Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Fifi from Australia guessed that we were in Norfolk. Spooky! I’m ashamed to say that I would have no chance at all of recognising an area of Australia unless it happened to have Sydney Harbour Bridge or Opera House in it. I think my appalling ignorance is because till very recently I was sure that I would never get to Australia or New Zealand – a bit phobic of flying plus having three offspring to educate expensively . But now I’ve read all your blogs and seen how lovely it looks… I’m tempted.

(Norfolk, by the way, is the top part of the big lump above London on the map of England . We were on the north coast of this lump.)

We were staying with my aunt, which is something we do every two years, sometimes at Easter but more often in the summer. She lives in this beautiful old house with a huge and wonderful garden. The story of why she lives there is a long and complicated one, but basically she retired there 26 years ago with friends, sharing the house, in three separate flats on the upper floor. The downstairs is for communal use and for visitors. My aunt, who’s unmarried, lives in one flat and until very recently another unmarried lady lived in the second (she’s now in her nineties and has moved to a care home. This year we stayed in her flat.)

The third flat is occupied by a married couple. The husband is much younger than the wife, which is very useful since he does all the maintenance of the whole house. Meanwhile my aunt, who is 83, does most of the gardening, which I think is extremely impressive considering the enormous size of the garden. (I spent much of yesterday tending my small town garden and was exhausted.)

Disconsolate ducks on the lawn.

The gateway through to the walled garden at the side. These are all views out of our bedroom windows, one of which looks on to the back and one on to the side garden. The snowy picture in the previous post was of their front garden.
Then the sun came out and the snow melted.

They’re all lovely people and I’ve known them since I was a child, and the atmosphere of the house is one of tremendous contentment, faith and generosity. It’s balm to the soul to be there. The village they live in is pretty and quiet and the surrounding countryside isn’t “very flat”, as Noel Coward famously said, but gently hilly.

Because we’ve been going for so many years, we know all the places of interest – stately homes and gardens and pottery workrooms and galleries run by artists and second-hand bookshops and so on – so it’s very restful, since we just keep going back to places we know and like.

It snowed the first day we were there but then it brightened up, apart from Friday, when we went to Sandringham, one of the Queen’s little places. It has a wonderful garden, which on that day we had more or less to ourselves since it was raining fit to drown a duck.

Or Mr Life: here he is with his own personal raincloud. But it was lovely, in a very drenching way.

Every time I go to Sandringham, I remember why it might have been a good idea to carry out my childhood plan of marrying Prince Charles. However, I’m not sure that he would be prepared to get quite as wet as Mr Life just so that I could admire daffodils.


  1. You made me wish I could visit it all! That huge house must be fascinating, & the story of it's occupants is very interesting.
    Mr Life was very kind to let you admire those wonderful daffodils!

  2. What a gorgeous field of daffoldils. Did you pick any? Or are you not supposed to. Thanks for giving me yet another idea of where to visit when I come next.

  3. It all looks so stately and genteel. I think it would have made me sigh with contentment to have been there with you to see those daffodils. But, it was nearly April....so what is that nasty white stuff doing in the picture, making those little duckies shiver???

  4. It seems like the visit is a lovely time. I'm glad you had fun!

  5. Love the daffodils:-) I intend to plant some this year.

    What an interesting story.

    How is your son getting on in Nelson?

  6. Mr Life is indeed a prince among men! My family came from Norfolk and I have done quite a bit of exploring and seen their old homes. They were millers, so actually had large farms too. That is where looking at the census returns is such fun!

  7. Oh Norfolk and what a lovely house your aunt lives in. I lived and worked in Suffolk but only got to Diss and Norwich once I am ashamed to say. There are so many places in the UK to explore so perhaps to revisit Norfolk sometime.

  8. Ah, what lovely pictures Isabelle -- I do love me some beautiful UK pictures (please pardon my improper English -- to you of all people LOL!) I chuckled to read your description of Sandringham -- one of the queen's "little" places. Wouldn't you love to have a place so little???

  9. This looks so idyllic. I'm glad you had a bit of a holiday and got to see your aunt. I'm sure she treasures your visits.

  10. I'm very impressed with Fifi guessing that!
    Your aunt's living arrangements sound wonderful, though the garden would be a worry, our garden's a worry and I don't suppose it's so big and I'm not 83. but lovely that it's so co-operative and supportive.
    If you had been the one to marry Prince Charles, the recent history of the royal family would doubtless have been a very different matter... Best off with Mr Life though, I think!

  11. It seems we've both been looking at wonderful gardens! I feel rested just reading your description of the lovely old house, grounds, and area where your aunt lives. She sure has a strong constitution, doing all that gardening at her age!
    Our youngest daughter visited Norfolk a couple of years ago and loved it.
    Thanks so much for naming the scilla. You were right! The flower didn't look exactly like the blue Chionodoxa, so I figured I was wrong with my guess. I found the 'white' one at a Scottish garden club website (SRGC Show Report..lovely photos). How's that for coincidence?
    I've seen Mahonia on Claire's Garden blog (Scotland), so I knew it grows in the colder zones, but that's the first time I've seen it in reality.
    It was very hard choosing which photos to post from the 213 I took :)
    Seriously, aren't you glad Bonnie Prince Charles didn't choose you? :)

  12. That looks like a lovely place for your aunt to live!

  13. Lovely photos Isabelle ... made me want to visit ... for years I've had it in my head to spend some time exploring our two isles in greater depth ... but I always seem to be distracted by the lure of distant lands. And drier weather.

  14. That looks so beautiful...

    I made a very quick and secret trip to Norfolk, I spent 24 hours there, ( which was why i was in such a droopy state when I met you!)

    and I just knew that's where the photos were taken.
    Such a coincidence.

    Such a civilsed and genteel holiday. I would love to go there again one day.

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