Marks & Spencer have been shooting their Christmas flowers and gifts brochure here this week. On Monday a refrigerated truckload of perfect poinsettias was delivered and ferried into the house. On Tuesday, huge boxes of exquisite lilies and amarylis arrived, followed by roses, orchids and potted azaylias. On Wednesday, exotic waxy anthurium, splashy tropical leaves, fragrant gardenias and spiky protea turned up, fresh off the plane from South Africa: it's been a delightful few days (whippets and box of foil wrapped M&S choccies incident aside. Thank God Joe and his mates didn't manage to break into the 'Indulgent Collection' - a wooden box containing Champagne truffles, Champagne bubble-bath and, well, Champagne). This morning the house is full of Christmassy smells as candles are lit and ladies snip branches of fir tree and twist bunches of cinnamon sticks for table decorations. Stylists fiddle with crystal glasses and sparkling pine cones and there's a beautifully just-out-of-focus Christmas tree waiting in the wings.
Outside the garden is in no hurry to change seasons but is very gently turning ever-so-slightly autumnal. In the evening sun we picked apples and today I've been peeling, slicing and cooking them. I made a batch of apple and blackberry muffins for the crew and I'm going to attempt... wait for it. Toffee Apple Ice Cream! I'll let you know how I got on.