Friday 22 November 2019

Secrets and Perception

Big Bear and his chums - nothing to do with this post, but I had forgotten this photograph was on my telephone and it is just so cute, I decided to use it.

This book arrived in the post this morning, along with a note from the bookseller, describing it as 'A rather sad specimen...'

I am thrilled with the book and delighted with the condition.   It dates from 1934 and, like all the very best recipe books, it has been used!  Surely that is the whole point of a book of recipes?    The chutney pages have splashes and marks on them, some recipes are marked with very large stars, or ticks, especially any which mention marrow. 

I assume that the woman who owned it must have had quite a few air-ship-sized ones to deal with each year - as do I, the difference being that mine are usually overlooked courgettes.

There are recipes for cures, tonics, ointments, liniments and embrocations.  Hints and tips, plus a recipe for shoemaker's paste.       '...should your fruit trees be troubled by American Blight you can sow common nasturtiums under the trees and let them climb all about them.  In 2 years time there will not be a trace of blight left'. 

Suffering from jaundice?  Remember that a handful of earth worms are fatal to it (and possibly also to the patient).    Nine young swallows alive can be compounded into an excellent ointment...doesn't say what it will cure.

It is an excellent book, thank goodness that it didn't get thrown away or burnt, as so many of these books must have done.    The condition is perfect, for my purposes.    Long may book sellers think otherwise - it means that I got my hands on this little treasure for just a few pounds.

The foreword was written by Edith Olivier, author, who was related to Laurence Olivier through her paternal grandfather, I believe.

Her style of writing is very enjoyable and I will certainly be looking out for some of the books she wrote - as long as I can find them at bargain prices, of course.

The log burner is blazing away, just as it was the other evening when I took this snap.   The cats and my granddaughter were all basking in the heat, Toby was around the far side, on the kitchen rug in front of the stove.    Double-sided stove, double the pleasure. 

No prizes for guessing what I will be doing this evening.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Sunday 17 November 2019

Books & the Countryside

Even on a cold dank and dismal November day I still enjoy my morning walks with my dog, Toby.  Almost every morning, whether there be rain or sunshine, sees us walking through the farmland which surrounds Parsonage Cottage and the surrounding three villages.    It is a special time and certainly outranks even that first cup of coffee of the day - and I really do enjoy my coffee!

We rarely see a soul, and that is good.

Down the lane, then either under or over the disused railway line, according to how much rain has fallen(!) past the beautiful old watermill - if the lane is not under a foot of water - then up the hill and past the old manor house and into the fields.

I enjoy the sense of history, the glimpses of the past, which it is easy to sense along the way.  The walk through the fields is the most exhilarating part.   Big open fields with tiny cottages and barns dotted around in the far distance.    Space to breathe, time to think.   To let my thoughts roam and ramble.

Fresh clean air, sunshine if we are lucky.   It makes my heart sing with pleasure.   Sounds silly, but it is true.    We often catch sight of hare, deer, occasionally a fox, sometimes an owl out for a last snack before bedtime.     I have walked these fields for almost a decade and a half so I know them pretty well, I have discovered those places where the sweet violets hide, the little patch of wild strawberries, and where you are always sure to find some giant puffballs.   I have learnt which fields always flood after heavy rain, followed the ancient footpaths through fields and tried to imagine all the people who walked along them through the centuries.

The small local church perched up on a hill, where the bank next to the little lane is eroding because rabbits have dug around in it for so many centuries.   Sometimes I find chunks of very old bone sliding down towards the road.    I gather them up, go back into the old churchyard and then drop them down an old rabbit hole - away from the bank, but in roughly the same area - saying a prayer for whoever they belonged to as I do so.    I have sent a message to the new young vicar to see whether he would prefer to do the biz himself.

We cut through farmyards and past an old gatehouse follow the track along by the medieval barn, then walk along one side or another of the river, unless the ground is really saturated, in which case we take the farm track because that way isn't quite so squelchy.

Every walk has something magical and beautiful about it, even on the wet days.

But, hey, enough about the walks.   What about the books?

I love books, you all know that by now.

I normally have three or four books on the go at the same time.    Parsonage Cottage is a long, single storied house, so I have a book for snatched moments when I have time to read, in the conservatory, and another one down at the very far end of the house, in the bedroom.   There is always a paperback book left next to the bathtub, because I do prefer a bath to the shower - can't read in the shower!!  Then my craft room normally has a stack of books left on the desk, according to whatever I am researching at the time - could be old recipes, local history, country churches, etc.   Books, glorious books.

Sue, over on My Quiet Life in Suffolk has been conducting an experiment in local food, trying to eat as locally, and with as few air miles, as possible.

This got me thinking about all the local food producers around here - and there are lots - which then led me to thinking about my Lincolnshire recipe book collection.    So of course I had to pull them off the shelves to have a browse. 

Ten or fifteen years ago I would have laughed at the very idea of collecting old cookery books, then I picked up my first old handwritten one, at a country auction.    That was the catalyst that set me off - first of all looking out for other handwritten ones, then when they became far too expensive for me to justify, I began watching for Lincolnshire recipe books.   The old and well used ones are the best, especially if they have notes and indicators of whether or not a recipe was enjoyed.

Right, that is me all talked out. 

I need to go and read a book.

I hope your weekend has been a good one, and that the coming week is everything you could wish for.

ps  These are some of the things which the grandchildren and I made for the craft fair - fire lighters, bird feeders, twiggy stars, hyacinth bulbs, beeswax candles, etc.   There were very few things left at the end, so I think they should be chuffed with themselves.     

Monday 11 November 2019


This end of the year always seem to fly by at twice the normal speed.    Admittedly I have put in quite a lot of time in making chutneyand so on as I try to deal with the glut of green tomatoes(!), making some bottles of Christmas Pudding Vodka, Bramble Gin, mincemeat and assorted tasty treats.     The pantry shelves are groaning with delights, most of which will be making their way to the church sale this weekend.

I have also helped and encouraged the grandchildren to put some time and effort into making pine cone bird feeders, twiggy stars, natural fire lighters, and so on.   I have just about run out of steam now and that mad and seasonal need to craft and create has almost ended!   I inflict this madness on myself each year, I both love it and hate it.

This afternoon I attended the monthly meeting at the village hall.     Our wonderful local historian brought this marvellous photograph in to show us.    Our tiny village hall, way back in 1915, when the ladies were gathered to sew and make things for the men who were away fighting in the First World War.

There we were in our denims, sweatshirts and boots, all so casually dressed for warmth and practicality - no doubt the women in the photograph would have been shocked.       They all look so smart in their hats and beautiful white blouses.   

The hall looks nothing like the photograph now.   The oil lamps have gone, the panelling, balcony, coat rack and staircase have all been removed and what was a very characterful hall was remodelled and updated thirty or forty years ago and has become a small, bland and anonymous building.

We chatted about some local history and then Miss Read handed out some worksheets which I had typed up for her.     Once a teacher, always a teacher.   She had written a short story, which was really a bit of a quiz, with about two dozen town and city names/part names hidden among the story.  It sometimes took quite a bit of lateral thinking, but it was great fun.

Then we played dominoes which was much more fun than it sounds.    After we had locked the hall, I went out with a friend to deliver the parish magazines around the three local villages/hamlets.   Then had to race home to cook tea for the grandchildren; thank goodness for beans on toast.

Yesterday we decided not to attend the usual Remembrance Parade in one of the local towns.  We had decided to visit a tiny church which is no longer used as a church but has been sold on.

This was why we made the trek.   It is the only Commonwealth War Grave in the old churchyard and it marks the grave of an unknown sailor who was washed ashore and buried here during the war.  Eventually they established his identity - the uncle of a Scottish friend of ours.   Our friend has never been able to make a visit to his uncle's grave.

It was nice to see that someone else had visited.    Possibly a representative of the Merchant Navy Association, given the markings on the wooden cross they had left.     As I stood up and looked out across the fields I could see another of my favourite redundant churches.   Three of his shipmates were buried in that churchyard, so he has company not too far away.

I suppose that now I have all the craft work and preserving out of the way I will just have to knuckle down and do some housework. 

Noooo-o, so boring!

Wishing you all a happy week.