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Birthday, Barry, and Books

First of all, I’d like to thank all those who have wished me a happy birthday!  I had a lovely day even though much of it was spent cleaning bookshelves!  But that was my choice, and I’m not complaining.  The shelves needed attention, they’d not been cleaned for a couple of years (or more!) and we were also looking after Barry …

for the weekend while his mummy and daddy were away.  He went to bed quite happily in his own little bed, but when we awoke during the night, he had very quietly climbed onto our bed and made a nest for himself between us, but more on my side than my husband’s!  I swear he gets larger and heavier in the night, too (Barry, I mean!)  Anyway, when I came back into the bedroom from having had a shower yesterday morning, Barry had decided he wanted to rest against my pillows … I allowed him to remain there just long enough to take this photo and then it was “Off the bed, Barry!”

As you can see in the photo at the top, I had some nice presents.  Husband and I don’t always give each other presents, we don’t feel the need.  Some people might think this strange, some might think we’re being mean with each other, some people might even feel hard-done-by if they don’t have a present, but we don’t feel this way.  We are not mean with each other; far from it, and we can have more-or-less what we want during the year (within reason, we’re not zillionaires) and we know that we don’t think any less of each other by not giving each other presents.  From younger son and his lovely partner, I had a new garden pot, gardening gloves and alium bulbs; from elder son and his lovely wife, L’Occitane bath crème and a hybrid tea rose for the garden (not on the photo, it’s in a pot outside); and from grandson, a box of chocolates and a dear little pot which he had painted for me, complete with a dianthus plant in it (below).

From various friends:  new bamboo socks (they are so soft!) in a pretty box; hand wash and lovely scented soap; notelets and very pretty paper table napkins;  and a beautiful scarf (National Trust) which I think will look good with my navy blue winter coat or my navy blue raincoat.

Our elder son and daughter in law invited us for a meal at tea time (so that little grandson could still be up and able to enjoy it with us) and she cooked a traditional roast chicken dinner, which was delicious, and she and our grandson baked me a birthday cake, complete with candles I had to blow out! Thank goodness they didn’t put the full complement of candles on the top!

I have received lovely cards, too, and these are on the bookcase in the sitting/dining room …

Indeed, this is the bookcase which kick-started my book cleaning this weekend.   This is where the paperback A-Z fiction is housed (hardback A-Z fiction is in the bed sitting room, with overflow in the guest bedroom),  and I ‘weeded’ the shelves as I went, so that I now have about 30 paperbacks for the charity shop from this section above.  However, although about 30 books were removed, there was only a small gap left once the shelves and books had been dusted and returned in alphabetical order, so how those 30 books fitted in, I do not know!  Perhaps there’s a law of physics that I haven’t yet comprehended, but it seems strange that the pile which has been removed would certainly not fit into the space that is left. ( I put an overflow or CDs into the small space that was left.)

In the photo above, you can see my birthday cards, and below, the shelves after I’d finished cleaning and ‘weeding’. We still have an old stereo sound system and vinyl records (we didn’t get rid of them when CDs became popular in the 1980s) and when husband constructed these shelves many years ago, he made a space for the LPs as well as for the stereo and speakers.

At the far end of our sitting/dining room, adjacent to the main window, there is another bookcase, and this is what I spent my time cleaning for much of yesterday. Every book was removed, all the shelves were dusted, and all were replaced.

In the photo above I had reached the shelves where I keep my Mary Wesley and Joanna Trollope novels (as collections – I have all their books – these are not with my hardback fiction elsewhere), plus some books by the 1940s/1950s writer, Richard Church (I wonder if any of you reading this have heard of him, or Cecil Roberts, come to that, two writers I was introduced to when I helped out in a friends’ antiquarian/2nd hand bookshop several years ago).  Both writers were very popular in their day, but have now sunk almost without trace. Also Bernard Levin’s journalism collections, Dirk Bogarde’s autobiographical writings, collections of letters, the travel books of Chiang Yee (known as The Silent Traveller), and some country books, such as The Worm Forgives the Plough (John Stewart Collis – I have a lovely illustrated edition; illustrated country books were very popular in the 1970s and 1980s) and Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (Edith Holden).

And (above) the job done, but not one single book found it’s way to the charity shop pile, but a few DVDs have been now been removed.  There are some I was a bit iffy about keeping – will I ever watch Green Card or My Old Lady again?  Or the whole of Pride & Prejudice (the Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle version)?  Or Iris (not Murdoch but Apfel)?  But those have had a stay of execution, for this time anyway.  One good thing about cleaning the bookshelves – apart from that they are now clean! –  was that I renewed my acquaintance with books I’d forgotten I had and I now intend to read some of them!  (I hope that will nip in the bud the question so many people ask of me, one which drives me mad I might add:  “Have you read them all?”)

Which brings me to the novels of Alan Titchmarsh.  I had been sniffy about them, I admit.  I had heard – although I can’t now think where I heard or read this – that they weren’t all that good, but then a friend (whose recommendations I value and trust) said she had enjoyed Mr Gandy’s Grand Tour.  And so I bought it, read it and agreed with her:  I loved it!

Indeed, there is nothing to be sniffy about, it’s just that I find it hard to associate the nation’s 2nd favourite gardener (for doesn’t Monty Don currently hold that spot?) with romantic novels, for that is what they are.  Lovely, gentle reads.  And so I’ve bought, inexpensively, two more and I’m looking forward to them; they will be nice to read between reading around more erudite subjects, and I don’t mean that as a put-down to Alan.  Indeed, I have changed my mind and should’ve known better than to be sniffy about his books without having even sampled one of hem.

I thought it was time for an autumn fragrance. Yes, I bought the Arran fragrance, After the Rain, last week, and it is pleasant, but it’s a citrus fragrance.  I adore Mitsouko, but only wear it in the autumn and winter, and this arrived this morning.  I thought I’d ordered eau de toilette so was delighted when I realized that I’d ordered eau de parfum!  It’s so glamorous, created in 1919, so almost 100 years old. I wonder if that original fragrance bears any resemblance to how it smells today?

I have been looking at the description on the Guerlain website and Mitsouko is described thus:

Jacques Guerlain named his creation “Mitsouko” after the name of the heroine in the bestselling novel of that time called La Bataille. Mitsouko, a beautiful married Japanese woman, secretly loves a British officer. In 1905, the Russo-Japanese war breaks out. Mitsouko awaits with dignity the outcome of the battle, nobly dominating her feelings. Jacques Guerlain had the incredible and daring idea of combining a chypre with a very fruity peach note, giving this fragrance all of its modernity.

Designed by Georges Chevalier, its bottle is underscored with graceful scrolls typical of Art Nouveau. Its avant-garde stopper, in the form of a hollowed heart, represented a real technical feat at the time.

(Although Mitsouko was named after a Japanese woman, I have chosen to use a postcard showing Chinese wallpaper in Saltram house in Plymouth, it just seems suitably Oriental.)

And finally, just because they’re pretty, these are in the sitting room right now …


Soon, these high summer colours of cerise and purple will give way to chrysanthemums and other autumn flowers in shades of gold, flame and russet and autumn will truly be here.

Until next time.



About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. Wow, our packed a lot into this article 🙂

    Happy Birthday and I wish you all the best for the year ahead. You have many lovely presents and I have no doubt the hand painted pot and flowers from your little Grandson are your favourite.

    I love the photo of Barry. He looks very poised there on your beautiful white bed linen. I enjoyed your account of how he started the evening in his own bed before jumping into yours. Such spunk ! Dogs and cats are very good at having their needs met whilst charming the socks off us humans, aren’t they. I’m sure your son and his partner will be very happy knowing that Barry is well cared for while they are away.

    You did well to complete the job of cleaning your bookshelves. I have a few large sorting out tasks that probably need doing but each time I start I get distracted and end up doing other things. Our weather is changing again – nighttime is noticeably warmer and the days getting longer – so i want to sort thru my wardrobe. I am nowhere as efficient as Jennifer L Scott with a ten item wardrobe but I use her concept of storing out of season clothes (we really only have two seasons here in my part of Australia – short mild winters and long humid summers). A couple of my summer ‘house dresses’ (for want of a better term) are looking worse for wear and I’m keen to replace them but before I go shopping I want to have a stocktake of what I already have so as to avoid any duplication (and waste money). So sorting through my wardrobe is on my to-do list of big jobs. A first world problem, really 🙂

    It’s lovely that you have found a new author. I used to watch the UK show which featured Alan Titchmarsh, a red-headed woman named Charlie (who never wore a bra) and a tall, easygoing gent who worked as a team doing garden renovations. Alan came across as very amiable. I had no idea he was a novelist. I know what you mean about poo pooing books only to be encouraged to overcome your prejudice and realise you enjoy them. I held out against reading the Harry Potter books, believe in they were just for children and therefore inferior until I was badgered by a mutual friend. I read those books with flourish and was so glad I did. Kind of reinforces that you can’t judge a book by its cover ha ha.

    Well happy birthday wishes again. Thank you for sharing your day with us xx

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you for your good wishes, Lara, and yes I love the painted pot by Grandson. It’s on the kitchen window sill right now. And Barry certainly knows how to get his own way!
      We have only one wall-to-wall (or almost wall-to-wall wardrobe, apart from one in the guest bedroom where we store the guest bedding and just few of my husband’s clothes, but not many) and we share that for both of us for our winter and summer clothes, so neither of us can have a huge collection of clothes. But then, we don’t need a huge amount. I tend to live in my navy cotton jeans, indigo denim jeans and a couple of dresses, the jeans do for summer and winter alike, and I also have some chinos which are good for summer, or inside the house in winter. Shirts I wear all year round, T-shirts go under jumpers in the winter, so much of my wardrobe is worn throughout the seasons, with the addition in winter of tights, socks and boots (and of course, outdoor clothes, coats, etc.)
      The TV Show with Alan Titchmarsh and Charlie Dimmock was a long time ago, and I think gardening practices have changed somewhat over here with far less decking being used (a ideal place under the decking for vermin to reside in some areas.) Alan will now be in his middle to late 60s but he is still doing some gardening programmes on TV. He’s a very personable person.
      I confess to not having read Harry Potter – the books, as they are to do with magic and so forth, hold no appeal for me but I do think they must be well-written and exciting, otherwise they’d not have achieved such acclaim. Perhaps I might read them one day.

  2. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    What a fabulous colour combination of gladioli. In you first picture I can just see the corner of those paper napkins; I recently purchased the very same design! Opened out they are round in shape with a scalloped edge. Unusual and very pretty. How lovely to own a ‘grandson original’ pot. I’m sure you will treasure it.
    What an attractive perfume bottle. Almost worth buying the perfume just for the bottle!
    I’ve never read the Alan Tichmarsh books and must own up to also feeling sniffy about them! I have several to read at present but will bear them in mind for the future.
    Sorting out bookshelves seems to me like a perfectly pleasurable way to spend one’s birthday. Doing something enjoyable is what matters, whatever that might be foe each of us.

    • Margaret Powling

      These are a favourite napkin design, Eloise. I’ve had the small cocktail napkins in this design, but not thee lovely dinner napkins, round with a scalloped edge. How coincidental you have chosen them for yourself! Great minds, eh? And yes, I will treasure Grandson’s decorated pot.
      I have always loved the Mitsouko bottle, it’s been like that since the perfume was created in 1919. Each fragrance bottle for Guerlain has a lovely bottle, but this is easily my favourite. I have been rather rash and ordered my other favourite, L’heure Bleue. I almost stopped using that when husband said it smelt like lavatory cleaner, but I hadn’t realized then he was losing his sense of smell and all things smell strange to him, or don’t smell at all. For instance, we can be driving in the countryside and the aroma of muck-spreading on the fields will penetrate the car and I say something like, “That’s a rich countryside smell!” and he won’t have smelt it. So now I shall buy it and enjoy it, regardless of whether there’s a whiff of lavatory cleaner about it!
      Yes, I quite enjoyed cleaning those bookshelves. Of course, there’s the study to attend to, where there are hundreds, if not thousands of books, plus the bed sitting room and the guest bedroom … oh dear!

  3. Hello Margaret and a happy belated birthday to you! Another enjoyable and very pretty post today. The beautiful perfume bottle with the lovely card behind is quite elegant. I always enjoy getting ideas of books and authors to explore, so thank you for that. Barney is a cutie, and the flowers at the end are gorgeous…a perfect ending.

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Joyce, for your birthday wishes and lovely comments re my latest post (the only slight adjustment I would make there to your comments is that Barney is actually called Barry – but I like the name Barney, too! I don’t know what Barry would make of being called Barney, though! He only stayed for one night, he went home on Sunday afternoon just before we went to elder son’s for our tea – we called it tea as it was served at 5 pm but it was really a proper English roast dinner.)
      The flowers are have been very pretty; they are almost ‘over’ now, sadly, but when I go shopping I will find something with which to replace them.

      • Oh, I’m sorry I got Barry’s name wrong! Goes to show how important proofreading is. : )

        • Margaret Powling

          I once made the mistake, Joyce, a typo I mean, of calling my friend’s husband Rover instead of Roger, so now he’s Rover to us! But I can proof read my own typing until I’m blue in the face and still miss errors, and yet when it’s in print such errors stand out like sore thumbs (“Far too many clichés here, Margaret!”)

  4. Happy Birthday, sounds like you had a lovely day. I hate birthdays (my own, not other peoples’) but I can’t work out why. It’s not because of my age (I’m 65 and don’t mind who knows it). I make myself thoroughly miserable for about a week and unfortunately I probably make things awkward for the rest of the family too although I try hard not to.

    My husband and I don’t buy presents for each other either, we can get the things we want for ourselves through the year and really I don’t want lots of “stuff” nowadays, I just want consumables like nice soap etc. This year we stopped buying for our children because they all now have children of their own, so we buy for the grandchildren only. Not because of the money, but because it gets harder and harder to think of things they would like.

    I sound such a misery don’t I? I don’t mean to but I fear I’m a bit of an Eeyore…..

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, Alison, I find that sad, that you don’t enjoy your birthday! I’m even older, I’m now 73 (and I don’t mind who knows it, either) but it’s your special day, your once-a-year-day, and it would be lovely if you could enjoy it. I enjoy my birthday, I always have. My mother always made it special for me and gave me lovely things, even when I was an adult, and in a way I miss that joy she brought to such occasions and the lovely – not always expensive but always thought about and bought with care – presents she bought and the great times we had. Yes, husband and I only like consumables these days, lovely soaps, chocolates, flowers, perfume, although our sons often buy husband clothes, shirts and trousers, but lovely modern ones by Michael Kors and Gant so that even at 82 he doesn’t looks as if he’s dressed (as some old chaps dress) in shades of Horlicks. Not that he would, of course! But we still buy for our children as they will always be our children even though they are grown up, but it’s more often than not a small present and then a card with a gift voucher for a good store so they can buy clothes. No you are most certainly not a misery, you are simply being pragmatic and doing what suits you and your family.

  5. Reading the above comments about birthday gifts – or not giving gifts – made me think I’d throw in my two cents worth. Mum and I often buy an ‘experience’, rather than an object for each other on our birthdays and at Christmas. For example, a visit to our favourite spa place for a facial or massage for birthdays and for mothers’ day we always go out for a nice breakfast together. I would much rather have time with my dear friends doing something lovely together. My husband is very difficult to buy for so I usually buy him an item of clothing which he has chosen and tried on (he is soooo fussy !) and make one of his favourite meals for dinner.. Most of us reach a point where we realise we have so much ‘stuff’. Although I do like receiving nice birthday cards where someone has put thought into the selection and what they write.

    • Margaret Powling

      I totally agree, time with friends is time to be treasured, and how lovely that you and your mother share these lovely experiences together. I’m not keen on facials and spas myself, but if they are what you like, then go for it, I say! But it’s a very good idea to buy things like ‘experiences’, or to have a meal out together, I’m all in favour of that.

  6. Wishing you a very happy, but belated Birthday Margaret, it sounds like you had a smashing day and were deservedly spoilt by your loved ones. I too wear bamboo socks, from Seasalt, and find them to be so comfortable, cool in the summer but warm in the winter and very hard wearing.
    My beloved and I do buy each other presents but they tend to be small, token things such as a book or handmade chocolates, its nice to have something to unwrap on your special day isn’t it?
    I seem to have been on a bit of a book buying spree over the last couple of weeks, mainly secondhand I hasten to add! It might sound strange but I have been putting together a winter library so that I am all ready to embrace the darker evenings, think classic crime and old fashioned ghost stories. It all started when I had a hankering to read The Woman in Black again but couldn’t find my copy, goodness knows where it went (probably lent out and not returned) so I sent off for another copy along with five other titles! There are many more on my list but it’s a start.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, that’s what we do, very occasionally, just a small present. I have bought things like CDs of music, or a book for husband, but as I say we don’t tend to buy each other much these days because within reason we have much what we want during the year (an example would be the two bottles of perfume I’ve recently bought, and a new book – yes, another one – arrived today and, to my shame, this was a brand new one. No doubt I will post about it before long! Oh, I like the idea of classic crime novels, lovely for winter with a glass of sherry or ginger wine (while we don’t like wine very much, I love a glass of port or sherry in the winter, port preferably, or Madeira with a slice of Madeira cake to go with it.) I have never read The Woman in Black but I do remember it was supposed to be quite scary! Just the thing for the fireside, a rug, a glass of something warming or a mug of hot chocolate, far better than much of what is on TV right now!

  7. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Belated Birthday wishes Margaret, I am sorry I missed this, as your blog is not a blogger one for some reason yours and a few more disappear from my reading list when I am updating, I shall have to try and find out the reason why. Anyway looks like a wonderful birthday, and little Barry with his butter wouldn’t melt face on, so cute.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Barry can charm for Britain! He can look so cutesy, he will put his head to one side and pretend that butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. Don’t you believe it! He’s a cunning little rascal – after all, he’s a terrier and they’re raison d’etre is to ESCAPE and chase rabbits (or anything else that moves!) Thank you for your birthday wishes, Marlene. I did have a lovely birthday, thank you, even though much of the day was spent cleaning bookshelves – but then, if I didn’t have a lot of books I’d be miserable, wouldn’t I? It’s a privilege to clean them when you think about it.

  8. Belated birthday greetings from me as well. I’m very impressed with your bookshelf dusting and tidying and how neat it all looks.
    I must thank you for the Toffee Apple Cake recipe about a month or so ago. It was absolutely delicious and disappeared rather quickly! Also, today, whilst in town I treated myself to a Lamy Safari fountain pen. That was in another recent post and it set me thinking how much I used to enjoy using a “proper” pen and how much neater my writing was in those days. I shall have a practice with it later and hope to see some improvement in my scribbles.
    I too have enjoyed Alan Titchmarsh’s novels. He just seems like an all round nice guy and very talented.
    I do so enjoy the variety of your posts and look forward to the next installment!

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Pamela, and first of all thank you for your belated birthday greetings. It has been so lovely having readers, far and wide, wish me well for my birthday, really touching and I’ve really appreciated it.
      I’m also delighted that you made and enjoyed the Toffee Apple Cake. It is lovely, isn’t it! And now you’ve bought a Lamy Safari pen. I bought mine from Bureau Direct (they sell refills for the pens) and they also sell other items of stationery.
      I’m glad I’m not the only one who is enjoying Alan Titchmarsh’s novels. I’m now a convert – as I said, I had dismissed them without reading them because I heard or read that they weren’t quite up to snuff. But I loved Mr Gandy’s Grand Tour and am now enjoying His novel, Bring Me Home.
      Hope you will enjoy the next instalent!

  9. I too, am sending you Happy Belated Birthday wishes, Margaret. Always a special occasion, the celebration of one’s life. I have a daughter whom it’s impossible to buy for, so this year my other daughter and I bought her two differently sourced bags of coffee beans as she has her own coffee bean grinder and coffee-latte-type coffee machine; a pink camellia bush as they remind me of her; and two vintage cups which she loved. And I do envy your book situation! I need to go through mine and take many to a local charity thing, as I do not have the room to store them. (sigh!….)

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Ratnamurti, for your kind wishes, and yes, it’s good to celebrate one’s special day. What a lovely present for your daughter from you and your other daughter, special coffee, a camellia and vintage cups. I’m sure she loved them, I know I’d have loved them! Regarding the books, the study has yet to be tackled, that’s a big job! But I’m sure there will be some more books for the charity shop when that job is done.

  10. Happy Belated Birthday!
    Your articles are wonderful. I get such enjoyment out of reading them and looking at the photos. Thank you 🌷

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Jane, for your birthday greeting. I’m really glad you enjoy my articles/posts, and the photos. I have fun writing and illustrating them, so it’s a win-win situation all round.

  11. Happy Birthday! It sounds like you had a lovely day. So many birthday cards! You wrote about some of Beningfield’s English landscape/countryside books a few weeks ago. I realized that I had the one about the English landscape since I was in college 30 years ago, but it had never occurred to me to look for more until I saw your post. Now I have his books on the woodlands and the countryside. I’m so glad you spurred me to add to my collection! The original one has traveled with me all across the United States since I first bought it.

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Christie, and thank you for your kind birthday wishes – cards have been arriving since last Thursday and are still arriving, and I think another is due to arrive today or tomorrow (the person emailed me to say it’s on its way.) This is lovely as it extends the birthday celebration, and all are very much appreciated.
      How lovely you have now been seeking our more Beningfield books. They really are beautiful and there is still a lot of the English countryside that is unspoilt, thank goodness. You have a much-travelled book there!

  12. Very best Birthday Wishes Margaret, I so enjoy your writing and photos.
    Thank you for the care and time you take to write your blog.
    Pam in Texas.

    • Margaret Powling

      And thank you, Pam, for reading my blog. Also thank you for birthday wishes and also for appreciating the time and care I take over my blog. It’s fun to write and fun to choose what I consider appropriate photos, but it does take time. But if people all over the world enjoy reading about my life in a corner of England then that is reward enough for me.

  13. A very (belated) happy birthday to you! You did indeed receive some lovely presents. I understand completely where you’re coming from with rare presents between you and your husband. As we’ve gotten older, my husband and I have come to the same.

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Jeannine, for your good wishes. Not giving presents to each other is actually less stressful than trying to find something either of us doesn’t already have or want! We don’t love each other any the less by not giving each other presents. And as we have joint accounts, it’s all out of the same pot, anyway.

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