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Christmas 2017 is over and we’re now in that between-time when, as columnist Debora Robertson so succinctly put it in today’s Daily Telegraph, “it’s difficult to tell whether it’s lunchtime or Tuesday.”  I couldn’t have put it better myself.  We haven’t really sat down to a proper meal, apart from late breakfasts – sometimes VERY late breakfasts – since Boxing Day. We have enjoyed pea and mint soup, ham and chutney sandwiches (no turkey as we weren’t hosting meals this Christmas, the upside is no work, the downside is no cold turkey for sandwiches), and lots of Christmas cake, Turkish Delight, and salted cashews washed down with either glasses of Tia Maria or Baileys.

In mitigation, this is a once-a-year happening and we have enjoyed tangerines and fresh pears which are quite lovely at the moment.  This evening we will be having bolognaise sauce wrapped up in tagliatelli (I learned on a repeat showing of Gregg Wallace’s and Cherry Healey’s pasta factory programme yesterday that spag bol, so loved by we Brits, isn’t an Italian dish at all; Italian’s would cook a meat ragu and serve it not on spaghetti, which they reserve for Carbonara-style sauces, but on the thicker tagliatelli, so tonight I am cooking Italian-style, or what I hope will be closer to the real thing.)

This is the period when I think it’s perfectly in order to be as lazy as we like and believe me, I’ve taken laziness to a whole new level, watching TV and reading magazines, such as …

I don’t usually buy The Lady.  I once subscribed to it but I found that as it is a weekly publication I simply wasn’t reading one copy before the next one landed on the mat.  I think it would be far better if it was fortnightly, but that’s only my opinion; publishers obviously know best.  Furthermore, had I realized I would be parting with £6 for this ‘Winter Collector’s’ issue (mea culpa, I didn’t look at the price)  I don’t think I’d have parted with my money as that is more than the price of the shiniest monthly glossy, but I have to say, having bought it, it’s excellent and this old gal is sorely tempted into taking out another subscription just when she’s cancelled a sub to one of her monthly magazines.

Indeed, I have a soft spot for The Lady – I once wrote some articles for it – and you can guarantee there are always some thought-provoking articles in it.  There is such an article in this one, but I’m saving that for another post.

However … I haven’t been so lazy as to not write my post-Christmas thank you letters.  Half of them are already in the post, using up the last of my Christmas 2nd class stamps, and the other half have been written this afternoon.

As we are using the dining table for the jigsaw puzzle, I used the largest of the nest of tables for this purpose, sitting on the sofa.  I have a selection of correspondence cards and note cards, but I always use my bright yellow Lamy Safari fountain pen.  I always aim to have my thank you letters written (hand written) and posted before New Year’s Eve.

Speaking of thank you letters, Judith Woods, another columnist at the Daily Telegraph said in her column yesterday that writing these letters is “another life skill being lost,” and that she could recall her “own sense of horror, back in the Twixmases of the Seventies, when day after day the nation’s reluctant kids would be served up the stationery set that Father Christmas brought them and put to work.”  Perhaps I was an oddity as a child (I do not use the word ‘kid’ for a child; a ‘kid’ is a young goat, and if we intend that our children should become polite and well-mannered adults, we must dignify them with the use of the proper terms of ‘child’ and ‘children’) as I never minded sitting down to write my thank you letters. I always loved pretty stationery, and even though I found writing and spelling difficult at first, once I got the hang of it there was no stopping me.

And in this lovely basket, one of two given to us for Christmas, I now have my correspondence cards and note cards.

As well as watching TV and reading, we have been endeavouring to put this jigsaw puzzle together.  We’ve not got very far yet, and husband has done the lion’s share.  I can see this being on the dining table for the whole of January at this rate.  The table is now sited under the window, to provide more light during the day time, instead of behind the sofa.

By removing the dining table, temporarily, to enable us to have better light for the jigsaw puzzle, it has allowed me the opportunity to show you the back of our terracotta sofa.  I just love the curved shape.  We’ve had it for 32 years and it was reupholstered in 2002  but it’s still a very comfortable piece of furniture.  The sun was pouring into the room this morning but only for a short period because soon after I took this photograph the rain poured down.  And then this evening, the room looked cosy by lamp light, so I took another couple of photos.

Neutral, this room is not!

What I dislike about our sitting room is the large flat-screen TV in the corner, but on the other hand, I think a cabinet to hide would be pretentious, a bit like the Victorians putting covers on piano legs, or women like Hyacinth Bucket placing a little crinoline lady over the spare loo roll.  It is a TV, it is an ugly piece of kit, but that is what it is.

I am now off to re-heat the meat ragu and cook some tagliatelli and grate some fresh parmesan, I wonder what you are having for supper/tea/dinner wherever you are?

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. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Hello Margaret,
    This is a “lazy” period for many I think, too much sugar has certainly zapped my energy levels for sure, we have slowly gone back into eating sensibly. I have a few thankyou cards to write over the weekend, and also there are rather a lot of birthdays in January.
    The puzzle is a large one so I should imagine it will keep you busy for sometime, perfect for when there is nothing on the television, which is quite often now, getting all the edge pieces done will be a great help.
    Your room is beautiful, we have a whopper of a tv, but there is no way we can hide it.
    Have a lovely weekend.

    • Margaret Powling

      I love this ‘lazy’ period, Marlene, because we need it between the frenetic activity before Christmas and the return to normality (and/or work) on the 2nd January. Oh dear, January birthdays … I’m glad we don’t have any of those, ours are all, with the exception of younger son and grandson, towards the latter part of the year.
      The puzzle is 1,000 pieces, which is I think is larger than any we’ve tackled before, but it’s a lovely picture.
      Husband had it in mind to have an over-the-fireplace TV. I draw the line at that, ugly great things! It’s not as if the programmes warrant having a new, huge TV; most evenings now we switch it off and now we’ve watch The Crown I’m even considering cancelling our sub to Netflix as there are few films we want to see. This must be a sign of old age. Mother-in-law used to say that everything on TV was “rubbish” and now we’re saying much the same thing! Excellent drama series such as The Night Manager are few and far between.
      I suppose I could have a silk shawl to throw over the TV in the daytime, the sort that the Edwardians flung over their grand pianos? Golden, with a fringe, perhaps? Only joking! I really think the television set is one of the ugliest things ever invented and yet it has brought us the most marvellous sights (and some of the worst atrocities, too).

  2. Your living room does look very cosy and welcoming. I am eating in a very casual, bits and pieces way, and it does look as though your eating is more structured than mine, even though it’s not quite back to your usual way of eating……

    I would love to know what sort of articles that you have written over the years, Margaret.

    • Margaret Powling

      We did have a proper meal this evening, Ratnamurti, tagliatelli with a bolognaise sauce, and it was really tasty. We don’t need to do any food shopping yet, but we might go out tomorrow, if only for some fresh air, and buy some fresh fruit.
      As for writing, where do I begin? Over the past 23 years I’ve covered topics as diverse as the life-cycle of the seahorse to mushroom growing, interviewing people (such as novelists Joanna Trollope and the late – she wasn’t late then, of course – Mary Wesley), visiting historic houses to write about them, but mainly I’ve been an antiques writer for a national glossy and only gave that up with the December issue as I felt that six and a half years of every month was quite sufficient, I needed a break. For The Lady I interviewed Prunella Scales (actor famous for being in Fawlty Towers as Sybil Fawlty) and writer, Juliet Nicolson (granddaughter of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville West who are famous for having created the garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.) I have also written about décor, such as country house style and the history of the colour pink and the history of wallpaper.

      • such diverse subjects! Very impressive. Now that you are not writing for the national glossy, are you intending to still do the odd article?

        • Margaret Powling

          Yes, I still do the occasional article and write now and again for an online social history magazine. And, of course, the blog has taken over as my main writing interest. I thought I’d miss all the writing, but as the years went by I preferred the research to the actual writing whereas when I started I just wanted to write.

          • So interesting the direction that our work takes us. Researching history sounds fascinating. I love history so much. Do you mind if we read some of your work on the online social history magazine?

          • Margaret Powling

            The magazine for which I’ve written several articles is called Discover Your Ancestors. To read the magazines online you have to subscribe, and there is an annual one-off bookazine which will be published early in 2018 and my article on Follies will be in that. I’ve written on the History of Suburbia and also about the spa towns (such as Bath, Leamington Spa, Cheltenham Spa, Malvern) of the UK, how ‘taking the waters’ was once popular, especially in Georgian times, when water cures were used for all kinds of ailments. I have also written about the history of newspapers in the UK, the Great Fire of London of 1666, even on tall ships (or tall-masted ships as they should be called), the woollen industry in the UK, the history of walled gardens and, indeed, in a separate article how gardening became not just a pastime for the wealthy but for everyone (in another magazine I wrote separate articles on Knot Gardens and Parterres, on the history of Georgian Gardens, and the history of Edwardian Gardens). I’ve also used my own collection of housekeeping books as a starting point for writing about these books and how they show how our daily lives have changed with the advent of electricity, gas, modern gadgets, etc. Also, I’ve written about the Victorian way of what we’d call networking – the calling card! All have been great fun to write and I suggested the topics myself – since being asked to write certain topics for our county magazine, for which I wrote for several years, in the past decade or more I’ve only written about the subjects which I have offered; I wouldn’t want to spend time researching subjects in which I wasn’t particularly interested. It’s been great fun and, as I’ve said long and often, if I can do it, almost anyone can do it. (I used to write very short pieces, too, for BBC History Magazine, such topics as the history of sliced bread and the history of the bra, among other everyday articles.)

  3. The cover of that magazine is beautiful. At first glance it could be either a current edition or something discovered from decades past.

    I liked the comment about not knowing whether it’s lunchtime or Tuesday 🙂 My husband (who is self employed) has worked everyday except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, including weekends. His workload is always hectic through November and December but in past years we would escape the tourist crowds in our town and go elsewhere for a week or two. Sometimes doing a ‘houseswap’ with family – a win-win as everyone had a change of scenery and accommodation was free. But due to financial pressures we have stayed home and he has worked as much as he can. However, we have made some allowances – such as yesterday morning we woke early, packed our things and drove about 30 minutes to one of our favourite estuarine rivers and had a swim. There were loads of little and not-so-little fish being dragged along with the tide and teens were doing somersaults from the bridge railings into the water below. This little town also swells to bursting with holiday crowds but at 8am only the early birds were about and it was lovely. His first job was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances so we decided to wander to the local bakery cum cafe and enjoyed a coffee (him) and a fresh pastry each. Most of the fellow patrons were dog-walkers and swimmers so we were all a bit scruffy and wet-haired which added to the relaxed atmosphere. He then went off to work, I went to do the grocery shopping and our days proceeded as usual.

    Is that the new covering on the cream couch/sofa ? I recall you mentioning many posts ago about having it reupholstered. (Mind you my memory is so patchy I could be entirely mistaken 🙂 ). If so, it looks lovely. We have a large cream couch which was given to husband second-hand in his bachelor days. It is excellent quality, very comfortable and requires several strong blokes to lift it. We have removed the cushion covers only once to wash in the machine but otherwise spot cleaning the odd mark has kept it looking good. I use cushions to inject colour and occasionally replace them when I’ve found something on sale that has caught my eye. Cushions and a throw or cover are easier to replace rather than a whole couch. I shudder at the amount that goes to landfill.

    The photos of your loungeroom look very cozy and inviting. The terracotta couch looks very different without the table behind it – the curved back is striking. I would leave it revealed for that reason alone 🙂

    • Margaret Powling

      How lovely that river estuary sounded, Lara, it’s hard to imagine the heat and needing to swim when most of our country is under snow! I’m sorry your husband has had to work so hard and I dare say that the swim will have done him the world of good, even the café sounded such a lovely, relaxing place to be.
      Last year we had new covers made for the ivory-coloured sofa. It’s by a company called Multiyork and we heard recently that they had gone into receivership and were not holding closing-down sales throughout their shops (they have many shops throughout the UK). We are so glad we opted to have new covers made last year and even a space pair of seat covers, which are the ones which get the most wear. Sad that such a good company who make excellent furniture has gone to the wall. The terracotta sofa is by Collins & Hayes and, as I say, was bought in 1985 when we moved here and we had that reupholstered in 2002. I do use a light wool throw now on the ivory-coloured sofa, which is cosy in winter and also prevents me from dropping pieces of chocolate onto it. Ivory upholstery and chocolate are not a good combination!
      Yes, I like being able to see the back of the large sofa, but having the table under the window – it’s there just to do the jigsaw puzzle – looks very odd! The alternative is having the table ‘up’ as if for dining, in the middle of the space, all the time. This is how we used to have it when our sons were at home and we dined there every evening.

  4. It is frigid here in New England so I made a chicken pot pie for dinner tonight. I shopped on the way home from work so I don’t have to leave the house tomorrow. I don’t like a TV in the living room but your living room is so pretty that it wouldn’t bother me a bit. It is so lovely Margaret as is the rest of your home.

    • Margaret Powling

      Chicken pot pie sounds lovely, Donna – I think by that you put the chicken, etc, into a deep pie dish and add a ‘lid’ of pastry? But if this isn’t how it’s done, please enlighten me.
      Like you, I don’t like a TV in the living room, and we do have a study (where I write this blog) and a bed-sitting room upstairs which has a small TV, but we don’t always want to go up there, especially in winter as we prefer our sitting room for evenings. Thank you for your kind comments re our home. We don’t decorate often and the bathrooms and kitchen are all the original ones that were put in when the house was built 32 years ago! We don’t believe if changing things just because fashion decrees this or that is now popular (such as white sanitary ware, wood burning stoves, ‘islands’ in kitchens, etc.) I have read today that next year’s colour is ultra violet, a particular shade of deep purple. Who on earth comes up with this nonsense? It’s an advertising ploy to make the gullible change the colours of their walls and furniture just because some décor pundit has decided that that will be the colour of 2018.

  5. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)

    Haha, Lunchtime or Tuesday… I love it. It so neatly sums up how most of us feel about these confusing in-between days. Imagine if our whole life was like that. It just goes to show that even though we think we are free to choose the what/when/where/how, it is structure and routine that drive us and keep us grounded.
    I saw that programme about pasta too. It made perfect sense about the right kind of pasta for the thickness of the sauce. Not that I like pasta, nor mince. In fact, they are two of my most disliked foods so spagetti bolognaise is my idea of food-horror.
    I often pick up a copy of The Lady at the gym. I like it but probably wouldn’t want it weekly either.
    As a child I had to write my ‘thank you’ letters on Boxing day. I was a little more lenient with my own children – they had until 31st December. I am pleased to say that they have carried on the courtesy of thank you notes with their own children, writing them for those who are too small to do themselves.
    Ultra violet! I love the colour but I’m not sure I could live with it on my walls. Apart from one lime green one in my kitchen, my walls are neutral as I prefer colour to come from the soft furnishings and glassware/flowers, and like you, I prefer co-ordinating rather than matching upholstery fabrics. Currently I have a mixture of cream and darkk coffee shades.

    • Margaret Powling

      I love the “lunchtime or Tuesday” but I can’t claim it as my own. One of my favourite expressions that I did coin, though, was winter, when “it seems like 4.20 in the afternoon all day long,” because some days just never get really light. Yes, you are right, we soon lose track of time and days when the routine is disrupted.
      Yes, I remember you saying you didn’t like pasta and mince, my favourite isn’t mince on pasta but a home-made rich tomato sauce, I could eat that every day!
      Of course, The Lady was originally mainly an advertisement vehicle for nannies and ‘companions’ for elderly spinster ladies, or housekeepers and maids. There are still adverts (I just skip those) but I might go and read them now, to see how the wording for much the same jobs have changed in modern times! I presume this is why it has always been a weekly magazine.
      I’m a great wallpaper fan, I love beautiful wallpaper but you I appreciate one has to be careful when choosing it so as not to be stuck with an expensive paper one can’t afford to change for years! I still love the trellis paper in our hall and it’s been there for 15 years. The one room to which we would never apply wallpaper is our sitting room as we love the walls plain. The colour of the walls, Farrow & Ball’s Gervase Yellow is no longer available, but we could have it made up by them if we wanted to use it again. No, I’d not want Ultra Violet on my walls, either!

  6. I was going to post on here when I first read this but I stopped myself. I wanted to comment about you writing thank you letters which I fully approve of, but I decided to behave as though the whole world would read my comment and I wouldn’t like that! Suffice it to say I haven’t received any thanks from certain people. Even a short email would be nice. I’m trying to be the bigger person, but I’m just not that nice!

    • Margaret Powling

      I think it’s acceptable to phone, or just say thank you face-to-face, or even email thanks these days, but to receive a short hand-written note is really lovely, I think, especially if you have posted something to someone who you haven’t actually seen. I have received one such note from someone, someone with whom we lunched on Christmas Day (part of our extended family) which was lovely, but give it time Alison – the post has been upside down since Christmas, and now with New Year even if someone has written the note might be sitting in a post box somewhere, waiting until the next collection, tomorrow. I do think that proper thank-you letters are fast disappearing, though, a bit like people ‘calling’ in Victorian times, and leaving their calling card, with the corners turned down (different corners turned meant different things; thank goodness that social behaviour has now disappeared!)
      Yes you are nice, just somewhat disappointed in your present not being acknowledged.

  7. Oh I’m not expecting a hand written note. An email would be OK. I don’t do texts but I check email regularly. Never mind. Moving on…..

    • Margaret Powling

      I have the most awful handwriting these days, not helped by not using a pen very often and arthritis in my hands, but I do try and send hand-written thank you notes, even if only on a postcard. But when I need to write a longer letter at the same time, then it’s a typed/printed letter of thanks, plus family news etc. Yes, even an email would be nice, would it not. But as you say, moving on …
      Happy New Year.

  8. I do so enjoy the turn of your words. The peak you give us into your life – both in words and pictures is most enjoyable.

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