Weekends at the Countryside Estate

I should probably clarify that title; this is not actually my countryside estate; well, not outside my daydreams anyway. But though I may not have a sprawling mansion of my own, having sunny weekend adventures in the English countryside is one of my favourite summertime pursuits.

We really couldn’t have asked for a better summer here in England; the days long and golden and the weekends just made for languid, outdoor pursuits. On one of these golden weekends last month, my family and I piled in the car and made for the country; winding over the rolling hills and around curving country lanes lined with brambles (pausing only to allow the horses and their riders to cross our path) towards Polesden Lacey in the Surrey countryside.

We walked through the spectacular house, peering into display cabinets and imagining what Mrs Greville’s famous high society parties for the British royals, Prime Ministers and Edwardian ‘It girls’ must have been like; all lavish excess and glittering chandeliers and flowing champagne. Afterwards, we walked through the rose gardens (me sticking my nose in every bloom I passed), loitered too long on the croquet lawn and then spent the entire afternoon lazing on the sprawling lawns – the house behind us and the rolling hills stretched out in front as far as the eye could see – for a picnic (my beloved Uncle had packed one of his gourmand feasts) as a jazz band played until the sun sank low upon the hills.

Oh, how wonderful these summer weekends are! In my book, there is always room for summertime picnics and games of croquet and adventures in the countryside.

Wearing: ASOS scalloped collar shirt and floral pants (sold out, but similar styles here), Mulberry ‘Lily’ bag, Salvatore Ferragamo ‘Varina’ patent bow flats, Kenneth Jay Lane pearl bracelet (worn on each wrist), Chloe ‘Myrte’ sunglasses (similar styles available here), Jersey Pearl necklace, Alex Monroe lucky clover charm necklace, vintage brooches (similar style here). Beauty note: Chanel ‘Chance’ Rouge Coco Shine ‘Chance’ lipstick, Chanel ‘Emprise’ Le Vernies nail polish, Annick Goutal ‘Petite Cherie’ perfume. 

Do you have any favourite countryside escapes where you live? I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful summer filled with happy adventures and glorious new memories.

Love, Miss B xx

Brighton Rock

As an (half) Australian, I’m fairly certain I have an affection for the beach genetically coded in my DNA structure. Growing up, the long summers would be filled with early morning swims in the ocean, sunsets spent collecting shells or lying on the sand and school excursions spent learning to sail or snorkel off the coast. The sand is always fluffy and white, the water blue and the days hot enough that lying on the beach in a bikini is logical.

By contrast England, for all its great virtues, is not so blessed on the oceanic front. The water looks sort of cold and steely, instead of fluffy sand there are actual pebbles, and where there should be tiny little alfresco cafes and juice bars there are usually fun fair rides and old-fashioned sweets shops and the garish sound of retro arcade games. But you know what? It’s those colourful stripey deckchairs (for lounging on in lieu of white sand), the sound of those vintage rides, the smell of ice cream and boiled sweets, and the British determination to ‘make do’ and enjoy what they’ve got no matter the weather that makes the English seaside so wonderful.

Because there is no beach near London or Cambridge, the Clever Boyfriend and I had never, in our four and a half years living here, taken a trip to the English seaside before (although I had been with my friend Amanda back here and with my family when I was younger). So one sunny weekend last month, we headed to London to collect my cousin and then took a roadtrip down to Brighton (the only way a roadtrip should be done: with the sunroof down and the stereo blaring the perfect summer sountrack) to educate the Boyfriend on the charms of the British seaside.

Obviously, I donned pastels and deckchair stripes; because matching your surroundings is fun and that’s just the kind of girl I am (and because this dress – which I’ve worn more times this summer than I should probably admit – reminds me of Grace Kelly cruising up the French Riviera in the 50s). We piled out of the car, strolled through the gardens of Brighton Pavillion and walked past the faded pastel buildings that line the shore all the way to Hove, the next seaside town along the coast for lunch. After our fill of fish and chips at the Regency (because is there anything else to eat at the seaside?), we walked back towards Brighton pier along the pebbly shore (the Clever Boyfriend tried his best not to be too offended by the absence of sand); past sunbathers (trying to get a suntan – even though the sun had by then disappeared behind the clouds – in the way only Englishmen do) and seagulls and a vintage carousel filling the air with its hurdy-gurdy tunes as it twirled and twirled upon the shore.

I pestered the boys like an irritating small child until they relented and bought me the biggest ice cream they could find (yes!), and afterwards we walked along the boardwalk to the pier. We passed the fairy floss stands and retro neon lights and the 1950s penny arcade games and bought sticks of Brighton Rock to suck as we leaned against the railings to watch the waves lapping at the pier below.

Wearing: River Island dress c/, Mulberry ‘Lily’ bag, Stella McCartney sunglasses c/ Sunglasses Shop, Lulu Frost necklace via J. Crew (similar styles here), Jersey Pearl necklace, Mimco bracelets and hair bobbles (past season), Jacquie Aiche heart ring via Shopbop, Anya Hindmarch ‘Lucky Sixpence’ coin purse (past season but similar styles here and here), vintage London souvenir scarf, Nails Inc ‘Cambridge’ nailpolish (similar shade here). 

Afterwards, we drove home tired and sunkissed and happy. For it’s certainly not a natural beauty, but the English seaside is so fun and charming regardless.

Please do share your favourite beaches in the comments!

Love, Miss B xx


English Style

While I don’t usually tend to run the pieces I do for other sites on A Girl, A Style, I thought this one (that I originally wrote for Glitter Guide a while back) would be fun in amidst all the Jubilee madness/Britannia love that is flying around at the moment.

From Mulberry bags to Burberry trench coats, Hunter wellingtons to Oxford brogues, bow ties and tweed jackets to pearls and lace, Prince William and James Bond to Paddington Bear and Fantastic Mr Fox… I truly love the English and their eccentricities.

So here is my take on the best bits about English style (for all the Anglophiles out there):

Embrace feminine/masculine extremes. Channel you inner dolly girl by wearing a full a-line mini skirt or lace dress with a topknot, pink cheeks and a length of ribbon tied at your waist, or wear a men’s Oxford shirt with a bow tie and brogues. Even better, clash the two and wear that dolly outfit with a boyfriend blazer and ankle boots, or the Oxford shirt tucked into the skirt with a wristful of jewels on top.

Rebellious nostalgia. We English are terribly fond of our classics: the dandy gentleman, countryside pursuits, lawn sports, the Royal Family, James Bond and nostalgic children’s books. But none of these things would be complete without a little rebellion too. So why not wear your grandmother’s pearls with your favourite old band tee, your prettiest lace dress with bed hair, or your most gorgeous heels with faded old jeans.

Serious irreverence. Though they may have a library full of literature, Friday night theatre dates, an in-depth knowledge of politics and an annual National Trust membership, English folk are a self-deprecating, sarcastic bunch who like to pretend don’t care. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your fashion; wear things that literally make you smile (pink glittery nails with a grownup tuxedo jacket), are absurdly ironic (I live in Cambridge and like to poke fun at the preppy Oxbridge intellectual style by teaming my crested blazer with bright pink chinos and high bow heels), or just plain silly (hello, novelty Christmas sweaters).

Revel in the tiny sartorial details. A silk handkerchief in a breast pocket, bright pink socks poking out of turned up trousers, a tiny golden charm necklace, a perfectly constructed umbrella, or bright red lips on grey days.

…and don’t forget life’s small pleasures. Drink tea out of your favourite pink china, buy a vintage-style bicycle and go for Sunday cycle rides in your favourite dress (bonus points for a bunch of flowers in the basket), read a classic novel, have a picnic and then kick of your shoes and run through the grass, eat cake for breakfast.

Do you love English style as much as I do? What are your favourite things about the British?

Love, Miss B xx

Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!

Last weekend, I went to spend the weekend with one of my favourite blog friends, the divine Amanda (aka The Online Stylist), in Dorset. On Saturday, there were picnics, walks around castles, cocktails at the harbour and generally much giddy excitement. But on Sunday, when the sun was polite enough to be shining as hard as it could, we did what any self respecting girl from Australia would do, and made for the beach (it would have simply been rude not to).

So without further ado, we all bundled into the car, seaside-bound. I’m not sure who was more excited when we arrived: Amanda’s adorable little daughter – who made straight for the ice cream man – or me, who squealed at the sight of all the beach huts beneath the cornflower blue sky and made a beeline straight for the sand. And yes, I’m probably the only person in the world who thinks it appropriate to wear Marc Jacobs heels to the seaside, but to be honest I always kick my shoes of the instant I spot the sand, so it really doesn’t matter (besides, these heels are by now so loveworn that they are as comfortable as slippers).

Wearing: pink linen shorts (River Island, would you believe!), vintage silk and lace top, vintage London souvenir scarf (worn around wrist), Mimco bangle, vintage butterfly sunglasses, Marc Jacobs bow heels, Chanel yellow Mimosa nails (the only colour that would do for a day at the beach).

Although the dark sand and pebbles of the beaches here can’t compare to the gloriously fluffy white sand & neon blue waters of those I grew up with in Australia, there is something so gloriously fun and nostalgic about the English seaside. I love the colours of the little wooden beach huts that line the sand, the sound of ice cream vans, the lolly-coloured beach umbrellas and chuckling at the sight of pasty Englishmen lying bare-chested, already so sunburnt they look like skinny lobsters, on their towels (if you even attempted this in Australia, you would probably die of skin cancer in an hour). And no matter where in the world you find yourself, there are simply few feelings as lovely as the thrill of kicking of your shoes and running to the shore to feel the warm sand beneath your toes.

What are some of the best beaches you’ve ever been to?

Love, Miss B xx