Enid Blyton

The charming thatched cottage, where Enid Blyton wrote many of her much loved books, is on sale

Old Thatch is Grade II listed and dates back to the 17th century

Located a few miles from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, Old Thatch was Blyton’s home for nine years from 1929. She began writing her Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair series while living there.

In 1938, when her daughters were aged seven and three, Blyton moved to a new house in Beaconsfield named Green Hedges.

Trumpet vine

The flamboyant flowering of Campsis radicans made it obvious to the first English colonists in Virginia. Consequently the plant quickly made its way to England early in the 17th century.
The flamboyant flowering of Campsis radicans made it obvious to the first English colonists in Virginia. The plant quickly made its way to England early in the 17th century.

Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is spectacular and requires two or three years to establish itself and start blooming. Prune weaker branches from young vines to leave one main stem and branches. When the vine matures, cut the flowering shoots that have grown away from the supported branches back to the main branches in early or late winter. These branches will regrow the next year. Trumpet vine flowers on new growth, so pruning in spring does not affect flowering.

Cut back an old branch or two every year to maintain control. A trumpet vine grown too large and ungainly may be cut to within 12 inches of the ground in late winter to renovate it. Begin training the strongest new shoots to the trellis in spring.

Chinese trumpet vine (Campsis grandifora) is a native of East Asia, China and Japan.

Campsis, or trumpet vine is a self clinging climber grown for its clusters of showy, exotic orange to red or yellow, trumpet shaped flowers.


This painting by Vermeer is one of the rare examples of a maid treated in an empathetic and dignified way.

The Milkmaid (Dutch: De Melkmeid or Het Melkmeisje), sometimes called The Kitchen Maid, is a painting of a domestic kitchen maid, by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

The whitewashed wall and presence of milk indicate the room was a “cool kitchen” used for cooking with dairy products, such as milk and butter. By depicting the act of careful cooking, the Vermeer presents an everyday scene with ethical and social value.

The woman is making bread pudding, which explains the milk and the broken pieces of bread on the table. She would have already made custard in which the bread mixed with egg would be soaking at the moment depicted in the painting. She pours milk to cover the mixture because otherwise the bread, if not simmering in liquid while it is baking, will become an unappetizing, dry crust instead of forming the typical upper surface of the pudding. She is careful in pouring the trickle of milk because bread pudding can be ruined when the ingredients are not accurately measured or properly combined.

These common ingredients and otherwise useless stale bread create a pleasurable product for the household. “Her measured demeanor, modest dress and judiciousness in preparing food conveys eloquently yet unobtrusively one of the strongest values of 17th century Netherlands, domestic virtue”. The depiction of honest, hard work as something romantic in and of itself, elevates the drudgery of housework and servitude to virtuous, even heroic, levels.

An impression of monumentality and a sense of dignity is lent to the image by the choice of a relatively low vantage point and a pyramidal building up of forms from the left foreground to the woman’s head. The painting is built up along two diagonal lines, which meet by the woman’s right wrist and focus the attention of the viewer on the pouring of the milk.

Depicting white walls was a challenge for artists in Vermeer’s time, with his contemporaries using various forms of gray pigment. Here the white walls reflect the daylight with different intensities, displaying the effects of uneven textures on the plastered surfaces. The artist here used white lead, umber and charcoal black. Although the formula was widely known among contemporary painters, no artist more than Vermeer was able to use it so effectively.

Vermeer was twenty five, when he painted this work. The rustic immediacy differs from his later paintings. There is a tactile, visceral quality. You can almost taste the thick, creamy milk escaping the jug, feel the cool dampness of the room and the starchy linen of the maid’s white cap. She is not an apparition or abstraction. She is not the ideal, worldly housewife or the ethereal beauty in Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Vermeer - Het meisje met de parel
Girl with a Pearl Earring by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

One of the distinctions of Vermeer’s palette, compared with his contemporaries, was his preference for the expensive natural ultramarine (made from crushed lapis lazuli) where other painters typically used the much cheaper azurite. Along with the ultramarine, lead-tin-yellow is also a dominant color.

The paintings of Johannes Vermeer are now world famous but during his lifetime Vermeer was known only to a small circle of devotees and never attained the same level of fame as other Dutch artists such as Rembrandt. After his death in 1675, Vermeer was quickly forgotten and his works were often misattributed to artists with greater reputations.

The Dutch Golden Age of painting is the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence, which caused large scale transfers of population. The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe, and led European trade, science, and art.

Dutch artists depended almost exclusively on the open competitive market for their livelihood. Vermeer was elected as the head of the powerful Delft Guild of St Luke two times. His principal patron, Pieter van Ruijven purchased about half of the artist’s output.

Van Ruijven, a wealthy patrician collector who inherited his fortune from his family’s brewery investments, was disqualified from high civic office because of his liberal Remonstrant Protestantism. He married well in 1653 to Maria de Knuijt who brought with her a considerable inheritance. More than one specialist believes that she may have determined to some degree the choice of subjects in Vermeer’s paintings. It is generally held that Van Ruijven’s collection was inherited by Jacob Dissius through his marriage to Van Ruijven’s daughter Magdalena. Upon Dissius’ early death the entire collection was sold in Amsterdam in 1696.