Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wartime Housewife has communications blackout

Unfortunately, WH has a serious communications problem at the moment – of the electronic variety, obviously. I have been assured that normal service will be resumed shortly !

A devoted follower.


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Sunday Poem 106

Sorry the Sunday Poem is so late today; I have been obliged to spend the day shouting at my children for being untidy, selfish, lazy, dirty and smeggy.  I was looking forward to posting a poem about blustery autumn days with crisp leaves crunching underfoot, but seeing as we’re in the middle of a bloody heat wave which is practically killing me (pale, thin-skinned, frail little flower that I am), I shall have to write about the harvest instead.

* * *

Known as Bertie, W R Rodgers was born in Belfaast, Northern Ireland and was  best known as a poet, but was also a prose essayist, a book reviewer, a radio broadcaster and script writer, a lecturer and a teacher, as well as a former Presbyterian Minister.

He showed an early talent for writing and after completing his English degree in Belfast, he entered Presbyterian Theological College and was ordained as a minister in 1935.  In 1946 due to his wife’s illness he resigned from the ministry and took a job as a scriptwriter for the BBC’s Third Programme.  After his wife’s death in 1953, he married again and moved to California.  He died in Los Angeles in 1969.

He produced seven collections of poetry and was awarded a life annuity by the Dublin Arts Council in recognition of the reflected honour he had brought to Ireland through his work.

The harvest field – by W R Rodgers (1909-1969)

There is nothing to note; only the mowers
Moving like doom.  Slowly, one by one,
A gloom of bees rises and soon snores
Thunder-headed away into the sun.

Listen! Listen! Do you hear the hiss
Of the scythe in the long grasses
That are silently tingling like bells that kiss
And repel as the wind passes?

There in the last care and core of corn
The hare is couched: not till the mowers flash
Their smiling scythes, and all its walls are shorn
Will the wild creature dash
Into the wintry air of hound and horn.

Listen! Listen! Do you hear the hiss
Of the scythe in the long grasses of your laughter?
More is mowed than you know, for this
Is Time’s swathe, and you are the one he’s after.


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In which the Wartime Housewife puts up shelves and learns to use a new type of plasterboard fixing

Sorry the photo's a bit grainy, I took it on my phone, in bad light but you get the idea

Today I have been putting up shelves.  The last few boxes which needed unpacking were full of cookery books which had hunkered down like a desert island in the middle of my kitchen.

Problem.  The wall on which I wished to append  the shelves is a partition wall and my cookery books are many and weighty, in both content and mass.  I spun round super-fast, my home-made floral pinny (with concealed i-Pod pocket) billowing about me and said, in a superhero voice ‘This calls for something more than rawl plugs!  This calls for … Plasterboard Fixings!!’

I flew at light-speed to the DIY shop and asked for said fixings in a firm steady voice.
‘We have many fixings,’ said a pleasant Scottish boy, ‘from the seriously heavy duty to this new type which requires no drilling at all.’
‘That’ll do ME!’ I didn’t reply in a Billy Connolly voice.

I had three long shelves to put up which had been taken off the wall of the old house and I was just marking the holes with my bradawl when I realised that I probably ought to have a practice with the new fittings before I starting gouging holes in the plasterboard.

And what a good thing I did.  The instructions on the packet might as well have been drawn by a camel on acid because they bore no resemblance whatsoever to the actions which needed to take place.

The rawl-plug bit of the metal fitting is a compressed Chinese lantern shape with teeth like a tick on the end that goes into the wall and a cross-shaped head that sits on the wall, shelf-side.  You then screw a screw into the plug and as it gets deep into the fitting, it contracts the lantern shape so that is flattens out into a cross-shape which braces itself on the other side of the plasterboard.  Are you still with me?

I know this now, of course, because I spent an hour gouging practice holes in the plasterboard wall in The Bunker which I thought I could repair more discreetly if it all went horribly wrong.  What the instruction leaflet failed to illustrate was that if you try to make the hole in the wall using the plug section, as they suggested, the Chinese lantern bit balloons out before you’ve even got the bugger into the wall.  You have to make a snug hole with another implement first (I used a screwdriver) and then pop the fitting in until the head is flush with the wall.

They then erroneously illustrated the screw in the hole,  without whatever you’re wanting to screw in between the screw and the plug, and the Chinese lantern bit flattening out nicely, which suggested to me that you have to put the screw in the hole to make it grip, unscrew it and then screw it through again with the bracket in place.  If you did as they said, the fitting started to disappear into the wall, grinding away at the plaster as it went.

This is what happens if you allow people who already know how to do something to compose instruction leaflets.  I allowed myself ten minutes of tear-stained rage and suddenly the penny dropped.

What you do is this:
Mark your holes with a bradawl
Make an appropriate sized hole with an implement such as a screwdriver
Pop the metal fixing snugly into the hole until the cross head is flat to the wall
Hold the thing to be screwed up against it and place the screw through the thing into the fixing
Start screwing. As the screw begins to tighten the fixing will be opening out and bracing itself against the plasterboard
When the screw is tight your work is done.

My shelves are up and bearing the weight of a hundred or so assorted cookery books with dignity and composure.  It is always a worry when putting up shelves for heavy things that they will not bear the weight.  Remember that the weight is born by the wall downwards, not outwards which is why shelves rarely fall off.  That’s Physics that is.


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Sunday Poem 99

As I was talking to lifelong ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan, Lord Aragorn, the other day, I thought I’d pop in a bit of Tolkein for your entertainment.  Again, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the biog for another time as this is The Big Moving Weekend.

Shadow-Bride – by J R R Tolkein (1892-1973)

There was a man who dwelt alone,
as day and night went past
he sat as still as carven stone,
and yet no shadow cast.
The white owls perched upon his head
beneath the winter moon;
they wiped their beaks and thought him dead
under the stars of June.

There came a lady clad in grey
in the twilight shining:
one moment she would stand and stay,
her hair with flowers entwining.
He woke, as had he sprung of stone,
and broke the spell that bound him;
he clasped her fast, both flesh and bone,
and wrapped her shadow round him.

There never more she walks her ways
by sun or moon or star;
she dwells below where neither days
nor any nights there are.
But once a year when caverns yawn
and hidden things awake,
they dance together then till dawn
and a single shadow make.

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Still Indisposed

Sorry, still out of action.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.


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Nodding off

Blimey, I was going to give you two versions of non-sausagemeat stuffing tonight but I fell asleep in front of Ian Hislop’s programme about Victorian ‘Do-gooders’. I hope they do a book.



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Trouble at mill

I am having terrible trouble with WordPress at the moment.  It is scrambling my text, not allowing me to do any linking, messing up my pictures and generally causing me pain.  This may be because they are changing my ‘theme’ to another one.  Whatever.  I’ve just noticed that Sunday Poem 63 was a tangle of text and I don’t blame you for not reading it; it is now corrected so please feel free to read it anew, it’s a super poem.


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Yet another apology

Yet again I am off line thanks to TalkTalk and therefore lovely brother-in-law is posting this apology on my behalf.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.


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A Tale of Two Childhoods


The Boys are off to Norfolk with their dad for a few days tomorrow and, while the washing machine was carrying out its incessant and inexorable labours, we went into Leicester, primarily with the intention of seeing if we could get Boy the Elder’s camera fixed.  Yet another example of our throw-away society – a £50 camera would have cost £120 to get fixed.  They can get f****d.  (Fixed – what did you think I meant?)  I haven’t been into Leicester since Christmas and I think one visit every eight months is all that’s necessary.

We looked in many shops.  The boys looked at toys, computer games, gadgets and books while I looked at shoes, boots, sandals and books. I bought a boxed set of Powell & Pressburger DVDs for a fiver and a hairband with a red bow on – last of the big spenders, me.

However, we went into two shops in The Shires which, to me, were about as opposite as it was possible to be. 
The first was called (I think) The Model Shop.  It sold model kits of things; aeroplanes, tanks, ships, rockets, cars, Star Wars and Dr Who stuff and sets of figures to go with your kits.  It had a whole corner devoted to Hornby train sets and all the glorious paraphernalia that goes with it and we were all dry mouthed with excitement for different reasons.  I have a train set rattling in its box with nowhere to set it up.  Boy the Elder likes WW2 tanks, planes and ships and Boy the Younger likes planes, Star Wars and anything Boy the Elder has got.

There was no music playing and it was staffed by young men who knew all about the things they sold.  One chap spent ages with Boy the Younger helping him to find something he could manage without getting overwhelmed and dispirited.  All the things in the shop required an initial interest, patience, a bit of skill and the opportunity for development of one’s skill and the associated learning that comes with collecting things. 

It was lovely, although I admit I was the only girl in there and certainly the only one dribbling gently on the ‘OO’ gauge landscaping materials.  I nearly bought a ‘Trackside’ Morris Oxford, just in case, but Boy the Elder calmed me down, gave me an injection and persuaded me not to empty the garden shed in order to re-create a post war rural layout (mixed traffic)  in obsessive detail. 

The other shop was a place of horror and revulsion.  The Disney Store.  In some ways, I don’t feel the need to say anything else.  There was loud music blasting from speakers in the ceiling, nauseatingly perky, yet strangely passionless shop assistants pounced the minute one was through the door and the lighting could have been used to extract confessions from Russian dissidents.

It was bulging with plastic and polyester shite designed to turn parents upside down to extract every last penny from their fraying pockets.  Racks and racks of hideous merchandising from every film you can think of and some we didn’t even realize were Disney.  I didn’t see Mickey Mouse anywhere.  When Boy the Elder spotted Marvel Comic merchandise, he started sounding off in the way that only indignant teenage boys can.  When I explained to him that Disney had bought Marvel for $4 billion last year, he walked out of the shop, convinced that the world had ended.

Poor Boy the Younger just wanted to look at Buzz Lightyear drinks bottles, untroubled by the wailing and gnashing of teeth from his family, but it was horrible.  The worst thing was that everything was instant, required no skill or imagination and was utterly disposable. 

The two shops seemed to represent two separate worlds; one in which children’s play could be calm, constructive and fun, and one in which children were willing victims of the iniquity and greed of the merchandisers.  And naturally it is presented in such a way that the children are encouraged to want more and more as every new film comes out and the parents are too enfeebled and anaesthetised to say no.

Would anyone like to buy me a shed?


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Sunday Poem 51

Norman MacCaig was born in Edinburgh in 1910 and he spent all his formative years there.  His mother was a Highlander and his visits to family on the islands, and the culture he absorbed, had a profound effect on him.  He was educated at Edinburgh University where he studied Classics and then went on to spent a large part of his life as a primary school teacher.

During WW2, MacCaig was a conscientious objector and consequently spent time in various prisons and doing landwork.   After the war, he changed he changed his educational focus and started teaching university students and in 1967 he became the first Fellow in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University.

MacCaig’s poetry began as part of the New Apocalypse Movement, a surrealist mode of writing which he later disowned, turning instead to more precise, often witty observations. He was great friends with Hugh MacDiarmid and other Scottish poets with whom he socialised in the bars of Edinburgh.

He received the O.B.E. and the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, although his work has always been best known and appreciated in Scotland.  By the time of his death in January 1996, Norman MacCaig was known widely as the grand old man of Scottish poetry.

I have a particular fondness for this poem as it was one I chose for my Grade 4 Speech and Drama exam at school and I got a really good grade.  I hope I’ve got the punctuation right as I’ve written it from memory.

Frogs – by Norman MacCaig (1910 – 1996)

Frogs sit more solid
Than anything sits.  In mid leap they are
Parachutists falling
In a free-fall.  They die on roads
With arms across their chests
Heads high.

I love frogs that sit
Like Buddha, that fall without
Parachutes, that die
Like Italian tenors.

Above all, I love them because,
Pursued in water, they never
Panic so much that they fail
To make stylish triangles
With their ballet dancer’s


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Sorry for the lack of blog today – the Boys have been down in London this week with Sister the First and we had to arrange pick-up at Sister the Second’s in Buckinghamshire.  Bad night for travelling, Friday.  Boy the Elder is then off to Summer Camp in North Wales with The Scouts at 7.45 in the morning, so early nights all round.  Forgot to get a packed lunch so have just had to do an Emergency dash to Saino’s.  Ho hum.


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Sunday Poem 46

I had this poem in waiting for another time but then Affer flagged up this forthcoming programme  in Reader’s Letters.

Advance notice (just).  My talented friend, the poet Julia Deakin, will have one
of her poems read by Annette Badland, on
‘Poetry Please’, Radio 4, Sunday 18th
at 16.30.    Please listen (it’s after the MotoGP has finished) ….and buy her books!

‘Without a dog’ is award-winning poet, Julia Deakin’s, first full collection and can be found on her website.

Lost – by Julia Deakin (1956-)

We call them lost, our loved ones, but if they are
just that – lost – wandering among the stars, faint
as our faith in heaven or hell, knowing other fates –

like that recurring dream of being lost in an echo
of a place where nothing’s recognised and no one
recognises you, of wandering without a haven,
without welcome, without knowing where you are
except that you were, once, on earth but where is that,
oh mother, father, child, if you are more lost there
than you were here, what then?      What then?

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Heaven Scent: How to make Rose Water

The hedgerows are so rich and fecund this year, I would pretty much call it showing off.  The hawthorn and blackthorn blossom shed clouds of petals on the roads and pavements as though nature had hosted a wedding on every corner. Now the elderflowers and wild roses have taken over and the sights and smells are just heavenly.

Being The Wartime Housewife, I don’t just enjoy the flowers and smells – I see food and cordials and natural preparations of all sorts.  I was briefly standing with my nose in a rose bush on Monday, taking great lungfuls of their heady scent and I remembered my sisters and I attempting to make perfume when we were children with the rose petals from our garden.  It smelled gorgeous for about 24 hours and then it went brown.

But now, darling acolytes, I know how to do it properly.  Rose Water can be made with either wild or cultivated roses.  It can be used both as a perfume, a cosmetic (as an astringent, particularly for fair and dry skin) and a flavouring for puddings and sweets; who can resist rose flavoured Turkish Delight with its thick coating of icing sugar?


1 x large cooking pot with a rounded lid– large enough for a brick
1 x slightly smaller bowl
1 x house brick

4 pints rose petals
2-3 trays of ice Cubes

Put the brick into the cooking pot, then put the bowl on the brick
Put the rose petals into the pot (around the brick)
Top up the pot with water to about level with the top of the brick
Place the lid upside down over the top of the bowl and the pot making sure that the handle in the middle of the lid is right over the bowl
Put the pot on the stove and heat and bring to the boil
As soon as it boils, put the ice cubes on top of the lid
Immediately turn down the heat and let it simmer
The steam will then start to condense and drip into the bowl
After about 20 minutes lift the lid quickly and take a teaspoon of the liquid.  When it begins to taste and smell strongly of roses remove the bowl from the heat.  It should only take about 40 minutes.
Pour the rosewater into sterilised bottles and store.

Well done.  You have just done home distilling.


Filed under Food, Food Presents, Hedgerows, Recipes, Seasonal, Uncategorized

And so we soldier on

Thank you all for your comments on today’s blog and I apologise for getting one of my figures wrong.

However, now that you have all inwardly digested the details of The Budget and how it will affect you, I hope you all realise how much you’re going to need The Wartime Housewife to pull you through!

I realise now that I shall have to include far more recipes for Mock Duck, Turnip Top Salad, Barley Soup and how to knit a warm vest out of leftover spaghetti …. but not tonight.  It has been a ridiculously hectic day, scrubbing, going to a funeral and helping Boy the Elder with a piece of last minute homework when the computer was taking 10 minutes to load Word and stopping dead every few lines so he didn’t know what he’d typed (as in fact it’s doing now).  

So I am away to my bed and will commune with you again on the morrow.


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The Two Minute Review – 6: Dr Who

TV Programme:     Dr Who – BBC1

Episode:                    12/13 – The Pandorica Opens

As I said before, I like the new Doctor, Matt Smith.  He doesn’t have the warmth of David Tennant but he’s proper mad and I like that.  But Amy Pond?  I’m sorry, I know she’s popular with the boys, but there’s no substance to the woman.  No meat.  And she appears to have gone to the Roger Moore school of acting – and only just scraped through.  She has no facial expressions whatsoever except :

1.  Eyes wide
2.  Eyes slightly wider

She may be tall, slim and red-haired but I think The Doctor’s Companion needs to be a bit more 3-dimensional than that.  Oh chaps, SHE DOES!

I hope Amy stays dead and Rory becomes the companion.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews, Uncategorized