northern light

Last week we spent five beautiful days in Denmark and one in Sweden. Now, I love Britain with all my heart, mind and soul, but Scandinavia constantly, patiently, gently, whispers for my attention. I have felt a deep connection with these northern lands since I first visited thirty years ago, and art, music, design, literature and personal connection continue to keep me in thrall.

The first things that overwhelmed me were the light and the colour. The light is not bright, but it is everywhere, it seems to radiate up from the street and pour from cracks in the pavement. It was raining nearly the whole time we were there, but still there was this soft, beautiful light. It finally dawned on me that it must come from the sea: Denmark is made up of hundreds and hundreds of islands, completely surrounded by sea, and is only ever gently undulating... no hills or valleys to catch or block the light. It is sea-light. And the colours... the colours are the colours of the sea, the sky and the shore... soft grey-blues, dove grey, softest pinky grey, taupe, charcoal, white blonde, ash, and white... so much white... beautiful white, full of every colour of light that exists. So monochromatic that even barely pigmented colour sings, but gently, softly, liltingly. I was in a personal heaven.

The next thing that took hold of me and pulled me inside out and back-to-front and practically left me breathless with longing and wonder was the innate sense of style that permeates from every door, window, garden, shop front and item of clothing. I felt like I had come ashore in a dream, stepped into a favourite magazine or fallen into the pages of a beloved book. It felt like me.

Personal style and interior decoration are the same in Scandinavia: natural, neutral, simple and soft, a mixture of beauty, comfort and practicality. All those lovely, muted, understated colours, exquisite attention to detail, respect for old buildings, warmth, light and a sense of calm. Simplicity. A sense of balance. No clutter, no chaos. And light.

Windows to exclaim over as you explore the pretty little streets: bowls of orchids, tiny succulents, my favourite houseplant known in Denmark as 'spots-in-the-air', little displays of collected treasures. Front doors which nearly always have welcoming green plants climbing up custom-built cast-iron supports. Elegance and simplicity.

Gardens, whether large or small, public or private, that have a real, tangible, sense of place. Open space with simple stone and evergreens. Nothing contrived or fussy. Sedums and succulents in carefully placed pots. And always somewhere to sit: everybody stays outdoors for as long as they can in the summer. Absolutely everyone has a very large square umbrella or awning so that they can still sit out if it's raining.

Loveliness and comfort in fresh, clear, wholesome things: dill, clear glass, aquavit, white, linen, lit candles, the sea, ryebread. Everything seemed to be done well, to somehow embody peace and purity, from the pouring of a glass of beer to elegant town planning and appreciation for historic buildings, to a properly integrated, modern transport system that runs to time.

Oh, and the sea. Did I mention the sea?

This last photo was taken at possibly one of the most breathtakingly lovely art galleries I have ever been to, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art just south of where we were staying in Helsingør. I spent nearly the whole time here in deep, happy tears, an almost spiritual experience of connection to the sea and the intensity of art, watching the misty grey-blue sea lapping at the shoreline as an Alexander Calder mobile sculpture flipped back and forwards in the breeze of an offshore storm.

Does all this make me sound a bit dippy? Because, it's probably time to own up that actually, I am.

a visit from the airy fairies

I have some very exciting news - I have become a cupcake tester! I feel I have been working up to this position most of my life and am exceptionally well qualified for the post, having sampled many thousands of cakes and cupcakes over the years.

Imagine my excitement this morning when there was a knock at the door and a gorgeous box of four beautiful cupcakes was delivered by one of the Airy Fairies herself!

Aren't they pretty?

I feel I have found my vocation in life.

blackberry jam

Home from Denmark and the first job is to get outside with the colander and the litter grabbing stick to pick three pounds of fat juicy blackberries from next door's hedge (next door is flats which are half-empty so I count it an extension of our 'estate'...) As you all know I love to forage for freebies in our neighbourhood and these are a full week earlier than last year which is a nice treat. There look to be plenty more to come, too.

This is my go-to book for jams and pickles of all kinds. It was published in 1944 so is full of brilliant austerity recipes for things like marrow jam.

Unfortunately no credit is given to the artist of the delightful little illustrations, which is a shame. They are gorgeous. Here's a lovely jammy lady with a pinny to die for.

Alice Crang herself, mind you, is a different kettle of fish... (if any were available, she'd probably have it pickled and shoved firmly in a screw-top jar before you could wink) ... I wish I could claim to have looked this efficient during my jamming session, but in all honesty I think I prefer Mrs Pinny as a kitchen role model, anyway.

Come back soon to see some lovely photos of Denmark - the land of good taste. Just as soon as I've cropped and twiddled and uploaded...


Here are the facecloths finished and packaged up with an embroidered linen heart ready for their trip to Denmark. I do enjoy making things pretty, which is something I have come to appreciate more as I get older. When I was younger I was all punky and hard edged, with a black workman's donkey jacket, thick black eyeliner that famously got a mention in my German report ("Susan might have a better chance at succeeding with her German lessons if she spent less time beforehand applying eyeliner"), and everything else in life to match. Things have changed a bit now and I am rather glad.

a little update

Recently a lot of my creative activity has been under the water and unseen, like the paddling of a swan. All I have to show at the moment is more crochet... this time some organic cotton facecloths which are to be a gift for a friend we're visiting next week in Denmark. This seems to be a very crochet-orientated space just now... hopefully there will be something different to show soon. I'm working on ideas and designs for some Christmas craft fairs, doing some journal writing and keeping up with my Listography most days. Life is too intense and demanding for anything else at the moment, but I have some exhibitions and galleries lined up as well as next week's little trip to Copenhagen, which I am looking forward to immensely. Denmark is such a peaceful, creative place and everything is lovely colours.