Psmith – P.G. Wodehouse

I’m way behind with writing about the books I’ve been reading lately so I’m just going to mention that I really enjoyed reading P.G. Wodehouse’s books featuring his character Psmith. I can’t remember which bloggers mentioned enjoying these books fairly recently, was it you?

Anyway, I downloaded them from Project Gutenberg onto my Kindle because I suspected they might be perfect holiday reading- and they were. The first one Mike and Psmith kept me entertained on the ferry journey from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and I read the others whilst in Holland. Psmith in the City and Psmith Journalist, they’re a hoot.

P. G. Wodehouse’s books are available for download here.

Wodehouse said that he got the idea for his character Psmith when he heard that a schoolmaster had asked a pupil of his how he was and the pupil had answered that he ‘just kept getting thinnah and thinnah’ and so the character Psmith was born. I always get a clear view of anybody I’m reading about, usually completely imaginary people depending on their descriptions but as soon as I read the ‘thinnah and thinnah’ bit it was a schoolboy version of the Tory M.P. Jacob Rees-Mogg who appeared in my mind. He’s only missing a monocle as far as I’m concerned.

jacob rees-mogg

Psmith to a T – for me anyway.

Hoof Trimming in Process

Family life in the Dutch side of my family revolves around looking after the four horses. The horses are all getting on, in fact they age between 16 and 38. The photo below is of Odin the pony, he’s the oldest and he had a bit of a cold that day but it cleared up fine. You definitely don’t want to stand too close to a horse with the sniffles!

odin

It’s unusual for horses to live well into their 30s but these ones are so well looked after that it has prolonged their lives. They’re stabled every night and whenever it’s chilly, if they had lived outside on icy fields they would have succumbed to ill health long ago. Tara, the only mare and tending to fat as mares do, needed to have her hooves trimmed and my niece Kirsty went on a course to learn how to do it herself. Unfortunately you can’t see her properly, they are action photos, it’s hard and dangerous work.

hooves

Kirsty has her mum Hanneke helping to hold Tara as still as possible, but she lost patience for a minute there.

hooves

It’s a family effort when Kirsty’s dad – my brother John – steps in to help to smooth off the edges using a rasp.

hooves

Jack and I stood well clear of it all, outwith kicking distance anyway! Those horses are really big and I have a sneaking suspicion that horses resent ‘being in captivity’ and really hanker after running free and independent. Odin makes escape bids every now and again, despite his great age and the life of Riley that he leads.

The Chelsea Flower Show 2016

Amazingly it’s that time of the year again, The Chelsea Flower Show, for me that means the beginning of summer. It always creeps up on me and yet again I’ve neglected to get organised and actually go to it instead of just watching on TV. Mind you I suspect that you probably see more of it on TV than you do if you are actually there, what with the crowds and everything. So I’ve been watching it on TV and deciding which are my favourite gardens from the various categories. If you haven’t been able to see any of it you should be able to view it here.

My favourite garden in the large show garden category is The Husqvarna Garden, designed by Charlie AlboneChelsea garden You can read about it here. Sadly it only got a silver gilt medal.

I also love Jekka McVicar’s A Modern Apothecary which you can read about here. Can you believe she didn’t get a gold medal?

Chelsea garden

You an look at all of the large show gardens here.

I also like Ishihara Kazuyuki’s garden in the artisan garden category. It got a gold medal although to me it isn’t as lovely as his gardens from past years. I just love acers (Japanese maples) and his designs always feature them.

Chelsea garden

The Hunter’s Moon by Ursula Bloom

The Hunter's Moon cover

The Hunter’s Moon by Ursula Bloom was published in 1969, my copy is a Romance Book Club edition. I must say that I do like the book cover.

The setting is 1951 and Diana is a young woman who has been brought up by very old-fashioned parents. Her father is a miserable man, a bit of a bully and his wife is afraid of him. Diane’s boyfriend John is ex-RAF, a World War 2 pilot who is having a hard time settling down to the mundanity of civilian life, working in a London office, poorly paid and bored stiff.

Diana’s father doesn’t really approve of anyone, except her old school friend Sarah, she’s from a wealthy family and has married well too. But Sarah isn’t too keen on Diana’s boyfriend, but Diana is besotted with John. When Diana realises that the consequence of a wonderful holiday to Devon with John is that she is pregnant, she’s understandably worried. John’s attitude to the news puts her right off John, but he becomes determined to do the right think and marry her, telling her – make it a son. !! (Honestly – some men used to be just like that)

Anyway Diana realises that she would rather go it alone than marry a man that she doesn’t love anymore. John finds it difficult to accept her decision.

Although this book was published by the Romance Book Club, for me it was less predictable than most romances and considering the time it was written and published it has very modern and dare I say it feminist outlook.

I would have liked to have been able to give this one a 3.5 on Goodreads, I didn’t love it but I did enjoy it and the armchair travelling to the south of France involved.

Hooghe, Ypres, Belgium

I’ve had an interest in World War 1 since schooldays, my maternal grandfather was apparently one of those crazy lads who lied about his age to join up. He survived the war but died when I was very young.

Hotel  Back

Anyway when we knew we would be going back to Holland we decided to combine a trip to Ypres (Ieper) in Belgium, so we booked up two nights away in Kasteelhof ‘t Hooghe mainly because the location seemed ideal to us. The photo above is of the side of the hotel and our room was just to the right of the middle of it, the window before the little gable roof and the door and two windows after that, if you look closely you can see our balcony.

crater

The view from there is of a wee lake which has been formed from mine craters. It’s all very peaceful now but as you can see from the defensive concrete pill box this was once a very hot place to be. In fact the trench there was first dug by Germans and it was here that they used a flame thrower for the very first time. It was very strange to be sleeping about 30 yards from where that happened. A part of the trench has been preserved by a local history group and there are piles of rusting bits of shells and such lying around. Shrapnel is being dug up all the time and it’s a dangerous job ploughing fields around here as ploughs often disturb unexploded shells. Farmers are sometimes killed if the shells go off after being dragged up.

Sheep

You have to imagine that there would have been no trees back then as they would have been blasted to bits in no time. The sheep grazed right beneath our window in the daytime but in the evening they moved elsewhere.

Hotel  Kasteelhof 't Hooghe in Ypres

Above is a photo of the front of the hotel. Originally there was a very grand castle nearby and they had the misfortune to have the war taking place on their doorstep. In no time there was nothing left of the castle and after the war the owner had this building built which he called a cottage, it was to be a stopgap home for him. He intended to rebuild his grand house but it never happened. It’s a nice place and I would go back again, and probably will as there is plenty to see around there and we only had time to scratch the surface of all the places of historical interest.

If you’re interested in what went on in the area during the war have a look here.

Visit Scotland and The Flying Scotsman

If you’re looking for something to do in Scotland you should have a look at the Visit Scotland Blog.

If you’re interested in gorgeous photos and steam trains – what do you think of the one below? The steam train The Flying Scotsman with the top of the Forth Bridge in the background. This photo appeared in today’s Guardian, it was taken by Keith Campbell last weekend as the train took to the rails for the first time in years.

flying scotsman

Groningen, the Netherlands

The city of Groningen in the north east of the Netherlands is very old, it’s first mentioned in documents dating back to 1040. Nowadays it’s famous for its two universities and there are over 50,000 students living in the city. That means there are a lot of bikes around as you can see.

Bikes in Groningen

Bikes outside Groningen University

The last time we were in Groningen we went on a boat trip on the canal, it’s a good way to see the city, without being knocked down by bikes! But this time we wandered around – bike dodging and we visited the museum which is interesting.

Groningen Museum 2

It’s a pity we missed the exhibition they had on of David Bowie’s art although apparently the queues for it were enormous. You can see some images of the exhibition here.

I must admit though that I find it sad that many museums and art galleries are now charging for admission. It cost us 13 euros each to get in. I think it must come as a nice surprise to tourists visiting Britain when they discover that most of the museums/galleries have no entry charges.

If you want to see more images of Groningen have a look here.

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

 The Ballroom cover

I requested The Ballroom by Anna Hope from the library because it had been enjoyed by Jo @ The Book Jotter, you can read what she thought here.

Anyway, I had only skimmed the review as I had decided to read the book, so when I began to actually read it I wasn’t at all sure it was up my street, I thought it might be a wee bit too grim for my taste, with its setting of a mental hospital in 1911 but I ended up reading The Ballroom really quickly as I could hardly put it down.

Ella is a young woman who has worked in a cotton mill in Yorkshire since she was a child. She can’t even read because she was too exhausted to learn anything after a long day in the mill. The room she works in only has dirty windows high up in the walls and she longs to see the sky, the horrendous atmosphere of the mill is suddenly more than she can bear and she flings something at the window, smashing it. Obviously she must be mad – so her employers think – and she is carted off to Sharston Lunatic Asylum.

Of course there’s nothing mental about Ella at all but the asylum is enough to drive anyone mad, especially as the women are never allowed outside for fresh air, the thing that Ella most needs. She is stuck inside, working in the steaming hot laundry during the summer of 1911, an amazingly hot one with temperatures staying in the 90s F for weeks.

Once a week some of the inmates are allowed to go to a dance in the asylum ballroom, it’s the only time that the sexes are allowed to meet and Ella’s contact with John a fellow inmate leads to disaster when one of the doctors discovers their relationship.

Doctor Fuller is a young man who has been a disappointment to his parents who had expected him to have a high-flying career in medicine, but his love of music and lack of studying had meant that he failed exams and ended up working in the asylum. He thought that he could help his patients through music therapy and he was getting good results but an interest in eugenics means he stops all his therapy work and removes everything that the patients enjoy. His decisions are all tied up with his own disgust at his seemingly warped sexuality. Doctor Fuller is in fact more screwed up than many of the asylum inmates.

It’s apparent that a lot of the people in the asylum are there just because they have ‘lost it’ for a moment and done something that if they had been wealthy would just have them marked down as being a bit eccentric.

Anna Hope’s writing style is poetic at times and I was impressed by quite a few unusual words the meaning of which was usually obvious from the context but I did look a few up, just to make sure they weren’t made up. Anna Hope does write in her notes at the back of the book that she used some Yorkshire dialect words. The book seems to be well researched on what was going on in Britain in 1911, riots and strikes apparently and a sweltering long summer. This is just the second book by Anna Hope and I intend to read the first one soon, it’s called Wake, have any of you read it?

Anna Hope is apparently also an actress and has appeared in some episodes of Doctor Who.

Drachten

Drachten

The town of Drachten in north east Holland came as a bit of a surprise to me because there are loads of shops, some of them the same ones you can see on British high streets. It’s a very busy place but driving there you are surrounded by countryside and I didn’t think there would be enough of a population to sustain the shops, but obviously there is.

Drachten

Above is a photo of a sort of pedestrianised town square, but in Holland bikes are everywhere and it seems that if there are rules regarding where they should be ridden, nobody cares much. Everywhere you go you have to keep your eyes peeled for cyclists, often with two or even three children perched on all sides. The large orange and white umbrella canopy thing has a sort of tree of bells under it and they ring out the hours and quarter hours.

Drachten

There’s a dead end canal leading right into the town.

Drachten

Most of the shops were open but some of the smaller ones were closed, it was half-day closing. I think it must be around 45 years since shops in any UK towns had half-day closing.

Drachten

Some streets still had orange bunting up in celebration of a royal birthday.

Drachten

I love the individualism of Dutch houses, you rarely see two the same and they’re often decorated with tiles like this one, or the top section of the windows are filled with stained glass like the one below.

Holland 4 008

Drachten is a lovely town with great shops and if it hadn’t been so hot I would have tried on some dresses in the shops there, I was on the lookout for a dress to wear to G’s wedding. But the heat and the fact that I had two blokes in the shape of a husband and a brother trailing around with me made me think again!

Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom

I was asked by the publishers if I would like to review Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom, apparently because I’ve reviewed some D.E. Stevenson books in the past. I jumped at the chance because I had read and reviewed an old copy of Mrs Bunthorpe’s Respects by Ursula Bloom. I like her writing, it’s funny but also well observed. She was very prolific, apparently writing over 500 books under various names, she was 92 when she died and she started writing at a very early age.

I was a bit put off by the title. Wonder Cruise sounds a bit tacky to me and Mills and Boonish and when I saw the book cover it didn’t make me feel any better. But I did really enjoy the book which was first published in 1934.

Ann Clements is a 35 year old spinster, she was brought up in a country rectory, a very sheltered and quite boring life, her mother died when Ann was only eleven so Ann had taken over many of a vicar’s wife’s duties. Her brother is an evangelical vicar, he’s married with one daughter Gloria, Ann’s goddaughter and they live in London. When her father dies Ann realises that she has to find a way of supporting herself, the proceeds of the sale of the rectory furniture allow her to take a secretarial course. So for the past nine years she has been working in a London office, again her life is boring, hand to mouth and predictable. Then an amazing thing happens, she wins £350 in a sweepstake.

What should she do with it? Invest it at 3% bringing in a teeny amount of money a year – or splurge it on a Mediterranean cruise? Her brother is outraged by the whole thing, she shouldn’t have been gambling and she shouldn’t think of using the money for herself, he wants her to invest it for his daughter’s future. Sensibly Ann chooses the cruise which of course leads to a complete change in her life.

This is one of those wish fulfilment books, the sort of thing that legions of women must have hoped would happen to them and if it doesn’t happen then reading about it is the next best thing.

The blurb on the back of the book says:
A witty heartwarming read with great romantic and comic characters. This warm feel-good tale will make you smile, and you’ll be rooting for Ann to find lasting love and happiness.

But for fans of vintage fiction it’s more than that. It’s a real trip back to 1934, the attitudes, clothes and the amazing things that happen when you get your hair shingled. In fact I almost felt like getting my own hair shingled, but as I have never met a hairdresser yet who does what I ask them to do I thought better of it!

Why do publishers rarely get the covers of books correct? This one would have been so much more attractive if they had gone down the same road that the British Crime Classics have. Art Deco/1930s clothing, buildings or even a 1930s ship would have been so much better than the soppy effort they chose.
That aside, my thanks go to Corazon Books for giving me the opportunity to read Wonder Cruise – a good read.