Monday, 6 October 2014

A Pleasant Weekend. .... except......

Oh! Hope I'm not coming down with the bug which the babies had last week.  Baby No 1 got hold of my mobile phone and had sucked it all over by the time I noticed.  Ever since then it's been kind of ... sticky....and I have been feeling slightly flu-y. Not as if he did it on purpose, he is just at that age. And he is so sweet and cuddly that I nearly don't mind if I catch a cold from him!

Apart from feeling slightly rough, it was a good weekend. On Saturday we attended a meeting of our Garden Committee - as I've said before, we have a three acre shared garden out the back of our houses. Each house has only a small back garden, from which a back gate leads onto the communal space, like this, below.

 There are surprising numbers of these private gardens in London - this article's about some of them (we don't open our garden, so you won't find us in the article).  A firm of gardeners comes in once a week and the guy who runs it told us we are among the most easy going and unquarrelsome groups he deals with. Everyone was amazed to hear this, to be honest. One of the residents has been taking the law into their own hands and destroying some large climbing plants and there was some fire and brimstone in our meeting.

When we first moved here, the garden was more overgrown.  According to a film someone made in 1969, that was the year when residents started to get together to work on our garden, planting trees and clearing rubbish.  It took decades to get it into shape using voluntary labour, since of course it also had to be maintained and improved as well as cleared.  Money had to be raised to buy equipment, and it was hard graft.  

Many of those people are  now dead, but we see the fruits of what they have done and are grateful.   It is strange how people can look out at a place choked with brambles and filled with rubbish and nettles yet not consider getting together with other residents to improve it - but that is the case in some of our local big gardens, even today.

Afterwards I wandered around and admired some late blooming roses.

One of my favourite communal gardens is Park Crescent, in Brighton, which is about 70 years older than ours, consequently the houses are more elegant.  Here's a Guardian article about them. Their garden party sounds all sweetness and light doesn't it?  Ours is rarely so idyllic, but it is fun nevertheless.

I once looked around a house in Park Crescent which was for sale.  It had been the home of of  Lewis Carroll's youngest sister, Henrietta, who in the 1890s lived there with an elderly maidservant and many cats who used to climb the curtains. Henrietta sounds to have been a typical, gentle Victorian spinster who didn't really care what anyone thought of her.  She and Carroll got on well, and I thought the house, with its tiny rooms and simple period details, had a happy feeling. As a biographer, I found it rather cool to think that when he came to visit Henrietta, which he often did, he looked out onto that very garden.  It must have been so different then.

 There aren't any pictures of Henrietta later in life, but here she is as a child, when he took a photo of her.

On Sunday, went out for a walk to Kenwood House, a wonderful mansion and art gallery now in public ownership.

Just outside the orangery, at the front, I noticed two young girls had carefully created a home made picture out of petals and things they had found. It's entitled "Sunset" and they had a collecting hat nearby in case anyone felt like giving them a tip for their work.   Not sure English Heritage would like them chalking in green outside their lovingly renovated 18th century mansion which they have just spent millions of pounds on, but I gave the girls 50p for being enterprising and said I hoped they'd make lots of money. 

Kenwood's grounds were "landscaped" in 18th century style, and it overlooks a lake with an elegant little wooden bridge at one corner.

But if you go around the back you see that it is not a real bridge. It's just one layer of wood that looks like a bridge.  It was actually designed that way, for appearance sake only.

Totally fake in other words! It's fitting that Kenwood is quite often seen as a location for movies, where nothing is as it seems. Its biggest claim to fame is in "Notting Hill" - remember it?

Further along I spotted a really weird old tree. It had once been a large silver birch,but the entire bark had been stripped off, except for a few ragged branches at the top.

I found it quite creepy because it was so tall and so dead, there on the edge of the hill. I wondered why I had never noticed it before. And when I went closer, I thought it even creepier. Maybe it's my imagination but does it seem to have a face? It's like some horned witch, dancing wildly on top of the trunk.

As T said, you didn't quite like to turn your back on it in case it somehow changed position while you weren't looking!

To be honest I was glad to leave it behind, and off we went to a 70th birthday party. The birthday girl lives next door to 2 chefs who had made her two matching birthday cakes, in different flavours. One had a 7 candle and one had a 0.

It was a lovely party and we knew lots of people so it brought the weekend to a happy conclusion. Until, that is, I realised I had a sore throat.....


  1. More than a little work involved in assembling that vignette. Good for those little ones; I hope they could buy ice cream on the way home.

  2. How clever … a cake for each number and how exciting to visit the home that Lewis Carroll visited. Incidentally, I definitely see a witch flailing on top of that dead old tree! Perhaps it was she who gave you that sore throat, rather than the adorable baby No 1.

  3. Kenwood House has an amazing Rembrandt self-portrait, with circles. Did you see it.?

  4. I had to read the garden story twice to understand what you said about the small gardens and larger communal garden. I swear I can't read anymore.
    I think that your garden is lovely. All that green flowering space. You live in the most beautiful place.
    Goodness I hope your not sick....

    cheers, parsnip

  5. Jenny, I do hope you are felling better soon. Loved seeing all the pictures of Kenwood.. I thought the tree had a face as well. I feel certain it will come to life at any moment. Hugs! Bonnie

  6. Wishing you a speedy recovery so you can be out and about in order to write more posts for us.

  7. I love the idea of a communal garden with everyone working to make their view beautiful. I wish I had neighbors like that. It seems it is only me who plants anything as they are all too busy to be bothered with their surroundings.

    Your back yard is lovely, Jenny.

  8. Oh Jenny, I hope the sore throat disappears quickly. Those little ones can be far more dangerous than they look! But it sounds as though you had a good weekend. Yes, I do recognize Kenwood from Notting Hill, though not till you said. And I find the garden space fascinating. I never think of homes in the city as having much immediate green space, needing parks instead. I'm glad you have that (and the beautiful roses).

    Three cheers to the enterprising young artists! And thank you, for sponsoring creativity -- someone must and the younger the better!

  9. Oh dear! As if you haven't had more than your fair share of illness already this year! I hope your immune system can fight the bug before it gets too bad...
    Love the stories about communal gardens and Henrietta in her Brighton house. Were you looking at the house when it was for sale because you were considering to buy it, or because of the Carroll-connection?
    The girls surely have deserved their 50p! Shallow-minded me of course was more impressed with the pretty polka dot dress (although not the exceedingly ugly footwear).

  10. Nice weekend, I love that fake bridge. Great way to celibrate being 70, hav etwo cakes. Will have to remember that

  11. Sounds like a near idyllic weekend - apart from the threat of the lurghi; hope that comes to nothing. Thanks for your comments on my blogs, from which I gathered you are having some problems with yours? - though it looks pretty good to me! By the way - I agree that tree looks highly dodgy.

  12. Oh, are you all right? I hope it ended with an unconditional happy conclusion!
    To maintain communal garden takes time and efforts in cooperation with residents but seeing the result from what you've been doing is rewarding.
    The once thriving tree looks pitiful. It is a rude awakening. What happened to the tree?
    Henrietta looks unassuming and unrestrained. I like the way she was and did.

  13. I agree wholeheartedly about the tree. Of course as I knew nothing about Kenwood House I had to go and find out more (including where it is) and that led me to a lot more properties and another half hour of my life gone. But then that's what your blog invariably does for me: makes me investigate. I sometimes wish that I didn't have such an antipathy towards cities in general and London in particular. There is still so much to see that I didn't see in my youth.

    I've now caught up with your last couple of blogs too. I've been away and keep missing posts even though I try to keep up.

  14. Your garden is lovely, and worth all the hassles. And Kenwood House looks fascinating - must make a point of going there one day - and good to see some small girls cocking a small snook at English Heritage! (Sometimes they are wonderful, but they can take pedantry to a whole new level.)

    Do hope you feel better soon - you've not had much luck on the health-front, so hope you pick up in good time to enjoy Japan.

  15. Take plenty of vitamin C and keep the bugs at bay.
    I love the shared gardens in and around London, and all the beautiful parks such as Kenwood. They are the city's green lungs and a wonderful amenity for families in the area.

  16. A communal garden is a lovely idea, and yours looks green and lush. I hope the community cooperation lasts forever! Kenwood House is beautiful, and I do remember it from the movie, but how funny that the bridge is fake. Just doesn't seem right. I do hope you get better quickly, and don't fall victim to the nasty flu bugs which seem to be sweeping the world. Take care Jenny.

  17. It's pity I have not seen Kenwood House, so for the next time. Lovely Birthday cakes, look very delicious.
    I hope you are feeling better Jenny!

  18. This was a delightful post reading all about your busy weekend and those gardens. You are right, that is a very creepy dead tree! I am looking forward to clicking the links you provided to see more. Hope those cold symptoms do not develop into something too terrible. Be well soon.

  19. Just to cuddle the babies, I would risk the flu and the phone. I just love little ones.

  20. Oh, the uninhibited power of baby bugs. I do hope you're not badly affected/infected.
    The communal gardens must be fascinating at every possible level.

  21. Yes, I can see a witch dancing! Lovely to hear about the communal gardens.

  22. I love the idea of a communal garden, but then my experience of societies of owners is not all that good, so I can imagine your gardener has experienced some vitriol in his day. Still, it must be a wonderful place to relax and spread out a little. Lovely post, Jenny. We used to go to Kenwood House when I was a child. I remember it fondly!

  23. I thought only some of the London Squares had private gardens; Where we used to live every house had a small garden and altogether the gardens made a big patch, but only to look out over, never to enter.

    The heath and Kenwood House were our big garden then; I loved it and it was the only place in London where I felt amongst ‘my own’. I think I’ve said that before? If I miss anything about London (other than theatres and the big shops) it is Highgate and Hampstead.

  24. Hi Jenny. So many of your posts are a dose of nostalgia for me, and this one is no exception. Hour photos are wonderful as always. Hope the bug hasn't developed or is not too severe.

  25. I never realised that bridge was fake!
    The things you discover. What a great day out.
    Hampstead Heath and your shared garden, lucky you.

  26. Strange that you should mention Kenwood House; I’d never heard of it until last week when we went to see the film ‘Belle’ which is set there. The bridge seems rather odd though. I can see that it was placed there to add perspective but I’d prefer the real thing I think.

  27. More replies ... Jean it always gives me a thrill to realise that people know where I am talking about, and I wonder if we did see each other at a distance... a strange idea!
    Marilyn, I didn't know "Belle" was set there although come to think of it the articles about it in the local paper ought to have given me a clue :)
    Friko, I hope you can let me know whereabouts your home was in the area, I'm always interested to learn more about gardens like ours. Obviously, they're not very obvious to passers by and I love to think that they are there hidden away.
    Adullamite, I hadn't realised you could see how fake it was from the back, but if I had thought I'd have realised that that was actually the end of the lake!
    GB I know the feeling of trying to keep up with posts. It's such fun. I'm afraid that I will find it harder when I am away, although now at least I have an iPad and I'm going to get the Blogsy app.
    Cosmos, I do wonder what happened to the tree myself. What is odd is that I have never noticed it before, and yet it is quite noticeable. Perhaps it was struck by lighting...
    Penelope, I think it was dear little babychops who gave me the cold, which is lingering but not too bad at all. It really is worth it for the chance to kiss his lovely chubby cheeks. Oh dear, I'm sounding completely soppy. :)
    Jeanie, you hit the nail on the head about creativity. I really like to see kids deciding to do something and then doing it and I like them to think they can succeed.

  28. Jenny: Gardens are terrific settings. My wife and I spent a few years cultivating one at our home. It started out as a small privacy garden, but turned into a huge growing and spreading hobby. Your photos are wonderful. Love the UK! Get well soon. Cheers.

  29. A lovely tour. Hope that sore throat mends quickly.

  30. Gardens are so controversial, I think. Communal gardens can be a nightmare as people have very strong ideas of how they should be cared for, going from the lawn that looks as though someone got down there and cut it with nail scissors, to the wild flower meadow version which I veer towards. Our Suffolk village is always ringing with the sound of strimmers and lawn mowers every summer - drives me potty! Still, it's a wonderful resource for you all and glad you manage it all fairly amicably.

  31. When I lived in London, I always thought it was a shame all those private gardens couldn't be used by the general public, but then again there are plenty of lovely public open spaces like Regents Park, Hyde Park and of course Hampstead Heath and Kenwood. I used to walk round Hampstead Heath a lot and watch all the kites flying over the kite hill. Are the kites still flying?

  32. A faux bridge - how whimsical! Thank you for the garden tour. I am much too averse to dirt and sun to be a gardener, but I do appreciate a pretty garden.

  33. Getting sick from baby love--I'll take that, too. ;)
    So much in this post. Loved it all. :)

  34. As usual another wonderful, interesting post brimming with beautiful photos.

    I hope you're feeling better at the time of my writing this. Baby cuddles are worth the sniffles, though. :)

  35. You outdoor pictures always look so lush and green! Well, except for the witch tree.

    I hope your cold or flu is short-lived...and I agree, I'd risk getting sick, too, in exchange for baby kisses. :-)

  36. I hope you've got rid of your cold now. My children and wife had it (my daughter still has it). I'm the only one so far (touch wood) to have escaped it.

    Glorious shots. We need autumn, though. I can't wait to be surrounded by auburn leaves.

    Greetings from London.

  37. I had to come back, dear. First of all, to thank you for your long response. I do appreciate your insights. Secondly to answer your points, too. I have just copied and pasted my response to you here. Needless to say I agree with most of your points.

    On the perception of the UK as a rightwing country, remember this is from a Cuban perspective. Ask any Cuban or ex-citizen from the former socialist bloc and you will get a similar reply. You and the US and the rest of the capitalist world were the evil that we had to fight. I majored in English from Havana Pedagogical University and not once did we touch on your liberal and progressive political and social tradition. Which was a shame but not a surprise.

    On class, you're spot on. I did mention class in the post but did not want to expand on the topic as it would have made the column longer. I try to limit myself to 800 words but on this occasion I went well over. I had to. As I wrote before Britain fascinates me and I feel that I have a front-row seat I want to take full advantage of.

    On Perry's essay, you're right about Farage. In fact he has always been a Default Man. Will default Man still be here a hundred years from now? Yes, especially in a classist society. I'm not a fan of him, I'm afraid, especially in the sort of society we are trying to build. But you're right to ask the question: what will come after? Guess that question is where my post today comes from. :-)

    Have a great week.

  38. Lee, Pixel Peeper, Rita and Cuban, how true it is that babies are worth it all.
    Nick, yes, they still fly kites on Parliament hill. It's too good a kite flying spot to waste!
    Marianne, "controversial" is the word. I think it shows politics in the raw! Interesting though. And somehow things keep going.
    Ah, JJ I wish we had the space in London to spread and spread!

  39. intriguing horned witch you found in that tree...
    good on those little enterprising girls...ha....i would be happy to have them make art...
    the gardens are lovely...we have a few public gardens though they are not much

  40. I love London's gardens. There is a surprise at every corner of every street, and I find it absolutely great. I hope that you are feeling better!

  41. Glad you had a nice weekend ... it must be awful not to have a garden to browse in .. mind you some people are just not interested suppose.
    Just loved the pic of the rose .. so pretty.
    Hope the flu-y germs have gone.

    Vicky x

  42. Your shared garden sounds enchanting! I see from your banner you got the double rainbow in your area too!

  43. So interesting about Carroll's sister, Henrietta! I never knew any of it. How wonderful to have toured her former home and looked out at those same gardens. I have always loved hearing about homes in an American, this is always the stuff of dreams.

  44. I like that bridge. I've got white roses still blooming, too!

    Get well soon.

  45. Wow do you ever just stay at home and chill and do nothing!! :D

    I wish we had a shared garden, then maybe someone else would cut our grass and get rid of the leaves!


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