Tag Archives: Nancy Mitford

The magic of a letter


You cannot tie up an e-mail in blue ribbon and place it tenderly in a casket containing others like it, to leave for a grateful posterity to find and marvel over its touching sentiments, and even write a blog about their great-grannie and the beautiful or scandalous love letters she received!

I miss letters which aren’t bills and rates demands. There was so much more to decipher in a real letter than just words. First of all there was the paper it was written on. Cheap, thin, lined paper or coloured paper was a no-no, and spoke volumes about the taste of the unfortunate writer. Discriminating letter writers used a thick writing paper like Basildon Bond in white or pale blue. Even fussier ones tried to afford thicker, expensive, crisp, cream deckle- edged paper, bought from specialist stationers. Yes, there were shops in those days that sold nothing but high quality stationery, often beautifully boxed, and of course, fountain pens.

Fountain pens had the same competitive edge then, that an Apple or an I-Pad has now (or am I out-of date?)… sporting a gold nib, a gold hook to clip it into your suit pocket if you were a man, and a gold clip to pull back for the ink to be sucked up into the pen. You had to remember to empty it if you were flying, or the pressure caused the ink to flood out and stain the suit. I particularly loved the mottled versions, a bit like the marbled end papers on old books.

The ink had to be black or blue…green was vulgar, red was for money matters! The hand –writing was usually based back then on a form of copper-plate. From the age of six onwards, we used horrible crossed nibs from over-use, and dip pens to copy rows and rows of letters in long-hand. It was actually good hand- to- eye co-ordination in retrospect, and there was all sorts of etiquette round that too.

A capable girl named the ink monitor (never me) filled the inkwells and handed them out. The pens were shared out, and our copy books sorted. Woe be-tied the careless child (usually a tiresome boy!) who spilled his inkwell over the desk. And unless you learned to hold the pen correctly, it was impossible to actually form the letters – so you had to learn – unlike the way children hold pencils nowadays, in all sorts of strange postures.

There was a lot of un-official lore around hand-writing. We gathered that a hand that sloped backwards, showed the person was deceitful – oh dear – that when the dots to ‘I’s’ were flung wildly far from the ‘I,’ that showed the person was wildly imaginative. My dots remained firmly in place over the ‘I’s’ in my tightly controlled handwriting, which disguised the anxious persona underneath my vivacity.

I read that if a person used the word ‘ I’ more than every seven words in a sentence, this showed how egotistical they were… I wonder if that’s why it was so popular to say, “one thinks”, instead “I think.” I even had a friend who referred to herself in the third person.

Graphology, the art of reading character from hand-writing, turns out to be rather accurate in the hands of a skilled practitioner. When my brother worked for a London recruitment agency, a potential employer asked for a graphologist’s report on a possible employee.  Sceptical, my brother had his hand-writing analysed first, and was amazed when the report came back even detailing the problems he had had at birth!

But even an unskilled interpreter could enjoy the impressions that hand-writing displayed… scrawling, well-formed, exuberant – to un-readable – lots of that! Old people’s handwriting often became indecipherable, and what was always called ‘crabbed’, which seemed to mean it looked a bit spidery and wavery, thanks to arthritis.

Then there was the envelope – which had to match the writing paper, and here we come to one of writer Nancy Mitford’s famous jokes, or teases as she called them! She decreed that non-U (Non-Upper class) people called it ‘notepaper’, while the others opted for ‘writing paper’. Envelopes which displayed their owner’s regimental crest on the back were particularly prized when we were young – a symbol of the boy-friend’s status. But the fat envelopes stuffed with a thick wodge of pages of scrawl, sharing, gossip, and fun written by girl-friends were even better. They came through the letter-box, until I came to NZ, where we have boxes by the gate and I used to enjoy a stroll out to the letter-box to find these treasures.

Inside, the greeting obviously varied from dear, dearest and darling, to the more formal,’ dear sir or madam’, while the endings – here etiquette ruled with an iron hand. ‘Yours faithfully,’ and a full signature if a business letter… I think ‘yours truly’ was next in line, before getting to ‘yours sincerely’, which could be signed with full name or just Christian name depending on the level of intimacy.

No-one ever signs off: ‘I am, sir, your obedient servant’, these days or: ‘yours respectfully’, or even: ‘yours affectionately’, which rather appeals to me. And how I loved in those old romances the signing off by rejected suitors: “I beg of you to believe that now and always I am your very obedient servant to command” …those were indeed the days. Such chivalry seems dead when most of our e-mail communications seem to end either with Kind Regards – or Regards – so formal, so cold, so colourless.

Some of my favourite books are collections of letters. Will there ever be such collections again? Who keeps e-mails? Maybe some print them off or transfer them into a Keep File. But too often, it’s too easy just to hit ‘delete’ when the in-box gets too full. The one good thing about e-mails is that they’re easy to write so maybe we are in touch more often.

I had one friend whose hand-written letters were delightful puzzles. She was dyslexic and there were great and crucial gaps on every page where she’d left a space in order to go and check the spelling in the dictionary, and had then forgotten and sealed it and sent it. Dear Jackie would have loved the spell-checker… maybe she’s found a heavenly spell-checker in the land of her fathers, where she now rests in peace!

Food for threadbare gourmets

Home after another day gadding about with friends, and feeling guilty about leaving my husband with a scratch lunch, and I hadn’t planned a decent supper either. In the freezer I found some cooked pork sausages which he loves, and thought I’d better dress them up to make a decent meal. Lots of leeks gave me inspiration, and I adapted a recipe of Elizabeth Luard’s.

I sauted several large chopped leeks in butter till almost soft. I added some stock, and let it boil to finish cooking the leeks. At this stage I put the sausages into the leek mixture, then added a teasp of Dijon mustard, and a good sprinkling of nutmeg, salt and black pepper, plus plenty of cream to bubble up and thicken. Delicious, eaten with new potatoes, and green vegetables.  I was having a little cold salmon, so I used some of the leeks as a sauce with it, and that worked well too.

Food for thought

There is no greater sin than desire, no greater curse than discontent,
No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself.
Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always
have enough.

Lao tsu


Filed under cookery/recipes, culture, great days, humour, philosophy, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

Domestic dramas and our daily bread

100_0392Life’s rich pageant is sometimes not quite what I expect. The last week or so was one of those times.  I’ll start with the good times… coffee with Friend at a garden cafe. At the entrance the glade of persimmon trees was a flaming circle, though the trees have shed half their leaves. Those that are left hanging are tawny orange, and round ripe red fruit hang from every branch, decorating every twig like an elegant Christmas tree. The whole grove was a blaze of glowing colour and sound, birds perched in every tree, singing, whistling and feasting.

There were tuis whose bright turquoise plumage glistened richly against the red of the fruit, acid green silver eyes flitting from branch to twig, and a host of sparrows, a few thrushes and blackbirds. The green grass sprouting after all the rain was littered with the empty flame- red carcasses of persimmons expertly cleaned out by tiny beaks. It was a busy and happy scene.

The next day began at seven am with me pulling back the curtains of the French windows from where I can glimpse the road. I saw a flash of white, and then another … just too big to be a dog. Oh no, I thought, Anna and Mike’s new baby goats. No time to ring someone to catch them they were going so fast. It was down to me! Luckily I had my slippers on (fluffy), and I prayed that it was too early for any friendly village pervs to be going about their business, as I dashed out in my pyjamas. (Age is irrelevant … the mere word pyjamas electrifies some elderly gents!)

Rushing up to the top of the garden, and down the road, I clapped my hands and called them – they are known as the little darlings. Easy-peasy, they came running, relieved to find a person who would look after them. Slowly I edged and skipped sideways in the fluffy slippers, and led them back down the cul de sac to where their field lay. Robert, the in-house, elderly billy-goat gave them heaps when I pushed them back into the field. They have little white pointed faces, sensitive and exquisite. Saanen goats originally came from Switzerland – these two from the SPCA shelter – neutered, and male, so unwanted since they can’t produce milk! The official description of these goats is rather charming – they are described as large, kind, and friendly. These ones are little, sweet and friendly.

I thought I’d give them a handful of goat treats, and had to crawl into the back of their hut up on the side of the hill-side to get their bowl out. Before I could say knife, all three goats were in and around me, as I scrabbled for the bowl on my hands and knees and was jostled by three determined bodies, and twelve dainty legs. I finally retrieved my dignity and the bowl, and fobbed them off with the goodies.

Back home and off to the big smoke with Friend for a farewell lunch with the various sprightly and foot-loose octogenarians who were about to leave for energetic tours around Germany, Italy or Alaska, we two returning to our frail husbands who cannot be left. “We were lucky to find a tour that would let over – eighties join,” said one… “We have to carry our own luggage around Italy,” chirped another.

The next morning, overcome by tooth-ache, the dentist squeezed me in, and an hour later and some thousands of dollars lighter, I was the bemused possessor of half a bridge, until the whole one had been made to measure. Things went from ache to worse in that department, and I was back again, if not writhing in pain, certainly not a happy camper, a few days later. And there’s more today!

Later, as I backed out of the garage in the rain to return a book to a neighbour, I heard a horrendous bang, and slammed on the brakes. Shaken I climbed out of the car to survey the damage. A wicked squalling wind had just blown off the sea, caught the very high tilt door, designed to let boats in, and slammed it down on the back of the moving car. The electric door was hanging dangerously off the runners at an angle, and badly dented, while the back of the car was chewed up, red glass from the lights scattered everywhere. I backed it out while I could still get it out of the garage.

So now we need a new door, and a new back on the car. Insurance, yes, but by the time the excess is paid on both, it’s a sizeable chunk of money just for a second in the wind. Later, as I searched my soul for the reason for this kick in the back-side, I got the message. Just regretful now that I must have been so dense, and that it took something so dramatic to learn a life’s lesson!

And all the while there’s blogs to read, and birds to feed. The tuis and wax-eyes, and blackbirds love the apples and persimmons I nail onto the fence-line, so I can watch them from the sitting room window. And now I’m looking for a Perspex or glass bowl to hold frozen peas and frozen sweet corn. This is food for wood pigeons. Both the loquat fruit and the guava harvest having failed after the drought this year, the pigeons are hungry and likely to starve through the winter. A bird rescue centre advises us to put the food in a glass bowl so the pigeons can see them, and wedge the said bowl in a pururi tree… in my case, it’ll be the guava tree which they already know, and which I can reach easily.

“Bit expensive, isn’t it?” murmured my other half un-easily.

“That’s the price we have to pay for preserving our wild life,” I returned briskly and pompously. But it did the trick, and silenced the poor chap.

So this is life these days… in ‘The Pursuit of LoveNancy Mitford once described this humdrum of ordinary existence as the wholemeal bread of life… and so it is… but even so, I sometimes long, like Kubla Khan, to feed on honeydew and drink the milk of paradise.

So as I went to put another log on the fire last night, I was thinking to myself that yet again, I hadn’t done much with my day, when I remembered Michel de Montaigne’s wonderful words. He was a lovely man and a writer and philosopher in sixteenth century France, who has often cheered me up and given me confidence, since most of his writing is about himself and his thoughts… like mine!  In his essays he used anecdotes and personal ruminations which his contemporaries thought was self-indulgent, and detrimental to proper style. But he said: ‘I am myself the matter of my book’, and his popularity has lasted, while his critics have disappeared.

His words which came into my mind were: “Alas, I have done nothing this day! What! Have you not lived? It is not only the fundamental but the noblest of your occupations”.  Thank you Michel de Montaigne – that gives me a whole new appreciation of my wholemeal bread! Persimmons and pigeons, goats and garage, the daily bread of life, they all have a place in the hidden scheme of things… and my part is to love them and live with them, and value them, and to remember that this is a noble occupation.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Wet, cold wintry weather demands hot, satisfying stodge, so to ring the changes I decided we’d have onion tart. First step is the shortcrust pastry shell, in this case I’m afraid, ready-made, not my normal style, but needs must…. While it’s baking blind in the oven for ten minutes, I peeled and gently sautéed eight big onions – plenty- in four ounces of butter. Don’t let them brown, but gently cook until they’re a soft yellow mass. Beat an egg with two tablesp of white wine, stir in quarter of a pint of cream, salt and black pepper and a good pinch or grind of nutmeg. Stir into the onions, and cook very gently until it begins to thicken, then pour into the pastry case. Return to a moderately hot oven for about thirty minutes, until the top is lightly browned. You can also add two ounces of dry grated cheese like Gruyere.

Food for Thought

Kindness in another’s trouble, courage in one’s own … motto of Princess Diana 1961- 1997.

She also practised and advocated: ‘random acts of kindness.’





Filed under animals/pets, birds, cookery/recipes, great days, happiness, life/style, philosophy, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

The drug we can’t live without

0000621 “Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”  I couldn’t agree more with Sidney Smith, an Anglican clergyman, who died in over a hundred and fifty years ago. And as far as I’m concerned it can’t be any old tea. And certainly not a tea-bag, a monstrous invention that I suspect is just tissue paper filled with tea-dust left in the bottom of the tea chest after my proper tea leaves have been packaged.

And for me the only tea worth drinking is Twining’s Lapsang Souchong. It comes from Fujian Province in China. According to the packet: “the delicious smoky flavour is produced by lying the leaves on bamboo trays, and allowing the smoke from pinewood to permeate through them”. Ah, so … other tea now tastes quite crude to me after years of drinking nothing but this brew.

Though the Twining family may be surprised to hear this, I always feel quite connected to them, as I had a great friend who was a Twining, and my former in-laws had lived in a rose- coloured, brick Georgian house built by Elizabeth Twining down by the River Thames. I spent a lot of time there in that beautiful house, very conscious of Elizabeth. The firm of Twinings has been selling tea for three hundred years from premises in The Strand in London, so when the latest head of the Twining family came out to NZ to talk tea, naturally I heeded his instructions on how to make it.

Always happy to take the least trouble, I was delighted to hear from him (on the radio) that we don’t need to heat the tea-pot –  swishing boiling water around the pot before putting the tea-leaves in. Previously it had been an essential part of the ritual of making a pot of tea. But my tea leaves now go into a cold tea-pot. I missed the rest of his talk so I don’t know whether he addressed the thorny problem of milk. To have or not to have – that is the question. Purists don’t. I’m not a purist. I’m a conservative who has had milk in my tea for more than seventy years.

There‘s a further twist to the milk problem – known as MIF. Legend has it (which is not always reliable) that the Royal family refer to people as MIF’s. But I don’t believe this snobbish canard. MIF means exactly that – milk in first. And this is what the late Nancy Mitford used to funningly call non-U.  (U meant upper class, and non-U the opposite!) Milk in first means you’re probably the sort of person who’d lift the port decanter and push it across the table instead of sliding it along clockwise around the table – horrors – or would say: ‘pleased to meet you,’ instead of:’ how do you do!’ – shudders!  Incredibly, when I grew up these snobbish rituals defined the man – or woman.

So for most of my life, I had put the tea in first. But the worm turned about fifteen years ago, when I discovered that the tea tastes much nicer when you do MIF ! This puts me firmly on the wrong side of the tracks – but the bonus is delicious tea.

If I’m offered a cup of tea that I know will not meet my impossible standards of taste and strength – other people’s tea is always too strong for me – I add sugar, and then it becomes something else. Tea out of a mug is not the same as tea out of a bone china flowered cup and saucer. I dread the day when I’m plonked in an old people’s home, and will have no lapsang souchong and no bone china tea-cup.

Life without tea is unthinkable. There was no bombing so bad in the Blitz, that you weren’t offered a cup of tea after it; no shortage of water in the Western desert so tight, that there wasn’t always enough for a pot of tea brewed by the tanks; no misery so deep that a cup of tea doesn’t at least give the sufferer a second’s respite; no cold so deep that a cup of hot tea doesn’t warm the innards;  no thirst so terrible in the tropics, that a cup of tea doesn’t quench it, and no morning in the office so boring that a cup of tea doesn’t briefly break the monotony .

I often jokingly use the poet Cowper’s delicious phrase: ‘the cup that cheers but doth not inebriate!’ My grandmother always had a trolley laid for such a cup – on a lace tea-cloth with two tea-cups and saucers, sugar pot and tea-spoons, and the milk jug covered with a crocheted lace doily weighted with coloured beads. (Milk that wasn’t mucked about with didn’t go sour like it does today!)

In her book ‘Urban Shaman’, American writer CE Murphy writes a delicious description of having a cup of tea: “In Ireland, you go to someone’s house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you’re really just fine. She asks if you’re sure. You say of course you’re sure, really, you don’t need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don’t need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn’t mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it’s no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting.

“In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don’t get any damned tea. I liked the Irish way better.”

She must have forgotten that the American way with tea is simply to toss it into Boston Harbour!

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

This is the perfect cake to have with a cup of tea – if you’re not planning on cucumber sandwiches! It’s the classic French cake with equal quantities of everything. So it’s four eggs, and the same weight of butter, sugar and flour. You can halve the amounts for a smaller cake. Soften the butter, and beat it with the sugar – until it’s almost white and fluffy. Add the eggs whole, one at a time and beat. If it starts to look grainy, add a spoonful of sieved flour. When all the eggs are in, fold in the flour a spoonful at a time, using a metal spoon.

Add enough milk to make a soft smooth mixture which drops off the spoon. Stir in the grated rind of half a lemon. Gently push into a buttered cake tin, the base lined with greaseproof paper, and bake in a moderate oven around 180 degrees. Bake for fifty minutes … if it’s still soft and hissing, cook for another ten minutes.

Leave the cake in the tin for a few minutes, and then tip onto a rack to cool. I make a butter icing for this, soft butter, icing sugar and lemon juice and the other half of the grated lemon rind, all beaten together.
Food for Thought

Development cannot fly in the face of happiness; development should promote human happiness, love and human relati0ns between parents and children and friends. Life is the most important  treasure we have and when we fight, we must fight for human happiness.” Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay at the Rio Conference



Filed under cookery/recipes, food, great days, happiness, humour, life/style, philosophy, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

The Pursuit of Love and Other Interests!





When I was twenty and longing to fall in love, I came across a book that seemed made for me. It was called The Pursuit of Love.

But far from being chick-lit (a term which hadn’t been invented then) it was an elegant, deliciously funny work of literature. Back then with no internet, and no Wikipedia, it was almost impossible to find out anything about the writer, Nancy Mitford, but when her next book appeared, I was waiting with eager open hands. Since however, a whole library of books has been written about Nancy Mitford and her extraordinary six sisters.

Actually The Pursuit of Love has wickedly funny descriptions of most of her sisters, and her parents too. Uncle Mathew – her father – having passed into legend. Nancy was the eldest, and had a series of love affairs and a miserable marriage until she met General de Gaulle’s chef de mission, a philanderer called Gaston de Palewski. She fell hopelessly in love with him, and after the war moved to Paris to be near him, swallowing his other affairs with difficulty. She went on to write a series of witty and sparkling best-sellers, including historical books. She was probably the most brilliant of the sisters.

Pam, next in line, was superficially the least interesting of the sisters – her idea of bliss was working a farm and milking. Poet John Betjeman wanted to marry her, and wrote poetry about her, but she ended up marrying a famous physicist, millionaire and amateur jockey, who won the Grand National, the most famous race in England, and also became a much decorated RAF pilot. There’s no room here for more of his extraordinary life and serial marriages! But when their fourteen year old marriage broke up, Pam became a lesbian, a farmer, bred dogs, and practised re-cyling so obsessively that she was the laugh of the family – but in hindsight, may have been one of the first conservationists.

Diana, the next, was a great beauty, and like all her sisters possessed of great intelligence and spirit. Married for a couple of years to a rich Guinness heir, she threw it all away for love of Sir Oswald Moseley, another philanderer, who was ravishing not only his wife but her two sisters at the same time that he was  seducing Diana. When his wife died of appendicitis, Moseley, founder of the British fascists, the Blackshirts, married Diana. As fascist friends of Hitler and co, their wedding took place in Goebbel’s home, and Hitler strolled over from his office with a wedding present, to celebrate the occasion with them.

Back in England when the war broke out, Diana and her husband were imprisoned as potential traitors for most of the war, and Pam looked after their children. After the war, the Moseleys settled in a famously beautiful country home outside Paris, where he carried on his trouble making politics and his philandering, while Diana wrote and edited a fascist magazine plus her books. She never recanted her belief in the goodness of Hitler, and to her dying day said what had happened was exaggerated, or that his underlings had done it without his knowledge.

Unity the fourth sister, a tall imposing blonde, went to Germany to learn the language and fell in love with Hitler. Being a snob, as well as a racist, he found the blonde Aryan- looking aristocrat  intriguing, and they became good friends. She introduced all her family to him, except for Nancy, and her two younger sisters. They were all very taken with Germany’s dictator who showered favours upon them. When war broke out, Unity shot herself in the head, but survived, and Hitler paid her medical expenses, and sent her on a special ambulance train to Switzerland, from where her parents could retrieve her. It caused a sensation! Unity survived until three years after the war, with the mind of a twelve year old, incontinent, and confused. She died of meningitis caused by the head wound.

Jessica ‘s story is in The Pursuit of Love – how she saved all her pocket money throughout her childhood for her running – away fund, and on meeting Esmond Romilly a troubled and truculent nephew of Winston Churchill, they eloped together at eighteen to join in the Spanish Civil War. Nancy Mitford’s account of their escapade is very funny, she had a gift for sending life up. Back in England, their first child died at a few months old, and they went to the US, as convinced communists.

When war broke out, Esmond joined the air force, and was killed, leaving Jessica with a daughter and no money. Eventually she married another communist and they had numerous problems during the McCarthy era, when they worked to help blacks in California. She made a name for herself in America writing books exposing scandals like the funeral parlour business – The American Way of Death etc. and her best- selling autobiography,‘ Hons and Rebels’.

Deborah, the youngest, married a Guards officer. His eldest brother, who was married to President Kennedy’s sister Kathleen, was killed in Normandy, so the young guards officer became the Duke of Devonshire. John Kennedy, Deborah’s brother in law was very fond of her, and invited her to his In-auguration where she sat beside him to watch the parade, and she attended his funeral of course, broken hearted.

As chatelaine of Chatsworth, one of the greatest houses in England, she restored it, made it a prosperous business so the family can afford to live there, and preserved all its treasures so the public can enjoy them too. She opened farm shops, bred and showed dying breeds of hens, cattle and ponies, has written wry witty books, preserved her marriage to her alcoholic philandering husband and survived several miscarriages to bring up a happy family.( So many of the Mitford girls’ men seemed to be both powerful and philanderers, unlike their rigidly upright father)

The story I like best about Deborah was when war broke out when she was nineteen. She was staying on a remote Scottish Island in the Hebrides with her mother, and had to get her goat, her Labrador and her whippet back to Oxfordshire. To get from the island there was a long walk from the house across a slippery sea-weed covered causeway at low tide to reach their boat. This meant leaving in the dark at 6.30 am. Once in the boat and having reached the Isle of Mull, there was another long and hazardous walk over rocks to the tin hut where their car was kept. From here she drove across Mull to catch the ferry to the mainland. The ferry took three hours to get to Oban, where she waited all day with all the animals for the London train. To pass the time, she went shopping around Oban. Accompanied by the goat and two dogs, and buying their lunch from a butcher and a greengrocer!

The train arrived at Stirling in the middle of the night, where she had to change trains and wait an hour for the London train. She took the animals into the first class waiting room, which she characteristically mentions she shouldn’t have done since she only had a third class ticket. Here she milked the goat, and gave it to the dogs to drink. Then off to London in the train, a taxi to her sister Nancy’s house, where the goat cleaned up her garden while they waited another two hours for the train to Oxfordshire. Now that’s what I call an epic journey. Deborah is still alive and lively at ninety three, her son now being the present duke.

The only son in this extraordinary family whose father, Lord Redesdale, prospected fruitlessly for years in the 1920 Gold Rush in Ontario, was a lawyer, musician and soldier who was killed in Burma. Book lovers like me have a whole library on this coterie of girls who were related to, or knew many of the main players in history at that time, including Winston Churchill who was their uncle. There are all their books, their letters to people like Evelyn Waugh, and Patrick Leigh Fermor, autobiographies, biographies, their novels plus memories of them written by others – a real niche market – and I have them all. Like ‘em or hate ‘em, they were an extraordinary phenomena, who unself-consciously lived lives less ordinary.

And this is why I prefer fact to fiction – facts are so interesting and truly, in that old cliché – so much stranger than fiction.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

This recipe for courgette slice was given me by a friend twenty five years ago. It’s one of the most blotched and spotted recipes in my book, as I often use it at this time of year when courgettes /zucchini are cheap and plentiful. The original recipe used three slices of bacon, but I use a tin of salmon. Beat five eggs, and add a chopped onion which has been gently fried in butter, a cup of cheese, chopped bacon or drained tin of salmon, and about four or five grated courgettes – 12 ounces in weight. Mix well with a cup of flour and half a cup of oil, add salt and pepper, and if using salmon, a good helping of dill.

Bake in a moderate oven. I serve it hot with new potatoes, green vegetables, and sometimes make a quick tomato sauce, frying tomatoes in olive oil, adding a little sugar, salt and pepper. I prefer it luke warm or cold, when it’s good with salad and summer vegetables. It’s great to take on a picnic, and cut off slices, or in a packed lunch. This amount serves six, but I often make double the quantity and freeze one.

Food for Thought

“Through respect for Divine Order, patience is cultivated. This brings knowledge of proper timing. In that is great intelligence. Often other issues and other needs have to be worked out before your plans can unfold, before your place can be set at the table. By respecting all things, and most especially Divine Order, you will attain peace and patience. Through this, you will be directed to the most efficient use of your life, so that you can experience self respect to the fullest…”

“ Love Without End – Jesus Speaks”  by Glenda Green



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