Christmas in Black and White and Colour

2014 tree

Compliments of the Season to Everyone.

Two weeks ago I slipped on black ice and fractured my right wrist. This is severely limiting my typing ability and posts will be very intermittent for a while.

However, I’d like to share pictures of the lovely gifts I received this Christmas. As often happens they fall into themes. Each gift has been especially and thoughtfully chosen with ME in mind. I could not have chosen better myself.

black and white

Black and White Gifts

tea tray

Tea Related Gifts (although someone thinks I’d rather be drinking wine!)

london books

London Books, DVDs and Walk Map

I enjoy London walks and exploring the Hampstead and Belsize Park areas when I’m walking my son’s dog. I have the original Quiet London book and it has now spawned three more. I’m happy to spend the next weeks planning future explorations in London.

I’ve read W G Sebald‘s ‘The Rings of Saturn’ and seen this film. I’m looking forward to watching ‘Patience (after Sebald)’ again. Much of it is filmed in East Anglia where ‘Max’ Sebald lived and was professor at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Sadly, when his very original writing was taking he off, he was killed in a motor accident near his home in 2001.


Moi and MA

A story about a Pug called Moi set at Versailles

Alfie at Gif

Alfie at Gif-Sur-Yvette

We took my son’s pug with us when we stayed at the Windsor’s place near Versailles in 2012. In addition I had other smellies; plus a box of cards for me to write my thank you notes – if I can manage that this year!



My thanks to everyone for these special gifts!


Three weeks in New England on Instagram

Just a few days ago we returned from our holiday in New England. When I’m away I try to post each day on Instagram so the family can see where I am or where I’ve been and what I have seen. I’ve been busy since I got back so here’s a selected taster from that trip and soon I’ll be back with some detailed posts. But it’s been a “proper” holiday lounging about, reading and enjoying the relaxation.

Our cosy Cape Cod Cottage in East Falmouth

The Island Queen to Martha’s Vineyard

Seen on the Chappaquidick Ferry- a reminder of our next trip

Woods Hole Marina and Oceanographic Institute

Little Libraries always catch my eye

End of Season Sand Sculpture, Barnstable, MA

Connecticut River Vermont/New Hampshire

The Carriage House near Brattleboro VT

Eric Carle Museum, Amherst MA

Vermont Maple Syrup made here

Vermont View

LL Bean, Freeport ME “We never close

Allez, Leeds! Allez, Yorkshire! Turning Yorkshire Yellow – Le Grand Départ

At last the weekend of the Tour de France is almost here. It’s the time of year when I’m out and about and behind with my posts (which is true – I was at Compton Verney three weeks ago and since then down in Norfolk and Suffolk). However, this weekend I’m very much staying put. Hopefully I’ll be able to get closer to bringing my posts up to date before my next expedition.


Map of the UK Tour de France [source]

The first leg of the famous cycle race – Le Tour de France – is coming to Yorkshire this weekend. I’m not at all interested so am definitely staying put. That isn’t to say that I’m against it being held here – in fact, quite the contrary. I think it’s great for the country, the county and the millions who will enjoy it. I do hope the sun shines (right now it’s raining) and everyone has a great time and enjoys the festivities laid on. With roads closed and transport crowded or disrupted I’m just going to stay at home in the Boudoir.

Allez, allez Leeds

As I have driven around the local area and further afield in the Dales I’ve noticed everywhere along the route and nearby old bikes – big and small – penny farthings and trikes – all sprayed yellow. It’s hard to stop at each one when you’re driving so the other Saturday on my way back from a little shopping at Bettys at Harlow Carr I drew up in Pool and took a few snaps.

Window Bettys HC

 Tour de France window, Bettys Harlow Carr

Pool in Wharfedale is near the beginning of the route just after the official start at Harewood House where the cyclists will be waved off by big crowds including their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. I wonder whether they’ll wave them off on the 3rd leg from Cambridge to London?

Yellow bike

Yellow kiddies bike, Beckwithshaw Primary School

School jerseys and bike

The ‘yellow’ jerseys and bike, Beckwithshaw

Welcome to Pool

Welcome to Pool-in-Wharfedale banner

Pool bike

Bike and cyclist

Yellow bike Pool

Yellow Bikes in Pool

Good Luck and Bon Chance to all riders!



D Day Commemoration Normandy : The Green Howards

Watching today’s commemorations of The 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings on BBC TV I’m reminded of my own holiday in Normandy in 2006.

Normandy Map

We stayed for one week at Le Clos Normand right on the beach at St Aubin Sur Mer. In June 1944 the beach at St Aubin served as Juno; a Canadian landing beach.

St Aubin

The beach St Aubin Sur Mer

Canadian St A de M

Canadian Memorial, St Aubin Sur Mer (Juno Beach)

On the first day we were driving along the road that hugs the French coast noticing signs to Commonwealth War Graves and talking about my father-in-law who served in The Green Howards Yorkshire Regiment (he actually served in the North Africa Campaign and was later a prisoner-of-war in Austria) when out of the blue we saw a small signpost indicating “Green Howards Memorial”.

GH Crepon

Of course, we turned the car round and headed up the lane to the small village of Crepon. There on a bend of the road – no one could miss it – was the Green Howards Memorial. We learned that Green Howards were two of the first battalions to land at Gold Beach on June 6 1944. Read more about this day here.

“When night fell on D-Day, the Green Howards were as far forward as any British troops.” But sadly they suffered many casualties, of course.

GH Crepon Mem

Memorial unveiled by King Harald of Norway 26 October 1996

We noticed there were lights around the area and went back on at least one evening to see the beautifully floodlit memorial to these brave young Green Howards.

GH Memorial

“Remember the 6 June 1944”


Laughton, East Sussex : The Village of the Buckle

Road sign Laughton

Laughton in East Sussex lies about 5 miles NE of the county town of Lewes and that is where I spent 6 nights last week. Actually, not quite in Laughton itself but at the Landmark Trust property Laughton Place about a mile and a half from the village on foot but probably two miles by road. I’ll write more about Laughton Place next time but just show some pictures of the village and explain about the Buckle here.

What time ye French Sought to have Sackt Seafoord;

This Pelham did Repell them back Aboord”

Laughton Village sign

This poem and the buckle on the village sign represent the colourful Pelham family whose own history dominates that of this area. During battle in 1356 Sir John Pelham managed to capture the King of France. The English king [Edward III] was so impressed that he removed the buckle of his sword belt and handed it to Sir John as a reward. It henceforth became the badge of the Pelhams and can be seen throughout the village. [Adapted from Wealden Walks leaflet]

Laughton Church

All Saints Church, Laughton

Below Laughton church lie the remains of over sixty Pelhams, including two Prime Ministers [Henry Pelham (1694-1754) and his brother Thomas Pelham-Holles (1st Duke of Newcastle) (1693-1768)]. The latter rebuilt the chancel and donated a new set of bells to the church in 1724, which he had cast on the spot by a travelling founder.

War Memorial Laughton Church

War Memorial in Laughton Church

“In front of the now blocked north door an impressive war memorial was erected in 1921 in honour of the eighteen Laughton men killed in the Great War. The striking war memorial in the nave was dedicated in 1921. Sculpted in Italy of Carrara marble, it was paid for in Italian lira to take advantage of the exchange rate at the time. Four names were added following World War II.” [Source]

Flying Bombs memorial

A tablet on the same wall records the death of five people killed by a flying bomb in Shortgate.

Laughton has a pub, the Roebuck (shouldn’t that be Roebuckle??) which I didn’t try and a village shop and Post Office, which I did. The kind shopkeeper was able to point me in the direction of The Hammonds where the poet and author Eleanor Farjeon lived during the First World War.


Hammonds Laughton

Eleanor Farjeon wrote The Little Bookroom for children and the Martin Pippin books which are based on the East Sussex countryside.

Farjeon is most famous for her hymn Morning Has Broken which became a popular track on Cat Stevens’ album .

Morning has broken,
like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken,
like the first bird
Praise for the singing,
praise for the morning
Praise for the springing
fresh from the word

Sweet the rain’s new fall,
sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall,
on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness
of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness
where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight,
mine is the morning
Born of the one light,
Eden saw play
Praise with elation,
praise every morning
God’s recreation
of the new day

Oh, yes, we’ve still got our Teaser and the Firecat LP record (1971)!

Teaser and the Firecat

Teaser and the Firecat LP Cover




Ruin Lust at Tate Britain

RUIN : “The physical destruction or disintegration of something or the state of disintegrating or being destroyed”

According to the little leaflet that accompanies this Tate Britain exhibition the title Ruin Lust was taken from the German word Ruinenlust. 

Ruin Lust

Ruins are curious objects of desire: they seduce us with decay and destruction” it goes on to say. Although I found the whole show intriguing and was amazed at the countless interpretations of the word ‘ruin’, by far the most interesting part for me was the initial ‘Pleasure of Ruins’ section.

Ruins of West Front, Tintern Abbey circa 1794-5 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

W M Turner’s Tintern Abbey (1794) which was emblematic of the new trend to visit ruins at home rather than on a Grand European Tour.

Here were the traditional interpretations; the paintings, photographs and etchings that I had expected to see in an exhibition with this title. My interest in landscape and man’s influence on it is mainly historical. So, although I appreciate that modern day ‘Bunker Archaeology’ and Tacita Dean’s films and ‘Ruins in Reverse’ and [modern] ‘Cities in Dust’ all have a part to play in an overall picture of ruins over the centuries I prefer to see historical ruins of abbeys and castles and even the man-made ruins that gave character and focal points to 18th century landscape gardens.

Leaving Yorke's Folly

The man-made Yorke’s Folly in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire built in 1810

“A craze for ruins gripped European culture in the eighteenth century. Classical remains inspired artists such as Piranesi to depict great civilisations falling into decay. British architects and garden designers embraced this ruinous aesthetic, and artificial ruins were a popular addition to many great estates. William Gilpin’s writings on the picturesque encouraged many tourists — as well as artists such as J.M.W. Turner and John Sell Cotman — to travel in search of picturesque views of medieval ruins. Later, photography became essential to the recording and reimagining of ruins.

I remember reading in the newspaper probably 15 years ago [and commending] English Heritage’s intentions to conserve and deliberately retain the wildness surrounding Wigmore Castle in Herefordshire. Some ruins these days are just too manicured.


Wigmore has an overgrown appearance that once characterised many ruined sites. When conserving the site in the 1990s, English Heritage deliberately retained its wildness, as the castle had become home to rare and unusual species including lesser horseshoe bats and wild flowers like ploughman’s spikenard. Accumulated debris was allowed to remain, and the grasses, ferns and flowers growing on the walls were carefully lifted up and replaced as ‘soft-capping’ to protect the walls from rain and more destructive plants like trees. [From the EH website]

To finish here are some recently visited picturesque ruins in Yorkshire and beyond.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

The Ruin

The Ruin a Landmark Trust property at Hackfall, North Yorkshire

Bradgate Park

Ruins of the former home of Lady Jane Grey, Bradgate Park, Leicester


The Ruins of Kenilworth Castle

Spofforth Castle

Spofforth Castle, Yorkshire, visited on a recent hike

Window ruin Spofforth

Ruined Window, Spofforth Castle

Doorway ruin Spofforth

Ruined Doorway, Spofforth Castle

Here is a brief review of the exhibition by Christopher Beanland; which finished by showing ‘The London Nobody Knows’ documentary featuring James Mason in the derelict Bedford Theatre in Camden. The unabridged film is now available on DVD.





The History Wardrobe Premiere : Women and The Great War

Oh my word! What a fun afternoon I have had. First I met up with two dear friends from the online book group at The Heifer pub in Scorton in North Yorkshire (a village between Northallerton and Richmond). After a tasty lunch and several cups of tea we headed across the village green to The Memorial Hall to attend my third (and their first) the premiere of their new presentation by Lucy and Merry The History Wardrobe company : Women and The Great War.

Women of Britain say Go

Dawn, from nearby Kiplin Hall, who was responsible for the event, opened the proceedings by telling us about the origins of the Memorial Hall and its connections with the Hall and the Great War. It was originally built and donated as the Men’s Reading Room by the owner of Kiplin Hall in 1892 (what would they have thought of Lucy and Merry in various states of undress this afternoon??) but was bought by the village in 1919 and dedicated to the men of the village who died in the First World War.

Lucy introducing

Lucy opens the presentation in her silk dressing gown, pyjamas and, yes, her boudoir cap

Silk pyjamas and boudoir cap

And here she is in the silk and lace pyjamas

Westminster Gazette 4.8.14

Lucy reading an original issue of The Westminster Gazette of 4 August 1914

One of the highlights of History Wardrobe shows is having the opportunity to see and later examine closely genuine costumes and accessories from the period. Lucy is very clear about what is reproduction and what is the genuine article. Knitting came very much to the fore during the war years so Merry’s mother set to and knitted socks as would have been made in their thousands and sent to soldiers serving on the front line. Sometimes the knitters added a personal message to the unknown soldier and popped it into one of the socks. They even occasionally received replies.

Knitted socks

Meredith’s mum’s socks

Many middle class women joined the nursing services – the VADs – The Voluntary Aid Detachments. Vera Brittain has famously written about her wartime service and experiences in her book Testament of Youth also dramatised as a successful TV series. Lucy was able to show us a long grey nursing dress purchased from Harrods and a standard uniform with exceptionally starched collar and cuffs.

Nursing dress

The Long Grey Nursing Dress

On Vogue cover

And on the cover of Vogue

We were shown a silk wedding dress with its high collar, crinoline skirt, masses of petticoats and long sleeves.

Silk wedding dress

The Silk Wedding Dress

When War broke out in 1914 six million women were already working outside the home but between 1914 and 1918 many more joined them in all sorts of work not least in munitions factories. Meredith took on this role displaying the cap and tunic that would have been worn with waist-tie trousers and heavy wooden-soled clogs with metal caps.

Factory 'dress'

Meredith as factory worker

Like all good series this one would not be complete without an accompanying book. Lucy has published “Great War Fashion: Tales from The History Wardrobe” and I have my library copy in front of me now and am very much looking forward to reading it.

Great War Fashion

Great War Fashion – on sale now!

Lucy signs her book

Lucy signs her book

Finally, peace has broken out at last! As Lucy quoted from one woman “It feels as though the elastic has broken!”.

Peace has broken out

I’m looking forward to another History Wardrobe show although I don’t know what will be up for me next. Their diary is already filled for this year.

Titanic : A(nother) History Wardrobe Presentation

Titanic ticket

Fun and fashion are hardly the first words to come to mind when thinking about The Titanic but Lucy and Meredith of The History Wardrobe brought both to a rather dreary (weatherwise) afternoon at The Bagshaw Museum in Batley on Saturday. Last November I attended Lucy Adlington’s History Wardrobe presentation “Oh my poor nerves!” at The Red House in Gomersal and found I was “hooked”. After that performance I immediately booked for Titanic, thus securing ticket number 1!

Bagshaw Museum

The Bagshaw Museum, Batley

In 2012 I felt as if I never wanted to hear the word Titanic again. It seemed to crop up everywhere and on a visit to Belfast that June I even went to visit the Museum of the same name.

Titanic Experience

The Titanic Experience in Belfast

Titanic postcards

Titanic Postcards

Titanic keyrings

Titanic Keyrings

For 15 years now Lucy has presented history, and particularly women’s history, through women’s fashions. Visit her website here for a list of dates and presentations coming to a village hall or museum near you, soon.

Titanic set

The Titanic Set

Meredith, who took on the character of Lady Lucy Duff Gordon’s maid Mabel Francatelli, introduced the programme before Lucy, alias Lady Duff Gordon herself, made her grand entrance. Married to Sir Cosmo the three of them boarded the fateful ship at Cherbourg.

Lady Duff Gordon and maid

Lady Duff Gordon and her Maid Mabel

Following the collapse of her first marriage “In 1894 she rented a shop and workspace at 24 Old Burlington Street, London, between Bond Street and Regent Street. ‘Maison Lucile’ was a success and the ‘personality’ dresses of ‘Lucile’ were immediately popular. Each design was unique which enhanced their appeal. In 1897 new, larger premises were purchased at 17 Hanover Square. By 1900 the firm had become one of the great couture houses of London under the name ‘The Maison Lucile.’  In 1910 she opened a branch of Lucile Ltd. in New York. A further salon was established in Paris in 1912, and in 1915 a branch in Chicago expanded the empire.”

Hobble dress

Second class suit and cream silk dinner gown with a ‘hobble’ skirt

Throughout the performance Lucy stressed the importance of class and gender on the ship from passengers to crew each had their role and adhered to the hierarchy of social class.

We learn that the ship was a floating palace, 11 stories high and that it smelt of the perfume of flowers. We are shown examples of the dresses worn by first and second class passengers but very few ‘steerage’ outfits survive. This is due to the fact that dresses were worn to threadbare or remade and repaired and then used as rags. Lucy has however rescued  a single wool petticoat lined with glazed cotton – one of the prizes of her collection.

Wool petticoat

The Prize Wool Petticoat

We are also told about activities aboard ship the main one being eating; although one could walk around the deck for two miles or dip into the unheated seawater pool. We’re shown a cotton tea dress, a cream silk dinner gown with a ‘hobble’ skirt (the height of fashion in 1912) and a fur cape, boa, ladies underwear and nightwear.

Maid's underwear

A Maid’s Underwear and Boots

Meredith in her tea dress

Meredith in Mabel’s Tea Dress

First class silk

First Class Silk and Lace Underwear


A Maid and her Mistress in their Night Attire

Lucy ends the two hour non-stop show with a favourite quotation “Eat the cake! Think of all the ladies who turned away the dessert trolley!”.

Hooray for The History Wardrobe – my next visit will be to see the premier of “Women and the Great War” in March.

Slow Train to Switzerland: One Tour, Two Trips, 150 Years and a World of Change Apart

It’s my birthday and I have received some lovely gifts including this book :

Slow train

You may remember that last summer I spent a month in Switzerland and posted each day about my experiences here.

I still haven’t read Bewes’s ‘Swisswatching’ [below] but I think ‘Slow Train’ will jump the queue as I’m a seasoned traveller on Swiss trains and I remember there was feature about Miss Jemima’s diary on the website and in the Financial Times around the time that I made my trip. I see there is now a fancy app. to accompany anyone wishing to emulate Miss J and D Bewes.

Swiss Watching

It was the tour that changed the way we travel. In the summer of 1863 seven people left London on a train that would take them on a thrilling adventure across the Alps. They were The Junior United Alpine Club and members of Thomas Cook’s first Conducted Tour of Switzerland. For them it was an exciting novelty: for us the birth of mass tourism and it started with the Swiss.” [From the fly -leaf of Slow Train to Switzerland]

Bewes followed in the footsteps of this group and is able to do so because one member, Miss Jemima from Yorkshire kept a diary that was lost for decades but survived as a unique record a historic tour.

Alpines Museum

Reading about this I’m remembering my very disappointing visit to The Swiss Alpine Museum in Bern last February. I had expected to be able to see displays and dioramas illustrating the history of alpinism with particular reference to Switzerland (and including, of course, the British contribution) through books, maps, photographs, hotels, transport, clothes and footwear, transport, personalities, and other displays and artefacts. What I was presented with was a series of enlarged photographs and a heap of broken skis. My disappointment was so great that I  wrote to the Museum Director and here is part of his response :

“We decided to start up a new concept dealing much more with contemporary issues for people who like to face the reality of the alps. “Intensive care stations” is an example of this new approach … The reality of the alps today is packed with debates and very discursive issues, so our museum concept tries to shape a platform for contemporary themes around mountains.”

It was nice to get a personal response and good luck to them but I still felt cheated of my 12 Swiss francs entry fee!


Actually, this small display of Swiss products featuring mountains was quite interesting but this was small compensation to me!

Around the World in Christmas Gifts

Every gift received this Christmas has a special association for me: be it reading, travelling, visiting libraries, drinking tea or communicating via traditional pen and ink or modern internet methods.

ipad mini

I am now the rather nervous owner of an iPad Mini. I’m sure I will get used it and love using it but currently it sits pristine on its box whilst I still tap away at my laptop and snap away with my camera or iPod Touch.


I’ll be checking dates and tempted to book Landmark Trust stays every time I look at my Landmark Trust Calendar for 2014. There is Astley Castle on the front (and also on the back) cover.


Whilst at the Landmark St Mary’s Lane in Tewkesbury earlier this year I came across “Cotswold Follies and Fancies”. It’s a guide to the curious, whimsical and romantic buildings around the area. I’m happy to have a copy of my own to take with me next time I visit the Cotswolds.


In 2014 I have travel plans for another ATG walking holiday this time in Italy. We will be staying just one night in Rome but will be sure to hunt out at least one of its “Quiet Corners”. In 2015 I’m hoping to spend a bit longer in and around The Eternal City.

Fodors Maine

No plans yet to return to New England next year but if we do I have just the up-to-date guide to make planning easy in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Tea and spoons

Paris is one of my favourite destinations and this (academic) year one of my Swiss friends is working there in her Gap Year. She sent me lovely Mariage Freres loose tea in a tin and two pearl spoons from the shop where she’s working : Sabre. It would be lovely to visit her whilst she is there.

“The fragrance of adventure and poetry endlessly pervades each cup of tea” – Henri Mariage [Founder]


On a visit to Paris in 2010 a Parisian friend and I visited The House of Victor Hugo in a quiet corner of the Place Des Vosges. We’re still hoping to make a rendez-vous together at his other former home (owned by the City of Paris) Hauteville House on Guernsey. In the meantime I have this ‘writer’s’ candle whose scent of bergamot-iris-hyacinth is reminiscent of Le Jardin D’Hugo.


My friend, fellow blogger and fellow online book group  moderator Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book read and recommended “Phantoms on the Bookshelves” this year. About it he says “Jacques Bonnet is more like the friendly face at your book group who will enthuse about managing to squeeze another bookcase into the corner of the living room.” I’m looking forward to reading Mr Bonnet’s book, translated from the French, very soon.

The Library

I understand that M. Bonnet writes about other libraries beside his own and some may be included in this coffee table book “The Library : a world history” which will find pride of place on Miladys table. I’ll be dipping into it all year and beyond.


Since joining The Leeds Library I have been a regular reader of The New Yorker so it was with great delight that I unwrapped a box of 100 cards taken from the covers of that magazine over ten decades. When I need to send a card I should find a date or subject suitable for almost every recipient. If I don’t find one in that box then I can turn to a gift box of 20 cards of designs by Frank Lloyd Wright for the American Liberty Magazine.

Lavendar bath

And at the end of the day I can relax in a Lavender Foaming Bath: “A new definition of calm.”

Many thanks to everyone who gave these gifts … and I hope you were at least half as pleased with what I gave you!