“Half memoir, half travel, A Yank Back to England...is an absolutely wonderful book, not only about going home again but also about love and family and tradition and the passage of the years.”
—Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic (Washington
To see the entire quote, click here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Auntie May in Libya, part 2

Rita’s husband, whose nickname was Fatty, was always charming and treated his mother-in-law most royally whenever she visited Libya. My Auntie May was a happy-go-lucky Cockney, politically unaware and blissfully ignorant of her son-in-law’s standing in the Libyan regime. When she went to Libya, she had a good time. She thought nothing of having first to fly to Switzerland to get a connecting flight to enter the rogue state, sprouting with terrorists. In her own words, Libyan holidays were not too bad at all. Nice and warm and lots and lots of sand.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Aunt May in Libya, part I

Aunt May, another of Mum’s sisters, was telling everyone about her most recent visit to North Africa. Her daughter, my cousin Rita, had eloped with a Libyan student from the London School of Economics. Dissolve thirty years. Rita now lived in a guarded, high-walled estate in Tripoli, and her son-in-law oversaw part of Qaddafi’s nuclear program. They lived well in Libya. Very well. They took holidays in Switzerland and in England, and they had bodyguards. If nothing else, it was safe to assume they lived in fear of their lifestyle.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tea Time

Mum watched the end of her show and then we ate dinner, now mostly cold. Roast lamb, mint sauce, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and Brussels sprouts. I complimented Mum, even though I knew Lew had done the cooking. Or most of it. He grunted in reply. This was normal. Evening meals in our house were always eaten in silence. The only sound above the clatter of cutlery was the radio broadcasting the six o’clock news. If anyone spoke during the news, all hell would break loose. Old habits die hard. Even now we ate as if we were mismatched Trappists. Frances, unaware of this mealtime vow of silence, thought someone was upset, so she tried to jolly us all up with cheery comments.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Right up our street and right on cue, it's UK:Cue!

Just discovered a wonderful start-up magazine that’s right up our street. It’s called UK:Cue Magazine and it’s edited by a charming Anglophile and boulevardier of all things British, Larry Jaffee. He’s had the brilliant idea to launch a print and online mag aimed at expats like me, and all chaps and chapesses with a fondness for the Green and Pleasant. UK:Cue will keep us posted about all Brit books, movies, and TV shows heading across the pond. The issue I’m looking at discusses The Iron Lady, the new Dr. Who, BBC America, and even a bit of Shakespeare for the higher-browed among you. Anyway, give it a gander, Larry can say it all a lot better than me so why not follow the link here and check it out! Tell him you’re an EastEnders fan, he’ll like that (my old Mum was a big fan as I mention in the book, had to drag her away from Walford for tea)! Mind you, I’d much rather be tucked up in the snug of the Rovers Return, but that’s another story.

PS: And keep an eye out for the odd Prodigal article in UK:Cue!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's beginning to feel like Christmas...

My new Christmas pudding is happily imbibing as I write, happily awaiting the big day. Here is a photo of last year's, before we doused it with brandy. And ate it, of course.
If you'd like to try your hand at this traditional taste of Britain, my recipe is posted here.
It takes a bit of effort, but it's worth it...and Tiptree puds are $30 this year!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day of service, East End style

Until the middle of the twentieth century many East Enders, and those who lived south of the river, in the poorer boroughs of London, went hop-picking every year. It was quite an industry and a practical way to earn a few pennies, enjoy a family vacation, albeit a working one, and breathe clean country air. Of course, the descendants of those hop pickers are now barreling down the motorway in their land cruisers, roaring past those old hop fields and disused kilns without a second glance, as they head to the Channel Tunnel and the promise of warmer, richer pickings on the other side.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Look at the view, Doc, the view!

Prodigal Wife and I have discovered Doc Martin, a quirky Brit show about a surgeon who can't stand the sight of blood so he takes over a small practice in beautiful Cornwall. The villagers aren't exactly warm and friendly, but, oh, the scenery is spectacular!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dagenham spring

A gnarly old lemon-colored rose tree gripped a rotting trellis, fighting its way clear of the laburnum. The standard roses, of which there were several, had an easier time getting to the sun. Lined up like sentries with bulbous cockades of crinkly white and red petals, Mum's standards stood to attention right along the dividing fence between our home and the next door neighbor's.
"Look at my roses, look at the foxglove! And look, look at my potentilla!"
It was a huge sunburst of yellow.
"And my hydrangea. That'll be out soon!"
Six feet across, covered in green leafy frond-like leaves, Mum's shockingly pink hydrangea flowers would soon dominate the small garden and might even eclipse the potentilla.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The sun does shine over Whitstable

Somerset Maugham renamed Whitstable "Blackstable" in one of his first novels. He had grown up there and hated the place. I sort of, understand, visiting a seaside place is nothing like living in it year round. And the sea around the British coastline is mostly mackerel gray, which in summer can be offset by the occasional bluish sky but in the fall and winter or in a rainy spring the grayness is omnipresent, inescapable. But as you can see from this lovely photo we found at twinisles.com, the sun does occasionally shine on Whitstable, which is not without its charms. And, indeed, we very much enjoyed our day in the coastal town.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hard times at Buck House

"Oh, Philip, are you sure there's no other way to pay for this wedding? And, really, couldn't I at least go to the other one, you know, the royal one?"

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Literary awakening

I literally threw the book in the corner of the room. Frustrated, angry, and very annoyed. After a few moments, when my seethe had come off the boil, I realized something. The book I was reading was a good one. And something else. I was not annoyed at the book but at the main character’s flaw: his spinelessness. In his quiet, beguiling way, Somerset Maugham had hooked me, lured me into his world. The book was Of Human Bondage, and I carried on reading it, only to admire, in time, the character’s dogged determination. Talk about beguiling.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Old Viking Bay

I love this old photo we found of Viking Bay in Broadstairs, my favorite English coastal town. Straight ahead is the Albion Hotel, where Dickens once wrote—and where Jesse and Lew imbibed while we ambled up to Bleak House, which we assume is the narrow building all the way to the right on the cliffside. It was obviously expanded later as it is much grander now.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On a personal note

Well! It's been a year since publication of A Yank Back To England, and it has been quite exciting. I've done over thirty book readings and lectures, ranging from small book clubs in people's houses to bookshops, even a champagne brunch at Fort Meade and dinner at a baronial manor house brought brick by brick from England! Regardless of the venue, the response has been overwhelmingly favorable. Mind you, I have also been brought to earth a couple times, and quite dramatically! One event, for a group of seniors, sticks in my mind. I spoke after lunch and, despite my Dickensian efforts to read with bombast and, dare I say, a certain élan, my audience fell into the arms of Morpheus before I could say Ghrrrr! Most disconcerting. As you can imagine, I wrapped up the reading very quickly. At least, when everyone came to, a few books were sold! So that was all right.

Also, during the past twelve months, Frances and I have been really overwhelmed by the letters (well, emails) we have received and the comments readers have left on our website. Some say they've read the book more than once! We've been especially touched by those readers who fell in love with my funny old folks, along with my extended family and some of the oddballs we met along the way. It is so gratifying to discover the book has hit a familiar cadence with so many. Of course, not everyone has aging Cockney parents, but most everyone seems to have family experiences my story helped evoke.

Apart from the family story, our travels have also resonated with a good many readers. We have received quite a few notes from readers planning to take Yank on their next trip! Very gratifying to think that a lot more people will be discovering the wonderful literary landmarks and fascinating historical sites we found on our travels in Southern England (I encourage everyone to avoid Dagenham though, but few listen to my words of wisdom).

I hope you'll forgive the indulgence, we thought we'd post here a few of the comments and observations we've received (we won't mention names, but these are real quotes from real people). Many were accompanied by personal stories and memories evoked, which we enjoyed very much.

"The perfect blend of humor, poignancy, history, culture, and character. Well BLOODY done!!!!"

"I hated to come to the end, so I have read it over several times...thanks for sharing your family & your travels with us. I fell in love with them all!!"

"Wonderful book, but so painfully close to home as I struggle with my own aging parents and recall my own version of an English childhood. I connected with this on so many levels!! Couldn't put it down."

"I bought (Yank) simply because I like travel writing and it sounded interesting. But your book connected with me in ways I did not expect at all."

"I spent some time in school (in England) and get back every few years... so reading your descriptions of places, food and feelings brought back a lot of good memories--although I don't miss the Archers!"

"Wonderful book, I relished most every part of it."

"As a Brit who became a Yank and now takes his family back to the UK every year to visit family it really struck a chord."

And the very first personal note we received, which said, in part:
"I am almost at the end of A Yank Back to England and I will be sorry when it's over. I have thoroughly enjoyed the book and getting to know your family and your travels." (This lovely reader wrote again when she'd completed the book! Very nice indeed.)

Of course, the book was not everyone's cup of tea. But that's okay by me. After all, not everyone likes tea with milk! But regardless of how you take you tea, thank you all for taking the time and trouble to write to us.

For those of you who haven't heard, I'm also pleased to report the book has now been reprinted. And yes, I'm still doing events. Meanwhile, do continue to write and tell us if the book inspired you to take a trip to the Green and Pleasant. And don't forget to tell your friends! If they can't make the royal wedding, they can still catch up on a couple of royal events and discover the other Kate--the one in A Yank Back To England.

Happy New Year to all,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas lights

Admittedly, as many of you know, we are a "mixed" family; but nevertheless Christmas is our favorite time of the year--and my favorite holiday! Sadly we have not put up many lights this year as we have been too busy driving little miss madam to her many activities, but Prodigal Wife did make me a very happy chap when she made one of my favorite Christmas treats: a real fruitcake! Now, no jokes, every American we know loves it and you can see the recipe Friday on Anglotopia.net (will post link after it publishes).
Anyway, we took a photo of the fruit (after it had imbibed quite a bit) and it looked to us like beautiful lights, and it certainly is Christmassy, so here it is.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Launching Cy's car

With its huge fins and tail lights, Cy's baby blue Ford Galaxy convertible looked like a relic from either an alien planet junk yard or an unfinished Flash Gordon movie set. As always, it was parked halfway up the curb, more on the sidewalk than off it. A parking ticket fluttered from the windscreen. The car was like Cy in many ways; it was big, outlandish, almost exotic, completely out of place and out of time but still managing to look cool. And the car lumbered just as he did, attracting attention, lots of amused glances and lots of parking tickets. “Christ! I hate getting these!” Cy stuffed the ticket into his ping pong bat bag. “Maureen wants us back for lunch, it’s kinda good she likes you Denis under most other circumstances, she hates the people I drag around the house. But you, she likes you, my young friend. Go figure!”
Cy gently rocked the car back and forth until he had enough room to launch it into the road. He drove so slowly, he looked as if he was prowling, which was just as well because, when Cy was behind the wheel, he insisted on looking at the person he was speaking to, not at the road.
“Cy, look out!”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Afternoon stroll in London

In the pale gold of the following afternoon we took a stroll in the neighborhood beyond the shopping hordes on the Brompton Road, towards Hans Place. In this the residential part of Knightsbridge, with its soft edged blocks of blood orange colored mansion flats and lovely town houses the area seemed to take on an almost village-like calm, broken only by the occasional soft purring tick of passing cabs. We discovered an elegant mews with cobble stones, a leafy square and Italianate side streets whitewashed and splashed with red carnations and geraniums. And no one seemed to be in sight until we came to Pont Street, filled with locals crisscrossing the road, milling, chatting, doing their bits of shopping, buying everything from baguettes to Beluga caviar. The array of boutique food emporia in Pont Street was truly astonishing. Bright eyed and bright scaled creatures almost flapped with freshness on the fishmongers marble counter, the aroma of fresh bread wafted from the bakery, and vegetables in the green grocers window seemed mounted and displayed like individual jewels in blue tissue paper.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bit of sweet, Mum?

"It's lovely," Lew was now fulsome with praise as he slurped down his tea.
"I like a bit of sweet," Mum went on, ignoring Lew's effusive praises.
She finished the cake and washed it down with another big swig of Benedictine. "I'm willing to try anything once, I am."
It was the closest she ever got to complimenting someone else’s cooking.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A lovely English cottage...

Anyone interested in following in the Prodigal Footsteps might be interested in renting this little (well, large) barn in Suffolk, not far from the coastal town of Alderburgh, where we did indeed have a lovely stay. Of course, our cottages were, if not more interesting than this one, definitely a little older, but we thought we'd share nevertheless.
Not sure if it's stocked with tea or if the house comes with a working phone, but if you're interested, the "balancing barn" is available for a mere $2,300+ for three days from living-architecture.co.uk.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

End of the summer shrimp

I'm the first to admit that it is hard to find an English main course recipe that doesn't start with "take half a pound of lard..." Nothing wrong with that of course, but when the sun is still lovely and warm, we all crave lighter fare, even this true-blue Brit!
So let's turn to the exotic East, the lazy days of the Raj and a lovely Goan-inspired shrimp dish with coconut and cream. I know I'm taking a bit of liberty but then, is not Indian food a cornerstone of English cuisine? In fact, in a recent poll taken in Britain, the second favorite dish nationwide turned out to be chicken tikka! (No prizes if you guess what the number one fave was!*)
I've adapted this recipe over time. It began life as a mussel starter but I've switched in shrimp, added cream or yogurt, toned down the heat for the Americans in my midst, and I now serve it up over a bed of salad as opposed to rice. By increasing the portions I've turned this recipe into a delightfully light supper dish.

Here's what you will need

A pound and half of large shrimp. I use fresh-frozen, but use whatever looks good in the market. Do use large or extra large shrimp, smaller prawns tend to disappear.
You'll also require a "finger" of ginger; use powder if you must, but fresh is so much better. A few cloves of garlic and cup of grated coconut, dried or fresh but unsweetened. One small chili pepper chopped up, or use a few dried pepper flakes. If using fresh chili, do taste a smidge beforehand. You want the dish to have a little kick, but not too much. Chop up half a bunch of green onions. Have a wedge of butter on hand or a little pot of ghee if you're feeling exotic. You'll also need a quarter cup of lemon juice, but do peel the rind from said lemon, chop it up, and keep it to one side.
Now bring out the big guns: a cup of cream, sour cream, or yogurt or a combination of all three. I'm trying to watch my weight so I use low fat yogurt. Mind you, the cream adds a wonderful richness, so it's your choice. You can add a half teaspoon of salt, but it really isn't necessary Last but not least, you'll need a teaspoon of turmeric and coriander. I usually add a few cardamom pods in the final dish to torment the wife.... This of course, is also an optional addition. If you cannot find any of these spices at your local Indian shop, use the light-colored curry powder found in regular grocery stores.
You will also need a bunch of coriander or cilantro, chop half the leaves for the sauce, retain the uncut leaves for the salad. Did I mention salad?

Let's address the salad
This is a simple green affair, you need enough leaves to cover four dinner plates. Make sure the salad is torn into small pieces, Use a spring mix type; rocket, dandelion, watercress, or what have you. Whatever you use, do add small shavings of green olives and grated flecks of lemon peel and mix in the whole leaves of coriander you cleverly kept to one side. Make a one-to-one vinaigrette using lemon juice and olive oil. Toss at the last minute then divide, forming beds of salad on the four plates.
Now let's get to the main attraction, which can easily be prepped in advance of your dinner party. Drinks at six on the patio...we eat in five? No probs!
First peel, de-vein, and sauté the shrimp. Thirty seconds a side. No more. Use butter, oil, or ghee if you want! You just want the little chaps pink on both sides. Add lemon juice to the pan and remove the happily sizzling shrimp to a side dish. They will finish cooking off heat. Prior to service, you pop them into the sauce to warm them up. And that's all. The key thing is not to overcook the shrimp, which can be made ahead and rest in the fridge until you are ready to make the sauce...
If you have the time, you can make a little stock using the shrimp shells. This will add a very nice flavor enhancement to the sauce but it's not essential.
In a mini prep gadget, put in the finger of ginger, the garlic cloves and the green bits from your spring onions. Add half a cup of water. Whir up this mixture.
In the unwashed sauté pan in which you part-cooked the shrimp, soften the remaining chopped onion bits in a pat of butter (or oil or ghee) for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic-ginger mixture, stir fry for half a minute before adding the chili, turmeric and cumin, along with the coconut. Now add the shrimp stock you so cleverly made (or a quarter cup of water) to the sauce and cook over a low heat for a few minutes. Take sauce off the heat and pour in the yogurt, cream, or what have you. Put back on low heat for a minute. When everything is nicely incorporated and the sauce is just coating the back of a spoon, pile in the part cooked shrimp and mix into the sauce for another minute. If the sauce is too thick add a few tablespoons of water, or cream --you naughty thing, you! Then turn off the heat.
Now toss your salad in a simple lemony vinaigrette. Plate up the salad forming beds. Top with shrimp and curry sauce. Serve with nan or pita bread, or nothing at all. Oh, nearly forgot. Once plated, sprinkle the chopped coriander over the shrimp.

So there we are! An Englishman's Goan-style curry dish to beat the last of the summer heat, a little spicy but very fresh tasting, light, and delicious. Do try it, I know you'll like this one!
*Yes, you guessed it --fish and chips!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Made in Dagenham

Many of you have, very oddly it seems to me, expressed a desire to visit Dagenham after reading A Yank Back to England. Well, this one's for you (don't say I didn't warn you!).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!

All children think their parents are old, but mine always were, exceptionally so. Obviously, they weren’t born old, but they were old when I was born. By the time I became conscious of age and generational differences, they were already in their fifties. That’s the way it was, only the future was always approached with a glance to past horizons that, despite hardship and deprivations, always glowed with the warmth of familiarity.
Because of my parents’ age, I missed several generations of popular culture: Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Eden, Ban the Bomb, Big Bands. Beatniks. My parents missed them, too. My points of reference were Fred Astaire, the Gershwins, Bette Davis, Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby. Not a problem unless I ran into a parent of one of my school friends or a friend would meet my parents. That was always a shock for everyone. When my parents dressed up to go out for the evening, they always looked like Nick and Nora or any movie couple from the thirties. Mum wore lots of rabbit fur and hats with feathers and smelled of talc, and Lew always wore double-breasted suits with baggy trousers. He was always clean shaved, always had a short back and sides hair cut brilliantined like Ramon Navarro – whoever he was.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And the winners are...

I confess, we were too lazy to pull out our lovely roulette wheel this time, so we used random.org to determine the winners of the Todd Charles books. We ended up with 32 valid entries, and the winning numbers were 8 and (surprisingly) 1. So that means our lucky winners are:
*my Goodreads buddy, Jersey Girl, who tagged, posted, voted, and more (thanks, darling!).
*Prodigal Wife's faithful friend Syl, who was the first to enter our giveaway.
We have emails, so getting info for HarperCollins should be easy.

One little thing--I know we haven't posted as regularly as we might have over the summer. Hopefully that will change as the weather cools...
The Prodigals

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Giveaway: An Impartial Witness

We here in the Prodigal Household are big fans of mysteries, as many of you know, and we always have our eyes peeled for a good one! Now, with Prodigal Wife's love of anything historical and my fascination with World War I, we're both anxious to get our hands on Charles Todd's new book, An Impartial Witness. And thanks to HarperCollins, we can now offer all our bloggy friends two free copies of Bess Crawford's second adventure!

This book is barely out but great reviews are already pouring in (OK, green-eyed monster, get back in the closet):
"intricate twists and plenty of viable suspects" (Publishers Weekly)
A "plucky, determined sleuth and a thrilling mystery" (Library Journal)
“A smartly plotted, well-told mystery.” (Booklist on An Impartial Witness )

Here is what the publisher says:

Tending to the soldiers in the trenches of France during the First World War, battlefield nurse Bess Crawford is sent back to England in the early summer of 1917 with a convoy of severely burned men. One of her patients, a young pilot, has clung to a photograph of his wife since his plane went down, and Bess can’t help but notice the photo every time she tends to him. After the patients are transferred to a clinic in Hampshire, Bess is ready for her two-day leave, planning to return to her flat in London to catch up on some much-needed rest. But at the railway station, in a mob of troops leaving for the front, Bess catches a glimpse of a familiar face. Could that be the pilot’s wife? And why is she bidding a very emotional farewell to a soldier who is not her husband?

Back in France, Bess discovers an old newspaper with a drawing of the woman’s face on the front page. Accompanying the drawing is a plea from Scotland Yard looking for information from anyone who has seen her. The woman was murdered-the very day Bess saw her at the terminal. Granted leave to visit Scotland Yard to report what she knows, Bess soon finds herself on the search for a devious and very dangerous killer-a search that will put her own life in jeopardy.

Sounds appealing, yes? If you want to try your hand at one of the two free copies, just leave a comment below before September 15. If you wish, you may earn additional entries in the following ways:
*post/tweet/share this giveaway
*tag my own little tome, A Yank Back to England, on Amazon -- England, memoir, travel, travelogue, and travelogues PLEASE!
*if you've already tagged Yank (THANK YOU!), tagging the Kindle edition works too!
*put Yank on your shelf in Goodreads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing. (one entry each)
*TWO entries if you vote for Yank on Goodreads' Favourite Travel Book list or Have Passport will Travel or Best Traveling Vicariously (FIVE if you do all 3)

That's it! Oh--US only please, sorry. And if we don't have your email yet, please leave it so we can contact you if you win. Winners will be announced on September 16, at which time you'll have 48 hours to send us your address, which we will pass along to HarperCollins.
Good luck everyone!

Monday, August 16, 2010

At the market

"You’re a long way from home,” said Frances to a woman vendor.
A Gaelic shrug of the mouth. “Wiz ze toon-el... iz no problem.”
We had found a Normandy farmer’s wife, with tight curly black hair an easy smile and an English accent as thick as Camembert. She had a stall with a huge array of French cheeses and not much else. We walked on, past fruit and vegetable stalls, a poultry vendor, a pork butcher, a baker’s stall with different breads as well as fruit and savory pies. There was even a knife grinder selling cutlery, and flatware. I thought I might even find a candlestick maker! It was fun. The noise, the banter, the odd blares from radios volumed up for sale. Kate slept through it all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cool, creamy, crunchy: Glorious Eton Mess

When the weather heats up, my thoughts turn to languid summers and strawberries and cream and... Eton Mess! The dish was invented by the boys attending Eton College-that bastion of privilege in the lovely village of the same name-and usually served up on parents day or at prize-giving ceremonies.

Why, you may ask, is a former secondary modern school kid waxing lyrically about such an upper class treat? Well, the answer is simple: It is delicious. And with the Prodigal addition of chocolate this wonderful confection becomes extra special. Plus, it's so easy to throw together!

Here's what you need for 6-8 servings.

A pound and a half or more of strawberries, nice and ripe, two cups of whipping cream, a tablespoon of sugar, and a drop of vanilla.

Twelve small meringues, or more if you like lots of crunch. If you have the patience, you can, of course, make them yourself, but I prefer to buy them.

One third cup of Kirsch, white rum, or flavorful spirit (optional)

Two ounces of good quality, semi-sweet chocolate, grated or shaved.

Here's what you do.

Put the cleansed and hulled berries in a bowl, halved or sliced or quartered depending on size of the fruits. Now add the booze if you so desire. As we have a child and I don't want the police on my doorstep I don't, and it works very well without. At this point, resist the desire to add sugar to the bowl. If you do, the strawberries will weep and turn your dessert a gooey pink, and you don't want that. Instead, add a tablespoon of sugar to the cream and beat it to soft peaks. Add a little vanilla if you so desire, especially if you abstain on the Kirsch.

Crush/chop the meringues into rough chunks then add to the strawberries and whipped cream, then "mess" everything gently together. And there you have it: Eton Mess. More of an assembly job than a real recipe.

Serve in tall sundae glasses and top each portion with generous sprinkles of chocolate shavings. The addition of the chocolate is mine but it really works a treat.

Even if you're not strolling the playing fields of Eton with the sun glazing the Thames a shimmering gold, it will certainly feel like it when you taste this wonderful concoction. Evocative of summer and lazy afternoons, Eton Mess is destined to become a family favourite.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A dandy hot spot

We found this wonderful old photo of The Pantiles in Royal Tunbridge Wells, once the retreat of choice of the English upper-crust under the tutelage of Dandy Richard "Beau" Nash, the Tim Gunn of his day. The photo was obviously taken when the floor was actually still tiles (hence the name), which it isn't anymore, sadly. There are considerably less tourists and locals in this photo than were there when we visited! A charming place.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A happy memory, part 2

I moved a little closer.
"Everything alright, gel?" Lew sounded loud and happy. Yes, yes of course it was. Mary was having a good time. We all were.
"Oh, it's lovely, isn't it, Lew, it weally is. Getting the family together like this, and it's not even a funeral! Ah, ha, ha!" Mary burst out laughing at her own remark. Lew grinned and nodded, unable to speak or even laugh.
"Bloody funny, that is, bloody funny, but you're right!" he finally blurted out.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A happy memory

The hubbub of the pub was pleasant and, seeping through it, I heard "Roll out the Barrel" from across the bar. Lew was merrily singing along. Jessie was knocking back the red wine, chatting with her sister Mary, as if her memory problems never existed. After finishing his song, Lew tottered around the table and hunkered down with Mary. I didn't quite hear what they said, but Mary laughed and told him what a silly old stick he was. That I heard.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My moment in God's favor

When I was about thirteen, I wanted to be a missionary. I tried to convert my friends and teachers at school. I prayed for Jessie and Lew. For my brother Tony and my dog Rex. And once, apart from praying to Jesus to forgive my many sins, which I did on a regular basis, once, just once, I had a Denis-of-Lourdes moment. I prayed for a cure. I prayed harder than hard for Jesus to heal my athlete’s foot. When I woke up the following morning, my foot was still inflamed and my toes still horribly cracked. And there had endeth my religious phase. I gave up Sunday school and reverted to being a young teen filled with sinful thoughts and not much else.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reflections on Rye

Prodigal Wife found this beautiful photo of Rye at PublicDomainePictures.net, and it made me grin like a happy giraffe! At the end of the street is Lamb House, once the home of E.F. Benson (and Henry James before him)—better known as Mallards to millions of Mapp and Lucia fans like myself. Looking up at the conservatory, I so easily imagine Lucia spying on her neighbors from her music room. And one of the lovely cottages on the right must be George's home, before he became Lucia's husband (in name only, of course). Perhaps the one with the charming pink roses?