Thursday, 25 June 2015

Book-Shop Bread

Dearest Emily,

With my tongue firmly in cheek, a soupcon of self-parody and a sprinkling of Freshwater Fairy-dust I thought we'd celebrate our half-birthday at Mrs Middleton's Shop with a recipe...

Book-Shop Bread.

Difficulty level- Risky


Dough- Very little indeed

Fermentation- Brew until the time is right

Oil- For pouring on troubled water

Water- enough not to dampen spirit

A pinch of Magic-Dust (essential)

Method- Or how we made ours

(On account of there being hardly any dough- the kneading will necessitate an artisanal approach)

1. Find a suitable building in which to create the Book-Shop bread.

(Ours was- let's say- 'untouched' for quite some time.)

2. Take all of your wits, a paintbrush, hammer and application, and smooth over any rough edges. Discover Victorian fireplace. Replace a few joists, and floorboards and deal with the fungus that's rotting the building.

3. Fill shop with bookshelves and furnishings accquired from local Charity shops.

4. Deploy books lavishly

Now, as the consistency begins to take shape, use artisan skills to arrange product in an appealing manner.

Sprinkle with magic dust, and wait for the dough to rise.

Manna from heaven Em, loving my bookshop bread!

See you soonest,

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxx

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

"It's got some Age to It"- Perfect Perfection.

Dearest Emily,

The first part of the title of this post, is a bit of a Bookseller's term. Yes, I know I'm getting all book-shoppy speaky- but hey, so I shall. The last bit belongs to Julia Margaret Cameron in a letter to Henry Cole (more of which last the end of this post.)

Anyhow, it's a phrase I've heard Mike say several times, and its something I've been relating to my life and even me in my early antiquity.

Because I decided a few things when I moved out of lovely London. I'd had several well-meaning friends who said that maybe it was too early for me to bury myself on the Island, and leave the metropolis. That didn't sit right with me Em, and it turned into a decision about my hair. I've always done that- made a decision about my hair when compromised about life. Well, I'm female, and I like to live with froth on the coffee decisions.

So- the decision was to never cut my hair again. Selfishly, I didn't want to search for a new hairdresser- or to be tied to making appointments in London every couple of months. I also really wanted grey hair. Long silver grey hair overnight.

                                                                                                      photo- Simon Avery

Didn't happen of course, and as I grew out the colour, wisps formed of grey at my temples instead. Tell it as it is, older bold ladies (well, one at least, which probably meant others thought so) asked if it was really a good idea to tie my hair back. Severe perhaps dear... but it got in my eyes, so styling it and spraying it and all that nonsense just wasn't going to happen- even in my fifties.

So, I stuck with it- and now my hair reaches my waist, and I'm rather happy with it. I tie it back, and my age is neither hidden or accentuated. It's a bother Em, when you see little lines deepen, and a jowel pattern developing on your visage. But, better than that- I've earned them, and that I mean with joy.

Physically I'm getting little signs of difficulties to put up with in the coming years- but dearest Em, the wisdom that each year provides, is priceless. Someone in the shop the other day said- 'Old age is not for cissies'. I like that attitude. You really do see some beacons of examples of seniority in age on this Island. Walkers who yomp past you on the Down who are decades ahead of you, and vibrant examples of ninety year olds who still carry on doing 'far too much'.

I've always liked to have a muse or two to look up to. In my teens it was the fabulous Lou-lou de la Falaise, and the indomitable Patti Smith. Dear Lou-lou is now departed sadly, but I hold her sparkling memory close, and Patti remains supremely as a muse to this day.

Then there's Freshwater Muses- and one in particular you know very well Emily. Our Mrs Cameron. An inspiration to many just by taking up a new career at 48, for me, she's a tantalising force of nature. A Woman so ahead of her time, she had to suffer fools gladly throughout her life- and after it. I reckon her time is coming now Em, 200 years after her birth!

I love the way the following passage from her niece Laura Troubridge (Memories and Reflections 1925) sums her and the rest of the Pattle sisters up-

(speaking of Anne Thackeray’s memoirs)

‘They too, laughed at her, though they loved her; for she was utterly oblivious to clothes, and in Mrs Prinsep’s eyes that was almost a sin. She was forgetful and unpunctual, and in some ways not unlike the White Queen in “Alice in Wonderland”. Still, in spite of their respective peculiarities, I cannot help thinking these women lived on a higher plane than most women seem to now. They cared nothing for the feminist movement and the rights and wrongs of their sex. But they knew that they were here to serve and to bless. They were the ladies, or loaf-givers, of whom Ruskin dreamed’

Another example I must share with you Emily, I read today in the fabulous new V and A book published for her Bi-Centenary-
Julia was friends with the Founder of the South Kensington Museum (now the V and A.) A copious and effusive letter-writer, she certainly shares Auntie Lotty's descrition of herself 'not suffering from low self-esteem'-; (albeit Em, I should add before you read this- I believe JMC had a certain 'tongue-in cheekiness)

' My dear Mr Cole,

I write to ask you if you will be having any Photographic Soiree or meeting soon, at which I may send to the Science & Art dept. for you to exhibit at the South Kensington Museum a set of prints that I intend should electrify you & startle the world. I hope it is no vain imagination of mine to say that the like have never been produced & can never be surpassed! I am waxing mad in my own conceit you will say. All I beg is that you show this assertion to our own Annie Thackeray & sister Minnie & ask them if they take my assurance upon trust! Seeing is believing & you shall see & the world shall see if you can create for me a great occasion! because these wonderful photographs should come out all at once & take the world by surprise!Thet are quite ready quite ready- a new series of 12 & if you watch my oport for me & acquaint me I will answer at once by sending the supply. Mr Thurston Thompson I hope will be delighted this time.
Won't the South Kensington Museum give me a crown.
Not of diamond stones but those better diamond laurel leaves- or a Medal or honourable mention if this series of Photographs of mine surpasses all others- Talk of roundness I have it in perfect perfection.!

Ah dear Julia!!!

You'll probably work out all this for yourself as you get older Emily, but I just wanted to tell you anyhow- every age brings gifts...

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxxx

Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Origin of the £10 note Species

Dearest Em,

It's Julia Margaret Cameron's 200th birthday today, and we're all about a-marching to celebrate and raise awareness for her billing on the new £20 note.

Whilst we're about it- it occurred to me- and to Julie as Mr Evans thinks so too- that maybe, just maybe, our Julia has previous with folding wedge.

Here's her photo of Darwin, taken most likely when he was staying in Terrace Lane (at what is Mary and Bob's house now)

And here's the £10 note image.

I wonder Em, if this was an engraving after JMC's portrait. As does Julie- who won't let it lie- and has contacted the Bank of England to try to find out more.

Julia's work was certainly copied by etchers previously and used in Cassell's for example where her photograph of Sir John Herschel was printed as an engraving after Julia Margaret Cameron.

Watch this space. We'll be digging.

Your ever-loving Grand-mother,

GiGi xx

Monday, 8 June 2015

There's no Place like Home

Dearest Emily,

This month's painting project ended up being one of our little Chocolate box Thatch.

I hope you like it. You will be moving too soon, boxing up all your things and re-arranging them in your new bedroom.

I remember your Daddy when he was away at University and it was his eighteenth birthday. I asked him what he wanted. He set me a task. This was to create something that he could have wherever he was that made him feel at home.

I wrote him a scroll that he could keep in a box. It explained that home is a feeling. A warm glowing hearth that is inside of you at all times. It represents family and all those who love you. Apparently, it was exactly what he wanted.

So my little one- ask Daddy if he still has it, and can it be yours one day too.

Over and out for today,

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxxx