Life Lately

You may have noticed that I haven’t written here since May. Truthfully, I’ve had what can only be described as a ‘creative block’. Writing book two and dealing with all the other things going on in my world just knocked me for six. I didn’t want to pick up my camera nor did I have any urge to write on here. I found it a very challenging time and felt a little lost.

I decided that I needed to shake myself out of it. I did two things - firstly, I asked my friend Laura of Dear Prudence if I could take some photographs of her beautiful home in Hebden Bridge and write a little feature on her work and creative style. After a day spent in her company chatting about creativity, Glasgow uni days and taking many, many photographs, I felt so much more like my old self. I’m delighted that 91 Magazine published my writing and photographs on Laura’s home and studio in the last edition of their Seek Inspire Create e-zine. You can sign up here if you’d like to receive the next one or buy back issues. (Above are two of my favourite corners in Laura’s gorgeous home). I’d recommend you give Laura a follow on Instagram for further images of her home, her illustration work and details on her forthcoming botanical illustration workshops that take place in various locations in the UK.

Secondly, I invested in a new camera and lens (I’d saved up for this over several months but my finger hovered for a long time over the Checkout button as I felt so guilty spending the money!). Learning a new camera and how it works takes time but I’ve enjoyed the process and it has really helped me fell inspired and more focused. I haven’t quite got the hang of using it yet as it’s mirrorless and has a whole lot of extra buttons and tools that my old DSLR didn’t have. It’s tiny and weighs practically nothing so that is also taking some getting used to as I suffer with shaky hands and holding a small lens steady is tricky. All of the images on this page have been taken on the new camera and haven’t been edited in any way.

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Last week, we headed down South for a few days, beginning with a trip to the Cambridge Botanic Gardens. We used Trumpington Park and Ride as the bus stops right outside the Botanic Gardens. It is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time along with Kettles Yard which sadly we couldn’t fit into our schedule this time around. When we stepped through the gates to the Botanic Gardens, there was a big clap of thunder and we had to make a run for shelter into the Victorian glasshouse.

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Divided into several sections - mountains house, continents apart, oceanic islands, tropical rain forests, tropical wetlands and arid lands, the glasshouse is enormous and I could quite happily have spent hours in there reading up on the plants, sniffing their exotic odours and taking photographs. I fell head over heels for these giant water lillies - aren’t they incredible? Like something out of a fairy tale.

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Once the rain eased off, the sun came out and we explored the rest of the garden. I loved the planting for bees and other pollinators area with it’s rambling beds of bright coloured flowering perennials and a traditional style white beehive. But by far my favourite part of the garden was the cafe area. Yes, the cakes and ice cream were great. But what I really loved was the mix of planting, the rustic wooden tables, natural parasols and simple paired back metal chairs. There were dragonflies and damsonflies darting about and it was a feast for the eyes. And what about that dappled sunlight? I found this part of the garden so inspiring and it’s given me lots of ideas to incorporate into my own little courtyard garden as we have some plans to re-do it over the Autumn. Unfortunately, as much as we enjoyed sitting here, we were under attack from a plague of wasps and had to leave. The Great British Summer eh?

Visiting the Botanic Gardens was a bit off a stop off on our way further South. The main reason we were on this trip was to visit Warner Bros Studio London Tour - The Making of Harry Potter. We’d booked tickets for the tour several months ago as a reward for the Moody Teen revising so hard for his GCSEs. We stayed overnight at the Premier Inn Watford North as it’s only a five minute drive from the studio. The Premier Inn is cheap and cheerful, always clean and ideal for a one night stopover.

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When you book tickets for the Studio Tour you have to choose an allocated start time to keep the numbers manageable. We booked tickets to the studio tour for the earliest slot - 10am, and it was already fairly busy when we arrived about 930am. When we left at 1pm, the building was packed and the queues were enormous, so if you are planning a visit, I’d recommend you go early! I’ve shared a few snaps of the tour below but I have purposely not included the best parts as that would spoil it for those who have never been before. What I will say is it starts off slowly and you do feel like it’s possibly going to be a bit disappointing, but once the magic begins……it really is something very special. The whole experience honestly exceeded our expectations and we’d happily return to visit it again as there is so much to see.

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Sadly, like all visitor attractions, you exit through the gift shop! People were spending a fortune on wands, miniature travel trunks and replica versions of Neville Longbottom’s ugly jumper (£87!!). I bought a box of chocolate frogs, complete with collectable wizard card inside. I can confirm they were utterly delicious and I only wish I’d bought more.

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After the studio tour we headed back to Cambridgeshire to stay in Ely. We’d booked two rooms on a Dutch barge called the Waterboat Nimf. You can see it in the picture above, it’s the green and black boat under the willow trees on the right hand side. I didn’t take any photos on board as it was a really tight squeeze but it was a lovely place to stay. We sat on the deck reading and drinking white wine in the sunshine. Ely is a pretty place to explore but we didn’t have a lot of time there. However, we did have a very nice lunch at the Samovar Tea House and dinner at Wildwood (superb Portobello Mushroom burgers and Eton Mess Sundaes!) so I can heartily recommend both of those places. What time we did have was mostly spent in Toppings bookstore on the High Street (you may remember we visited the branch in St Andrews back in April) where we bought a lot of books!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Sorry it’s been so long but I’ll be back later this week with a new Summer reads post and pay-it-forward.