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A Sultry Sunday

I make no apologies for placing this, my latest paperback, alongside some summer fruits and geranium flowers, the colours look so good together.

The weather here, in the south of England, has been unbearably hot and, as such, neither husband nor I have felt particularly well.  Not ill, but listless, hot, achy and, at times, even short of breath.  And so we have taken things very easy, rested, and drunk water.

Here in the UK we used to think that ‘foreigners’ living in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and so forth, not to mention the West Indies and Africa, were just ‘lazy’ because they took long lunch breaks and rested for much of the afternoon – having a siesta – but as the song goes, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.  Now we have experienced some blisteringly hot weather, we know that it’s almost impossible to work in such heat unless a building is air conditioned.  We don’t usually have air con in the UK; we usually require heating, not cooling!

And so, with such hot weather, and not requiring as much to eat as during cold weather, I have spent much of my time, either lying on one of the steamer chairs in the garden, in the shade of our walnut tree or, when the sun even creeps up the lawn making even the area under the tree too hot, lying on our bed in order to try and keep cool.  And while I’ve been resting I have also been reading, and have been loving the novels of Nicky Pellegrino.

As I say, we’ve not wanted much to eat. Breakfast, both yesterday and today, was a bowl of porridge for husband (only a small bowl) and fruit for myself, followed by a croissant and apricot jam.

And today we enjoyed a salad for lunch. It’s lovely when Sunday lunch can be prepared in 20 minutes – just a few new potatoes to boil and serve with chopped fresh mint from the garden, and a lovely tomato salad (plus beetroot salad and coleslaw).  We had slices of ham and salami, but only a small amount because, as I say, we don’t eat much this weather.

I love tomato salad, it’s so simple to make.  I used two large vine tomatoes, half a small red onion, a couple of spring onions, and some small fresh basil leaves.

With a sharp knife I finely slice the tomatoes and the red onions, chop the spring onions, and place them in a dish.  You can add cubes of Feta cheese if you wish.  Then I add torn basil leaves, and a vinaigrette dressing.  Mine is easy, I’ve mentioned it before … 3 parts cold pressed rapeseed oil (or quality olive oil) to 1 part white wine vinegar, a dollop of wholegrain mustard (I use French Maille mustard) and perhaps a little squeeze of runny honey and a little sea salt.

I put these ingredients into a small lidded jar, screw tight the lid and then give it a vigorous shake and that’s it, pour over the tomato salad.  You can use lemon juice instead of white wine vinegar if you prefer, or leave out the mustard and add some chopped fresh herbs.  I also then grind some black pepper over the salad.  The mint in the photo was chopped and used over the new potatoes.   This is an easy meal for a hot day.

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. You are right Margaret, the book looks perfect with the fruit and flowers as the colours are very complimentary, excellent placement I would say.
    Everyone around the country seems to have slowed down in this heat, like you we are having an afternoon siesta most days and meal prep is at a minimum, we had a small piece of peppered steak with Jersey Royals and a simple salad for our Sunday lunch today. Included in our salad was our first homegrown tomato of the summer, this year we have gone for yellow Tumbling Toms so cherry tomato size but I cut it carefully in two so that we could share the harvest 😊
    Have just seen the weather forecast on Countryfile and it’s meant to cool down slightly over the next few days, thank goodness for that!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      We were given a few tomato plants, Elaine, so have diligently planted them and keep watering and feeding them as if they were children! But some tomatoes are actually growing, so we hope our efforts will be worthwhile!
      Oh, I hope the forecast on Countryfile is accurate and the weather cools down. We have only watered the pots in the garden, no hose on (we must conserve water, it’s rushing out of the reservoirs and not being replenished) but even though there is a slight – very slight – breeze out there, the effort of putting the things away, the cushions form the steamer chairs, cushions on the garden chairs, emptying the kitchen caddy waste, etc, we became very hot indeed.
      Your peppered steak sounded lovely, a change from salads, even though we love salads.

  2. I must admit we have been feeling equally lethargic during this hot weather and have felt very grateful that we are retired and not having to work in the heat. Like you, we have been enjoying an afternoon siesta.
    Terry, my partner, has also found it difficult to breathe, and was given antibiotics for a chest infection which seems to be doing the rounds.
    Take good care of yourselves, hopefully it will cool down a bit soon!
    By the way I love your photography and the little vignettes you create. No apologies needed for having a creative eye and appreciation of colour. We appreciate the time and effort you put in to make your blog interesting for your readers. Thankyou! X

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I do hope your partner, Terry, will be well again soon, Dot; not being able to breathe easily is truly awful. Yes, we’re trying to take care and not overdo things in this excessive heat and let’s hope it cools down soon.
      I’m so glad you like my photographs. I just happened to have some geranium plants outside the back door and cut three flower heads off to have them on the breakfast table, and then the book was delivered and the flowers on the cover design were much the same colour. The geraniums are a wonderful colour. They’re not the usual scarlet colour, but a lovely cerise.

  3. Hi Margaret. Am really feeling for you in your hot weather. Our daughter lives in Arizona and when we visited her I suffered terribly from the heat. I do not know if it might help you, but I found some relief by sitting with my feet in a tub of cold water, and wrapping a wet bandanna around the back of my neck (any cotton cloth will do, just wring it out in some cold water and repeat once it dries out). Cold bandages around the wrists can also help. Your drinking lots of water will be helping as well, as dehydration is a major concern when the body overheats. Take care, and hope your weather cools down soon.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      What a good idea, to sit with feet in a bowl of cold water, and a wet cotton cloth around the back of the neck. I will try that, Margaret. it is 7am here on Monday morning and already the temp in our hall is 26C or around 79/80F. Fortunately, I managed to sleep last night, only woke once, and husband is still asleep. I am having my first cup of coffee of the day, but I will drink water, too, tea and coffee being diuretics (tasty though they are!) I have a little rose water spray that I was sent last year in a box of cosmetic goodies by the editor of a magazine and I also use this, especially at night when in bed, and spray my face and body when I feel too hot and that is also refreshing. Thank you for your keeping-cool tips!

  4. Margaret from NZ’s tips (above) are good ones. I also place a facecloth that has been wet with cold water around the back of my neck when it’s hot (only when at home ha ha). Mind you, I also keep an ice pack in the door of the freezer which is meant to be used for injuries and sprains but I also use it to cool myself down mid-summer. It provides welcome relief and is easily refrozen each time. A bag of frozen peas can be used instead (but I wouldn’t recommend eating them afterwards !).

    It sounds like you are doing the right things with easy, simple meals, drinking water and resting during the hottest part of the day. This isn’t the time to go overboard with any physical activity.

    The colours of the gladioli are stunning. Beautiful photos, as always xx

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Again, Lara, as with Margaret (NZ), thank you for your tips in keeping cool in hot weather. I had thought of the ice pack, but thought that would be a bit extreme, and too violent a change from the heat of the body to the ice from the freezer, so tend to let cold water run over my wrists, or take a quick cool shower. Oh, and drinking water, of course. Not that tap water is very nice, but I put it in the fridge and that helps the taste (and yes, water has a sort-of taste, doesn’t it?) I do have some Pellegrino water, slightly sparkling, but I don’t want to drink sparkling water all the time, just plain old tap water refreshes us just as much.
      Glad you like those mini gladioli. I know gladioli is your national flower, but sadly Dame Edna Everidge (spelling?) throwing them at audiences, hasn’t done them any favours. They are a lovely flower and a lot of people here, I am sure, of a certain age, will have this image of ‘her’ throwing them around. But these small gladioli – which I’ve never bought before – haves been so pretty, I shall certainly buy them again (if and when they are available.)

  5. A lovely colour combination and a very attractive photo. Take care and try to stay cool.
    J x

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Joy. And you try and stay cool, too. Not known hot weather like this since the drought of 1976. Fortunately, we were never put on stand pipes for water then, as so many in the country were, but it taught us all (or it should’ve done) – of course, so many now are too young to remember this drought! – not to waste water, it is a precious commodity. Things were so serious in 1976 there was even a Minister for Drought appointed! Cars were left unwashed, lawns turned to straw, crops failed, rivers and streams dried up, reservoirs were down to the last drop, cattle died, it was truly awful. When eventually it rained, we went outside and danced around in it!

  6. Margaret my husband often mentions the drought of 1976 and I remember it well as it
    was the first time I went haymaking as we lived on a farm.
    I remember climbing onto the top of the hay wagon for the ride back to the farmyard and not being ale to get down again as the hay bales was so high. Father In Law said jump and I’ll catch you, which I did, very embarrassing.
    Also found I was expecting and I’d been heaving the heavy hay bales about.
    Husband said yesterday – while sat in the garden that he finally understands why people have siestas and
    a slower pace of life in hot countries, and hes used to working in hot weather

    Your photos are lovely Margaret, they have inspired.
    Over the years I’ve tried to go ‘modern’ for a ‘change’
    but always end up back with traditional things

    Gave my old standard lamp to a charity shop last year and regretted it but luckily found another recently.

    Daughter is helping out a friend in a café during this hot weather, they’re so busy as they have outdoor tables and everyone seems to want to sit in this hot sunshine and the heat is unbearable for the staff who are running around serving hot meals.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      What lovely memories of the hot summer of 1976, Linda, haymaking! It sounds very much like the haymaking chapter in Enid Blyton’s Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm (or was it in the follow-up book, Six Cousins Again?) My husband was born and brought up in a rural village and he remembers helping with the haymaking, as people did in those days, pre-combine harvesters.
      Thank you for your kind comments re my photos and that they have inspired you. ‘Modern’ is so short-lasting. OK, some things which are now modern will last and eventually be ‘traditional’ or even, heaven forefend, ‘old fashioned’!
      Our standard lamp is ancient. My mother had it given to her when someone she knew was throwing it out – she said “don’t throw it out, I’ll have it!” She painted it (pale grey if I recall, simply because she had some grey paint!) and put what was then a ‘modern’ shade on it. When she died and husband almost sent it to the tip, I said no, re-wire it, paint it, and we’ll have a new shade made for it, and now it’s a useful piece of furniture in our sitting room. I actually like the stand very much, it’s ornate, but not too ornate.
      Oh dear, your daughter will be exhausted serving people this weather. I hope she has time to drink water between customers.

  7. Well it is 33f now according to the car and I well believe it.
    Went for a wander in nearby town and the heat was just to much so was really glad
    to get into Waitrose, it was lovely and cool in there, didn’t want to leave.
    Margaret I like the look of your tomato salad so will try that
    We usually grow our own red onions which tend to be a more mild flavour I think
    Oh! forgot to get beetroot in Waitrose, ah! well another day.
    Phew its hot, lime cordial and sparkling water time I think

    Your standard lamp sounds nice, I’d thought of painting our old one but never had the courage

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I will send you a pic via email of our standard lamp, Linda.
      I’ve no idea what the temperature outside is today, but somehow it doesn’t seem as hot here as it has been over the past two days, and now there is a little bit of a breeze coming into through the patio doors of the study, right next to where I’m sitting.
      I love the beetroot with juniper from Morrisons best of all, but we rarely visit that supermarket (there is one in Totnes so when I’ve had my hair done I pop in there specially to get it) but failing that, the Waitrose beetroot salad is lovely.
      33F – I think you mean 33C, Linda … a real scorcher!

  8. Thanks Margaret, I feel much the same about this hot weather, it’s quite energy sapping although we probably don’t get enough of it either?

    Your nice photos laid out in the shade are cooling to look at and now I think its cooling down outside too? So better tomorrow for all of us who are showing signs of wilting.along with our gardens and flowers?!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Oh, the flowers have all died in the middle flower bed, but there again, it was only roses, day lilies and cranesbill which is a thug of the first order and needs removing! But the pots of geraniums are OK, simply because we water them each evening.
      Yes, a little cooler this evening, Heather, thank goodness. I began actually to feel ill with the heat yesterday, it wasn’t pleasant at all. Thank goodness for our walnut tree under which we can have our meals.

  9. Much like you this heat is making me feel unwell. Sadly I’m not in a position to rest as much as I would like as I’m chasing round after two children and an allotment to water ( 30 watering cans full every time!! )As I type there is no breeze at all here and the heat is stifling. It was 50 ( yes 50 degrees ) in our conservatory when I got back from shopping this morning. I like the idea of the feet in cold water. I’ve filled a hot water bottle with ice and had that against my neck which did help. It’s supposed to be cooler later in the week thank goodness.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      The temperature has dropped this evening slightly, Fiona, thank goodness. But 50C in your conservatory is awful, a modern conservatory wouldn’t ‘conserve’ plants, it would kill ’em, eh? Perhaps too cold in winter and too hot in summer. And having to haul 30 watering cans full of water is awful, too. I’ve just put five watering cans of water on our pots, that’s enough for me! I will shortly have a cool shower and get ready for an early night, there is nothing I want to watch on TV, not even Who Do You Think You Are with Olivia Coleman. I’m just glad that I am able to rest when it becomes this hot, but with children you just can’t rest, they need attention and meals cooked. I remember the summer of 1976 when not only had I part-time work to go to, but also our two young sons and also foreign students which we hosted in the summer to help with the finances, and cooking in our west-facing kitchen was unbearable, the heat was horrendous. I’ve just been reading about that, and the highest temperature recorded in June in the UK was that year, 36C in Southampton.

  10. A bit cooler here today only 26 degrees outside at the moment.Hope you and your husband are feeling better.Ive now found out from the consultant the cause of my aches and pains,have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis.Putting a name to it,makes me feel better? I don’t know jury is out on that. Take care,Margaret.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, cooler. But when did we think 26C was cool, Linda, ha ha! It was 25C in our hall at 7 am this morning. I’ve had osteo arthritis since I was in my 20s, Margaret (well, that was what they thought it was, no one seemed to know in those days.) It is painful and while Those Who Know always say “Exercise” what they don’t appreciate is that we all have to go to bed, and if we are immobile for about 7 hours, then we stiffen up and moving is very painful, so no matter how hard I’ve exercised in the past to keep my joints moving, I honestly don’t think it makes any difference. But then, we’re all different. I find rest is one of the things that helps, and warmth. Even in summer – but of course, not this weather – a hot water bottle eases my back. I also take one paracetamol at night, but I don’t like co-codamol at it’s a morphine-type drug and gives me weird dreams. I wonder what medical advice you will now receive?
      I have also found that pain can be in one area one day, and in another the next. I’ve mentioned this to my GP and years ago to a consultant, but they don’t seem to understand this at all. I can have pain in a foot or ankle joint one day so I can hardly move about without wincing, and the next day it’s totally disappeared but I can hardly walk because my hips hurt! Mad or what? So I’d be interested to know if you have the same experience. But I don’t take any drugs specifically for arthritis (even if there are any) and I’ve not cut anything out of my diet. Often a warm shower, a hot water bottle and rest is often the best medicine – well, it is for me.

  11. Ha! Ha! yes 33C – the heat got to me big time 🙁
    Laptops playing up, will look at photos when husbands fixed it
    Thanks Margaret

    A friend rang today to say theres a WW11 bomb been found on Teignmouth beach near the Pier
    So the areas been cleared
    and they’re blowing it up at 4pm

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I think the heat affects our electronic devices, too. And now some neighbours have had a power cut – we’re ok for the moment, but sometimes we go off while they are still on.
      Yes, I heard that on the local news, a WW2 bomb underwater near Teignmouth Pier. I didn’t know they were going to blow it up at 4 pm.

  12. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)

    The heat has been so debilitating. I can imagine that some readers who live with these kind of temperatures as a matter of course wondering why we are making such a fuss, but heat as it has been (particularly on Sunday) is such a rarity….usually experienced not even once a year. My husband lived for some years in Perth, Wesyern Australia. I think that this is why he copes better than I do.
    Your pattern of arthritic pain is interesting. Tests have shown that I have an inflated ESR (I think) count which, whilst not quite at the level which would confirm arthritis, is borderline. The tests were carried out as I have joint pain which moves around just as you describe. A wrist that will barely move without discomfort one day, an ankle the next, and I fingers another day. It’s all vary vague when o e tries to explain it to a doctor. In my case, fortunately, the pain is usually fairly mild but as my mother and grandmother suffered, I expect it is just a matter of time.

    Goodness, a WWII bomb on the beach! We had a grenade found nearby only a couple of weeks ago. It’s astonishing to think that these tho ts are still around after so long!

    A little cooler now thankfully. I hope this will find you able to cope more easily.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Isn’t it strange that people with arthritis say this, and yet the medical world doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the pain moves around! When I tell any medical person that one day I can hardly bear to walk as one ankle is so painful and then next I would do three miles into Torquay along the sea front, they look at me as if I’ve lost the plot! I know you use a gym, Eloise, and so perhaps you are keeping supple that way, but having had osteo arthritis for around half a century, and in some ways it’s not as bad as when I was young, I don’t think such vigorous exercise would do me much good – my bones would more likely snap! As I’ve said to Margaret, a hot water bottle, a warm shower (as I can’t get in and out of a bath and I’m blowed if I will have an invalid walk-in bath installed!) and a paracetamol is usually what helps me. My father also had osteo arthritis, so no doubt it’s genetic as much as anything. Years ago I had cortisone injections into the spine to try and alleviate the pain, but that the relief was short-lived. Also I had what they described as ‘manipulations’ under a general anaesthetic (I had that three times over a number of years) but that made it worse (you are pulled every which way while out cold.)
      The bomb was off the pier (in the water) I understand. Yes, there must still be a lot of ordnance out there, undetected!
      A bit cooler this evening, thank goodness. Still feel like a wet dishcloth.

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