A Return to Mottisfont


IMG_0965IMG_0924  In a previous post; Endings and Beginnings, I wrote of a rather chilly visit to Mottisfont last December.  It was lovely, even in the depths of winter, and my family were eager to return in the summer, and yesterday, we did just that.

We arrived just before the gardens were due to open as it gets very busy.  Walking boots on, we had a chat with the friendly staff at the entrance before heading straight for the Coach House Cafe for tea and a scone, which set us up nicely for a few enjoyable hours of exploration.


The flowers had taken a bit of a battering the night before in a thunderstorm but the colours were still strong and the smell of lavender added to overall calm sensation of the gardens.  It was hard to know what not to photograph there was so much to see!  My mum impressed me with her plant knowledge and my brother took inspiration for his patch of garden back home.  I don’t have a garden so it was lovely to wander among the foliage and listen to the birds flitting back and forth overhead; so healing and inspiring.

After the walled garden, we made our way into the house itself, which my brother and I had only seen part of at Christmas.  You could easily spend a good hour or more exploring each of the rooms, which have so much detail; I loved the old wireless radios and cameras.  Returning to the garden we made our way along the river bank and marvelled at the salmon jumping upstream.  It was so peaceful; just the sound of water and the trees, with the occasional splash from the fish.  The route back to the house cuts across some fields which were knee high with grasses either side of the path, and ended up at the circle of trees which I had photographed back in December on a sunny winter’s day.  Unfortunately, although much warmer yesterday, it wasn’t sunny, so I couldn’t re-create the shot.  However, I tried to do so with as many as possible.


It was lovey to see the gardens in their summer greenery and we’re planning to go back in October in order to see the trees in all their autumnal glory.

If you’d like to visit Mottisfont, here’s a link for more information:


I visited at my own expense.  All photographs are ©VCUzzell2017





September Sunshine


September Sunshine

Sunday afternoon, and everyone is out soaking up the warmth and light before the weather changes; families cycle past on tandems, couples stroll by holding hands, joggers, dog walkers and their four-legged friends, excited by the smell of fish and chips. Children run freely from their parent’s arms; racing along the soft sand down to the water’s edge and into the chilly embrace of the ocean, screaming for joy in the face of such adventure.

Large groups have set themselves up for the day with a myriad of lunchboxes all filled with delicious treats, washed down with juices, tea from flasks and maybe the odd glass of something bubbly.

Jet-skis whizz about and sail boats glitter on the horizon as people scream their way down the zip line between the pier and the shore. Near the pier, fountains inspire more delighted shouts and screams as toddlers and children run around the water-filled area, ducking in and out, and underneath the spray. Behind them, café tables are full of patrons who are resting, gossiping, people-watching and topping up their caffeine levels mid-afternoon.

Today is all about fun and relaxation; don’t let work tomorrow or the promise of winter’s chill just around the corner worry you. We have time yet.


Writing 101: Day 11: Where did you live when you were twelve years old?


(Twist: Write about this topic using a mixture of sentence structures.  The beginning of this post contains some of the same material I wrote for the one on childhood food last week.)

I spent most of my childhood in a three bed semi-detached house next door to my maternal grandparents.  It was the first and last house my parents ever bought, and when we moved in in 1981 I instantly fell in love with the large garden that surrounded it.  A Sycamore at the front showered the grass below in helicopters every spring, while a Weeping Willow at the side of the house provided shade on sunny days.  I would often hide in between the Laurel bushes and eavesdrop on people’s conversations on the other side of the fence, and played with the ‘money’ picked from Honesty plants. I also loved going down to my dad’s huge shed at the bottom of the back garden to indulge a fondness for the smell of wood; I was allowed to saw some in half, although it took me quite a while, by which time I’d got bored and therefore never actually made anything.  Which come to think of it, I don’t remember dad making much either, except a rather wobbly bench that was supposed to have been a table.

My mum was a keen gardener and every spring and summer the garden was full of colour.  That was until dad came home one day with Lucifer.  Not the much feared lord of the underworld, but an extremely lively Doberman who he’d bought, probably from a man down the pub, and had already been given his ill-suited name by his previous owner.  Ill-suited because he was a complete softie, more fond of running around in circles, digging up mum’s plants and drinking cups of tea on cold winter mornings than frightening off potential burglars, which is what dad had intended him to do.

The house itself was heated by two wood-burners, which my mum still laments the loss of, and had a dark wood fitted kitchen, which she doesn’t.  The living room had a large, brown corner sofa and doors onto the patio, which dad had made with my help mixing cement.  My bedroom was at the back of the house, with a view over dense woodland and another housing estate beyond.  The fitted wardrobes in my bedroom were one of my favourite places to be; although not inside them but on top.  They were next to the window, as was my bed, from which I would climb onto the window sill, open the shelved part of the wardrobes and use them as a ladder up to my lofty perch.  I’m not quite sure why I did it, maybe I preferred the view from up there but mum was always furious if she ever caught me.  They probably weren’t that strong and I could have slipped while climbing up and gone through the window.

Aside from having a desire to climb things (I climbed trees too), I spent most of the time playing on my own until my brother was born when I was eight.  Once he was old enough, he became the willing participant in what is still my favourite hobby, photography, and played up to my camera at every opportunity.

By the time I turned twelve dad’s work as a roof-tiller had started to dry up, due to the slow-down in the housing market, and eventually the bank repossessed the house and we rented a small bungalow, which took quite some getting used to after all the space I’d been used to for so many years.  My new bedroom was much smaller and the view was of a hedge in the tiny front garden. My brother had the large back bedroom, which looked out onto concrete instead of the flowers and grass we’d had, while our parents slept in the living room on a mattress they’d lean against the wall during the day.

I missed our old home dreadfully, but the same thing happened to many other families too, and still does, of course.  The main thing was that we had a roof over our heads, and we had each other; oh, and Lucifer.


Writing 101: Day 10: Childhood food


Writing 101: Day 10: Childhood food

(Tell us something about your favourite childhood meal)

I spent most of my childhood in a three bed semi-detached house next door to my maternal grandparents.  Our home was surrounded by a large garden with a Sycamore at the front, which showered the grass below in helicopters every spring, while a Weeping Willow at the side provided shade on sunny days.

When I look back at what I used to eat as a child, it’s so funny how different my diet is today.  I no longer eat meat for example, and rarely indulge in a dessert.  I also never have full-fat milk, which I did back then, especially the cream, which I loved on my cereals in the morning, plus added sugar!  It’s fortunate my tastes changed as I got older, and became much healthier.  However, I do miss my mum’s delicious apple and rhubarb crumble, and her bread and butter pudding was heavenly.  My lunch box was always full of good food.  Some days I had a flask of soup, others a chicken leg or a sandwich filled with ham, cheese or egg.  There was always a piece of fruit, a yogurt and a Penguin bar, which was a staple part of my diet until I left school.

In the summer, the ice cream van would sing out as all the local children ran indoors to ask for the money to buy a treat.  I can remember multi-coloured lollipops, 99s with a Flake and strawberry sauce; layered ice-cream with bubble-gum at the bottom (which I can’t recall the name of) and a Feast, which I loved.  Bubble-gum was a frequent purchase with pocket money; in particular Hubba-bubba in apple or strawberry flavour.  Summer also meant outdoor eating, and one particular ingredient of those meals was coleslaw; the smell of which always takes me back to having salads in our back garden.  Mum loves it, but I can’t stand the stuff.  However, the smell reminds me of warm summer evenings, munching salad, cold meats, Branston pickle and new potatoes/chips.

On Saturdays, after we’d returned from food shopping, mum, my younger brother and I would tuck into sausage or fried egg sandwiches, with plenty of tomato sauce.  I also went through a phase of eating crisp sandwiches; Quavers being my preferred filling of choice.

Sundays were often spent next door at my grandparents’ house, the smell of a traditional roast permeating through the rooms, out the windows and drifting over the garden to call me inside.  Plates were full of roast beef, lamb or chicken, with perfectly crisp roast potatoes and lots of vegetables, including my favourite, mushy peas.  Dessert was often an ice cream-wafer sandwich which you had to eat carefully and quickly to avoid it leaking out everywhere.   Nan was certainly a bad influence when it came to food, and whenever I went round I’d be offered something sweet, even when I wasn’t supposed to.  I really liked Rich tea biscuits with butter on, but never took nan up on her offer of bread and dripping.

I often wonder if I ate something now which I used to as a child, would it instantly re-connect me to that time, but I doubt it.  Especially seeing as I don’t like meat now, whereas I loved it as a child.  I keep meaning to try and bake an apple and rhubarb crumble, but never get round to it.  Not sure it would be the same as it would lack that ‘mum touch’.  I guess that’s the key ingredient to a lot of the food and meals I’ve mentioned here, they lack that added extra of having been made by the loving hands of my mum or nan.


Writing 101 Day 1: 20 minutes free writing inspired by a visit to Lulworth Castle in Dorset


Lulworth Castle, Dorset

The dew shimmers beneath our feet as my family and I walk towards the castle, Lulworth Castle, in Dorset.  Families converse in various languages all around us and pose for photos on the castle steps.  We enter and climb to the top of one of the towers.  Fortunately, the early morning mist has lifted enough to give us a view for miles around.  Mum is especially happy that she has made the climb and looks forward to telling her sisters next week.  We descend and wander around the restored remains.  The castle was almost destroyed by fire in the early twentieth century, and now fireplaces and doorways appear halfway up the walls, and archways lead into thin air.  The windows reveal the once magnificent interior, with perfectly framed views of the grounds outside.  We walk out into the warm sunshine, and stroll through the parkland, admiring the trees.

I am aware of how precious these moments are; with my mum and brother.  Each second we spend here, every damp footstep, is one that will not come again.  Maybe it’s my age, I’m getting to one of those birthdays, but I feel time more keenly than I used to, especially when I’m with my family.  I cannot bear to think that one day we will be separated forever.  That’s always been my gripe with God, if it exists; to give us time with those we love, and then take it away far more quickly than we had expected.

I have been thinking recently of how I can have a positive influence on the world.  I guess I want to help people to realise just how much they should value those simple moments of walking through a park, around a castle, by the sea, even going to the shops!  Those moments won’t come again, and they should be treasured, and documented, if possible, in words or images, or only in our minds.  To commit the sight of a tree, my mum and brother walking ahead of me as I’ve stopped to take a photo, and I can see them discussing something as I catch up to them; we stop to listen to a bird singing in the hedgerow, which we try to see, but it’s well hidden, deep within the branches.  So instead, we pause for a moment to listen to its song.  I breathe in the fresh smell of cut grass, the spring air that whispers of warmer days to come after the cold of winter, which my brother hates.  As we walk uphill to admire the landscape, I want to commit these moments to memory, to carry them home with me and recall them as I sip tea from the same cup my grandmother once did, while I sit in my flat, the late afternoon sun illuminating the walls of my home, and feel grateful to have this time.


Three generations in a cup


As I sip from the same cup that my grandmother once did, I sense something I cannot explain.  How this cup and saucer, simple in their design, can join three generations of women together.  I drink from it, as my mum has, and her mother before her; a biscuit on the side, a smile and sparkle in her eyes.  This cup and saucer is our tale.  They hold the stories, dreams and tears of our lives.  A constant among all the change.  Here before and after we have gone.


My grandmother’s tea set