Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Abiding passions

After a miserable sleepless night (bad reaction to new stronger painkillers, which affected my asthma), I felt in need of something to cheer me up today.  Whilst my OH was checking out the auction, I had a wander round town and treated myself to Baking Heaven magazine - the savoury issue this time.  It has some fabulous recipes in it which I want to try out and I think at the weekend I will make a Beef in Guinness Pie (got the Guinness today).  This is like buying a cheap cookery book, as far as I'm concerned, and I will keep it for years and even then probably pass it on to one or other of my daughters.  We all cook from scratch, though I am probably more the baker and they are more main meals at this stage of their lives.

I have come a long LONG way from the first time I remember cooking something for a boyfriend - Mince with Herbs.  Oh dear Lord, it was truly AWFUL, grey fatty mince with green dots of "herbs" in it, no thickening agent, no colour and worst of all, no TASTE!  I am glad to say I was a quick learner.  I was not a food purist to start with - I was happy to buy ready meals, instant pizzas, burgers and what have you when I was first married to my first husband, but when you start cooking properly from scratch, and buying ingredients instead of meals, on the occasion when you grab a pizza to go from the chill shelf, because of time constraints or illness, it is always SUCH a disappointment.  The same goes for just about every ready-made thing I have bought hastily in recent years.  Your palate becomes used to proper fusions of flavours from fresh ingredients and all the MSG in the world isn't going to replicate that.  Baking has always been my favourite section of cooking though, and that I AM good at (says she modestly!)

My passions in life began in my pre-teenage years and have never left me.  I was given my first wild flower book aged 6 (an Observer book of course) and still love wild flowers, fungi, wild birds, nature and couldn't live anywhere except the countryside.  I began collecting Antiquarian horse books when I started my first job as an office junior, aged 16.  I still have pretty well all those books plus a whole lot more . . .

Books probably serve to reflect my deepest passions and indeed, I just LIVE for books too.  Archaeology has been another major interest, and although I am gradually going through my bookshelves to cull out the ones I will no longer realistically use, it is a difficult choice . . .

Amongst those staying . . . this is one end of my Scottish shelf.  The blue books right are 16 volumes of the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (of which I am a lapsed Fellow, purely on monetary grounds . . .)

These books I can bear to part with and they're  going to be sold.

I also collect the pre- and post-2nd World War Batsford books on aspects of Britain - historic houses, churches, towns, villages, countryside etc.  Below, another interest has always been Folk Lore and Legends, Folk Customs etc.  How the Medieval mind lives on!

Some of my countryside books.

The West Country section . . .

I have always had a small herb garden, and enjoy making simple herbal remedies and gifts using herbs and the bounty of the hedgerows.  These old magazines and booklets (apart from the Jekka McVicar) are SO early 1980s me!

One or two self-sufficiency type booklets nuzzle against my beloved Jeanine McMullen books, and the Building of the Green Valley.  I grew up backwards-looking, always living in the past.  This much was clear by the time I was 9 or 10 and my friends remarked on it. 

Crafting has always been important to me, especially making things by hand.  Here are some of the bigger material oddments (patchwork cottons are in storage boxes) and a few of my sewing magazines.

Sometimes I will be driven to sew and sew, or knit, or crochet, or embroider, and then the sun comes out and the lure of the garden is too strong, but it is ever a balancing act, and the underlieing loves never change - just get added to sometimes!

Fleamarkets and antiques fairs!!!  Whooppee!!!!


  1. WOW Fantastic collection of books and I thought I had a lot. I've spotted so many on your shelves that I have, including Hope Bourne Wild Harvest - what an unusual lady she was! and with our son being an archaeologist you have lots that he would love to look at although his interests tend toward WWII airfields and industrial archaeology.
    your shelving looks wonderful too.

  2. Just one or two books then ... I dont envy your packing when you come to move .. mind you its a good excuse .. when looking for another property.. to look for one with a library room.

  3. I so agree with the when you cook from scratch. I cook very simply and do cook lots of Japanese and Vietnamese.
    Daughter is a vegetarian and she is a fabulous cook.
    We do buy some premade but many times as you say they are lacking.
    Sorry to hear your new meds are making you sick. I understand that.
    Hope you feel better soon.

    cheers, parsnip

  4. We have 1,000s of books. A lifetime's collection for both of us. Lots more than you see in these glimpses.

    Suffolk Smallholder - she was indeed a redoubtable lady and I wish I had met her. It was a hard way of life for her though, a very hard way. Not many folk are up to self-reliance in quite such a way, but not many people can meet their maker knowing that they lived life totally on their own terms, no compromise. I admired her for that.

    Vicky - you now kow why I have been SO GOOD recently and got rid of so many. I cleared out about 20 boxes last year. Then sold another dozen boxes this month, and STILL have 7 or 8 good boxes of collectable books which will have to be sold in dribs and drabs. This is a huge old farmhouse (about 6,000 square feet) and we will be significantly downsizing, but will need a library room or lots of big walls to cover in bookshelves!

    parsnip - love the sound of your cooking. Middle daughter and her boyfriend love Thai food and cook some scrummy meals. Meds still changing (painkillers now) - currently on Co-codomol, which made me feel like I'd had my nerves surgically removed in the night!!, after the Naproxen killed the pain but gave me an asthma attack. Yeesh . . .

  5. I hope 2014 proves to be a good year for you and yours.

  6. Loads of books, glad you are starting to 'thin' them because you can't read them all in the end, though it is lovely to pull one out now and then and browse....
    Keeping my fingers crossed the medicines will eventually work X

  7. Books are SO difficult to part with aren't they? I do have a blitz sometimes but M flatly refuses to get rid of any at all. We need a bigger house just for them.

    I REALLY like the look of that swiss rolly sort of thing on the front of your magazine. What is it? x

  8. And I thought I had a lot of books!! Yours are all the same kind as mine - countryside, gardening, cooking and crafts:)

  9. Rowan - I know we would be very much at home with each other's books! And er, yes, I do have a SLIGHT book addiction . . .

    Em - I have had to harden my heart over a good many, but common sense IS finally prevailing. My countryside, social history, literary and horsey collections are fairly sacrosanct though, and are still being built up.

    I will try and remember to copy out that recipe for you when I get back - it's bread with a pesto/olives/garlic type filling. Sounds tasty!

    thelma - ah no, I could never read them all, but they were THERE if I wanted to. I had an early childhood largely without books and that left me psychologically scarred!

    Hi Jerry, and thank you for your comment.

  10. You have a library-my hubby would love it! I really like your crafting area-looks very interesting.