Garden room

Way back in March we ordered a new posh shed – what the sellers all insist in calling summerhouses, and so began a four month long nightmare before the delivery (due to the pandemic). Then when it was delivered several of the parts were wrong, we were putting it together ourselves as we had done one before in the old garden and had no problem doing it. Irate phone calls led to new parts being delivered a week later – still the wrong parts!! Then exactly the same thing happened the following week, I think it’s fair to say I was fuming. So we demanded our money back – and got it. The only trouble with that was we had to start the whole thing again, but this time we chose a local company – not one in distant Cambridge, and they were going to erect it for us. Great, but the trouble was we had to be even more patient as – you guessed it – due to the pandemic the factory/woodmills had locked down. The upshot was that we had to wait until October before taking delivery of our posh new shed, which we’re calling a garden room. It reminds me of a wee Victorian shop, like something out of Cranford. We’re happy with it anyway, it fulfills two functions, blocks off a view of the spa tub next door and stores some things I didn’t want to get rid of and didn’t want to stick in the garage.

New Summerhouse/shed

This area of the garden is very much a work in progress – as all gardens always are I suppose. I’m getting rid of the grass here and extending the gravel area. That will still leave plenty of grass for the birds to mooch around on in the rest of the garden, but will make the grass cutting job less onerous for Jack, he hates doing it.
New Summerhouse/shed

I’ll have fun sorting the wee garden room out internally. If you’ve been reading ‘Pining’ for years then you might remember that when we moved to our present house we bought a summerhouse/shed, mainly because there had been one in the situation before and we couldn’t budge the concrete blocks that had been cemented in as a foundation, the previous people took their summerhouse with them. The photo below is from July 2014.

summerhouse (gazebo)

That summerhouse was a disappointment almost from day one as it leaked and leaked, despite having two layers of roofing felt on it. We had intended sorting it out once and for all over this summer but it rained and rained in June, July, August …. well it’s eaier to say that it was only in May that we had decent weather this year. But we did manage to get a damp proof membrane on the roof of that one followed by heavy grade roofing felt, no nails involved, only stapled edges and glue. Fingers crossed the wind doesn’t do its worst! I do think it’s crazy banging nails in roofs, having said that as you can see there are loads in the new garden room roof, but so far all seems to be well with it. I’m going to use the old summerhouse/posh shed as a sort of potting shed and for overwintering some not so hardy plants. It gets plenty of light and heats up quickly when the sun does come out, so it can double up as a greenhouse for germinating seeds, well that’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how it goes.

You can see what the old one looked like inside here when we first got it, it’s needing some TLC internally now, that’ll be the next thing to tackle. I had to take the books out as I didn’t want them to get damp.

An Impossible Marriage by Pamela Hansford Johnson

 An Impossible Marriage cover

An Impossible Marriage by Pamela Hansford Johnson was first published in 1954 but was reprinted by Hodder and Stoughton in 2018. This is the second book by the author that I’ve read recently and although I enjoyed reading The Holiday Friend I liked An Impossible Marriage even more, in fact I’ll almost certainly give it 5 stars on Goodreads.

The setting is London between the wars but it begins twenty years later, Christine is going to visit Iris a ‘friend’ from her youth. Christine had grown out of Iris and hadn’t seen her for twenty years but Iris has been nagging Christine by letter to visit her. Iris is always bad news for Christine as she’s a nasty piece of work and always had to steal her friends’ boyfriends – you know the sort. Christine’s mind goes back to when they were teenagers together. Christine wasn’t enamoured of the boyfriends she had who were around her own age, but when she meets Ned who is in his 30s she falls for him. Ned has big plans for his future and he has a flat of his own and a car. He’s completely different from the young lads she has been out with before and marriage to him would be a way of getting away from her difficult step-mother.

Things begin to unravel early on in the marriage when Christine discovers that the car belongs to his father, Ned has been propped up with his family money, but his father is tired of doing that. Ned is a dreamer and he certainly doesn’t intend to put in the effort required to be successful in business. He prefers to spend his time playing golf and tennis. As Christine had had to give up her office job as soon as she got married money is tight. When she discovers she’s pregnant Ned is furious and when she has the baby he’s not interested in it, in fact Christine realises he’s less mature than her teenage boyfriends had been, he even stops Christine from writing poetry, probably because she had had some success in getting her poems published. Ned is selfish, bone lazy and mean. Can Christine put up with him for a lifetime, as her mother-in-law has done with his father?

The blurb on the back says: A classic coming-of-age story set in the 1930s, by one of Britain’s best-loved and almost forgotten novelists.

I got the impression that the book is autobiographical, I suppose most novels are in one way or another – whatever – I loved this one, the setting, writing style, flashes of humour and Christine’s personality were just what I needed at the moment.

Pamela Hansford Johnson married C.P. Snow but prior to that marriage she was married to an Australian journalist, I bet he was the template for Ned!

Bookshelf Travelling – 30th November

It’s Bookshelf Travelling time again, this meme was originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness but for the moment I’m gathering any related blogposts.

Scottish Books

This week I’m visiting another shelf which is home to Scottish authors, so it’s a mixture of historical, humorous, thriller and romance.

Rosamunde Pilcher was wildly popular in the 1980s and 90s, especially so in Germany for some reason. Her books are mainly set in Scotland or Cornwall, it’s a good long time since I read any but I did enjoy them. She was a local author, living in Fife for most of her life so I often knew the locations which is always a plus for me. Several of her books have been made into films. She also wrote under the name of Jane Fraser, but I haven’t read any of those ones, have you?

Wax Fruit by Guy McCrone is actually a trilogy – Antimacassar City, The Philistines and The Puritans. The setting is Glasgow. I’ve had this book for over a decade, it’s the heftiness of it that has put me off from reading it, there are 613 pages but I see that the print is fairly large so I might get to this one soon. The trilogy sold over a million copies, the books were first published between 1940 and 1947.

Compton Mackenzie was actually born in England and had an English accent but he researched his family tree and was heavily influenced by his Scottish links and regarded the Highlands as his spiritual home. I’ve not read all of the Mackenzie books on this shelf but I loved Whisky Galore, Rockets Galore and Keep the Home Guard Turning. I’ve yet to read Monarch of the Glen and didn’t even see much of the television series which was so popular some years ago. You know, I’ve got a horrible feeling that I’ve already featured part of this shelf before, but some different books!

Here are some other Bookshelf Travellers:
A Son of the Rock
Staircase Wit

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

 Mrs Dalloway cover

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was first published in 1925 and I never really intended to read it as I’m not a big fan of the stream of consciousness style of writing, but surprisingly I did like it. A friend had had to study it for her degree and she loaned me her copy of the book, however it wasn’t to her taste at all.

The story takes place within one day when Mrs Dalloway (Clarissa), who is an upper-class middle aged woman married to a politician and living in London, is busy getting ready to host a party in her home, it’s just a few years after the end of World War 1.

Clarissa loves walking around Westminster, it’s a lovely day which reminds her of being at Bourton, her childhood home and as she goes to buy flowers for her party her mind wanders back to those days and her past lover Peter Walsh whom she had refused to marry. She thought he would be coming back from India soon, retired. He had had so many plans but in the end had done nothing much with his life. Surprisingly when Clarissa gets back home Peter Walsh is waiting for her. It’s not a successful meeting, Clarissa was obviously correct to turn him down. On the other hand, Peter had always said that Clarissa would be a wonderful society hostess and she seems to have fulfilled that expectation, but perhaps it’s Clarissa’s talents in that direction that have contributed to her husband’s success as a Member of Parliament.

The focus switches to Septimus Warren Smith and his wife Rezia. They’re in London to visit a well known doctor, Sir William Bradshaw. Septimus is suffering from shell-shock due to his wartime experiences and Rezia is hopeful that he can be cured. Their own doctor keeps saying that there is nothing wrong with Septimus, but his behaviour alarms his wife and the servant and Septimus shouts for his dead friend Evans and has conversations with him. It’s not going to end well.

It’s an odd book to write about, but I did enjoy it, unexpectedly, and the party? Well, in the end it was a success of course.

Lamb House, Rye, East Sussex

I was about to start doing my ironing the other day so I had to decide which DVD to watch whilst doing it as I absolutely must have something to distract me from the task, yes the ironing does suffer and I often end up ironing in even more creases but it keeps me semi-sane! Anyway, I plumped for the Mapp and Lucia series by E.F. Benson which I’ve watched several times before but more than anything I just wanted to re-visit the lovely wee town of Rye in the only way that I can at the moment. Lots of Rye locations were used in the filming of the series and they’re all very recognisable. It occurred to me that I had never shown any of the photos of the garden before, not that they’re all that exciting, I hope it was better when the house was owned by E.F. Benson and before him by the American author Henry James, or the several other authors who seem to have lived there in the past. I can see why people love the place despite it being a bit of a tourist Mecca, it was a well known haunt of smugglers in the past, as well as French invaders and the whole place is very atmospheric – and it has a secondhand bookshop!

Garden, Lamb House, Rye

Lamb House, Rye, Garden

Rye, Garden of Lamb House

Jack’s posts about Lamb House and Rye are here. You can read more about Rye here.

Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson

 Breath of Suspicion cover

Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson was published in 2016 as a Penguin Modern Classic. I’ve read a few of Shirley Jackson’s novels and I must say that I preferred them to the short stories. The collection is like ‘the curate’s egg’ in other words – good in parts.

To begin with I was impressed by how she managed to write a very uncomfortable and unnerving atmosphere, but either I got used to that or the stories just got weaker as the anthology developed. There were a few stories that just came to a stop and left me very unimpressed, but then maybe other readers would have got something out of them. Having said that I liked the last story The Summer People about the local people’s attitude to summer residents in a tourist area.

We did have a bit of a laugh though as I read the blurb excerpt on the back out to Jack.

‘An odd thought crossed her mind: she would pick up the heavy glass ashtray and smash her husband over the head’

I said to Jack – ” I don’t have a heavy glass ashtray”

Jack said – “You’ll just have to use the more traditional rolling pin then”

Well it made us laugh!

This compilation comprises of:

The Possibility of Evil
Louisa, Please Come Home
The Honeymoon of Mrs Smith
The Story We Used to Tell
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Jack the Ripper
The Beautiful Stranger
All She Said Was Yes
What a Thought
The Bus
Family Treasurers
A Visit
The Good Wife
The Man in the Woods
The Summer People

Breath of Suspicion by Elizabeth Ferrars

 Breath of Suspicion cover

Breath of Suspicion by Elizabeth Ferrars was first published in 1972. The setting is London and later on Madeira.

Richard Hedon is in partnership with his brother, they own a bookshop which deals with rare books. Richard’s sister-in-law is always trying to pair him up with possible wives, she believes he has an aversion to commitment.

When Richard meets Hazel Clyro at a party he falls into a sort of relationship with her, she’s often stand-offish though. Her husband Paul had been a scientist and a few years previously he had just disappeared, so she didn’t know if he was alive or dead. One of Paul’s work colleagues had turned out to be a spy. Had he been kidnapped or murdered?

Richard decides to follow some clues which lead him to Madeira and danger.

This is an enjoyable read, it’s the sort that you can’t say too much about in a review though.

Elizabeth Ferrars is for some reason known as E.X. Ferrars in the US. She was born in Burma into a Scottish family and lived in Edinburgh in later life. So far I’ve enjoyed all of her books, not that I’ve read them all, she was quite prolific as you can see from her Fantastic Fiction page.

Classics Club Spin #25

The Classics Club Spin number is 14 which means I’ll be reading The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights by John Steinbeck. It’s a book that I’ve had in the house for quite a few years now unread, despite the fact that I pounced on it when I spotted it in a secondhand bookshop – only to leave it completely neglected on a shelf. Why do we do that?! I love the Classics Club spins as they really encourage me to read the books on my list.


Bookshelf Travelling, November 22nd

It’s Bookshelf Travelling time again, this meme was originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness, but I’m doing it at the moment.

This week my photo is of a shelf in my book/crafting/ironing room which is home to books by Scottish authors beginning with ‘S’ and they’re almost all Stewarts.

'S' Bookshelf, Katrina's books

J.I.M. Stewart is probably better known as Michael Innes the crime fiction writer. The books he writes as Stewart have an Oxford College setting, something which he was familiar with. He wrote a quintet in the 1970s which goes under the name of A Staircase in Surrey but the individual titles are The Gaudy, Young Patullo, Memorial Service, The Madonna of the Astrolabe and Full Term. I really enjoyed these books when they were first published.

Mary Stewart was very popular when her books were first published. I really like her romantic thrillers which are full of suspense. Her books have been reprinted more recently and she has quite a lot of fans nowadays. I loved her Arthurian/Merlin books which were also published in the 1970s – The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment. The Wicked Day was published in 1983 and that one is about Mordred.

The very last book on the right hand side of the shelf is an ancient one by Annie S. Swan. She sold masses of books. Apparently by 1898 she had published over 30 books, a lot of them were serialised in magazines originally. There are a few of her books free on Project Gutenberg here but not all of the books are by the Scottish Annie Swan, they’ve been mixed up with a Finnish author with a similar name.

Other Bookshelf Travellers this week are –

A Son of the Rock

Staircase Wit

The School on the Moor by Angela Brazil

 The School on the Moor cover

The School on the Moor by Angela Brazil was first published in 1939. Brenda is 13 and she and her brother Denis are living with their Aunt Madge and Uncle Harry while their father is working in India, their mother is already dead. When Uncle Harry gets a job in Argentina the children have to be sent to boarding schools as Aunt Madge will be going with him, it’s not something that they’re looking forward to, they’d rather stay with Grannie but that won’t be possible. So Brenda is sent to a school in Cornwall while Denis is sent to Portsmouth.

I can’t say that I found this book that entertaining, maybe the prospect of war was weighing on the author’s mind at the time. The schoolgirls seemed to spend a lot of time getting up entertainments for people and each other, and none of them was particularly enthralling, I found the whole thing to be very predictable. Thankfully it’s a very quick read.

Oh well, there have to be some duds in life so that we can appreciate the stars!