Love and honour 

Før Snøen Faller. In the first scene a young man prepares himself for a dangerous journey.

Siyar will persevere, travelling from Iraqi Kurdistan to Istanbul to Berlin to Oslo. He’s searching for his sister. As you travel with him you realise, first, that he intends to kill her for she has brought dishonour on the family, then, that he is far too young to know the meaning of love or honour. 

So many unforgettable scenes: In one the ghost of his father appears but offers no answers, in another a chase on foot through the streets of Istanbul ends in an unexpected way, in another, the audience’s favourite, he wakes up with a pigeon. 

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Even before I became an avid seamstress, one of my favourite things to do in Santander was always ogle the haberdashery. 

I’ve bought some lovely creamy French lace and real mother-of-pearl buttons for a Japanese blouse pattern I’m working up to. Buttonholes – a skill I’ve yet to acquire. 

Here they shop the old-fashioned way. All the goods are behind the counter, guarded by some fierce, monolingual matron. The consequence is that to make a purchase one must first know precisely what it is one wishes to buy. 

And, gruellingly for me, all the attendant Spanish vocabulary. Browsing is not a thing at the Botón de Oro.

More old-fashioned sights of Santander: non-ironic, no-hipsters-in-sight barber-shop pole.

Old ads for a shoe repair place or a ship’s passage to South America. 

The best pinchos here at El Diluvio. And…spot the just-landed spaceship hiding behind the bandstand?

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Spectacularly self-effacing 

Renzo Piano has designed an egg-shaped, just-landed spaceship of a building for an arts centre in Santander. 

The site is right on the waterfront and already has a wealth of gorgeous historic buildings and parks. The genius of this new addition is how it fits right in, how it hovers discretely above the horizon in an effort not to dominate the view, how it is reflective but not flashy, how it makes you feel as though its heart’s desire is to be invisible – it seems to be saying “I’m only here to help you appreciate this spot, this weather, the light on the bay today”.

Right now, just a week after its inauguration, it’s acting, with its wealth of external staircases and suspended walkways, as a big playground for grownups. How accessible it will be inremains to be seen. 

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Midsummer things

Old-fashioned spiraea that always reminds me of the gardens I played in as a child. I always think its peculiarly dark pinks and greens vibrate together even at midday in the glaring sun.

Broad beans with borage. I don’t know about other gardens, but here borage grows like a weed. Seemingly every borage seed germinates and every seedling thrives. You have to be ruthless. I’m too much of a softie: it wins me over every time with its hairy exuberance and the promise of bees on the starry blue (edible) flowers. Lore says let it grow by your beans to bring in the bees. 

Lush vegetable patch with last year’s forgotten onions kinking up to explode into flower.

Gooseberries for more childhood memories. My recipe for gooseberry fool. 1. Make loads of custard. 2. Stew loads of gooseberries (about 10 minutes). 3. Mix the two together until thoroughly combined. 4. Allow to cool. 5. Yum. 

I’ve just remembered that we used to call them goosegogs. 

Noblewomen of froth! Queen-of-the-meadows and lady’s mantle. 

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Don’t Get Too Excited. Sinn Féin Are Not Taking Their Seats At Westminster

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A Thousand Cures at Midsummer 

St John’s Wort 

A friend of mine had a French grandmother. If we were ever out walking around this time of year she would stop to fill her pockets with the little yellow flowers, take them back to her Granny, who would preserve them in oil, to be used as a cure. What for? I naturally asked. Oh, for everything,  yknow. In French it’s named millepertuis – a thousand cures.

In flowering mood this hot and dry year is another medicinal plant, the sage, which thrives under the so-called espaliers (now the garden’s tallest trees) particularly seems to enjoy the occasional savaging from the lawnmower. Top tips, get them here!

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The Blue Boat by Kathleen Jamie 

How late the daylight edges

toward the northern night 

as though journeying 

in a blue boat, gilded in mussel shell 
with, slung from its mast, a lantern 

like our old idea of the soul 

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