Friday 24 May 2024

Mrs. de Winter and Alice's daughter

A string of long weekends and short working weeks have been making me lose track of time again, so that I find myself on the slippery slope of lagging behind once more. Honestly, I haven't been deliberately shirking my blogging duties! I really haven't got the faintest idea where the time goes these days.

All I know is that I left you at the end of the first week of May, with a weekend filled with wedding celebrations and a flea market.

After three days on the office hamster wheel in the second week of May, we were the lucky recipients of yet another public holiday - Ascension Day - on Thursday the 9th.  As usual, most people were taking Friday off as well, and this year, of course, there was no question at all of yours truly having to go into work. 

If the weather forecast was to be believed, we'd be in for a treat: it looked as if Spring had finally got the memo!  For a start, Thursday was dry - which is a major miracle these days - and mostly sunny with moderate highs of around 20°C.

We had been sorely remiss in our household duties as well, so that we needed to spend the morning chasing away an army of dust bunnies upstairs before we could treat ourselves to a walk in the park.

The dress I wore that day was a Think Twice sales bargain back in  March 2019, when its mix of solid green and white on green chevrons instantly caught my eye.

As we didn't take any close-ups of my outfit while we were out and about, here's a picture of "the stuff", as Sheila would say. Both the ceramic beaded necklace and the glass ring were charity shopped, while the gorgeous vintage brooch was a gift from my lovely friend Inez.

Our outing took us to the delightfully wild and unkempt Solhof park in our neighbouring village of Aartselaar, with its giant trees and Manderley-esque Rhododendrons. 

Apart from the ubiquitous pink and purple varieties, there were several shrubs of golden yellow Rhododendron luteum (a.k.a. Yellow Azalea) whose honeysuckle scent reached our nostrils long before we spotted the shrubs in question.

We refrained from walking up the narrow path spiralling up to the gazebo on top of the ice house this time and could, in fact, only just make out the top of its gnarled pillars and conical roof peeking out from above the fresh new growth of the yew hedge.

One of the park's most majestic trees is this magnificent 150-year old red cut-leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Laciniata'). Considered a status symbol when the English-style landscape garden was established in the 19th Century, the tree was planted in a prominent position where it was clearly visible from the castle, now much modernized and turned into a luxury hotel.

The sun kept playing her by now familiar on-off game on Friday, with the mercury on the up and climbing to 22°C.

I pottered and sorted out some shoes which were hiding at the bottom of the big wardrobe in the bedroom. Most of them hadn't seen the light of day for years as my feet no longer agreed with their height, so I put aside a whole bag of them to sell at the flea market. 

Making a narrow escape were a pair of fabulous yellow suede and leather block-heeled slingbacks I bought for a song in a vintage shop about 10 years ago. Can you believe I'd almost forgotten about them?

It goes without saying that I had to wear them right away.  After all, they matched that day's oranges and lemons outfit perfectly!

Both the orange skirt with its random black spots and splodges, and the lemon leopard print top were charity shop finds, as was the necklace with its orange and brown wooden beads.

The stretchy belt was recently found in a bargain shop, while I believe the enamelled butterfly brooch was a flea market find. 

On my way out into the garden for outfit photos I quickly grabbed the red-rimmed straw hat - picked up at an outdoor flea market in May 2018 - as my hair was in sore need of a wash. I know, I'm such a slob!

Although the impenetrable jungle which is our garden nearly needs a machete to hack one's way through, I just had to go and investigate these intriguing purple flowers I spotted in front of our bench.

If I'm not mistaken, these pom-pom Aquilegias weren't planted by me, but might very well be the result of a happy marriage between my beloved Nora Barlows (here) and Aquilegia alpina (here). Whatever the case, aren't they absolutely stunning?

We had another bag of donations to drop off at the charity shop, so it would have been rude not to have a rummage at the same time. My loot that afternoon were a blue floral maxi dress by the Danish Only label, a funky pair of trousers, a groovilicious haori by Top Shop, and two belts.

My lunch time wanderings earlier that week took me to Melting Pot, the vintage per kilo shop, where I found a frilly floral blouse and a red short-sleeved Tricel jumper, which set me back just over € 5.

The roomy leather botanical print handbag from the Italian Pelle Di Giada brand came from Think Twice, who'd just started another round of their famous sales. Originally priced at € 10, it was mine for € 5 on one of their 50% off days. 

Saturday was a true Summer's day, with all-day sunshine and temperatures well over 25°C.

After picking up my new eye drops prescription as well as the sunglasses I'd ordered the week before, we decided to put the latter to work by going for another walk. 

Our destination: Middelheim Sculpture Park. Our aim: to check out the new layout which has received a mixed reaction from visitors. The jury is still out from our side, as we have yet to visit all the new zones.

According to its website, the art park is now divided into six zones, four of them featuring the four themes of the permanent collection. The collection presentation is thematic and the four themes, which are Motion, Human Nature, Urban Nature and Entanglement, are interconnected with the landscape.

Apparently, we were finding ourselves in the Human Nature zone!

One of my all-time favourites lives here. Never Mind (2017) by Welsh artist Richard Deacon (°1949) is an impressive steel volume gleaming in the grass. The name "Never Mind" refers both to the notion "don’t bother" and to the fact that the work is quite physically present. It is experienced "not only" by the mind but also by the body.

The other works you can see in the photos are "The Sower" (above, top right) by the Belgian painter and sculptor Constantin Meunier (1831-1905), dating from 1896, and "Tomorrow Everything Will Be Different" (above, top left), produced between 1993 and 1996 by Dutch sculptor Henk Visch (°1950).

We escaped the afternoon glare of the sun by walking under the leafy canopy of the trees on the paths leading from the Human Nature to the Urban Nature zone. 

But what are those giant maces doing lying all innocently yet menacingly among the trees?  They are called "Innocence can be hell" (1993) and are by the Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere (°1964). If her name sounds familiar, she also sculpted "Reclining Arcangelo II", which we came across in St. John's Hospital in Bruges.

Per Kirkeby's (1938-2018) architectural brick sculpture (above, top left and bottom right) is virtually nameless and dates from 1993. 

These topsy-turvy houses always make me feel like Alice after she'd taken a sip from the Drink Me! bottle and simultaneously journeyed down the rabbit hole. Or rather, Alice's daughter, as Alice was my Mum!

Their full name is "Model Home, “Bomarzo” type, 1979/94/2001)" - quite a mouthful - and their creator is the German conceptual artist Timm Ulrichs (°1940).

Time to tell you a bit more about my outfit. The floral maxi skirt is vintage and came from the vintage per kilo shop about two years ago, while the plaid blouse is charity shopped King Louie. My accessoires: a mix of high street, charity shop and flea market finds.

On our way out, we came across, clockwise from top left: "The Bathers" (1994) by  Luciano Fabro, "Great Bather" (1971) by Wieland F├Ârster, the intriguingly named "Silver Fruit, Silver Cakespoons, The Garden" (2012) by Peter Rogiers and "Large Bather I" (1956) by Emilio Greco.

Before returning to our car, we passed an avenue of Rhododendrons in a delightful variety of colours. 

They may have been much better maintained than those in Solhof park and thus did not remind me that much of those impossibly high ones towering over Mrs. de Winter as she walked along the abandoned drive to Manderley in her dream, but they still seemed a fitting end to this literary inspired post.

See you next time!


  1. I love that leather handbag! It's beautiful.

    Rhododendrons are a favourite of mine but are rare where we live due to the frigid winters. One of our garden centres has a few that ae supposed to be hardy enough to survive -40C winters. Going to explore next week and hopefully bring one home.

  2. What a treat! Solhof park and Middelheim in one post! You certainly made the most of some gloriously sunny weather by being out amongst nature and art. I've afraid I'm very slobbish when the sun's out, I'm quite happy to laze around in the garden wearing as little as possible, not blog-worthy in the slightest! The green dress you wore for the park was a great choice, it really pops out in the photos.
    Your accidental aquilegia is a delight. I love ours, a new one seems to surprise us each year!
    I remember you finding those incredible shoes, fancy you having forgotten about them. They're perfect with the orange midi dress.
    Loving the frilly floral blouse, the blue dress and that glorious botanical print bag, it must take you an absolute age to decide what to pack for your holidays! xxx

  3. It's so good to have some fine weather and you certainly made the most of it.
    Lovely outfits and finds, as usual. I'm a sucker for florals, so particularly liked your skirts, dress and frilly blouse.
    How wonderful it is to walk in the green and also see interesting- if not arresting! - sculptures.
    I agree with Vix - it must take you ages to decide which clothes to pack for a holiday, with so many delicious choices.

  4. Glad the rains are letting up and you can once again, venture outdoors!
    The azaleas are gorgeous as are the yew!
    The Human Nature Zone is fun and the trees are so pretty.
    Love the first two outfits...they are totally, you!

  5. Your blog posts always feel like a delightful escape into a world of beauty and charm! ­čîŞ It sounds like you had a lovely mix of productive and leisurely moments, despite the unpredictable weather.

  6. Hello lovely! Well that 150 year old beech is just beautiful! You were right to immediately put on those yellow suede shoes, coupled with sunny top. My aquilegias have also been amorous in the garden, producing some interesting hybrids. The mamma is Nora Barlow, but goodness knows who the father is. The picture of you by the topsy turvey house sculpture is framed perfectly - I though it was an Ann painting! :) xXx

  7. Wild and unkempt; that's my kind of natural scenery. Some might say it also applies to our garden! ;-)
    Your vintage sling back shoes are very cool, as are your new sunglasses.
    I always enjoy seeing Middelheim Sculpture park and one can never have too many Rhododendrons in my opinion. Great Bather is beautiful and Silver Fruit, Silver Cakespoons, The Garden, is definitely intriguing by name and by nature. xxx
    P.S. The botanical print handbag is gorgeous!

  8. Lovely outfits and what fabulous finds. It was a very good week for you on your travels. I loved your (almost forgotten) yellow shoes; isn't it brilliant when you find something you love and had forgotten about.

    I loved your sculpture garden walk. Did you like the 'improvements'?

  9. as always - the sculptures are fantastic!
    thank you for the photos!!
    how could you forget about this pretty yellow shoes! ts!
    have a red croco Pelle Di Giada bag - they are very sturdy and longliving......

  10. Some fab outfits, Ann. Glorious red tree! I love the visit to the Sculpture park, always so interesting to see. The two women facing each other is my particular fave. I hope that you will bring some nice weather with you on your visit to the UK. Leave any rain in Belgium!

  11. It has been a while (20+ years??) since I read "Rebecca" and I don't remember mention of rhododendrons, but what magnificent specimens these are!

    I like the look of all those sculptures. I wish our parks had more (I'm getting tired of Roy and the big silver dish, ha ha).

  12. Beautiful photos... thank you very much.
    Wonderful walks... I love the green and yellow of nature and the copper beech is so stately. It reminds me of ours in Pillnitz Castle Park - yes, I have to go there as quickly as I can :-))
    Your outfits are great again... I like them, the colorful long skirts and the shoulder bags. Splendid.
    Thank you very much.
    A cheerful greeting comes to you from Viola

  13. On the 10th we went to England, and it looks ages ago. We watched a old episode of The Inspector Linley Mysteries yesterday and it was recorded in Dungeness, where we spend a day every time we are in England. The series was from 2005. It was so lovely to see. They even showed the steam train we went with. I digress..... love the yellow slingbacks, they are so super 70s. And the red tree is amazing!

  14. The green tartan blouse and the maxi floral pattern dress make for such an amazing combo. You look fabulous.
    The yellow top and red skirt is a lovely combo as well.
    I loved the art tour!
    Fantastic photos and location.