Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving
for my friends, the old and new.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Me, too!”

Edward and his very best friend, Apple, wish one and all the happiest of Thanksgivings.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


It is difficult if not impossible these days not to think about money. Everyone, everywhere seems to be catching the fading green virus that began here in the states and is now spreading ominously across the globe. Not only does it appear that our famed financial experts live in houses of straw, but one is uncertain if any houses made of brick actually exist. And the big bad wolf has entered the village determined to huff, and to puff, and to blow some things down.
While I am cognizant of the fact that the situation is serious and I certainly appreciate that money is a crucial commodity for us all, there seem to be pivotal issues in the air at the moment, more essential issues, and those have led me to contemplate the somewhat skewed and earthbound meanings that seem to have been bestowed on our twenty-first century ideas of worth, of value and of success. How do we define success? Do we feel someone is worth more, or is more successful, when their bank account is chubby? How exactly do we measure our own value as a lone individual wandering the world at present? What is our definition of greatness, for a country or for an individual?
As is my wont, whenever I am in a pondering mood, I turn to my books, for I know others before me have surely studied over the same questions as I at some point in their lives, and history is such a great teacher. It is often a comfort to read what greater minds than mine have had to say on whatever subject I am mulling over. At the start of this, our Thanksgiving holiday week, I found this particular passage from a speech given by Bobby Kennedy in 1968 especially meaningful. Perhaps you will also.

..the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Painting above: Earthbound by Evelyn de Morgan

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Surrounded by Old Trees

The leaves are letting go. Their grip, so tight-fisted in green, is looser now in scarlet and gold and has begun to give way completely. They are tumbling from their lofty perches, en masse. If only their voices were just a bit more audible, one could perhaps hear squeals of delight as they fearlessly slip from their branches and chase each other round the garden in jeweltoned, featherlight flocks. Continuing all the day long, all through the cold November night, seeming to multiply by the thousands each hour upon hour as if bubbling up from the cold ground itself or being thrown down by the fistfuls from the hand of a mischievous angel high up beyond the clouds; an angel amused by her overhead view of us pink-cheeked beings as we scurry and worry in our feeble attempts to contain this ever growing torrent of falling, flying colour. Until we, not as slow to learn as might be supposed, finally lay down our wooden rakes and march towards the waiting warmth of the fire, realizing at last that this uncontrollable, technicolour horde is perhaps meant as a gift best enjoyed, with hot chocolate in hand and dogs snuggled beside us, from a soft chair by the window.
Oh, let them fall.

Monday, November 17, 2008

We're Blushing!

What a treat to find The House Of Edward Shoppe featured today on the delightful blog of
Junk Style Diva! We are honored! Be sure and visit her to take a look and say hello. I have been up to my eyelashes in Christmas boxes for the past two weeks, as you can see above, and will be restocking my Etsy shop during the week. Polar Bears and Magical Stags, Enchanted Cottages, Vintage Santas, Antique Sleighs and Vintage Wise Men ....
Edward and I are having so much fun!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Chore Neglected

Sometimes one neglects a common, everyday activity and that simple neglect turns out to have a decided effect on the course of one’s morning. For me that morning belonged to this very day and the chore neglected was the making up of my bed. I left this particular duty until after breakfast during which I observed a slightly misty, rather scowly morning squatting like gloom itself outside my cottage window. A dull grey grumpy morning that seemed most determined to cast a dull grey grumpy light through each windowpane, washing dull grey grumpy shadows over every room. Just as I was beginning to wonder if my mood was going to succumb to the same fate as those shadows, I passed by the bedroom door and spied it. Sitting there serene and stately, fluffy, warm, and only slightly rumpled, with fat, fat pillows and feather down blankets. The Unmade Bed. I could almost hear it calling my name in downy whispers. I looked around. Only Edward returned my gaze, and I knew what he would advise without having to ask. I looked at the telephone. So easy, really, to remove the little cord that controls the sound. For just an hour. Perhaps two. Gently setting down my coffee, I padded down the hallway and silently slipped between the crisp linen sheets. The wind chimes sang soft lullabies and the rest of the world was quiet. Edward, sensing his fondest wishes answered, landed lightly at my feet, placed his big wise head atop my ankles and heaved a restful, happy sigh. I could barely hold my eyes open lying as I was in the arms of such white comfort. The sing song, sing song, of the wind chimes began to recede away and away as I wafted down a twilight corridor holding on to the gentle hand of repose. Somewhere a mauve door closed and I was asleep. And I regret nothing.

Painting above by Vittore Carpaccio

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

By Train

My father was a railroad man and I grew up traveling by train. The romance of this form of transportation was not lost on me. Even as a little girl, I knew the cavernous halls of the towering terminal station held special, unique wonders and I loved it all with such a passion. With ceilings so high they might as well have been sky itself... mesmerizing echoes of the varied voices of porters, travelers, ticket takers... mingling aromas of coffee, leather, diesel - the colours, the movement, the sounds, the smells- to me it was all a whirling blur of excitement and delight. How well I remember descending those crowded staircases that led down to the train platforms where deafening, almost frightening, noise met glorious anticipation in waiting for my train to arrive. And then... “Do you see it??" Around the curving track, here it came, thrillingly loud, colossal, slowly screaming to a halt at my feet. The fairy tale arrival of a magic carpet could not have been more wonderful. I remember the feel of the soft wool blankets the porter would tuck around my shoulders on cold days as well as my nervy apprehension when moving from one car to another as I made my way for hot chocolate in the dining carriage, with the raucous wind whipping round me and the inevitable childish worry....what if I fall???? Trains have the luxury of traveling through countryside unseen by roadways and winter trips were often spent with my nose pressed against cold window glass as I counted grey squirrel nests in tall, naked trees, while summer excursions gently swayed along through ever lengthening tunnels of green. Is it any wonder so many novels feature train travel? Is there any more evocative mode of transportation known to man?
Sadly, passenger trains have all but disappeared in this country. But happily, they still remain in force in the United Kingdom, where traveling by train is one of the joys of my visits there. The last long journey I made by train was a nighttime trip from Inverness to Edinburgh,
And oh, it did not disappoint.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Walking Through Autumn

Like most dogs of his furry lineage, Edward is utterly repelled by the thought of wet feet. On a soggy day, he is bound and determined to remain indoors and when forced into a necessary foray into the back garden he will high step comically along the stone pathway in an often futile attempt to remain dry-pawed. One can clearly see his mood begin to cloud when the skies do. But in all other weather, he adores nothing more than heading out with me for a long walk. In the hot summer, when the days become mossy and oppressive, those walks are frequently enjoyed late at night. After dark, when the swelter has abated a bit and the shrill crescendos of the cicadas can be heard sawing loudly through the pine trees, we become moving, moonlit shadows as we take our slower strolls through the waning heat. Our winter walks are often experienced at our fastest pace, as the cold is a friend to Edward, of course. When the temperature falls, his normally jaunty step is transformed to a run of pure joy, with some jumps and scampers thrown in for good measure, while I, bundled up like a toddler, try valiantly to hold up my end of the leash. But, autumn. Is there any season better suited to long walks with a furry dog than autumn? Overnight it seems, Mother Nature has lit her trees with fire, each one more magnificent than the last, like forest jewelry, more fine and precious than deserved. The air is cleaner, crisper; it enters the body like a cool honeyed tonic and we take great drinks of it as we meander along beneath a sky the very definition of blue. Having spent many a long day just this way as a little girl, nothing makes me feel happier, healthier, or more appreciative of life than walking briskly beside a beloved dog on a most salubrious day. And from the way Edward often looks up at me as we go along, smiling his big happy smile, he obviously feels the same.

From childhood, perhaps you remember this poem by
Winifred Welles :

Dogs and Weather

I’d like a different dog For every kind of weather -
A narrow greyhound for a fog,
A wolfhound strange and white,
With a tail like a silver feather
To run with in the night,
When snow is still, and winter stars are bright.

In the fall I’d like to see
In answer to my whistle,
A golden spaniel look at me.
But best of all for rain
A terrier, hairy as a thistle,
To trot with fine disdain

Beside me down the soaked, sweet-smelling lane.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Let Us Now Praise Witty Men

In this increasingly homogenized world of target audiences and common denominators, someone in possession of true individuality is a rare bird indeed. I was reminded of this fact one Thursday morning a couple of weeks ago when, over my coffee and strawberries, I opened my favorite section of the Times and spied a wonderful article on one of my decorating heroes, Keith Irvine. Now 80 years old, Mr. Irvine’s penchant for original thought and singular taste has not diminished one wee bit. If anything, as happily often occurs with age, it has only intensified, this being evidenced by his sharp pronouncements on topics ranging from the imperiousness of Sister Parish to the tentacles of Crate and Barrel. Mentored by the best, with talent to spare, the Scotsman Irvine combined what he learned with who he was and proceeded to concoct designs that were ever consistent in their beauty and their comfort; enchanting, inviting, and imminently livable rooms. In reading this entertaining interview with the man himself, and recalling all the pictures I had seen of his amazing work over the years, I recognized afresh an essential ingredient that is shared by all creations that I find most inspiring in the art of interior design, or in the art of life, for that matter. That most crucial element is Wit. For me, a room cannot sparkle without it. It is of no consequence the cost of the fabrics, the importance the paintings, or the provenance of the bibelots - when a room is devoid of wit it sits as lifeless and dull as a physician’s waiting room on a sunless day.

Many years ago, when I was just beginning to be fearless, I saw a magazine photo that effected me greatly. It was of a sitting room at Gipsy House, the home of the late author Roald Dahl.
Dahl had hung an immense and flamboyantly opulent mirror on the pale peach wall of the tiny room; a mirror which touched both ceiling and floor and straddled a ceiling beam to boot. Needless to say, it totally dominated the room, and I found it entrancing. With a beribboned bouquet of dried flowers tucked along one side and an emerald green tote bag hanging from the nose of a carved dolphin on the other, it was a wink to the seriousness that can sometimes exist in design. It was completely charming. It was witty.

While intelligence can be present without wit, and sadly often is, wit simply cannot breathe without intelligence. Wit springs from, and thrives on, intelligence. Think Austen or Rowling, Hepburn or Vreeland, Leonard Cohen or The Beatles. Think Keith Irvine. Intelligence plus wit so often equals magic. Perhaps that is why the most sought after dinner guests, the longest married couples, and yes, the most creative decorators seem to possess that bit of a sidelong glance at gravity, that crinkly sprinkle of amusement that just makes everything, in art and in life, better.
Keith Irvine has it, has always had it.
Long may he reign.

“No matter how much restriction civilization imposes on the individual, he nevertheless finds some way to circumvent it. Wit is the best safety valve modern man has evolved; the more civilization, the more repression, the more need there is for wit."”
Sigmund Freud

If you are unfamiliar with the work of Keith Irvine,
a wonderful book was published last year that I would recommend.
It is entitled Keith Irvine-A Life in Decoration, and was written by his wife, Chippy

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

by James Weldon Johnson

Monday, November 3, 2008

Song of Hope
A Poem by Thomas Hardy

O sweet To-morrow! -
After to-day
There will away
This sense of sorrow.
Then let us borrow
Hope, for a gleaming
Soon will be streaming,
Dimmed by no gray -
No gray!

While the winds wing us
Sighs from The Gone,
Nearer to dawn
Minute-beats bring us;
When there will sing us
Larks of a glory
Waiting our story
Further anon -

Doff the black token,
Don the red shoon,
Right and retune
Viol-strings broken;
Null the words spoken
In speeches of rueing,
The night cloud is hueing,
To-morrow shines soon -
Shines soon!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

And now, November

All down through literary time, poets have turned to the seasons of the year as the perfect metaphor for life. Who could blame them? With innocent lambs frolicking in new green meadows, what could Springtime be but a crystalline illustration of youth? The juicy ripe abundance that is Summer is such an obvious representation of mankind at the peak of his power, it seems almost prosaic to draw the parallel. And now, November...when the clocks are turned back and the days become shorter. If one follows the poet’s well-trod path, this is to be a month of gathering in, of reaping what has been sown, of thoughtful contemplation of what has gone before and preparation for the colder days to come. I have always considered November the more serious of all the months; when conclusions are drawn, decisions are made and, if one is fortunate, contentment settles round the bones like down. It seems much more temperate of spirit than May or September, certainly. It is fitting, therefore, that we as a country make a most momentous choice every four years in November. Fitting also, that at the end of this reflective month, we observe a day of Thanksgiving for the gift of the year past.

No matter what month we happen to be in as we move through our year, November is always there, on everyone’s calendar, with his hands folded under his chin, patiently awaiting our arrival. In all the days of all our months may we endeavor to sow kindness and compassion so that we may reap contentment, thoughtfulness and tolerance so that we may reap wisdom, and love so that we may reap more love.
And may this November be a thankful one indeed.
I for one am thankful for this amazing poem from my favorite poet,
Mary Oliver.

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Painting Above by Atkinson Grimshaw