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The Kindness of Friends

My birthday, which was last Sunday, has been marvellously extended with each passing day by the arrival of yet more birthday cards and some presents, for which I am truly grateful, and it has been a pleasure opening each card and unwrapping each present.  The very attractively engraved glass bowl arrived not half an hour ago, and along with it, a very useful and small manicure set in a box decorated with William Morris’s design, Strawberry Thief.

A life without friends would be all the poorer, wouldn’t it?  There is one person with whom I’ve been friends for over 65 years and one whom I have known only a few months, but these and many others  have enriched, and are continuing to enrich, my life immeasurably.  So, to all those friends, and readers here who have wished me happy birthday, I thank you all very much.

Yesterday I met one of my friends, another writer, and we had lunch together.  She even mentioned that although we have little flurries of emails, and then none for a month of two when family life takes over, then another little flurry of emails, and then perhaps lunch, how lovely it is that we could just pick up our conversation where we left off, even if a year or more later.

My first course, from the light lunch menu, was wild mushrooms in a port and Stilton sauce on a toasted brioche

My dessert course, a passion fruit crème brulee

After which we had coffee (which is always served with lovely biscuits)

We had a most enjoyable time, chatting about writing, books, our families, gardens my friend had recently visited on a special garden-visiting holiday, and all too soon it was time to depart, but not before she presented me with a lovely graphite-coloured throw for my little summerhouse, something to wrap around legs or shoulders if using the summerhouse in autumn.  What a thoughtful present, for which I am most grateful.

Today I had an appointment with the dental hygienist.  I enjoy my visits to the dentist (and I’ve mentioned this in a post before) as the staff there are so kind, gentle and professional.  It’s lovely to be able to  relax totally and have someone look after my oral health.

We then – for husband had gone with me, or rather I had gone with my husband as he was driving – decided to have coffee in our favourite sea front hotel, where my friend and I had lunch yesterday.   The weather has been very changeable, one moment rain, the next brilliant sunshine, and as we drove over the hill to drop down to sea level, there was part of Torbay, looking towards Berry Head in front of us.  It always looks beautiful, but unfortunately, a photo taken through the windscreen of the car just doesn’t do it justice.

As the hotel’s main car park was full, we parked at the side of the hotel and entered via the steps to the conservatory restaurant – a few late roses are still in bloom

When we arrived in the hotel, the staff who know us laughed, jokingly, saying that I simply couldn’t keep away from the place (I was there with my friend yesterday.)

Olives and peanuts are always served with drinks, even with mineral or plain tap water

Husband and I  decided instead of just coffee we’d have sandwiches, and we ordered beef club sandwiches, which are served with salad and either chips or potato crisps – we chose chips as we only have them when we have sandwiches in this hotel.

We enjoyed our sandwiches with half a pint of beer for me and half a pint of lager & lime for husband.

Yesterday, two lovely things arrived in the post.  A book and a birthday card …

I photographed them together not because they are from the same person (they are not) but simply because the colours echo each other.  This sometimes happens – a book will arrive and a magazine or a greetings card and the colours are almost identical.  Here the predominant colours are turquoise and lime green.  The card is from my dear friend who introduced me to my husband and who was also my bridesmaid, and the book is a newly-published one (which I bought) featuring 16 ‘Great Women’ of the 20th century.  For ‘Great Women’ read ‘wealthy’. Women such as Lady Diana Cooper, Helene Rochas, Elsa Schiaparelli and Bunny Mellon.  Oh, my goodness, I am so looking forward to spending time in their presence, soaking up the atmosphere of their wonderful homes, some styled in what is described as “the grand manner” and some unmistakably bohemian.

The back cover of the book

I wonder what you are reading right now?  Do you change your reading material to coincide with the seasons?  Or do you still enjoy reading about beach huts, olive groves, or holidays in Italy even if the weather outside has become decidedly chillier and rain clouds are never far away?

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. Happy belated birthday. I have a September birthday too, mine was the Sunday before yours. I’m not picky about reading holiday themed books in summer, I can read them at any time of year, but I do find that I enjoy reading Christmas themed books around the festive season.

    • Margaret Powling

      You share your birthday, then, the 3rd September, with a very good friend of ours, Jo! And thank you for your belated good wishes!
      Yes, Christmas/winter-themed books are lovely; a favourite is Rosamunde Pilcher’s Winter Solstice.

  2. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    What beautiful gifts, I love the William Morris design. I would have gone for the mushrooms as well, I absolutely love mushrooms, if there is a cheesecake on the menu I always have that, my all time favourite dessert. I also have a big craving for olives at the moment, I have a big jar in the fridge.

    • Margaret Powling

      I love olives and the ones in this hotel are lovely, Marlene. I don’t seem to be able to find any quite as tasty! They are a mix of black and green pitted olives with small pieces of peppers also in the marinade. When I buy olives, I buy pitted Queen olives in brine (not keen on them in olive oil) and they are delicious. A meal with lovely fresh bread, whether Cranks wholemeal or a French baguette, with Brie or a lovely blue cheese, and olives and perhaps a few slices of crunchy apple – well, that’s my kind of lunch. My favourite dessert would be anything flavoured with lemon, but lovely light crème brulee takes some beating. I love cheesecake too, but after a starter or a main meal, I am usually be too full for a cheesecake. My friend and I pushed out the boat and finished our meal with coffee, too.

  3. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    What lovely gifts. I so agree that good friends enrich one’s life. Spending time with my friends is very important to me. I have friends whom I have known for over fifty years and those whom I met just a few years ago.

    That lunch looks exactly what I would choose. Muschrooms and Stilton are divine together, and creme brûlée is my joint favourite dessert (tiramisu being the other). Mind you, there aren’t many that I don’t like!
    Baguette, cheese, Apple, olives …….oh my kind of lunch too. It is my husband’s birthday today and we went out for lunch to a pub which always has several fish options on the menu and I chose Brixham crab! Delicious.

    Bunny Mellon! What a fabulous name.

    • Margaret Powling

      First of all, happy birthday to your husband! I hope he has a lovely day (or had a lovely day if you are reading this on the 14th and not the 13th) Oh, Brixham crab – how lovely! Sometimes we have crab sandwiches in ‘our’ seafront hotel, but as we seldom have red meat these days at home, the beef sandwiches are a little treat, it’s always rare and very tender.
      Bunny Mellon was actually called Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon (1910-2014) and was, according to the book, an heiress in her own right [who] assembled one of the most comprehensive art collections of the 20th century with her husband, Paul. But the name “Bunny Mellon” is just lovely, isn’t it? As they say, you couldn’t make it up!

  4. Margaret, I am reading a book you might enjoy. Sargent’s Women: Four Women Behind the Canvas. I particularly liked your post from yesterday and seeing all your lovely birthday presents. I’ve always wanted to try Mitsouko. Happy Birthday!

    • Margaret Powling

      That book sounds right up my street, Donna; I shall make a note of it. I presume it’s about the women that John Singer Sargent painted. They always looks so glamorous, I often wonder whether they really looked as wonderful in reality or whether he was the art world’s biggest flatterer!
      Perhaps you could have a spritz of Mitsouko when you next visit a store with a perfumery department? I think it’s wonderful, but it wouldn’t be for everyone. It is ‘woody’ rather than ‘floral’.

  5. Yes, friends are an essential ingredient for a happy life. I don’t need a lot, I’ve never been one to have wide circles of acquaintances, but a small troupe who I know I can rely on and vice versa. Friendships where you can pick up immediately when you see each other after some time apart (whether due to family / work commitments or geography keeps you apart) are the most treasured.

    • Margaret Powling

      Likewise, Lara, we don’t have a wide circle of friends but those we do have are held in high regard, if that doesn’t sound pretentious. People we’ve known for many years, and some new friends, too.

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