Posts From This Beautiful Garden in Surrey.


I'm sitting on a big old wrought iron chair, on the edge of the beautiful English garden that belongs to a woman who has been an incredibly good friend to me. I finished the novel I had been using to get me through these tricky days of transition and so came outside with my laptop and coffee.  Jenny, the King Cavalier spaniel, is keeping me company.

Like me, I suspect she's enjoying the early morning cool. Yesterday Surrey hit 36 celsius and no one was ready. It was the worst day to move house but it was done. Accidentally ... as you do.

The days have tumbled by lately, with an impetus similar to a mountain stream falling down a mountainside, if I try to describe it. Days so full of good people that I'm not sure I can write of everyone. But perhaps if I work backwards, starting yesterday. Perhaps if I write a series, before I leave for Italy next week …

Yesterday and my Australian friend, Clare living in London, arrived to take away and store as many of my books as she could. I have a habit of losing the best of my books when I divorce and move countries. Just twice but I'm a woman who loves the idea of living a lifetime with her collection of books. The Universe clearly has other plans.

Clare also provided transport for a load of my possessions. We took them to Cathy's, where I have some space in her garage for those things I wouldn't mind keeping, if I can work out a way.

Evening fell and I realised I had left the place I've been living these last 7 months.

Last night was spent out here in the garden, with Cathy, James and Alexandra.. A BBQ dinner, and them patiently teaching me how to play cards. I was so quietly deeply happy to be there, on the edge of this truly special family.

It has almost been a year since I left Belgium. Marriage over and without a country, I wanted to stay close to my daughter and Miss 12. Kim suggested I arrive in her world and set about making it happen … as it turns out, I was quite incapable, in some ways. More devastated than I realised, and far more broken than I knew.

It's been a year of deep change but I like who I'm becoming. I'll leave England so much stronger than I've been, in years … in every way.

And stronger because of the friends I've always had, but also because of the new friends I've made. For me, I see how it has been all about people. Friends, and strangers, who have picked me up, dusted me off, and been incredibly kind. Generous. Understanding. And welcoming too.

I woke this morning, in a beautiful bedroom and, for the first time in a long time, I felt peace-filled. Sitting out here this morning, I felt safe enough to cry … and had to smile. I've been so busy moving forward, surviving, that there hasn't been too much time for self-pity.  It would have crippled me some.

Today, the first time I've felt normal in a long time, and I wanted to cry. I had to mock myself a little … ' Di, you need life to be a struggle so you can stay strong?'

I didn't cry. I think I'll just weave that recognition of struggle in with all the rest and keep going forward because forward movement is surely the best thing.

It turns out, I have too much luggage for Italy. I, the queen of 'take only what you can carry up and down stairs' in those train stations, wants to take too much to Genova.

My other 'rule' is based on being able to walk away from possessions.  Clearly I have tried to keep too much this time and so today needs to be about stripping away the excess, again. I'm in the right place. I know people in Oxfam, and there's a refuse tip here. It's time to go back to bare bones. I thought I had but no, not quite.

As mentioned before ... have lost 16kgs in England, or 30 pounds … which sounds so much better :-) None of the clothes I bought with me from Belgium survived that weight loss. I was so fortunate to arrive in a place where quality secondhand clothing cost so very little.  Today, I may have purchased an exquisite, truly exquisite, Laura Ashley skirt for 7 pounds. 


Silk is the new Di ... it's amusing me.  I don't know who would recognise me from those other lives I've lived.  Not Christine and Peter Kirker, from those airforce days when I favoured the long baggy jersey, with jeans, look.  Not my Belgian friends, some who worked so hard on getting me out of that habit of dressing in black ... Marcie:-)  Not my Turkish friends, who mentioned my hippy taste ...

But I'm loving it all.  Dresses, beautiful colours, and silk ... and so very inexpensive despite labels like Monsoon and Zara now appearing there in my ... suitcase.

But suddenly it's tonight.  I stopped writing here earlier, to repack and reorder those boxes stored in the garage.  Then went wandering with Cathy, zapping about the countryside in her daughter's Mini ... dropping stuff off at the dump, leaving other stuff with Oxfam, eating lunch somewhere in Surrey staring with E.

And it's tonight ... there's a massive pavlova sitting here in the kitchen.  My best ever ... perhaps.  There's a glass of wine in front of me.  Fish is frying, salads are ready.  We're feasting outside again. 

I'll leave you with a photograph of Jenny, my lovely breakfast buddy ...

for Cathy.jpg

Today's Surrey Adventure...

Today's adventure was slightly epic ... on a very tiny epic-measuring scale but still, I was catching the Chatterbus all the way to Weybridge.  Off the map of my known world ... many stops down the road.

I was heading for M & S in Brooklands.  I needed socks.  But perfect-in-every-way socks. I was also curious to see precisely what an M&S store was like.   What did they sell?

I found my socks, almost immediately and then curious, I took the escalator and ended up in the lingerie section where I had this most divine realisation that, after surviving so many months with just one bra (washing it in the evenings), I could maybe buy another. 

The prices seemed good in M&S.  Back in Belgium, I had required 60 euros per item, or so I was told.  However as I looked around I understood I had not a clue where to start.  Lingerie sections have long been places of mystery for me.   I never remember the numbers involved and go there as rarely as is possible.  It was the Belgian bloke who had organised me into visiting them ... once a year for those 10 years.

I looked around for help after wandering through their really large selection, and was so fortunate to find the lingerie specialist, Tracey Jones.  She made time for me, took me under her wing, and talked me through it.

She only needed to hand me maybe 3 bras before she found the one I wanted to keep.  The one I wanted 6 more of:-)  For just 18 pounds!!!  I splashed out,  I bought two.  I'm thinking about buying a couple more.  Surviving so long with just one was silly. 

Honestly, if you live in the area and need a bra, you cannot go wrong with Tracey, at Marks & Spencer, helping you :-)  I was so veryvery grateful to her. 

Do know that normally you would need to make an appointment for a fitting.  I was incredibly fortunate today.

Since then Roscoe and I have walked in the woods and that chocolate brown Labrador is now asleep at my feet here.  I've found a hairdresser, I meet her on Saturday, recommended by the most marvelous Becky.  Here's to Vikki tidying me up a bit.  It's been more than a year, I think, since my hair was last done by a professional.  I feel like one of those Merino sheep that escape and head for the hills, back in New Zealand.  They become all wild and woolly.  

So yes, I'm tidying up ... after some time spent out in the wilderness.

And now, for a complete change of subject.  I photographed these guys ... playing, the other day.  I hope to take the camera back for more.  They were superb and honestly, no one was hurt.  It was just like the wrestling shows on tv ...

Merci Marcie's Cafe ...

Merci Marcie, Surrey,.jpg

I never manage to photograph the mille feuille before I accidentally eat them, whenever I pop into Merci Marcie's lovely cafe, even when I take one home ... to photograph it. 

I keep trying ... really.  Once a week probably:-)  And so, I turned my camera elsewhere on today's visit.

And now that I have a Nespresso machine.  Finally. 

Now, for the first time in 6 months, I am enjoying the breakfast I best love ... an espresso, toast, butter and jam. 

Well ... now I can no longer have coffee while out and wandering because my mornings are all about 2 espresso before and with breakfast.

My new drink, for out there, is ginger and lemon tea, with honey.  I have it in the evenings too.  I had a wicked coughing cold for two weeks.  I was fairly sure my lungs were going pop out one night.  That night I didn't sleep one single wink ... but they didn't, and I am left with this big love for the tea that got me through.

I'm okay here in Surrey.  Meeting marvelous people, making a tiny new home beautiful, setting up to teach photography workshops again, to photograph pets, to photograph family homes, and portraits.   Maybe an event or two.

It's unfolding, and I have espresso in my mornings again.  Life is quite beautiful.

The Most Perfect Tree-Seat, Surrey ...

It is perfect, isn't it?  I've been eyeing it since beginning with my 20 minute walks into the village.

It's quite high, and I'm not sure I could reach it without an undignified struggle.  But once there, especially in summer, there's moss that surely makes for a most comfortable seat. 

The only option is to recline, legs stretched out in front, back supported in a most divine way ... maybe that's even a book-reading arm-support branch.

Sadly though, it's on the edge of a busy little country road here in Surrey.  I suspect the police would be called to check up on my reasons for being there or ... the fire brigade would be called, to rescue that mad Kiwi woman stuck up a tree. 

But still, I don't think I have ever seen a more perfect tree-seat in my life.

On My Way To That Village in Surrey ...

A few minutes into my walk to the village, I pass this ... and today, for some unknown reason, I decided to photograph it.  Maybe the notion of 40 appeals to me. 

Miles per hour is taking some getting used to.  As are pounds and pence.  And kind people ... everywhere.

6 months into this English life and I still cannot say enough good things about the kindness of strangers.

Another Day That Sparkled Here in Surrey ...

I'm trying to write of this quiet sparkle I find in my days, so often, here in England.  It's when a day slowly fills with delightful people and things. 

Today there was the small boy who makes me laugh, a kind woman who is so thoughtful, a brisk walk into the village - delighting in how easy it is to stride out and cover distances quickly.  (My anemia moment is over but not easily forgotten). 

There was a trip to the next village with the loveliest man.  He's one of two drivers on a small bus I catch here and, both of them, they make me smile too. 

And then wandering in the village I call my city.  It's tiny but it's bigger than where I currently live.  There are 3 charity shops, filled with the most magnificent books that cost about a pound.  It's heaven.

Today though ... today I splashed out on the irresistible tea cup and saucer I found there.  Espresso cup and saucer really, the Wedgwood kind.  So very very affordable secondhand.  I took one and these two delightful elderly woman kind of descended on me and said, 'But you're only taking one?!' There are two!'

And then the volunteer working in the shop, joined in, laughing ... all of them telling me not to listen to them but who could resist, I thought to myself.

They were so sweet and funny and kind, that I bought the second one, and I'm not regretting it.

I said, 'but I live alone'

And they said, 'Yes, but when you find someone ... ' 

I love the people I'm meeting in England.  They are some of the sweetest ever, anywhere.  In 5 months, I've met no one horrid. 

And then I strode home again, stopping in at the cafe run by the French woman, here in my village.  I have my photography workshop venue, and she makes the most exquisite Mille Feuille - my occasional treat actually.

It's a been a good day, full of good people.

I love when that happens.