Friends & Ferns

by Margaret Powling-

It is almost impossible these days to open a magazine or see homes on Instagram (here I would add that I’m not an Instagram’er, but I do look at the ‘Gram, as I think it is referred to) without noticing that house plants are making something of a comeback.  I confess I’m not fond of them, much preferring fresh flowers.  I think the reason is that once they have house plants, few people keep them in tip top condition. They are often dusty, have yellowing (or even dead) leaves, and sometimes are pot-bound or are crying out for water. 

Having said that, last year I bought the above book, Past Present by Susan Sully, and although it is an American publication and American décor is slightly different from British, or even more particularly, English decor, I have been able to pick up some good  ideas from this lovely book, and one of them was from this photo …

and therefore, similarly, I placed a fern (although I’m not sure that the plant above is actually a fern) in a loving cup and placed it on our mantelpiece last summer (see photo, top.)

I then decided, as the fern grew a little too large for the mantel, to remove it and, with another one I bought, put them on the kitchen windowsill instead (see below – please excuse the grubby window; it had been raining after a long dry spell and left the windows very smeared. The central plant is basil, not a fern.)

For a few weeks the ferns looked beautiful but then, like Topsy, they grew … and grew.  Before long they were restricting daylight, and in our north-facing kitchen we like to grab as much natural light as we can.  And so they went: I popped them in the garden but, sadly, they have not survived. 

But that didn’t worry me. They weren’t expensive and, really, it is possible to treat inexpensive plants like this as ephemeral as fresh flowers and rather than trying to nurse them back to health, or chop at them when they are too large (for they seldom look good after being chopped about), simply get rid of them.  I think I will soon be buying another fern for the mantel, now that I’ve reminded myself how pretty it looked.


And so to yesterday.  I met a friend for coffee in our favourite sea front hotel again. A different friend from last week, I might add.  I think it was *Dr Johnson who said we must keep our friendships “in good repair” and I agree with him.  Indeed, it had been far too long since this friend and I had met and it was lovely to have a catch-up session over tea (for my friend) and coffee (for me.)  

*Update (8th June):  I have checked this quote, and Dr Johnson’s words (according to Boswell) are that a man should keep his friendships “in constant repair.”

The Singer Room (aka the hotel’s lounge) is a very opulent room, but the splendid plaster-encrusted ceiling and walls are balanced by simple dark blue chairs and sofas.  This is the view (above) from where we were sitting, looking through to the bar area, where there is a TV set and a pool table.  The doors which can be closed between these two rooms are mirrored and reflect the views from either room.

However, although I was very much enjoying our conversation, I had not felt well yesterday morning.  I don’t want to make much of my little problem, but three years ago I had emergency surgery and my gall bladder was removed.  Much of the time I am fine but occasionally I have a flare up and urgently need to use the loo.  I won’t elaborate, I’m sure you will know to what I am referring.  And so I had a bout of this yesterday and said to my friend that really, I’d have to cut our meeting short. I made it home and the rest of the day I … well, I rested. 

Today I feel very much better but I am still taking things easy and for starters husband brought me breakfast in bed.  Just a simple bowl of porridge …

And I stayed there longer than usual and read my book.

Since then I have made pea and mint soup for our supper and I cooked tagliatelle for lunch with a pestou sauce for husband and a tomato sauce for myself.  I buy fresh pestou sauce in Waitrose from the chiller and keep it in the freezer until I need it, and I add a few ingredients, such as petits pois, a little veggie stock, some crème fraiche and, before serving, some fresh basil leaves.  For my tomato sauce, I saute a small chopped shallot in a little cold-pressed rape seed oil, add a can of chopped tomatoes, add some crème fraiche (not too much, I don’t want a pink sauce!), some dried basil, some fresh basil leaves torn up, a little veggie stock and a pinch of sugar to take the acidity away but not that much it makes the sauce sweet.  With freshly grated parmesan, it made a very nice lunch for us (I had the tiniest of spoonsful of parmesan – fat isn’t good for someone with no gall bladder.)

Not to self:  Remember to post the Quiche Lorraine recipe before too long!

When I have finished the Veronica Henry book (above), I have this (below) to read, which arrived yesterday …

It can’t have passed the attention of Jane Austen fans that this year is the 200th anniversary of her death.  While this is not a novel by Jane, I have heard good things of this book.   

And so to tomorrow.  General Election Day.  How can I let this post go without alluding to this event?  Well, quite easily, for this isn’t a political blog, nor one in which I mention national events, sad or otherwise, but just to say that I will be voting.   But before then we will be looking after our dear little four year old grandson for a few hours while his mummy and daddy visit the school he will be attending from September – a parents’ induction day.  I don’t recall being invited to such a day at our sons’ primary school in the 1970s but times have moved on, have they not?  So tomorrow will be a long day because husband and I will be up early to greet the little fellow and we always stay up until the early hours on General Election night. If David Dimbleby at 78 can be up until the wee small hours, then so can we! 

Until next time.


Margaret Powling


  1. Marlene Stevens

    Sorry to hear you have been feeling under the weather, try not to overdo it, take care Marlene, x

    07 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Marlene. I am already feeling much better but still taking it a bit easier.

      07 . Jun . 2017
  2. Lara

    Well done on resting when not feeling well. It can be too easy to let our obligations to others override our obligations to ourselves and end up overdoing it. I prefer to be home when feeling under the weather. Familiar surrounds.

    Enjoy your time with your little grandson xx

    07 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I think it’s a very natural reaction to prefer to be in our own homes when not well, and in my case, close to our own loo! I am feeling much better today. Indeed, I’m writing this at 5.10 am on Thursday morning. I woke early and have made myself a cup of tea. I might watch the News on TV for a while now before returning to bed for a couple of hours before we get up and await our little grandson.

      08 . Jun . 2017
  3. Eloise at thisissixty.blog

    So sorry to hear that you haven’t been well. Glad to hear that you are feeling a lot better. Home is always the only place to be if unwell.

    08 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Eloise. I have these bouts periodically after having had my gall bladder removed and I never know what causes it. But I feel much better now, thank you. And yes, home is the best place, especially when you have to make a record-breaking run to the loo!

      08 . Jun . 2017
  4. Eloise at thisissixty.blog

    Sorry, submitted before I finished. My brother had his gall bladder moved just a couple of months ago. He comes for dinner every couple of weeks so I am getting used to what he can and can’t tolerate. The other day I made a creamy dessert without thinking. I remembered in time and made an alternative. The next evening we had to eat the creamy one (not a hardship to be honest…haha). We only eat dessert occasionally so two in two nights was a bit of a treat!

    08 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, your brother will know all about life without a gall bladder … and yes, one has to take care not to over-indulge in such things as cream. The trouble is, when I’m feeling well, I tend to forget there are things I shouldn’t have and then it’s too late!

      08 . Jun . 2017
  5. Lillian Flowers

    Loving your blog. like the idea of a plant on the mantelpiece. I have read the forever house.

    09 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Lillian. Thank you for your kind comment and I’m glad you enjoy reading my blog. I really enjoyed The Forever House, it was a lovely, gentle story.

      10 . Jun . 2017

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