Saturday, 11 July 2015
I had local-to-me bloggers Dawn and Pam visit me yesterday. We had a lovely morning chatting about all sorts, and how our lives have developed to get us where we are now.
Dawn mentioned being inspired by the books of Elizabeth West - Hovel in the Hills, Kitchen in the Hills and Garden in the Hills. They were my inspiration too, although I have to say I think their frugality from necessity - they were on the Dole and found, as English incomers in 1960s North Wales found that paid work was very hard to come by - was a little daunting. To literally have NO spare money at all, only money for absolute essentials isn't easy - and I can speak from experience in our early years here in Wales. The Wests grew all their own vegetables, had a stove for heating, hot water and cooking which would run on the cheapest coal, wood or even turf. They had a windcharger on the hill which supplied them with electricity and their water supply came from a spring and in summer, showered in the garden! They were "Eco-friendly" almost before the term ever existed.
Then came along John Seymour with his books on self-sufficiency and added fuel to the fires of inspiration. I can remember dipping into an illegal overdraft limit to buy his book when I saw it in W H Smith's Above Bar shop in Southampton. I just COULDN'T leave the shop without it!
I read all the books written by Derek Tangye about their idyllic-seeming lives on a Cornish clifftop smallholding, with a tiny cottage where they still were able to entertain the good and the great who they had met in their London days. I didn't think growing flowers for the London market was for me, but the books were inspiring in their own way and I loved reading about the donkeys and the cats and the beautiful Cornish scenery and their way of life had great appeal.
Radio 4 used to run a delightful series on a Saturday morning, when A Small Country Living with Jeannine McMullen was aired. She would travel around the country, interviewing real country people and their connection with country living. I can remember ducks with the "July sprawls" to this day! She lived in a delightful smallholding in the Carmarthenshire hills at Llandeusant, looking across to the Black Mountain and wrote about it so beautifully in her books "A Small Country Living", "A Small Country Living Goes On" and "The Wind in the Ash Tree". All on Amazon at just a penny a pop if you haven't discovered her yet. Her writing is delightful. She really made me want to move to Wales - more than Elizabeth West did.
I forgot to mention (so have just popped back to do so) the novels of Lillian Beckwith, which were set on a Hebridean island, where she (an incomer) became a crofter. Wonderful characters, and a gentle humour, and a life so different from any I could imagine. I think the first one was "The Hills Is Lonely", and then there were (in no particular order) "A Rope in Case", "The Loud Halo", "The Sea for Breakfast", "Lightly Poached" and "Beautiful Just." Just checked on Amazon, and there are a couple more: "A Breath of Autumn" and "Breuach Blend", neither of which I remember reading. Ooh, and there are more, "The Spuddy", "About my Father's Business" and "An Island Apart". Such comforting reading, and a way of life which probably hasn't changed a great deal in the more remote Scottish islands. This only came to me because I wrote "beautiful just" in my Facebook comment, and suddenly thought where it came from.
Below: Raubritter in my garden. Isn't she beautiful?
Of course, anyone who can remember the 1970s will remember The Good Life, which further fuelled my fire, and in 1998 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "River Cottage" converted many more people to growing their own, and lifting the veil off home-butchery and charcuterie, and the wheel still turns.
Over the last 40 years I have collected books about baking, bread making, and preserves, and still have a terrible weakness for new ones along these lines, although I know I probably have all those recipes already in other binding!
I think my real inspiration comes from my maternal grandmother who made all her own cakes, preserves, wines, clothes and had an allotment to grow her own fruit and vegetables. Go gran!! I think I am "a chip off the old block" as folk used to say.
What was your inspiration in life?