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.

More Wild Weather

It has only been around a month since I blogged about a terrible hurricane/gale that we had which has since been nicknamed Hurricane Bawbag, and that was the worst one that I had experienced since we moved to this house 24 years ago. Well I didn’t have long to wait for the next one. Last night we ended up downstairs in an attempt to get away from the really terrifying noise of it all. That’s a first because although I’ve ended up downstairs before, Jack has always been happy to stay in bed upstairs.

It was quieter downstairs because we didn’t have the noise of the wind howling through the roofspace and rattling all the slates and it didn’t sound as if the windows were about to fall in. We didn’t get back to sleep so ended up watching the mayhem on News 24.

The wind reached a speed of 102 miles per hour near Edinburgh – guess who lives near Edinburgh! We’ve had a bit of a look around and found that a few slates have been ripped off, some guttering has fallen down and my greenhouse has four broken panes of glass and the skylight/vent had been torn off completely. It could have been a lot worse I suppose as a couple of people in England have lost their lives although the wind there wasn’t so bad. Last winter it was all snow and ice but so far this one has been mainly howling gales. Again all of the bridges were completely shut.

We were lucky and haven’t had any disruptions to our power so we just battened down the hatches as best we could and enjoyed watching Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, one from my Christmas boxed set. It’s a good laugh. And in the afternoon Casablanca was on the TV. How many times have I watched that film?! I still love it. So all in all, not a bad day,but a very lazy one!

Christmas Haul

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 Ahoy
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!

Kona Galaxy Garden

Like loads of people I’m interested in astronomy, not in any technical sort of a way mind you just the usual sort of looking for meteor showers and solar eclipses and the like. Of course we all get excited about these things and then as we’re in Britain it turns out to be too cloudy to see much. I’ve seen a few eclipses and Halley’s Comet when it last visited us. Granny saw it the time before that too and she said it was much brighter in 1911.

Anyway, my husband is of the scientific type and The Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive is one of his favourite websites. Take a look if you’re interested in seeing fabulous photographs of the cosmos.

This photo from the site incorporates two interests of mine – gardening and astronomy – it’s a representation of the galaxy as a garden. It’s in Hawaii so I’m never going to visit it, it’s too hot and sunny for me but this photo is next best thing, I can imagine I’m there.

My husband was given a DVD of From the Earth to the Moon as a Christmas present so we spent part of the holidays watching it all and it took me right back to that exciting time when men were walking on the moon. I think I was 11 at the time of the first moon landing. Nowadays there are a lot of children who think that you are pulling their leg about it all. They just don’t realise that men have already been on the moon.

It’s quite sad really. Anyway if you like lovely astronomical photos take a look at the site, there are hundreds of them.

Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning

Olivia Manning’s Balkan and Levant Trilogies are probably better known as Fortunes of War as that is what the BBC serialisation was named. The first three books were published separately between 1960 and 1965 as :

1. The Great Fortune
2. The Spoilt City
3. Friends and Heroes
and later published in one big volume as The Balkan Trilogy.

As you can see an audio version is available.

The sequel is The Levant Trilogy which was published in three volumes between 1977 and 1980 as:

1. The Danger Tree
2. The Battle Lost and Won
3. The Sum of Things.

If you’re at all interested in World War II you’ll love these books. I read them all in 2008, just before I started blogging and I don’t even have any notes on them but I thoroughly enjoyed the books and they’re written so well I was finished them in no time at all, which was the only disappointing thing really.The writer Anthony Burgess said that they were, “The finest record of the war produced by a British writer.”
Can’t say fairer than that can you?

I remember that I loved watching the BBC serialisation but for some reason it’s never been re-shown, unless I’ve just missed it somehow. It starred a very young Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh. I think it was only the second thing that I’d ever seen Emma Thompson in, the first programme was by the BBC again and it was called Tutti Frutti. It was ages ago now and again it doesn’t seem to have been re-shown. But at last, it’s out in DVD.

It was set in Scotland and also had Robbie Coltrane and Richard Wilson in it. I remember it was very funny and is just the sort of thing that they should have on now in these dark and gloomy days. Emma Thompson was able to do a very good Scottish accent. Her mother is the Scottish actress Phyllida Law.

I think I might just put the DVDs on my Christmas list, if my husband’s looking for any ideas!

The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham

The Crime at Black Dudley cover

This book was much better than the last Margery Allingham which I read. It’s the first book which she wrote featuring Albert Campion as a character, and it really annoys me that she has written him with a ‘silly falsetto voice.’ There’s nothing more guaranteed to put you off a man, so I try to pretend that she didn’t write that.

This is the well-loved country house weekend sort of crime thriller/ adventure story and I’m not going to say much more about it other than that I really enjoyed it. I know that at least one other blogger (Danielle) has it on her nightstand waiting to be read.

There is an engaged couple in this book and at one point the man decided that he wouldn’t allow his fiancee to participate in the action on the grounds that it would be dangerous. It just about had me bouncing my head off the wall, but the book was written in 1929 and to be honest, men got off with behaving like that a lot more recently too.

Apparently she wrote Campion as a parody of Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey. I wonder how well that went down with Sayers? They lived very close to each other in Essex in the 1930s. Sayers in Witham and Allingham was near White Notley, with just one train station in between them.

They were well known to the station staff and would often be on the same train going to nearby London, but according to one biography which I read years ago they didn’t pay much attention to each other.

In the 1970s I lived in Braintree, the next station along and at that time they were still using the 1930s carriages, just exactly as they are im Miss Marple. On my way to work in Witham I used to wonder if I was sitting in a seat which they had sat in, but on second thoughts, they would probably have been in the First Class section.

I seem to remember that Peter Davison was quite good in the role of Campion in the tv series.

Campion Complete Collection cover

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

I dug a lot of books out of the attic during my recent clean up and decluttering binge, and one of them was Testament of Youth which is Vera Brittain’s autobiography from 1900 – 1925, definitely one for keeping and re-reading. This book was first published in 1933 and the BBC dramatised it years ago.

I think I saw the tv programmes first but soon after that I bought the book and the sequel Testament of Experience.

Vera Brittain was one of the very few women to get into an Oxford College in 1914 but after one year she gave up her studies to become a VAD nurse and ended up nursing in London, Malta and at the Front in France. It’s a heart-breaking read as all of the young men close to her are lost, including her fiance and her beloved brother Edward. But if you are interested in World War 1 then this is a “must read”.

Vera became a pacifist and was active in the League of Nations. She did get married and her daughter is Shirley Williams, who was once a lib-dem M.P. and is now in the House of Lords.

I think I’ll buy the dvds because I haven’t seen the series since it was first shown.
I like this anniversary cover although it isn’t the one which I have, mine has Cheryl Campbell on the front, she played the part of Vera in the series.

The Shipping News DVD

When I finished reading the book The Shipping News by Annie Proulx I had that horrible feeling that you get when you really enjoy a book so much that you’ve been completely immersed in its environment. Surfacing to the real world isn’t all that pleasant and I really missed Newfoundland and the characters.

So I asked for and received a copy of the DVD as one of my birthday presents. Although Kevin Spacey looks nothing like the character in the book, to be fair I’m sure there is nobody like that in Hollywood, he is really great as Quoyle.

In fact I think all the actors were really good in their parts, even the wee girl. I’m sure I’ll be rewatching the film a lot. If you haven’t seen it already, you can get a flavour of it here.

Interestingly, Annie Proulx was one of many authors who were featured in The Guardian Review on Saturday. They were asked to recommend books for summer reading. One of her choices is Eaarth by Bill McKibben.

Birthday books

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of The Gathering Night by Margaret Elphinstone for my birthday. This photograph of me reading it in our garden makes me look a bit weird I think, worryingly my husband thinks I look normal in it.

I was also given The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale which is about a true murder mystery which took place in 1860 and inspired Wilkie Collins and other writers.

Last but not least is a lovely book, Plants in Garden History by Penelope Hobhouse. It’s beautifully illustrated if you like plants, flowers and garden plans.

I can’t resist visiting second-hand bookshops which are quite thin on the ground in this area but when I was in St Andrews I bought myself:

Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier as I am trying to read all of hers.

Moonfleet by J.Meade Falkner. It’s a classic tale of mystery and adventure in a Dorset smuggling village. For some reason I love smuggling tales.

The Best of Saki (Hector Hugh Munro) who was killed in the trenches in the First World War. It’s a book of short stories.

Last but not least School for Love by Olivia Manning. I’ve been meaning to read more of her books. I read and loved The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy. The BBC serialised The Balkan Trilogy as The Fortunes of War in 1987 starring Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh. I think anyone interested in WW2 would love these books.

I was given lots of DVDs by Duncan and I was especially pleased to get The Shipping News. I read the book recently and was so immersed in it that I really missed it when it was finished, so now I can revisit the story via the film. It’s too soon for a re-read.

So, as you can see I was a very lucky birthday girl and that TBR pile just keeps growing.

Birthday Trip

First, many thanks for the birthday felicitations, folks. As it was a lovely bright day we prepared a picnic and went for a drive along the coast.

Just before we left our house I had a delivery of roses from Gordon and Laura, very naughty of them as they were just too extravagant. Must remember to skelp their legs when I see them!

We visited the East Neuk fishing villages of Largo, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail and then on to the university town of St Andrews. It’s a lovely wee very historical town and the only place that I would like to live in Fife. Unfortunately that’s impossible now as it is so expensive for property, mainly because of all the golf courses in the area. The University of St Andrews is celebrating its 600 birthday this year. Duncan, our eldest is the website editor there.

So after a nice wander around the town and a visit to Fisher and Donaldson the famous bakery, we headed for the bookshops. Then we travelled back to Anstruther as it was getting on for dinner time. We had the birthday meal on Wednesday in Kirkcaldy so dinner was very low key, fish and chips from the famous award winning chippy.

Apparently it was a popular destination for Prince William when he was a student at St Andrews a few years back, and he recommended it to his father, Prince Charles, who took Camilla there for fish and chips recently.

It was good but I don’t think it was the best that we had eaten, we had never sampled it before because the enormous queue had always put us off, but the queue did move fairly quickly. Next time we will try The Wee Chippy which got a very good write up in The Guardian.

Then we just went back home and ate our purchases from the cake shop. We all had strawberry Danish pastries and I couldn’t resist a coffee tower too. Yummy! Jack watched the FIFA World Cup while I had happy birthday ‘phone calls and watched a birthday DVD – One Foot in the Grave. Really funny, I nearly choked at a few points, so a good day was had by all.