervene, or call the police straight away. They asked her if she knew him, and yes of course she did, he was her ex-partner. Statistically, it was highly unlikely that he was going to be a complete stranger.

I’ve witnessed crime before, I lived in London long enough to see the odd punch up and teenagers throwing a boy onto the Underground tracks in the midst of a brawl (thankfully he was off the track before the train came). So, you know, these things happen and we all carry on with our day.

BUT, whenever I’ve witnessed anything before, people helped. They rang the police, they shouted, they intervened. Those crimes were different, they weren’t a woman being beaten-up by her (ex-)partner. Why didn’t those four, burly station staff do anything? Why did they have to know if she knew him or not? What difference does that make? She was being attacked, it needed to stop. They did nothing. 

And before the train company gives me a shovel-load of proverbial about the ‘health and safety’ of their staff, don’t tell me they aren’t trained to deal with aggressive passengers, or trained in calling the police, handling incidents etc, etc.

My commute to work is a part of my day that I enjoy, my personal safety is something I’ll think a lot more about. Because if someone does attack me, the four men watching will want to know if it’s my ‘fault’ for having had a relationship with the assailant, before they all walk off and leave me crying on the ground.

Coming Home…

Our new front door

Our new front door

Yesterday we picked up the keys to our new house, eleven months after we first viewed it. It really has been a lesson in patience and perseverance!  We walked around in a bit of a daze thinking about all the things that we will need to tweak and change, but we have time and the main thing is… it’s ours.

As I stood outside to get a photo of the front door, I was reminded of a card that my dad made for me two and a half years ago. It’s a pen and watercolour drawing of a green door which he had cut around so that I could open it to read this quote that he had written inside:

‘There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.’ Graham Greene.

The future that lies behind this green door is a little bit unknown but exciting, full of adventure and very hopeful. My dad’s card is now well-thumbed, so I’ll put it into a frame to keep it safe as it reminds me of my journey here.

One of the things that the future definitely has in store is gardening. The house has a lovely garden which is small enough to manage but big enough to make proper use of. There is also a tiny front garden which has this abundant hydrangea to greet visitors at our front door.

Our front garden


I know that if you add copper to the soil you can turn the hydrangea blue… I might try to give the old girl a blue rinse next year. But I do like pink… I noticed a blowsy pink peony in the garden on our last visit but they dug it up and took it with them, I can’t blame them. But, they have left us with some lovely roses, penstemons and a beautiful smelling ceanothus – so enough for me to work with for now! There are also a couple of mature shrubs and small trees which are crying out for lights and lanterns…

There isn’t too much to do in the house, it needs freshening up and we need to find bits and pieces to fill it with as I come bearing only one chair and the Dude has been living in a man pad for the best part of a decade. Part of the fun will be finding our style together, and yes I am sure we will have the obligatory stand-off in the rug section of Ikea. Why’s it always in the rug section?! I wonder if it’s because that’s where your blood sugar levels are at their lowest after having spent hours trudging through? He’s a very patient man but we are as stubborn as each other, it’s going to get interesting. I’ve already noticed that I’ve been met with a wall of silence whenever I mention cats…..  or ducks, chickens, peacocks, goats, etc… I wonder why?

A cream tea in the sunshine…

Cream tea at Basildon Park

Cream tea at Basildon Park

Is there any greater pleasure than a cream tea in the sunshine? No, I didn’t think so…

A couple of Sundays ago, I was mad enough to run my first 10k race. Mad because I hadn’t done any training which, having spent three days after the race hobbling around in pain, is not to be recommended. After the race, I was buzzing on a high of adrenaline so the dude suggested that we stop off at Basildon Park a National Trust property near Reading for a post-race amble.

It was a true English summer’s day, with Swallows darting overhead and cattle hazily lumbering around in the surrounding fields. And as my weary legs lumbered from the car and up the sweeping drive, we were met with this view of the house.

NT Prop

Basildon Park

Certainly not a bad place to take a stroll to recover the legs! We sat outside and indulged in a sumptuous cream tea complete with Rodda’s clotted cream I am happy to say. If you haven’t tried Rodda’s, then your life is not yet complete, it’s heavenly.

The last owners of the house were Lord and Lady Iliffe who bought it in the 1950s and restored it, including the installation of a state-of-the-art 1950s kitchen which is still in the house and looking very chic and retro now. We were greeted by the smell of baking as a volunteer was making cookies in the kitchen, using equipment that the cooks would have used in the ’50s. It seems that the National Trust are introducing some more experiential elements to their houses which really bring them to life.

We also took a stroll around the extensive gardens, which were full of families picnicking and playing ball. Squeals of delight from happy, playing children were permeating the summer air as parents chattered together on rugs and blankets. It was an idyllic scene and a reminder that the National Trust is perfect for families. It’s also perfect for recovering first-time runners.


Through the garden door…