95 - The Legend of Abbey Brook

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Back in that odd little seasonal hinterland that lies somewhere after Christmas but before spring sets in, we left the children with the grandparents for the afternoon and escaped for a quiet drive down through the peaks (and through the amazing Chatsworth estate - serious heart eyes for that) to Abbey Brook.

Unassumingly nestled at the bottom of Brian and Gill Fearn's garden, a pared back but nonetheless wondrous version of its former self (having once had many more operational cactus houses before being scaled back to wind down a little). A small but perfectly formed cactus lovers dream, and surely the most photographed nursery north of the M25.

My jaw visibly dropped as we pulled back the door to the specimen house and I could honestly spend all day there taking everything in. Even their "mess", cast offs once deemed unfit for purpose and abandoned under the tables, are thriving in their own beautiful way. It was our good fortune to get to speak to Gill who set us straight on a thing or two about lithops and told us a little of the story of Abbey Brook as she showed us around.

We were most excited to get to see the propagation house as it isn't open to the public in general and Gill clued us in on a few things we could be doing to grow our own for the shop too. She has amassed knowledge over the years and her travels that I could only dream of, it was the most beautiful thing to see two people with a business that is literally part of the fabric of their being. The photos don't do it justice but have a look anyway.

We now stock a few select specimen plants from Abbey Brook - currently only in store but we are considering having a Plant Market Monday on Instagram stories to enable you to see what we have in stock and order. Get in touch if this is something that would be of interest to you and we'll keep you posted. You can see the rest of our Outdoors In range here.

94 - NEWS

Well, we've been busy lately. Busier than the busiest of bees on a hot summer day with directions to a freshly blooming patch of lavender.

I have ceased being a one woman show and finally given in to the fact that I can't do it all, no matter how much I might want to for feelings of ownership or pride or whatever else has been at play when I've frequently refused help on this enterprise that is growing every day. Since we opened the shop almost a year ago (which I fully appreciate I still haven't posted about...) I've been steadily letting go of some responsibilities. That's not to say I'm lounging by a pool daily, reading books and drinking cocktails watching my bank balance increase whilst someone else does The Work (tho that would be awesome - for a week until I got bored and wanted in on the action again). I am learning limitations. Passing off the stuff I'm not great at to be able to focus on the things I'm awesome with. We still aren't completely there just yet. We are, as they say, a work in progress.

If you have ventured into the shop you will have more than likely dealt with the man of the house. He's far better at people you see and isn't socially awkward like I fear I am when not being my online self. He's also very chatty and not easily flustered. Shop = his thing. Contemplative attention to detail, love of typography that works as well as it should and bringing a concept to life, that is what I do best.

There's a point to this, I promise...

One of the changes that has come about as a result of all of this, is this lovely blog space here. It will, from today and forever more, be the blog space of Alfie's Studio. New products, fresh designs, makers stories, environmental goodness and all such related articles. In view that Alfie's Studio is no longer my personal brand but has grown into a thing all of it's own, I'm giving it space. I'm now going to be blogging over at - I hope you'll join me there. N.

NOTE: The new layout looks a little funny at times with posts that don't have an image. We're unsure yet whether to go back to each and every one and add an image or to leave it as it is. Either way, we apologise for any bits that look anything less than awesome.

93 - Music (re)discovery

Friday, March 03, 2017

I've had it in my mind to do all sorts of posts lately and with half term and other fun have been strapped for time. I feel like I just can't ignore this though and want to try to share my music discoveries and re-discoveries more often.

First post of its kind on this blog, here we go...

The first one seems like an odd one - it's from Moana which I saw with the littles during half term (already offed Frozen from the top spot - poor Frozen) and I've actually liked the artist for a good while under a different guise. Any of you seen Moana? If you have you'll probably know the track that I have in mind and just can't get out of my head.... Super catchy and uber singable "Shiny" (the sign of a great Disney movie is songs that you can't get out of your head even tho you are grown up, no?)

You may or may not already have realised that it is the same voice behind "Nigel" in the movie Rio and perhaps completely unaware that the voice in question is in fact Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame, who I found via recommendation of the voice that comes up the kitchen stairs every now and then when The House Elf has found something good I should listen to*...

"Bowie" is one of my favourites of theirs. I'd also recommend a little "back story" or prequel piece (for want of a better phrase) that Flight of the Conchords did to the Bowie song (if you liked it) which you can find here.

Secondly, a re-discovery off the back of a Lauren Laverne tweet... Sebadoh. I loved them in my teenage years and have an iffy recording of "Flame" on a tape somewhere from a Steve Lamaq evening session (remember those? tapes AND The Evening Sessions are in the archives of your mind somewhere) and am so happy to re-discover them - check them out here.

So there we have it. Two fairly polar opposites but equally awesome in their own rights. Please do share any discoveries or re-discoveries with me, I always love finding new music.

*The house elf in question being the long suffering Mr who washes up of an evening whilst I tidy up the days work. I know, he's a keeper.

92 - A Rainy Day

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Yes, I'm hanging my head in shame. My last blog post was October. OCTOBER! Running a shop takes up far more time than I ever imagined (did I mention I opened a shop? possibly not...) and I have several passion projects that form part of that which have been taking up every spare moment too (do you have a passion project? I'd love to hear about it...). Add family life and adventures into the mix and, well, here we are. There are a hundred reasons why I haven't written in so long, but with a strong wind behind me and air in my proverbial writing sails again, off we go...

I promised photos of The Good Life Experience of 2016 back in October and owing to a mix of having far too many images to choose from and saving it for a rainy day - figuratively or metaphorically - as well as not having written anything for a long time (see above), I am only just now posting them.

It is cold outside (actually, it is cold inside for that matter, off to fetch another jumper...) and although it is gloriously sunny, my day dreams are of sun drenched festivals, heat on my skin, feet in sandals, festival food (no longer the greasy noodle fest or overpriced and dubiously undercooked pork bap of yester years...) and new experiences. Music and doing and seeing and the feeling of fullness that comes from an intense couple of days of discovery and freedom from the daily routine. Seems the perfect time for a pictorial re-cap of the Good Life Experience which has become the ritual "so long summer" event for us.

The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer actually as aside from a small spattering of rain, the weather at TGLE was epic! Sandals all weekend and barely a coat in sight, not bad for the end of September, how do you do it Charlie?

A fairy tale castle - We can see for miles up here - Little adventurers - Tents forever - A thousand trees in Gladstone's Library - The Exploration Club - Plastics in the sand, a Meek Family talk - The helter skelter, a symbol of TGLE - Now, pay attention... Charlie Gladstone talks business success - Gin making with the Do Preserve authors - A family motto - Unearthing the Lamb - The pit baked lamb unveiled - A sketch of the whole affair - Ben Fogle talks Land Rovers, dogs and adventures - Gilles Petersen captivates - Axes and how to use them - Light shafts through the trees - 5 O'Clock Apron - Shelling peas - Whats the time Mr Wolf? - The details - Bill Granger bbq's - Ingredients - Lineup - TGLE - Axe throwing for all - Epic log pile - The most magnificent hounds at TGLE - Climb - The end of another spectacular weekend - Corn fields and Sunshine

You can learn more about this years event and buy tickets here.

This post is not sponsored, all views are my own. Don't believe me? Try it out for yourself and see if you aren't going on about it for months after...

91- Dreamers

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Gladstone's Land Rover has become somewhat of a character at The Good Life Experience...
OK, this is the fourth fifth time I have re-written this post now. I find myself brimming with sentiment, but unsure how to voice it on this occasion.

I want to write something brilliant and worthy, of both the people who work so very hard to put together a great line-up year on year and pack thought and beauty into tiny details all around to make it such a special time and place, as well as of the lovely bunch of attendees.

I want to write about how the rows of canvas tents give a feel of how I think an old time jamboree or summer camp would look and feel.

I want to write about the campfires and how we are all drawn to them like moths or the historic cave dwellers that we evolved from (and sort of still are).

I want to write about the learning and newness of so many things.

About the food smells drifting around and the tasters of so many dishes on offer from camp fire cookery demo's.

Most definitely about the hundreds (thousands?) of adorable dogs that have caused a petition to be started in our house in favour of becoming dog owners by the time the next GLE rolls around.

I want to write about how it is a meeting ground for old friends and a brilliant place for finding new.

I want to write about the inspirational impact that people like the Meek Family have on others.

I want to write about the joy of packing everyone else off to bed and heading back out on my own to wander the site watching bands with a hot chocolate in hand, meandering between tents and fires and feeling the joy of freedom after a tense day of arguments from over tired children.

I also want to write about Michael from Best Made Co who flew over from NY. Who brought with him a suitcase full of s'mores ingredients for everyone's enjoyment. It would not be The Good Life Experience without the s'mores and fires...

And, of course, I want to write about Ben Fogle's amazing legs...

Most of all I want to write about dreamers and passion. Every person who turned up to perform or talk or teach or show did so with such amazing passion that you can't help but get a little bit "infected" by it.

The four founders drive for putting the whole thing together and daring to dream of a different kind of field based, music infused experience (don't call it a festival - it's more than that...) and seeing it through the tough times (councils unhappy about fires amongst other ridiculous things, I don't want to start on how silly rules and regulations have become...) as well as the fun.

The little girls prancing and dreaming of being ballet dancers whilst The 12 Ensemble warm up.

The crafters who quit their day jobs because they dream of a simpler life where the important things take centre stage who come and inspire everyone else to be quitters too.

The music makers who tell their stories intensely with instruments and lyrics (and in many cases a good ol' knees up of a dance to boot).

The cooks and chefs who take ingredients and turn them into something truly wonderful with gusto and love, teaching people not just how to feed themselves and their families, but to nourish their souls in doing so.

The inspirational people who are passing on their knowledge, not pulling secrets safely to their chest but throwing out their arms and saying "look, this is what I've learnt and know and I want to share it with you...".

So many dreamers and doers with rocket fuel like enthusiasm for what they do and sharing it. I can't help but feel that any words I write will not even begin to give the true flavour of not only what it is to be at The Good Life Experience, but also what you take home with you after the last camp fire has gone out.


TGLE team did too good of a job at putting on lots of interesting things and making everything look wonderful this year (and the weather was just spectacular too), I started to sort through photos to include in this post and have whittled it down to 90 and will have to work at cutting that down... Photos and highlights coming in the next week or so.


This was our third year at TGLE and next years date is already planted firmly on the calendar. Join in the fun - as I write, super early bird tickets have been extended - book them now and give yourself something to look forward to as the colder days set in...

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