Monthly Archives: February 2010

Sunday Poem 28

I have had a request for a poem by Philip Larkin and, as I exist only to satisfy my public, Philip Larkin you shall have.  And isn’t it the truth.

Love Songs in Age – by Philip Larkin (1922-85)

She kept her songs, they took so little space,
     The covers pleased her:
One bleached from lying in a sunny place,
One marked in circles by a vase of water,
One mended, when a tidy fit had seized her,
     And coloured, by her daughter –
So they had waited, till in widowhood
She found them, looking for something else, and stood

Relearning how each frank submissive chord
     Had ushered in
Word after sprawling hyphenated word,
And the unfailing sense of being young
Spread out like a spring-woken tree, wherein
     That hidden freshness sung,
That certainty of time laid up in store
As when she played them first.  But, even more,

The glare of that much-mentioned brilliance, love,
     Broke out to show
Its bright incipience sailing above,
Still promising to solve, and satisfy,
And set unchangeably in order.  So
     To pile them back, to cry
Was hard, without lamely admitting how
It had not done so then, and could not now.


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Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Moving House. Again.

What a good thing I did an article urging people to put a brave face on things as today I have been obliged to take my own advice. 

The Wartime Housewife moving house

Just as I was getting The Boys ready to go to their father for the weekend, there was a knock on the door and I was somewhat embarrassed to open it, in my dressing gown, to my Landlord, who presented me with a letter detailing my notice to quit.  My first, rather tearful, question was “What have I done wrong?” as there was a rather stressful Landlord’s inspection just a week ago.  He reassured me that I had been an exemplary tenant but that the Trustees needed my cottage back due to a re-organisation of the company, which I took to assume that it would be assigned to an employee.

Apparently, there is a possibility that another cottage might be available for me in the same village but he advised me to start looking elsewhere just in case it doesn’t come off.  “Not all Doom and Gloom,” he said, “try not to think of it as Doom and Gloom!”.

Rather hard not to though.  I only moved in here on 1st April last year, after an extremely traumatic move from another village five miles away, and I’ve just about got it how I like it.  It’s rather small (only two bedrooms) and it’s a bit cold, but it’s full of character and it feels like a happy house. 

I hate moving house.  Apart from the fact that it’s an expensive and exhausting process, and my friends are sick to death of loading my possessions onto trailers and into cars and horseboxes, I just don’t like being uprooted.  My dream is to move into a house that I never have to leave.  It doesn’t have to be big or swanky (although I wouldn’t turn down big and swanky if it was an option, I’m not stupid) but a spare room would be good.  Oh and a shed. I like sheds.  In fact, I would like Two Sheds so that I could put my train set in one of them.  How’s that for swanky?

On the upside, I had a Tiffin Selection for dinner from Waitrose which came in a box with rather jolly elephants on.  It was really nice – chicken tikka masala, pilau rice and Bombay potato, but there was too much of it and I feel a bit sick now if I’m honest.  Although the pint of Badger’s Poacher and a further pint of Porter earlier probably didn’t help.  I was going to go into Leicester and see ‘My Name is Khan’ at the pictures, to complete my Indian experience, but I can’t be bothered now.  It’s pouring with rain and howling a gale and the lane outside the cottage is like a muddy scene from ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’.  Gabriel Oak could well be out there at this moment, tethering my, rapidly disintegrating, portable greenhouse to the wall of the disused Victorian farm building next door.

Perhaps I’ll move into a cottage with a path.  And call myself Bathsheba.


Filed under Life in general

The only article I am ever likely to write about Football

Cheryl Cole

I was intrigued to hear on Radio 2 at lunchtime today, that an entire section of the programme was devoted to whether or not a football player called Wayne Bridge is going to play for England in the World Cup.  Apparently he’s fallen out with his friend and team-mate John Terry, and doesn’t want to play with him any more.

Now the details of this fall-out are undoubtedly a bit sad; Bridge and his missus had broken up and John Terry cruised in like a rooster and did the Lord’s Work with her, although he had allegedly been trying to ‘help the couple sort out their relationship’.  A slightly radical form of therapy I’ll admit, and, as always, we only know what we have been fed by the media.

But let’s not be silly about this.  With all the injuries in the England team, Wayne Bridge (not one of the country’s best known players) was going to be given the opportunity to Play For England and surely as a professional footballer, this would be his ultimate goal? (note the clever football pun).  Is it not somewhat self-destructive to throw that away just because his EX-girlfriend has bumped uglies with his team-mate?  And while I’m about it, I wonder if Mrs Woman has had the same amount of flak as Terry?

Bridge needs to get a bit of backbone, put his private life to one side and get on with it.  Anyone who has ever gone out with someone in their office, knows that when it all goes horribly wrong, one is going to have to face that person on a daily basis and be a bit grown up about it.

To be fair to Bridge though, it seems to me that almost everyone needs to butch up a bit these days.  There is a propensity for people to wallow in their victim status when the slightest thing goes wrong in their lives.  Now whether this is because society has become so uncaring that everyone feels vastly undervalued and has to grasp at any opportunity for sympathy or self-esteem, or whether we have all become so cushioned, degenerate and unchallenged that we have lost the ability to show a bit of stoicism, is hard to say.  I would hazard a great dollop of the latter and the inevitable knock-on effect of the former.

I always feel so grateful when a news story appears in which someone fails to lament that their life has been ruined because of an incident, or something nasty happens and the victim refuses to blame / sue / demand the public disembowelling of the perpetrator.  There are enough nasty things happening every day that involve real victims whose lives are genuinely ruined or snuffed out entirely, that maybe if we stopped staring at our navels and turned our attention outwards for once, we could do something about it.

So pay attention everyone:-
Chin up.
Best foot forward.
Put a brave face on it.
Keep Calm and Carry On (now I think about it, someone should put that on a poster…)


Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Outdoor Activities, Sport

No Post Today

The Wartime Housewife really is a bit rubbish with computers and if the slightest thing goes wrong, I wail and gnash my teeth in a way that I would never do in any other walk of life.  Luckily for me, Mr PC Sorted was on hand to provide me with another virtual lifeboat and I am back in business. Hurrah!  Up the wooden hill etc….

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Filed under Technology

Unmitigated Plug: Peter Ashley at the Goldmark Gallery

I never hold back from criticising the things that generally or specifically get up my nose, but I do try to be equally forthright about the things that I like or support. 

In Uppingham, Rutland, England, (Earth, the Universe etc)  there is a very fine place called the Goldmark Gallery.  The first line of its website reads thus: continues to grow. Thousands of prints, paintings, drawings and sculptures across a very wide range of top British, American and European artists. Films coming soon.” 

But this doesn’t really do it justice because it has become a gallery at the cutting edge of contemporary art, whose reputation is spreading throughout, not just the country, but the world.  And it’s in Rutland. My own taste in art is revoltingly conservative, and I find a lot of the work in there a little too ‘challenging’.  But every so often I come across something that makes my heart sing. 

There has been an exhibition recently of the work of twenty-five of the country’s leading potters, with a sumptuous book produced to support it.  It was a remarkable achievement, and wonderful to see such a body of work in one place.  I disliked 99% of what was there if I’m honest, but there were three pieces of work by one potter, Carol McNicoll, that were so beautiful, so witty and so cleverly executed that,  if I’d had the money, I would have bought them on the spot. 

That is what’s so wonderful about Goldmark’s; you just never know what you’re going to find.  And they make great coffee. 

And this is where the plug starts.  There is a remarkable new piece in the gallery by the unmitigated Peter Ashley called ‘Shunt With Care’.  They call it “Mixed Media”.  I call it one of the best collages I have ever seen.  As the title suggests, it has a railway theme and I  am a railway enthusiast, but its appeal is far broader than that.  It tells a great story and would be the sort of picture that whenever you look at it, you’ll find something new.  Just like Goldmark’s really.  But rather then me ranting on about it, I would suggest you have a look at the Goldmark blogsite Butcher’s Hooks and, well, have a butchers.

I would also like it known that I would cheerfully sleep with any member of the gallery to get my hands on a copy.  Ok.  Almost anyone.  Thank you.


Filed under Family and Friends, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Piquant Baked Cod

In which the Wartime Housewife talks A Load of Old Cod (but preferably another sustainably sourced white fish of your choice)

We haven’t had a fish dish for a while and this recipe is great for the winter as it contains Vitamin C and things to ward off the winter nasties.  You can use cod but in my opinion we should all be laying off the cod until the Atlantic fish stocks have recovered a bit.  Haddock would work, but if you want to save your pennies, try Basa fillets.  I have mentioned these before (Storecupboard), they are really tasty and half the price of cod or haddock.  One can definitely buy Basa in Sainsbury’s but I can’t speak for your own fishmonger or other supermarkets.


1 x medium size ovenproof dish
1 x small saucepan
1 x hand whisk
If the dish has no cover, you will need some tinfoil

4 good sized white fish fillets
½ red pepper – de-seeded and finely chopped
½ “/ 1cm ginger – peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
Salt & pepper to season
½ pint / 300ml white wine
1oz / 30g butter
2 tblspn double cream

Place the fish in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the pepper, ginger and garlic on top
Season with salt and pepper to taste
Pour over the white wine and leave to marinate for about 2 hours
Preheat the oven to 200 / 400 / 6
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes
Turn the oven down to a low heat
Pour off the marinade liquid into a pan
Re-cover the dish of fish and return to the oven to keep warm
Add the butter to the pan of marinade liquid and heat on a rolling boil until the liquid is reduced by half
Whisk in the cream
Put the fish fillets on plates and pour the sauce attractively over them
Serve immediately with new or jacket potatoes and nice fresh vegetables


Filed under Food, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes

Tasmanian Inspiration from Marjorie Cooper

"a magnificent household manual"

A few years ago I started researching my family history and began the process of getting touch with relatives with whom we had all lost touch.  This included a cousin in Tasmania and her family, and more cousins in Derbyshire whom I now refer to as Long Lost 1 and Long Lost 2.  My delight at finding these, and other, relatives knows no bounds as they are all genuinely delightful and I will do an article about the basics of family history research at a later date.

When I told LL1 and LL2 about The Wartime Housewife, they very kindly lent me a book which the husband of Tasmanian Cousin had printed in the late 60’s/early 70’s, although the look and tone of it is more 50’s.  It rejoices in the name “At Home with Marjorie Cooper – A Household Manual”.  The cover announces that it includes:-

Cooking, Slimming Recipes, Health and Beauty, Diabetic Aids, Beverages, Household Hints, Tips for Show Cooks, Knitting and Handicrafts, Party Foods and Games, Gardening, Animal Care, Ideas for Christmas and Poems.

Mrs Beeton eat your heart out.  This is a book for people who have no-one to ask and may not even have m/any other books.  My cousins went out there in 1947 and, after years of struggle, built their own house on stilts and established a life for themselves.  They were incredibly isolated from everything and everyone they knew and amenities were at an absolute minimum.  Even now, her son’s address is something like ‘R888, Pioneer, Tasmania’.  Er, that’s it.

This book has everything (including a paragraph on how to look after ‘Baby ‘Roos’) and, as I try out some of the recipes and advice, I will share them with you.  This was also a time when she thought nothing of putting named photos of her grandchildren and her home address and telephone number in the book.  How times change!

I love the idea that The Wartime Housewife could be this sort of resource.  Although few of us experience the kind of isolation my cousin endured, our modern day isolation is just as real.  Many people have completely lost touch with the skills and resourcefulness that came naturally to some of our parents and definitely our grandparents, and often we are not geographically close to our families who would, at one time, have handed their skills and advice to us.  Most of us have lost the understanding that the work we do in the home and with our families (men and women) has a very high value indeed and should be applauded.

I will leave you with some extracts from her introductory letter.

“I try all things; I achieve what I can because nothing in this world is as good as usefulness”
“.. remember it is not work that kills men; it is worry. Work is healthy… worry is rust upon the blade”
“There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way”
“So much to do, so little done by some”

This is followed by a long chapter on Soup.
My kind of woman.


Filed under Family and Friends, Food, Household Hints, Uncategorized