country dance

Not so long ago, when we first thought of leaving London for a tiny village in Sussex, a village fair (with Buster Keaton playing in the hall!) and a barn dance persuaded us that we’d found our community. Glorious fiddling, young and old dancing round a barn at the local farm, beautiful food on the tables from the land around. We met such fine friends there, and we miss them very much. So, here in the tiny community surrounding our new island home in the forested Highlands, with great joy, we went to our first country dance at the old schoolhouse.


Some of us were so excited, we began before the accordion started, even as the potluck was being packed away.


Here is the caller, stepping in to dance with my small one to round out the pairs. Later she danced with our beloved village elder, now in his nineties, youngest and eldest.


These are simple dances, and deceptively so. We were astonished at how flushed and tired we could get! Country-dance workout. We’ve been reading Austen all winter, and watching films of her books, so a dance like this echoes stories across history. “A ball? I long for a ball!”

the old schoolhouse

Out of the old schoolhouse, back into the world of snow and ice.

drinking glasses

For a few years now I’ve collected drinking glasses, as much a collection of stories as utilitarian objects. The lovely people at little shop where I acquired my latest piece asked if I’d ever photographed them. A fine idea! Here they are.

drinking vancouver

This petite vintage glass, my latest, is from The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver, which is pretty much my idea of heaven in a shop. Wall-to-wall useful, ecologically sound objects. The water is filtered with a charcoal stick that you can get at the shop – hurrah, I’d been searching! The decanter came with a box of French elderflower liqueur that my sweetheart bought for me when we lived in our North London flat, and I’ve used my grandmother’s antique glass canning lid to cover it.

drinking victoria

On a summery walk to the Moss Street Market in Victoria, Canada, I found this glass in a yard sale that a sweet old couple were holding. It is a bit elegant and I often used it for homemade liqueurs, drunk while watching Upstairs Downstairs in the old Sussex cottage. I wish I’d asked the owners about its earlier life.

drinking winchester

I admit this is not mine but my small girl’s glass, given to her on a trip to Winchester by a dear friend. Such lovely fluting, a cafe classic. It’s from a lovely place in town with unfortunate sharp metal handles at the front door, just the height to clip a poor three-year-old’s brow, once on a trip in earlier years. Owning the glass sets it all to rights. Good thing, as we’re fond of the Hambeldon.

<drinking oldfaithful

Spotted at another fabulous tried and true resource, Old Faithful Shop on old Cordova street, my favourite block in Vancouver, this is such a sturdy tumbler. You can still get these ones! For summer lemonade out on a blanket in my mother’s garden.

drinking tunbridge wells

In a charming, winding lane in the oldest bit of Tunbridge Wells, I fell in love with a couple of these tiny French handblown glasses and took them back to the cottage. It was from Le Petit Jardin, a pretty shop full of beehouses, feather dusters, needful things. They are my best loved for a bit of red wine.

drinking paris

In Paris there’s a gorgeous little boulangerie (Julien, I think) near Beaubourg, where we loved to buy sweet and savoury tarts, and take them to a park or up to our flat after a long day of walking. This small glass held a luscious desert. Not a parfait but something similar, do you know? I have a pair, and my children often choose them for milk and biscuits.

drinking ripple

I confess it. I can’t recall where we got it, but I adore it. If I ever get a chance to blow glass I’d love to learn how to make ripples like this.

drinking barcelona, spain

In drizzling November, just arrived in Barcelona, with small, tired children, we ordered in pizza and ice cream. The ice cream came in this glass! Such a surprise. I love its heavy shape. Swimming in the sea, walking the old town with my little girls (superimposed over memories of walking there in earlier years) and all of us sitting at a table in the middle of a narrow street on a warm night, eating ink-black squid risotto with an old friend from Munich. All that in a glass.

drinking sweden

Those Swedes. Ikea makes these delicately bubbled glasses, and I like them very much. They are strong and inherently replaceable, which makes them just right for small and bouncy visiting children. An important job!

drinking liberty of london

Ah, Liberty of London. One cannot come out emptyhanded, and after attending a friend’s book launch I succumbed to temptation. The pair of these just beg for cool inventions with fizzy water, lemon, garden herbs and booze. I want to say Sophie Conran designed them, I think so.

drinking a vintage sundae

Only the ambitious consider these for drinking, but I hoped the sundae glasses could slip in here too. I haggled over a set of six of tall ones at a vintage market in Winchester one very cold spring. The petite version, now where did that come from? I suspect it was another book launch at Liberty, dangerous affair. Ah, I wish I could remember now. They are beloved for sundaes, of course. Or bouquets.

drinking habit

When we first moved to London, I bought many of these very, very fine glasses at Habitat on Regent Street. Just scratching England’s surface at the time. One by one their delicate edges have done them in, particularly when meeting the hard white ceramic butler sink in our converted Georgian flat. That kitchen had the best, narrow open shelves for showing off glasses and teacups.

drinking italy

Equally delicate in structure, but somehow much stronger are these Italian glasses, found in an interiors shop near Paddington when we would stay in one of the mews by the station. Huckleberry shrub in Kensington gardens, rows of children out on riding lessons, catching crickets in the long grass.

drinking muswell hill

In Muswell Hill, London, where we first lived, is Sally Bourne’s shop, and one really cannot pass through the village without stopping to see what tremendous things are within. One by one I collected several teacups, and over the years these strong, bright glasses had to come home with me too. I love to keep one of these by the bed or at the writing desk.

drinking the 50s

Possibly the oldest glasses I have are these little ones from my Finnish grandparents, probably purchased in Winnipeg in the 1950’s. My grandmother would bake pies with the wild blueberries she’d picked, and we’d eat them at her melamine table, drinking soda pop out of these glasses, back in the 1980’s.

drinking glasses

I’m ever so fond of them all. I only regret that I never found more, in some of the places I’ve visited, my quiet souvenirs. Do you like them?