Monday, 28 February 2011

The Month of February

A relaxing Kentish Countryside weekend at home. Popping in to see Granny - holding her hand for an hour. A 'Clear up Christmas' Saturday lunch, clothes shopping with mum, A 'Chinese New Year' takeaway followed by playing Chinese Chequers. A brisk Sunday morning walk followed by coq au vin and Queen of Eve's pudding.
The first farewell for a dear friend who's leaving for New York at Bedford and Strand for old times sake and then Great Queen Street for a British food extravaganza.
A Forest Hill supper with friends who live here too. How lovely to be able to walk there... and back. I'd decided to make Florentine's - oops should have made them a little earlier. Touch and go whether the chocolate would have hardened enough in time...

Valentine's Day
Eating Julia Child's Beef Bourginon - oh it is delicious. Exchanging bookish gifts. From me to Warmth The Food Thesarus (well that was more a joint gift) and Clandestine in Chile by Gabriel Garcia Marguez. Warmth to me Julia Child's Cookbook and my very own copy of Julie and Julia.
Buying a new camera...
Finding a great pair of purple suede LK Bennett kitten heels for £60.
A great Friday night out. I started out wishing we were staying in, this increased when entering the bar but then... We had a seat. And the in house band started playing and it was just a great evening.
Final farewell for the dear friend, who's leaving for New York, at The White Swan a lovely small pub that she hired out for the evening.
Visiting other dear friends and their three week old baby...
Eating alot of cake in one day - four slices of four different types - oops! Delicious.
Oh the joys of Liberty Stationery room.....
Off to Worthing to visit Granny Warmth and delve into the Warmth family archives. Looking at very old marriage and birth certificates. Enjoying finding out about their family history.
On to Brighton Hotel du Vin and the most gorgeous hotel room with roll top bath and walk in shower. I didn't want to leave...
A Persephone Reading Weekend. We were out alot but it was still a PRW. One of the house viewings we went on had a row of Persephones. On Saturday we visited Twin and the Blessings and she has most Persephones and is the reason I know about theme too. Although I couldn't read many posts on the internet I joined in by reading my book!

Reading A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair for Persephone Reading Week. Sense and Sensibility for Book Club. Round About a Pound A Week by Maud Pember Reeves for Persephone Reading Weekend.
Films watched Milk
Baked - Delia's Ginger Nut biscuits - most eaten that night. ooops. Nigella's Florentine's. Eat Me Cookie Girl's Chocolate and Hazlenut muffins. A repeat of Hummingbird Bakery Fruit Nut Loaf.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Round About a Pound a Week

I haven't finished Round About a Pound a Week yet but I'm already finding it fascinating.

"Had they been well housed, well fed, well clothed, and well tended, from birth, what kind of raw material would they have shown themselves to be?" Maud Pember Reeves Round About a Pound a Week

This was first published in 1913. Polly Toynbee's 2008 introduction to this book.

'Social mobility has ground to a halt in the last twenty-five years. Birth is now almost certainly destiny. Some people may escape - but only in the same sense that some people may win the lottery....Britain now has the same distribution of wealth as it had in 1937 - and it's going backwards. At the present pace of growing inequality, we will return to 1913.' Polly Toynbee

Saturday, 26 February 2011

A House in the Country

I think I can now answer the 'Who are your most likeable characters in a Persephone novel?'

Cressida and Tori

'Kindness.' Cressida echoed his words. 'But it is so easy, Tori. Kindness is the simplest thing in the world.'
'For you, yes!' Tori said ... 'For you it is easy to love, to be kind, because always you have the will towards kindness. But for everyone it is not so. I would say that there are a thousand, a million persons in the world for each one who is truly kind. For kindness means more than just - just the absence of unkindness! There are, perhaps, not as many as one unkind person in every million. But it is not enough just to be not unkind.' Jocelyn Playfair A House in the Country

The Steward

They are both kind. They are both intelligent. They both love. They are both welcoming.
Who is your most likeable Persephone character and why?

Friday, 25 February 2011

Miss Buncle's Book

Aah my Persephone Secret Santa. Miss Buncle's Book. Village life and how we show ourselves - in private and in public. There are many characters whom we meet and as a reader we get to see them in both spheres. We think we're showing who we are but are we? We think we're hiding who we really are but are we?

There's silly Mrs Greensleeves
'She was a pretty woman and she liked pretty things. The pink satin quilt, the frilled pillows with their pink silk bows, the breakfast tray with its white cloth and pink china were carefully chosen. Mrs Greensleeves liked to think they expressed her personality, and perhaps they did. Nobody saw her in bed except her maid... but the mirror was adjusted so that she could see herself and she enjoyed the picture.'

The vicar - trying to live just off his stipend however....
'Ernest... had never been poor, and he was not really poor now. This poverty of his... was merely a sort of a game. Sometimes it was a troublesome, worrying sort of game, but there was nothing bitter, and real, and grinding about it.'

Our eponymous heroine Barbara Buncle.

'Barbara got up and had a hot bath. Her new garments had arrived... and Barbara decided to wear one of her new frocks this afternoon. A bath seemed a fitting preliminary to the donning of the slinky, soft wine-coloured creation which lay curled up in its neat brown box all padded out with rustling tissue paper.
When she had bathed, and dressed, and finished doing her hair, Barbara slipped the frock very carefully over her head and turned to look at herself in the long mirror... She was quite startled at the change in her appearance - it was Elizabeth Wade who looked back at her from the quicksilver depths of the mirror (not Barbara Buncle at all).'

A gentle book yet on reflection a whole lot more than meets the eye.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Mitford and Maud

Firstly Mitford, as it's still winter, pulled out of my favourite turquoise cashmere beret...
Tonia who writes The Fairly Constant Reader.
Thank you all for your lovely comments and for reading this blog.

And Maud,
As many of you know Persephone Reading Weekend is fast approaching. I'm joining in with this by reading Maud Pember Reeves Round About a Pound a Week. It's part of my 'reading a book which isn't escapism but is reality'. I'm not sure I'll have finished it by Sunday, and I think it may be a book to mull over before commenting on. So... I've planned a few Persephone post for this weekend. Alas we're away at Twin's this weekend so my access to internet will be limited, although this seems fitting as it's through Twin that I knew about Persephone.

Round About a Pound a Week - end paper

Thank you to Claire and Verity for organising this weekend.

Happy Persephone Reading Weekend x

Monday, 21 February 2011

Just Talking

I'm getting ready for Persephone Reading Weekend hosted by Verity and Clare and was reminded of this quote. It seems fitting as Warmth and I both have the week off work to spend together in London.

'But - but if you can get so interested in a conversation with someone you're in love with that you forget about wanting to kiss them, then - well then it looks as if you're safe to go ahead...
She thought of the dozens of married couples she knew, who were apparently quite happy... but who never seemed to want to be alone together. Society was made up of people like that, she thought; people who had to run around and go to parties and be constantly surrounded by other people; couples who, if they were alone, would even turn the wireless rather than face the prospect of just talking. And yet life was not long enough, no time could be too long, to talk to someone whose mind answered your mind, so that conversation was like a double set of thoughts, carrying each other along indefinately...
I don't mean that a perfect marriage consists of endless conversations! I only meant that the thought of endless conversation wouldn't be a sort of bugbear. And, of course, one would want to run around and do things with other people sometimes. But the best part of the party would be the drive home!'
Jocelyn Playfair A House in the Country


We went to a great party on Saturday night and yes - the best part of it was travelling home together - discussing the evening.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Books, Birthdays and Balloons

I was undecided upon whether to mention my first blogging birthday and then when Hannah celebrated hers by giving a gift I had the way, and the gift, to celebrate.

So, if you fancy a read of Nancy Mitford's Wigs on the Green then....
Please leave a message below and I'll pull the name out of a 'saucer tilted with flowers' type hat. Open worldwide.


Thank you so much for travelling with me on this journey x

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Influencing Mass Thought

A House in the Country was first published in 1944. This passage seems to live throughout centuries and countries.

'In passing it struck Charles that one of the differences between totalitarianism and democracy was that the dictators told their people what they must think, while democratic leaders set out to show theirs what they were thinking. Whether or not these two methods of influencing mass thought came to the same thing in the end remained to be seen.' Jocelyn Playfair A House in the Country

25th January 2011

Monday, 14 February 2011

A Kiss of Tenderness

'And the lutenist understands that this is what she wants, not a kiss of tenderness, not an insubstatial caress, but the kiss which is all-consuming, which marks an ending of all that has been and the beginning of all that is to come.' Rose Tremain Music and Silence

Happy St. Valentine's Day x

Friday, 11 February 2011

Expensive Imagination


"You have an expensive imagination. Not many people are going to buy you bird cages." Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany's

bird cages

What's your expensive imagination spending money on?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Flowers in Wrong Weather

It's February, we could do with some flowers around the garden and this follows on so well from Antonia White's passage earlier this week.

Flowers in Wrong Weather

Snowdrops, crocuses and hellebore,
which last year must have done there shy, brave thing
unobserved by me, are out again this year.


Now it was a too-mild February morning.
The flowers looked misplaced, without some ice in the air
or bullying wind to give them their full meaning.

Or was it just that there was nobody to share
the annual miracle with? Crocuses piercing
the soil with a palpable pang; the dear

droop of snowdrops; hellebore
stoically averted: all missing the welcome and blessing
of the one who had planted them there.

Christopher Reid


Monday, 7 February 2011

Rush of Words

The second book read for Virago Reading Week was Antonia White's Frost in May.
Much has been written on it, so I shall not.
'She read on and on, enraptured. She could not understand half, but it excited her oddly, like words in a foreign language sung to a beautiful air. She followed the poem vaguely as she followed the Latin in her missal, guessing, inventing meanings for herself, intoxicated by the mere rush of words. And yet she felt she did understand, not with her eyes or her brain, but with some faculty she did not even know she possessed.' Antonia White Frost in May

When I read this it so struck a chord with me.

Do you remember that feeling?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Clapping of Wings

Virago Reading week may be over but what I like about blog events is that they live on. Carolyn wrote, like all the Virago posts, a wonderful thought provoking post. This sentence really spoke to me 'I don't want to spend another year just reading comfort books' . This was partly the reason why when I found Union Street in the second hand bookshop I picked it up and bought it. And now why I'm posting this.

It's the story of seven girls/women who live on Union Street. It is definately not a comfort read. This is real poverty. Not the 'we used to be rich but now we're living in a tumbling pile, at least we have Granny's fur stole to keep us warm' type poor. This is 'thank my lucky stars I hopefully will never live like this and what can I do to make sure other people don't too' type poverty.

There's young Kelly Brown having the childhood which makes me want to scoop her up and away from it. Yet she still finds moments of pleasure.

'Suddenly she came out on to a field of brilliant, white light. There were seagulls there, hundreds of them, standing motionless in pools of reflected cloud.... Then with a shout of joy, she ran towards them.
One by one with the clapping of wings, and then in a whole flock, they rose up and burst like spray in the air above her head.' Pat Barker Union Street

There are young mothers in loveless, aggressive marriages where the husband drinks all the money and wonders if he'll ever get another job. There is still the space for the profound, holding her new daughter, staring out of the hospital window.

'Now she held her daughter in her arms. And the thought that inside that tiny body was a womb like hers with eggs waiting to be released, caused the same fear, the same wonder. She walked across to the window holding the child in her arms.
My daughter.'

There's the mother who takes her own daughter to a back street to see the lady who 'help[s] girls out of a jam', knowing that in doing she's risking her life.

And then there's Alice. Alice Bell. Eats nothing, wraps herself in newspaper so that she has enough money for a proper funeral, not a pauper's funeral. Alice who the neighbours care for, but whose son and wife don't. Alice whose story speaks to my heart and soul.

'Inside herself, she was still sixteen. She had all the passion, all the silliness.'

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?
Please if you read no more just read Alice Bell's story.