A Fun Friday

by Margaret Powling-


I was up earlier than usual this morning as I was meeting my friend for coffee in our favourite local hotel.  It’s so nice to have this place in which to meet and it is popular with so many women who meet for coffee, lunch or tea, it’s almost like a club but without the subscription! 

The hotel used to be home to Washington Merritt Grant Singer (2nd son of Isaac Singer, Founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Com).  Washington was born in 1866 and died in 1934, but lived at what is now the Palace Hotel between 1887 and 1909.  His father, Isaac Singer, lived at the nearby Oldway Mansion (below, now empty, awaiting redevelopment.)  There is talk of it being made into an hotel but I don’t think a firm decision has been reached.


The Singer Lounge in the Palace Hotel where my friend and I met is extremely ornate (apart from the more ordinary chairs and coffee tables for guests’ use) and is a very pleasant room in which to meet and enjoy morning coffee or afternoon tea.


After we finished our coffee and chat, I drove off to a local supermarket and stocked up with flowers.  I had bought some a couple of days ago, just two bunches of what I then thought were ivory-coloured tulips as they were just in bud, but as they have opened out they are more pastel yellow, but still very elegant.  I also treated myself to a magazine.

Today, I bought apricot roses  for the kitchen table, and dark wine-coloured alstromeria (photo at the top of this post) …

If you think we’ve gone overboard on oranges, they are for juicing.

When I returned home I found that the delivery man had called with some things I’d ordered – new indigo denim jeans, new indigo non-denim jeans, a long-sleeved white T, a long-sleeved black T, and some new cream-coloured lacy underwear.  All staples in my wardrobe, but refreshed, ready for summer.  Fortunately, everything fitted perfectly so nothing has to be returned, all are keepers.

I also took delivery of a jumper which I’d seen on someone’s Instagram page.  I don’t ‘do’ Instagram myself, but I like to look at some of them and this person had just bought a jumper and I thought it looked really pretty.  Now, I’m not one for ditsy prettiness.  I like elegance and I have not worn sequins since I was eight years old and my Aunt Nancy made me a gorgeous party dress in pale gold satin with layers or gold net over the top, a pretty satin sash and embroidery finished off with gold sequins.  I loved it!  But I was eight years old, what eight year old wouldn’t love something like that?  

Indeed,  I’ve always been a bit sniffy about women who dress (to my mind) like children in pastel pinks and blues, their garments embroidered or smothered with logos, and are then embellished with beads or sequins.  I mean, what man (apart from Liberace or Elvis)! would wear such things?  Would Mrs May or Mrs Merkel or Madame Lagard wear such things?  How, I have always thought, could women ever be taken seriously wearing SEQUINS, for heaven’s sake, and in the day time?

So, what have I bought? Only a  jumper with embroidered budgerigars and flowers on the front, and the flowers have been constructed … wait for it … from SEQUINS.

And I love it!

Ok, the sequins don’t look particularly shiny here, but I assure you, they absolutely GLITTER.  But it’s pretty and looks great with black jeans. I shall now seek out some pretty pink nail polish (I only wear various shades of red, or that deep pink that has a hint of brown in it.)  Next I will be wearing pink shoes!  Then I  will know I’m ready for the funny farm! (With apologies to anyone reading who loves anything pink and sparkly!)

As well as the clothes which have arrived today, the latest Jacqueline Winspear novel has arrived.  I must be mad – I love these novels about psychological Private Eye, Maisie Dobbs, but I have three still to read before I embark on the one that arrived today.   But I will have a Maisie read-a-thon in due course. 

These are the four latest Maisie Dobbs novels, I have three to read before I embark on the latest, In This Grave Hour

And finally, on what started as a sunny day but which has now turned chilly and windy, my dressing chest with some of the tulips I bought.   Soon, my latest scent will join this selection, Hermes’ Le Jardin sur le Nil.  Unfortunately, I love all Hermes’ fragrances.

What have you been doing this Friday? Working, shopping, housekeeping, or just putting your feet up and enjoying a quiet read?

Have a lovely weekend.


Margaret Powling


  1. Eloise

    Hello Margaret, what a full, interesting post. The hotel looks just my kind of place! There is a place a few miles away from me called Brockencote Hall which is similarly refined and a lovely place to meet up with a friend. They serve coffee and afternoon teas in The library….it is such an elegant place to while away an hour or two (who am I kidding -it’s always closer to two!)
    I like a bit of sparkle so long as it’s not too overt. I love coloured shoes and recently bought some gorgeous cerise suede ones which have a bow with tiny sparkles. I love evening wear with (tasteful) sequins.there’s a fine line. Your party dress reminds me of one my mother had made for me at a similar age. The fabric was from a beautiful evening dress she had kept from her army days. It was a rich green satin with a matching organza overlay and had a huge ash and bow. I felt like a princess.
    Nails are a variety of colours, mostly shades of pink/red but occasionally I go a bit wild! I like a pearl finish
    and never wear a matt colour apart from Revlon Red. My favourite, from the OPI James Bond Collection is a very rich vermillion called ‘Die another day’ has been discontinued (isn’t it always!) I am having to limit wear.
    I am very interested in your top picture. The black figurines look like Spelter Ware. I have a similar pair which were my grandmothers. My husband hates them so they live in the study! Is the glass Bristol? I once had a lovely Bristol jug but unfortunately it got broken along with some favourite China when I grabbed a shelf to stop me falling off a chair on which I was standing. Lesson learned…use a stepladder.
    Finally – how I spent today: Gym this morning and writing this afternoon. Perhaps one day you will read my novel and post a picture of it on you blog!
    Please excuse the length of reply-I’ve missed your posts over the past couple of days!

    17 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, Eloise, what a lovely lot of comments and you need never apologise for the length. It has been lovely to read it this morning with my early morning coffee. The hotel you mention sounds lovely, too, but Sarah has commented that she has visited Combe Hotel now it’s The Pig at Combe and reassures me it is very nice indeed.
      How lovely that childhood dress would’ve been in deep green. I once had a childhood dress in navy blue velvet with a lace collar which another aunt sent me for Christmas. I think I’ve used Revlon Red nail polish before, and the OPI one sounds wonderful. Why do they always seem to discontinue the ones we like?
      The two figures which are, indeed, spelter (light as a feather, therefore certainly not bronze) were in my parents’ hotel in 1962 when they bought the place. They are bronze-coloured but look black on the photo because of the fading light. They weren’t to their taste at all, but Mum didn’t tend to throw things away and so she kept them and now they are with me. I didn’t think I’d like them, but they don’t look too bad in our bay window.
      Bristol glass tends to be blue and I don’t really know where those little glass decanters are from, they’re cranberry glass and again something I’ve known since childhood.
      I hope you enjoy yourself at the gym (something I’ve never tried) and then your writing. I have no aptitude for fiction (well, I don’t think I have!) but simply write articles for magazines, and have a monthly antiques column in one of them.
      Not sure what we are doing today ourselves, perhaps a trip out to look for some new small lampshades for the lamps on the desk in our hall; the ones we have were very cheap and they were a make-do affair when we bought them. That’s the trouble with make-do things, they tend to stay there for too long!

      18 . Mar . 2017
  2. Marlene Stevens

    I love a freshly squeezed orange juice myself, a completely different taste from the cartons and bottles.
    I saw that jumper on IG but I had also spotted it in Asda last week, I am really thinking about treating myself to it, I did buy a sweater and two long sleeve tops in Asda sale last week, for the bargain price of £14 the lot, ideal for everyday casuals.
    Have a nice weekend.

    18 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Soon, we’ll all be butterfly as well as bird crazy, Marlene! We have been in Dunelm this morning, not our favourite emporium but useful for oven tins and washing up bowls and so forth. As well as birds (they were even on chair fabric) I saw greetings’ cards many with butterflies on, stylised as well as realistic. And then we were searching for some new lampshades for the lamps on my hall desk and passed some pendant shades which were in vibrant turquoise, teal and shocking pink (three colours which seem everywhere right now) and they, too, depicted butterflies. So it seems that all things Nature are currently in vogue.

      18 . Mar . 2017
  3. Lara

    The photos of your ‘coffee hotel’ are beautiful. Many years ago my mother and I drove to Katoomba, a town in the Blue Mountains about two hours west of Sydney and very popular with tourists. There was a beautiful older building called the Carrington Hotel which I somehow knew of it having a beautiful interior so we gingerly stepped inside for a peak. It was built in the 1880s (an old building for us Australians) and had been THE place to honeymoon in the early 1900s. A young member of staff caught us and invited us in to look through the reception rooms and bar area, telling us they screened old movies each week and would we like to come back that evening. We did and it was magnificent – they had rearranged all of the chesterfield couches and wing chairs to face one wall, hung up a large screen and we sat on the couches with bowls of popcorn and coffee or tea watching Marlon Brando scream out ‘Stella’ in ‘A Streetcar Called Desire’. I think the whole thing cost about $10 and was one of the most amazing experiences. The history and grandeur of the building added to our enjoyment.

    I love coloured shoes and have always had ‘a thing’ for red shoes, requiring a minimum of one pair in my wardrobe. I’ve had up to three pairs in the past. My current favourite red shoes are a pair of ballet flats – suitable only in late autumn to early spring here in subtropical Australia. I love the pop of colour, especially when wearing denim jeans or my denim skirt. I’m sure your new jumper will look lovely. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone every now and then.

    18 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      What a thoughtful member of staff in that hotel wo have shown you around and to tell you about the sceening of the old movies and then for you to return to see A Streetcar Named Desire. Do you know, I’ve never seen that film! Yes, very often the setting and the event and how one feels at the time adds to the enjoyment of something as simple as watching a movie.
      I, too, have always loved red shoes. I have two pairs at the moment, my flatties are my favourite, they are by Gabor, red patent leather, and I’ve had them for years but they keep coming out and, yes, they look great with denim jeans or with black trousers. My newer red shoes are suede and more a dark pink than red.
      I do think it’s a very good idea for an hotel to show films like that. A pity more hotels aren’t clued up to this, it would bring people in in the quieter moments, and they could then have lunch or afternoon tea. I think it’s a brilliant idea!

      18 . Mar . 2017
  4. Eloise

    I didn’t know that Bristol glass was blue. My mother told me that the reddish-pink glass jug was Bristol and I never questioned it. I shall do a little research! I love writing….could happily sit and do it all day long. How lovely to have a regular writing commission. I had an article published in Cotswold Life last year but mostly I work on my book. 60,000 words so far. It is a love story set against a backdrop of the Korean War which is a major interest of mine. My downfall is that I cannot help constantly redrafting. There is a quote from Dorothy Parker “I can’t write five words but that I change seven”. That’s me! I am reading a very engaging non-fiction book at the moment: The Lost Village by Richard Asquith. It focuses on the changing cultural and visual aspects of English villages.
    Re your response to Lara, I also have Gabor red patent flats (also years old) plus newer dark red leather flats…also Gabor, my absolute favourite make of shoe. The new cerise ones are by Cefalu, a recent discovery for me.

    18 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Bristol glass does tend to be blue, Eloise. Think of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry, in its blue glass bottle. In one of my antiques books it says: “Bristol: A centre for British glass-making from the mid-17th to 19th centuries. Bristol glass-making was established c1651; in the 18thC opaque white glass resembling porcelain and often decorated in similar style was important, but the city became best known for its ‘Bristol’ blue glass made in the late 18thC, most notably by Lazarus and Isaac Jacobs. It was used to make decanters, finger bowls, patch boxes and liners for silver casters, and other wares, which were often gilded. Blue glass was produced at many other factories in Britain and firm attribution is usually impossible.” My late mother had some lovely Bristol blue glass items (bulb vases and glass rolling pins!) but I’m afraid they were part of her various collections that went to auction, it being impossible to keep everything.
      Your book sounds great, so keep at it Eloise! And these days, if you don’t get a mainstream publisher, there is nothing to stop you from self publishing online as an e-book. From what I’ve read about writing fiction, the most important thing is to Finish The Book and then tweak it! Don’t keep going over and over it in the process of writing, get the story down and then do your re-writes. Regarding the Korean War, I have a book from childhood called Great Events of the Royal Year 1953 and it has photos of servicemen returning from that conflict. There is a photo of the troopship Asturias berthing at Southampton with 530 ex-prisoners from Korea.
      How coincidental we both have red patent flats by Gabor and also years old!
      I like the sound of the book The Lost Village. I love reading social history, and recently I enjoyed (although it was physically a very heavy book to hold) The Long Weekend by Adrian Tinniswood (Life in the English Country House between the wars.)

      18 . Mar . 2017
  5. Pieta

    A lovely post Margaret and I love reading all the comments as well. I love your jumper and I confess to wearing a little bling and coloured shoes these days. My wardrobe is mainly black, white and grey so a little colour makes it pop. I also love seeing pictures of the stately homes/hotels and pleased that they are being restored rather than let go.
    It was lovely to read Lara’s comments about the Carrington Hotel. I had a similar experience and also stayed there one weekend for a Christmas in July; it was wonderful!

    18 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Pieta, and glad you approve the new jumper – it’s just a fun thing and was very inexpensive. As you say, with a mainly-neutral wardrobe, a bit of bling and coloured shoes makes a nice splash of colour.
      I confess to being curious about Carrington Hotel and looked it up on the internet – what a wonderful place! I loved the winter photo of it, covered in snow; what a wonderful place! How lovely to have stayed there for Christmas.
      I think I shall have to include some of the lovely historic houses we have visited in my blog – not that we’ve been to any recently, but we do try and visit some each summer if only in our own county of Devon and nearby Cornwall.

      19 . Mar . 2017
  6. Eloise

    Thank you for the Bristol glass info! Clearly, antiques are your area of expertise. You have shared some pictures of several lovely pieces. I do love to see sunlight shining through coloured glass. I have a treasured piece of Walther Sohne green (uranium?) glassware which is a lamp base, and some lovely pink glass dishes (old and pretty but no specific maker). I have many photos of Japan and Singapore 1952-4 from my parents’ time there and a few years ago, supplied copies to the Museum in Kure, Japan. You are right…I need to learn to write and tweak later but I’m not sure I will ever be able to do it. Have a lovely Sunday.

    18 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      I wouldn’t say I was an expert, Eloise, on antiques, but after writing about them for so many years and having had a mother who was a collector, I have picked things up along the way. Also, I have several contacts in the antiques’ world who have been able to assist me when writing my articles, and also quite a collection of books on various antiques’ subjects. Your own glass pieces sound beautiful.
      How great is that, too, to have all those photos of your parents’ time in Japan and Singapore. Small wonder that you have set your novel in this period in our history. Often, our backgrounds can form the basis of a novel. A friend who is a highly successful writer based her first ‘big’ novel on her grandmother’s story – her grandmother being a white Russian escaping her country after the Revolution. She has gone on to writer several other successful novels. But get to the end of the story and then make any necessary adjustments. Perhaps even join a local writers’ group – when I was starting out writing, even though I didn’t writer fiction, I found the support and comments of my then writers group very helpful.

      19 . Mar . 2017
  7. Eloise

    You’re right, Margaret – feedback is so important. Thank you for your encouragement. It is lovely to have a ‘new internet friend’ who understands. I am fortunate in that I have a great mentor who gives me her very honest opinion – she was one of my lecturers when I was very lucky to be able to take three years out of the work place from 2013-16 to go to university where I completed a B.A. (hons.) in Creative & Professional Language with Linguistics. (Hooray for redundancy or it would never have happened!) I had barely written a word (apart from work reports and training material) until then. It was the most amazing three years and I took to it like the proverbial duck to water. I miss it terribly. I won several awards but unfortunately the magazine market is hard to break in to. I do envy you! The Cotswold Life article was a massive piece of luck.

    19 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      How lovely to have studied for a BA (Hons) at Uni. A bit late in the day for me, but when I look at all my files of published work, I think to myself, I’ve not done too badly on ‘just’ a grammar school education. You are quite right, the magazine world is very difficult to break into, especially for someone who hasn’t yet been published. I started with the local country magazine Devon Life and worked my way up from that. It wasn’t quite as hard 17 to 20 years ago when I was starting to get my work published but the 2008 financial crash meant that all magazines tightened their belts and a lot went to the wall and today, much of what is published in them is written in-house or is advertorial but written to read as editorial. But don’t give up if you wish to be published in magazines, especially Cotswold Life. No doubt you already know this, but just in case you don’t, magazines love pieces which relate to forthcoming special events, and anniversaries. And always bear in mind that they work several, sometimes many, months in advance. Now is the time to pitch ‘stories’ to them from say, October onwards. Think of Apple Day, or if any of the historic houses in your area is celebrating a special anniversary or has any events taking place. Buy any magazines in which you would like to be published, those which cater for your particular interests (although I’ve written on loads of topics which haven’t necessarily been of interest to me, but through research I became interested in them, such as mushroom farming and the life cycle of the sea horse!) Look at how many pages are editorial and how many are adverts, and then look to see how many pages of editorial are taken up with columnists and then how many are written in-house, and then see how many are left for freelance contributions, and you will see, not all that many! But do pitch to the Editor via email, bear in mind you will most likely have to source your own illustrations (photos), and keep your pitch as short as you can, as they will have hundreds of emails a day to deal with. Best of luck.

      19 . Mar . 2017
  8. Eloise

    Creative & Professional WRITING with Linguistics (not ‘language’!).

    19 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      It sounds a very formidable course! Not sure I could cope with a course today, but even after 20 or so years of writing, I still enjoy it.

      19 . Mar . 2017
  9. Eloise

    Great advice Margaret; thank you so much. Looking forward to your next post!

    19 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      I will be posting again before too long. In the meantime, keep up that writing, Eloise!

      19 . Mar . 2017
  10. Maureen

    Hi Margaret, I had to comment because I love Maisie Dobbs, too! I’m on A Dangerous Place, and, like you, I have the next two books on my dresser waiting to be read. I found you on the blog How to be Chic, and I love seeing your pictures and reading about your day – it always seems so pretty and peaceful! I have four children ages 13-22, I’m a school librarian, and I live in Charlotte, North Carolina in the United States. I thought you might like to know you have a fan in me!

    19 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Maureen, how lovely to hear from you and I’m delighted you have been enjoying reading my blog. I have so much enjoyed writing it over the past few months and have been so encouraged by all the lovely comments of people such as yourself. I do live in a very beautiful part of England, on the south coast in Devon and it’s nice to be able to share my photos with others. Once I finish my latest book (by Alice Peterson) I will return to Maisie – what well-written and interesting books they are. I will be posting again within the next day or two, so I hope you will look in again soon.

      19 . Mar . 2017
  11. jane

    Beautiful photos love the green grass and your flowers. We still have snow and mud so this is lovely. Thank you ?

    19 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      We have rain today, Jane, but we’ve not had much rain for a while and while I am not looking forward to going to the hairdresser this morning in the rain, I know that it will do-the-garden-good! Glad you enjoyed seeing the flowers and I hope your snow and mud will depart soon.

      20 . Mar . 2017
  12. Mary, The Pouting Pensioner

    Yes, the glitzy jumper with black jeans sounds lovely, any chance of a photo for some spring inspiration? And what a fabulous house/hotel/mansion, there must have been a lot of money made in sewing machines when it was a new innovation. I guess the Singers must have been the Gates family of their era.

    23 . Mar . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Oldway Mansion is a lovely building. It was council offices until recently, the Registry Office was there, too, and it was a lovely place for weddings, especially in summer when they used the gardens for photographs. But it’s falling apart now while decisions are being made about its future – which is, sadly, happening to another building in Torquay, The Pavilion, which was built in 1912 and has been closed for several years while it’s fate is considered.
      I don’t know about more pix of myself, but if I do buy any new things for spring I might be tempted to show them! I have recently bought new undies, pretty ones even in my advanced years – coffee lace, pink lace, cream lace. Not from Rigby & Peller, though, just M&S!

      23 . Mar . 2017

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