19 May 2010

The English Country Weekend


If I could find one word that would illustrate my feelings towards English country life it would be comfort.

When I think of my life in the French country I think of the senses as best describing what it is that makes it so compelling; when I imagine a parallel life in the English country my thoughts run to charming houses, green fields, herbaceous borders and the utmost concentration on the home comforts. For I believe that the English are the masters of comfort. Not necessarily from a technological point of view because I think we all know the reputation of wiring and plumbing in the old country but from the point of view of feeling welcome, of being made to feel cosy and of having every comfort available at your disposal.


As much as my heart belongs to France and I can’t ever imagine that changing, England in the springtime is showing her best. What’s not to love? The hedgerows are green, green and the fields are vivid yellow with flowering rapeseed plants. The skies were baby blue all the way and in England that is never a given nor is it something to be taken for granted. We arrived as the sun was setting, the twilight softening the landscape and the birds were singing their evening farewells. A pair of unmarked gates lead us down a long winding driveway bordered on each side by tall swathes of Queen Anne’s Lace to reach our destination, the prettiest of Georgian houses.

These type of houses have a familiar feel to me, not because I have visited or stayed in many, but because they remind me of my childhood drawings – those ‘two storey-ed, even windows and central front door’ naive style pictures that I drew over and over. This house was just as it should be, as all those houses had been in my child’s imagination. The inside was just as enchanting as the outside… and that is when I started thinking about comfort. It is difficult to explain the notion of comfort when trying to tie the concept down to a certain lifestyle but I do believe the two go hand in hand. It was the little things that made me understand the importance of comfort to English country life. This home has all the ingredients and in particular the eat-in kitchen where we spent a large proportion of our weekend. The table was always laid with the prettiest tablecloths, china, glassware and vases of wildflowers from the garden. The armoire on one side of the kitchen was filled with rose patterned Weymss Ware. As a self confessed devotee to French ‘greige’ this shock of colour and pattern is unfamiliar but I came away thinking perhaps I am too plain. I soon remembered that this is the difference between the English and the French decorative style and why each has its place. The cold and often wet climate in England means that interior decor can provide the cheer needed to survive the long drab season. Colour and texture makes things cosy and cosy means comfort.


Comfort didn’t stop and start with the kitchen. It was the drawing room and a tray of drinks to satisfy any palette and it was the small table placed just so aside the squishy armchair to hold that drink. It was the padded ottoman to put the feet up or to throw the newspapers on and it was the crackling log fire that warmed our hands as we stood over the hearth. It was knowing that the house was full of personal treasures – this home has been lovingly created over time with thoughts of family and friends uppermost in their minds. It showed. And nor did comfort stop downstairs. It was the guest bedroom and the way the curtains were drawn and the bed turned down before we said goodnight. It was the latest books by our bedside in case we had forgotten our own. It was the small vases of flowers and the scented geraniums throughout our room and bathroom. It was the pretty soaps and bath gels, the linen hand towels and the large bath sheets. It was the feeling that it was my home for as long as I chose to stay.


I would have been happy to sit still all weekend and never move from this idyllic setting but that would not have in the spirit of a true English country weekend. There were plant and food markets to visit, an antique shop to discover, lunches to be lingered over and a long stroll along the beach. England and beaches are not something I normally associate together but this one – think back and recall the final scenes from the award winning film, ‘Shakespeare in Love’ – is as beautiful as any. Miles of rugged coastline, a fine sandy beach, the song of the seagulls, razor clam shells to collect and all the while walking under a cloud free sky.


I forgot to mention the cream tea…an English country weekend would not be an English country weekend without a cream tea…big fat scones, strawberry jam and thick clotted cream, all washed down with a good strong brew.



The English country weekend, I loved it, xv.

 

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61 Comments

Paul C

A wonderful comparison of the two cultures and settings. Your fondness for the English lifestyle also extends to the foods which on the surface seem richer than the Mediterranean?

Julienne

I have been dreaming of the minimalist white and natural colour scheme in our next home and then I read this and realised why our home looks like it does! We live in comfort and old family furniture and lots of colours and chintzes. Perhaps this is the feel I will keep! Maybe my English heritage is stronger than my French!!!!! Beautiful post.

Francine Gardner

So beautifully written. I studied in England for a while, in London and Oxford. Reading your post, brought me back to my younger days visiting the coutryside in Oxfordshire…so magnificent! I loved spending my free time visiting gardens, riding my bicycle along the country lanes, evening at a pub along the river, week ends in the isle of Wight with the most enchanting cottages.

rosanna

As much as I love Provence,and Luberon most of all,it's in England where I really feel at home out of home. Exactly for the same reasons you so niftly explain. The feeling of cosynesss and comfort that you get even in the humblest countryside inn is unparalleled all over Europe. I still have to test USA :o)Thank you for calling back fond memories. Rosanna

Kay

ditto to that! I wonder how many children drew and dreamed of the same picture (I know I did)!

All grown up though, it has turned into great weekend escapes that have me appreciating my city dwelling upon return, renewed, refreshed and ready…

Sounds as if you had a marvelous time!

Carole

So glad you had a lovely weekend. England does look particularly pretty at this time of the year.

Laura

Oh how I agree!! I love the English Country way of life and it is the way I choose to live and decorate my home. Thank you for the wonderful post and a wonderful day to you.

Jacqueline

As an Englishwoman, born and bred, and never to make my home anywhere else, I LOVED THIS POST. It is so lovely to hear you wax lyrical about the English countryside, Vicki. People always go on about the English weather but, it is never as bad as 'they' say. As you said, England in mid-May is just perfect. I will not begin to do a descriptive paragraph, as you have said everything, far more beautifully than I ever could.
Thanks Vicki, for giving a massive salute to it's beauty, it's history and to it's quaint little customs.
I love that you loved it ! XXXX

Rose

that sounds lovely- and you are right- we like to make people comfortable above all.

Glad you got to see the coast- the wilder bits are like no where else to me- that big angry sea holding back unwanted visitors for us- of course we tend to build gaudy fair grounds next to it sometimes rather diluting the majesty but what can you do.

mary

Sounds like a few days of heaven–with sun added as icing. Thanks so much for sharing–and giving me a few hints at what I need to focus on at home.

Ms. K @ Write On Thyme

Oh my Dear,
Such beautiful description! We spent 5 days driving through the Lake District a couple of years ago and loved every single second of it. You have refueled my urge to go back which tends to lie dormant but is now back with force. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience, description and delightful images. You style of writing is comforting in and of itself!
Bisous, Kirsten

Helen

I wonder how many of us are going to thing "England" for our next holiday? Your post is the perfect inspiration ……… creme teas ~ the best!

Laura [What I Like]

How funny…the english country homes I've stayed in have always been a bit on the ramshackle side with very quirky plumbing and the like. I tended to feel a little bit like I was roughing it, but now that you mention it there were always warm cups of tea, wellies to use by the door and a heartening assortment of cocktails. I was hardly roughing it!

Nutmegger Workshop

I work with Mary Rattcliff, an older British gal and I showed her this photo of this wonderful old home. She nearly started to cry as the image made her quite homesick. She is wondering where this might be. She offered up Surrey, or Sussex … what can I tell her?

Diane Dorrans Saeks

Vicki-

You totally got me at the 'strong brew' of tea.

Yes…nothing more beautiful than England in the spring. It is drenched with green, all the birds singing, everything coming alive, toads hopping across the lanes, the worms turning! You can feel nature taking on her summer beauty.
Loved your report–and the photo.
How divine. Thanks for this trip down memory lane (with hedgerows).

xx DIANE
http://www.thestylesaloniste.com

PK Studios

Hi Vicki, Your weekend sounds delicious! If I can't have sun, the English countryside would definitely do! But, Provence is in my blood too….even in the dead of winter. Spent a week in Forcalquier a few years ago…miss it! Thanks for stopping by my blog. LOOOVE yours. Cheers, PK

Roses, Lace and Brocante

Oh Vicky
You've jusst transported me back to beautiful England.
Last September we had 10 days there and stayed in a couple of similar houses. They were just as you describe. I agree the grey climate demands colour and beauty in interiors.

The english country house style is what I always aspired to and followed in my decoration – until my daughter moved to France!

Then a whole new door opened for me and the French style became mine.
I still have big soft squishy chesterfields and my beautiful english china handed down from my mother who haunted auction houses and house sales way back!!!

I'm probably more eclectic in my style now.

Love your writing Vicky – thank you!

sharon

How sweet of you Vicki to wax so lyrical over the British countryside when we know how much you love your life in France.
This love of comfort you describe runs thick in the English blood. We yearn to be cosy and long to make others feel at home with us.
Glad you enjoyed your weekend.
Sharon

Millie

Sounds idyllic Vicki! Loved your comment about drawing this type of house as a child. I was a huge Milly Molly Mandy devotee as a 6 year old, & so my childhood house scribblings always resembled MMM's English thatched roof cottage complete with geraniums in the window boxes So un-Australian, but it was my dream house. You sound very rested & relaxed, this lovely house in the English countryside has weaved it's magic.
Millie ^_^

Susie

Vicki – so glad you enjoyed such a lovely weekend in England…I have been getting regular reports of beautiful days and the state of the garden from my 'lovely aussie bloke' whilst I am languishing in Sydney for a while…I'm looking forward to getting back next week but fear I have missed the best of Spring…loved reading this and enjoying your experience! P.s. I was at my Sydney G.P earlier this week and sitting in the waiting room – I picked up a magazine, opened it at random and there was……you and your lovely French garden!!! Best wishes x

Shell Sherree

Thank you, Vicki ~ with your vivid imagery and storytelling, I feel like I've been staying with you at that beautiful Georgian country home. And now I really, really feel like some hot plump scones with jam and double cream!

Shaz

Hi Vicki, I swear I lived in England in a previous life. You have taken me back so vividly. Wish it was as easy for us here in Melbourne to just pop on over to London for the weekend. Thanks so much for visiting – I feel like you are an old friend. Sx

Virginia

Oh Vicki,
You make everywhere sound so delightful. Thank you for your wonderful photos and taking us with you wherever you go.
V

Josephine Tale Peddler

As an old Anglophile, I loved this post. It sounded like the perfect weekend and very Gosford Park! How I love the English and England! And they do cozy so well, I had never thought of it as relating to the weather before but I think you are spot on. Vicki. xx

24 Corners

Your post will have us all speaking with lovely English accents, baking scones and sipping tea in the garden…pure heaven!

Debs

Reading your post has created an urge in me to kick off my shoes, curl up in front of the heater and dive into a good book. And seeing as everyone else in the house is asleep I will do just that.

Jenny

what a wonderful you must have had! I love the English country side.. twas where I was born so it will always hold such a precious place in my heart!
Jen xo
[ps – not sure if you got my other message Vicki, you won my giveaway!, can you pop past my blog when you have time ;)! ]

FrenchBlue

Your words are comfort food for my soul Vicki~ What a peaceful place on earth to be. Thank you for sharing it so beautifully.
XO

Zita - Mlle Magpie

Sounds absolutely delightful, Vicki. My husband is in England on a business trip right now, staying mostly in Cambridge as his home base – he loves it there.

A Thousand Clapping Hands

The most perfect setting. I can see a carriage rolling to a stop in front of the door of that exquisite house. It would be a dream to be welcomed there.
Catherine

Mara

Your week end sounds amazing! I love English countryside and when I was living in Devon I've had the most delicious cream teas ever!
Hugs!
Mara

My Grama's Soul

Hello…..this is the first time you have visited me and I'm thrilled. I, too, posted about a simpler time today while we are in Texas it is bring back many childhood memories.

P.S. By the way, I have your book, and I have to tell you it is one of the most beautifully "done" books I have come across in a long time. Everything was superb!!

Blessings,

Jo

VictoriaArt

You discribed the perfect English getaway! I dream of such small breaks, but alas I have to wait until we go again….There is nothing better then childhood imagination come to life. I love this! You wrote so vividely about it all!
Seeing this house above, I imagined John Keats walking out, some lines of his poems just jotted down…

SPLENDEROSA

So, it's true…we all drew the same house as young girls. I adore the British people I know, they are so wonderfully humorous and loving. And, the huge flower-printed fabrics and nasturtiums everywhere. I read every word thinking I was right there with you. xx's

nancye.visser

I have so enjoyed your books and now very excited to find your blog . Now reading all your past experiences and your wonderful description of all things beautiful. After reading your comparison English or French,I can feel the comfort of England,is it a more relaxed comfort to France?

Sarah

Wishing New Zealand wasn't so far away! Feeling awfully homesick for bluebell forests right now! I loved reading your post and the way you sum up the comfort of the English countryside; what a lovely observation. I shall drift off to sleep, wrapped in thermals against the southerly bringing in the New Zealand winter, and dream of England's green pastures in Spring. x

JenR

There are a lot of things that the English do so well. We have lots of people to stay in our old bluestone house in Victoria's western district and bearing in mind the old saying that your guests are always cold and hungry we keep the fires going and the food and wine flowing. My favourite thing though is selecting the most appropriate magazines and books that I put in the bedrooms for guests to read as the best thing about staying in the country is reading mags in a squashy bed with beautiful linen and having a cup of tea!

cynthia

Your description of the English countryside makes me feel as if I am there, as well. I have traveled through Europe but never to England which is surprising considering that I love all things English – a true Anglophile. I want to see the English countryside more than anything in the world – for now I will have to settle for your lovely descriptions. Thank you so much for sharing. I love your blog. Cynthia

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