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 came across these photos yesterday.  Both from last year. Both taken on mornings of patchy sun and drizzle. Both of the beautiful mess we make when we allow time to unfold and let inspiration in.

We drank sloe gin with our bread and cheese and talked about painting weeds, hygge, hiding and learning to sit still.

We cut up apples and opened old notebooks and new parcels.

Happy weekend.


Beautiful mess
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 18 May 2012

I thought you might enjoy this quote from William Henry Channing while we still fiddle around with the back of a web platform.  I would rather be reading, weeding or writing.  Well, maybe not weeding, just poking about in the garden. It has been horribly neglected and is busy rewarding us with crazy, determined spring growth.  I wonder if I will ever feel there is enough time in one day.


“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to all bravely await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.”

William Henry Channing

Lovely.  Particularly the bit about the ‘babes’. I did smile. While I continue to try to be the kind of person who lives content with small means and thinks quietly, I’m going to keep my eye out for some babes.


One day
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 17 May 2012