How did you celebrate Midsummer?

It was an evening of high wind and rain in East Sussex.  Part of me wanted to follow the chalk path up to Firle Beacon to join the villagers brave enough to light a huge fire there despite the wet and cold; part of me wanted to be the kind of person who danced about in front of the flames to ward off evil spirits, gather healing herbs and call out for fertility and a good harvest. Actually, not the fertility – I’ve contributed more than adequately to the population explosion.

Part of me wanted to be in Denmark burning things on the beach, singing Midsummer hymns and sending witches to Bloksbjerg (Block Mountain).

But most of me wanted to wear thick socks and stay at home beside the fire my daughters had lit in the hearth. They made Victoria sponge cake with fresh cream and strawberries and bathed by candlelight.  My beautiful girls with big Pagan souls. Lucky, lucky me.


Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 25 June 2012

I stole an evening, took the train to London and joined The School of Life at Fenton House, Hampstead, for evening drinks in the orchard with Esther Freud.  We were there to celebrate midsummer and Tove Jansson.

The evening was warm and informal – cotton skirts and big boots, smiles and mercifully little small talk. We drank Finnish vodka with apple juice and fresh mint and sat on the just damp grass.

Esther Freud chatted to us about her visit to the summer house where Tove Jansson wrote The Summer Book.  She described the small black stove, the scrubbed wooden floor, the blue window, the gnarled forest of low trees and dark pools.  She also took us to the barren island where Tove Jansson and her partner Tuulikki escaped visitors to be together in a simple, square wooden house on a bit of black rock, beneath the shrieking terns – just day beds, time for each other and the daily routine and small challenges of swimming around the island, reading, writing and thinking. Lovely.

I met a teacher with red hair and warm hands and sat on the edge of her coat.  We talked about accidental planting, foxgloves, safe places, the smell of autumn and clogs. She said that she had always encouraged her daughters to go out in all seasons for the simple pleasure of coming home to climb under a blanket together.

We walked paths mown between grass left to grow feathery. There were beds of gentle chaos – digitalis, allium, blue iris, rosa rugosa, sage, philladephus, white campanula and purple poppies. And a green house with trays of lupin seedlings.

I left feeling a little bit more in love with life and with an appetite for the simple pleasure of tentative sunshine, friendship, imagination, curiosity and authenticity that had been offered to us.


Stealing time
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 19 June 2012

I wish we could be slow to wake each morning – up early but start each day at our own pace. Without the pressure of catching a school bus, making packed lunch or jumping in the car, we curl around each other in our big bed of mattresses on the floor – children and adults.  We let the dogs out, light the fire, make coffee, boil eggs, chop ginger for smoothies, make toast and dippy eggs and read a bit.  Time is more elastic. Each one of us immersed in our own activity, we find flow and harmony, space to think and dream a bit.

Thoreau wrote,

“I have a great deal of company in my house; especially in the morning, when nobody calls.”

The luxury of solitude is rare. This cottage is full.  There are six of us, often considerably more, three dogs and, Whisper, the black cat.  It’s unusual to be alone here, to move about the house to a singular rhythm.  Some of us need more time to be reflective and to withdraw from the lovely chaos of family life.

I’m reading Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet’ The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  It speaks to the part of me that always thought I would grow out of my need to be alone sometimes – to retreat to my bed to read, to escape huge parties and small talk, to walk at dusk, to make things and talk to myself.  I love community but I do my best creative work alone.  I love to dance into the night to big tunes, to stonking tunes, and then hide in my tent. I love the village pub on a Friday evening if I know I can run down the dark lane to a quiet house.

Reading ‘Quiet’ has revealed to me that my struggle is not because I’m anti-social, simply introverted. It has offered me reassurance and the tacit support and voice of millions of other people who feel the same.


Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 8 June 2012