New House

16 April 2014 23:07

By popular demand, here is a photo of the back of our new house. As you can see there is still a queue of plants waiting to find a new home, I hope to get around to that at the weekend, if my back allows me to!

I never thought I would live in a red brick house, but having seen so many harled (cement rendered) houses which have lots of cracks in the render, it seemed a better option. I must admit that the sandstone of our old house looked much nicer but it comes with lots of problems as the stone ages, we’ve gone for easier maintenance – we hope!

Love by Elizabeth von Arnim

15 April 2014 23:48

Love cover

Love by Elizabeth von Arnim is the book which I got in this month’s Classics Club Spin. I’m quite late in getting around to writing about it, but you know what it’s like, sometimes life just gets in the way of what you really want to be doing!

I really enjoyed this book although it is quite a sad read because Elizabeth von Arnim was writing about her own experience of having a relationship with a much younger man, which ended badly. This book was first published in 1925.

Catherine was obsessed with a play called The Immortal Hour which has been playing at King’s Cross. She had seen it umpteen times and eventually she strikes up a friendship with Christopher who shares her obsession. Christopher had noticed Catherine long before she was aware of him. He was drawn to her petite figure and beauty and took her to be a young woman who didn’t have much money as she always wore the same clothes. He wasn’t to know that Catherine had a married daughter and she was only hard up because her late husband had been so afraid that if he died she would attract fortune hunters that he decided to leave everything to his daughter, and left his wife to struggle along on a very small annual allowance. It didn’t seem to occur to him that his daughter would eventually become heir to his large fortune and in turn would be the target of fortune hunters, particularly one local vicar!

By the time Christopher saw Catherine in the cruel light of day he was already in love with her and was just shocked at how tired she was looking. As you would expect Catherine is charmed when she realises that he thinks she is much younger than she is and her happiness means that people see only laughter lines, not the age wrinkles which are really there.

So begins a battle with gravity and time and Catherine ends up spending time and money on the artistry of a marvellous make-up woman to try to be worthy of her younger man.

When Catherine’s son-in-law, who is a clergyman, finds out about her friendship with Christopher he is absolutely appalled, but Catherine points out to him that her daughter is actually over 30 years younger than he is. Surely he should be the last person to complain about an age gap between a couple, but he doesn’t see it that way.

This novel is all about hypocrisy, what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, but somehow often isn’t. The relationship between Catherine’s daughter Virginia and her husband Stephen is really much worse as Stephen had dodged marriage over the years, much to his mother’s chagrin, but she wasn’t to know that her son had been eyeing up young Virginia since she was in short socks! Nowadays we would say he had been grooming her and he married her as soon as she turned 18, Catherine could have been bloody minded and made him wait until her daughter turned 21, hoping that by that time she had seen sense and wasn’t so enamoured by what she obviously saw as a father figure, something which she lacked due to her own father’s early death.

Well, I don’t know about you but I feel that when the age gap between a couple is so large that one of them is old enough to be the parent of the other, then it is distinctly weird, and the few such relationships which I’ve had experience of viewing from a distance have definitely been paternalistic/maternalistic. But I suppose if that’s what makes them happy then who am I to complain.

Mind you, although I never had a daughter I must admit that if I had had one then if a man old enough to be her father had come sniffing around after her – I would have beaten him off with a brush!

Another great read from Elizabeth von Arnim.

Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

14 April 2014 10:59

I read The Great Gatsby when I was at school but I didn’t know anything about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, so when I was browsing in the library and I came across this book which was written by his wife, I was drawn by the blurb to borrow it: One of the great literary curios of the twentieth century, Save Me the Waltz is the only novel by the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. During the years when Fitzgerald was working on Tender is the Night, which many critics consider to be his masterpiece, Zelda Fitzgerald was preparing her own story, which strangely parallels the narrative of her husband, throwing a fascinating light on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life and work.

This book did not get good reviews when it was published and Zelda wrote no more books, mind you she might not have had anything else to write about because this is really an account of her life with Fitzgerald, completely autobiographical, which must have come in handy for any Fitzgerald scholars, it’ll have thrown some light onto their movements.

Zelda was a glamorous flapper with a huge capacity for alcohol, as everyone seemed to have in those days of prohibition in the US. She had a penchant for taking her clothes off at parties, dancing naked on the tables and such but she also had a brain and I found her to be likeable. Fitzgerald was obviously besotted by Zelda and their was never any question of him divorcing her, but the poor soul had many demons and was probably what would be described as bi-polar nowadays.

Anyway, to the book. The main character, Alabama Beggs(Zelda) is the youngest of a family of daughters, born in the deep south, and she’s the wildest of them. Early on in the book Alabama gets married to David Knight, a successful young artist and they move to the Riviera where they are feted as a famous and glamorous couple. David spends all of his spare time with a fashionable but vacuous set of people who are basically hangers-on and Alabama seems to be sidelined. They are both tempted to dally with people who give them more attention than they have been getting from each other.

She decides that she needs to do something for herself and takes up ballet dancing again, determined to make a success of it, despite the fact that she hasn’t done ballet for years. With hard work she manages to get a job in a production of Faustus, but meantime David is furious at what he sees as her neglect of him and their small daughter, in the pursuit of a career for herself.

I must admit that I had some sympathy with David/Scott Fitzgerald as I did feel that the ballet classes were a bit too much of the book, but I enjoyed it and I intend to read Tender Is the Night now as both books were being written around the same time, although this one was published two years earlier.

Apparently Fitzgerald was not amused when he read this book as he realised that it was giving away so much of their private lives. That’s a bit of a cheek when you consider that he had been using Zelda for years in his books and short stories, he even used chunks from letters which she had written in his books, and Zelda hadn’t complained about that!

I also went on to read a book called Careless People by Sarah Churchwell which was published in 2012, which is well worth reading if you’re at all interested in the Fitzgeralds and that period of American history.

New House

11 April 2014 23:24

Here are just a few photos which Jack took of the inside of our new house just before all our ‘stuff’ was unloaded into it, making it into a complete mess.

This is the sun room, which is the room which sold the place to us really. It’s better than a conservatory as it has a proper roof so is well insulated and it is original to the house, hasn’t been added on to it, and crucially also has central heating in it, which is more than can be said for all the conservatories which we looked at. The sun room is off the dining room. I suppose it’s a strange name for it but with all those windows it’s nice and light in there, even on a grey Scottish day.

The photo below was taken from just inside the front door, it’s the hall and stairs, and you can just see a bit of the dining room. It’s all very different from the old place, smaller rooms and very modern, but it was time for a change and hopefully a more comfortable way of life.

And the photo below is obviously of the kitchen.

I wish it looked like that now!

House and Garden

10 April 2014 23:12

Well, I’m still not into the swing of things yet after our big ‘flit’. Today I took some time away from the boxes and house stuff to do a bit of gardening. I say gardening but there wasn’t really anything in it except grass and one very small tree, possibly a plum or dwarf apple – and a lot of grass. Jack took these photographs of the emptiness a day or two ago.

I’ve planted some climbing roses along the bottom of the back fence. I’ve also planted the small acers and the liquidamber tree which I brought from my old garden. I’m not at all sure if they will survive the move though, not so much because of being transplanted but I think that the soil here might not suit them so well. It seems quite clay -ish and heavy, they liked the light sandy soil of Kirkcaldy. I also planted some foxgloves, day lilies, a small pyracantha, euphorbia, deutzia and pulmonaria.

The garden is bigger than I thought it was and I’m not sure what to do with it. I have to have a good mix of plants to entice birdlife in but I don’t want anything which will turn out to be too labour intensive as you know what it’s like – as the plants get older they get stronger whereas as I get older I’m definitely getting weaker!


8 April 2014 22:32

We’ve just managed to get our new internet connection up and running, because at last we have flitted (moved house) and although we were dreading the actual process and it was a long nightmare packing everything up after 26 years in Dalserf, including a cot and pram, the men from the removal company were great and made it as smooth as possible in the circumstances. As you can imagine the sheer volume (no pun intended) of books was the most difficult thing to deal with for them. For us it has been the amount of boxes and we’ve been working our way through them all trying to unpack but it’s going to be a while before we get through it all, we’ve found this move to be far more exhausting than we expected. Oh dear, we’re not as young as we used to be I suppose. More tomorrow I hope.

Dalserf = Home

3 April 2014 00:45

I think I mentioned a while ago that we had a lot of people viewing our house, most of them were obviously not really interested in buying but just getting a look at an older type of interior. I even think that some of them probably knew the people who lived in the house years ago and just wanted to get a closer look, maybe they had never been upstairs before. Think of how some of the characters in Angela Thirkell’s books are desperate to see inside some of the local properties, the attics always seem to be popular! I’m doing this post for posterity really, just in case we ever get any grandchildren and they grow up wanting to know what sort of place their dads grew up in. The house was given the name Dalserf by the original owners I think.

The photo below is of the cornicing in our living room. I well remember that this was the first thing which I painted not long after we moved in 26 years ago. We had always had modern houses before and cornicing was a novelty to me. I decided to make the design stand out even more by painting the internal part brown and the rest of it cream. About one yard into the project I wished I hadn’t bothered, it was so footery (fiddly). I still like it though. That bookcase is the only piece of IKEA furniture which we have and it’s so tall that it won’t fit into the new house, we’ll have to take a saw to the bottom of it!

The one below is of the same room, the glass shade is an art deco one and we really like it but it might not fit into the new place.

The photo below is of the cornicing in the sitting room, a place reserved for posh visitors and Sundays originally I’m sure.

The photo below is in the sitting room again, the ceiling rose, we’ve just replaced the centre part as we’re taking that light fitting with us, it was orginally Aunt Jenny’s.

Below is the sitting room again, the window panelling is an elegant feature I think. Note the boxes, that’s just a few of them. The wall clock is an American one, made by the millions I’m sure, by the Ansonia Clock Company of New York, it originally belonged to Jack’s grandparents.

The photo below is the sitting room again, you can see the new plaster at the fireplace where we had to have the damp work carried out. At the right of the photo is what we call a press (built-in cupboard.) We have four, very handy for books – don’t know what we’re going to do without them.

The room below was originally the kitchen, a biggish room which we now have as a dining room, but this alcove with our pine dresser in it is what is called in Scotland a bed recess. Originally it would have had a box bed fitted into it and a curtain drawn over the alcove for privacy. It was the days when everybody had a maid and that was where she slept, poor soul, she probably didn’t get much further than the kitchen and the wash house all week. In a smaller house the children probably slept in a bed recess.

The room below is meant to be a downstairs bedroom but Jack nabbed it as a study when we moved in and we had the bookshelves built in by a joiner because they would have ended up all wonky if we had tackled the job. They housed Jack’s large SF collection and we have no idea where they are all going to go in the new place, in the loft maybe! As you can see by the boxes we’re in a complete guddle (mess, muddle) but that’s to be expected I suppose, I just didn’t realise how much stuff we have.

And that’s some of the period details of Dalserf which I thought you might be interested to see.

Fry’s Chocolate Box

1 April 2014 23:14

You know that phrase ‘it looks chocolate boxy’ – people usually say it when they mean that something is too pretty or twee. Anyway, during the packing which is still going on here, prior to the ‘flitting’ on Friday, I came across this old chocolate box from around about the 1930s I think.

I found it in Great Aunt Jenny’s house after she died and we had to help to clear it out as she had no children. She had obviously thought it was too pretty to chuck out and used to keep some of her sewing threads in it.

It’s a 1lb box and it says on the side that it was made by J S Fry and Sons Ltd, Somerdale, Bristol, England.

I had no idea that they made chocolate in Bristol, I had always just assumed that all the chocolate in Britain was made in the York and Birmingham areas.

During the house packing I’ve realised that we have at least four generations of ‘stuff’ in our house, and that includes the books, we’ve lost count of the number of boxes of books which we’ve packed up, some of them were Granny Deighton’s school prizes but a lot more were Grandad Deighton’s, and even Great Grandad Besford’s books (which have his name inside in beautiful copperplate script) are being humphed to our new place. I just can’t get rid of them although I’ll never read them as the print is teeny.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting some photos of some of the period features of the house which has been our home for the past 26 years, just so that we can remind ourselves of what the place was like.

The First Book of the McFlannels by Helen W. Pryde

31 March 2014 00:18

This book was first published in 1947. I managed to buy the second book in the series in a St Andrews bookshop but as I’m determined to read the books in the correct order I had to resort to the internet for book 1. I’m so glad that I did because the book was such a laugh, it was a real tonic and as the McFlannel family are arranging their flitting at the beginning of the book it was very apt as we are flitting at the end of the week after 26 years in this house. Peggy Ann got her hands on the first book before I did, you can read what she thought of it here.

The McFlannels are a typical working class Glaswegian family, it’s 1928 and Mr McFlannel is a fitter in one of the Clyde shipyards, and even though he is bringing home a good wage, he is adamant that he doesn’t want to live in a ‘bought’ house, he’s happy to pay a rent his whole life. His wife Sarah has ambitions for a better life for herself and her family and is thrilled to be flitting (moving) from their room and kitchen tenement, with a place on the stair (outside lavatory), to a bigger flat, even Willie her husband has to admit that their room and kitchen is too wee for them and their four children.

This had me laughing out loud in parts, not something which often happens to me, but it was just so funny. The relationship between Mr and Mrs McFlannel is so realistic and she reminded me of my own mother. I can clearly remember my mother boasting to our Glasgow neighbours that we were buying a house because she had always wanted her own back and front door.

All of the characters are named after fabric, which denotes their type of personality. McTapestry, McVelvet and McPlush are obviously meant to be a bit higher up the social scale than the McTwills or McCottons, in their own eyes anyway. My personal favourite was the name McCamel Hair, but so far they have only been a brief mention, maybe they’ll have a bigger part in the second book which has a World War II setting.

I’m starting it tonight as I’m in need of something light and humorous at the moment, navigating around our house is a nightmare, the books are the worst things to pack, fair enough you don’t have to wrap them in bubble wrap but there are just so many of them and you can’t put too many in one box otherwise you can’t lift the box, and the weight of the books pulls the box apart, amd we still have four bookcases to empty. What I want to know is – whose idea was it to buy all these books!

You might find the Glaswegian website below interesting.
Have a look here at the Our Glasgow Story site.

The Dogs and the Wolves by Irene Nemirovsky

28 March 2014 00:08

The Dogs and the Wolves cover

The Dogs and the Wolves was first published in 1940, the last one to be published in Irene Nemirovsky‘s lifetime, although several books were published posthumously.

It seems that she returned to her early life for the subject matter of this one, which is unusual for an author I think, it reads more like something which would have been written earlier in an author’s career.

It’s the story of two families with the surname Sinner who live in the Ukraine, they’re distantly related but have had no contact with each other for generations as one family is living in the poor Jewish quarter at the bottom of the town, life is hard for them and things get an awful lot worse when the local army recruits take it into their minds to attack the Jews in the ghetto. The poor Sinner children get caught up in the pogrom and in desperation they make their way up to their rich relative’s house at the top of the town, and so begins a relationship between the children which continues into adulthood as they move from the Ukraine to Paris.

The dogs in the title are the rich Jews and the wolves are the poor struggling Jews and the author writes about them having typical Jewish characteristics but it seems to me that their attitudes are just those of most human beings in that no matter how poor they might be they still have hope that some sort of miracle will happen and they will suddenly be well off. It’s that hope which keeps a lot of people going, no matter what religion they are. A Jewish friend of mine is always complaining about Jewish mothers being so worried about their children but I don’t see any difference to any other mothers, it’s just the territory that you get when you have children. We’re all the same no matter which culture you’ve been brought up with, which of course is just what Shakespeare was saying in The Merchant of Venice.

Anyway, I enjoyed this one, there’s a lot more to the story than I have said (as usual) but it wasn’t as good as Fire in the Blood which is the only other book by Nemirovsky which I’ve read.

Sadly Irene Nemisrovsky died in Auschwitz in 1942.