March 26, 2012

Cambridge, rubies and flowers

We are in the middle of a Spring heatwave, a whole week of periwinkle blue skies and peachy breezes. It is blissful, and I am finding it hard to concentrate on anything but being outside.

But it has been a busy few days in some ways.

Last thursday I found myself to be on a train, on the short journey to Cambridge to meet a fairtrade ruby dealer. As you do. If you had told me 7 or 8 years ago when I was was still up to my armpits in nappies and calpol, that was to be the case, I would have definitely laughed out loud and quite possibly taken a swig of calpol for good measure! The dealer was a really nice chap with an incredible story to tell of establishing a fair trade mine in Tanzania. The rubies were gorgeous, the tanzanites so blooooo, but it was a few little teal grey spinels that grabbed me most. They came home with me.

And, another thing, I do really love Cambridge. My dad went to Magdalene College (which is so exquisite I feel a little wobbley whenever I see it, with the amazing Pepys library full of beautiful, beautiful books and manuscripts), but it isn't just his rose-tinted specs that influence me. It is just so choc full of stunning buildings.

St Johns, pictured above was founded in 1511 by the mother of Henry V11. So. A youngster compared to some of the oldests colleges  - St Peter's is the oldest, founded in 1284.

This amazing round church was built in the 1130s and was originally a wayfarers' chapel on the old roman road. It is still in use today as Christian history centre.

Everywhere there are beautiful things to gaze at, wonderful independent bookshops, boutiques and cafes - with the river meandering through, punts and all....sigh. The only downside? It can be pretty crowded and congested, how rude of people to love it as much as me!!

Students biking to lectures fill the roads and on every railing it seems, notices for concerts, plays, public lectures and art events.

It makes me wish I had worked a little harder in my lower sixth, I was far to busy falling in love to work much for most of it, - what a place to be a student! Although looking up at all those learned men carved into the stone of the city, I wonder whether the pressures and the brilliance at every turn would have intimidated me if I had managed to scrape in?

It is strange (and I guess fundamentally useless!), to wonder what life would have been like in different circumstances, do you ever do that? I do it with no longing or regret just curiosity sometimes.

Anyway it was all looking impossibly beautiful on thursday, and I visited a few stockists with Wild Acre jewellery in mind, a little nosey around, my head full of plans and hopes!

This weekend the sun shone without a break and we had our first lunch outside. I love this moment in the year, and everywhere I look, green shoots are heading upwards. I direct sowed a few packets of hardy annual seeds for flowery loveliness in the summer, but the rest I keep til well into April when frosts are less common and they have a chance to lap up increasing amounts of daylight. Really just a quick flounce about with a rake, a sprinkle of water, and a scattering of seeds, pushed in a little bit so they don't get blown away or eaten by birds. Not exactly an arduous task to ensure armfuls of gorgeous flowers in a few months time. I am a truly lazy gardener, and this is maximum result for minimum time, money and effort, and I am totally converted to filling gaps with annual flowers - I love the meadowy types like ammi and orlaya (both cowparsley-esque), calendula, annual scabious, cosmos (frost tender so not planted yet), nigella and euphobia oblongata and bupleurum for foliage. Simples.

There isn't yet much colour in the garden - the woodland is seeing most of the action, little patches of creamy woodland anemones (hoping to pinch some more from the thousands in my in-laws' garden!;) ), the last of the hellebores, a few muscari and narcissi and masses of bluebells poking their green tips through the earth. Just enough for a few little posies around the house and some pussy willow to herald spring.

Jane, my lovely flower friend the other side of the pond, hosts a monthly flowers-in-the-house fest, pop over and say hi!


  1. All your beautiful photos have knocked me sideways;-)

    And your little vases are delicious and look perfectly springy and hopeful.

    Enjoy every warm moment.

    xo Jane

  2. Lovely stuff... and these skies... just going to try and blog post the Blue skies of SW London. Hopefully later you can see a little bit of my local patch. Have a great week. x

  3. a tour and flowers! what a bargain! lovely, lovely...all of it!

  4. My husband went to Cambridge and I love it too, and Oxford of course! I always feel a bit surprised when I go to either and find it full of people because somehow I think it should just be mine, which of course it isn't. Love your blue and yellow vases. They are definitely confirming me in my sense that for next year I need scillas, or maybe chionodoxa!

  5. Belinda - swoon swoon swoon. Your photography is fab. Loving the tour - you took me away from the kitchen to a lovely place! Now off to travel to other far away places to check out some stems. I do love Jane's flower party every month! Half expected to see Harry, Ron and Hermione peeping out through one of the windows!! Sinead x

  6. Lovely photo tour. I really love the tiny vases of flowers, so very sweet. Just says spring time. Denise

  7. Cambridge rivers are worth exploring too, punting is
    soooo romantic but don't forget to pack a picnic!
    Lovin the photography

  8. Belinda! those little posies are adorable!!!`

  9. Meeting a ruby dealer in Cambridge sounds coded somehow - very exotic! I do so agree with you about the beauty of Cambridge. I don't know it well, having been an Oxford dweller for very many years, but spent a few days there the year before last and was just swept away by its beauty.

  10. Photo fest today. Gorgeous. I take Cambridge for granted. The centre is a 5 minute bike ride away. I am in town at least once a week but I never really look at it or take the time to see the beauty in the city any more. New Year's Resolution (bit late)- go into town just to look at the buildings once a month.
    Thank you for reminding me, Ax

  11. I've just come back from a weekend in Cambridge - I love the place :)My little brother is very lucky as he lives there.

    Love your photos :)

  12. They look truly lovely - I'm so excited to see what you do with your new jewels!!

    By the way, today I reviewed Flowers At Home by Paula Pryke. YOu obviously don't need any kind of help in that area - just look at your incredible arrangements - but thought you might like a glimpse!


  13. My Dad fell into the river Cam a few years ago whilst punting! He can't swim. Two of my cousins dived in to help him and just as they did, he realised the river was quite shallow and stood up. He had to walk back through Cambridge, squelching and without his glasses, which had sunk to the bottom, followed by nieces Kirsty and Fiona. Fortunately, my parents were staying with their very good friends and their home was very close by but my cousins had only come to meet up with them for the day and had a very soggy journey home. I roared with laughter when he regaled the tale to me. Kx

  14. I thought meeting the ruby dealer sounded a bit illegal somehow! But, I love Cambridge - my very first trip to "that" one.

    Love the pussy willow. Didn't see any here this year. It seems odd to be so far ahead of you, but then you had the winter from ... Antarctica, and our was hot. So weird.

  15. Just want to make clear the stone dealer is totally legit and supplies stones to some of the tip top jewellers. The website for the company is called and what they do is fantastic - creating a 'clean' mine where the workers rights and health are respected and protected and a percentage of the profits are given to the local community for beneficial projects like repairing the local orphanage roof etc. I am v proud to get my cut stones from them. Nothing shady - the opposite infact! Bx

  16. Beautiful photos of Cambridge. My father was born and raised there and I miss it. Even though I spend half my time in England I never seem to get out of Oxfordshire! So much more is blooming there at the moment than here in Vancouver BC. I think you’re a good two weeks ahead of us. Have you had lovely weather in C? It’s been beautiful in Ox last week. Love the little vases!

  17. So enjoy your blog. Still link back to your cut flower recommendation posts for inspiration.

  18. What lovely photos to begin my day! I am awe struck. The bottle vases are a burst of color and delightful. The pussy willows are my favorite... so sweet and simple. Thank you for sharing...Susan

  19. Cambridge looking its absolute best in the sunshine. I used to work in the city - happy days - rainy lunchtimes spent in the Fitzwilliam and sunny days ambling by the river or sitting on the wall round Kings College eating my lunch. Bliss!


  20. Such beautiful photo's of Cambridge Belinda. They make me look forward to my England trips this year!

    Love the spring flowers on your windowsill. So sweet!

    Happy evening,

    Madelief x

  21. What a delightful way to display spring flowers. And I enjoyed your outing to Cambridge. I was there this time last year - underneath an umbrella. (It was still beautiful!)

  22. Thanks for that beautiful tour of Cambridge- such old buildings must have a unique presence!