Tag Archives: books

The Wartime Housewife’s Secret Project Revealed at Last!

Do remember that for the last few months I have been teasing you in a naughty way about having a Secret Project on the go?  Well my darlings, it has come to pass and this is the last post I’m going to write …… on this site!

From Saturday morning ( don’t try to sneak a peek before then) The Wartime Housewife will be a Proper Website at

www.wartimehousewife.com

It will still have all the regular recipes, household hints, advice, stories, culture, reviews, muttering and unreasonable ranting that you’ve come to expect from me, but it will also have lots of new bells and whistles including

THE WARTIME HOUSEWIFE CORNER SHOP

The Corner Shop will be very much open for business from Saturday and will stock lovely, high-quality things for Home and Garden, Gifts for Children, Books, Something for the Chaps, Wartime Housewife branded goods, Seasonal Gifts and items from the Robert Opie Collection.

There is also a section called ‘Limited Editions’ and this will have things that I find – at antique markets, sales, auctions, second-hand bookshops and so forth – that I think will be of interest.  These may change on a weekly or even daily basis, so you’ll have to keep checking, as you just never know what you’ll find!

The items for sale have been carefully chosen to fit in with The Wartime Housewife ethos of buying good quality, well-designed things that will last, that will be treasured and won’t end up in landfill after a couple of months.
I have started with a relatively small collection but this will grow and develop as time goes on.

Anyone who has subscribed will automatically come with us to the new site and there will be an automatic re-direct if you inadvertently tap in the old site or forget to change it in your ‘Favourites’.

One little ‘bug’ that we haven’t fixed yet is that on pages where there are a lot of products, you will see a little italic sentence at the bottom left of the page saying ‘older posts’.  You will need to click on this to see the rest of the stock.  This will be rectified soon but if you could just remember to click this so you don’t miss anything.  This is a brand new site and there could conceivably be the odd glitch, so please bear with me – it will all come right.

I will take this opportunity to thank you all for your interest and support and look forward to hearing from you at the new site.  I also give my heartfelt thanks to Freelance Unbound, without whom absolutely none of this would have been possible.

SEE YOU ON SATURDAY!

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Midland Clearances

I’ve spent the last three days (and many days prior to this) clearing an outbuilding of stuff which has been there for two and a half years.  Some of it will go into the Household Sale at Great Bowden Village Hall on Sunday at 2pm, much of it has gone into the bin and a small proportion is going to auction.  It has been dirty, greasy, back-breaking work, made all the nastier by the copious amount of cobwebs and long-leggety things of various sizes and densities.

There is, undoubtedly, a tremendous sense of purging when one clears out.  I have lots of interests which all need ‘stuff’ in order to carry them out and books on practically every subject under the sun; Boy the Elder and I can research almost any subject we choose without ever going outside the house or onto the internet.

However, having moved four times in five years, if I want to keep any of the friends and relatives who regularly turn out brandishing screwdrivers and flexing muscles, I need to shed some stuff.  My dining room is bulging at the seams with excess possessions and, once they’ve gone, I can start the onerous process of packing up all the stuff which we don’t actually need on a daily basis.

The next task is the boys’ rooms.
I’d rather have the spiders.

 

 

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Reading room

I have many, many books and they are a source of great pleasure to me.  I so enjoy the finding of them and, even if I buy one that doesn’t get read for a while, I know it’s there waiting for its big moment.  I also try to ensure that I read a wide variety of subjects and genres; a great deal of my day is spent in the guise of ‘rude mechanical’ and I rely on both my books and Radio 4 to keep my brain ticking over.  My life as the Wartime Housewife enables me to write every night which also allows for a bit of cerebral calisthenics.

Other than the odd weekend, my only reading time is in bed at night; I always read for too long and feel tired in the morning, but I just can’t bear not to read.  There is something so secure and comforting about being snuggled up in bed with a good book and a large mug of Ovaltine.

Because my reading time is limited (which I’m sure is the same for most of us), I have become quite conscious that I must read a good variety of books.  In the days when I could read all weekend if I wanted to, I would have several books on the go, but my head is too full to manage that any more.

Therefore I decided to start writing down everything I read, not counting books that get dipped into or used only for reference.  Sister the First bought me a book journal a couple of years ago, which also has a bookmark, space for a pen and a little pocket to put notes or bits of paper in.  I write down the title and author of every book I start and tick it off when I’ve finished it.  If I don’t finish it, which is rare, I add a note to say what was wrong with it.

I love this system, because when I finish a book, I flick back through the list and see if I’ve been reading too much Andrew Martin or Boris Akunin and decide whether I’m feeling brainy enough to tackle something difficult.  I usually alternate my reading matter between easy books and difficult books, and if I’m feeling low, I will often bury myself in a childhood favourite or an often read Terry Pratchett.

My nightly reading is a signal that everything is OK.  If I stopped reading, I would feel that I had completely lost control of my life and my sense of self.  Melodramatic I know, but I am a reader of books.  I am an owner of books and I would rather have no furniture than no books.  I dream of having the time to catalogue each and every one and arrange them in my own wood-panelled library room which would contain nothing but high shelves of books, a large wing-back armchair and a desk with a full decanter of sherry always upon it.

One day, Sam, one day…

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Notes from a Small Library

As many of you pointed out, Harborough Library has computers and I am using one at this very moment, although it is jolly busy and I had to book an hour’s slot, which won’t be nearly enough time.

I love and hate libraries in equal measure.  I never, ever use the library because I can’t get my head round the concept of reading a book and then GIVING IT BACK.  This is a monstrous idea, although the people who have just moved three and a half thousand of them from my old house to my new house may well beg to differ.  I also dislike the fact that libraries are no longer quiet.  As I type, I can hear a wretched baby howling in the play area (sic) and there is a school group in the children’s section who are talking in normal voices and clapping.  It’s all wrong.  Where are the crusty, sour-faced individuals insisting that if the old man in the corner continues to breathe in such a loud and wilful way he will be ejected forthwith?

On the other hand, a well-stocked library should be a haven of knowledge, creativity and mental exploration that opens a world of learning to anyone who cares to look.   Also, instead of scary librarians with dyspeptic personalities, we have a charming, well-spoken young man with a long ginger ponytail who clearly loves his job and can never give one enough help. Swings and roundabouts, you see.

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No article today, for today my articles start moving!

No deep, meaningful and yet pleasantly amusing article today.  For today Sister the Second and I begin the removal In Earnest.  The kitchen is sparkling and my books are jiggling in their boxes.  I can just hear them, through the thick cardboard of the banana boxes in which they are packed – three and a half thousand little voices crying “Take us to the New House, for there we shall take on new life and be read voraciously.  Just make sure the sun doesn’t shine on our spines and fade us!”

Oh alright then.  Allons sie Allonso!!

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A genuine benefit of moving

I have only been in the house I’m now leaving for a year and have only really just got everything where I want it.  Which means that I’ve never given myself the time to settle in to the habit of dipping into my library other than my reading books at night.

Tonight I was emptying the bookshelves in the sitting room.  I have a lovely glass-fronted cabinet on permanent loan from the Father of My Children in which I keep my Precious Books (other than Ladybird Books).  Fragile books from my childhood, colourful Victorian picture books, Kiplings, Hardys, some original editions by my great-grandfather who was a well known cartoonist; nothing of massive monetary value to anyone else, but objects of great beauty to me.

I confess that I lingered over the packing of them, admiring beautiful illustrations by Margaret Tarrant, Irene Cloke, Mabel Lucie Atwell and Edward Ardizzone.  I wondered , as always, at the nerve of Kipling putting swastikas on the spines of a set that included Stalky & Co and The Jungle Books.  Many of them have affectionate associations and I can always remember who gave me particular books and in what circumstances and I quietly thank them all over again.

In the bottom of this cabinet are the majority of my photo albums.  I’m very boring with my camera and I photograph everything I do for three reasons;

a)  I have a terrible memory and can’t remember what I’ve done or with whom unless I have a photographic record of it
b)  I’m a reasonably good photographer and love taking pictures
c)  No-one took pictures of my childhood and consequently I don’t know what I did.  Although my lovely sisters (in whom I am well pleased) recently found a load of slides and cine film which they put on disc that had the first photos I had ever seen of me as a little girl and it was the most incredible thing.

These carefully labelled albums catalogue my life from my late teens to when I moved to The Midlands in 1996.  I have another bookshelf upstairs that has a big, expandable album for every year since then.  If anything happened to me, they would provide a very good record for my children of who their family was and what they did.

Once I am settled in over the road, and have organised myself to a reasonable degree, I am going to make a point of looking in that cupboard more often, reading the books, sharing them with the boys. After all, there’s no point in having these things, if they just sit patiently behind glass, like prisoners who never have a visitor.

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Adventures in Learning

Illustrated by Tunnicliffe

As my regular readers will have gathered by now, I love my books.  I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read, although I can remember the frustration of not being able to write (and some would argue that I still can’t as my handwriting is a diabolical, loopy, tortured scrawl).  Books meant everything; they taught me things, they took me places, they gave me new words, we travelled in time, they showed me another world.  

I started collecting books deliberately when I was about 16, before then I had read what was in the house or in the school library.  I joined a book club and used some of the money I earned in the holidays – doing bar work or picking strawberries in Norfolk – to explore new authors. In the end I decided that I needed my own bookshelf and, having found the perfect item in the ‘under £10’ section of The Staines Informer, Sister the Second drove me in her two-tone Morris Marina to pick it up.  I still have it and the books I put in it. 

James I and the Gunpowder Plot

 As children, my sisters and I had a large collection of Ladybird books, mainly the ‘Adventures from History (Series 561), but also some of the natural history titles and the children’s stories.  We were not always very careful with our books and I still cringe at the memory of our removing all the dust wrappers from our early editions of The Famous Five books because we thought they looked more grown-up.  (I am collecting them anew out of guilt).  However, the Ladybird books survived in marvellous condition and about 15 years ago I began to collect them in earnest. 

There are a lot of books.  I only collect up to 1975 which was when Penguin took over from Wills & Hepworth in Loughborough and temporarily trashed the brand, but even so, that adds up to well over 350 titles. Up until 1975, the books followed a simple structure – a page of writing opposite a full page picture.  The writing was beautifully and meticulously researched and many of the illustrators were heavyweights of their time, Tunnicliffe, Wingfield, Ayton and Payne are names that immediately spring to mind. 

The Party ill. J H Wingfield

 For me, a child with a very narrow life, the Ladybird books showed me worlds that I dreamed of.  The Party (Series 563 Learning to Read) was about a little girl and her brother getting ready for a party.  She had a pale blue party dress with matching shoes!  I can’t tell you how I longed to go to a party in a dress like that with matching shoes.  The children played Blind Man’s Buff and Hunt the Thimble, Mother had clearly made all the food and they had great jugs of quite strong squash and straws and it all looked utterly wonderful. 

No sexism here

 But these books weren’t just about fantasy, I learned to read with The Party and Helping at Home and my prep. school used Ladybird books to support the curriculum.  I still have my exercise book in which I had copied pictures from The Seashore and Seashore Life and Pond Life and even now, if I want a basic fact about something, for myself or my children, we invariably find what we want in a Ladybird book (assuming that it’s not a subject where technology has advanced beyond Ladybird’s wildest imaginings).  I idly wonder how they would have tackled The Ladybird Book of Chat Rooms ?

Wonk by Muriel Levy

Once I had started collecting, I realised that there were far more titles than I had ever come across at home or at school.  One of my greatest joys has been The Adventures of Wonk (Series 417) which came out during WW2. They were written by ‘Auntie Muriel’ of radio fame and they are about a little Koala Bear in Australia who lives with his friend Peter and with whom he has many gentle adventures and lovely outings. I have four out of a possible six and I crave the other two with a gnawing hunger.

There are many excellent contemporary children’s books around but, with the possible exception of Dorling Kindersley, there is nothing to rival the beauty, simplicity and sheer range of the Ladybird books.  You’ll find no dumbing down on these pages although they are sometimes criticised for being sexist or elitist.  I would call them aspirational.  The five year old Wartime Housewife would have given anything to be in the family featured in Helping at Home.  Still would.

A Robert Ayton illustration of mist

The Seashore and Seashore Life

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