stolen time | around Warwickshire pt.1 (towns)

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Coventry. Not a place I know so much about, and after a few weeks of being there, I still don't. There are the damp grey pavements, paced so heavily like the sidewalks of every city. The accents you hear, in the mornings, Caribbean, Indian, really local. Puddles displaced by buses and taxis. Police sirens through the night, breeze and phone calls through the day. It's not enough for photos, not enough for more thoughts. In the spare days I had, the stolen time, I left Coventry behind. My car’s rear view mirror traded interchanges and traffic for lolling valleys and forested hill roads. A green and rich countryside, the ups and downs the product of time, and the rain that falls here so frequently. Things are old here, in the heart of this island. Iron railings and crumbling brick, fading summer flowers, villages tucked into the winding roads. Poetry. This is the birth place of Shakespeare, perhaps the timbered buildings that line sloping, narrow streets where wildflowers bloom in sidewalk cracks became his muse. Here the River Avon takes a languid path, gurgling under Roman bridges that interrupt the cobbles and countryside. A certain kind of romance, in the fog and feathery sunshine of October mornings, the old timers strolling to village newsagents with deerstalker caps and ageing Pointers.

There are the villages that have grown in the valley dips, criss crossed by railways that were all glory and diesel fumes in the industrial revolution. It is coal country, and the towns north of Coventry wear their dusty pasts on their sleeves. It’s all embers and ashes now. The rail lines are deserted and overgrown with brambles, the mines are mossy hills. It's as if at some point residents just abandoned upkeep and turned roads and rails over to nature's grip. There's a story here, just not one that I know. But it’s easy enough to write your own, here in dreamer’s country, where whispers from the past tumble through the hills with each biting gust of autumn wind.

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I find myself lost and wandering through a mysterious air of general dilapidation, watery spiders' webs dripping with mist on windowpanes; the original window glass never replaced. It's so thin that I can hear straight into the living rooms of those rows of cottages fronting the rail tracks. A dog barks, a baby cries, a kettle rattles, tinny and distant. I feel like I have stumbled into a still-life of heartland England, struggling valiantly to keep with the speed the world seems to move forward. The wind eats into the collar of my coat as it echoes and swirls around, trapped in the valley lowlands. Trapping secrets and stories. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a group of semi-wild horses gallop out onto the marshland, their heavy hoof-falls resonating over fragile ground; manes pressed to their necks from morning drizzle. So much I’ll never really know, in the damp winding roads and rivers and fading towns. But I go back to Coventry, to sirens and traffic and hustle, leaving so much untold.

Romeo: I dream'd a dream to-night
Mercutio: And so did I.
Romeo: Well, what was yours?
Mercutio: That dreamers often lie.

Act I, Scene IV, Romeo & Juliet / Shakespeare

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Places of interest

Southam
Stratford Upon Avon (Shakespeare’s home)
Alvecote
Polesworth
Charlecote
Tamworth

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flora | Bergen, North holland

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My trip to the north of Holland was enveloped in a weekend heatwave, somewhere in the deepest summer, a tangle of clear skied days fading to warm nights that sheltered the symphonies of cicadas. Holland is by no means a big country which is perhaps why each area has seemed to cultivate its own identity. To Bergen. It surprised me as a place that revealed different parts of itself slowly, in the seasons, the shadow and the silence. My visits to the town in winter were punctuated with a sort of nostalgia for the Alps, with the timber-clad houses glowing amber from lamps and thin, frigid air soaked with the smell of wood fires. Cars clattered over the cobbles and silence swept through the wooden eaves. It was richly quiet, perhaps a faded white rose, lavender after spring rains. But in that deep summer it was different. More like trees dripping with lilac jacaranda; or vines of red roses draping a trellis. There was more life, perhaps too much at times. The town of Bergen itself is treated as a stop-off to the northern coast, and the Dutch seem to seek out water almost as much as it threatens to overwhelm them.

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The windows of the houses with their wooden facades were thrown open and swimsuits dried on balcony railings. There was that noticeably marine atmosphere of real beach towns; not where sand is washed by warm seas and tourist sprawl lines the seafront, but of those temperate beaches bordered by dunes under milky skies. Small children on bikes wore caps and brought along their buckets and spades; their mothers’ sundresses streamed behind them, colorful as their bicycles. There were the men on their Vespas in bermuda shorts and hawaiian shirts, little dogs rode in bike baskets. This was the surface, what you may expect of a Dutch seaside town.

But there were surprises too. A green woodland, almost overburdened with pine; mottled summer sunlight dancing over the ferns. Flowers, in a clearing. From the heat and sun their luxurious red was watered down; like the bottom of a drink at a beach resort, its color diluted by melting ice. The patches of wildflowers, a muddled harmony of poppies and their late summer counterparts. Wild marigolds, foxgloves, cornflowers, daisies, the green stems and leaves slowly fading. There were petals on the sidewalk, and flowers growing wild over walls, that nobody really seemed to notice. The call of the sea was too strong, the ocean of flora in the last throes of its summer glory was all but invisible.

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The sun set late, the aura of a latitude further north. The roads grew quieter. The sunburnt children had come home, bikes over cobbles. The air was still, chickens cooed in a garden nearby, hidden from view by a wall of vines weeping white flowers onto the lawn. The downpour would arrive soon, Bergen’s narrow roads would glisten with pooled rain and the nights would draw in more quickly, draping darkness over the pointed roofs and timber. There would be a reminder of the warm days, in the petals of those flowers, either dripping water, or fallen and dusting the street with summer.

“I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one” - Edna St. Vincent Millay

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*all photos were taken with my iPhone so they’re not perfect, but beauty of the flowers kind of speaks for itself.

dog songs | seeded mini muffins

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It's usually when I'm on holiday that I try to read more, not just novels, but also poems. They are somehow less self conscious than books; often more difficult to unravel, but more honest. On some previous blog posts I shared quotes by poet Mary Oliver. I think that I, like many people, loved the way she could make emotion and nature somehow intertwine. I saw quite a lot of her poems were inspired by her dogs, one called Percy, or walks she'd taken with her pups. She even wrote a whole compilation of poetry, Dog Songs, that reflects on the love of a dog and their human. I have often written about my own pups, but not dogs as dogs. What having a little furry thing with a leathery nose and big beating heart means. It was global dog day a while ago (August 26th) so I was thinking about pets as a whole. They can teach you so much. About the giving and receiving of love, about loss, about humor, about snuggles. They can teach you that it's not always about the bigger picture, but sometimes the minutiae are worth your time. I could write more about this, but I found a poem Mary Oliver had written about her relationship with Percy that kind of encapsulates loving a dog and learning from one.

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There is always a bittersweet edge that comes with owning a dog, like a low mist rolling off the sea, sinking into valleys in the countryside where it can linger for days. Dogs’ lives seem so short, beauty like a sunset, snowfall, city lights from airplane windows. But. They just bring so much. They make our lives so full. They transform the way you think and the way you act and any kindness of humans pales in comparison to the tireless kindness of dogs. All the worrying you do and the rushing to get home to them and the cleaning dog hair and muddy paws is really nothing, compared to what they give us.
Mary Oliver's poem is called, quite perfectly, The Sweetness of Dogs.

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“What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise. Full tonight.
So we go, and the moon rises, 
so beautiful it makes me shudder, 
makes me think about time and space, 
makes me take measure of myself: 
one iota pondering heaven. 

Thus we sit, I thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s perfect beauty and also, oh!
How rich it is to love the world. 
Percy, meanwhile, leans against me and gazes up into my face. 
As though I were his perfect moon.”

Mary Oliver, Swan

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seeded mini muffins

makes around 24 mini muffs, 12 regular

1 1/4c (125g) oat flour
1c brown rice flour (120g)
1/4c (108g) flax meal
1/4c (35g) sunflower seeds
1/4c mixed small seeds (60ml by volume - chia, flax, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds etc)
1tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp nutmeg
1c (250ml) plain yogurt
2 free range eggs
1/4c (60ml) olive oil
1/2c (125ml) honey or maple syrup
1tsp pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 180’c, 350’f. Prepare a mini muffin pan, or a regular pan, whichever you have.
Stir together the dry ingredients, including the seeds.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, yogurt, vanilla and maple/honey. 
Stir the wet mix into the dry mix and spoon into muffin tins.
If making mini muffs, bake for 15-18 minutes. For regular muffins they will probably need 5-10 minutes more. 

The muffins will keep well in the fridge for around five days and you can also freeze them.

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💗some other sweet muffins 💗

into the summer (the heatwave) | zeeland, south holland

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“August of another summer, and once again I am drinking the sun”
- Mary Oliver, Felicity

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  1. wheat fields near Sirjansland

  2. early morning over the Grevelingenmeer lake, Bruinisse

  3. on the road between Sirjansland and Dreischoor

  4. the road to Nieuwerkerk

  5. Suzi enjoys the garden, Bruinisse

  6. another morning light show over the Grevelingenmeer

  7. roadside stops and big skies near Beldert

  8. fresh cut grass on a dyke bordering the lake in Bruinisse

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