Happy Feet!

Andrea here, musing on footwear. There is a specific reason—but there will be some meandering hither and yon before I reach my ultimate destination.

First, let’s take a stroll through a Regency drawing room . . . I’ve always thought that the era’s fashions are attractive. The gowns of  the ladies offered a stylish array of cuts, colors and fabrics. And the attire for gentlemen was equally elegant—breeches or tailored trousers, waistcoats, where color and texture could a pop of individuality, and a variety of styles for evening coats.

But I must say, the footwear strikes me as less than ideal. Fragile and delicate slippers for the ladies provided little support and cushioning for the ladies. Hessians or heeled pumps for gentlemen were both fashioned on a straight last, meaning that the wearer had to break them in to form the right and left foot. Ouch!

The working class of course needed practical study footwear for all manner of activities, so there was a wider variety. But still, the museum displays I’ve seen have me mentally limping.

When you think about it, comfortable—I mean, really comfortable—footwear is a rather recent development. All the high-tech fabrics, rubbers, gels and space-age cushioning, combined with CAD design and cutting edge engineering, have provided the ability to fashion shoes to fit most every imaginable activity.  (Well, maybe not every one. . . but close!

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Gone Fishing!

MeAndrea here, musing about family and some of the little memories that serve as touchstones from past to present, reminding us of fun moments that created connections and camaraderie.
This past weekend, my older brother and his son chartered a boat to go fishing out at the end of Long Island Sound, where it opens in the the Atlantic Ocean—a father-son experience that they have done over the years since my nephew was a little boy. (He is now all grown up!) The plan was for them to fish all day and then rendezvous with me and my my sister-in-law at my house for a fabulous fish dinner. (Yes, there was a Plan B! But it turned out it wasn’t necessary.)  And over the fruits of their labor we began trading fish stories that conjured up wonderful little vignettes of growing up . . .

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Reasons to Like January

JanuaryNicola here. Sometimes I’ve been inclined to think of January as a long, dark, cold month without a lot going for it, but I was talking to a friend the other day and she saw the month in quite a different light.  “I love January,” she said. “I don’t spend much money and I get myself organised for the months ahead.” So as we approach Twelfth Night and the end of the traditional Christmastide, I thought I would muse on all the reasons there are to like January.

According to my Chambers Book of Days, the gemstone for January is the garnet and the birth flower is either the Feb 11th 2012 (48) snowdrop or the carnation. At Ashdown Woods the first green shoots of the wild snowdrops are already pushing through the ground. By the end of the month they will be starting to flower. The snowdrop’s Latin name is Galanthus, from the Greek for “milk flower”. In French the snowdrop is known as the “perce-neige” because it pierces the snow, and the Germans call it Schneeglöckchen, little snowbell, which are all such pretty names suiting its delicate beauty. It’s real reminder of spring on the way.

RainbowThis brings me to the weather. You may know the saying: “There’s no bad weather only bad clothing choices.” In my part of Northern Hemisphere it’s a time for scarves, gloves and hats and also waterproof layers. The rain may feel cold and raw but it’s also refreshing. And I love the sound the wind makes blowing through the bare branches of the trees. Darkness still arrives during the afternoon but the light lasts a little longer each day. My morning and evening walks give stormy skies and great views of the weather blowing across the Vale of the White Horse.

An old Celtic name for January was “the dead month” whilst the Anglo Saxons called it “Wolfmonath” which does send a Stencil.facebook-cover (3) shiver down the spine. It’s easy to see how January got its bad reputation. But there is so much pleasure in returning from a cold walk to a hot cup of tea, sitting down with a book whilst darkness falls outside, and enjoying the sense of new beginnings whether they are eagerly-anticipated TV shows or films, or a new course to join or a new interest to pursue.

What do you like – or even love – about January?

Boxing Day

Anne here, and it's the 26th of December — St Stephen's Day, and traditionally the occasion in England where church alms boxes were opened and the contents distributed between the poor of the parish. It's the day when Good King Wenceslas gave the poor man meat, wine and wood — "on the feast of Stephen."


It's also called Boxing Day, and this term is still used today in the UK, Australia, Canada, NZ and other commonwealth countries. In Regency times, this was the day when the affluent folk presented servants and tenants and the local poor with "Christmas Boxes."

In practice this could range from money, leftover food from the Christmas feast, to discarded clothing, and all sorts. It's the origin of the Christmas bonus and the custom of leaving out out small gifts for those who deliver to our homes — the paperboy, the postman, the milkman etc. It was also a day when servants who'd been kept busy on Christmas Day could have a day off to celebrate Christmas with their own families. 

Fox-hunting-vintage-paintingBut for aristocrats, it was also a day for hunting, donning the "pink" coats and heading out in the crispy dawn to hunt down a hapless fox. (Yes, the coats are actually red, but those in the know refer to the colour as pink, I know not why.) These days fox hunting is banned in the UK, and "drag hunting" has replaced it, though illegal hunts still take place.

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Spring Flings!

Regency boating party

Butterflies 2Andrea here, and very happy that here where I live, I’m beginning to see signs of Spring finally starting to push aside the chill of Winter. Leaves are budding and flowers are starting to unfurl, adding tantalizing touches of color to the muted shades of the landscape. The air is warming, allowing hats, scarves and parkas to be hung in the storage . . .

February and March always feel endless here, and I am SO looking forward to spending more time outdoors—in shorts and T-shirts!—as the days grow delightfully longer. After all the isolation of the past year, the coming warm weather feels even sweeter as we (carefully) begin to tiptoe back to some semblance of normal activities.

So, in celebration of all fun seasonal activities ahead, I thought I’d compose a list—admittedly a silly one—of all the things I love about getting outside in warm weather . . . with a Regency twist!

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