Natural Romance

While trying to decide what to blog about, I brainstormed a list of random things I liked – things that attracted and inspired me – without analysing or worrying about their importance or relevance as possible topics. So I was surprised to discover a common theme emerging – a sense; an overall tone – linking several of my passions. It seems my unconscious style choices, tastes and aesthetic preferences may not be as randomly scattered as I once assumed and I found myself asking:

What is this common thread, which helps to define me as me?

Girl at WoodsOf course I now have an urge to explore this idea – to name it – as if it’s a genre or flavour, or some kind of philosophy; as if by ordering and making sense of it, I might better understand myself. I’m calling it Natural Romance for now, until I come up with something better, but I don’t think it’s something unique to me; on the contrary I suspect that as a general concept it may well resonate with many other people, women in particular, but do let me know if you disagree. In a nutshell I’m drawn to nature and love and the crossover/interaction between the two.

When I say nature I’m mainly referring to plants (rather than animals or the elements) as that’s the aspect I’m most familiar with. I worked as a garden designer for many years and I am instinctively drawn to green spaces and the beauty of flowers. Humans have long tried to tame and control nature and while our gardens range from highly manicured Zen spaces to relaxed wild-flower meadows, and everything in between, nature’s gritty and optimistic spirit always finds a way to shine through.

Wild butterflyAnd when I refer to romance, I don’t mean a twee, cliched perfectionism, but rather the messy and often beautiful struggle of love in relationships.

Love struggleIt is this emotional mix of nature, love and hope that really appeals to me – especially when expressed through design. Over time I intend to blog about a variety of different topics that fall under this heading. But one of the most obvious examples must be the international style of Art Nouveau, defined in the Collins English Dictionary as follows:

A style of art and architecture of the 1890s, characterised by swelling sinuous outlines and stylised natural forms, such as flowers and leaves.

My mother has collected vintage decorative tiles of this period for years, so it was easy to be swayed by their beauty. It’s only now that I realise just why these 6×6 inch tiles appeal to me so much, and I wanted to share some of my favourites with you.

Art Nouveau Tiles CollageFor me these designs capture the essence of nature with a feminine sensuality that speaks of romance. So are you a fan of Art Nouveau? Perhaps you prefer the cleaner lines of the Art Deco style – there is often overlap between the two. Do let me know.

Amsterdam in June

I recently spent a week in Amsterdam…Sketched scene AmsterdamIt was my first visit to the city, and indeed the Netherlands as a whole, and I’m delighted to say that it exceeded my expectations in the very best of ways. So much so in fact, that it has taken me a fortnight of mental digesting to be able to put my experience into words.
Forgive my general ignorance and naivety, but before this trip my impressions of Amsterdam were, to a large extent, from tales of rowdy stag parties visiting strip clubs and getting stoned. Yes, an array of scantily clad women line the streets of the red light district of an evening and yes, marijuana is readily available in the coffeeshops, but there is so much more to the city than that.

Amsterdam in June

Rijksmuseum Research Library
Rijksmuseum Research Library

First let me explain that I took this holiday with my mother, and though she is young-at-heart, open-minded and at ease in a city with a studenty vibe, visiting a brothel was never going to be top of her to-do list. For us it was the lure of museums, art galleries, a diverse range of restaurants, and the antique, flea and flower markets.
The hotel we were lucky enough to stay in, was extravagantly-decorated, welcoming and a joy to return to each evening, and every person we spoke to was kind, friendly and helpful – even after the shock news of Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
For the most part we enjoyed sunshine, missed the worst rain, and, having hastily got to grips with the rules of the cycle lane network, successfully managed to avoid causing any accidents. But this isn’t a holiday review where I recount our itinerary and rate each place – I’m not a travel writer and I’d rather leave that sort of thing to those who are – I simply have an urge to express my love for some of the beautiful places I discovered.
Canal houseIt seems much of Amsterdam’s aesthetic charm can be enjoyed by simply wandering about:
the canals which loop and lace their way through an endless network of curvy cobbled bridges, lending an air of casual serenity to an otherwise bustling city; the rows of narrow houses leaning into each other with regal grace; the intricate brick pavements where parking spaces nestle between flowering potted plants, beneath tall trees; the alfresco corner cafés by the water, which invite you to sit and relax and stay all day; and the bicycles, the endless tangles of bicycles, everywhere, in a kaleidoscope of colours and decorated with fake blooms.

Amsterdam places1And then there are the places you can actively seek out: the tiny courtyard gardens tucked between the buildings and crammed with hydrangeas; the rooms of the Rijksmuseum containing seventeenth century treasures, such as Artus Quellinus’ model of Atlas, Petronella Dunois’ dolls’ house and delicate hand-cut collages by persons unknown; the tranquil parks with their live music, fountains and ponds; and the wonderful array of restaurants providing everything from traditional Dutch home-cooking to Parisian art nouveau ambience.

Amsterdam places2

But as with any holiday, it is perhaps those little, unexpected moments that will stay with me the most: being moved to tears in Anne Frank’s house upon hearing a recording of her father speaking; watching a heron gracefully alight right next to a girl practising yoga in a park; listening to a talented accordionist play Vivaldi in a busy tunnel; stumbling upon an intimate wedding ceremony in the garden of the Museum Van Loon; and the lively street festival that sprang up around our hotel on our penultimate day.
I thoroughly enjoyed Amsterdam and I am keen to return one day, but even if I don’t hopefully I can use my experiences in a book; rediscover it through my characters. For me that’s half the fun of being a writer. Does anyone else feel the same?
Do you have any special memories from Amsterdam you’d care to share? I’d love to hear them.

Evening sunlit canal houses

 

Apologies to Librarians

Hello world – welcome to my new website and my first blog post!
I’ve finally got this sorted because it’s Easter weekend (time off from the day job) and quite frankly I needed a break from my WIPs.

writer, Grace LowrieDon’t get me wrong, I love writing – nothing beats being sat at the keyboard letting my imagination pour out onto the page like glorious fresh wet paint. But then I have to go back and coax some order out of the chaos – get right in there up to the elbows, move things about and check every last detail makes sense – and that can be messy. I’m currently working on three separate novels with overlapping time-lines and reoccurring characters, so the editing process is proving to be even more complicated and protracted than usual. But hey, the end is almost in sight!

As you’ve probably gathered, I write stories – mainly romance – but like most writers I’m also an avid reader. I tend to prefer the pure escapism of fiction and generally something with a touch of darkness. Whether it’s a thriller, sci-fi, historical, contemporary, horror, crime, supernatural or romance, it makes no difference. I do enjoy a good bit of humour, but I’ll take a sinister undercurrent over chick-lit any day. Not sure what that says about me, but probably best not to dwell on it.

I have too many favourite authors to list and I hate the idea of leaving someone wonderful out, so here is a random selection from one of my blue shelves:blue books, Grace Lowrie

Yes, rather than organising my books in alphabetical order or by genre, I display them by spine colour for a cheerful rainbow effect – a habit which no doubt horrifies Librarians the world over, and often makes locating a certain book difficult. What can I say? It must be the installation artist in me. Unfortunately some of my best loved books are relegated to the bedroom floor, where they form three wobbly stacks in the corner; because who wants to look at a shelf full of black book spines?

So anyway, that’s a bit about me, what about you? Do feel free to say hello, I promise I don’t bite.

Brighton beach, Grace Lowrie