Saturday, 1 February 2014

Sharing some photos I found . . . and some good news.

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I was going through photo albums yesterday and I came across all of these photos from when I worked at Brenchley Manor down in Kent.   When I worked and lived there I wasn't able to ever show you very much of the place, but since I don't work there anymore and the people I worked for have now moved to another country I thought I would share with you some of them today.  I think you will find them very interesting.  This of course is the cottage that we lived in.  I know a lot of you have seen this before, but some of my newer readers probably have not.  We had the  use of the kitchen downstairs, which was quite large and then all of the upstairs.  The rest of the downstairs was the most expensive rubbish tip in the UK.  Everything the people I worked for didn't want anymore, got tipped in the rest of the downstairs rooms.   It was filled to the rafters with junk . . . old mattresses, old sofa's, etc.  They never threw or gave anything away, which was a shame really, as a lot of charities could have gotten good use of most of the stuff.  

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This was the Manor house.   As wide as it was in the front, it was as deep to the back.  It was a very old house, dating back to Tudor times and was a grade 2 listed building, which meant it was of historical value and any alterations had to be approved and were limited to exactly what could be done.  There were rumors that it was haunted, but I never ever saw anything and I spent many an evening there on my own and when the Mrs was flying out I spent all night there many a time helping her pack for her trip.

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This was the Elizabethan Knot Garden which was at the front of the Manor.  It was beautiful.  The Estate Manager and gardeners really worked hard to keep it in shape.   That stone arch was reputed to be the oldest example of  Rennaisance Stonework  in the UK, having been commissioned and created by a friend fo Michaelangelo's.   Serious.  There was a date on the Gate, I believe 1500 and something, but I can't remember exactly what it was.

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The gardens to the front of that stone arch, across the drive were stunningly beautiful at any time of the year.  Their daughter got married at the end of June one year when I was working there as the gardens were at their peak at that time.   I remember that there were waiters lining this herbaceous border holding trays of champagne for the guests as they came up from the village church for the reception luncheon after the wedding.  It was a truly stunning and impressive piece of property when all was in bloom.   Truly.

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Up in the far right corner of this photo is the secret garden.  The hedge which lay at the end of the herbaceous border was trimmed to look like a castle with a doorway at it's very far end.   Behind the hedge at  the upper end were green houses,  rose gardens and fruit bushes, and trees, then in the middle was a tennis court and more fruit trees, and at the very far end was the secret garden, which was largely empty for most of the time I worked there.  I used to think how magical it could have been were there something actually in it.   They did have a pond put in with a small fountain prior to the daughter's wedding so that the guests would have something to look at I presume.  It was stocked with some large coi but they were given away afterwards.

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This was the guest house which lay to the back of the property.  It was flanked by a gymnasium/poolhouse on the other side and an inground pool at the very rear.  It was a converted Oast house, which was quite lovely.  Inside was a huge entryway with a cathedral ceiling, a billiard room with a huge pool table and leather chairs, a large living dining area, a conservatory, a huge kitchen and three enormous bedrooms upstairs, all well appointed and decorated and with their own ensuites.  It was like a five star hotel really.   I can only ever remember it being used very rarely the whole time I worked there, but when it was going to be used the Mrs would fill it with beautiful flower arrangements which she did herself.    She always did wonderful things with flowers.  Oftimes when there was a dinner party more would be spent on the floral arrangements than on the food and the whole house  downstairs would be filled with her lovely arrangements.  She would spend hours working on them, and it showed as they were gorgeous.  She was often still working on them when the guests were beginning to arrive.  Nobody ever expected her to be on time, so it was ok.

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This was a table arrangement she did one time for the dining room.

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This was one corner of the Linen Fold Room.  It was a special room which was panneled with an oak wood panneling which dated back to Tudor times in a special linen fold pattern.  There were crosses in the panneling which meant that the person who owned the property at that time had been in the Crusades.

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This was the room they would have their afterdinner cigars and coffee's in.  It had a huge stone fireplace at one end, which would always be lit.  It was quite cosy actually and one of my favourite rooms in the house.

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This was the dining room all made up for a dinner party one time.   It was always a lot of work setting it up, but always looked so beautiful when the table had all be set, etc.   Of course the flowers were always magnificent.

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You can see a lot of effort was always put into the floral arrangments.   They were always stunning.  In this particular one she had even spray painted grapes gold . . .

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No stone was left unturned, or urn left empty . . . all were filled with gorgeous blooms . . .

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Every nook and cranny . . .

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From ceiling to floor . . .

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And everything in between . . . no stone left unturned.  All was in splendid array . . .

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Even the kitchen.   This was where most guests entered the house and so the kitchen was always well adorned with beautiful flowers.

I used to love doing the table setting for the parties and luncheons.   She had a gorgeous assemblage of different types of china and crystal, silver . . . cutlery, linens, etc.  Anyone who was invited to the Manor for any occasion was in for a treat, both visually and culinarily . . .

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This setting was for a luncheon in the Conservatory  with large lettuce leaf lay plates, topped with white lettuce leaf dinner plates, and vegetable sour turines on top of small lettuce leafs.  The mrs always did the flowers.  It was lovely to be able to play with such beautiful things.

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Another further away view of the same table setting.  She had such beautiful dishes and linens and glassware, silver etc.   It was really nice to be able to work with them.

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Another simpler supper in the conservatory.  Same lay plates, sunflower napkin rings to go with the sunflowers in the floral arrangement, and of course the same green glass ware.

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This was another one of the dining room dinner parties.   With the bird china on green lay plates etc.  Just look at the crystal goblets and tumblers and silver.   It was all so beautiful to look at, but such hard work.   All this had to be washed by hand afterwards, silver polished, etc.    When I think back on it now I am amazed at all I did.  Just think . . . I shopped for all the food, prepared all the food, served all the food, set tables, cleared tables, cleaned up everything afterwards, etc.   I was amazing! lol

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Another view of the same table . . .

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And again . . . a close up this time.  Green soup. It was watercress.  Let me tell you, it's not easy to get watercress soup to look so green, it turns very quickly.  It is the magic of timing.

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This was a tea party with crystal plates, china tea cups and saucers, silver baskets and trays etc.  Very pretty.  I learned a lot working there.   Some of the ettiquette did rub off on me!  It was really quite an experience all round!

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I wasn't going to say anything, but I am so excited about this that I must and now I feel safe doing so as contracts have been signed, etc.   Quite a few of my designs have been liscensed by a craft company and they are making them into craft cd's which will be sold online and via the craft channel on the television and eventually they want to turn them into rubber stamps.  It's all very exciting and I am hopeful that it is a huge step forward and that I may finally be able to make a living at this lark!

I've also been turning some of them into embroidery patterns for people to embroider onto table runners, sheets, pillow cases, etc.  I hope to sell them in my Etsy shop and to show them to you soon!
We have a very sick doggie here.  She has had diarrea for three days now so we will be taking her to the Vet this morning to see what's up.  Please keep her in your thoughts.  I hope it is nothing serious.

A thought to carry with you through today . . .

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"The flower that smells the sweetest is shy and lowly."
~William Shakespeare

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Cooking in The English Kitchen today . . . Grandma's Doughnuts!

Enjoy your Saturday!!

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