30 December 2011 23:26
There were 52 books in my reading list and I had intended to read one a week but ‘best laid plans gang aft agley’ and all that. They’re mainly books which have been in the house waiting to be read for years and quite a lot have been inherited from parents and even grandparents. I had been doing so well, what with the terrible weather we had last January, and I was way ahead of schedule. But inevitably I got involved with reading books which had been recommended by bloggers and picking up books from the library which I wasn’t supposed to be visiting and of course bookshop purchases too. Not that I’m complaining but the upshot is I’ve only read 32 of the books on my list. I have managed to get through at least 103 books though, I haven’t blogged about all of them, a few have been missed out but I intend to get around to writing a wee something about them all eventually.
Hannie Richards by Hilary Bailey
An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge
The Overlanders by Dora Birtles
Any Human Heart by William Boyd
The Power House by John Buchan
Heroes by Thomas Carlyle
Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov
Basil by Wilkie Collins
Uther and Igraine by Warwick Deeping
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Poor Folk by Dostoevsky
The Gambler by Dostoevsky
Uncle Bernac by Arthur Conan Doyle
The King’s General by Daphne Du Maurier
Castle D’Or by Daphne Du Maurier
Hungry Hill by Daphne Du Maurier
Julius by Daphne Du Maurier
Deerslayer by J. Fenimore Cooper
The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas
The Popular Girl by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Swan Song by John Galsworthy
End of the Chapter by John Galsworthy
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
The Naulahka by R. Kipling and W. Balestier
Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
The Deer Park by Norman Mailer
Shadows of Empire by Allan Massie
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
The Blessing by Nancy Mitford
Coming Home by Rosemary Pilcher
Harriet Dark by Barbara Rees
The Pirate by Sir Walter Scott
The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett
Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark
The Amateur Emigrant by R.L.Stevenson
The Silverado Squatters by R.L.Stevenson
A Dedicated Man by Elizabeth Taylor
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Claverings by Anthony Trollope
Virgin Soil by Ivan Turgenev
Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
Nana by Emile Zola
Therese Raquin by Emile Zola
The bold ones are the ones I have read and the books which are unread are mainly the ones which are chunksters or they’re so ancient that they have really wee print and it’s putting me off starting them. Of course there are a few that I’m dreading – mainly those by Sir Walter Scott! I’m determined to get through them all though so the list continues into 2012.
The R.L. Stevenson books are the only ones which aren’t fiction, they’re travel books and I read them most recently and they are definitely worth a read if you want to know what life was like for people travelling to the US in the nineteenth century.
29 December 2011 21:33
We’re nearly at the end of the year and I still haven’t mentioned any of the books I got at Christmas. So here goes:
A God and his Gifts by Ivy Compton-Burnett
The Old Bank House by Angela Thirkell
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
All oldies but hopefully goldies.
We don’t really bother much with big Christmas presents for each other but if we buy anything after the October holidays we tend to say to each other ‘just wrap it up for Christmas’ and that way we get what we want and have no nasty surprises. Yes I know it’s not romantic but it is practical. I hate people (Jack) spending money on things that I really don’t want.
I also got some DVDs – Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple in the shape of Margaret Rutherford – and what a shape she was! She’s the Miss Marple of my childhood and they’re real comfort viewing and always have quite a bit of comedy thrown in as well as crime.
Murder Most Foul
Murder at the Gallop and
Murder She Said
I’ve watched two of them already as the TV hasn’t really been worth watching. On that note I must say that I was disappointed with the new version of The Borrowers, not nearly as good as the previous ones. I must admit that I was playing Scrabble whilst watching it so it didn’t have all of my attention but it just didn’t seem to have much ingenuity involved in it.
I also got a set of Cary Grant DVDs
Charade with the beautiful Audrey Hepburn (1963)
Bringing Up Baby with Katharine Hepburn (1938)
That Touch of Mink with Doris Day (1962)
I’m No Angel with Mae West (1933)
So if I get stuck in the house surrounded by snow and ice, like last year, I’ll have something to keep me entertained!
27 December 2011 23:22
I love this painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. I was amazed to discover that it was painted so long ago, 1565 – as it seems quite modern to me, it must be something to do with the clean, crisp quality of it. The original is in Vienna. I first came across Hunters in the Snow about 30 years ago when a friend sent me it as a Christmas card and I managed to find a framed print of it not long afterwards. However it was one of the things which disappeared during our last removal to this house 24 years or so ago. Things always seem to go missing when we move and we moved around the country a lot before we got here.
I haven’t replaced it in all these years but I’ll really have to get around to it, or maybe I should leave it until after we downsize, just in case another removal man takes a fancy to it.
I love just about everything about it. Click on it to enlarge it and you’ll see the smaller details. I love the trees and the snow, mountains, dogs, skaters, curlers, the church in the distance, the birds, the person carrying wood for a fire across the bridge and especially the sign which is on the left hand side and is dangling lop-sided in the wind. I can just about hear it squeaking and creaking and I can almost smell the snow and the fire. I have a very eclectic taste in Art. What about you? Has anything ‘disappeared’ from a removal of yours?’
27 December 2011 01:04
I’m a day late with this post but I don’t seem to have had much time to myself. As you can see we’ve had the family home for Christmas, our two boys and Laura, Gordon’s girlfriend who is as much like a daughter to us as anyone could be as they’ve been going out with each other since they were just 17 and she stayed a lot with us when they were students as she was an English student, coming from Rochdale but at Uni in Stirling so we were her local base.
We had turkey and ham with lots of roasted veggies and yes sprouts which Jack and I love anyway but this time I used the Jamie Oliver shredded sprout recipe with bacon.
How solemn do we all look? We had fun, honestly!
Believe it or not, I had never made a trifle before and I put this one together, not bothering with a recipe. Next time I’ll use more jelly and less custard I think. I used a shop bought Swiss roll for the first layer then topped it with strawberries and jelly then custard and cream with strawberries topped with grated chocolate. Very tasty.
Just so that we had a choice of puddings I also made chocolate cheesecake based on Lorraine Pascale’s recipe which you can see here. I tweaked her recipe slightly. Instead of all chocolate digestives I made a third of them Amaretto biscuits to make a more interesting combination and I did the cheesecake in two layers, the first of which was all mixed in very well and the second layer was just roughly mixed to leave some of the cream cheese unmixed which made the flavour better I think as I like a bit of a surprise in each spoonful. As you can see I had a bit of a disaster with my piping nozzle thingy and ended up scraping the melted chocolate out onto the melted milk chocolate instead of having a beautifully feathered decoration. In future I’m not going to bother faffing about with the melted chocolate on top as the cheesecake is nice enough without it I think.
Boxing Day is always a rest for me as it’s the leftover ham and turkey made into a pie which takes no time to throw together. For some reason the pastry has shrunk away from the edges of my pie dish but it tasted fine.
So that’s it all over for another year. Now for Hogmanay!
25 December 2011 00:19
Well that’s the birthday meal over with and it went down well with all five of us. Especially the Kinloch Castle Tomato Soup the recipe for which reached me in a convoluted way – via Peggy Ann’s Post, somewhere in the US but I’m not sure where exactly, maybe the Appalachians. Anyway thanks for the recipe Peggy, I’ll be making that soup regularly I’m sure. Don’t you just love the internet! Peggy is the only person I’ve ‘met’ who reads George MacDonald’s books, there don’t seem to be many of us about nowadays.
I haven’t had much time for watching TV at all but I did manage to watch all of The Young Victoria a couple of nights ago and I did enjoy it apart from the bit where Albert jumps in front of a bullet aimed at Victoria. There were quite a few attempts on Victoria’s life over the years but why add details which are just untrue. Then I saw that it had been written by Julian Fellowes, that man just can’t stop himself from embroidering history. Between Fellowes and Philippa Gregory the kids of Britain will be convinced of historical ‘facts’ which are just historical nonsense.
As usual the Christmas TV seems to be pretty dire. The one thing I hope to be able to watch is The Borrowers which is on on Boxing Day because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it from beginning to end, I loved the books by Mary Norton even although I didn’t read them until I was an adult.
Is there anything good on TV which you are looking forward to watching?
24 December 2011 00:16
I had wanted to do a before and after photo of the dining-room but it wasn’t to be. So here’s a photo of the new carpet which as you can see is a sort of oatmeal colour and has a slightly textured pattern on it which you can’t really see here. The carpet fitter was absolutely brilliant at his job – how often can you say that – and I’m really pleased with it especially as it won’t show up the crumbs so much! The old carpet was charcoal grey, a big mistake as it showed up every speck.
The boots are new too, I bought them when we were in England recently. My legs are normally covered up, this is a rare outing for them. My Dad always commented that he didn’t know I had legs whenever they got an airing! I’m not a shoe person at all, in fact I view shoes as objects of torture because I’m always bleeding from my heels and blistered so I tend to avoid them and wear clogs and flat boots all the time and then my feet are fine. I couldn’t walk in high heels to save my life. As a kid I dreaded the start of the new school term and new shoes. Those Clarks shoes were agony, I might as well have worn biscuit tins!
I haven’t been able to blog or visit blogs much for the last few days as I’ve been doing so much running around and trying to finish off things in the house before everyone gets here. So tomorrow I just have to bake the birthday boy’s cake and make the birthday meal – and then it’s Christmas! I hope your Christmas plans are on schedule.
I usually do a wee Winter Solstice blogpost, but not this year as I was so busy. The 21st here was indeed the darkest most dismal day and I could’ve been doing with a party then to cheer me up . It was one of those days when you needed a lamp on all the time – positively dreich. I’m so looking forward to having more light soon.
In Scotland we’re being encouraged to dose ourselves up with vitamin D, the easiest way is to take cod liver oil (yeugh). Apparently it’s the lack of sunlight here which gives us the highest rates of MS in the world. I’m going to be making my way to the health food shop soon and on that cheery note – cheerio.
If you’re in need of a bit of a laugh at the moment, give yourself a treat and watch good old Dick Emery. If I wore high heels I would walk like the ‘charming young lady’!
20 December 2011 23:45
This book was first published as The Progress of Julius in 1933. It’s the story of Julius Levy who was born in France, the product of a mixed marriage between a French Christian woman and an Algerian Jewish man. Life hasn’t been easy for Julius and his parents and after a traumatic incident Julius and his father have to travel to Algeria to escape the French police.
The young Julius takes after his maternal side of the family business wise anyway and ambition rules his life. He’s determined to make money and when he does get money he holds on to it, never using it to make life easier for himself. Every pound a prisoner – as we say!
Eventually he makes his way to London and starts building his business empire and it became a very big one.
I did enjoy this book, which is surprising really as Julius isn’t a very likeable character, in fact I think nowadays he would be described as having some kind of mental problem like autism or Asperger’s.
Although Julius was written in 1932, a time when things were just beginning to get fairly scary for the Jews of mainland Europe and let’s face it there were people in Britain too who were anti-semitic, there’s really nothing to upset anyone of tender feelings.
I kept thinking of Lyons Corner Houses all the time I was reading about Julius’ empire building because it reminded me so much of that tea-room restaurant chain which became a British institution. The first one was opened in 1894 and the last closed in 1981. I wonder if du Maurier used them as inspiration for Julius. They were a family run Jewish business, in fact Nigella Lawson is related to them.
Julius was Daphne du Maurier’s third book to be published, she was 26 years old when she wrote it.
19 December 2011 00:27
We have a family birthday on Christmas Eve and I always cook a meal at home rather than going out to a restaurant because they’re always busy with works’ nights out at the moment, so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen around now. There really ought to be a law against people giving birth around Christmas time!
So I’ve been thinking about what to have for the birthday meal and as we’re all keen soup people I’ve decided to give Kinloch Castle Tomato Soup a go after seeing the recipe over at Peggy Ann’s Post. Have a look at her recipes here. It sounds tasty and should look nice and festive.
If you look at the Newfoundland Soup recipe above that one you’ll see a recipe for soup which I’m fairly certain originated from a Scottish soup because that’s the sort of soup that I make all the time – winter and summer. (What summer?! I hear you say.)
Mind you I don’t often put dough balls/dumplings in my soup, I tend to keep those for winter warmer stews. But you’ll see that the dough balls in Newfoundland have the name ‘dough boys’. That’s quaint and interesting I thought, and then a couple of days later I found myself having a bit of a smile to myself because it had come into my head that it’s one of those wonderful transatlantic mistranslations that happen over the years.
Obviously it was originally dough buoys! I think that in America those floating markers in the sea are pronounced boo-ies or something like that. But in English – bouy is pronounced boy and obviously dough balls/dumplings do behave like buoys in the sea as they bob about and float on the surface of the stew or soup. I think it was Winston Churchill who said: Two nations divided by a common language. Well I was always told that he said it anyway. Whatever, I’ll be thinking of them as dough boys now!
My husband tells me doughboys was a nickname given to US soldiers in World War 1. (He’s interested in that sort of thing.) Apparently it dates from an even earlier US war. Who knows what the origin was? But I like to think of them as markers in a sea of stew or soup.
If you watch the film of Annie Proulx’s novel The Shipping Forecast you can see that there still is Scottish influence in Newfoundland where they are keen consumers of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes and Snowballs. It shows up in the book too, lots of Scots seem to have gone there at some point and stayed, probably coming from Scotland helps you withstand the terrible weather they have there.
Anyway, if you haven’t already visited Peggy Ann’s Post why not hop over now! Her most recent recipe is for pizzelles, which I’ve never even heard of!
17 December 2011 00:10
I was absolutely flabbergasted, not to say dumbfoonert, when I walked past what had been McDonald’s in Kirkcaldy High Street last week and saw that it was all boarded up. I thought maybe it was just closed for refurbishment, although I did think it was a strange time of the year to do that. After a wee bit of research on the internet I discovered that it has closed down completely!
So much for all those people who say that kids are able to get work easily if they want it, and they are all too lazy or snooty to start flipping burgers, they obviously haven’t been to Fife, where they can’t flip burgers even if they want to. I feel really sorry for the people who have lost their jobs there because the town is such an unemployment blackspot and it’s going to be so difficult for them to get another job. Kirkcaldy always has been an area of high unemployment thanks to the Labour Party stranglehold on the area and having Gordon Brown as our MP who did absolutely nothing for Kirkcaldy except poke his nose in things which had nothing to do with him, and overruled the council.
McDonald’s isn’t everyone’s cup of tea or meal of choice, certainly not mine anyway but it’s a shame that yet another business has disappeared from the High Street. The only growth area shop-wise is charity shops and by all accounts it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
And if you fancy a bit of a laugh have a look at this puppet version. I think they’re great and the scenery behind them isn’t too bad either.
16 December 2011 00:22
I am still deeply mired in domestic carnage. In fact the past couple of weeks have been one big trauchle. The best way I can describe the pronunciation is – the ‘auch’ bit is the same as the ‘och’ of loch.
A trauchle is a long, drawn out, weary experience and that’s what I’ve had recently – what with gardening mayhem, destructive removal me, an electrician who didn’t complete his job, another one who turned up to fix his work and today it was the carpet fitters.
Emptying the dining-room of all the furniture and pulling up the carpet was a helluva trauchle, but had to be done. Then as I was giving the floorboards a last sweep this morning the carpet men turned up. They were supposed to come in the afternoon. That’s the first time anyone like that has been early. I had been planning on taking before and after photos but I couldn’t as they got stuck into the work immediately. I might take a photo of the carpet though, just so you can see what it’s like. I have to say the carpet fitters were great.
Tonight we’ve been putting all the furniture back in and after the third electrician comes tomorrow I can start thinking about pulling out the Christmas decorations. That’ll be another trauchle! I’m not complaining – honestly!