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.

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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free and wild | peach + honey muffins

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Prune girl,

What do you think about when you lie on your back, all four paws in the air and teeth showing, like your pretty face is caught in a grin? You can switch from deep slumber to paws-up in a second. In that deepest, most peaceful sleep, do you drift through pale pink clouds and run through long grass, wet with dew, chasing endless rabbits, barrelling through small streams and forests filled with butterflies? Is baby sister Suzi by your side as you run, always fast, but never fast enough to catch the rabbit, so your dream can go on and on? Do you dream that there’s a farmhouse in a green valley, with stone walls the color of honeycomb and roses climbing on trellises; with warm wood floors and soft beds for you to sink into after your chases? What are you thinking about when you’re dozing in the garden with the gulls screeching above you as they come in from the sea? Can you smell the ocean salt mingling with the inland breezes, bringing in visions of ships and barges and adventure, as you lie on the patio and sniff the air? Or are you thinking of the pheasants, roaming the countryside, running through wheat fields and pastures dotted with cows, where farm dogs roam, free and wild? Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be them?

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And what goes on in that head of yours when you’re napping quietly on a blanket and Suzi clumsily lies down, right next to you, maybe touching you? You have a really beautiful head, Prune girl, maybe more greyhound-like than the chunky, soulful faces of your Labrador cousins. But you’re not particularly impressed by all that closeness, are you? You know baby sister means well, so you wait, maybe a minute, then you heave a tortured sigh and go sleep elsewhere, a couple of meters away. You seem to have learned that people, and Suzi, mean well when they come to fawn over you, and they should be tolerated, at least for some amount of time. It is just so hard to tell what you’re thinking. Sometimes you seem to be embraced by a silent gray cloud of melancholy, your big amber eyes seem to drift so far away. From living with you we know it’s too simple to say dogs can’t ponder the past. Do you think of the friends you grew up with, your mother, those you lost? Your pups that are all grown up now, or the tiny pup that didn’t make it; who you kept returning to your bed to look for, long after he had faded away. We know you worry, often too much.

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But we also know you can feel uninhibitedly happy. Is that how you feel when you gallop out of the wire gate in the morning when I hold it open before a walk? Are you thinking about the rabbits you’ll see as you drag one of your preferred humans through the tangled summer grass? And those small jumps you do, on the spot, when one of the preferred humans come home. It’s like your whole body is consumed by a bouncy spring. Your uncanny ability to sniff out all kinds of human foods, and to ignore anything remotely healthy. You know we’ll always give in; that we’ll take the mundane dog food out of your silver bowl, we’ll find a snack, you’ll grab it and run over to the rug in the living room, as sunshine streams through the windows and a sleepy Suzi naps. Because despite the fact you’ve been with us for almost all of your ten years, you will always know us far better than we’ll know you. You will always be a mystery, with your unreadable eyes the color of leaves after an Indian summer; your tentative cuddliness, and warm charcoal fur.

“the secrets inside her mind are like flowers in a garden at night time, filling the darkness with perfume”
- Fumiko Enchi

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Happy birthday to Prune angel. One of my many nicknames for her is Pruney muffin, so here are some muffins, almost as sweet as our girl. This is a very simple muffin formula that I think would work well with any stone fruits, or any fruit/berry in other seasons. I hope you try them.
If you scroll down to the end of this post, there are some sweet photos of Pruney recently, doing aaalll the Labrador things.
Love you ❤️

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peach + honey muffins

1/2c (60g) brown rice flour
1/2c (50g) oat flour
1/2c (50g) almond meal
2T flax meal*
1tsp baking powder
1/4tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
1/3c (80ml) honey
2 free range eggs
1/4c (60ml) olive oil
2/3c (160ml) milk of choice
1/2T apple cider vinegar
1tsp pure vanilla extract
1 heaped cup chopped peaches


Preheat the oven to 180’c, 350’f and line/oil a muffin tin.
Measure your milk of choice into a mug or measuring cup. Add the 1/2T apple cider vinegar, stir and set aside as you continue with the rest of the recipe. You can also use 2/3c buttermilk instead.
In a large bowl, stir together the flours, flax meal, baking powder/soda and salt. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs with the oil. Add honey, vanilla and the milk-vinegar mix.
Gently toss the sliced peaches in the dry ingredients, which should help stop the fruits from sinking. Then add the wet ingredients, gently stir together until the batter is smooth with only a few visible streaks of flour.
Spoon into the muffin tray. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted through the muff comes out clean. You can also make mini muffs, but they won’t need as long in the oven so keep an eye on them.
The muffins will keep well for around 4 days on the counter, but will freeze/defrost nicely.

*If you’re not looking to make these muffins gluten free, feel free to use 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (or spelt flour) instead, no need for the flax meal. These muffs aren’t super fussy, unlike Pruney princess in these photos below.


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hiatus | the heatwave

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It has been a long time since I wrote anything for this space. A hiatus of sorts, perhaps a symptom of a busy school year.

Over Christmas we inevitably travelled, to India. It started with the flight and the queues of Heathrow, the temporary disorientation, remembering whether or not we flew out of terminal four last time. You do it enough, it's all some sort of mechanical, learned haze. Being carried along in the crush, down the jet bridge, through frigid air heavy with the stink of kerosene. Like the air’s coldness somehow traps the fumes, holding onto them through to the cabin, where in the first few steps into the early aisles fuel mingles with coffee scents and artificial air pressure. Our flight turns and taxies, clumsy. Slick tarmac, onto the runway. The plane pauses, composes itself, the engines gun and the floor shakes and the flight rumbles over the concrete awkwardly, until the wheels retract, the ground falls away, the wing dips, the cabin hums. London fans out below winking and blinking lights, carved into bays and headlands by swathes of black.  Then there was the bombardment of color and chaos and life that hits you after a trip to India, that stays with you through the flight home, then is sucked out of you by London's damp, clammy night air. 

It was cold after Christmas. Just as people saw the first few gleams of spring, the buds and their hope were engulfed by some of the most intense snow the eastern UK has seen since Tupac was rapper of choice. Flurries started and didn’t stop, it was beautiful, hypnotic, coming down harder in sloppy white sheets like puppy kisses. There was too much snow on sidewalks, the dogs played in the garden, chasing icicles and snowballs that sank deep, leaving tracks and furrows while plumes of grey smoke from a dozen chimneys muddled with the heather sky. Geese flew overhead in formation, shadowy onyx against towering somber cloud; peppery and rippled. Hands were dry and fragile like old paper, the ground was undisturbed feathery white until it met fields where the earliest wheat was fighting through; there it looked chunky and porous, like paper towel. The wind murmured and caressed the ribs of haggard trees, blowing powdery snow onto the roadsides. They were littered with abandoned trucks and cars looking overly bright and metallic so the place felt more like midwinter Alaska than spring Norfolk. More brilliantly brutal than subtle and charming. 

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And then summer came, like a flash flood of dry heat, no warning, no expectations, the ground and the people unable to absorb it all. The atmosphere just decided that was it, enough of winter's indecisive drizzle and mild, pale yellow rays, the sun seemed to go from being the color of butter to somewhere closer to an Indian temple marigold. No spring. No buffer period, no hesitation. There was no way to miss it. Europe basked and burnt in a heatwave. The sky was so clear it was a storybook cliché, or a childhood drawing, like someone had said, kids, let's color the sky blue. It was more as if the world was upside down, like looking at the Mediterranean Sea, suspended above you. The dogs would run out of the shade to where the sun cast blocky shadows through the needles of pines, chase a squirrel, and come back with their own fur like charcoal; hot, black, and sandy. I would take my car out and send up a plume of umber dust, winter's puddles were bone dry and left everything coated in a fine layer of what looked like cinnamon. I'd follow that usual rural route framed by fields and in the rear view mirror driving downhill fast it left a distorted smudge of pale green, flax and straw behind me. From above the countryside probably looked khaki, as if it was washed in sepia with patches of dun and tan like fading army combat uniform. 

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There is football on TV, most of which is bad, and a new Drake album, most of which is great, and the sun sets late and barely sets at all. It takes a short dip over the inky horizon then floats back up, between the russet roofs of houses to the east of our own, casting long shadows and cool blue shade. In the shade you shiver, maybe watch the swirling dust, or crystalline drops of dew forming on cut grass. But there are these tepid mornings when you walk out and the earth just smells warm, of verdant leaves and heavy fruit trees and every bush bristling with life and flowers, and you should be somewhere further south. France or Italy, maybe, somewhere with stone farm houses the color of caramel and where the roads aren't full of harassed holiday makers in packed cars. But another week of high pressure has been forecast, so another week of sunshine spilling over the yellowing grass. The sun will rise amber and brush early cloud with peach, it will fade the roses on the trellis to watery claret. The clouds will be rare, light, with pretty latin names like altocumulus, cirrocumulus and altostratus, which meteorologists call the clouds of fair weatherWait, until around midday, when everyone is where they need to be and the roads are quiet, the sun is sharp and the heat uninhibited. To hear kites call as they cruise the thermals miles above us, perhaps a light rustle of grass in a sliver of breeze, and absolutely nothing else.

"this bud of love, by summer's ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when we next meet"           
- juliet to romeo (Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, what else?)

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** All these photos are from around Norfolk, taken over the past 3 summers. The cows were at the Norfolk Show a couple of years ago.