Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Wonderful Wimbledon

If Preparation is Perfected:

If Tradition is respected:

If Innovation has purpose:

If Grace is observed at all times:

If Actions are honourable:

If All are made to feel welcome

If the Championships remain for all: 

Greatness will be within reach:  

With massive thanks to Irina Falconi 
for a wonderful day at Wimbledon!

Linking with thanks to Lady Fi and all the hosts at Our World Tuesday

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Sunflower Boy

Sunflower Boy is my son,
we have left him in Madrid to join his mates 
for a seven-week European adventure.

Family holidays with Grandparents are rare and precious
 when you live on the other side of the world.

Ten years ago my parents joined us for a holiday in the South of France.
My Father took a picture of my son holding a sunflower.
The little boy in the photo is now grown up he is 6 foot 3"

This week reunited in Madrid, my Dad produced the photo
Of course, I bought a sunflower and we recreated the picture.
This is him walking back to the hotel with his flower!

Happy travels sunflower boy!

Linking with My Sunday Photo - Thanks to Darren


What the duck?

Following on from yesterday's post I thought we needed some light relief, 
change of pace, to slow down and admire the simple things in life.

So whilst there have been quite a few 'What the ... Duck' expressions heard here in the 
not-so-United Kingdom at yesterday's Brexit referendum result, I thought I would bring you the Great British duck (or even an Egyptian Goose - thanks Margaret!) and her ducklings!

Is there anything more gorgeous and more Summer than ducks on a duck pond with their babies?
I was trying to think what is it about ducks that we all love?
No! Don't you dare think about pancakes and hoisin sauce... 

I decided that for me it is the childhood memories both for me personally, but also with my children feeding the ducks. 

That was until we were told how dangerous it is for the poor ducks feeding them bread... Oh gosh, to think we were silently causing a whole generation of ducks problems...

Even if we were feeding them flour, like in Oxford?

Flour, champagne and party poppers are part of the traditional end of exams celebrations at Oxford University. When we visited Oxford recently the ducks were enjoying the remnants of the trashing tradition. 

God bless their little tummies!

Now for a little duck chuckle. This bird was spotted whilst on a walk in Richmond. Now you are going to get the full duck Monty next, so click away if you're not up for it. 

Hold on tight here we go!

Hopefully, I got away with that in the name of art 
and in the spirit of putting a smile on your dial! 

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Linking with Saturday's Critters thanks to Eileen


Saturday, 25 June 2016

When one door shuts...

You know what they say

1. When one door shuts, another one opens...

We are currently in Madrid, three generations my Mother, Father, Brother and I
Here to meet my son just about to start a seven-week European adventure with his mates. 

Ornate Madrid city doorway.
2. We like what we see in Madrid, stylish, friendly, welcoming.

The big Refugees Welcome sign is a good start
as I begin to think of my impending return to Australia.
Whilst I have been away, I am excited to have accepted a new job working with refugees. It's going to be full on, 
but I am happy to be playing a very small part in making a world of difference 
for people seeking asylum.

Refugees Welcome" Madrid
3. Today is my Fathers birthday. We are all very happy to be celebrating it at the amazing Only You Boutique Hotel in Madrid. It has been a big day in Europe since the Brexit vote was announced as leave. We tell him that there is a move ahead to declare his birthday June 24th Independence Day and make it a national holiday.

Only You Boutique Hotel, Madrid
4. It has been hot since we've been in Madrid. Aussie hot. This heat is nothing compared to the political heat coming from Britain and the rest of Europe. We lived in Brussels for eight years, my son was born there. I have a strong affinity with Europe and whilst personally I feel sad that Britain has voted leave, it has been a fascinating time to be back here.

I like the way things are portrayed on Twitter by #veryBritishproblems:

...."Well thank God that's over"

...."It didn't quite go as planned"
Translation: I may have caused irreversible damage on a monumental scale.

...."We're going to need a bigger kettle..."

Madrid Buildings - hot, hot, hot.
5. Keep Calm and Carry on... travelling whilst my British passport still allows me open border travel in Europe. We have really enjoyed Madrid. It is the first time I have been to the city. We have taken the 'hop on hop off' tourist bus to see the sights, an easy way to get around.

It's a beautiful world out there...

Royal Palace of Madrid.

I hope you have enjoyed a little taste of Madrid, bye for now!
Happy weekend to you all.
Linking with Five on Friday thanks to Amy at Love Makes my Home


Friday, 24 June 2016

Wandering Oxford - City of Dreaming Spires

When Daughter No 2 left to see the big wide world in 2015
she was replaced on the soccer team by a Canadian International football player. 

Naturally we, Mum's Youth Hostel is always open, offered to host this star player. Ms Canada moved into my daughter's room; took her place in the squad, replaced her as U16's coach and became a wonderful member of our family. 

Miss Canada has long gone back home, but happily we met for a day in Oxford
 whilst she was en-route to the Euro2016 Football tournament.

Here are some of the photos from our day and because others have asked me for my Oxford sightseeing tips, I have given the details.

Exam time! All Oxford University students must wear gowns to sit their exams.
We met at Gloucester Green Bus Station, Oxford. 
It is a ninety minute trip from London on the XC90 coach. 
From here it's an easy stroll down Broad Street, passing the Tourist Information Centre
to pick maps of the city, before arriving at the Bodleian Libraries.

Inexperienced as I am, as an Oxford tour guide, I always like to start outside the Sheldonian Theatre just past Exeter College. For me it is pure Oxford, designed by Wren in 1662 in the style of ancient Rome, it ticks all my tour-guide boxes!

As you walk into the Bodleian Quadrangles there is an  immediate "Wow".

You can do tours around the libraries and indeed if you want to go inside, you must take a tour. For us, it was enough to just wander and soak up the atmosphere.

Radcliffe Camera
We climbed the steep and narrow tower of The University Church of Mary the Virgin.
Yes I know, I know, you're wondering how Little Old Wren 
manages to keep up aren't you? 
One minute it's pro tennis players, the next football players...
Well, let's just say I made it!
Thankfully we didn't have the whole team up there as it's really squishy!

Views of All Souls College from the top of Mary the Virgin Tower.
It's a good way to get our bearings on the layout of Oxford and I love looking down at the stunning architecture of the colleges. Oxford has been a University town since the middle of the 13th Century.

It's usually about this time, if I've done my job well, that someone, often me, decides 
they want to study in Oxford. 

Next, it's time for lunch and I chose Quod 92-94 High Street in the beautiful Old Bank Hotel. I love the outdoor courtyard seating, the waiters were really friendly and the 12.95 GBP two course set lunch is great value.

After a leisurely lunch catching up, we head down the High Street turning right down Logic Lane past University College into Merton Street. I love all the back streets of Oxford there is something at every turn. Just past Merton College, we  find the Merton Grove cut through and suddenly we are beside a cricket pitch field, full of cricketers. It's a perfect English vista.

Of course, you can choose to visit any of the Oxford colleges, for a price but I have selected Christ Church College. Partly because I love the setting, partly because of the Harry Potter connection, and partly because it fits well on the walking tour!

Christ Church college is the largest and most visited, founded in 1525. We take ourselves on the self guided tour and find the staircase where Harry and company are welcomed into Hogwarts, and the dining room which inspired the film set. 

Around the walls we spot Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey and imagine the all lucky students eating here over the years. Thirteen of whom, have gone on to be future British Prime Ministers.  You could just imagine, how inspiring life at a famous Oxford could be. In the Cathedral a service is starting and we are invited to join in prayer. 

Is it too late to pray to be an Oxford student?!

As we exit the college we walk towards the river through Christ Church Meadow looking for some punters and we are not disappointed. Punting down the river, steering a narrow boat with a long pole is very Oxford. It either looks wonderfully serene, or at the other extreme punters can look hopelessly inept.

We are there is exam time and we can see evidence of the post-exam celebrations with flour and streamers beside the river. I wondering how many jumped in the river to clean off afterwards? On cue we hearing laughing and champagne corks popping. Punting down the river may be so Oxford but it is also not as easy as it looks, as we could tell by the punts crashing into the river banks.

We follow the river and vere off towards Rose Walk which runs along the Botanic Garden, the whole place is so, so pretty. This takes you back to the High Street and time for some retail therapy. Of course no trip to Oxford is complete without the T-shirt and we find plenty of shopping opportunities before we detour  through the covered market - again more shopping if you are inclined before reaching the Cornmarket.

By this stage we are ready for a cuppa and as every British lass knows four o'clock is tea-time. We head to the Ashmoleon museum, past the Debenhams store on Beaumont street. The Ashmoleon museum is full of ancient treasures to be explored or you can head straight to the top floor restaurant.

Our afternoon cream tea starts with a glass of bubbly, sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream ending with cakes, brownies and macaroons. All with a pot of afternoon tea. There is much discussion about the order of things. For me it's always milk before tea, cream before jam! 

Before too long we're back at the bus station to wave goodbye. I hope you have enjoyed joining me on this little wander of Oxford. If you want to see more Oxford photos, you might also enjoy last years post to celebrate the 150 th Anniversary of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Oxford'  

Linking with massive thanks to Judith at Mosaic Monday for the last time
Thank you, Judith, for being such a fantastic host. 
Whilst we will miss Mosaic Monday I know we shall keep in touch :)

Linking with thanks to Lady Fi and all the hosts at Our World Tuesday


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Escape to the Country

I'm a little bit country.
My childhood was spent living in a village in the Vale of the White Horse
with my pony riding on the downs.

Childhood memories of an English Summer
come thick, fast and always with a big sneeze.

I have largely outgrown the grass-fuelled hayfever of my youth,
by not trotting around country lanes, becoming a city slicker helped.

Somehow on life's rich journey I ended up living in some of the most amazing cities in the world Bruxelles, Hong Kong, and Melbourne.
I love going back to my roots!

I wanted to give a little shout out to Lechlade, a pretty local town on the edge of the Cotswolds. It was recently yarn bombed by the Women's Institute and looks fantastic. 

I love the town's spirit, you see they have been subjected to two arson attacks which destroyed their Community Memorial Hall. I heard they lost all the towns flags. Well the woolly street art has really brightened the place up.

Three cheers to the Women's Institute yarn bombers!

Linking with thanks to Jeanne at Blue Monday


Friday, 17 June 2016

Five thoughts on creating a wildflower garden

You have to be bold, you have to be brave, and you have to know what you're doing, creating a wildflower wildlife garden. It's not just a question of letting the grass grow long and leaving some deadwood for the bugs.

Get it right and flowery and romantic can be yours. However, get it wrong, and your neighbours will start asking you how you're feeling, as they've noticed you haven't been able to cut the lawn?!  

The recent trends to introduce wildflower gardens is one of the biggest changes that I've seen in British gardens over the past decade and not something easily achieved in Australia. With our hot summers and bushfire risk, we are encouraged to be fire-ready:

'reduce the fuel levels around your house, 
by clearing long grass, raking leaves and twigs and pruning shrubs'

Which is probably why I love the wildflower gardens of Britain so much. The delicate flowers of my youth found on verges and hedgerows are welcomed into gardens, with a 'live and let live' Joie de Vivre!  

Top Left: Mown lawns at Tyntesfield Top Right: Yellow rattle

Be warned! If you are the sort of gardener that loves the see the stripes in the lawn, then the wildflower garden will take some serious restraint.

Of course, you can cheat, or be clever, which ever way you look at it, and start with a wildflower mat. This is a special turf, laid out, watered and off you go. But where's the fun in that? We thought this pretty wildflower meadow we came across in Chichester last year may have been grown in this way.

Oaklands Park Wildflower Meadow Chichester 2015
So how do you start?  I asked my Mother for her tips and ideas as she is currently working on two wildflower gardens! 

1. Find the right space: If you have a patch of land like my parents did, where it was hard to grow a good lawn then take note, this might be nature crying out to go wild!


2. Watch and Wait: In the first year let a patch of land designated for a wildflower garden grow without cutting and see what happens.  

3. Harvest Seeds: At the end of the season, harvest seeds from the wildflowers you like. If you have yellow rattle collect as much seed as you can. The yellow rattle plant is your friend because it crowds out the unwanted meadow grasses. The bottom line is ultimately you want to:

4. Give nature a helping hand: In the second year although it may look like you can sit back to watch how beautifully your garden does grow. The reality is, if you want it to be decorative as well, then it does need managing.  

Which is where you step in and give nature a helping hand. Either by yanking out those plants you deem less worthy, or the most polite way, to encourage  the rattle keep at bay the unwanted competitive grasses. 

 Church Wildlife Garden Oxfordshire
5. Add in some more interesting plants such as orchids, field scabious and whatever takes your fancy and create space around them to grow. For best results introduce them as well grown on plants. 

Add in additional plants that you love

A lot of people want field poppies, for instance, Poppies look fantastic but need disturbed soil, so probably no good just tossing out the poppy seeds.

Here is a closer look at the plants growing in my parent's wildflower garden:

Top: Orchid & Yellow Rattle, Ox-Eye Daisy, Red Campion, Bottom: Hawksbeard, Orchid, Clover
There is much excitement about the single self-seeded orchid, isn't she pretty?! 

I find this move to wildflower and wildlife gardens fascinating and hope you have enjoyed a nosey around some of the best ones I have seen around.

Linking with thanks to Jesh at Seasons