Tag Archives: Market Harborough

How to treat cup rings on leather-topped tables

Not a mark on it

A week or so ago I committed the cardinal sin of putting a hot, damp-bottomed mug directly onto a leather-topped table.  This immediately occasioned a white cup ring which fag-ash paste failed to remedy.  What to do?

I picked up a super little leather topped occasional table from the antique and bric-a-brac people who set up their stall under-cover of the Old Grammar School in Market Harborough.  It is exactly what I need beside my wing-backed armchair and upon which I place a table lamp, a magnifying glass for reading the small writing on DVDs and the beverage of my choice.  I usually user a saucer, even with a mug, to avoid marking tables or slopping, but on this occasion I forgot and the horrid white cup ring soon appeared.  Then I had a brainwave.

How to remove a white ring from a leather table top
The leather was brown so this is what I did:-

I fetched the dark tan shoe polish
an old soft toothbrush
a soft cloth

Apply the shoe polish to the leather, working it well in with the toothbrush
Leave for a while to really soak in

Buff off with the soft cloth
If the ring has not quite gone, repeat the process

This worked a treat and it looks beautiful.
You can also use vinegar which you apply in the same way, but finish off by buffing it up with furniture polish.

It is a good idea to oil leather tops occasionally to stop them drying out and cracking.  Get some oil and a soft cloth and work the oil gently into the top.  Leave it to dry naturally or wipe off any excess with kitchen paper.


Filed under Cleaning, Household Hints

Welsh Rabbit or is it a Rarebit?

Welsh Rarebit is one of those recipes that people mistake for cheese on toast but it is so much more than that.  Aldin’s cafe in Market Harborough makes a Welsh Rarebit that will have you weeping with joy and scraping furiously at your arteries with a teaspoon, but by Jove it’s worth it.

The dish seems to have originated in the 18th century as a tasty supper or tavern dish.  The origin of the name seems a bit hazy and ‘rarebit’ could have been a version of the word ‘rabbit’.  It may have alluded to the fact that many Welsh people were poor and rarely had meat, and rabbit was considered poor man’s meat.  It all sounds a bit tenuous to me – we always called it Welsh Rabbit at home.  And frankly, I’m so posh that when I say ‘rabbit’ it sounds like ‘rarebit’ anyway.  I also read a children’s story on The Light Programme.


So much more than cheese on toast

1 x grater
1 x heavy saucepan

2oz / 60g butter
8oz / 240g Cheddar cheese – grated
½ teaspoon English mustard powder
1-2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons beer
4 slices of tasty bread – toasted

Melt the butter in the saucepan over a low heat
Stir in the cheese and mustard until melted– season to taste
If it starts to separate, add the egg yolks one at a time
Stir in the beer
Spread the mixture on the toast and pop under the grill until starting to brown nicely
Alternatively, put the toast on a plate, spread the cheese on top and brown with a kitchen blow torch

Today’s blog is dedicated to Phyllis Browning


Filed under Food, Recipes, Regional, Storecupboard

Shire Books and The Joy of Lavatories (as well as many other subjects of note)

We are blessed in Market Harborough, as we have a Waterstones, an independent bookshop – Quinns, and a couple of excellent second-hand bookshops.  As you go through the door of Quinns, there is a rack of Shire Books which will have any right-minded person drooling and cooing at the boggling array of deliciously English subject matter.

Shire Books was set up in 1962, producing low-priced, factual paperbacks on the most astonishing range of subjects which catered for the enthusiasms and niche interests of ordinary people all over the country.

The only problem was, that despite the indisputably interesting content, they began to look really dull and old-fashioned in their layout and with black and white photography and illustrations.

But then in 2007, the owner retired and sold the company to Osprey Publishing.  In 2008 a major revamp of its list of titles as well as an overhaul of content and cover designs, was undertaken, resulting in the gorgeous and irresistible collection of books on sale today. Even the paper they’re printed on feels lovely. And they’re still cheap.

I have taken the reckless step of obtaining the current Shire Catalogue and, because I am a dangerous obsessive, I have typed up the list (leaving the catalogue untouched for posterity) so that a) I can remember what I’ve got and b) I can mark the books with which to treat myself each month.

The First Six

My latest purchase is entitled ‘Privies and Water Closets’ (making this a Bog Blog?) and the front cover features a delightful illustration c.1814 by Martinet of Paris, of a large gentleman with a rather strained expression, sitting on a commode.  The book contains a beautifully written, lavishly illustrated history and technology of the lavatory, beginning with an interesting explanation of where we get our words for ‘toilet’ from.

I am allowing myself two Shire Books per month and I now have four weeks to agonise about which two to buy next.  Shall it be:-

British Family Cars of the 1950s and 60s?
British Pigs?
The Victorian Workhouse?
Old Medical and Dental Instruments?
Fields, Hedges and Ditches?
Women of the First World War? or
Nailmaking?   Who wouldn’t want to own a book about nailmaking?

Then again, it’s still February, and March is only a matter of days away…


Filed under Collecting, Leisure, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

Are you my Mummy? The Wartime Housewife buys a gas mask

After a long lie-in listening to The Archer’s Omnibus (remind me to ask you all a question about that), we set off for our regular Sunday jaunt to the Market Harborough Antiques Fair.  After a mug of coffee and a slice of superior cherry cake in the café, we had a good haul.  A couple of 70’s Rupert Bear annuals, a Junior Science Ladybird book, a brass dressing table mirror plus a few other vital bits and bobs.

I always do a final sweep before leaving and thank goodness I did.  For there, on a table of militaria, was a 1940 gas mask.  15th March 1940 to be precise, N.B.R. 466 0.  Now tell me.  Was there any way that The Wartime Housewife was going to leave without that?  After all, one can never be too careful, Kibby Tip gives off a frightful stink to say nothing of the bone factory near Gallow, and as we know, there’s always a war on somewhere.

Dr Who toy

Better still,  I can use it to frighten The Boys by re-enacting the episode of Dr Who in which a small boy is contaminated by nanogenes during an air raid and wanders about in a gas mask (which is fused to his face) asking pitifully “Are you my Mummy?”. 

Yes darling, I am your Mummy.  And if your mates think I’m cool for shouting at bus drivers, you wait till I turn up at the school gates wearing this.

Why do you make me do this Mummy?

PS.  Re  The Archers, is Helen getting unhealthy notions about Annette?  She’s never had any luck with the boys of the 1st XI and I suspect she may be about to switch teams and head for the crease.  What do you reckon?

PPS: 31.01.10.  My Aunt in Canada has just e-mailed this photo to me of my father taken in 1940 and I just had to show it to you.

My Dad in 1940 aged 12


Filed under Children, Community and shopping, Decorative, fashion

Several good reasons to support Local Businesses

We are extremely fortunate in Market Harborough to have many independent shops that are run by local people.  Clothes, shoes, housewares, cafes, bookshops, chemists, bakers, butchers – you name it.  There are some high street names but there really is the commercial space for them all as long as ‘the big boys’ are kept in check.  Of course, there are some things you can’t get, school uniform for example, but not many.

A Shop 100 years ago. We still have shops today.

One area where I absolutely insist on only using local bods is cafes.  Harborough is awash with places to eat and drink but without question, the best ones are the independents.  The Boys and I felt the need for a warming hot chocolate on Sunday afternoon, but, the Market Café being closed because of the weather (!) the only places open were Costa, Nero and Starbucks.  I occasionally go to Café Nero with friends because they have young children and it is big enough to hide the little ones in a corner and not upset anyone.  Fair enough, but I don’t like the place because a) it’s too noisy and b) you can waste half your allotted time queuing up to get your drink.  The same is true of Costa (albeit quieter) and I wouldn’t darken the door of Starbucks. 

So on Sunday we ended up in Costas.  I had to wait ages to actually get our three drinks and three cakes only to find that not a single spare table had been cleared.  We cleared out own table and the one next to it and settled down to enjoy our snack.  Boy the Elder’s frappe which we thought was a milkshake was an indistinguishable favour and my Victoria Sandwich, which had looked home made on the counter, was full of a synthetic tasting cream which I have not encountered since about 1975.  And it cost £12.  I will not be going back. 

But let me tell you this; when Wartime Housewife Cafes are appearing across the country, you will be served at your table, by smiling, uniformed waiting staff, with home made food, from local suppliers at proper prices.  Just you wait.

Without hesitation I will tell you the places in Harborough that I like – I’m sure there are others just as good, this is only my preference:
Aldin’s on the corner of Church Street is a proper old-fashioned tea room.  You are served at the table, the menu is simple and wholesome, the portions generous and the prices very reasonable.  The cakes are all home made and you can get spaghetti hoops on toast.

Joules just off the High Street has a reasonably priced and extensive menu, several different areas in which to eat, including outside in clement weather, you can get a cracking breakfast and they have theme nights and live music in the summer.  There is also a bric-a-brac/reclaim area at the back in which to rummage.

Webb’s Café in Bennett’s Yard is a little gem.  It has contemporary décor and a more adventurous menu including, what I call ‘brown food’.  Healthy stuff with rice and interesting salads as well as lovely cakes and good coffee.

There is also a café behind the Baptist Church which I can’t for the life of me remember the name of.  It is run by the church, is incredibly cheap and you can have a good feed (two courses and a drink) for under a fiver.  It also has the advantage of having a really odd selection of people who go in there. Avoid the coffee though.  And, despite being unexpectedly closed on Sunday, the cafe in the market does a great all day breakfast and good cakes as well, but obviously it’s only open on market days (Tues, Fri, Sat & Sun)

One other local business that I must mention is the wonderful Rural Trading company.  They run a mobile shop which visits loads of local villages on a regular schedule.  They provide fruit & veg, meat, poultry, home made ready meals, dairy, chemist and general groceries and all the fresh food comes from local suppliers.  I realise that this is very local to us, but there must be lots of these ventures all over the country and if there aren’t, there should be.  Maybe there’s an opportunity for you?

Most towns have independent shops and if you want them to stay you have to actually shop there.  It’s no good buying all your meat in Sainsburys and then lamenting the loss of your local butcher.  The same goes for pubs, churches and village halls.  If you want them, you have to support them, you have to go there, shop there, drink there.  Don’t let your town or village become indistinguishable from any other town or village in the country.

* Just in case you’re interested The Shop in the photo belonged to my Great Aunt and her husband and was taken in Flixton, Lancashire in 1910.


Filed under Community and shopping, Ethics, Food, Product comparisons

Be Prepared! Supplies for bad weather

Whilst I recognise that there are some parts of the country that are having a horrid time with the weather, here in Market Harborough we are not. 

We have had a bit of snow.  There is snow on the pavements and roads (the track outside my house is Very Slippy Indeed) but the main roads are clear.  It is winter and only to be expected.  This did not stop The Boys’ schools from chucking them out at 12.30 today however, with their end of term Carol Services cancelled.

Sainsbury’s was so unbelievably busy this morning, that I asked a checkout girl if I had made some terrible mistake and it was actually Christmas tomorrow?  She replied that people were stocking up because of the snow.

I wonder how many people have prepared for bad weather by having an Emergency Pack in the house?   A freezer full of  ready meals is of no use to you if the power has gone off.  And if it does go off, you stand more chance of saving the contents of your freezer if you don’t open it.

I would suggest the following:-
Candles – plenty of
Torch + spare batteries.  Better still, a wind-up one
Camping stove – preferably 2
Spare gas bottles for the above
Thermos flask – preferably 2
Extra blankets or sleeping bags inc. one for the car
Hot water bottles
First Aid Kit inc painkillers, cough mixture, lavender oil
A Radio + extra batteries or pref. a wind-up one
A board game or playing cards
The New National Song Book (only joking. Although…)

Tinned food – soup, baked beans, corned beef, tomatoes, potatoes, tuna, rice pudding, pasta sauce, sweetcorn, meatballs, fruit
Dried food – pasta, stock cubes, milk, sugar, instant Ovaltine or Hot chocolate, tea bags, coffee, raisins (you ought to have most of these in your storecupboard anyway)
Bottled water
Milk, cheese, eggs and butter can be kept outside in a lidded container if your fridge is off.  Same for fresh veg.

Keep some De-Icer in the house.  If it’s in the car it’s no use for getting the car open.  Ditto the scraper.
Know where your shovel is.  Shovelling snow will keep you warm!
If you have an open fire, get some extra coal, logs and firelighters.
Top up your mobile with a bit extra if you know bad weather is coming

Also, and this is very important, if you have elderly neighbours make sure they are ok and keep checking on them if necessary. Make sure they have your telephone numbers.

Stop whining unless  you genuinely have something to whine about.   It’s the being cheerful wot keeps us going.

Toodle Pip!

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Filed under Household Hints, Uncategorized

The Sew-ette …and Sew On and Sew Forth

This weekend I mis-spent yet another morning in the Sunday Antique Market in Market Harborough.

As I have mentioned before, sometimes one wanders around for hours, inspecting every stall in minute detail, but seeing nothing which whispers in your brain or shouts “Take me, take me” in a vaguely sexual but worryingly schizophrenic way if you attempt to walk away and have a cup of tea and a custard tart.

Sew-ette sewing machine 09.11.09

A Thing of Beauty

On Sunday, I walked through the doors, and the first thing I saw was a Thing of Beauty.  A 1950’s ‘Sew-ette’ children’s sewing machine.

I own three sewing machines already; a turn of the century table mounted treadle, a 1910 flower-enamelled, hand-operated Singer called Daisy (which I used for all my sewing needs until five years ago) and a brand new, Swiss-made, electric Elna machine, which has so many functions, that I can only assume that some of them are surgical.  I carried out three circumcisions before someone pointed out that the extra tool was a button-holer.

I saw it, I haggled, I bought it.  The Sew-ette is a mere 6″ long but is fully operational and can be used manually, via a miniature treadle or, most dangerously, with a simple on-off switch on the base.  I have no idea how it works, as it doesn’t appear to have anywhere to put a bobbin, but I’m sure I’ll work it out.  It is, after all, a children’s toy.  How difficult can it be?

This would never go on sale today, as the plunging needle would no doubt be considered a tiny-finger-mutilating-hazard.  And the upshot of not teaching children to use vital tools and respect the potential hazards of real life is that many grown people are no longer able to mend their clothes, turn up a hem, or run up a pair of curtains.  Or make a button hole.


Filed under Children, Sewing

How to make Cream Horns

This weekend we went to the antique and collectors fair which happens every Sunday in Market Harborough and it is a jolly good, if tempting, way to pass a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon.  Sometimes I come away having seen nothing that I’ll lose sleep over, whereas other times, one is sorely tempted to part with a kidney for some object that sings out from a leering trader who knows one all too well and has seen one coming.

Cream Horn boxOn Sunday I fell to my knees sobbing with joy when I found two boxes of 1950’s ‘Nutbrown’ Cream Horn Cases in their original boxes.  I even forgot to haggle, although the price was perfectly fair in the first place.  (The boys had learned to ask “Can you do me a price on that?” before they could eat solid food).  Brand new Cream Horn cones are still readily available in good cook shops by the way, although obviously if you can get ones as good as mine, it can only add to your cake eating pleasure.

I rushed home determined upon a plate of cream horns before the sun had set.  Technically they are very simple, but you do need to practice the spiral wrapping a couple of times and it is very important to wet the pastry well so that it sticks without unfolding whilst in the oven.  Also make sure that the pastry does not overlap the top of the cone, or it will fold in and spoil the look of the pastry when you come to remove the cone.


Cream horn cones (9 will use up a whole packet of pastry)
1 x baking tray per 4 cones – greased and floured, or covered with a sheet of greaseproof paper

These one's were great

These ones were great

1 x rolling pin
1 x pastry brush
1 x plate for sugar dipping
1 x wire cooling rack
1 x whisk
Icing bag with a broad nozzle

1 packet of puff pastry
½ pint of double cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
Raspberry jam
1 beaten egg for glazing
White sugar for coating
A little butter for greasing the cones *

Pre-heat the oven to 200 / 400 / 6
Roll out the pastry to a rectangle about 18″ (46cm) long by about 10″ (25cm) wide
Cut into 1″ (2.5cm) wide strips and brush with water
Grease the cones with butter
Wrap the pastry round the cones in a spiral, neatly pinching the bottom and making sure that the layers stick to each other.  Trim any pastry which overlaps the top of the cone.
Brush with beaten egg
Pour some sugar onto a flat plate and roll the cones in the sugar
Place the cones on a baking sheet, with the final seam on the bottom, giving them plenty of room to puff up
Put in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until nicely golden and crisp
Remove from the oven, leave for 5 minutes to cool
Carefully remove the metal cones then transfer to a wire rack to go completely cold
Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks.
Whisk in the icing sugar and vanilla.  This is called Chantilly Cream
Put half a teaspoonful of jam in the bottom of each pastry cone
Pipe in the cream, finishing with an attractive swirl.
To make them extra special you can top them off with a strawberry of a few raspberries

* I always keep butter papers after taking out the butter, as there is usually just enough left on the wrapper to grease baking tins, or indeed cream horn cones, and it saves on greaseproof paper as well

To make you feel better, these are the ones which didn't work.  They still tasted good though

To make you feel better, these are the ones which didn't work. They still tasted good though.


Filed under Food, Leisure, Recipes