I'd have sworn that it was much more recently than five years ago that Narcissus poeticus or Pheasant's Eye Narcissus appeared on these pages, but apparently it is that long ago, and how time flies. I bought three bunches of these flowers for £2 each in the supermarket yesterday, which makes me wonder how much the grower makes - I'd be happy to pay more for their charm and that lovely scent.
I didn't know until I looked it up just now that the essential oil from this narcissus is used in many perfumes including my own favourite Samsara (do you remember this rather fun post/comments?), and that led me to look for another 'review' of the fragrance to see how it would compare to the one I quoted in the perfumes post, the auditorium-filling "full, vast white floral chord". This very nice piecelikens the scent to the "wet wood, old books and dried roses" of Mughal palaces, so perhaps that's why I like it.
"The tiny, almost bashful Lily-of-the-valley lives in shady woodland and is a miracle to come upon. Delicate, graceful and spare, like the bridesmaid to a virgin queen, its restrained display is worth crossing the country to see ... Its vanilla honey scent is by far the sweetest of any British native - a pure gift."
Waist buckle designed by Jessie M. King for Liberty, 1906; silver and enamel.
Just a quick pointer for anyone who, like Liz - see the comments on Thursday's post, hadn't come across the work of Jessie M. King before and would like to see more. There is a short video here and a couple of sites showing something of her range here and here, while this one gives more on her life.
If you're interested in the wider subject, I can recommend Hand, Heart and Soul: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland by Elizabeth Cumming, though perhaps try the library first as it's out of print and copies are expensive.
Last night's film was Hitchcock's Spellbound starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman, a piece which must have been advanced for its era in its employment of psychoanalysis to solve a crime and determine an amnesiac's true identity - it even features a dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali.
Back to more recent times and television films, and with Lewis apparently now over for good (shame!) and Endeavour having reached the end of the current series, I've discovered we can continue our regular intake of Oxford crime as all the Inspector Morse episodes are available at Lovefilm and we can watch them again in order.
Ages ago I bought a 200-page hardback A4 notebook which I use as a scrapbook for magazine cuttings and things which catch my eye. I have never liked its exterior, which is a plain but dull beige fabric, and at last I have covered it, thanks to the simple instructions given in The Liberty Book of Home Sewing.
This very neat-fitting slip-cover is made from a length of Liberty Tana Lawn Betsy, a very 'sunny' print which dates from 1933, so now the outside of the book is as pretty as the images within,
and with part of what remains I thought I'd make a few hexagons - just for fun and with no particular end in mind.
We saw the garden yesterday, now here's a snatched shot of the interior of Register House.
In my lawyering days I came here almost daily for the purposes of property searches and to order quick copies or extracts of deeds. The place was full of official searchers and other young solicitors then, the atmosphere was hushed and it was quite intimidating at first, though less so than Parliament House where I later spent much of my time. I doubt I paid much attention to the fine Adam dome and certainly didn't have the opportunity to stop and look up as one does now that the building's function has changed and it is altogether quieter.
It is still a young garden, and given the coldness of the season, nothing is very far on, but later in the year - on a warmer day than the one we had - it should be a pleasant place to stop en route from the search room to the café*.
*Hours of family history research, particularly scouring the old parish records and barely legible census pages meant refreshment was much needed.
Did you greet the dawn this morning? Wash your face in the dew?
I was outside well before 6.00, taking in the freshness of the day, but
there was no dew to be seen.
We've had few April showers to
bring on the May flowers, and the weather is still cold, but here is some of what's in bloom - no
cherry blossom yet, or clematis, wisteria leaf buds are still tightly
furled, and tulips all very green, but I did see a single stem of
lily-of-the-valley just awaiting its moment.
I'm re-reading Katherine Swift's The Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden just now (I wrote about it here and here) and in it she refers to Botticelli's Primavera and to Flora's Feast - a movable one - "for the flowers that cover her robe and wreathe her head and neck keep their own calendar; they bloom in accordance with nature's laws, not man's." On the subject of the painting itself, she lists its various interpretations, and then goes on, "But it can also speak to us quite simply - of that moment in spring when the transparent veil of green which lies so lightly over the countryside is punctured with the brilliance of flowers for the first time ... of beginnings, awakenings."
I mentioned I'd bought fabric the other day, and now I've turned some of it into a sleeve/cover for my iPad. I made this up as I went along, and while it has worked well and I'm pleased with the finished object, I might modify it slightly another time.
As you see, it opens flat and has a central strip of fabric to hold the iPad in place, then the sides are folded in and it is secured with a button and loop.
It was great fun to make, especially as I was winging it and I haven't sewn in ages (it's been so long that I needed the manual to remind me how to thread the machine), and the lawn is lovely to work with. On to the next project!
Food to go with The Enchanted April, Elizabeth von Arnim's charming 1922 novel which the Cornflower Book Group have been reading and are talking about here - well, there's Mellersh's apricot tart, the nuts over which Mrs. Fisher is inclined to sit long at the dinner table, and there's always pasta:
"Francesca from the sideboard watched Mrs. Fisher's way with maccaroni gloomily, and her gloom deepened when she saw her at last take her knife to it and chop it small.
Mrs. Fisher really did not know how else to get hold of the stuff .... Years of practice, she reflected, chopping it up, years of actual living in Italy, would be necessary to learn the exact trick. Browning managed maccaroni wonderfully. She remembered watching him one day when he came to lunch with her father, and a dish of it had been ordered as a compliment to his connection with Italy. Fascinating, the way it went in. No chasing round the plate, no slidings off the fork, no subsequent protrusions of loose ends - just one dig, one whisk, one thrust, one gulp, and lo, yet another poet had been nourished."
The book's setting has inspired the choice of baked goods this month, as San Salvatore, the castle in which the ladies spend their enchanted April, is in fact Castello Brown in Portofino in the Italian province of Genoa, the castle being a fort which was bought in 1867 by Montague Yeats Brown (then English consul in Genoa) who turned it into a delightful villa, and so I've made a Genoese sponge.
The recipe I used comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day and is also to be found here, but instead of fruit, I've filled it with ricotta beaten with caster sugar and lemon zest. I hope Lotty and her friends would approve.