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Blog 77 - Jacobs Retreat

I bought this large silk square in a French brocante in the Lot on a holiday with my sister and her husband.  What better way to spend a lazy day than wandering round a small French town market, my sister browsing for old linen and yellowed antique cigalle brooches and me on my scarf quest.  Of course, there was the later reward of a simple plat du jour with a carafe of wine at some little cafe before heading home to show off our treasures of the day.  Maybe we would have an extra treat by going to a local vineyard and picking up a few bottles and perhaps a basket of freshly picked walnuts.

My scarf had been previously loved and is valued again.  A dreamy reminder of many visits to vineyards in other parts of France and many in the Napa, Sonoma and Russian River wineries of California. Music Festival devotees of today eat your hearts out...... imagine hearing Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney or George Shearing, albeit at the later stages of their careers, playing live as you sip a glass of local wine or champagne in a Californian vineyard. The scarf with its design of bunches of grapes and passion fruit flowers (don’t see the connection there) brings back memories of sunny happy afternoons. At such a vineyard concert, I asked George Shearing, the blind pianist who wrote Lullaby of Birdland, to sign the cd of his music.  He was pleased to hear my British voice, albeit with a strong Scottish accent, and told me he was born in Battersea, London.

Little wonder, when we moved to our present home some thirty years ago and had the chance to design our own small courtyard garden, I wanted to recreate that atmosphere, a cross between the Carmel Mission, the Mediterranean and a shady vine covered retreat. We planted a fig tree, oranges, peach, apricot and yes, a vine. I have to tell you the courtyard is only 20 ft x 30ft and we live in sometimes chilly England. We lost the peach and apricot to leaf curl but the vine has flourished and each year bunches of black grapes hang from the open pergola.

In a previous blog, I told you when we first married and were penniless, we made our own wine with the oddest ingredients from rhubarb to blackberries, even turnip, with many an exploding bottle! All the demijohns and other gear for home winemaking have long gone. I saw on BBC breakfast television one day an item about a cooperative in South London whereby London urban gardeners could take their grapes to Tooting for onward processing at a South England vineyard. I joined the Urban Wine Company, harvested my crop and the following year was the proud vintner of Jacobs Retreat Rose. At that time, one was allowed to name one’s wine with an individual label, but now it is all marketed under Tooting Rose on public sale after individual growers have bought their allocation.

I did it for only one year.....much easier to place an order with Majestic or Marks & Spencer and let the local blackbirds and wood pigeons get tipsy on my crop!

Busy Bee, Scarf Face!

Blog 77.

226 views3 comments


Sep 27, 2020

Dearest Hazell---

To see you in the NewYork Times brings SUCH PRESTIGE (and you are the least

likely to want or admire prestige) in the American upper echelon . However,

I never thought people who were written up in NYT were prestigious, but in my

head it meant one had to be the most precocious, artistic, brilliant, enthusiastic and

inspirational as well as LOVING person. Your blog shows your depth of knowledge,

travel, and desire to know others, and to give of yourself as no one else I have

ever met.

Thank Goodness that I picked up on a hill overlooking the San Francisco Bay walking

your dog, Tanner and Instantly invited you to dinner~!!!! What luck for both of…


Sep 27, 2020

I might attempt to create my own wine now! Your memories are dazzling and heart warming ☆


Alice Shiffman
Alice Shiffman
Jun 11, 2020

What a memory you have, and how well you write. love you

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