Happy New Year…

There was a time, in my dim and distant past when the vestiges of Christmas had to be hidden from the bin men. Far too many empty bottles of champagne, claret and Port and countless discarded boxes that once contained silk, cashmere and perfume. This year I received, much to my family’s amusement, and very much played with as one would a new pet – a robot vacuum cleaner, nicknamed ‘Dobby’ who scuttles hither and yon, before retiring to its staff quarters under the dresser in the kitchen.

To be honest, far from being irked at such an unglamorous gift, I was so poorly after Christmas that having an android to do the family’s dirty work was an absolute godsend (or whoever created it). It wasn’t even Covid that floored me, and I should know, having had four children. I’ve taken more lateral flow tests than I have pregnancy tests, and know all about the suspended breathing as one waits for those two lines to appear.  Nope, the telltale negative, singular line remained resolute and this was some other, nasty festering virus that got my chest and compelled me to lie on the sofa for a few days as Dobby, Dutchy and Daphne, noisily demanded my attention.

Luckily, for Christmas Day itself, I was spared and was still hale and hearty and energised after all the pre-Christmas running around to provide and receive, a magical day. My children surrounded me, and, although they aren’t up at 6am anymore, they are still just as excited by it all, even though we had to shake up the tradition of decades past of stocking opening on our bed. Propriety had it that since we had a guest, who was perhaps as yet, not quite ready to see Hubby in his altogether, we gathered in the sitting room this year in front of a roaring fire. Champagne, a long lunch and present opening (including the ceremonial naming of Dobby) went on into the evening. My parents joined us too, which after last year’s Christmas lockdown of champagne in the garden (don’t get me started on the shenanigans of Boris Johnson and his cabinet) was absolutely wonderful.

I’m not surprised that I was felled by illness though. The run up to  Christmas was crazy busy and everyone around me was getting ill so it was probably inevitable that I would and, whilst it doesn’t feel like work, I was nevertheless working all hours just up until Christmas Eve. The pop up shop was fun and I loved meeting some of you for our festive candle making – the feedback was that it was very therapeutic and calming, particularly, concentrating your attentions on an unfamiliar task but, one that smelt so lovely!  We also delivered hundreds of Christmas candles for one of our bespoke clients and, we were also absolutely thrilled to deliver some very special candles that we made for Alain Roux and his wife Laura at their three starred Michelin restaurant, https://www.waterside-inn.co.uk/ in Bray, Maidenhead.

And here we are in January. Dry January and Veganuary – the month really has nothing to recommend it.

“How about dry Gin, or dry white wine?” I asked the Husband.

He was having none of it and has been desperately working his magic as a virgin mixologist. His alcohol free Mojitos, are in fact, delicious, but everything is improved with a few bubbles thrown in for good measure, so roll on February.

To try and perk up the general, all over malaise that January brings, we have, when not abstaining and eating more greens (Nigel Slater’s Greenfeast is fab) , been walking the south west coastal path and making the most of the some winter sunshine. We were in Dorset yesterday, eating fish and chips and blowing away the cobwebs and in Devizes today, cheering on our rugby playing son  – although I confess that I cannot watch if there is any sign of a tackle or the outside chance that he may be even, ever-so-slightly injured.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very healthy and happy new year. Let us hope that 2022 brings an end to covid, LFTs, isolation, lockdown, PCR tests, travel bans and all the other awful new words that the pandemic has furnished our vocabulary with.

Love, Cathy x

The scent of Christmas

There are few scents that instantly evoke Christmas. It’s a mingling of wood smoke, pine, cinnamon, cloves and orange, puddings and turkey. Walk into a home redolent of these smells and we are immediately transported to times that were magical. When Christmas was magical.

The scent of Christmas transcends the ordinary. A smell unlike that of any of the usual family gatherings or Sunday lunches.  It’s a smell that can comfort and soothe. No wonder then that we all hope to recreate it. Year in, year out, to be passed on from generation to generation. It is the tradition that hits you and makes Christmas smell unlike other time of the year. You know it when you smell it. How can you create it then, or amplify it for those that love it like me? 

  1. The scent of fresh, evergreen pine 

You know the smell – resinous, tangy, forestry. It hits you the minute you get the tree into the back of the car and breathe in the first smell of Christmas. After a battle royal to get the tree to stand straight in its holder, and untangling and festooning hundreds of twinkling lights, and baubles, you leave to get a G& T and walk back into the room and it hits you, Christmas is around the corner!  And breathe, it’s the holidays. For me, the scent of a freshly cut tree is quintessentially Christmas and is worth all the mess and hoovering. I always have two huge trees but they have to be watered regularly (they drink loads). The scent does fade though as the tree ages, but you could accentuate the scent and enjoy the added pleasure of a cosy flickering light with our limited edition Fir tree scented candle made with essential oils and high quality, phthalate- free, fragrance oils.

For an added scent boost and because it is just so pretty, use evergreen cuttings to make a garland for your hall and weave some fairy lights around it – looks very effective in creating a magical, Christmassy atmosphere.  You could also fill jam jars with cuttings of pine, and add to which herbs such as bay & rosemary. Space these the length of your table, use jute or twine to hold bunches of rosemary on place name cards. Voila!

  • Light the fire

For me the scent of a smouldering wood fire epitomises Christmas. I also love the comfort and primeval feeling of safety that fire brings. Some of you may not have an open fire, so why not light one of our Hearth candles – the wood smoke scent is (almost) as good.

  • Make  Pomanders

You may have made this as a child for Christingle. The scent of orange, cloves and cinnamon is the sensory experience of Christmas. I absolutely love it. In fact I love the smell so much, I named our candle, Pomander, because it was the nickname of our first baby. Making pomanders is an inexpensive activity that children will enjoy getting involved in. You’ll need an orange studded with cloves, a red ribbon tied around its middle (it has to be red) and a cinnamon stick poked in the top. Hang them or stack them in a large hurricane lamp as a festive table centrepiece.

  • Make scented pot pourri

Collect pine cones, add cinnamon sticks, star anise, nutmeg and dried orange slices (put on a baking sheet in a very low oven. When cool, spritz with your own blend essential oil mix or our Pomander room mist. Pile the cones high in large bowls or beautiful hurricane vases, anywhere where it is warm is good.

  • Bake gingerbread

No candle can compare with the scent of fresh gingerbread, besides, I dislike sickly, food scented candles, so my advice is, if you want that wonderful spicy aroma, then bake your own biscuits. You can punch a hole in the corner with a skewer before baking and, when cool and dry, thread a ribbon through the hole to further adorn your tree. There are an enormous variety of cookie cutters available online. Stars, hearts, Christmas trees, or whatever particularly resonates with your family (sausage dogs in our case) and decorate. I like to pipe every family member’s name in icing. An advisory note: If you have a Labrador, or any greedy dog, place the biscuits high up on the tree. Our much loved, 15 year old lab once took down an 8 foot tree in his quest to get the gingerbread. That particular carnage was not what I wanted to come down to find on Christmas morning.

For the more advanced, why not try a gingerbread house? I’ve been making one for around 20 years – all part of the Christmas ritual. It takes a bit of patience and another pair of hands to stick the sides together, but the scent of baking and then the residual smell on the counter whilst the icing is drying, is worth all the hassle. If baking isn’t your thing, buy a gingerbread house kit and decorate it. It smells almost the same and the fun part is the decorating bit anyway – children will love it, but they will eat more than goes on the house!

  • Christmas pudding

When it’s homemade, steaming away for hours upon end, the smell is heavenly. That rich mixture of dried fruit, sugar, spices and brandy. I confess to not making mine and always buy mine at Bath Christmas Market, but there’s still plenty of theatre when it’s brought to the table ablaze, with that gorgeous boozy blue light.

  • Turkey roasting

I doubt that we will ever make a meaty smelling candle, but the smell of the turkey roasting is sublime. I cook mine with loads of herbs, a few clementines, apricot stuffing and slather its bottom with streaky bacon. All the bits and pieces that transcend Christmas dinner from a regular roast have their olfactory part to play too – Spiced red cabbage, sautéed sprouts with chestnuts, maple syrup glazed parsnips, crunchy roast potatoes and of course, stuffing, bread sauce and gravy!

  • Mulled wine

Redolent of Christmas Eve and neighbours popping in for a couple of glasses and excited children running around.  A couple of bottles of red wine, sugar, brandy, clove studded orange slices, cinnamon sticks, served with a sausage roll or two and you have yourself a party!

  • Cranberry sauce

Jewel red, sharp and aromatic, the husband says that cranberry sauce is his favourite smell of Christmas. Easy to make, take a packet of fresh cranberries, add the zest of an orange, a cinnamon stick, a little sugar, a splash of water and 25g butter. Simmer slowly until the cranberries burst. The smell is incredible and the ruby red sauce is fabulous with turkey or Boxing Day lunch. Add Cointreau if you like. If short on time, empty a jar of shop bought and stir in some port, the grated skin of an orange and a teaspoon of freshly squeezed orange juice.

  1.  Mince Pies

When making pastry for my mince pies, I am often nostalgic for my grandmother’s. I vividly remember standing on a stool next to her, listening to Christmas carols as her hands deftly made the most buttery, melt in the mouth pastry.  She made her own mincemeat and the smell when she opened the great big kilner jars was intoxicating. Gloopy brandy, fruit, spice squelching out of the jar and she sunk in her battered, old silver spoon to stir it one more time, before I was handed a much smaller, decorated little spoon to fill the pastry cases. Half an hour later and I’d sit at the dining table with my very own, warm mince pie – the smell and the texture so lovely that I’d shut my eyes so that I could savour it all the more. Granny would make her own brandy butter, and I’d be allowed half a teaspoon off my tiny little silver spoon.

It’s memories like these that I try to recreate in all the over and above extra effort I go to at Christmas in the hope, I suppose, that my own children will continue our traditions bringing them as much comfort as it does me. As they cook and kindle, simmer and string up, it’s the scents of these festive activities that will bring their memories back to life.

Cathy x

limelightlimited.com

Houses of Angels…

The clocks have gone back here in Italy, despite, as it says in the paper, ‘an EU deal on scrapping the hour change’. I made the most of the extra hour in bed this morning, besides it’s bloody chilly here in the mountains and I have lots of snuggly blankets. In Italy, today is ‘Il Giorno del morte’ (the Day of the Dead) and All Saints day tomorrow is a national holiday where everything closes. In Schiavi d’Abruzzo a village close by, children don’t really do tricks or treats, they make houses out of recycled materials and put candles inside to remember their loved ones lost. It’s called ‘Le cassette degli Angeli’ – the houses of angles. This is in complete contrast to the British version which, dare I say it, is all plastic tat and imported festivities.

I far prefer the Italian version and, as one who makes her living from making candles, then the spectacle of hundreds of them burning obviously appeals to me enormously. In fact, last night, when our gas ran out, and the pasta was most definitely on the hard side of al dente and needed a few more minutes, we placed a couple of handfuls of tea-lights under the pasta pan which kept the water hot enough to cook the pasta, just. Never has cooking fusilli ever looked quite so romantic. What with the gas running out, a missed flight and a lost wallet this half term holiday has not been the switch off I was quite hoping for, yet another reason to stay in bed a little while longer this morning. 

As soon as I return to Bath, I will be busy at work and, for those of you that are early birds and like to be organised and are already soaking your prunes in Armagnac and steaming your Christmas puddings, then you might like to know you can now buy pre-order Limelight Advent Calendars – 24 scented wax melts, our winter favourites plus two new essential oil melts designed to relax and uplift. We are also working on an exciting new product development making candles for some well known luxury brands and getting our Christmas preparations ready.

Sadly, Bath Christmas Market is not taking place this year after all, but all is not lost, as every weekend from 20th of November to the 19th of December, as part of the Bath at Christmas Limelight will have a pop up shop at 15, Cheap Street, Bath. And, as so many of you have expressed an interest, we are also running festive candle making workshops here too. 

Thank you to everyone who has already booked to come and join us. Places are in demand – obviously lots of you out there want to get creative – one of the few positives of this pandemic has been the return to simple and slow pleasures; activities that we did in our dim and distant past, when we had the time, before life got in the way. Apparently, now that so many people are working from home and not having to commute for several hours a day, ‘old-fashioned’ pursuits have flourished and there are more people knitting, sewing, painting, gardening and bread baking than they have for generations. Well, now candle making can be added to that list and we have therefore added a few more dates to our classes but there are only a limited number of places available, and so, as they say, book early to avoid disappointment! There will be plenty else to see and do – Bath’s most iconic streets and buildings will be illuminated and the Museum of the Moon this December, looks like something not to miss.

I look forward to seeing many of you soon. Enjoy the next month before the craziness of Christmas grips us and don’t forget to check the water levels on any steaming puds!

Love,

Cathy x

Bedside reading…

I’m usually rhapsodising about seasons of mists and such like at this time of year. Pumpkins, rustling leaves, candlelight and woodburners all of which make me feel cosy and snuggled in, but this year the combination of queuing for fuel, supply chain shortages, post pandemic limbo and half term firebreaks has made me realise that the world is spooky enough and that I’m not yet mentally prepared for witches, ghosts and the onset of dark evenings. My nest is also depleted as number 2 son has now gone off to University. That’s three out of four chicks flown and I definitely feel the loss. Of course he however went off without so much as a backward glance and thus far, is having a ball, doing all the ghastly things freshers do that parents most certainly do not need to know about. I knew that he was attending the Physics Society pub crawl and I sat at home anxiously waiting to get the text that he was back safe. I must take the kids’ advice and be “more chill”. 

My maternal efforts are now concentrated on our fourth child i.e the third son and, to his credit, he’s humouring me very well and allowing me to fuss over him. We’ve even read a book together every evening– Purple Hibiscus, a brilliant book which also happens to be one of his school texts. We chatted about the characters and made some notes, which was mostly me typing and him narrating which he promptly then sold in the playground to the highest bidder which I don’t think was what the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had in mind when she wrote about freedom and individuality!

Work has also helped take my mind off my boy at university as we have been so busy since we got back from Italy. We have made thousands of candles for a client, many of which are heading off to John Lewis just ready for the Christmas shopping period. We had a fabulous show at Top Drawer in London and it was lovely to see some of our existing customers and also to meet some new ones. My right hand woman, Megan and I stayed in a lovely hotel close by and were very happy once the day was done to don our PJs, crack open a bottle of wine, open the chocolates and watch Emma Raducanu win the US. We were literally bouncing on the bed with excitement. No wine was lost.

We have just a few more orders to get out and then we can start to think about our own Christmas preparations and then it won’t be long before we are (hopefully) setting up our twinkling fairy lights in Bath, but before then let’s hope that the crucial work of lorry drivers is appreciated and more are recruited, that the petrol station hysteria calms down, that booster and flu vaccines are rolled out quickly, that the weather doesn’t do anything too extreme and that the world starts to heal. Not much to ask for eh?!

Cathy x

An Italian Summer…

If any of you have ventured off this sceptered isle this summer, you will be familiar with the mind boggling amount of research involved before you can step foot on an aeroplane, Eurotunnel or ferry. International travel, currently, is not for those who have an aversion to admin. The time spent on Google to get the best deal on antigen tests for before and during the trip, not to mention the PCR test for one’s return is onerous. Then there are the forms, paperwork and QR codes. The checklists were beginning to burden my sleep.

“Lateral flow tests, doggie passports, passenger locator forms”, I murmured in the dark, mentally ticking each item off. I can remember a time in my dim and distant past when I showed up at an airport with a man, a lipstick and a passport. Unimaginable now to be thus unencumbered. As it is, I’ve had four children so unencumbered is not something with which I am now familiar. The last quarter century has seen us travel with babybaths, prams, pushchairs, car seats, travel cots, potties, sterilising units, toys and blankets before we advanced to bikes, skates, scooters, and finally on to kayaks and paddleboards. Getting to our new house in Abruzzo this summer then involved more of the same, just more administrative paraphernalia than the usual bikes and trikes.

When we finally arrived, we perceptibly relaxed. Our shoulders weren’t as close to our ears, our foreheads less furrowed and we happily settled into a new and, altogether far less busy routine. Thank God, the A level results day came and he smashed it. Mornings were spent shopping, gathering things for lunch, exploring, meeting our neighbours, reading and making lunch; afternoons were spent at the beach. Our youngest son had a digital detox as the house has no WiFi, ergo, no gaming technology. Instead, he helped his father and older brother build a barbeque, a huge structure that no doubt will soon be visible on Google Earth. At other times we read, played cards, Italian Monopoly and spent the evenings enjoying meals that we had all cooked together, before wallowing in the hot tub that did finally, arrive.

Life in rural Italy is not without certain challenges though. It has been one of the hottest summers on record and our commune decided to switch off the mains supply for days at a time due to the drought. At first, we had no idea what was happening but it soon became clear that this was normal in the height of summer- water was being rationed. In fact, we had no water coming in for over a week, and even then maybe just a trickle for an hour or so. Initially, we had to fill the water tank with mineral water, until lovely Roberto came to the rescue having pumped water from the well and refilled our tank. From then on, it was water rationing and as soon as it rained, we were all outside with buckets, rejoicing.

Roberto’s kindness was just one example of the kindness of strangers. We were made to feel so welcome by our neighbours. Every day, someone appeared with armfuls of produce and we have returned home with so much of Roberto’s wife’s homemade tomato sauce that would see Jamie Oliver out of business . Embarrassed by our inadequate Italian, there are only so many way that you can say, “Grazie mille”, the husband and I have signed up for an evening class each week.

And here we are, home again. One last child left at school, dogs sniffing around reacquainting themselves and work, work, work. I am so proud and delighted that our Lucknam diffusers featured in the Conde Nast Best Summer Buys. My team and I are busy now preparing for (shush, whisper it) – Bath Christmas Market. It’s crazy to mention it, but those of us in retail plan for the festive season well in advance, but I can appreciate that you may not be able to stomach the word just yet and are fervently clinging on to the dog days of summer! For those of you who wish to plan ahead, the market takes place between Thursday 25th November–Sunday 19th December and we will be in our usual place on Bath Street but I’m sure that I’ll remind you again before that!

Whether you staycationed at home or braved the tests and paperwork and went away, I hope you have had a lovely summer and are looking forward to blackberry crumbles, orange leaves and candle lit evenings

Cathyx

Piano, piano…

We have taken three of our four children to our house in the hills in Abruzzo. School’s out after all and what a school year it has been. A level results in a few weeks, but we’ll worry about that when the time comes and if we need to – there are plenty of media reports regarding unfair results that it’s enough to get my pulse racing – until then we have gorgeous summer weather here in Italy. Not that it’s a summer of languid, lounging around. There is lots of work to be done on the house and garden but we are acclimatising ourselves to the very slow pace of life here. Occasionally we have ventured out to do some sight seeing in Rome and Pompeii and we took a wonderful boat trip to the Tremiti Islands but it’s so hot, none of us really feel inclined to travel far from our lovely new house, besides the dachshunds have completely adapted to the new house and new routines and love it when we are all together.

We are up early with the sun and doing all the jobs before it gets too hot, then decamping to the beach in the afternoons. The boys have dug out and are putting cement foundation in for a wood fired barbeque in the garden, and are currently painting it; we await delivery of a hot tub ordered three weeks ago. Italian online shopping is not what it is in the UK and, like everything else here, things happen piano, piano.. 

The slower pace, although at times a little frustrating, does give one more time to fully appreciate the natural wonders that surround us. The fig tree in the garden is full of fruit and wafts of the earthy scent from the green leaves hang in the air. We have had a full moon and the stars are incredible and although the early summer fireflies have gone, that very ‘abroad’ sound of cicadas now serenade our al fresco dining which include our neighbours freshest zucchini, plums and eggs. We have been made so very welcome and I’ve been humbled by their generosity as they appear daily with their fresh garden produce. 

The new smells are exciting my olfactory senses and I am forever working on new scents for our candles. Our newest scent, Pomegranate, Orris and Cedar is now available on the website. It’s deep and mysterious and, paired with a delicious pomegranate margarita, is a perfect combination for a relaxing, summer evening. To be honest though, in the hills of Abruzzo the only candle burnt here is citronella as we are all being eaten alive by dastardly mosquitoes – mind you, a shin full of itchy bites is a small price to pay for la dolce vita!

Love. 

Cathy x

Go your own way…

June has flown by. Lost mostly to quarantining – Boris was right when he said there would be a bit of hassle around travelling. I have had not one, but four PCR tests in recent weeks because we dashed back across the continent after signing our house purchase in Italy.

We decided to drive there – partly because it felt safer, but partly because we had big beds to transport. Ordinarily it would have been a lovely journey stopping off for coffees, lunch, and generally gasping at the awe inspiring Alps. We were racing against the clock as we had to cross the border into Italy within 24 hours. We managed it to the border with a few hours to spare –Fleetwood Mac and plenty of snacks helped with the long journey, and our nerves. We had bought the house online and were therefore full of trepidation in what might unveil itself.

After just over 24 hours in the van, we arrived in the dark, and soon began to despair, when after another hour or so of  playing, ‘hunt the key’, we were unable to locate it.  The agents said they had left in a ‘water hall’ (that was most certainly lost in translation). After considerable searching by torchlight, we located a manhole cover of sorts and managed to lift it up to reveal an old key. However, unlike Biff and Chip’s, there was nothing magic about this key and it most certainly did not open the front door. A call to the agents was met with a very relaxed suggestion of  “si, si, old door” and “ bene, bene, turn to the left, kick hard”. It resolutely refused to budge. I had visions of sleeping in the van until we could get a locksmith out the next morning but the Husband had other ideas. Once a sailor, always a sailor and in true naval fashion that finds solutions to every problem i.e. adapt and overcome, he rustled up a step ladder and broke in, smashing a window. When we finally entered the house we realised that not only had the lock well and truly seized, there was a mini forest growing up the inside of the front door through the terrazzo flooring. The first light switch also didn’t work (just a bulb we later discovered) and we held our breath as we wandered room to room, clutching each other.

Our break in might have been an inauspicious start, but already we could see that the setting was absolutely magical – vineyards, rolling hills with a mediaeval village twinkling under a black starlit sky and fireflies dancing in the trees. We opened the clanky shutters and discovered breath taking picture book views from every window and from the balcony that runs the length of the house. We dragged a mattress from the van, and fell asleep, I, dreaming that I was in a Fellini film, Hubby’s dreams more  likely preoccupied with nuts and bolts and rusty keys.

As the sun rose the following morning and we wandered down to make our first Italian espresso, we realised that the front door was only the start of Italian idiosyncrasies.  The plumbing for instance was particularly obdurate as there was no water upstairs, until, three days later when we located the magic knob. 

The décor was not perfect – the calendar in the kitchen was from 2003 and there was 18 years of dust to clean, which I did, every day, for 5 glorious days! The house was furnished and had been left pretty much as it was. It wasn’t to our taste and I found myself muttering sorries to the previous inhabitants as I bundled up things for the charity shop or for the rubbish. We found countless pictures of the Pope including a very fine one of John Paul the Second which was carefully kept for one of the boys bedrooms, as was the, “Sale e Tabacchi’ a sign that seemed to reveal the previous inhabitants occupation. Given the number of vintage Peroni glasses and trays, we think he also ran a bar. We think the wife dabbled in wicker as the house was strewn with beautiful wicker baskets.

We cleaned, sorted the electrics and plumbing, humped furniture and cleared so much out. The old terrazzo floors were mopped daily and after the fifth attempt, began to gleam. Eventually, on day four, we had water upstairs. We ventured out only a couple of times – to the Notaries office for the legal paperwork and once to visit the locksmith, buy a fridge and to eat the best bowl of spaghetti alle vongole and Montepulciano d ‘Abruzzo we have ever tasted.

The whole experience had a dream like quality, we absolutely fell in love with the place and cannot wait to return for holidays. Meantime, in the real world, there is much to be done at Limelight and we are very excited that we have the lovely Ella joining Jean and I. Ella has already got stuck in to making hand sanitiser and packing candles and she will, no doubt, meet some of you at our markets and events. We have also finalised our newest scent No 27 – Pomegranate, Orris & Cedar – and just as soon as the photography is complete, these will be available on the website. 

Hopefully in July we will see a return to the lives we once lived. Let’s hope that we learnt something along the way and realised what was important to us.

Love,

Cathy x

Summer be kind…

Wisteria is rampant, arum lilies showing off, poppies and peonies are vying for attention and the delphiniums are looking down on then all with haughty indifference. Just small glimpses of summer after the monsoon that was May. Please June, be kind to us, warm our earth and our bones and allow us a little optimistic basking. The A levels at least were sat in school halls were the rain sluiced down the windows, unlike anything students in previous years have experienced i.e swotting in searing temperatures followed by exams in stiflingly hot halls. Second son was thankful to sit his in the gloom and pass his driving test in similar conditions.  

This last week, as the sun has hesitatingly peeked out of the clouds, it has found me fraught with activity. As I write, we are heading to pick up keys to our not only unvisited, but as yet unseen, house in Italy. It is a very quick trip – more PCR tests than you can shake a testing stick at and we will be sleeping in the van. In my head it’s all very romantic, I am Lucy Honeychurch to  Hubby’s, George Emerson. I fear the reality however will be a lot less A Room with a View and more Alan Bennett’s, Lady in the Van. I am told that he house will have electricity but, just in case, I am qualified to provide an ample sufficiency of candles. If all else fails therefore, it will at least be a fragrant failure.

One of the scents, which we have newly created for Lucknam Park, captures roses and lavender from the Estate. We are also working on scents for a renowned multi Michelin starred French chef. It’s very exciting, but gosh, the pressure! The grey hair! Ooh, la, la! 

We have also made another batch of our hand made porcelain candles imprinted with cow parsley, which were created by a talented local artist. They were evidently very desirable as they sold out almost immediately. 

I shall try, in the next 36 hours, not to think further about wicks, wax scents and trimmings as we work out what is needed to be done to the Italian house and then traverse Europe on our journey hopefully before France closes its borders and traps us there! That is little to complain about though, and I shall do my utmost to enjoy this brief, and somewhat bonkers trip.

Thank you so much for all your support and I hope the sun shines on you all over this early summer, Bank Holiday weekend.

Love, Cathy x

Saluti!

Sante! Cheers! Bottoms up! Skal! Iechyd da! My middle son, whose 18th birthday was in December and who has been pretty much in lockdown since, has had his first legal drink in a pub – well, not actually ‘in’ a pub, more on the outskirts of one. The chilly beer garden to be precise. It takes stamina and determination to go out for a drink now. Puffa jackets, thick socks and the car blanket. As far removed as drinking al fresco on the Mediterranean as one could possibly get. Hubby and I have tried it a couple of times, but have found that not only is it much cheaper to drink at home, it is so much warmer and comfortable. I can lounge in my pyjamas, favourite little snacks in bowls adjacent, the tv remote control in one hand and a glass of something cold, crisp and dry in another. It’s different for the younger generation though. After being confined to barracks for over a year, they need to let off steam a bit, even if it is only a pint of cider and a packet of Walker’s finest. Our son’s resilience to sit in a cold beer garden is matched with his dedication to study. He has worked so, so hard revising for his A levels. We barely saw him over the Easter break where he sat at his desk for hours on end pouring over differentiation and particle physics and just keeping going despite all the uncertainties that the next few weeks assessments hold. Not only have the exams themselves been cancelled, but so have his driving tests: Three to date, and so I am still accompanying him everywhere in the yellow car.

Let’s hope now that this lockdown is the very last. It’s been so tough on our young people and I fear that we have yet to feel the full effect on their mental health.  I am however so relieved to have had my first vaccine. I’ve never been so excited to stand in a queue before, well not since I waited to see Duran Duran when I was a teenager. In fact, I was so grateful to all those working so hard at the vaccination centre that I could have hugged them. Had Simon Le Bon been standing behind me, I would have hugged my vaccinator first. Hugging is of course, still very much frowned upon. I wonder if we will ever return to our previous ways of spontaneously hugging friends and people that we like. 

We will soon find out – at least as soon as we are allowed to travel abroad. There are none more affectionate than the Italians and just recently we crazily bought a holiday home in Italy. All the contracts and powers of attorney have been signed so that we should complete in a few weeks time and all on the strength of a virtual visit. I’d like to say that it was after a few too many glasses of Chianti that we did something so rash – but no, just a long lived dream to holiday in our own home somewhere that Hubby and I love. The house needs work but is affordable and is set in the most picturesque spot in the midst of rolling vineyards and olive groves in Abruzzo, with mountains in the horizon and a short drive to the lovely Trabocchi coast. It’s fairly close to Rome my favourite city and, our beloved Ravello on the Amalfi coast but it’s largely unknown on the tourist trail and so tends to be more affordable than neighbouring Umbria and Tuscany. Having been so cautious for the last year regarding Covid that any such judiciousness flew out of the window when we saw our little house on the hill.  It could turn out to be an absolute disaster – but, nothing ventured, nothing gained and it is already worth it for the pleasure it has brought me by dreaming of eventual escape, interior designing and fun with soft furnishings. Even the normally cautious and risk averse husband has thrown himself into my dream and is heard wondering around the house practicing his Italian, which makes me love him even more. Caro uomo!

On the work front, we are starting to see our shops in the main, smaller, independent gift shops, order again which is a sure sign that things are getting back to more normality. Given how busy Bath is, people seem to be back out there shopping and getting their hair done and supporting local independent businesses. Limelight Bath is also very close to launching a new fragrance and I can reveal it features Orris, the fragrant root of the Iris, a spring flower with obviously with strong Italian heritage as the iris is the flower of Florence.

Saluti!

Cathy x

Hello Spring…

The clocks have sprung forward into Spring and I am quite delirious with the anticipation of what this may herald. Lighter evenings, warmer days and, dare I hope, the reopening of the world around us – a little light shopping, a glass of wine in a country pub, a slice of cake, a coffee and a chat? Chatting! That thing we did without a thought. With the lady you meet with a similar dog; with the couple pushing a pram and herding a few toddlers; with café staff and of course, our friends. My God I miss my friends; all those hours we’ve lost spent talking everything and nothing, putting the world to rights, having a laugh over something daft. I am so very lucky to have a large family and a business to run, but even I at times have felt the need of a good old friend with whom to chew the cud. 

As I write however, we can now meet another family outdoors, and should the fancy take us, play a game of tennis. Soon, we will be able to have our hair cut and show off our coiff at a zoo or theme park. I’m taking this advice from the gov.uk website and I feel rather giddy with excitement at the options available to us in a couple of weeks. 

Before that we have the Easter holidays. Returning to school has been quite an adjustment for our youngest – the early mornings, the uniform, the discipline, the sitting up straight. We have expected so much of children this past year, they have had to cope with readjustment, adapting, isolation and change and then, at the behest of the government, that change, changes again. It is no wonder then that our youngest is not altogether delighted to be back at school and has found aspects of yet another new routine, a struggle. There is now two weeks to chill out in his joggers, and eat chocolate before once again, he goes returns to school. His elder brother, meanwhile, is already revising like mad for the exams which aren’t really exams, but which will decide his next step. It’s so tricky, “Is this it?”, “Will school be cancelled again?” Poor kids.

I, on the other hand have adjusted more readily- flying back to the warehouse with Jean where we have been making hundreds of candles which are destined for a luxury group of hotels in the UK. Hotels! Remember those?! Clandestine breaks (with our husbands/loved ones, sans enfants), breakfast made for us, wallowing in pools, spa treatments, super king-sized beds!  In fact, I have a confession. Getting away from it all whether it be in a hotel or travelling further afield, has always been my greatest delights. In fact, the TV show A Place in the Sun has become one of my pandemic guilty pleasures.  A real pick-me-up. What is not to love about the vicarious joy of house hunting abroad in the dream of enjoying some tapas on the square, a warm croissant and une biere, or indeed, a bowl of pasta and good chianti? Well, after one episode too many, the Husband and I took matters into our own hands and, after several virtual viewings we have decided to buy a little farmhouse in one of our favourite places in Italy. I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much yet, suffice to say that much of my soul has gone into the process to date and the excitement within the family palpable. Fingers crossed we will hopefully sign contracts this week. In what is left of lockdown, I hope to improve my Italian, so that when we are finally able to visit, I am able to converse with builders at least a little. Ciao is not quite enough to get my cotto tiles laid just so.

Until then it’s work as usual. Apart from the hundreds of candles destined to the luxury hotel group, we have also been working on some new product development of our own which I will be able to share with you very soon. With that in mind we will be back at Green Park Station for Bath Farmers’ Market on Saturday 17th April. I can’t wait to chat to you – another of the chats that I have so missed. We have been so lucky and are so grateful to our customers for all the support you have shown us over the last few months, thank you all so much. 

See you very soon, Cathy x