Photos top right and bottom left were in the guest bedroom before the new wardrobe was built; just some of the shelves now remain

Dear Friends,

I hope you won’t mind my mentioning books so soon after my two linked posts on the comics I loved as a child …

I have been collecting books – and also disposing of them, because space is finite – for over 40 years.  When I married, 52 years ago, there wasn’t money to spare to buy books because in those days books were relatively more expensive than they are today and any money we had went on our mortgage, bills, and getting our home together. 

I can remember when I first started to collect books as opposed to simply borrowing them from the library:   our younger son was about two years old and I borrowed a book by Cornish writer, Derek Tangye.  I wonder if anyone still reads his  books today?

Anyway, I enjoyed this book so much (A Cat Affair) and, as the library didn’t have any other books by him, I began to search for them in 2nd hand bookshops in the area – no internet then.  Eventually I found all the ones that had been published up to that point and, after that, even though funds were still tight, I bought each new book as it was published. 

I also joined a book club.  I don’t mean a reading club, but a club whereby you chose a different book to buy each month.  I hadn’t realized then that these were  cheaper versions – inferior paper, perhaps slightly smaller format – of what were often best sellers, but I still bought reference books, history books, even Alistair Cook’s America which I think must’ve been on everyone’s bookshelf in those days.  I have since parted with it.

And so my collections grew, mainly 2nd hand copies but there were some writers whose books I pounced on the moment they were published:  Joanna Trollope, Mary Wesley, Bernard Levin, to name but three. 

In 1990 I happened upon an antiquarian/secondhand bookshop in a small Dartmoor town and each week I would drive my mother and myself there for a browse.  There was even a lovely cafe next door – an added incentive!  The books were always in good condition and, what was even more enticing, the prices were excellent, too.  The shop had books on three floors, I was in book heaven.  They were also very well organized, so that you knew exactly where you might find what you were seeking.

Over the months not only did my collection grow rapidly, but my mother and I became friends with the owners and so, when they went on holiday each year, they asked if I’d like to help out in their shop?  Would I? What do you think! I helped out for the next dozen or so years. 

And that is where I had my eyes opened to all kinds of books – pocket books, writers from the 1930s and 1940s – such as Richard Church and Cecil Roberts – of whom I’d never heard, beautiful leather-bound books, first editions, illustrated books – and thus I began to fill my shelves. 

I had long ceased buying book club editions – for a start,  helping out in the bookshop (sadly no longer there; my friends retired some years ago and since then it has closed down) taught me that book club editions weren’t acceptable to most book collectors who wanted the original editions (if not always first editions.)

As the volume of books in our house grew, my husband made bookcases in each of the rooms:  hardback fiction in the bed sitting room upstairs, paperback fiction in the dining room, all other books in the sitting room, study and guest bedroom.  The only room without bookshelves is our bedroom, but there are usually piles of books on the bedside chests of drawers. 

Here is a corner of the study – this  table is now piled high with books and you might also note the large amount of magazines on the bottom shelf. This is only part of the magazine collection which, sadly, will have to go one of these days.  As I say, space is finite.  (There is another wall of books, but to see one is sufficient I think!)

This is where I write


Here are the paperbacks in the dining room.  Husband made these shelves so that we’d also have a space for our stereo – yes, it’s ancient, but it does the job – and the speakers, and our LPs as well as CDs.  This is a ‘breakfront’ style of bookcase – the two end sections are stepped back and this allows the door to the dining room (on the left) to be opened properly, and it is matched at the other side, next to the window. 

In the guest bedroom there were once wall-to-wall bookshelves but in 2015 we decided we needed to turn what had become a workroom back into a bedroom and so husband re-configured the shelves to include a wardrobe (which he built, including making six drawers) in the central part, and keep the remaining bookshelves at each side.

In the bed sitting room, there are bookshelves under the eaves …

Please don’t ask me if I’ve read them all!   This always strikes me as a question which non-book collectors ask.  Yes, such people might read, but they don’t wish to  keep the books they read; they’re happy to read them on an e-reader, or borrow them from the library, or seek out a ‘reading’ copy which they will then pass on.   I can appreciate this, especially if they hadn’t much space or do not have any attachment to books as objects, but the whole point of having a collection is that not only are you never short of reading material, but also you don’t have to read them at the time of buying:  you can keep them and enjoy them at any time in the future.  This mightn’t be for several months or even many years.  That is the point of having your own library.

A collection such as this hasn’t happened overnight.  It has taken many years and I’ve parted with perhaps as many books as you see here,  too.  And now they’re due for a spring clean and another ‘weed’!  I’ve not shown the piles of books under the tables, in corners, on the lamp tables …

Happy reading!


Saturday morning here in Torbay was glorious.  Bright sunshine, blue sky, mild temperatures so I wore only a long-sleeved navy T-shirt with indigo jeans, and a light boucle wool jacket – one I’ve had for more than a decade, but I still love it, it’s in shades of wine red – and soft silk scarf.

We had an errand to do, but a pleasureable one:  a friend’s son and his wife had just had their first baby and we had gone in search of a suitable present for the little one.  There is a lovely shop in the coastal village of Babbacombe, just outside Torquay, called Cherubs, and that is where we went.  I chose a dear little jumper and shorts in mustard yellow, pale blue, cream and grey, which came with cream leggings, the sort of outfit little Prince William would’ve been happy to wear as a baby, very traditional.  I hope they will like I as much as I do.  I love this shop, the stock is amazing,  the clothes are stylish and while they are a little more expensive than in the chain stores, their quality is superb. Apart from the excellent garments and service at Cherubs, they wrap the things beautifully if they are to be given as a present.  (I bought the two cards on the way home in another part of Torbay, one for the parents and one for the grandparents.)

Once we had completed this errand we walked along Babbacombe Downs to the Babbacombe Bay Coffee Shop/Bistro where it was very busy, it being not only a Saturday morning but also half term.  But they managed to  find us a table and we ordered just coffee and scones.

It’s always nice in this café/bistro, and the view is second to none. I only took a couple of photos this morning as the place was very busy, but the weather was just like in these photos taken last year, with bright blue sky – the only difference is that the summer flowers are not yet in bloom.


There are bifold doors which are open in summer and there is a lovely array of cakes and scones and croissants (the two photos above were taken yesterday) …

It is a lovely café for a light lunch or afternoon, tea, too.  My husband and I enjoyed afternoon tea here last summer … feast your eyes on this …

The views from Babbacombe Downs are second to none.

 Ahead of you is the whole of Lyme Bay, which stretches right around the coast to Portland Bill in Dorset.

What a lovely way to spend a spring-like (for we’re still officially in winter) Saturday morning.



Dear Friends,

Thank you for your kind and interesting comments on yesterday’s post about my favourite comics as a child of the 1950s.  As I mentioned, my favourite, although not by any means as colourful as Girl, was School Friend.  I read this comic for a decade from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, and in adulthood have managed to buy copies of the School Friend Annual (although, sadly, none of the actual comics themselves.)

Here is one from 1953.  This is a typical cover …

Sporting activities featured on all but one of the covers I have and that, instead, shows animals …

I think if I were teaching social history to children, I could find no better way than to look at annuals such as these.  The early ones, from the 1950s, were published only a decade after World War 2 and in one of them, the picture story features girls in France when it was occupied by the Nazis.

Further more, another story is about King Charles I …

And of course, in the 1950s, the Roundheads, Oliver Cromwell’s troops, were all totally bad and King Charles and the Cavaliers were all totally good, similarly to when Capt. Marryatt wrote The Children of the New Forest.

My favourite stories were those of The Silent Three, a trio of older teenage girls at a coastal boarding school who set out to right wrongs …

Even their names are Very 1940s/1950s … Betty, Joan and Peggy.

In the actual comics, stories of the Silent Three were always the cover story and so were in colour – their robes, if I recall, were dark green, with black masks.  I also longed to be at a boarding school like the one that you can just catch a glimpse of on the far right in the picture showing The Silent Three at No Man’s Tower.  It has a very Art Deco look to it, doesn’t it, so typical of schools built in the late 1930s/1940s, where there were large windows with metal frames and often flat roofs.  My own grammar school was much in this style, but not quite as glamorous as the school which Betty, Joan and Peggy attended!

My other favourite stories were those of Jill Crusoe and her “little native friend” M’lani.  It wasn’t considered Politically Incorrect in those days to refer to a black woman thus.  And the stories are intended to reflect life for Jill Crusoe “fifty years ago” so that would’ve been at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.   Strangely, M’Lani had much the same colour skin as English girl, Jill, not dark at all.   These stories were, surely, very much based on Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday.

How times have changed since these stories were published, but as well as entertaining me as a child, they are now little pieces of social history.





Dear Friends,

First of all, I would like to thank you all for reading my blog which I launched six months ago to the day. 

And so, for my 100th post, and six months since I started blogging, I thought I’d write a little about my childhood and the  comics I loved. 

Now, before I go any further, my favourite comic was School Friend.  It wasn’t glossy like the brash new Girl comic, who proclaimed itself the “sister paper to Eagle”, that now-iconic boys’ comic, but School Friend was the first comic I read.  Or rather, the first comic that was read to me as I had it from around the age of five and I was slow to learn to read. 

After the war, my parents had a newsagent’s shop, first in the Lancashire town of Rochdale and later (from 1951) in a village close to the South Devon town of Torquay.  One of my first memories was being taken to Edwards and Brynings in Rochdale, then publishers of the local paper, the Rochdale Observer, and seeing, hearing and even smelling the hot metal of the great  printing machines clattering into action. 

I therefore grew up living and breathing newsprint, with all the weekly and monthly magazines, newspapers and comics that we sold in our shop.  I loved School Friend and had this every week from issue number 14 in the late 1940s to when I was about 13 years old and considered myself, as a teenager, too old for such things.

Sadly, I don’t have any of my original comics. I kept them all, neatly in a pile in chronological order, in a cupboard in my bedroom, without a single one missing.  But when my parents sold their shop in 1962 and we moved to the hotel they had bought, my father insisted that we were not taking all my “rubbish” with us, and so I had to dump them all in the bin.  It didn’t hurt too much then, as I was 17 and had outgrown them, but now I wish I’d disobeyed those instructions and kept them!

But this isn’t about School Friend, of which I will speak in Part II.   Today I am going to concentrate on Girl, which was first published November 1951.  I loved it too, but for different reasons.  It was glossy and colourful, whereas School Friend was rather more old-fashioned looking and mainly in black and white, with the exception being the cover story.  Immediately I loved the stories of Wendy and Jinx, and Belle of the Ballet but what I recall most from that long-running series was an illustration of Belle in a lovely blue and white candy-striped dress – not a tutu – and oh, how I wanted a dress like that!

In the centre pages of Girl were two series I loved.  The first was Real Life Stories, and just because I loved the illustrations of the story of Mary Stuart of Scotland, I cut it out and kept it and still have it today, more than 60 years later.  I loved it, says she, somewhat shamefacedly, not because of the story of Mary, who was eventually beheaded, but because of the illustrations of the lovely clothes, which I attempted to draw and paint.

The other series I loved was Mother Tells You How. The series was collated and published as a book in 2007; it was one of the comic’s longest-running strips and one of the most popular.   If anyone wishes to know the social history of what it was like to be a lower middle class girl in the mid-1950s, then look no further.  Not for girls the science that was featured in Eagle (cut-through illustrations of aircraft carriers and submarines) but instructions by “Mother” to her daughter Judy on how to prepare a room for a guest, how to lay a table, how to arrange flowers, even how to wash up …

As the book says “Mother Tells You How appears to be an over-the-top spoof, but is in fact a wholly genuine period piece,” and I can certainly vouch for that.  I loved it. I wanted that pretty guest bedroom, and to see our table laid just like the one (above) with pretty napkins, wine glasses, and flowers.  Fat chance in our living room behind our shop, where we sat for meals often surrounded by boxes of stock waiting to be put on display and every meal was accompanied by a tea in a blue and white striped Cornish ware mug. 

Around about the age of 12 my parents introduced me to another periodical (for that is what magazines were often called in those days.)

Young Elizabethan was a monthly magazine for boys and girls, quite expensive because it was two shillings a month which would’ve been more than most children had for one week’s pocket money in those days if indeed their parents could afford to give them pocket money at all.

In one of my copies (July 1956, just four years into HM the Queen’s long reign) there is a letter from a group of girls who say:  “I wonder if other members of the Young Elizabethan club, [because most comics had ‘clubs’ then] have thought of this?  If you cannot afford two shillings every month, why not make a small Y.E. group and pay jointly?  It is great fun to have a Y.E evening once a week and go over the competitions with your friends …”

Could you imagine children today getting so excited about a magazine?  No electronic gizmos in those days, not even a transistor radio on which to listen to Paul Temple or Jennings at School.

Young Elizabethan was quite different from a comic although it did have some comic characters. I wonder who now remembers Nigel Molesworth, the Curse of St Custards?  (assisted by writer, Geoffrey Willans and illustrated by Ronald Searle) with his catch-phrase “Chiz, chiz, chiz” which really didn’t mean anything at all but we said it anyway – well, those of us who loved Molesworth did.  Young Elizabethan was for children of the new Elizabethan age, as it was often called, on the verge of adulthood; my April 1957 edition has a page For Girls Only and there is a drawing of a washing line and, hanging from it, bras and what were then called ‘foundation’ garments, i.e. panty girdles (or to our mothers, “corsets”) with suspenders from which you attached your stockings – this was in the days before tights (pantyhose to our American friends.)  I can imagine boys sniggering at this rather innocent illustration.  On the Boys Only page there is a short feature on Japanese shipbuilders and a new big submarine.  Oh dear, the girls just wouldn’t understand about those, would they?

These are not my original copies, sadly, but some I have bought  via Abe Books online.  Young Elizabethan, edited by Kaye Webb,  was of an ‘improving’ nature, with stories, puzzles, competitions, and features such as a land-lubber’s account of a whaling trip in Western Australia or bird fossils ‘locked-in’ stone for 150,000 years.  Looking at these magazines now, I really don’t know how I found them so interesting whereas I am right back in my room with Mother Tells You How, with my rose pink eiderdown, my bedside chrome lamp with its white shade on which were black and white drawings of Venice and gondolas, and my lovely kidney-shaped dressing table with bottles of Evening in Paris in its indigo bottle, L’Aimant talc in its pink tin, and a white container of Max Factor pan stick. 

What I find puzzling now, although not then for I didn’t take that much notice of such boring things as adverts (unless they were for books!) were the adverts which were really aimed at the parents:  Moss Bros for riding clothes, Kangol for pure wool berets, Start-rite shoes, Ilford films, and most unusually, Osram light bulbs!  Also, an advert for Elizabeth Arden’s famous fragrance, Blue Grass, but not as a scent.  No, the advert is for Blue Grass deodorant!  And if the youngsters haven’t had a good enough school lunch (which was always called “school dinner” regardless of it being served around midday) a large advert for Lyle’s Golden Syrup to spread on bread and butter. That would make little John and Joan get through their homework in record time, wouldn’t it, with such a sugar high?  The advert even suggests  “you mix syrup and butter with a knife on the side of your plate.  It tastes like toffee that way.”

By the end of the 1950s I had outgrown comics and, anyway, by then there was a lovely new teenage magazine on the market which fed my interests in clothes, makeup, pop singers and dating and everything modern as we headed towards the heady days of the 1960s:  Honey.   This was a far cry from School Friend, Girl, and the rather staid and improving Young Elizabethan, and I loved it!  

Did you read comics? Which ones did you read?  Eagle – perhaps you borrowed your brother’s copy, if that isn’t a sexist thing to say? Swift, Robin, Bunty, Topper, Beezer, Dandy, The Beano, or are you the generation which read Jackie? by which time I was already married.




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I love tulips.  These, photograph above, were in our garden a couple of years ago.  I seldom make a note of their names but I always buy my bulbs fresh each year from Sarah Raven.  It is spendthrift, I know, but such bulbs are ‘forced’ to produce exquisite blooms, and I do like to  have new bulbs each year, a different variety of colours to greet us in spring.  Right now, the tulips are just poking their heads above the soil. 

Now that we can buy tulips almost all year round and usually from around a couple of pounds a bunch, it seems almost unbelievable that in Holland in the 17th century, these flowers were so loved, so admired, and so coveted, that there was what has become known as ‘tulipomania’.  This has been written about in several books,  such as Tulipomania by MIke Dash and, a novel, Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach.


The tulip is a flower of the East, and it is said that bulbs and seeds were first sent to Vienna in 1554 by Ogier de Busbecq (don’t ask me to pronounce that!) an Austrian courtier who had spent time in the Far East.

By the 1620s tulips were well established in northern Europe and, in particular, in the Netherlands.  The blooms were exotic and intense and very different from any other flowers at that time.

And then demand exceeded supply.  The price of the bulbs rocketed.  They were often changing hands many times a day.  All this was, in effect, gambling, for those selling or buying the bulbs could not know whether the flowers that they produced would be a disappointment, live up to or even exceed the owners’ expectations.

And then, the bubble burst; the market for the bulbs crashed in 1637 when, suddenly, traders found new buyers were unwilling to pay the grossly inflated prices.  Some had made fortunes; some had lost fortunes. 

The Dutch connoisseurs who were cultivating specimens then turned what had been nothing short of a disaster into a profit-making business:  growing tulip bulbs and flowers for the export market, and today the Netherlands is home to the tulip industry. 

My investigation into tulipomania has made me even more interested in this country’s history in general and, as such, I have bought this book by Simon Schama.  It was first published in 1986.  I can’t comment on it’s readability yet but I have no doubt I will learn more about Dutch culture from it. 

Similarly,  in order to learn more about Dutch art (I have books on Rembrant and Vermeer) I have bought …

Apart from the wonderful paintings by Rembrandt,  Pieter de Hooch, and Vermeer (if I could steel just one picture it would be Vermeer’s View of Delft) …

I was fascinated by a painting in Dyrham Park (National Trust) near Bath, Gloucestershire, which was painted by Samuel van Hoogstraeten and entitled A view down a Corridor, 1662. 

As the painting reaches to the floor, you are inclined to believe, at first glance anyway, that you are actually looking down a corridor. 

Also in Dyrham Park there are some glorious Delft ware tulip pyramid vases which were produced for the specific purpose of displaying single blooms of tulips.

Today, we can pick up a bunch of tulips for just a couple of pounds.  How lucky we are!

And today, 17th February, this arrived … yet more for me to learn about our close neighbour across the English Channel:


I have been reading (and very much enjoying) Shoestring Jane’s blog, Shoestring Cottage.  I can always learn a new frugal tip from Jane although I’m not yet a fully-reformed frugal character, I have to admit! 

Indeed, Jane’s latest post – about small affordable luxuries – got me thinking about my own idea of everyday luxuries and I responded to Jane’s post by mentioning my love of pristine white bed linen. 

To a lot of people, especially those who love everything Retro/1950s/1960s (and I think that is mainly those who were not yet adults during this period, and so they have childhood memories of pretty candy-striped or floral bed linen) my ideal white linen will seem either old fashioned at best or like a hospital at worst! 

The photo above shows our bed several years ago and the bed linen here is a white self-strip (although that doesn’t show up on the photograph).  I propped the pillows up simply because we needed a new headboard; I disliked the 1980s padded one that we had at that time.  The bedside tables have since been changed to small chests of drawers (photo below), but my focus of attention here is the bed.  I was striving for a ‘summer’ look, hence the blue embroidered cushion, the watercolour of the harbour at St Ives (by W H Sweet, one I inherited from my late mother), and some blue items on the bedside table. 

Several years later, having changed the bedside tables for small chests of drawers, I balanced these with two Scottish scenes, oil paintings which my grandparents bought on their honeymoon in 1897.  Not quite the thing for a bedroom, rather heavy in texture and subject, but something was necessary above the chests of drawers, and these paintings were in the loft, ready, willing and available for use!  But again white bed linen (with a cream bed cover) with  a change of cushions and flowers for a more ‘autumn’ look.

I have posted previously on our guest bedroom upstairs in the eaves of our dormer house, so apologies for showing these photos again, but I just wanted to show that even in the guest room the bed linen is white, with a pale green throw. 

And to our room as it is now (decorated last summer.)   Unfortunately you cannot see the white bed linen under the heavy cream bed cover, but rest assured (no pun intended!) it is white. 

All this talk of bed linen in my comments on Shoestring Cottage, Jane’s lovely blog  reminded me that I had intended buying some new pillow cases and this afternoon I have ordered some new scalloped-edge white pillow cases.  If they look as pretty as I hope they will, I will no longer need to cover the pillow cases on the bed, but have them in all their pristine glory on show once again. 

I could add a dozen or so affordable luxuries that I enjoy but will leave it here with just pristine bedding.  If I had ‘staff’ I would have clean bed linen every night of the week, but failing that I change it about every five days, and sometimes the pillow cases more often.   When I turn down the bed for the night, removing the cover and the cushions, lighting the lamps and spritzing with rose pillow mist, I really can’t think of anything nicer than pure white bed linen (even if it is cotton and not actually linen).  It is indeed one of life’s affordable luxuries.  I wonder, what are your affordable luxuries?



It is still bitterly cold here in Torbay (around 2C when we went out this morning) and having been indoors for two days, we decided we’d drive to Wellswood, an area of Torquay which has a village atmosphere, buy the Saturday paper, and pop into the charity shop that we support as we had several things to donate.   I would like to add that the photos above were taken last spring, the daffs are not yet in bloom.

Among the items we were passing on were a brand new bag from Crew Clothing which I bought last summer but, when it arrived, it was just too plasticy for my liking (yes, I could’ve returned it, but it was very inexpensive and I thought that the charity might benefit from it) and a pair of virtually new Timberland boots which our elder son had bought and worn a couple of times but found that they hurt his ankles although the boots were the right size.  He passed them to my husband, as father and son take much the same size in shoes, but they rubbed my husband’s ankles as well – sensitive creatures, aren’t they?  The assistants were delighted to receive a pair of almost-new Timberland boots, and it’s nice to think someone will have a real bargain. 

This particular charity shop supports our local hospice and they decorate their windows beautifully.  Today the right hand window of the shop was decorated especially for St Valentine’s Day …



I’m sorry about the date showing on these photos. I took delivery of my new compact camera on Wednesday and my husband added the date facility which I must now erase!  But as you can see, everything in the window  was either black, red or silver and it looked wonderful.  Had I been on my own and not with husband, who was champing at the bit to go as he was so cold, I’d have spent even longer looking at all the lovely things and perhaps treated myself to something.  This is the shop where I found a lovely Jaeger silk scarf, a Jane Shilton bag (I ‘passed’ on a Radley bag last year because although it was a good price I had one very similar already) and some rather pretty costume jewellery – oh, and a couple of wicker baskets which I use for extra storage in our guest bedroom. 

After buying the Saturday paper and popping into the chemist for some nail polish remover we came home to find that the post had been delivered.  Have you found that sometimes you think of someone or dream of someone only to receive a phone call from them or receive a letter from them soon afterwards? Well, a similarity might be that I decided to have a book which I had very much enjoyed sent to a dear friend.  (I don’t mean my own copy, but a another copy.)   I had to let my friend know it was being sent to her as the web page didn’t have anywhere I could include my name, and she then emailed back to say she was sending me a small gift, too … some lovely rose body lotion! 

I seem to have amassed a small collection of rose-scented products, but the one from my friend is the Jason lotion, and it has the most rose-like fragrance of them all. It’s almost mousse-like rather than a thick, heavy body cream, and doesn’t leave the skin feeling greasy.  But how coincidental that we have both, quite independently, sent each other a small gift!   I do think it’s nice to send something to someone when it’s not a particular occasion, just as a little present, a small box of chocolates, or a bar of soap, or a paperback – it can really make someone’s day.

The other items I have been using have been these lovely room and wardrobe sprays from  and also their Rose Exquise eau de toilette, which is quite inexpensive.   The room sprays are Rose Petal and Garrigue, and the smaller bottle in the front is the wardrobe spray, Verbena

When we returned from Wellswood we were rather cold (but the house was lovely and warm, thank goodness) and I set to work right away making a mushroom dish for lunchh, one I’d seen on another person’s blog (Rosemary at Where Five Valleys Meet) and amended very slightly it to our own tastes, so that it had crème fraiche and a little double cream instead of Greek yoghurt, and also a little Bouillon and a handful of frozen petits pois along with large mushrooms, shallots and salad onions instead of garlic, and I served it not only with rice and purple sprouting broccoli, but also crusty baguette. 

It’s simply a matter of sauteeing the chopped shallots and onions in a little butter/oil,  adding the sliced mushrooms, adding the crème fraiche and cream, adding a little Bouillon, salt and pepper, adding the chopped parsley at the last moment and serving with rice, a green vegetable and grated parmesan. 

It is now mid-afternoon and time for a cup of tea.  I’ve had a brief look at the paper, and I think instead I will now read more of the book I’m currently enjoying:

I very much enjoyed LIza Picard’s book, Restoration London and have now moved on to the mid-18th century in this particular book.  Liza Picard is not an historian – she read law at the London School of Economics and was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn, but did not practice.  In the Preface to this book she says:

“Welcome gentle reade, to the select company of those who read prefaces, whether before – as I hope – or after – as I usually do – reading the book. This is where I can explain why I wrote the book at all, and how I set about it.

First of all, I should say that I am not a properly trained historian.  I am a lawyer by trade, and an inquisitive practical woman by character.  I have always enjoyed history, but I have found it difficult, from most history books, to imagine real people going about their daily lives, worrying more about the price of bread than the habits of the nobility. The trend of history writing is increasingly turning towards the man and woman in the street.  But even now there is a tendency, it seems to me, to focus on the few rich and the comfortably off, to the exclusion of the majority of people, who were poor.  One reason for this is the heritage of buildings and works of aft which we still enjoy, and which we identify as typical of the 18th century.  They have survived because they were built or commissioned or acquired by the rich. The poor were hard put to it to get along at all.  They had no money for non-essentials, and no leisure to write diaries or novels. Nothing remains of their lives.”

Liza Picard wrote this in her book which was published in 2000 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson.  And so she sets out to find out about the poor, the people who made up the vast majority of the citizens of London.  I love her books, they are not about kings and queens and battles and pestilence, but the very minutiae of life itself as lived by ordinary people.

So here you have a mish-mash of unrelated topics:   a visit to Wellswood to a charity shop; a delivery of a lovely body lotion from a friend; room sprays; a tasty and nourishing lunch; and a book which I have just begun.  What, I wonder, are you doing today?




First of all, I’m happy to report that I’m now the proud owner of a new computer.  Fortunately, my backup system ‘worked’ and I didn’t lose any of my documents, emails, or the many thousands of photos I have taken since around about 2004.   Furthermore, I am very grateful to my computer guru for having put together a new computer for me (this isn’t an off-the-shelf model; my computer man actually builds computers for his customers).

Today has been very cold indeed.  Not actually freezing outside but with a very cold wind it has felt like it has been freezing!   The plan was for housework/cleaning/writing, but none of that happened.  We looked after our little grandson for a couple of hours and much of the rest of the time I spent in the kitchen.   

For such a cold day I decided on cream of mushroom soup for our lunch.  It’s easy and delicious – if you like mushrooms!


I used a punnet of chestnut mushrooms, a couple of  large shallots, two veggie Oxo cubes, a pinch of salt, a couple of twists of the black pepper grinder, one small potato (not in the photo, top left) and a handful of parsley (plus boiling water for the stock and then, right at the end before I blitzed it all in the saucepan with a hand-held blender, I added a good dollop of Elmleigh double cream (this is vegetable double ‘cream’). 

It’s very easy to make:  I sautéed the finely chopped shallots in garlic butter and a little rape seed oil, then I added the chopped potato followed by the sliced mushrooms and the stock (sufficient to cover the mushrooms and a little more). I simmered the soup for about 15 minutes after which I removed from the heat, added the chopped parsley and cream, and then blended it and finally adjusted the seasoning (just a tad more salt) and re-heated.  I served it with a crusty baguette.  There was sufficient for four medium sized servings or two very generous servings – husband and I finished it!


I can’t remember where I found this recipe but over the years I’ve tweaked here and there  but apologies if anyone recognises it as their own recipe. 

Some might call this a pudding (or dessert) especially if it is served hot with either custard, cream or ice cream. Some might call it a cake if served cold, and with a cup of tea or coffee.

You will need plain flour, baking powder, caster sugar, Muscovado (dark brown) sugar, eggs, butter or margarine, two or three medium sixed sweet apples (I use English Cox or Braeburn) and ground almonds. 

First, I prepare the cake tin.  I grease it and then add a circle of baking parchment to the bottom of the tin, and then line the sides and then add a 2nd circle of baking parchment to the bottom of the tin.

Now set the oven at 160C (this is for my fan oven, your oven might be slightly different, but it’s a medium heat for cakes.) 

Next peel and core the apples and slice them finely.  Now, using a knob of butter (or margarine), in a large frying pan (photo top left) saute the apples and add a two or three dessertspoons of Muscavado sugar which makes the toffee coating for the apples.  Once all the apples have been coated in the toffee, switch off the heat and leave them in the frying pan while you prepare the cake mixture.

You will need three fresh medium sized eggs.  Weigh the eggs and whatever is their combined weight, weigh the other ingredients, i.e. the same weight in caster sugar, the same weight in butter or margaine, and then when it comes to the flour and the ground almonds, use half flour and half ground almonds to make up the total quantity to equal the weight of the three eggs, plus a rounded teaspoon of baking powder. 

Next ‘cream’ the butter and caster sugar, add the eggs (lightly beaten), and finally the flour, baking powder, and the ground almonds (already mixed together.)

Put this mixture into your prepared tin, give it a little shake to even the mixture, and now add the apples to the top (photo top right) with a little of the toffee liquid.  

Place the tin in the centre of the pre-heated oven and bake for about 45 minutes.  After 30 minutes check the cake with a skewer to see if it’s cooked, but I find that 45 minutes is about right. 

Once out of the oven (photo bottom left) leave the cake to cool in the tin (unless you are serving it for a pudding and want it hot!) and then remove, place cake on a stand and, once completely cold, sprinkle with a little icing sugar (photo bottom right) before serving.  This is delicious served with cream or ice cream or, if hot with custard.

Supper this evening was homemade chicken curry followed by a slice of the toffee apple cake – lovely cold weather food!  What have you been eating today?



I am still having computer problems.  My computer guru came this morning (Monday) and took the machine away and later he phoned to tell me that there is a serious problem; the upshot is I am having a new computer – I just hope he will be able to retrieve everything from the hard drive (I do have backup but it’s only when something goes seriously wrong that you can check whether backup actually ‘works’) but it won’t be ready for a few days. 


In the meantime, I’ve managed to download photographs onto my husband’s computer and from there to my blog. 

It has been a learning curve as steep as The Ness (photo above), the name – meaning ‘nose’ – of this particular cliff at the entrance to the River Teign here in South Devon where we were on Saturday morning.  It was bitterly cold but as I’d taken this shot against the sun, it threw the cliff into silhouette.  From there we walked along the sea front, passing the pier and then we moved inland, out of the wind.

We were on our way to find a fairly new café /bar which had been recommended to us; we always seem to end up having coffee somewhere, and why not on such a chilly day …


We ordered coffee and shared a toasted tea cake as we’d not long since had our breakfast. When we went in there were only eight other people seated, having meals or coffee, but within ten minutes the place was completely full, all 22 places had been taken and some people coming in were leaving because no seats were vacant.  I have found that this often happens when we enter any kind of establishment, café or shop – a place that is empty or almost empty soon fills up. I reckon we should be paid to visit these places!

Although it is called The Lemon Tree, inside the walls are painted in a vibrant lime green. Why have they not called it The Lime Tree? 

We made our way back to our car and saw, for the first time, a new building on Teignmouth Sea Front. 


The Pavilions is a theatre-cum-community venue, which opened last year.  It might be nice inside – I cannot comment as we did not go in – but the outside is very plain and although the cladding has perhaps been designed to withstand the salty sea air, I thought that somewhere we’d lost our way with both domestic and public architecture, and thought how much nicer this elegant rows of houses and guest houses (photo below) looked, further along the sea front.   My photo (above) shows only one corner of this new building – I didn’t take others because of road works and parked cars obscuring the view.  Is a glorified Lego-look block the best we can manage, even on a limited budget? No doubt it will win architecture awards.


This style of architecture (photo above) is referred to as a “palace front” where a row of regular houses is grouped together to provide one with the impression of one large, palatial building.  Such architecture dates from the early 18th century – there are examples in Bath and other spa towns – and palace fronts were achieved with the aid of a central pediment, plus pilasters and columns, and even some projections along the building line.  How lovely these long elegant rows of houses look. 

Even though it was bitingly cold, we noticed spring flowers in bloom in the flower beds – they really cheered up a dull, winter’s day.

Just before getting back into the car I walked to the end of the Point, which as the name suggests, juts out into the estuary of the River Teign where the river meets the sea, and looked across the river to the village of Shaldon.



We when made our way home and, in the late afternoon, we watched Davis Cup Tennis from Ottawa. We’re not particularly tennis fans, but it made for a cosy afternoon by the fireside.


Yesterday morning my husband first went to collect the paper from our local shop and then made  brought me breakfast in bed.  I felt well and truly spoilt.  Porridge, the paper, and a fresh cup of coffee in my new cup from China Blue.

How I enjoy reading Stella magazine – free with the newspaper – which always has interesting fashion pages, articles and home style pages.

You can’t beat a bowl of hot porridge (oatmeal) on a cold winter’s morning, especially with Lyle’s Golden Syrup (not maple syrup – perish the thought!) and a cup of hot, strong coffee in my new pink China Blue cup!

In the afternoon I read …

I think the title suggests that it is Alexandra Shulman’s 100th year, but no, she is not a centenarian: Vogue is!

For lunch I made a mushroom and pasta bake, soothing and warm and delicious for cold weather, which we had with small onion baguettes and, later, we watched the film Chocolat (with Juliette Binoche, made in 2000) on Netflix and, in the evening, more Davis Cup tennis.  No housework done, very little anything done, but a lovely, relaxing weekend.   I hope your weekend was as relaxing and as enjoyable.

Monday 6th February 2017

I would just like to add that today is the anniversary of H M The Queen’s accession to the throne on 6th February 1952.  It is incorrect to say “congratulations”  as this is also the anniversary of her father’s death, but perhaps a simple “thank you” is in order for having served her country and the commonwealth for 65 years.  Thank you, Your Majesty.




Dear Friends,

Monday morning, here, UK time 10.07 am.  My computer guru has just called and taken away my computer to see if he can find out what the problems are.   Meanwhile, I am still using my husband’s computer but am unable to post photographs, or do any emailing.  It does make us realize how much we rely on technology when things go wrong.

As soon as my computer is repaired (or I have had to buy a new one, which wouldn’t surprise me in the least) I will be back writing again. 

I would just like to say that since I started this blog last August I have had some lovely comments from people as far apart as America, Australia and New Zealand, and even friends much closer to where I live in Torbay, UK, and for that I thank you all very much. 

Back again as soon as possible,