An English Summer

'English Summer' sounds so much more promising than 'British Summer', I think. British summers are all too concerned with rain at Wimbledon, rain on your seaside holiday, rain at every wedding you're invited to (invariably held outdoors). It's a bit of a washout.

An English summer, I've come to believe, is something much more rare, but much more promising. It is cream teas and summer puddings and queuing, and being polite to the people you meet on overcrowded beaches on the scorching south coast. Oh, and it is holidaying in Cornwall, which is what I found myself doing for two days last week, in Polruan village, on the end of its own personal peninsula.

Cornwall's Mediterranean


The most English of Cakes

There is something about Cornwall holidaying that is very 'make do and mend'. In Cornwall, holidaymakers wear cagoules and walking boots, pay over the odds and take their dogs along with them. There is nothing stylish or glamerous about a Cornwall holiday, but something nostalgic and stoic and traditional instead. People go back to the same place time after time, for no other reason than that that is where they've always gone, and they know who will be there.

I found Polruan and Fowey, further east along the coast, and probably easier to get to for the gasping city populace desperate for some free air, quite different a place to St Ives, which I visited last summer. There was something more sophisticate about St Ives that Polruan and Fowey just don't have: it has a more high-brow history I suppose, that clear bright light, and the Tate Britain there does add some level of gravitas to a certain corner of it. It's interesting that places along the very same coastline can be so very different in their characters.


Sightseeing #1

As I'm sure everybody knows, when a computer dies, it is a bit of a disaster. My laptop took a bit of a dive this week, selfishly taking with it all of my pictures and two posts in progress. But, every cloud has a silver lining, and as I've been miserably clicking through the internet on Benjamin's work computer over the last few days, I've come across some really cheering posts and bits and pieces that I'd like to share here.


1. Kinfolk Magazine, Issue #1
I'm so delighted that I came across this beautiful e-zine (via Miss Moss on twitter) - I've heard a lot of negative things about e-zines in the past, but I'm fairly certain that Kinfolk skilfully avoids most of the common pitfalls. I'm not even halfway through it yet, but I'm hooked already. The magazine's ethos is that it is:

'a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings... [kinsfolk is] consistent with the way we feel entertaining should be: simple uncomplicated and less contrived.'

As a long-term enemy of the contrived, and yet still loving little candle-lit dinner parties as I do, I feel quite sure that this is the perfect e-zine for me. So far there have been articles on the artistry of a London cafe, an attempt to appreciate quiet solitude by a man who can't sit still, and two friends' ritual of catching up over a weekly meal. It's understated and calm, and so nicely designed.

2. Love/Neon: Miss Moss/Fieldguided/Wear Colour
Lately, in the midst of the greyest summer I have ever had the misfortune to be involved in, a little bit of neon wouldn't go amiss. Anabela of Fieldguided started my neon curiosity last week with a reminder of the pop of a neon Swatch watch, while Diana's neon colour comparisons, compared to the brightest of paintings by Yago Hortal, properly brightened things up. I don't expect I'll be revisiting my 1990s wardrobe in any great detail, but, with the help of Mallory of Where the Lovely Things Are's 'Wear Colour' tumblr, perhaps I can begin to appreciate the benefits of a bit of bright.

3. Not So Good Times: Where the Lovely Things Are
I really liked this refreshingly unusual post of images of the beautiful melancholic. Melancholy is not something I see on blogs very often, so, conversely, I found this post quite cheering, in a way.

4. The Morning News: Here is Everything I Learned in New York City
Even if you have never been to New York City and have no plans ever to go, you should read this article. Advice such as why it is important to order what you really want in a sandwich shop, instead of what you think people think you should be ordering, is advice I will certainly be taking, given that I am constantly worrying about what my sandwich-order/sentence/email/dress say about me (answer: nothing of any import). If you're pushed for time, the first half is the best half.


A short while in... Glasgow

My long while away from the internet over the last two weeks involved a short while (in the form of a stop-off on the way to Islay, the island I grew up on) in Glasgow, a favourite city of mine.


I complain about Bristol, the city I live in, a lot. So much so in fact that Benjamin is always prepared for the donning of what he refers to as my 'tartan-tinted spectacles' whenever we go to Glasgow. I can go on for hours about how much better it is, how much more is going on, and how much happier I feel when I'm there. It may just be that everyone in restaurants, cafes and buses can understand my accent, but there really is something about Glasgow. It is sometimes said to be the friendliest city in Britain, after all.

I find it to be a city you have to learn the ways of before you can really start appreciating it. There are unwritten rules: Always say thank you to your bus driver, always be prepared for a stranger to start a conversation with you (it's like New York in this respect (and only this respect)), and remember that the best places to go are often hidden away but are always full of people satisfied in the camaraderie of having found them too (Byres Road's back alleys are a good place to start). There are places that you learn to avoid of course, as you would with any other city, but the good places are so good that they don't get boring even after you've visited them a thousand times.

Such a place is the Botanic Gardens, plonked peacefully at the end of the busy bottleneck of Byres Road, with its vintage shops and retro cafes. I'd been there a few years back and was fairly sure that it was free to get into. Unusually for any British public attraction this century, it still is.

Fish Pond
Botanic Gardens' tropical plants


The Victorian Kibble Palace was originally built in 1873 and is one of the last remaining of these beautiful iron and glass structures. Its two open spaces are filled with tropical plants, statues, delicate ironwork and towering banana plants. In the summer you can escape the rain and listen to it pelting on the glass roof, but the palace is at its best in the winter, when you can buy a takeaway coffee on Byres Road, walk to the palace and step out of the snow and into the tropics – as a girl who used to read books in her mother's greenhouse at the height of summer, I love it.

Mothers wheel their babies in buggies, students pore over books while sipping lattes, couples cuddle on benches, looking to the sky, while others quietly argue - the atmosphere is like a library in the jungle, if that is imaginable at all. If not, I would say you should just go and visit for yourself.