Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What is Luxury?

What is Luxury?
For By Invitation Only

“Luxury:   free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures
 in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well-being”

There is a country house in the Lake District of England, sitting high on a sheep-speckled hill overlooking the still, reflective waters of Lake Windermere.  In the tip-top tower of this house is a room with a window that opens out to welcome in the perfume of late summer roses and freshly mown hay, where the only sounds one hears is the wind swishing through emerald cedars and the tintinnabula of cow bells as their wearers make their way home at vespers.  I have slept in that room, in a bed so high, so deep, that I felt like a princess of Oz….

In the furthermost islands of Scotland, closer in distance to Norway than Britain, there is a yarn shop several streets from the sea where every colour in the palette lines the walls in a rainbow of wool.  The mind simply boggles at the possibilities of pattern and design within these walls.  I have gathered up armload of skeins here in much the same way a child gathers up candy in a candy shop and flown home to await the arrival of my choices … so many skeins they had to be shipped over….  

On a tiny side street in the heart of Chelsea there is a bookshop where the books are piled in stacks of unrelated subject and name, one up next to another as though gathering together for conversation the way strangers sometimes do whilst waiting for something to happen.  In this shop I have occasionally seen one special book, as one always does in bookshops such as this, shining as though singularly lit to catch my attention alone.  And I have stood on a stool and stretched out to retrieve it,  slightly dizzy at the good fortune of my find, and held it close like the treasure it is as I’ve made my way down the stairs to secure my purchase…..

Like Mrs. Dalloway on the morning of her famous party, I have entered dimly lit flower shops to the magical sound of a tinkling bells, waiting for my eyes to adjust in the close, humid air before being knocked off kilter by the unseen hand of beauty as the colours of a thousand flowers coalesced into one glorious tapestry right before my eyes.  I have wandered home in absolute bliss, carrying as many bouquets as I could hold…..

Without doubt, these experiences have represented luxury to me though I can think of no other word quite as subjective as that one.  Luxury.  What is truly luxurious to me might well be considered a trivial squander to you.  For instance, I have ridden in a limousine twice in my life and have felt like a complete, conspicuous nincompoop both times, though I can name people for whom that form of conveyance would seem the height of luxury.  When traveling, I can be, and often am, perfectly content with yogurt, fruit and biscuits for dinner, something that would horrify those gourmands of my acquaintance.  One man’s luxury is so often another’s trifle.

  One’s idea of luxury changes over time as well.  For instance, I am increasingly reluctant to spend my money on expensive frocks but, as illustrated in the paragraphs above, I am most liberal when it comes to books, yarn, flowers and travel.  No doubt I would spend my last dollar on flowers.  

Truth is, to me there is nothing as luxurious as a sparkling clean house, redolent of baking bread and gardenias, where soft music plays and furry dogs nap, where teetering stacks of books and a half-finished cashmere sweater await my attention as I sit at my table planning my next journey to Scotland.   After all, as I explained in my last post, my tastes do run along the same lines as the home-loving characters in Wind in the Willows. 

 I would so love to hear what you consider to be a luxury worthy of indulgence.
An Hermes bag?  Or a new pair of Wellies?
A gourmet kitchen?  Or a summer month in Greece?
Do tell!

Find more posts on this subject HERE.


  1. This is such an evocative, satisfying read, Pamela. (The rainbow of yarn, those glorious flowers...) I was in Europe about a month ago for the first time in (too many) years, and it was truly the simply pleasures of feasting on buckets of blooms outside tiny shops and bookstores in which to linger that seemed like "luxuries" to me.

    You speak of well being -- indeed -- well being was once part of the fabric of everyday life for so many, and through these seemingly simple experiences of our senses. Contemporary times seem to have squeezed out their frequency or our ability to note them as we rush through our days. Thank you for this lovely reminder that these indulgences are ours for the taking... freely.

    (And speaking of which, if I had a choice, I would be hard-pressed to choose between a gourmet kitchen and that month in Greece. I would adore the latter for so many reasons, but I have a tiny house and who wouldn't love a bigger kitchen more able to hold friends and family?)

    Enjoy your summer!

  2. Luxuries that make me very happy are: good wine, Le Creuset pots (I have one, but would love more), organic grass-fed meat, Green & Black's 85% chocolate, definitely travel, Chanel Cristalle perfume (which lasts me years since I only use it rarely), buying my car new (it's the same as yours - a Verde Chiaro Fiat!), good quality paints and frames for my oil paintings, and the occasional antique purchase. All of this could be done more cheaply, but these things enhance my quality of life so much, they are worth every penny.

  3. Beautiful and so well written post for this month's theme, Pamela.
    Simply GOOD! What else can I say.
    Warmest greetings from the Périgord, Karin

    P.S. I'm in the middle of writing/creating my post which will be hopefully published tonight, latest by tomorrow.

  4. There is a hotel in Blakeney on the marshes of Norfolk, where one can sit on the balcony outside one's window and watch the distant sea come in up the channel and see the moored boats rise up quickly. Then go down to dinner and sit with the same view and eat the most delicious food before strolling along the marsh path looking for birds.
    Or there is the coast of Nova Scotia, one of my favourite places, where the fish is so fresh it is making my mouth water to think of it.
    Or nearer to home, there is a snug room with a wood burner glowing, a good book (at present I am reading AS Byatt's The Childrens' Book) a drink near at hand and a Border Terrier at my feet (and a farmer just the other side of the hearth rug).
    One has one's own ideas of luxury as you say Pamela.

  5. Dear Pamela, yes a summer in Greece for sure...seriously though I see that most of what you consider to be luxuries are right on my list. I have been very fortunate in the past to be able to go to Nordstrom to buy a frock for a ladies luncheon, something I steer clear of now. That was another era though. Now, my health, family and dear friends are the most important! Especially the good health to enjoy our passions!

    The Arts by Karena

  6. Wonderful post, Pam. I would say my luxuries include a beloved pet on my lap, a good book by the fire in winter or on my porch near the garden in summer. Fresh flowers. Also, some good quality food, i.e, specialty cheese, fruits and vegetables, good chocolate, herbal teas, etc. These are indulgences I feel privileged to be able to partake in. Like you, clothes no longer do it for me, unless it's something that I really love, perhaps a Burberry jacket or something that will last for years. Our priorities change as time goes on, and I'm learning to love living simply. Oh yes, travel...always. Gee, sounds like we may be kindred spirits!!

  7. Now that my husband and I are retired I do so enjoy the luxury of time - of sleeping late, whiling away the morning hours, choosing whether to go outside and wander in the forest down to the stream and waterfall or go into town. Our indulgence is buying plants for our landscape and the occasional book we can't get from the library. A true luxury would be to build a library/bedroom addition, and be able to bring back the books we had to store when we moved here to the mountains. And, yes, I would love to visit the British Isles, and, yes also, Greece. I spent an entire summer studying in Greece when I was in college, and I have longed to go back. Hate to leave the pup for any length of time, though.

  8. Such a beautiful take on our theme this month. Simply lovely Pamela!

  9. Pamela, you are so right luxury means so many different things to different people and I think it means different things at differ times in your life.

    To me luxury is the gift of time, I treasure each second that I have with my family and friends and would give anything to have just a minute or two with family and friends that have already left this world.

    Travel is another luxury and one that I am fortunate to have had the ability to do since a very young age. Education is another, I am very well educated and some would say that because I do not work in my field that I have squandered that education but I disagree. Something learned is never a waste.

    Another luxury is technology for without it I would never have discovered your blog or so many others that make me laugh, smile and sometimes even cry on a daily basis.

    Have a wonderful evening and thank you for sharing!

  10. Hello Pamela

    I loved this post and thank you for sharing what you consider luxury. It is wonderful that we are all different.

    I love good china, silver, flowers and having friends and family over for dinner. Unique art supply stores and paints with pure pigment, sable brushes and linen canvases. Good tailoring and fabric. Paint stores and hand-made wallpaper. Nurseries and flower shops and travel.

    The yarn store in Scotland is very special and the colours laid out so beautifully.

    Have a great week


  11. word as subjective as "luxury"....yes, I think you are right, as everybody's take on this topic is quite different, as if to prove your point. Although interestingly, the ones I have read so far (it is 6.30 in the morning here in Melbourne so people have been writing magic while I slept) have focussed on what now brings them pleasure, and it is indeed the little things rather than purchasing items which are supposedly luxurious.

  12. Well done, I love these stories of luxury and almost felt like i was in the magical little flower shop! And we could be great travel partners, I love breakfast for dinner!

  13. What a beautiful blog, I could relate completely, there is a cafe in a nursery in Chelsea where one can sit and have a cuppa and a bite after wandering through the grounds. An oyster stand overlooking the Tomales Bay in Northern California where one eats freshly shucked oysters that were in their beds and hour before along with a glass of California Sparkling wine. Sauntering through the El Paseo in Santa Barbara one comes across not one, but four wine tasting rooms all with superior Central Coast Wines right next to a bistro with a menu comprised of local ingredients. Finally walking down Maiden Lane in San Francisco and going into Gump's.

  14. Your Luxuries I can identify with of my list the ANIMALS.

  15. Pamela, I want to go where you go. I want to see those things in Scotland you've described. The book & flower shops would pull me right in, I can spend hours looking at books, wishing I could purchase them all, and then I realize I have no where for them to rest. And, travel (with the dogs, of course) is a major joy. My friends & blogging rounded out my luxuries this time. For without blogging how on earth would we all have met ? Beautiful, evocative post, as always. Hug my darling Edward xx's

  16. The greatest luxuries of all, Pamela... travel and time to wander and marvel, to soak up the simple and understand the largesse of it all.
    Beautiful words and I wish you a very happy belated birthday... xv

  17. It took me a moment to dive into your post as I was so delighted to see that Icart painting again. A friend of the family's had given a copy of it mounted on posterboard to my Mom at some point in the 70s. It got a bit beat up around the edges in one of our numerous moves and so she passed it on to me when I was about 14 or so. I looked at that langorous woman for hours! How she informed my idea of what glamour was and yes, luxury.

    Times have changed for myself and for others too, I see. My companion and I are on an extremely limited budget these days and so quite a few things have been bumped into the luxury category. But I know from my travels that too is a matter of perspective! It is why I wrote about discovering dew on the grass for my post - I will take luxury where I can get it. ;)

    Pamela, I know that I always say the same thing (and now always say the same thing about the same thing) but you are such a fine storyteller. For me that goes even beyond being a wonderful writer because I feel that, in your words, I am safely in the cup of your hand and am taken, gently, wherever you want us to go and see what you want us to see. Thank you.
    With my Best Regards from Provence,

  18. Pamela, I think the greatest luxury is having the freedom to spend your time doing what you like best. Not in meeting commitments to work and others, but doing those things that make you happy, like writing, painting, sitting in the garden reading a good book, or doing nothing at all if that's what you want.

  19. Luxury to me is being mindful of the beauty of nature around me and using my senses to appreciate my life even more. The sound of my horse as she knickers at me in the morning. The feel of her coat in the Spring as it changes from velvet to silk. Hearing my husbands voice and feeling his arms around me. Appreciating good food and the Earth that provides for us. Smelling the gardenias and roses in the back yard and listening to the beautiful birdsong in the morning.

  20. Oh yes, time…the greatest luxury. To spend endless ours in book and flower shops…heaven!

  21. Lovely post, and your writing is so evocative! My idea of luxury is travel, and having time to enjoy the garden.

  22. Like you, I indulge in books, travel and flowers. Your photos are giving me travel pangs. One day I must visit the Lake District and that bookstore. You look like a fairy tale princess in that photo.

  23. I too love the Lake District - remember we have both visited Peter Rabbit's garden!!!
    Beautiful memories from this post Pamela.

    For me luxuries were never thought of as such, perhaps because they were often just ordinary things such as a good book to read, with a sensibly priced bottle of wine and a Scottish shortbread to nibble! But they are luxuries too. Nothing truly lavish such as large diamonds or lots of money. However, must admit, having been treated to what were really luxurious travels these past several years, I must say it wasn't hard to enjoy being on five star ships, staying in amazing safari camps, tramping across Antarctic ice . . . . . . yes, in clumsy wellies, to spend breathless hours with thousands of penguins, and air so pure and clean it is found nowhere else on this planet, that's luxury!

    Travel to the WILD places has to be the ultimate luxury, then returning home to my cottage garden to cut a fragrant rose, bake carrot muffins, stir a pot of homemade soup, enjoying the luxuries of home until the next journey!

    Hey, I'm off again next week - first stop Budapest where I'll meet up with some very special bloggers. . . . . . . before my ship comes in!
    Hugs Pamela - one is for Edward of course!
    Mary X

  24. When I retired a few years ago, I was really, really to get out from behind a desk. I never wanted to be tied down to 9-to-5 ever again. I wanted to be free to do whatever I wanted to do, even at the drop of a hat. For me it is a real luxury to have someone come in and clean my home so that I can spend my time doing things that I really enjoy, and not feel guilty about not doing the cleaning myself. At my age, time seems to fly by, but I hope my good health will continue to hold me in good stead and that I will have many more years in which to play.

  25. Correction: Yes, I was really, really READY. :-)

  26. A whole day to myself in my veg. garden. And then to stumble inside at last light to a clean house, a warm shower, dinner on the table, and bed with a good book. Ahhh, luxury. Sandra

  27. Hi Pamela, I couldn't agree more that luxury is in the eye of the beholder and that it shifts in different periods in our lives. Which is a lovely thing, I think. For me, though, fresh flowers have always been a luxury I can't live without. Travel. And to pursue my passions.

    Thanks for a lovely take on our topic! XO

  28. Tickets to the Globe Theatre in London.

  29. Oh, my, such evocative prose to describe luxury that sweeps me away from the day's boredoms. It eased my soul into bliss. Thank you, Pamela.

  30. Ha ha, I see I am late to the party re this April post. I think luxury like you describe is often relaxing, causing me to take a deep breath. We are retired, and I like to walk along the bay most days, that is true luxury, as people journey from around the world to visit our bay. Reading in the garden, these days it is Trollope or Thirkell, happy books. Your photos are lovely as always.


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