Friday, June 22, 2012

Closed Until Further Notice

Oh all right, so we don't live at Sissinghurst Castle but don't the gardens look lovely there?  What started out as a medium-sized gardening task at our house has turned in to a mammoth undertaking.  Replanting an island on the front lawn suddenly became "Well, the bed along the front of the house could be larger and that cedar is looking a bit tired...". 

The temperatures have made the record books these past three days hovering around the 32C mark making it feel like 40C with the humidity.  It is all R and I can do to drag our pain-wracked bodies, covered in sweat and dirt, up the stairs for one more shower before flopping on the sofa to stare at the television for an hour before bed.

I would also like to thank the lovely citizens from Burlington to Niagara-on-the Lake who were kind enough not to report the woman taking photos of their front garden to the local constabulary.  

Every excruciating minute will be worth it once the last shovel of mulch is in place, although, I can't tell you how often I have wished for a magic wand lately. 

See you in a couple of weeks!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

The strawberries are gorgeous this year.  We didn't have to move very far along the row to pick two full baskets.  R had a bit of an intermission while the farm dog, a chocolate lab named Topper, persisted in smothering him with kisses. 

Back at home I got out my mixing bowls and whipped up a pound cake so we could have a yummy dessert.  Piling the whipped cream on top of the berries and cake I thought about taking a picture but that would have meant a case of dessertus interruptus. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Millions Like Us by Virginia Nicholson

This is an excellent book.  It took me a good long while to get through it but there is so much to be done outside this time of year so needs must.  But, each woman's story is gripping and Virginia Nicholson has done a superb job of collecting these vignettes and along with her own meticulous research of the era has produced a quintessential book of its kind.

I soaked up every word and detail about the daily life of women during World War II whether she be up to her elbows in diapers, farmer's fields, blood and guts or tea bags.  Against a backdrop of the current political and economic situations of this era are the thoughts and writings of a group of women who share their personal stories of striving for independence, meeting their first love, travel beyond their home county and all while the prospect of losing everything but the clothes on their back, as well as their lives, in the blink of an eye is a reality.  What I didn't expect was that once the final all-clear had been sounded and life went back to some semblance of what it was like before 1939, most of the women missed the excitement of it all.  Not the wondering if each day would be their last but the feeling of respect, pride and accomplishment that comes with position and purpose.

In the early days of World War II, some young women chose the service to join based on the cut of the uniform or even the hat.  Women appearing at airplane factories in baggy overalls were called all sorts of names by the men still employed there.  So prejudiced was the thinking that women should remain by the cooker that even the sight of Princess Elizabeth in her armed forces attire had people tsk tsking.  But once the bombs started to fall the allure of a sharp uniform quickly fell away leaving these young women to get on with the task at hand and to deal with situations that months before would have seemed impossible.  I will never forget the story of one women who knew German and was employed to listen to enemy airmen as they flew in air raids.  The German pilots knew they were being listened in on and would openly flirt over the air waves.  During one mission a familiar pilot was shot down but as his plane spiralled and burned he cried out for his mother before finally crashing.  Facing death while in the capacity of their job was difficult enough but then some of those women would wait on the tarmac until dawn for sight of their lover's plane, long overdue from a mission.  In too many cases the wait was in vain.

Reading Marghanita Laski's To Bed with Grand Music I thought that the adultery and amount of time focused on sex by the characters must have been exaggerated.  Let me tell you, after reading Millions Like was not!  Not only was there a massive explosion of sexual awakening amongst a group of young women who normally wouldn't have dreamt of being sexually active before marriage but adultery was also extremely common.  So common in fact that people were writing to their spouses about their love lives with their latest partners.  My girlfriend is pregnant or there will be an extra toddler at home when you arrive back were often paragraphs in letters sent home or to soldiers' bases.  One that did make me laugh though was a telegram sent to a husband who had been away for two years saying 'son born stop mother and baby doing well stop'.  Thinking his wife had been having an affair left the soldier feeling despondent but he soon found out his wife was sending word about his mother!

There are so many stories from this book that I could share but I need to get out and enjoy the day.  I know that summertime isn't typically when most people turn their bookish eye to non-fiction but believe me, this book will educate and entertain you with every page.  For those interested in literature from this era you will find quotes and anecdotes from such authors as Barbara Pym, Mollie Panter-Downes, Vera Brittain, Nella Last, Marguerite Patten, Nina Bawden and Helen Forrester.  Need I say more?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Canterbury Celebrates The Queen's Jubilee

The Heiress is enjoying all that Canterbury has on offer for the Queen's Jubilee and thoughtfully sent a few photos to her Mum left whimpering at home.  Each one taken with me in mind as she knows how much I adore quaint pedestrian walkways, bunting and beautiful window displays.
Tearooms also rate quite highly!
 Some tea to enjoy at home in a souvenir tin is also quite nice and speaking of souvenirs...
...the tea towel and tote are too pretty to use but aren't they lovely?
I can just imagine the fingerprints on this bakery window from people stopping to mull over which one is their favourite.  The massive pink fairy cake up in front is the one that catches my eye!

Oh how we wish we could have been there to enjoy it with you but thanks so much for sending a such lovely glimpses home.