Birdsong has become something of a soundtrack to life at Briarcourt in recent months - whether it's the busybody gossip of the robins, the lazy rounded vowels of the wood pigeons or the occasional owl hoot: it's pretty much constant, and it carries through the windows, making indoor jobs that little bit lighter. But I'm currently tuning into something different - something clearer and louder; and an invisible drawstring tightens around my stomach.
The cats have been pretty well-behaved since they moved here - just one incident quite early on. It begins with sounds of movement coming from downstairs which I quite naturally assume to be axe murderers. Several minutes of blind, frozen panic pass. Then I steel myself. Back against the wall, I slowly sweep the house with ears cocked and blood pulsing. With the noises getting louder, I pause before rounding the corner on the landing, Cagney and Lacey style......
I'm not good with birds or rodents, so after kettling the cats into another room, it takes several attempts, an earnest conversation with the stricken pigeon, and a very large blanket before she is successfully released back into the garden.
I realise now that the self-satisfied sense of accomplishment I felt dealing with 'Pigeongate' was fleeting. Now faced with anonymous tweeting (and not the cyber kind), the jelly legs return. Luckily, both Dunc and our friend Andy are on-hand, and what turns out to be a frightened blackbird fledgling is rescued from an audience with the cats and returned to the garden unscathed - bar the psychological trauma and indignity of being dragged through a cat flap.
I decide bird-catching is not a feminist issue.
Whilst the glorious bluebell season continues and new exciting treasures such as apple and rhododendron blossom enter stage-left, the rain interrupts work in the garden. However, there's plenty of natural inspiration to be found in the house.
Since David Morris and Andy Marshall from the Edgar Wood Society visited, I've become much more tuned in to themes within the architecture and original decorative scheme at Briarcourt; and it's in my mind to collect repeating motifs and patterns and bring them together. In thinking about wallpaper and textile options for some of the rooms, time and again I'm drawn back to designs inspired by nature. This is of course due in part to the garden views we enjoy and that old interior design trick of 'bringing the outdoors indoors' to increase the sense of space and visual coherence. However, the bigger factor is definitely the existing references to nature peppered throughout Edgar Wood's vision for the house.
Since the Arts and Crafts Movement developed in large part as a reaction against the Industrial Revolution, artists and designers frequently turned to nature for inspiration. It fascinates me that both Edgar Wood and Herbert Higginson Sykes belonged to families whose livelihoods depended on the mills, and on mechanisation to keep a step ahead of competitors. What's more, Lindley's physical and social landscape was dominated by industrial life with Acre Mills, Plover Mills and Temple Street Mills serving as workplaces for the vast majority of the village's inhabitants at the end of the 19th century. Yet, in the midst of this, surrounded by belching chimneys, Briarcourt with its artisan 'this and that'; and rural 'the other' springs up unabashed.
So, for my first attempt at a themed collection of Briarcourt motifs: all things 'nature'
And who should be keeping an eye on the natural order of things?......