Summer delight

The last month has been the time to dream of holidays (why does everyone go away in June and give me travel envy?) and therefore reading.


Twice a year the world is filled with book lists: Christmas and pre-holiday. This is Heywood Hill’s booklist. I’m caught by Maxwell Knight’s spy story (it reminds me I also need to read this) and the shenanigans of Ann de Courcy,which triggered a yearning to re-read of this, a classic of the redeeming-the-house-as-metaphor-for-finding-yourself genre.


The Guardian list is full of annoyingly weighty tomes that only a professional author of the more pretentious sort would want. I’d rather read a Mills and Boon than any of these, except possibly Joan Didion’s South and West, as travel books are always good on holiday. Even this sounds like the closest to enjoyment any of the interviewees dare creep. Nice illustrations by Owen Gatley though.


The New Yorker list is better, but I find it strange that all these illustrations show a woman reading but the choices are so bogus and aggressively macho. The only lists I’m taken by are Heywood Hill and Furrowed Middlebrow.


pictures: Slim Aarons in 1960s Athens; Owen Gatley x2; Cynthia Kittler.

Blog of the week

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


The illustrations range from the pretty,


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


and the completely barmy and opinionated:


Cake instead of pudding


We had lunch at half past twelve, and the food was rather different from what we usually had – we had fish instead of meat,  and cake instead of pudding. I don’t quite know what the point was, but it helped me to feel excited and rather sick. Then our luggage was carried down. I had an immense trunk with a rounded top and straps, and Marguerite had a brown tin box tied up with cords.

Travelling today, sadly without fish and cake first, so thought this passage from “Christmas with the Savages” fitted. It was written by Antonia Fraser’s aunt, so a nice piece of serendipity to read it just after AF’s own account of her father and aunts’ upbringing.

Painting by Henri Fantin-Latour



As usual on a bank holiday, I spend a lot of time lying on (not in) my bed, still in my pyjamas, reading and planning lots of meals.


About 9pm I might start cooking some, getting to bed at 2am the next morning a bit too tired and irritable and completely mis-setting my body clock for the rest of the weekend. I am also very happy for finding new voices and stories.


This time it was Rachel Alice Roddy, whose tales of Testaccio and Sicily grabbed me (photos from Rachel’s Instagram above; link to blog here). For those of you around, head to Stoke Newington Festival & other sites in London this month to hear her talk about cookbook as memoir and taste her cooking.


Rachel’s feed then led me to Hanna of  Building Feasts, whose supper clubs look divine, and whose weekly round ups include both makeup and books amongst the food. Both Hanna and Rachel feel like direct links to Nigella Lawson, whose writing and sheer enjoyment of food can’t be faulted.


Finally, here is the great idea of Kino Vino, pairing a cuisine and a film. Little Vera and Russian dumplings are still to come, as is a pairing of I Am Love with Rachel’s cooking. Full circle.

Top two photos my own; Building Feasts & Rachel images from their Instsgrams.

Coffee for the mind


Absolutely a fan of the idea behind Morning Short, a series of short stories that come to you when you join their mailing list.


An encounter with Kate Chopin‘s writing the year before GCSEs bit me with the short story bug, and I’m still convinced they enforce the best kind of writing.

I also like these illustrations by Miles Hyman very much; they exactly capture how I feel when I’m reading.



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…


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…

Raymond Chandler

I looked at the ornaments on the desk, everything standard and all copper. A copper lamp, pen set and pencil tray, a glass and copper ash tray with a copper elephant on the rim, a copper letter opener, a copper thermos bottle on a copper tray, copper corners on the blotter holder. There was a spray of almost copper-coloured sweet-peas in a copper vase. It seemed like a lot of copper.

Raymond Chandler lands a gag in his third book, The High Window. There’s an excellent analysis of it on the Backlisted podcast, where they note it’s the first novel by Chandler where the corruption is outside the central family in the plot.  

Horrible demands

Horrible income tax demands and letters from my bank about overdrafts. I am going to get into debt and have nothing to fall back on. I simply cannot work any harder than I do, and it means that I shall have to cut down all my expenses.

Harold Nicolson, January 1952. Rather reminiscent of Farv in The Pursuit of Love, who bought a new Rolls every time he feared bankruptcy.



Wonderful illustration too by Christopher Brown, who also did the Fire, Fire illustrations for this.