Inside Out

Throughout my childhood my mother, perhaps by way of her own complexes, volunteered at day centres, charity shops and group homes in West London.  I would visit these places often and the other people frequenting were to me a magical bunch of people; a group of fluid, fascinating characters.  There were schizophrenics, homeless, manic-depressives, addicts, alcoholics, the lonely, the anxious, the isolated, the elderly and generally anyone on that thin line between normal and whatever the rest of society deemed weird or unacceptable.  I would turn up and dance my 6 year old innocence and imagination into the room, share stories with them that were filled with the real stuff of their thoughts, the difference between our stories being a notion of freedom one step away from the curse of an addled brain or a disapproving society.

This formative education, coupled with my own private fantasies: from childhood, a family friend with a garden at the bottom of which I believed there to be fairies; an imaginary St. Bernard dog called Ira and an imaginary friend who’s name I forget but who I remember was much naughtier than me, and then more lately, less privately, depicting the ironing of a loaf of bread and the construction of an octopus cake….it all amounts to a life led by a whimsical mind.

So, with fairies at the bottom of the garden, imaginary dogs and octopus cakes, the fact that the interior of Parchment is coming closer to a finish, I turn my imaginations to the outside.  Yet another challenge at my doorstep as I try to fathom the design of big open spaces.  I am drawn to small courtyards and English cottage gardens, brick patios and trellis’ heavy with climbing, flowering plants.  I want small spaces in the big spaces, areas that inspire dreams, naps, feasts, play and naughtiness, but the sharp reality at the moment is the cost of gravel per ton, how much does a ton of said stuff actually cover, how level is the ground and be careful not to dig near the septic.  It’s all a bit like trying to get my imaginary dog to fetch a ball; in more ways than one he just doesn’t really get it.

nd any budding designers out there want to take on the house landscape project for little to no money and help me straddle that thin line between crazy and real to nurture a landscape of whimsy? 

Lastly, with some excitement I can say Parchment House also has the recent addition of 16 acres to ensure the protection and privacy of its' property.  Approximately 12 of these acres are tillable and I am looking to discuss ideas for farming from people in my community.  There's a wet area by the river that would be great for blueberries....anyone want to raise bees, plant grape vines, grow a lavender field, food crops...? Contact me via email, I'd love to chat.

Johanna Lowe