26 May 2015

London...There and Back

All good things must come to an end but the memories are everlasting.  Although, I am hoping that by the weekend my dreams will no longer consist of passing throngs of people on narrow streets like a salmon struggling upstream or standing in train stations. 

London was full of things to see and do and with this trip being my sixth time over, I was able to tear myself away to enjoy days out in Bath, Cambridge, and Oxford.  A cool, misty morning was perfect for the short train ride to Dulwich to experience the Ravilious exhibit at the beautiful Dulwich Picture Gallery.  I shopped a bit, spent lots of time lazily browsing every bookshop I passed, enjoyed two London Walks, loved the Fashion on the Ration exhibit at the Imperial War Museum, went to see a film at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square and a West End play.  The icing on the cake was spending time with my favourite blog friends on the other side of the pond.  It was baguettes with Mary, burgers with Rachel, and cake with Simon...and apparent from the first sight of a Patisserie-Valerie that my wheat- and dairy-free diet was out the window.  I was so happy to finally meet Emily in the flesh but not for nearly as long as I was hoping due to a silly mistake with my watch, and even surprised an unsuspecting Verity, who used to blog under cardigangirlverity.

The past few days have been spent unpacking, reassuring Deacon (my eccentric Border Collie) I won't be very far away, sharing stories and gifts, fending off jet lag by uncharacteristic napping sessions, laundry, and going back to work.  

Over the next few days I'll share some highlights and photos from my trip to London and look forward to catching up with your blogs.  Hope everyone has been well and enjoying the much-longed for changing of the season! 

Hatchards on Piccadilly

11 May 2015


I know, I know...I'm off to London tomorrow, the mecca for book shopping, but it was an excellent weekend for finds.  My favourite second-hand shops in Toronto is particularly popular with university students wanting to sell their books at term's end so BMV was heaving with required reading.  English professors could very well weep with the knowledge their students were so quick to sell off titles meant to inspire but sometimes the pocketbook speaks even louder, I suppose.

I don't think any of the books we brought home were likely to have appeared on a syllabus but it was fun wading through the stuffed shelves.  My scanning technique usually begins with looking at every single book until the titles begin to blur and then I switch to looking for publishers.  There were loads of nyrb classics!  The blurb by a New York Times reviewer on the back of Corrigan made me laugh out loud...'Domesticity for Miss Blackwood has never been cozy, she listens for the ticking of the time bomb in the teapot.'  My preference is all about 'cosy' but this is an author I need to explore.

So many of you have been busy consuming Trollope, writing about Trollope, entering draws for books by Trollope, and generally celebrating the bicentenary of his birth, but my favourite Victorian author is George Gissing.  You can download his work for free but reading that way is just not for me so I was thrilled to find a copy of In the Year of the Jubilee; it's rare on shelves around here.  Anita Brookner's writing reminds me of another favourite author, Elizabeth Bowen.  My library stocks quite a few of Brookner's works but when I want to start a new book at eight p.m. on a Sunday night...well, it's best to stock a few on my own shelves.  And my love affair with Barbara Comyns' work continues.  Fingers crossed, Charing Cross Road has a gem or two that I don't own stocked in one of its many fabulous bookshops.

My lovely husband bought a copy of A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson for me last Friday.  I think it's a combination of feeling a bit sentimental because I'm going away and thrilled with the prospect of a bit of peace and quiet for days on end!

Luggage allowance and book lovers....well, it's never going to be an easy relationship.  Knowing there are lots of lovely books waiting at home will ease my disappointment about books left behind.  My B & B is a short stroll from Persephone Books and will be one of my first stops to pick up a copy of Mollie Panter-Downes' London War Notes. For a full report on how successful (or unsuccessful) 'Project Restraint' was and details about the walking book club I'm taking part in, watch this space in a couple of weeks!  See you soon...

8 May 2015

Friday's Literary Feast

Quotes from The Virago Book of Food:  The Joy of Eating


There are certain aspects of British cookery that never cease to fascinate me, and one of these is the extraordinary ability we have to gather up the delicate flavours of our countryside and transform them into exquisite dishes.  Sweet-scented violets, primroses, cowslips, lime blossom, elderflowers and roses have been picked by British cooks since time immemorial and converted into fragrant messes.  But while primroses, cowslips and lime blossom have slipped from common usage, the elderflower has remained popular.
  It is one of those subtle flavourings that makes a dish taste quintessentially British.  What Frenchman would dream of adding elderflower to his rhubarb compote?  What American would add a dash of elderflower cordial to his spritzer?  And surely no Italian would churn a gooseberry and elderflower sorbet?  Yet as far as the British are concerned, elderflower, with their sweet scent of Muscat grapes, add an indefinable charm to countless dishes from cooling drinks to creamy custards.'

Simply British