Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Hotel du Lac

It's time for Diane's Tuesday Intros where we post the opening lines of a book of our choice. 
Anita Brookner died last week and I have been interested to read the articles about her in the press. I haven't read her books for a while. I own several but I mostly borrowed her books from the library. They almost invariably featured a lonely, single woman in a tweed skirt and twinset.  I could never be sure when I borrowed another book whether or not I had read it before! I felt certain that the main character, the quiet spinster, (I can't describe her as the 'heroine') was Brookner herself.
She had only been writing for a few years when she won the Booker Prize with 'Hotel du Lac' in 1984. Two years later there was an excellent tv production filmed at the Park Hotel on Lake Lucerne with Anna Massey perfectly cast as Edith Hope, a writer of romantic fiction.
  The opening scene is of the Swiss lakes in autumn, a melancholy view. 
If you look at my share my garden blog you will see that grey is very much my colour of the month!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Tuesday Intros. Mrs Palfrey

Last week my choice was a book of short stories by one of my favourite authors, the English writer Elizabeth Taylor (1912-1975).  I know that some readers much prefer a novel to a short story although I think that this writer is equally skilled at both.
This novel is about gentle and genteel Mrs Palfrey, recently widowed.  It was made into a film starring Joan Plowright, (Baroness Olivier, the third wife of  Sir Laurence Olivier) that captures the quality of the book exactly. Both book and film are a joy.

It's a territory that I know well - I've lived in London and know what a rainy Sunday afternoon in January can do to the spirit! Right from the start I really cared about Mrs Palfrey and wanted everything to go well for her. If you haven't read any of Elizabeth Taylor's books then I hope this will tempt you.
Thank you to Diane for hosting the weekly Tuesday Intros. Take a look at her  Bibliophile by the Sea site  to find out what other people are reading and recommending.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Cold weather clothing

Some days I wake up and come over all Henry Ford - any colour, so long as it's black! This morning the sun shone and I was eager to be outside working in the garden. But the wind, a strong easterly, was absolutely bitter and, although I was warmly clad, the best place to be was in the kitchen. When I'm baking I always wear a pinny. How old-fashioned! Yep - that's me. I've got three!
This pinafore was one of the goodies on a knife skills course that I attended with one of my daughters. It was a great day out. I was surprised by the number of young men on the course and also by how serious and skilled they were, not to mention helpful - one of them did my washing up while I was still pulling bones out of my fish! Patti's Visible Monday coming at the start of the week it isn't unusual to find me in a pinny.
I'm dressed for warmth in high-waisted trousers, a wool/linen mix from Cos. They have rather nice design details, the seaming that gives a snug waist area opens into belt loops and then into flat pockets over the hips and front pleats.
The woollen v-neck jumper from French Connection tucks into the high waist. It's oh, so cosy. The ancient blouse with Peter Pan collar (old habits die hard!) is from Les Prairies de Paris. I wear the black necklace a great deal because, although it is chunky, it is very light and comfortable and was a present from my elder daughter.
Not especially visible, Patti, but warm!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Repeating patterns

Connie of Snow in the Air wonders what our earliest fashion memories are. She posted her own early memory, a pattern of children's dungarees together with a recent photo of herself dressed in something similar - minus the inner leg poppers!
My earliest memory is of a white linen two-piece, plain pants and a top smocked in blue thread. I remember this outfit because I managed to get some black tar on the pants. You could say that those pants are etched on my memory! Version 2 in this Simplicity pattern is similar to my white outfit and I used this pattern for my daughters and also to make presents for friends. I would buy offcuts of Viyella fabric, only one yard was needed, and a little time spent sewing the smocked yoke.
I made most of our daughters' clothes when they were small, dressing them much the same way that I had been dressed in Peter Pan collars and smocked fronts.
Here I'm at the Highland Games with big brother, wearing a Fair Isle cardigan and oh-so-tight pigtails! The tartan shoulder bag is my brand new acquisition.

It used to make economic sense to make your own clothes, ready-mades were expensive to buy. These days it's the other way about, a handmade dress, by the time you've bought the pattern, fabric, thread and buttons, never mind factoring in the time spent, can be a costly affair.
Of course, making something by hand is an act of love.
And the home-made dresses made my rascals look positively angelic!

Every month a couple of magazines come in the post, they rush me through the year because they are always a month ahead. Elle's April edition has arrived
 and I note that Connie's outfit is very of the moment with plenty of dungarees featured,

I love the look of this M&S jumpsuit. A WHITE jumpsuit! Practical? Perhaps not.
(And I covet those shoes!)
I love a tomboy and an androgynous look, perhaps because when I wasn't wearing a smocked dress I would be outside climbing trees in my brother's outgrown jumpers and kilt!
Looks as though white shoes are in, folks!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Tuesday Intros. The Devastating Boys

Last week I bought this book in an Oxfam bookshop. I've read the contents before because I have Elizabeth Taylor's  book of complete short stories. (The British author NOT the actress.) She is one of my favourite writers, both her short stories and her novels. Many authors can write one or the other form well, but not both. That's not the case with Elizabeth Taylor, long or short they are all great. I'm pleased with my new purchase, eleven stories and just over two hundred pages, it is easy in the hand and the cover suits the writing well, very English, gentle and domestic.
Detail from, 'Love in the Mist' by Nancy Sharp.
The complete book of stories is cumbersome but it has an introduction by Elizabeth Taylor's daughter, Joanna Kingham, which provides some delightful background information. She tells us that many of the stories have an autobiographical element. The title story of my new purchase, 'The Devastating Boys', is of two little boys who come for a fortnights holiday. It is funny and bitter-sweet and I was thrilled to learn that it was a true story and that the boys stayed in touch with Mr Taylor for the rest of his life.
Thanks to Diane at Bibliophile by the sea for hosting Tuesday Intros. Take a look at the books that are being suggested.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mothering Sunday

We went to church every Mothering Sunday when I was a child where I would be given a small bunch of violets to present to my mother. I don't think this tradition continues. I looked in my garden this morning but no violets are in flower just yet. Ceremonies and presents were very simple in post-war Britain. This photo of my mother attending to my hair was taken in the mid 1940's.
Bruce, our Boxer dog is the puppy on my knee, he was a loyal companion throughout my childhood. I'm sitting on the wall that divided the garden of our weekend cottage with the paddock where the district nurse kept her donkey. My hair was usually kept tightly confined in pigtails. When the pigtails were loosened my hair became a mass of little ridges, like the roof of a dog's mouth!
A few years ago I went in search of the cottage and found that it had changed out of all recognition.
I had difficulty maintaining a pregnancy, but eventually in 1972 succeeded in carrying a healthy daughter to term. 

Seven years later, after considerable help from the NHS, our second daughter was born.


Illustration copyright Rosemary Murphy
Our daughters make my life complete.
And I am immensely proud of the women they have become. 


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Tuesday Intros.

It's Bibliophile by the sea's day to host Tuesday Intros, where we share the opening sentence or so of the book that we are currently reading. I selected this Margaret Drabble book from the mobile library that stops outside our house every fortnight. Although they regularly replenish the stock from the central library the choice on offer is not very great - sometimes I choose a book and then realise that I've read it before! Not the case this time.
The book was first published in 2000 and has a prologue set in the present 
before the novel proper starts back in the past.
I'm interested in this book because the writer and I are of a similar age and background and I'm looking forward to learning how much of her territory I may recognise.  The novel is about her mother and is a work of 'faction' - a mixture of fact and fiction. Sometimes faction worries me, taking me outside the story to query the 'truth' of the writing.

At the weekend our book group discussed, 'We Are Not Ourselves', my Tuesday Intro choice of last week. I learned that it also is a work of faction, the writer Matthew Thomas' life being closely described in his novel by the son, Connor. 
Someone in our book group (called 'FAB" for food and books!) always gives an introduction and background to the book and we all bring a contribution to the sit-down supper so that it's never too much work for whoever is hosting. Friends, food and a good old jaw about books make for a great evening. We all thought that the book was well-written and moving, if a tad too long! It prompted a lively discussion, praise for the NHS and the relief that, as yet, we are all compos mentis!