Bath Christmas Market…

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Well that’s a wrap. The Georgian streets of Bath seldom look so beautiful than at Bath Christmas market with thousands of twinkling fairy lights, chestnuts roasting and mulled wine. It’s impossible not to get into the festive spirit with the smell evocative of years gone by. Mulled wine candle anyone? Hmm. Perhaps not! Thank you so much to everyone that came and supported us. It was lovely to see so many familiar faces; customers who had travelled the length and breadth of the country to come and find us again.  Dave’s coaches also did not disappoint, regularly disgorging ladies from the bus – allegedly 35 bottles of Prosecco were consumed on one particular coach, go girls!

We were still serving when the Abbey bells pealed the signal for the end of Bath Christmas market. We left our starry night themed chalet with a mixture of feelings. Later in front of the Aga, M. and I felt quite emotional as we digested not only the excitement of the last three weeks, but also some fine cheese from the Snowdonia cheese company and copious quantities of champagne. As we sat, contented and warm and absolutely knackered, we knew and were extremely grateful for our roadies, the Limelight boys, who were currently and efficiently, packing down the Limelight chalet. It was as much as M. and I could do to raise the energy to raise another glass to our lips, let alone pack boxes and miles of Christmas lights.

It was a huge honour to be awarded first prize by the Mayor of Bath, Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones, for the best-dressed chalet at Bath Christmas Market 2018. Thank you so much to him and to all the judges. I’m seldom lost for words but I was speechless when the judges presented us with a lovely trophy and certificate. As is always the case when these things happen I was not looking my best and much as I pleaded with my hair to behave itself, the damp guaranteed that it didn’t. My son’s expensive Geography trip to Iceland paid dividends, as the gift he brought home, one I’d funded, was a hat, which I hastily clapped on for the photographs. Happily, there was no TV crew to face (unlike last year) and I found my voice for a short interview with BBC Bristol and I like to imagine that the listeners believed that I might even be an elegant woman with perfectly coiffed tresses.

Whilst I have dreamt of a blow dry and a pyjama day, there has been no time for either – bright and early the following day, if a little bleary eyed, we were back at the Aga face to finish the making and be-ribboning gorgeous candles for the Apex Hotel in their signature silver and taupe brand colours. Speaking of lovely hotels, those of you that read this blog regularly, will know that I am a big fan of No.15 Great Pulteney Street, Bath and I was delighted to also make a delivery there this week too. We have also packaged up and sent off scores of candles for orders placed online in the last few weeks – some new customers but also many of our long-standing customers. Thank you all so very much.

The next week will fly by far too quickly, I, like so many women at this time of the year have a list longer than Father Christmas’s beard– I have got one market left to go at GPS Bath and No 2 son’s 16th birthday (this isn’t the year that I am stopping making his annual birthday gingerbread house alongside a birthday cake – small consolation for having a birthday so close to Christmas). But otherwise, I am trying not to sweat the small stuff and remember what the perfect Christmas is ultimately all about – I suspect no one and certainly not our children, will be looking at how spotless the house is or how perfect the decorations, or indeed at the sophistication of the menu. It’s about the love and the laughter and I hope there is much of that this year and for you all. Thank you all so very much again for all your support and wishing you all a very happy and healthy Christmas and New Year…

Cathy x

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Fast women…

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As a girl, my grandmother always told me that no-one likes a fast woman; it took me years to understand what she meant – and she’d be mortified to think that that is what I consider myself these days- not in the immoral sense, I hasten to add, but in the sense that I am perpetually running.  The more I think about what I have to do and achieve in December, the faster I run.

Firstly, thousands of gorgeous candles have been made and most of them boxed and beribboned. I had no idea that tying a bow could be so idiosyncratic – each person on my team has their own unique style of knot and snip but I confess, that although I have had much wonderful help with the candle pouring, labelling, and boxing, it is almost impossible for me to delegate this last process and so, every almost every single bow has been hand-tied by me. It’s becoming a standing joke. It was therefore good aversion therapy for me to go and hand-finish some gorgeous candles that we have donated to a fabulous Bath charity, the Genesis Trust; I met with their clients as part of a life skills activity and those of you that know me well will be pleased to hear that I managed to let go a little and curbed any desire to re-do any of their work. You can find these lovely, unique and one-off candles in the Charity chalet at Bath Christmas Market on November 29th and at their other Christmas events – I am delighted that every single penny from the proceeds of sale of these candles will go to the Genesis Trust.

I rushed down to Bath this afternoon to take a wander around some of the chalets. The winter wonderland is taking shape, especially as the snow adds a certain magic, and as I wandered around, looking at all the businesses that would become friends over the next few weeks I was suddenly stricken with a moment of sheer panic at the prospect of what still needs to be done before we are ready to open. We are surrounded in fairy lights, black organza and ribbon and, whilst I was tempted to change our starry night themed chalet, it was so pretty that we will keep the theme but with a few new festive twists. Wreaths and flowers are being made as I write and lists and rotas have been written and re-written. Every hour of each day until then is allocated to some job or other.

On top of that, and as I mentioned last month, we have created a very special, new Christmas candle specially for Bath Christmas Market although, and to make sure that it is as special as possible, there will be a limited number of these for sale only at the market. I’m not going to spoil it by telling you what it is, you’ll have to come and smell it – but we hope you’ll love it. For those of you in love with No.9 Pomander (named after our eldest son because as a baby, he smelt as good as one), fear not – we have plenty of those too.

The market is only part of our Christmas diary.  Each date is scribbled and scrawled over, crossed out and rejigged, my nails nervously raking through my hair until I can make all the logistics work. Luckily I was able to figure it out so that we will be at the Whatley Manor Christmas Shopping Event on 26-28 November – calm and cosy shopping in a luxurious 5-star hotel in the Cotswolds. We will also be at the Aston Martin Christmas Shopping Event at Dick Lovett in Cribbs Causeway on the evening on Thursday 6th December.  I’m not usually impressed by cars but I look at those and I just think Daniel Craig. Do you think there might be a raffle? Happy to win a car, or indeed Daniel Craig, now I sound like the woman by granny warned me about!

Somehow in the midst of all this falls my birthday. Celebrations are on hold until we see our eldest children again at Christmas, but I’d like to think that there will be fizz and cake. Dear hubby also has birthday in November, a big one this year, so if you pop by the market and can’t find me anywhere, I will be off somewhere giving him some much needed undivided attention.

No matter how busy it is however, or how rushed off my feet I am, I have to pinch myself as to how lucky I am. I am at home a lot! When I set up Limelight it was because, not only do I love gorgeous candles, but because I also wanted to spend more time with my family, be in control of my work, with more balance which was practically non-existent in my previous career.  And, whilst we are constantly surrounded by “candle s**t” as hubby so affectionately refers to it, (he just spilt wax over his Lovett pie and the language was actually far more profane) we have not looked back, the only regret is that we did not do it sooner. It can be very scary to take a plunge, but it can also be revitalising.

Bath Christmas Market opens its doors on Thursday 22 November and runs until Sunday, 9th December.  Do pop by, I can’t wait to see you all x

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Happy Hallowe’en…

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My Instagram feed has been hijacked recently with friends’ pictures of the most extraordinary sunsets that we have all been enthralled by. From Cornwall to Scotland and in between, there have been salmon pink and mauve skies snapped for the delectation of social media. My friend drove through the Midlands at the weekend through twenty minutes of thick snow flurries, each flake, fat and sparkling. A most unusual sight for October.

I love waking up to nippy mornings though.  To walk out of the front door to bright blue skies, red and orange crunchy leaves underfoot and that first Dragon’s breath of the new season. Autumnal fashion I find is also so much more forgiving, most gals look good in boots, opaque tights, and a whiff of kingfisher coloured velvet thrown jauntily across one’s shoulders with any lumps and bumps happily concealed within layers of cashmere.  It’s the perfect time to hunker down at home with the wood burner on, the candles alight and the comfort of the AGA which is far happier to be full of baked potatoes again, not wax. There’s also the promise of the winter birthdays and festivities ahead. I feel a somewhat of a Scrooge this evening though. I cannot stand what Hallowe’en has become. There are certain customs that should stay in America where they do it well and which is part of their culture. Hallowe’en is one of them. My friend has just had a run in with one of the cut price shops (the ones who sell things for a pound) as they have been selling carvable, polystyrene pumpkins. The environmental result of such a product is catastrophic, let alone what it might do to our children’s health.

There has been a steady stream of children ringing our door bell tonight and returning to their homes with enough chocolate for months. The little ones want to dress up and many of them look adorable – but God forbid a trick was ever played on either party, the papers would have a field day. And, given the amount of low-hanging polyester on display I quickly snuffed out all the hurricane lanterns scattered on our drive and around our front door.  Anyway, no doubt my opinion is not shared with the vast majority; I am far happier to mark this seasonal shift by an extra precious hour in bed and Guy Fawkes night. Fireworks, sparklers, jazzy bobble hats, cuddly gloves and hot dogs!

There’s also a strange dichotomy to Autumn that is at odds with what is happening in nature. Whilst leaves and plants die off and the northern hemisphere gets darker, the rhythm of back to school or University, of getting ready and being prepared for winter ahead, is, in many ways, one of the most productive and energetic seasons. A season of newness and firsts.

We at Limelight have certainly been working hard at getting ready for what is the busiest time of year in candle land. Whilst it’s not yet November – Christmas for retailers and manufacturers has already been on our minds for months! Caroline and I started pouring thousands of candles for the Christmas season back in July – and they are cured and smelling divine. We are boxing and be-ribboning and topping up our stores to be sure that we do not run out of your favourite scents. We are also working on a special edition festive scent just for Christmas that we think is just perfect and there will be a limited stock of these that will only be available at Bath Christmas market. You will be no doubt relieved to hear that cloying, gingerbread does not feature. Instead, think warm, evocative and Christmassy. I’m crossing my fingers that you will love the scent.

Talking of winter adventures No. 2 son has today embarked on a geography trip to Iceland (lucky boy) and we shall shortly have a visitor coming to watch us make candles. She is moving to Norway embarking on a wonderful family adventure and is looking for something to do with her time when she gets there – and making candles in Norway seems like the perfect idea. She works at one of our lovely stockists and is keen to come and see how it is done. So, it was agreed that she would come and watch us in action and have a spot of lunch. Once again, I will be teaching, but not the Law this time, something infinitely more beautiful and creative that produces absolutely zero essays or assessments to write nor mark!

For those of you organised people who wish to plan your shopping, the award- winning Bath Christmas Market starts on Thursday 22nd November -there’s 180 twinkling chalets (definitely not sheds) and so much to see and do. I’m very pleased to see we are in the pick of the stallholders again this year. Bath Christmas runs until 9th December and we will be in Bath Street for the duration.

Until then, wrap up warm, light those candles and start making lists!

Cathy x

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Top Drawer…

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Conkers have not only landed but mulched. Blackberries have burst forth without so much as a by your leave. Autumn has been, by all accounts ‘conspiring with him (the sun) how to load and bless fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run’. Yes, thank you Keats. He must have had a lot of time on his hands to ruminate the beauty of Autumn – whereas, we have entered what is our busiest season yet. Seasons of mists my foot…

We have only just emerged from the less than mellow, yet arguably very fruitful aftermath that was, Top Drawer (a trade show in Olympia). It was all very, busy and exciting and we had a great time but somehow, on setting up our trade stand, I succeeded in channelling, due to my farcical ineptitude, Laurel and Hardy, Mr Bean and The Marx brothers combined.

On arrival, I hadn’t appreciated that the shell scheme (the stand wall thingy) was rather wider than we are used to in Harrogate. The hooks to fit our – if I may say so – beautiful signage wouldn’t fit and so, I was lent a hefty, industrial-sized staple gun to affix said signage with the acrylic wire that I had brought with me. Imagine the scene when, garbed in Health and Safety high vis vest and boots, so not the new black, I tottered up the ladder to affix said signage. I was mid shot of staple, when I inadvertently dropped the gun in a tangle of acrylic wire where it landed betwixt two already built shell schemes rendering it totally and utterly irrecoverable. Oops.

Having figured a way out of this dilemma, and eventually sorting out our signage, I then managed to spark a small security incident by stabbing myself with a brand-new paring knife.

“I was trying to attach limes to go in our amazing flowers”, I tried to explain, rather sheepishly to Olympia’s First Aid chap. He seemed unmoved even though there was blood spurting literally everywhere. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the protective layer of wrap over the stand carpet hadn’t been removed, or perhaps it was the fact that Olympia hosts so many events during the year from the Fertility Fair to the, London Cruise Show to the Security & Counter Terror Expo, where, who knows what could go wrong, that my digit was not going to faze him. He coolly suggested a trip to A&E and stitches; I don’t think so, as the youth of today would say. I was a woman on a mission with a list as long as her crimson arm and so, I did what busy people in crisis do which is to patch things up and apply a very brave smile.

I was never more relieved to get back to a hotel and relax with a room service G&T. As I planned the following day and how I could avoid any further catastrophe, I thought I’d be organised and book an Uber taxi for the morning. I was an Uber virgin (that sounds very odd) but had heard of the delights from my daughter Lottie who uses them all the time, and I was keen to try it to avoid the hassle of parking at Olympia). Somewhat smug that I had so easily downloaded the app and booked my car I was then somewhat bemused to see on my phone, a black car-like thing tracking towards me in real time. Dressed in no more than my PJs I flew down to reception to explain my incompetence at having booked for now instead of at 7.45 the next morning – the driver had the same, long suffering expression as the First Aider in Olympia, suggesting middle aged women and technology did not go hand in hand. With a bandaged finger and floral pyjamas, I was not in a position to offer any feminist slant to that assumption.

I crawled back into bed and prayed for a better day. The gods listened! Our neighbours were the heavenly Bloomtown from Cornwall on one side (do check them out), and the lovely two founders of Charlotte Rhys from  South Africa on the other. Henry – my absolutely gorgeous, right hand young man and the son of my good friend and fellow candlemaker, who with his charm and good looks will most definitely be asked again -and we had lots of fun and ate our body weight in After Eight mints, the only nourishment readily available to us and it was great to meet lots of new stockists who loved our candles, diffusers and bath and body products.

We’ve had lorries and pallets and record numbers of candles being delivered I have been busy working on a fabulous new bespoke product for a wonderful collaboration that I cannot yet speak about.  The domestic scene has been even busier and all the while I’ve been juggling  the hair pulling job of settling the youngest boy into big school, organising his 12th birthday party, guiding No.2 son with his GCSE mocks, tedious when he’d really rather be playing rugby, on his skateboard, at the gym or plugged into a screen. And whilst also being the anchor and thus available to our two eldest children who are literally at opposing ends of the globe in very different time zones.

How Keats had time to watch and write about, ‘gathering swallows twittering in the skies’ beats me.

Back soon …

Cathy x

Flowers by Rachel at The Fresh Flower Company

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Lego life…

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Our new premises have proved a godsend – particularly as we are in the midst of the epic 9-week long summer holiday and several Lego bombs have detonated all over the house, with shards and shrapnel scattered everywhere. Only this morning I removed a vicious piece of the Millenium Falcon’s windscreen from my heel. Talking of Lego, the boys have worked on a prototype labelling machine this summer made out of Lego (and the handles from some old discarded oars, see below). Inspired, the plastic brick version has been replaced with the real thing and also, a rather smart machine for filling our bottles with shower gels and creams. Streamlined and sexy maybe but, there’s only so much a machine can do because it was just muggins scrabbling about on that floor in the warehouse when it came to the year end, stock take.

After producing comes the selling – by far the best fun, and Gatcombe was no exception. We were blessed with scorchio temperatures, yet by some divine intervention, our stand was next door to Pinkster Gin and they kept us topped up with the pink stuff and plenty of Fever Tree tonic. I love to see so many old friends and customers and meet new ones – and they all seemed delighted to be squirted with our new body products.  There were also some shopping opportunities for us too. M and I bought ‘essential’ cashmere and shearling fingerless gloves for our Markets and Dutchy did rather well too which was not difficult given that there was every conceivable product that a little, sausage dog’s heart might desire, such as a rather smart new lead and some Dirty Beastie shampoo (she has taken to rolling). However, as I sat on the stairs this morning picking plastic Star Wars merchandise out of my foot, I was able to warn Hubby as he made his way to the shower.

“That’s dog shampoo darling”, I said. Hubby looked at the bottle. Then he peered closer,

“But Cathy it’s eight pounds,” he paused, “The dog is little more than eight inches long…”

“Slight exaggeration darling…”

“It means, that to wash her coat costs approximately one pound per inch. Our bathroom is full to the gunwales with orange blossom shower gel. I’m surprised that you didn’t wash the dog in that…” I’m rather glad now that M talked me out of buying a beautiful, crushed velvet, button upholstered, dog bed at a rather hefty £300.

If it were only work that kept me busy I may not be quite as haggard as I am right now but the emotional turmoil, or, more to the point, blackmail I endure trying to keep the boys engaged with real as well as virtual life, has taken its toll. Ensuring the business is a success and my customers happy is at the top of my priority list – but so is the welfare of my children, who apparently, will either ‘die of boredom’ or ‘just go back on the PS4’ (dammit, they know that’s my Achilles heel, the one incidentally, that was pierced earlier) so, I run ragged juggling drop offs at clubs, gyms and pools. Top that off with shopping and the subsequent cooking of huge amounts of food that has just been bought and consumed with locust like execution that, come 8pm, I’m dead beat, drooling into a blissful bath, scented with orange blossom oil; candles flickering by the dozen.

My bath has been most welcome these past couple of nights as there’s definitely been more of a chill in the air – Autumn is around the corner and the promise of cosy nights in front of the wood burner awaits. I’m not usually given to wishing away the summer but this year it means we are that much closer to being reunited with our daughter, Lottie who is studying in Mexico. It seems only minutes ago that she too was a teenager, with all sorts of summer holiday expectations and then, in the blink of an eye, she left us. Off went this confident girl to embark on a wonderful adventure, utterly unaware (as it should be), of the anxiety and longing she is causing her mother! This is one of the many things about motherhood that has, surprisingly, given that it is so blindingly obvious, taken me unawares. When they were babies there were myriad books warning you of how exhausting the night feeds and early mornings would be, of colic and vaccinations and potty training and then – nothing. Nada. You are left to grope your way through parenthood – Dr Miriam Stoppard was eerily quiet about when they grow up and learn to drive, and imbibe, and travel and have their hearts broken (the 19th century poet Gibran was more prophetic on children) and, as if Lottie spreading her wings weren’t enough for my nerves, No. 1 son is also about to embark on his own wonderful adventure, volunteering at a school in the remote mountains of Nepal. As a former Navy wife, I thought that I was used to separation. Ha! It’s so much harder when it is your children and I make no apologies for counting down the days until Christmas, when all my chicks will be back in one nest.

In the meantime that bath is calling…

Cathy x

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Hot dog…

group1 (2)Caroline and I have been toiling away in the summer heat, not as I might have liked, in the garden under a loggia (had I a loggia), nor on the terrace under a laden olive tree (so nada to that as well) but, in the blistering heat and with the Black Pig (aka the Aga) on full blast.  We have been frenzied, I’m delighted to say – in getting a record amount of stock made and also, working on a few projects which includes our new bath and body range. I’m very excited with these and if you haven’t taken a peak at the website do – three fragrances all gloriously citrussy, I love the orange blossom inspired by my recent romantic trip to Florence. Speaking of romance, we have supplied a large number of romantic, exquisitely scented votives for a very special young man and his bride who are getting married next week. I have known George since he was a blonde, curly haired baby and literally cannot believe that this time next week he will be a husband and Victoria, my Indian adventure buddy, will be mother of the groom. George and Mina, I wish you every happiness in your future together.

I took with me then, on our family holiday last week, not only a husband and two boys and all the paraphernalia that goes hand and hand with such a trip but also a sense of achievement of a job well done.  I allowed myself to really relax – no drying out woollen socks in a damp cottage on a damp (if beautiful) Scottish Island this year – Turkey was the perfect place to bliss out, messing around on boats and cooling off in a dreamy pool. We’ve returned to more of this wonderful sunshine. The men in my life are still very much in holiday mode and are currently kayaking in the Wye valley. I’m assuming they’ll return in one piece and hopefully Hubby’s, “Don’t worry darling, we will take a left and avoid the rapids” was not hubris speaking.

Dutchy the dachshund has also been on her summer hols, staying with a couple of friends whilst we were away. What I didn’t anticipate was the fact that she’d be on heat. Turns out she’s a bit of nymphomaniac, accosting every male dog she comes meets, shoving her little doggy parts in the faces of unassuming dogs, whether they wanted it or not.

“Your dog”, declared M. on opening the door to me and holding out a very horny sausage dog, “is a Grade1Trollope”. She had not stopped flirting and coming on to Gay Dave the sheep dog, who found her advances extremely tiresome, and Rhoddri, her Labrador, who, being a puppy, is up for anything but totally clueless. Mortified, I could only offer sincere apologies for my promiscuous hound and on the drive home, I gave her ‘the talk’ that I’ve given all my children, about respecting oneself and the perils of not adhering to safe sex. She did not respond by making sick noises and begging me to be quiet, on the contrary, she rested her head on my arm, looked up at me with big, brown eyes and wagged her tail enthusiastically. I mean seriously, how could Dave the sheep dog have resisted her charms? Needless to say, without another male dog at home to cosy up to, she has been perfectly demure since returning. Besides, Hubby has already said in his best, serious, head of the household (hmm) voice –

“If that dog of yours is pregnant, we are not keeping one ruddy puppy”.

Happy days! Ah, well so long as the sun keeps shining, the school holidays will be a blast, so very much easier to keep everyone happy when it isn’t dripping wet.

Happy and safe holidays everyone x

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Firenze

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In my last blog I wrote that I was lucky to have had recommendations from someone who lives in Florence and who wrote the delightful Bella Figura she told me that May ‘carries the scents of jasmine, orange blossom and acacia across the city’. I couldn’t agree more; whilst our visits to various profumerias provided inspiration, by far the best part was just the time spent wandering and soaking up the scents of the city.

This picture was taken at San Miniato on the Oltarno and the seat was surrounded by jasmine- the smell was out of this world. When we wandered through the Giardino delle Rose (Florence’s Rose Garden) it was beautiful and so fragrant in May, whereas under Botticelli’s Primavera at the Uffizi you could almost smell the orange blossom form his brushstrokes.

It had been a blissful day, we’d visited several churches and their smell is just so deeply evocative of Florence (and of Italy). It is ancient and sacred and its scent literally hits you the moment you walk through the door.  It’s different to English churches – warm wax, woody and smoky incense and white lilies, but it is also more than that, slightly damp, clean and very old. I was in olfactory heaven.

“Did you know that perfumery was born in Florence?” I asked Hubby as my nose sniffed at its surroundings like Dutchy the dachsund searching for her tennis ball, “It’s widely thought to have originated in France but the first perfumery was actually here in Florence.” Hubby did his very best to look enthralled, but when we visited the oldest profumeria in the world, set quite literally in the most heavenly old church, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica Di Santa Maria Novella, established by Dominican monks in 1221, he was truly enchanted.  I love citrussy scents (one of the reasons for our name, Limelight) and adored the Aqua de SM Novella which featured bergamot, a lime-like fruit and, which I was told, was commissioned by Caterina de Medici in 1533 and made by her personal perfumier, Renato Bianco. Caterina, when she married and became queen at just 14, brought her perfumier with her to France, where the French later renamed him, Renee le Florentin. Here he supplied French nobility with scented essences to conceal their rather pungent smell. Their poor hygiene, was due to fact that the Florentine aristocracy preferred to avoid their ablutions for fear of respiratory diseases because of the bitter cold that permeated the vast rooms at the palaces. No such fear of that today with the cool profumeria – a welcome relief from the city heat. I concluded, having inhaled deeply many a fine and fabulous scent that my favourite was, Aqua di Sicilia – fabulous citrus notes with bergamot and orange blossom.

We also visited several other profumerias, including the newer and artisanal Acqua Dell’ Elba whose scents come from a tiny island just west of Florence. Mention of The Merchant of Venice  saw Hubby pale, believing for a moment that I was about to drag him to a performance of Shakespeare in Italian language. He was mightily relieved that we were doing some more research – the Merchant of Venice is in fact a Venetian perfume shop which has recently opened a shop in Florence, which sells its high end parfum in wonderful Murano glass bottles.

It would be disingenuous of me to let you believe that it was all work and no play. Florence is about a lot more than scent and we made sure that we made plenty of time for long and lazy lunches and a favourite was at the Cibreo Caffe by Sant’Ambrogio market. As the sun got lower in the sky, aperitivo time meant more than one beautiful orange coloured Aperol spritz at the Conntinentale’s gorgeous roof top bar with wonderful views of the City and, more often than not Prosecco and ‘panini tartufati’  (delicious little rolls with truffle butter) at Procacci on via Tornabuoni. Dinner afterwards at Casalinga in Santo Spirito was a vibrant experience where the food was simple yet perfectly executed and experience completed and complemented by very loud, Florentine waiters!

Florence did not disappoint and the love affair with Italy and its scent continues – I hope that you will see some of this reflected (with a British twist) in our new products coming soon…

Cathy x

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Power in love…

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I’ve moved out. It has all happened very fast and I haven’t really had the time to think about it, but Hubby is relieved – his home no longer resembles an Amazon warehouse and is wife, her candles, wax, ribbons and wicks are no longer under his feet.

“Darling, George Clooney maybe, but I would never have thought that you’d leave me for an industrial unit, I must say”, said Hubby, puffing as he carried me over the threshold of my new commercial premises. It felt a little bit like the day we got the keys to our very first house in London as I became a Navy wife – except I wasn’t carried over the threshold then as the Navy had already carried Hubby away.

He dropped me rather unceremoniously on the other side of the doorway and holding my hand, we looked at my new space. Although very exciting, it is also slightly bittersweet – taking the business from a workshop at home which I have built up and loved every minute of onto an industrial estate is a complete leap into the unknown. It’s not a retail premises, we are not talking elegant, beautiful aesthetics here, but it’s just outside Bath and it gives us the space we need as we are bursting at the seams and, although we were gazumped of the last place and I was inconsolable for a short while, it is said that everything happens for a reason and although it is sometimes hard to believe at the time, in hindsight this time it was true.

Moving in day involved my first ever close encounter with a tail lift lorry. Happily, I didn’t have to drive it, just help load and unload it. Assistance came in the form of my trusty friend and her husband. He’s a very busy man who leads what sounds like a very glamorous job, travelling the globe with top rock stars, doing ‘the sound’ for them – but Coldplay’s loss was our gain this time and his experience of packing away huge concerts came to the fore when his meticulous attention to detail far surpassed my own packaging fastidiousness. His perfectionism ensured the removal went like clockwork; in fact we were so ahead of schedule, we managed to squeeze in a late lunch in a local Italian.  Who needs Pickfords when you’ve got a travelling showman?

As we sat in the Italian restaurant sipping some top notch Prosecco and nibbling Ligurian olives, relaxed that the house was liberated of Limelight stuff, I dropped some hints to my friends –simultaneously hoping that my hints were not so subtle that my otherwise oblivious Hubby would catch on that I longed to return to Italy – our favourite place in the world. Alone. With him. I said all this rather breathlessly whilst caressing my wine glass as I looked longingly, into his eyes, fluttering my eyelashes. This has always been a successful manoeuvre in movies. Hubby however, looked at me with some concern and dipped his napkin into the water jug.

“Come here darling”, he said, “Your contact lens seems to be causing you some gip”.

“There is nothing wrong with my contact lens”, I replied impatiently. My dear friend took up the gauntlet.

“They say that Florence is glorious at this time of year”.

“Ah!” said Hubby, the penny finally dropping. Florence it is then! The timing could not be better as I have been lucky enough to meet the lovely and rather inspirational Kamin Mohammadi at Calcot recently. Kamin left her job as a magazine editor in London and went to live in Florence to write a novel about her return to her childhood Iran, The Cypress Tree but she loved Florence so much, she ended up staying and she’s just published an evocative novel about her time there, Bella Figura  – how to live, love and eat the Italian way. It’s a great read, especially if you are planning to visit Florence. She’s given us some fabulous recommendations for cafes, lunch spots and places to wine and dine (oh and the best gelateria in Florence) and so I do hope there will be time to explore these, alongside visits to the Uffizi, Il Duomo, San Lorenzo market, some of Florence’s other sights, not to mention its fabulous profumerias.  

It will be my first time in Florence and I’m half expecting Julian Sands to save me from a very feminine faint near the Uffizi – A Room with a View being one of my all time favourite films – but darling Hubby will more than suffice. They tell me that the scent of the city in May is iris, acacia, lemon and orange blossom. Acacia blossoms only for a few weeks each year and I have never ever smelt it, apparently it smells like honeyed jasmine, bergamot and orange blossom. I’m more familiar with the flowers in the new, Duchess of Sussex’s bouquet. I watched clips from the wedding this morning, and, had I shut my eyes – which I didn’t, as I didn’t want to miss a thing –  I could have smelt the heady scent of early summer, sweet peas, astilbe, lily of the valley and jasmine. It was quite truly an exquisite wedding wasn’t it? The music, the flowers, the people and the American bishop. And he was absolutely right of course – there is power in love. So easy to forget in the mad, busy lives we all lead. ‘Don’t underestimate love’ he continued. I will take that on board as I board the aeroplane with my love and give thanks that we are still lucky enough to have and to hold each other.

Many congratulations Harry and Meghan.  By the way, should you go to Florence on honeymoon, the first round is on us…

 

Hope springs eternal (& Tim Peake)…

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We had a lovely evening at the Bath Life Awards despite another sprinkling of the white stuff. happily nothing like the Beast from the East and the weather most definitely did not disrupt play again. We didn’t win but were very happy to have been a finalist- the winner was the lovely Apex Hotel, Bath and we make private label candles for them, huge congratulations team Apex!

After the heat and colour of Kerala in India last month, the tail end of a long winter has made dear old Blighty seem a little drab and grey. That probably explains why, when walking Dutchy the dachshund, I’m almost gambolling with the lambs, so thrilled am I to see at last, lighter evenings, blue skies, and carpets of primroses. The pungency of wild garlic as Dutchy runs through it is heady and welcomed – another reminder of the perennial recurrence of new life, where hope springs eternal. Nevertheless, I don’t think that anyone is quite ready for a wild garlic scent to hit the shelves!

Talking of Dutchy, we are tentatively puppy planning but as her seasons seem about as predictable as the English spring weather, we shall have to wait and see. Hubby and I have had long discussions about the appropriate stud for her, much to the general amusement of our eldest children who have been accusing us of ‘pimping her out’. Of course, the more I argue about how ridiculous they are, the more they tell that me that I “doth protest too much” – it’s heartening to know that they are, at least, familiar with a smattering of Shakespeare…

Anyway, we already have some keen takers for her puppies (we aren’t selling them) but I wonder if they know quite the extent of her tennis ball infatuation? As anyone who knows her can attest to, she is far from low maintenance and the minute one of the family or indeed, a guest sits down, she jauntily pads across and the familiar sound as the tennis ball thuds at one’s feet, quickly followed with a cocked head and an expectant expression.

We have not ventured far this Easter – although we did go to the Science Museum to try out the Tim Peake virtual reality experience. Now, as a woman who grew up long before the invention of the computer game and its ilk, I am not well versed in such things – and I am mostly glad to say of all of my experiences have been for real and not, virtual. Therefore, I can only apologise to those waiting in the queue after us, who had to endure the shrieks of a middle-aged woman, goggles and headphones strapped to her head, believing for all the world that she was about to plummet out of the International Space Station to her certain death. My sons, as you can imagine,  were mortified and gave me a wide berth for the rest of the visit. I think I’ll stick to the genuine experience from now on in. Our sojourn to London was a brief respite from child No.3’s revision schedule (once again, hope springs eternal) which is why we did not venture too far this time: to all the other mothers of boys out there, cajoling sons to revise Chemistry instead of playing Fortnite, I really do share your pain.

I did succeed in leaving them in the excellent care of their father though for a few days when I returned to Harrogate for a trade fair. Harrogate is a joy. It’s such a beautiful city and although wet, it was perfectly cosy inside the Great Yorkshire Showground.  I didn’t get to see much of the town but it was lovely to see all of our customers from 2017 returning to place more orders and I met some lovely new stockists too. It was not all work thankfully; I was thoroughly spoiled in my gorgeous little B&B, although it was mostly early nights after very busy days, but I did get the chance to enjoy an evening out in the Montpellier Quarter with lovely supper at the Old Royal Baths.

The retail world flies by so quickly (far quicker than in the Law) and we are already planning and looking forward to our summer events at The Gloucestershire Festival Of Polo 2018 at Beaufort Polo Club, Gatcombe Park Festival of Eventing 2018 and Bath’s first Spring Fayre.

Before that though, we have plenty to be getting on with. Lots of exciting projects which (shush, I can’t yet talk about) in the pipeline and hopefully, dare I say it, a move to new premises in early May.  Those of you that know me will know that I love Italy and I’m off there again soon and I shall be visiting as many profumerias as I nasally can. Rest assured, wild garlic will not feature…

Cathy x

 

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Eden

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As the aeroplane descended from the sky above the Keralan coast, it looked as though we were entering paradise. Gone were the snow-filled clouds, the cold and the greyness of the British winter and in its stead was an azure blue surf and hundreds of miles of golden sands fringed by thousands of coconut palm trees. As the plane let down its landing gear, it seemed as though we were ever closer to Eden. From the sky, colourful houses emerged from the coconut trees, vivid mosques of every hue and churches too and, although their spires pointed up to heaven, believe me, heaven waited us on the ground.

There may be poverty and hardship in Kerala but there is a vitality to the Keralan people that I have not witnessed anywhere else. The hustle and bustle of scooters, tuk-tuks, buses and bicycles; the stunning saris and salwar kemeezes enrobing surely the world’s most beautiful women, – dhotis and kurti and lungi covering the world’s most relaxed men. Mosques, temples and churches jostle right next door to each other; women sell fish on stones in the dirt on the roadsides, huge trunks of bananas hang from every shop front as well as pineapple, mangoes and guavas. ‘Public’ dogs scavenge and scrounge anything that is remotely edible. Goats skip over mounds of god knows what and cows, even though not sacred in Kerala, meander down streets and beaches. Eagles fly overhead, prevalent as pests as our pigeons, and the smell of incense, neroli and roses relieve us after the pungent smell of the chai sellers, fried street food and unadulterated fumes of the  tuk-tuks and motor bikes have assaulted our olfactory senses. But catch someone’s eye and they smile back at you. Everyone smiles back at you.

We were on our way to a yoga retreat to an Ayurvedic spa on the Malabar coast.  My days started early, at 7am for early morning meditation followed by one and half hours of yoga. My day was further punctuated by swims in the pool, strolling on the beach, reading and several  hours of blissful Ayurvedic treatments – all with the sound of the waves of the Arabian sea crashing against the sand and under the swaying coconut palms.  I had booked in for a rejuvenation package and had at least three treatments a day – blissful Abhyanga body massage with four hands (two therapists working together, unless it was the god Ganesh, I wouldn’t have known, my eyes were so heavy). The massage is unlike any western massage I have had and involves long sweeping strokes to dislodge fat and cellulite and lymphatic drainage to release toxins. It works – despite eating loads of very delicious vegetarian curries, following the Sattvic diet, an unbelievable 6lb was shed in eight days. Head massage & shiodhara – a blissful pouring of hot sesame oil onto your forehead in a rhythmic motion, never failed to send me into a dreamy sleep. Finally, I adored a lovely facial using natural ingredients -papaya & fresh aloe vera. Treatments were administered for the most part in an open thatched hut next to the beach with the most fabulous view. I return feeling refreshed, inspired and about ten years younger.

Needless to say, I didn’t venture very far from my yoga mat, the Ayurvedic treatment centre or the lovely pool although I did take a dreamy river boat tour of the fabulous Kerala backwaters. It was good to feel a breeze and be sheltered by the magnificent trees that grew high up from the water and served as a natural parasol. If the flora was impressive, the fauna took my breath away. Kingfishers, river crows and herons were plentiful, fish jumped up from the water, a family of goats – a mother and her three kids, walked down a riverbank and swam across to the other side, the little one bleating for its mother the whole journey, perhaps terrified of meeting a troll! Around a corner a man washed his buffalo, and around another, boys swung from a swing and enjoyed messing around in the water like boys do in countries across the globe.

Evenings were spent catching up with Victoria, or Dora the Explorer, God knows what hairy tales she’d have to relate over dinner but my eyes were wide with wonder when she told tales of bathing elephants, hand feeding wild monkeys and driving to remote hill stations with nary a backward glance. On one such excursion, she disappeared, helmetless, as pillion passenger on a tiny tailor’s motorbike. Victoria is tall and very pale. The tailor was dark skinned and half her size. She swears that people laughed and pointed as they tore past them, the exhaust puttering as it took the strain.  We both came back with our bodyweight in made to measure silk, kaftans, rose water and jewellery.  My hold case, deliberately left empty, was filled to the brim and Victoria had to purchase another bag to accommodate her haul.

Miracles of technology meant we could keep in touch with home despite the large time difference and of course, I could be at the end of an email for any queries. My beloved M did a sterling job of despatching all our orders in my absence and had (almost) a record breaking market in Bath! On the downside, my emails also showed me what Hubby was buying to feed my children, courtesy of the Ocado. They must have been delighted with the new, unfamiliar menu of pizzas, hot dogs, burgers and breaded chicken. Oh well, it won’t kill them once in a while I suppose!

Life is back to normal already though as we’re gearing up to our next trade show in Harrogate and getting out some trade orders but before that we have the re-arranged Bath Life Awards to attend on Thursday (it was postponed after the last dump of snow). I’m so pleased that Limelight is a contender for an award and thus have bought an outfit to match the honour – a gorgeous green Missoni dress, to be accessorised by sumptuous cashmere shawl and some fabulous green amethysts purchased in India.

Much that I love my family and, much as I am fulfilled by running my own business, India is whispering in my ear to return to her and, although I won’t be breaking the news to Hubby anytime soon, I am already planning my next visit to Kerala and I won’t be waiting another year this time…

Cathy x