Throwback Thursday: A Gift from President to Granddaughter

Last Friday in Hyde Park, I ran next to a woman pushing her baby son in a pram. As she ran, she sang the names of all the American presidents.

I couldn’t decide whether this was an impressive vision of motherhood or of madness.  All I knew was that I had to keep up with her. Not only was this woman able to run and sing at the same time, she bravely chose to compose a song with pretty challenging creative ingredients. I mean, presidential surnames include Van Buren, Hoover and Eisenhower. 

I ran just behind the woman long enough to hear her bellow the chorus a few times: ‘GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS THE FIRST PRESIDENT!’ 

Yes, he was. I knew that, but that was pretty much all I knew. We studied the American War of Independence at school but for some reason I’ve blurred early American history with the plot of Sleepy Hollow.

I googled George Washington and the image search yielded this portrait of him, a miniature. 

George Washington Laughing Heart

When George Washington’s step granddaughter, Martha (Patty) Parke Custis became engaged, she wrote to her step-grandfather asking him to sit for a miniature as a wedding gift.

He replied by saying he couldn’t believe the wish nearest a young lady’s heart was to possess an old man’s picture, but consented nonetheless. 

This is the result, a watercolour on ivory, by Walter Robertson set in gold. 

Wedding gifts & British brands

We went to Italy last weekend to celebrate the marriage of my husband’s university friend.

Dolce, Gabbana and Tornatorne made it a long-term ambition of mine to attend an Italian wedding. I had a vision of myself in a full-skirted lace midi-dress twirling down a narrow street. Thanks to a dress on sale from Whistles, I made it happen. 

When we got married, the happy couple gave us some Lisa Corti table linen (similar below) which is awesome. You can’t find it in London, the colours are bright and beautiful. It showed that they put in some thought.

I was informed by my husband that there was ‘no way’ the couple would have a gift list. So I spent hours coming up with ideas for gifts that were made in the UK. The bar was set high.

After a good few hours of brainstorming, I visited their wedding website and discovered that they did have a gift list (contributions to their honeymoon).

So that my ideas aren’t wasted, here are my top five British brands:

SMYTHSON

This 125-year-old luxury brand was favoured by Winston Churchill, Sigmund Freud and the Maharajahs of India. The products are elegantly designed and well-made. Gift options are abundant: from leather-backed notebooks to jewellery boxes, all in beautiful colours, 

WEDGWOOD

I remember learning about Josiah Wedgwood in history class and thinking that this would be as interested in ceramics as I'd ever be. How times have changed. Wedgwood isn't just about blue and white china. The recent collaboration with Jasper Conran is supreme and worth marvelling over. The plates from the Butterfly Bloom collect (pictured below) are also awesome. 

JOHNSONS OF ELGIN

I dare anyone to find a better Cashmere shop. 

CHAPEL DOWN

The UK isn't generally known for it's sparkling wine but it should be. Award-winning Chapel Down is based in Kent and produces sparkling and white wines, beer and cider. The CEO says on their website: 'I passionately believe that there is no point in just trying to be the best. We have to be the only people who can do what we do.'  

LIBERTYS OF LONDON

Liberty prints are unique. I can't find out if they produce table linen, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a big job to buy and hem some of their material to make a statement tablescape. The range is enormous. The range of styles and colours is vast.

What brands would you recommend? Comment below!

Check out my Best of British Pinterest board.