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Coughs and Sneezes …

I think this photo says it all:  I’ve been laid low with The Cough and The Cold.  It started with The Cough and developed into The Cold and I still have it.  But hey, it’s a cough and a cold, it will go eventually. It’s unpleasant, but this is what happens occasionally.  It just means I’ve not been sleeping well but there is a plus side to this:   as I was coughing so much, dear husband was up making cups of tea for us during the night, and eventually we decided to get up about 5 am. We watched Breakfast TV and then showered, dressed, and were out of the house by just gone 8am and on our way to Waitrose for the food shopping as we’ve been warned that the weather is going to get worse.  Of course, it mightn’t get worse, but I like to have the fridge nicely full just in case. Not that we’d not be able to get food; we have a convenience store just 50 yards away, but it’s the siege mentality, isn’t it?  You hear the weather forecaster say, “snow is on its way” and you think, “must stock up.”

Since my last post we’ve not been out-and-about with the exception of doing an errand for my brother in law.  He and my sister in law had been staying in a sea front hotel for a couple of weeks while they had their bathroom revamped.  As their bathroom was their only access to a shower and loo they thought it best to move out for the duration.  The hotel they have stayed in (they’re back home now) kindly gave them the bridal suite!  We laughed at this, they’ve been married for just over 60 years, they celebrated their Diamond Anniversary last September.  We saw the ‘suite’ which was actually not a suite as such – suites usually have a separate bedroom and sitting room – but a very large room with the bed at one end and a sitting area near the window, with its view of the Bay.  All quite nice but very, very dated, as if it had been decorated around 1980, all flounces, very chintzy and plush. But they liked it which is all that matters.

However, the en suite bathroom was something else.  My sister in law told me that it had been done over 100 years ago, but I think she was exaggerating a little and it looked to me as if it had been done in the 1930s, although the twin basins, loo and bath looked more modern.  But the tiles were certainly of the 1930s period:

This is just one corner of the huge bathroom with twin basins

After we visited them, and had completed the errand for brother in law (he can no longer drive because of failing eyesight) we left them and drove to our  favourite sea front hotel for our usual shared beef sandwich, but this time instead of a beer each, or coffee or tea, we had hot chocolate and that was delicious.

We only have chips when we are here, and when it’s a shared sandwich (with extra plate, of course), there are only about 4 or 5 chips each, so we are not over-indulging.  But this time, even though I’d requested no horseradish sauce in the sandwich (as I don’t like horseradish) but to have some in a little dish for my husband’s portion, this message hadn’t filtered through to the kitchen, and so I couldn’t eat my two quarters of this club sandwich as the beef was covered in horseradish sauce.  The waitress kindly took my plate back and returned with two sandwiches without horseradish and a fresh salad, but my chips, just four of them, had disappeared!  I felt I couldn’t ask for some fresh chips as well as the place was so busy, but husband gave me two of his.  And then I had a coughing fit and a very kind waitress simply went to get me a glass of water with ice cubes in it without even my having to ask her.  This is how lovely the staff are, really thoughtful and attentive.

Other days this week I’ve been cooking, not that often as I’ve not felt well, but earlier in the week I made two fish pies for the freezer.   I had bought the fish pie mix in Waitrose but, with food costs escalating, although I’d spent as much as I usually do, there were fewer piece of fish, and so I decided to add the remainder of some smoked salmon I had in the fridge, for we’d had smoked salmon sandwiches the day before. I’ve not added smoked salmon to a fish pie before, only time and tasting will tell us whether this was a good or a bad idea!  I also added parsley and lemon zest. This is what the pies looked like before I added the cheese sauce and the mashed potato. Both are now in the freezer.

Other dishes I have made for the relatively new freezer are meatballs in a spicy sauce (I make that up as I go along, tasting along the way to get it to my liking, using cinnamon, cumin, mild chilli powder, nutmeg, coriander, beef stock, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce), and I’ve also made chicken curry (sufficient for two meals).  As I had some creme fraiche in the fridge I also added two dollops of that to the curry and that resulted in a deliciously creamy curry sauce.  I also simmered the bones from the roast chicken and now have chicken stock in the freezer, too.

I was delighted that while I’ve not been particularly well the various monthly magazines arrived, all of them now for January 2018.

And the Christmas cards are beginning to trickle in.  I’ve not written ours yet although I have them all, plus the labels I’ve printed for the envelopes, plus the stamps.  I just need to settle down to this annual task.  Right now I’m going to make elevenses for myself and husband, after such an early start, I think hot chocolate is in order.


Susannah Constantine used to present a fashion programme with Trinny Woodall on TV several years ago. This is her debut novel.  I’ve not finished the non-fiction books I’ve been reading, all of which are really interesting, but I just wanted some fiction while this cold is clinging on.


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. I hope you feel better soon, Mrs Powling.

  2. I do hope that you continue to improve health wise Margaret, I always think that there is nothing like a bad cough & cold to make you feel rotten, especially as they invariably lead to poor sleep.
    The fish pies look delicious, like you I have noticed over the last few weeks how much less we are getting for our money groceries wise, I always head out with a list and a budget in mind but we seem to be continually going over and it’s not like our trolley is full of festive goodies!
    How swish is that en-suite, a few years ago we stayed in a Lisbon hotel that had been maintained in the Art Deco style and our bathroom was very similar.
    Enjoy those magazines and the new book, the temperature is dropping rapidly in East Anglia so time for staying warm and cosy I think.

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you for your food wishes, Elaine. Yes, a cough and cold is just a thorough nuisance, I’m not ill enough to be in bed, but not well enough to do much. This afternoon I plan to sit and read the new book, already I have a hot water bottle for my back because, even though the heating is on, sitting makes me feel chilled.
      Oh, how lovely to have stayed in an Art Deco-inspired room with matching bathroom, such a stylish period and yet a relatively short one.

  3. I hope you’re feeling much better soon Margaret. We’re much the same here, we all have horrible colds which have dragged on for weeks now, with the added fun of a broken boiler the last few days, so no central heating or hot water! It’s certainly character building given the current climate.

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, that is awful, Jules, to be ill with colds and no central heating or hot water. I hope the boiler can be fixed. Like cars, that seldom break down in the garage, boilers only break down in the coldest of weathers!

      • Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

        I hope you will soon be back to your old self. Coughs and colds are miserable, and not sleeping is very wearing.
        Oh I do love that bathroom! How nice to be able to move out whilst one’s own is being refurbished. I can’t stand work going on in my house; I find it very unsettling.
        The fish pies look lovely. One of my favourite foods is smoked salmon, shredded and very lightly sautéed, so I think adding it to your pies will prove delicious!

        • Margaret Powling

          Oh, dear, Eloise … after all the coughing I have now lost my voice. But that’s perhaps no bad thing, ha ha! People might even cheer!
          Yes, nice to be able to move out but even after more than 2 weeks the bathroom isn’t quite finished. It’s a tiny bungalow and an even tinier bathroom and I think it’s more difficult getting a small space right than a large space. But as they are both rather infirm, for different reasons, they felt moving out was the best thing and I think they actually enjoyed their enforced stay in this local hotel.
          I’ve never sautéed smoked salmon, what a very good idea!

  4. Partner and I have both had the cough and cold recently, and it seems to be lingering on much longer than usual . Other people we know who have also had it say the same thing. It certainly saps your energy and makes you feel miserable. We ventured into Plymouth this week to do some Christmas shopping and we were exhausted! Look after yourself Margaret, frequent rests with feet up are in order! Get well soon! X

    • Margaret Powling

      I must say, Dot, there seems an awful lot of this cough and cold about, everywhere I go I can hear people coughing, and everyone I speak to has either had it or knows someone with it.
      Do you know, I’ve not been to Plymouth for a good look around for a very long time, apart from a very brief visit in the summer of 2016 when our son went to collect his wedding suit from House of Fraser dept store, but husband and I used to visit there regularly, and loved a walk on the Hoe and around the Barbican. Yes, I will put my feet up … indeed, I’ve been watching the first episode of The Crown on Netflix, the 2nd series, and loving every moment as I’m old enough to remember the various events, such as when Colonel Nasser ‘captured’ the Suez Canal. I’ve been sitting with a h.w.b. at my back, a rug around my legs and a small glass of Tia Maria, which actually has helped the catarrh! Not that I’d recommend that over a nice little dose of cough mixture, but it’s certainly more pleasant!

  5. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    I do hope you feel much better soon Margaret, nothing worse than a cold or cough keeping you awake.
    At least you are stocked up now and have some meals ready prepared in the freezer.
    So you can snuggle up and enjoy your magazines now.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I’m feeling better than I was, Marlene, but having to keep the house nice and warm during this very cold weather makes my nose seem more blocked up than ever, but it will clear in time, I just have to be patient. Yes, time to snuggle under a lovely light wool throw and look at my magazines and read my new book.

  6. Yes, the walk along the Hoe and around the Barbican is one we enjoy on a nice day too. Terry, my partner, was brought up on the Barbican so it is a favourite haunt.
    The Tia Maria sounds like a nice idea, I like that too, haven’t had it for ages. I also used to enjoy it in a Calypso coffee. Must admit I did have a brandy and lovage one evening last week when the cold was at it’s peak! X

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, the historic Barbican and Hoe are lovely, and if you’ve not been, we enjoyed – a good many years ago now – a tour of Plymouth Gin Distillery, and sampled the finished product. Unlike whisky, which takes years to mature, once the distilled gin is bottled, it’s ready for consumption, so a gin made in the morning could be drunk in the evening. I think Plymouth Gin is one of the best gins there is, the recipe for the ‘botanicals’ is secret, but it has a very good flavour. We were instructed that the best way to drink it was with water, no ice, but I disagree; you can’t beat it with quality tonic, ice cold, with a slice of lemon.
      I have never had brandy and lovage, indeed while I’ve tasted brandy, I’ve never tasted lovage, but it sounds lovely!

  7. Sounds like the winter “ills” are well and truly ensconced in your part of the world. It seems that no matter how well one prepares before this season with building up immunity and so on – it still happens! It is great that you are on the mend. The art deco bathroom is interesting. Reminds me of A Time Gone By. My son and his family did house-sitting in London for a month over Christmas, last year. It is summer in New Zealand during Christmas, so they loved the snow, the early darkness, people everywhere (we don’t have that either), the public decorations. Everything!

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Ratnamurti, I thought I’d escaped the clutches of The Cough and The Cold but it wasn’t to be. Never mind, the worst is over, I think. I could do with just a little of your summer right not, not so much the extreme heat but the lightness and sunshine. I’m delighted that your son and his family enjoyed Christmas in London, that would’ve been quite an experience for them, with all the decorations, the trees, the lights, etc. We’ve not yet put up our tree. I like to clean the house first, but it will be done sometime next week I’ve no doubt.

  8. Oh dear! So sorry you’ve been “under the weather,” Margaret. I’ve heard some coughing and sniffling out and about here, too, but I don’t think it’s as bad as it sounds there … yet. Sounds like you’ve managed to do a bit, and I hope the salmon in the pie turns out to be very good! I’ve never made a fish pie and I’m intrigued. Enjoy your magazines. Back in the day when I bought them, January issues were a favorite for me. Continue to feel better!

    • Margaret Powling

      I had another almost-sleepless night, Bess, but this cough and cold will eventually go, it just takes time and as we get older it seems to take longer. Getting out in the fresh air, I think, would help, but there again, we oldies have been warned not to go out when it’s really cold and it’s been bitterly cold these past few days so our trip out yesterday was to the supermarket and back in record time and the only time we were outside was from our back door to the car, and from the small supermarket carpark into the supermarket, a matter of just a few yards.
      Fish pie is easy to make. If you can’t buy fish pie mix in the supermarket – which are the off cuts of cod, smoked haddock and salmon – you could buy just a piece each of these fish. Then I poach the fish for about 20 minutes in the oven (180C) in milk to cover them. Once they are ‘done’, I bring the dish out of the oven, remove the fish pieces (if whole, remove the skin and cut the fish into chunks; if you have bought fish pie mix you don’t need to do this, it’s already in pieces), and make a cheese sauce with the milk. Place the fish in a dish or dishes, and then pour over the cheese sauce, and then add mashed potato to the top and, if you intend having it right away for lunch or supper, all you need now is grill the top to brown the potato as it will still all be warm. But if you don’t intend using it right away, when you re-heat it, I do that in the oven and keep it there until thoroughly heated through and the top of the potato is nice and brown. You can add whatever seasoning you like to the fish and the sauce, I add a couple of dried bay leaves when it’s in the milk in the oven, and salt and pepper, but not too much salt as the smoked fish is salty. It’s not a pie with pastry, but it is always referred to as a fish pie.

      • Oh! Thank you so much for the fish pie instructions, Margaret! I will bookmark this post to my Recipes folder for future reference. You always give such thoughtful and informative replies to the comments of your readers. I’m grateful for you and your lovely blog!

        • Margaret Powling

          The fish pie is really easy, Bess, and you can use almost any kind of fish provided it is bone-free, you don’t want bones in a fish pie. I use cod, smoked haddock and fresh salmon, and for the cheese sauce, I make a roux (butter & flour) to which I gradually add the warm milk that the fish has been cooked in, to make a white sauce and once that has thickened I add the graded cheese (I tend to use three kinds, but you could just use simply strong cheddar. I use a mix of cheddar, gruyere and parmesan when I make a cheese sauce. I also add a veggie stock cube crumbled into a cheese sauce, it adds a bit extra flavour.) This is then poured over the cooked fish in the dish or dishes, and then you add mashed potato (mashed with some milk – or cream – and butter, salt and pepper) and left rough on top of the sauce so that when it cooks the peaks brown nicely. A lovely dish to serve with peas. Some people add hard boiled eggs sliced before you add the sauce but I don’t like eggs in fish pie, but this is just a personal preference.
          Thank you for your kind remarks, Bess, much appreciated.

  9. I’m sorry that you have been unwell. Coughing through the night can be awful as it means that you (and also your partner) have a broken night’s sleep, making you feel even worse. You seem to be doing all of the right things – keeping yourself warm, eating good meals and resting. There isn’t much else you can do really, just wait it out.

    Your collection of magazines looks very enticing. Perfect timing for you too, as you can enjoy them while you rest.

    The bathroom in the hotel is beautiful. So stylish. I would be thrilled to have a bathroom like that. The tiling on the walls and floor is beautifully done – such craftsmanship. I love a deep bath.

    ‘What Not To Wear’, the television show hosted by Trinny and Susannah was very popular here in Australia and ran for many seasons. I enjoyed watching the transformations of the women (and very occasionally, men) who were nominated by their family, friends or work colleagues but found their manner harsh at times. Sometimes they would be quite unforgiving (dare I say bullying) to the person. – especially in the change rooms during the two days of shopping. I enjoy watching some of the many ‘before and after’ shows – whether it’s a makeover of a person (their clothing, hairstyle and makeup), a home or garden – but I like the hosts to be kind.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, the coughing has been a real nuisance, Lara, but more than that, the blocked nose. But I’m on the mend now, I think. I feel much better today, thank you.
      I had forgotten the format of What Not to Wear and you have brought it back to me. Yes, the two of them were sometimes just a little unkind to the people whom were being given a makeover, there is no need to be unkind, but often the makeover was very good with clothes and hairstyles and makeup that the people would never have chosen. I have started reading Susannah’s book and I think I will enjoy it.

  10. Get well soon!

    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Jeannine. I’m beginning to feel much better – just taking a break while cauliflower steams so that I can made cauliflower cheese for our lunch (and there will be sufficient for another day, although this doesn’t freeze well, so we will have it again tomorrow, or as a veg to have with roast chicken.)

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