Rain-washed mountains

“Your father says it’s Gaelic and pronounced Camasunart,” said Mother, “and it’s at the back of beyond, so there you go darling, and have a lovely time for the birds and the – the water, or whatever you said you wanted.”

I sat clutching the receiver, perched there above the roar of Regent Street. Before my mind’s eye rose, cool and remote, a vision of rain-washed mountains.

”D’you know,” I said slowly, “I think I will.”

Gianetta Fox sets off for Scotland in Mary Stewart’s “Wildfire at Midnight”

Cake!

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There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perry’s being seen with a slice of Mrs Weston’s wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr Woodhouse would never believe it. – “Emma”, Jane Austen

Not at all like Mr Woodhouse as I go to celebrate a friend’s wedding today, partly with a lot of cake.

The top picture is the wonderfully-titled “The Tempting Cake” by Albert Roosenboom.

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And it’s only Wednesday

Harriet’s father was called George Johnson. He had a shop. It was not a usual sort of shop, because what it sold was entirely dependent on what his brother William grew, shot, or caught…

One of the things that was most trying for the whole family was that what would not sell had to be eaten. This made a great deal of trouble because Uncle William had a large appetite and seldom sent more than one of any kind of fish or game…

“What is there for lunch today, Olivia?” George would ask, usually adding politely “Sure to be delicious.” Olivia would answer “There’s enough rabbit for two, there is a very small pike, there is a grouse, but I don’t know about that, it seems very, very old, as if it has been dead for a very long time, and there’s sauerkraut. I’m afraid everybody must eat cabbage of some sort, we’ve had over seven hundred from Uncle William this week, and it’s only Wednesday.”

White Boots by Noel Streatfield. I always like her humour.

Romance

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My love of A Cup of Jo is well known, and the blog’s ability to get a real – and good – conversation going in the comments is next to nothing. That team isn’t smashing it. So it’s no surprise that when Ashley Ford posted there about her love of romance novels it broke the internet.

So many good suggestions! But for those of you looking for an indulgent night in, can I, firstly applaud the sheer genius of a romance novel bookshop called The Ripped Bodice (worth flying to America just for that), and secondly suggest you line up:

– Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series

– Joanna Shupe’s Knickerbocker series

– the Nacho Figueras take on a modern Jilly Cooper

– Alyssa Cole: An extraordinary union

– Ann Calhoun’s Liberating Lacy

– anything by Suzanne Wright or Elle Kennedy

(mum, you should have stopped reading sentences ago…)

“Woman combing her hair” by Joseph DeCamp

Wistful

How beautiful and atmospheric is this Brian Bailey wood engraving for E Nesbit’s The Three Mothers?

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And Nesbit is the perfect comfort read for the Christmas period too as I remember her Psammead series being the bedtime books for quite a few years. I’m still a fan of them.

 

Jane of Lantern Hill

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Everybody except the baby had brought a present for Jane. Mrs Jimmy John gave her a lambskin dyed red for a bedside rug. Miranda brought her a little fat white jug with pink roses on its sides, Punch brought her some early radishes, Polly brought her a rooted geranium slip and the twins brought her a toad apiece for the garden.

“You have to have toads in your garden for luck,” explained Punch.

LM Montgomery does peak hygge. This one has lots of sowing flowers, swimming in the sea and frying potatoes, as well as a fairytale ending – perfect holiday reading.

Summer evenings

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Flora went into the kitchen, where a lamp already burned on the table. Its soft light fell into the heart of a bunch of pink roses in a jam-jar. There was a letter from Charles propped against the jar too, and the roses threw down a heavy, rounded shadow onto the envelope. It was so pretty that Flora lingered a moment, looking, before she opened her letter.

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons. Photo from @elfredapownall.

Blog of the week

Well, sort of. This is actually Tweets of the week, as Helen posts @LBFlyawayhome on the Ladybird Books.

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The illustrations range from the pretty,

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to the of-their-time (I was tickled at how much Charles II and his courtier have faced exactly out of a mid-century illustration of sober lawyers), to the unintentionally amusing

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and the completely barmy and opinionated:

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Heavens to Betsy

 

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Reminded by Beth Bonini’s cheerful Instagram feed of these delightful books (I’ve posted about their companion volumes here and here before), I think I’m getting ready for a re-read.

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Lots of commentators compare these books to Meet Me in St Louis, and as well as the period details (the hairstyles! the dresses! the slang! the excitement over a telephone!), what I love most is the inherent optimism – progress is always good, and friends and family remain stable whilst welcoming new developments – but also the complete acceptance that a job, writing, singing, making your own mind up, are all important to a girl and in no way conflicted with the rest of her being.

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I find it depressing that a modern book wouldn’t show this, or would have to make a big point about it. Written in the 50s about the 1900-1910s, Betsy, Emily and Carney are in fact far more progressive than any characters today.

Sunshine

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I came across this Virginia Woolf quote below, which reminded me of this favourite book, with its invitation to “those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine” to hire an Italian castle for the month of April. Yes please…

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If life has a base that it stands upon, it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills – then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of lying half asleep, half awake, in bed in the nursery at St Ives. It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind. It is of hearing the blind draw its little acorn across the floor as the wind blew the blind out. It is of lying and hearing this splash and seeing this light…