Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Book in the Mail

Today the mailbox divulged its secrets and voila!, a book I ordered from Amazon was inside.  I love days like this!  It's not a real exciting book except to someone like me who loves the written word.

OK, the picture is not the greatest, but there is enough information.

A Handbook to Literature is a "dictionary-style supplement for anyone's personal or professional library".  I was not really sure what to expect , not having ever seen this book before.  But, I know from now on, it will always be near at hand.  Why?  Well, because of entries like this, on page 185:

Exergue  Originally a small space on a coin, medal, or other such artifact.  The exergue is set apart for a minor inscription.  The term is also used for a set of epigraph-like quotations near the beginning of Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology (tr. 1976).

A real reader is bound to come across a word like exergue and think "what the heck is that?".   Not a problem now!  But, the greater use of this book is as a reference for terms used in the study of English Literature. 

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Country Life

March 31, 1960     Country Life     Two Shillings & Sixpence

It has been quite some time since I looked at one of my old Country Life magazines.  They are getting quite fragile and I am not storing them properly, so getting dusty too.  One of my constant "vows" is to invest in proper storage for my books but it never seems to fit into the budget.  In any case, I have eight issues of Country Life ranging from this one, March 31, 1960 through August 4, 1960 (with many gaps since it was weekly, "on sale Thursday").  They were given to me by Tom, a friend's husband, in about 1977.  He salvaged them out of a dumpster on the old Marine base east of Barstow, California.  Knowing I liked old books and anything British, they were mine.  I have always been very grateful for this gift.

This cover's top line is A CLOSE SEASON FOR ENGLAND'S DEER?  The article describes the conflict between conservationists who want to save England's wild deer population and farmers and foresters who want the deer gone from fields and forests at any cost.  Some things never change.  The "Close Season" refers to a moratorium on hunting for a certain length of time.

The picture of an idyllic country village with curving street, thatch roofed cottages, and a man walking down the middle of the street was taken in Dunsford, Devon.  The caption is "Cob and Thatch:  Dunsford, Devon".  The picture was taken by Kenneth Scowen.

Inside, the first 24 pages are taken up in advertisments for country property (with pictures).  Here is an example:

Wickham 3 miles, Portsmouth 10 miles
Rural situation with open views across farmland


INSERT PICTURE HERE (of a lovely three story manor house with outbuildings)

Fully modernised but retaining many original period features.

3 reception rooms.
5 bedrooms, dressing room,
3 bathrooms, arranged in suites.
Staff bedroom and excellent playroom.



Range of loose boxes, etc.  Main water and electricity.  Walled gardens, with pool, excellent kitchen garden.

Agents:  CURTIS & HENSON, London

Today's exchange rate for the Great Britain Pound is $1.5914 USD to one GBP, so this little property would have cost about $15,500 in 1960.  Seems unbelievable now, doesn't it?

There are hundreds of ads like the above, followed by a page of "classified ads" for auctions, more property, businesses for sale, flats for sale, rentals, property wanted, furniture movers, mortgages, and real estate agents, surveyors, and valuers.  Then, there are several pages of ads for antique dealers with pictures of some of their wares.  For example, John Sparks LTD. at 128 Mount Street, W.1 in London is selling a Chinese biscuit libation cup, decorated in Famille Verte enamels, K'ang Hsi Period:  A.D. 1662-1722.  Height:  2 inches, Length:  4 inches.

Fiinally, the magazine proper begins with a full-page portrait of "HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN WITH PRINCE ANDREW.  This photograph was taken at Buckingham Palace when the Prince, born on February 19, was nearly four weeks old."  The Prince is wearing a little dress and looks like a little old man, as they do at that age.  The Queen is looking very young and lovely with perfectly coifed hair, pearl earrings, a four-strand pearl necklace, and plain black dress.  The portrait was taken by Cecil Beaton.

Following the portrait, are 52 more pages comprised of vignettes about country life, pictures of horse drawn farm wagons, articles on deer, boxing legends, foxes, the March flower garden, art, furniture, miniature portraits, the far flung countryside with Roman ruins, birds, horses, an in-depth tour of a grand estate (with pictures), a lioness in the family, the threatened smallholders of the Forest of Dean, an article on Georgian dessert glasses, an in-depth tour of a connoisseur's cottage (shorter article than the grand estate but also including pictures), a picture of "Jimmy Barnes, gardener of a fine old garden near Christchurch, Hampshire, photographed over 60 years ago" (making it in the late 1800's), a picture of a Siamese cat retrieving a rabbit's paw off the fireplace mantel, an ad for Piccadilly cigarettes, pictures of old foot rests for sufferers of the gout, an article about the Ford Galaxie (with a picture of a station wagon), a crossword puzzle, updates on sales of property, confusion over egg prices, an ad for tuxedos, a book review by Howard Spring of "Recluse in an Essex Wood" (nothing wrong with being a recluse!), an article about dressing a debutante (with pictures of young women in formal wear, suits, and summer frocks) followed by a full page ad for mink stoles and jackets, ending with small picture ads and classified ads as magazines still do.

Country Life magazine is perfect for whiling away a rainy afternoon.  Think I will set this one aside for this coming weekend!

Signing off now, to go dream of that $15,500 country estate.  Good night.




Herbs in Provence

While visiting Provence years ago, we stopped in to say hello to Kathy, proprietor of a lavender and herb shop in the little village where we were staying. She is a friend of my sister's, who at the time was a lavender grower here in the US. Kathy busied herself filling containers with various herb mixtures as we visited. Then, she bundled up the containers, two grocery sacks full, and said "for you and for your sister!". The most wonderful mixes of herbs. I had to explain it all to customs when we entered the U.S. but it was definitely worth it! Kathy's mixes were all herbs, no spices. Here are a few mixes I have gleaned over the years from cookery articles.

Fines herbs - Mixture of parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon. Most commonly used for flavoring omelettes and for grilled fish and chicken.

Epices composees - Mixture of spices and herbs used for flavoring. Thyme, bay leaves, basil, sage, a little coriander, and mace. Ingredients, perfectly dried, are pounded together and sieved. Add to this mixture a third of their weight in finely ground pepper.

Epices quatre or fines - White pepper, allspice, mace, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, dried sage, marjoram, rosemary. Pound and sieve.

Herbes de Provence - Rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, basil, fennel, mint. Sometimes lavender.

An old world custom is to have your own secret herb blend on hand at all times. It is the "house" blend. I like this idea and will try to remember to gather herbs next summer when the leaves are at their most flavorful (just before bloom) and experiment with my own "house" blend.