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A Winter Saturday


The time of year or age?  Age or the time of year?  Truly we don’t know, but we have been waking up much later than usual.  We often wake around 4 am and have a cup of tea and then, around 5 am, decide it’s far too early for us to get up, our minds might be awake but our bodies certainly aren’t, and we eventually nod off and then sleep until almost 10 o’clock.   But as I’ve said to husband, it really doesn’t matter.  We must need the sleep, otherwise we’d not be asleep. And when the mornings become lighter earlier, perhaps we will rise earlier, too?  We shall just have to wait and see.

And so, it was gone 11 o’clock before we had showered and dressed and 11.30 am before we’d had our porridge.  We then decided to drive to Wellswood so that husband could get a haircut. He was reluctant!  “It’s too cold for a haircut!” he claimed. But, I said that a couple of centimetres off his hair wasn’t going to give him hypothermia and he’d look much smarter once his hair had had a trim.

Of course, I had an ulterior motive:  I wanted to take some things to the charity shop in Wellswood and also have a look-see while husband was in the barber’s.  I was parting with a favourite jacket, one by Viyella, but it was a sort of dark mustard colour and now I have silver hair, it does nothing for me.  Yes, it was 15 years old, but a blazer-style jacket never dates and I really liked this jacket, but I felt the time had come for it to go.

I then went into the post office/newsagent’s to buy the Saturday paper and some birthday cards for birthdays in February (again, I’m getting ahead) and I thought I’d have a look in the Co-op and see if they had any flowers  – they had and I bought a bunch of dusky pink tulips,  pink with a hint of mauve.

I also gave some magazines to the charity shop, ones that had been passed to me.  Indeed, I split the pile and also gave some to the barber for his wife  as she works in a residential home for the elderly and once she’s read them she can pass them on again.  I had a look around the charity shop, but while I saw some pretty china, there was nothing I wanted nor needed.

After husband had had his hair cut, we popped into the deli next door and bought steak pasties for our lunch and re-heated those when we arrived home.

This afternoon, I noticed that my all-time favourite film was on BBC2 – 84 Charing Cross Road with Anne Bancroft as Helene Hanff, New York copywriter, and Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel, the Manager of Marks & Co, the booksellers of the title.

I absolutely love this film.  Well, I’d  first loved the book; what’s not to like about a book of correspondence between a book lover (Hanff) and a bookseller (Doel)?

Indeed, it was a bookseller in Totnes (sadly, long gone) who, many, many years ago handed me a rather dog-eared paperback.  “You love books, don’t you?” he said to me,  stating the obvious as I handed him money for some purchases.  “I think you will like this!”  I offered to pay for it, but no, it was too tatty for him to sell, he said; he was giving it to me.  I took it home and once I’d started reading it, I just didn’t stop.  (Since then I’ve bought a mint hardback of the book, and also the DVD so I can watch the film any time I like.)

I trust you have read this lovely book? but if you are one of those lucky people who haven’t yet read it, then you have a treat in store!  I took some pix from the television during this afternoon’s showing of the film:  Helene writing to Marks & Co, Frank Doel reading her letters, Helene in bed reading one of the books she’d ordered and which they’d sent her, the lovely old shop (now, sadly no longer there but when I was in London in 1990 – to see Les Miserables – we walked across the road and saw the plaque on the wall saying that that had been where Marks & Co had been) and Helene with a young couple of friends in New York – where Helen lived – choosing food items for a Danish company to send to the employees of Marks & Co during rationing here in Britain in the 1940s/1950s.

So much of middle-20th-century history is also in this film:  not only food rationing,  one can see how utterly dull Britain was in those immediate post-war years compared with New York.  We see the frugality of the meals, how they were augmented by a loaf of bread, but we also see Frank and his wife enjoying an evening out, dancing in the open air at night in what looks a chilly London, all part of the festivities of the Festival of Britain in 1951.  Then we see the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and in one scene it shows Frank Doel, his wife, and their friends solemnly standing during the National Anthem while watching the Coronation on their newly purchased TV set (top picture above). American history is also there, racial unrest, student sit-ins, and, of course, baseball.

Apart from it being a beautiful story, and all the more beautiful because it is based on true events, Hopkins and Bancroft are superb in their respective roles, supported by a marvellous Judy Dench as Frank Doel’s Irish second wife (and even a comparatively small role for a young Ian McNeice, one of the employees in Marks & Co.  McNeice is better known for the part of Bert Large, owner of the seaside restaurant, in the Doc Martin series of TV dramas.)

And that is how I spent the afternoon – the photo of the TV above shows one of the food parcels from Helene arriving at Marks & Co and Frank Doel handing various items to each member of staff.

This wasn’t the only film I’ve enjoyed recently.  Yesterday, husband and I went to the Barn Cinema at Dartington to see Colette.  We both enjoyed the film, but we felt – unlike many reviewers – that by far and away, Dominic West was the star performer. It is Kiera Knightly who has been highly praised; we’d have said that she turned in an  adequate performance.  But we really enjoyed Dominic West’s portrayal of her disreputable husband. 

And next week we’re off to see The Friendship starring Olivia Colman as Queen Anne.  I’m really looking forward to that!

Until next time.


About Margaret

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. 84 Charing Cross Road is a favourite of mine too, I’ve seen it performed live too, Buster Merryfield , Uncle Albert, in Only Fools and Horses played one of the booksellers.

  2. I am sorry to say I’ve neither read 84 Charing Cross Road nor seen the film. I have written it down and am going to look for it, though. Thanks, as always, for the recommendation.

  3. Both the book and the film were favourites of my mother and I have read the book but not seen the fim. I think Anne Bancroft is a wonderful actress so I will hunt it down. I too am finding that I am sleeping longer but feel frustrated that the day seems to be half over by the time I get organised! My husband tells me to go to bed earlier but if I do that I’m wide awake at 3.00 am. I think its age.

    • Margaret

      We were up and having a cup of tea at 4am, Pieta. This is a regular thing now we’re older and then we go back to sleep and often don’t wake until halfway through the morning.
      If you enjoyed the book you will love the film. Indeed, it’s possible to enjoy the film without prior knowledge of the book, but I think it helps to have read the book. Helene Hanff wrote other books, too, but 84 Charing Cross Road is the one she’s known for.

  4. I’m planning to see Colette soon, and I too enjoyed 84 Charing Cross Road (both book and film) though many years ago. There is nothing wrong at all in living to ones own internal clock (once one is no longer subject to an employer’s restrictions, of course) and sleeping/arising at whatever time suits. In the winter especially, it’s so nice to snuggle back down for an extra hour.
    Mustard is popular this season but it does nothing for me as a main colour. Its hard to get rid of a favourite item.

    • Margaret

      Our trouble is, Eloise, it’s not an extra hour bur several, ha ha! But as you say, living to our internal clock is fine now that we don’t have to go to work.
      I have a new mustard jumper and that’s OK for me as long as I have another colour next to my face, say a navy scarf. But the jacket was more brown than mustard, cinnamon perhaps, and although it was smart, it only looked good with black, such as black jeans and black polo neck (that’s turtle neck to USA, I don’t mean a polo shirt.) But it was still hard to get rid of it.

  5. Hi Margaret coming out of lurkdom to say that I read 84 Charing Cross Road years ago and loved it , wish I’d known that the film was on yesterday. I haven’t seen The Friendship’ but have seen some reviews ,people dislike the overuse of the ‘c’ word, so thought I should warn you.

  6. I watched the fabulous “84 Charing Cross Road” as well yesterday afternoon – second time for me but still excellent. Sharing out the food box gift – who knew a tin of ham would be so welcome!
    I didn’t know it was on but was watching a documentary about Anthony Hopkins and the film followed. A nice change to watch TV in the daytime and something decent to watch.

    • Margaret

      Hello, Mrs H. Yes, 84 Charing Cross Road is excellent, isn’t it? I’ve lost count of the times I have watched it, it can be watched over and over again and you still get something out of it. The same with (for me) The Enchanted April, which I also love and no doubt, once it’s spring (even April!) I will watch this again. Wonderful cast, too, as in 84 Charing Cross Road. Yes, watching the staff of Marks & Co unpack the tins of ham and so forth, who would think a tin of ham could bring such joy. Oh, I’d missed the documentary on Anthony Hopkins, I just noticed the film was on, so I quickly got a cup of tea and slice of fruit cake and sat and thoroughly enjoyed my Saturday afternoon. Yes, lovely to sit and watch something decent of an afternoon, I couldn’t agree more.

  7. I’m one of the non readers of 84 Charing Cross Road and a non film watcher of it too until yesterday when, like you Margaret, I sat down and looked at the film. Pleased to say I enjoyed it! (I did know about the story but it has been off my radar.)

    Our family used to receive food parcels from Canada in the austere post war years so I really understood what that bit was like, my treat in the parcels we received was chewing gum and also a cake mix that tasted like nothing we had ever tasted before! The film was very evocative of the era, North America with lots of zing and zest and Britain looking grey and damp.

    • Margaret

      You would enjoy the book of 84 Charing Cross Road I am sure, Heather, if you enjoyed the film. I don’t remember our family having good parcels from Canada even though we had relatives there, but yes, the film showed the big difference between American which hadn’t been ravaged by bombs and years of austerity and rationing; our country looked particularly dismal, tables laid but not much on the plates, and cold and grey and damp outside.

  8. Mary-Louise Mielcarz

    Hello Margaret,

    I just happened across you on Instagram. Your photos are great, the perfect venue for you.


  9. And next week we’re off to see The Friendship starring Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. I’m really looking forward to that!
    I hope you review before you publish, Ive just been to see that film I was keen due to the awards etc
    I don’t think you will like it
    I read your blog all the time and love it and have nothing but admiration for you. That film is full of swearing, sex and nastiness
    But at the end of the day its your choice 🙂

    Lovely blog

    • Margaret

      I made the mistake when I think I called the film The Friendship when, of course, I meant The Favourite. If there is swearing, sex and nastiness as you refer to it, if its in the context of the film I think I can put up with that, what I dislike in any film is a writer/director/producer who has set out merely to shock by unnecessary violence. I’ve read some reviews and seen trailers for it, I don’t think I will be too offended by it, but we shall see. I’m delighted you enjoy my blog.

  10. I have neither read nor watched the film of 84 CRR, so will put the latter to rights this afternoon. I do remember though listening to a Radio 4 adaptation many years ago with maybe Elaine Stritch playing Helene. I saw The Favourite at Worthing Theatre last weekend. It was shown in the small studio so a very intimate venue for a beautifully filmed, superbly acted and very funny film. The other film we went to recently, this time at the Windmill Theatre in Littlehampton (we are testing out film venues as you may have gathered) was Mary Poppins Returns which I heartily recommend. I think you would love the interiors, the London skyscapes and the costumes, and there were so many lovely subtle references to wonderful film musicals from the past.
    On Saturday I found a perfect hardback edition of The Tulip by Anna Pavord. Published in 1990 and priced at £30, my copy was £2 at the Petworth Society monthly book sale. I also found a landscape format book about Constable with the most beautiful reproductions of his paintings – I love a Constable cloudscape – and I searched for and found Mr Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham because he died this week and this was a favourite to borrow from the library when the children were young. These two books cost £1 each and both were in mint condition. I think Petworth folk take very good care of their books. I think we will be giving Colette a miss. There is something about Keira’s 21st century dentistry I find off-putting and as an actress I find her rather flat. I expect Dominic West will be giving full value – isn’t he just wonderful as Valjean in Les Miserables?

    • Margaret

      Thank you for giving The Favourite your fulsome praise. So far, from what I have seen (and the trail at the cinema before we saw Colette was quite long) I think we will like it. I might book for Mary Poppins, I think that might be fun.
      I don’t have Anna Pavord’s book, The Tulip, but I have seen copies of it, especially when I used to help out in my friends’ antiquarian/2nd hand bookshop several years ago. Lovely that you fond a copy for just £2. Yes, I love John Constable’s landscapes, too. I think because they have been reproduced so much that we don’t really look at them any more, and that is a shame because they are outstanding. I don’t know of the writer, John Burningham, but again more bargains for you. I can’t recall seeing Keira (I never spell her name correctly, I’m sure you have it correct so am copying you!) in anything before, although I feel I must’ve done. Instantly forgettable performance to me, really; adequate is how I’d describe it. I’ve not been watching Les Mis; I’d totally forgotten he is playing the part of Valjean!

  11. Your tulips are quite beautiful, especially in that pretty vase. You ‘have a way’ with selecting and displaying flowers most certainly 🙂 I’m a bit late reading this post as I haven’t been sleeping well myself these past several nights and have felt totally discombobulated as a result. I feel like a big old bear who should be hibernating, not out in the brightly lit outdoors ! Given we’re currently roasting in yet-another-record-breaking-hot-and-awful summer whereas bears typically hibernate in winter, it can’t be that ! Menopause has alot to answer for in my book. Sorry for the grumble….. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments. I’m not sure how I feel about the new Mary Poppins film as the original Julie Andrews film was one of my favourites as a child – okay, I admit, even as an adult. I have read that it was crucified by the critics in its day and P. L. travers was NOT impressed but to this little seven year old who dressed up in her finest to travel to the city to watch it on the big screen with her grandma and aunty it was supercalifragilisticexpealidocious ! The Puritan (and child) in me fears that I may not like the New movie and be traumatised ha ha….. I haven’t read the book nor seen the movie of 42 Charing Cross but recall you mentioning it previously. I’ve recently bought a DVD copy of ‘Gone With The Wind’ from a local charity shop for $AU1.00 (a bargain in anyone’s currency) but at four hours long, need to build up the stamina to watch it. Plus I still have three DVDs from my local library which are due back on Monday and I’m yet to watch them. What a lovely dilemma – it’s far too hot to do anything requiring physical or mental effort especially when weather forecasts for the next four days are increasingly higher temperatures with no relief in sight. Phew !

  12. ps well done on parting with your blazer. It can be hard to donate / discard items when we’ve spent good money for them or have some sort of sentimental attachment. I tell myself that someone else with different colouring and/or shape will be delighted with my offcasts and wear them to death 🙂 Mustard has never been a good colour on me ….

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