Tags: Book Hive, Dormouse Books, Fabulous Frames, Norwich, Norwich Castle, Ronaldo's Ice Cream, Verandah, Wonder of Birds
Just back from a lovely weekend in my home town of Norwich. I love that place. Here’s my pick of things to do from this visit.
Eat local. Loads of delicious produce from Norfolk is available on the market and from other delis and stores. Here’s some tasty looking asparagus from Louis’ on Upper St Giles, and some gooseberries and strawberries from the market. Mmmm!
Buy some books. The Dormous bookshop on Elm Hill has good secondhand books including Blytons and Penguins. The Book Hive is a new-ish but now much beloved institution. This picture is of their window display promoting their ‘Book Hive Year’ whereby you can sign up to receive one hand-picked book a month for a year.
Send a postcard home. The Famous Five always send their parents a card or two while they are away. I love this letterbox which is embedded in the window of stylish art/craft/gift shop, Verandah on Upper St Giles (the shop was formerly a Post Office). You can buy some gorgeous cards just up the road at Fabulous Frames (separate post on these to follow).
Learn stuff. Norwich Castle Museum is one good place to do this. It’s a museum in a castle! What could be better than that? They currently have an exhibition on called The Wonder of Birds: Nature: Art: Culture. It’s good. So good I bought a catalogue. No photos allowed inside the exhibition but there were stuffed birds aplenty, drawings, paintings, textiles, fashion, eggs and fossils. Extinct birds were represented too, including the Great Auk, whose replica egg would have delighted Jack of the Adventure series (keen ornithologist Jack dreams of one day spotting a Great Auk).
Eat local, part 2. Ronaldo’s ice cream stall, located on London St, does the best ices. They use local milk and cream, fruits, nuts and liquers. I had liquorice which I wasn’t sure I’d like. It was, needless to say, utterly delicious. If you can’t decide though, I’d make like the Famous Five and have at least three ice creams each:
“I advise you to start off with vanilla, go on to strawberry and finish up with chocolate.” – Julian, Five Have a Wonderful Time.
Tags: bird song, Blackbird, twitter
‘I know that sometimes in the quiet evening, when I have been reading in the garden just before sunset, I have been so startled by a blackbird’s loud alarm-rattle that I have dropped my book and leapt to my feet in astonishment’ – Enid Blyton, Round the Year - Spring Time
As we know, Enid was an expert naturalist and knew the calls and tweets of many birds. To celebrate the 5th birthday of Famous Five Style – yes, it’s really been five years to the day since to my first post – I’m now going to be doing my own sort of tweeting @famousfivestyle
Please do come and follow me!
Tags: bagels, banneton, ciabatta, E5 Bakehouse, Hackney Wild, Rye, sourdough
For last year’s Christmas gift countdown challenge, I suggested the gift of a Bertinent bread-making class for Aunt Fanny. Well, I should have actually recommended the classes run by my local bakery, the E5 Bakehouse. After some (I thought quite subtle, but apparently not, hints), my very own Quentin got me a day of learning the secrets of sourdough for my Christmas present. I booked some time ago but due to the popularity of the classes only embarked upon this initiation on Thursday. Anyway, it was brilliant.
We had a very good teacher called Pete. Pete is is a baker at the Bakehouse. Over the course of the day he taught us how to make 4 different breads, all with a sourdough starter. The breads were a 66% rye, ciabatta, bagels, and the Bakehouse’s signature loaf, the Hackney Wild. The bagels and ciabatta use the same white starter, but the rye and Hackney Wild have their own made with different proportions of rye, wholemeal and white flour.
The class assembled at 11am for coffee, bread and marmalade. A couple of us were locals, but many people had travelled from afar, including one gentleman who had left Darlington at 5am to make it to London in time. We spent the morning getting our different doughs going, giving them the occasional fold, and learning more about the history of sourdough, bread in general, and the heritage wheats that the Bakehouse likes to use (since the 50s, a hybrid, bred, type of wheat is generally used for bread-making, but many smaller growers are trying to revive older grains). One thing I didn’t know was that the name ‘ciabatta’ (meaning ‘old man’s slipper’) was only coined fairly recently, as an Italian reaction to the invasion of other foreign breads (baguettes and the like) into Italy.
After a bread for lunch (locally foraged and grown salad, including delicate and delicious wild garlic, and sandwiches made with Bakehouse bread, of course) we began shaping our loaves. We learnt how to be gentle with the bread, shaping round loaves with a little gentle lift and squeeze (oh yes) before popping them in a banneton (a cane basket that helps the bread develop and keep its shape during the time it takes to prove).
Bagel were interesting to make. Pete, our teacher, showed us two techniques for this. One involved rolling a sausage of dough and then squeezing this firmly together and giving the dough a roll with the palm of your hand until the join is sealed. The second was fun too. This consisted of poking a hole into a round piece of dough and then using your index fingers to roll and stretch the hole out from the inside. After the bagels sat and proved for a bit we poached them in boiling water and bicarbonate of soda before dressing them with salt, sesame or poppy seeds and popping them into the bread oven to bake.
The ciabatta, rich with olive oil, was silky and slippery to roll and stretch out, while the Hackney Wild and the 66% rye were nice and firm and satisfying to shape. One valuable lesson we learnt was about to how to recreate some of the qualities of the bread oven at home. Key to this is introducing some element of steam. This prevents a crust forming too quickly which restricts the development of your loaf. Some ways to do this are by putting a tray of water, or some ice cubes, into the bottom of your oven while the bread bakes. Another interesting method that Pete demonstrated to us is to bake the bread inside a cast iron cooking pot. The bread produced its own steam and is able to swell and rise evenly before you take the lid off for the final 10 minutes of cooking time. Pete made two loaves – one in the pot, one just on a tray - and the difference was remarkable.
I came home laden with lots of bread and three pots of starters (plus a snazzy E5 scraper/cutter). As I write, there is still one ciabatta, a quarter of rye and two bagels left, plus a frozen Hackney Wild dough in the freezer. Whew! But to keep in practice, I’m currently creating a new rye leaven from my starter (you add a bunch more flour and water and leave it out of the fridge to spring to life) so I can bake some more tomorrow.
Tags: Artist Textile, Fashion and Textile Museum, Graham Sutherland, Horrockses, John PIper, Marc Chagall, Rockwell Kent
A largely visual post today, after my visit to the penultimate day of the Artist Textiles exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, South London. The exhibition focuses on the work of 20th century artists such as Picasso, Alexander Calder, Barbara Hepworth, John Piper, Sonia Delaunay, Raoul Dufy and many others, exploring their work in the area of textile design. This was one way in which ordinary people were able to engage with, purchase and surround themselves with modern art – fabric for curtains, printed scarves and cotton print dresses were much more affordable and practical than large sculptures or paintings. Everyone could own a Picasso after he finally agreed to produce some designs for Dan Fuller of Fuller Fabrics in the 1950s.
The exhibition is beautiful and often works are on open display, enabling you to get up close to see the textures and colours of the fabric. Here are just a few of my favourites – all picked with the tastes and interests of Aunt Fanny, unsung hero of the Famous Five, in mind.
I think Aunt Fanny would appreciate these. She’s a keen gardener and as a woman of the 1930s/40s/50s/60s would have thought nothing about growing produce to feed her (very) hungry family. Vegetable Patch is actually a screen printed silk headscarf. Can’t you just imagine her donning this to pop down to the Kirrin shops?
This is a furnishing textile by Chagall. Maybe Fanny would like to cover her sofa, or make a nice pair of floral curtains for the bedroom from this. We know she enjoys flowers.
Country woman Fanny would probably drawn to this evocative harvest image of American Rockwell Kent’s screen-printed furnishing fabric. Kitchen curtains perhaps?
Perhaps Uncle Quentin took Fanny to Venice for their honeymoon? If so, she would no doubt like to be reminded of more romantic times by John Piper’s characteristically atmospheric screen-printed fabric, produced for Sanderson.
The Fashion and Textile Museum has previously devoted a whole exhibition to the Lancashire off-the-peg fashion company Horrockses, whose dresses were worn by royalty and housewives alike (Princess Margaret was frequently snapped in affordable Horrockses outfits). Aunt Fanny would have almost certainly owned frocks made by the company, who were hugely popular in the 40s and 50s. Here are details from these two dresses, in roses and snowdrop patterns. Mmmm.
Tags: Enid Blyton, house martin, National Trust, Nature Lover's Book, RSPB, sand martin, swallow, swift
…and House Martins too, but that didn’t fit with the alliterative title of this post.
As I was riding home from work tonight I saw some swallows. This is always a lovely sight, especially early in the year. Or were they swifts? Or martins? I wonder this to myself EVERY year. Although I have consulted Enid’s nature books in the past I’m afraid it’s failed to sink in. So here are some tips for identifying swallows, swifts and martins from each other, for me and also for you, if indeed you have this problem.
The Barn Swallow
From Enid Blyton’s Nature Lover’s Book:
‘He is a well-known bird, because of his long, forked tail. His black is steel0blue, his throat and forehead are chestnut-coloured, and he has a blue-barred chest.
Swallows build their nest sin barns of out-buildings, on beams or rafters. The nest is a saucer of mud, and is lined with feathers or grass. The eggs, which are long and narrow, are white, speckled with grey-brown.
The swallow has a musical little twitter that sounds like “feetafeetit, feetafeetit”. It is very pleasant to listen to listen to on a warm summer’s evening.’
From the RSPB Magazine:
‘The one with the long, forked tail: steel blue above, pale below (white to bright peachy colour) but with a clean-cut dark throat [...] Swallows typically fly low down, flying fluently with sinuous swerves and more fluttering twists, often around livestock, along the edges of open fields, over cricket pitches and the like’.
The House Martin
‘The one with the white rump: blue-black above with browner wings, with a broad white band above the tail, and all-white below from chin to tail. Nests in quarter-sphere mud cups beneath eaves’.
From Enid Blyton’s Nature Lover’s Book:
‘Many people think that the house martin is the barn swallow, for they are rather alike. The martin belongs to the swallow family, and leads the same aerial life. He is steel-blue above and white below. He has a white patch on his back, and this and his shorter tail will help distinguish him from the swallow. He, too, is a migrant.
The martin likes to build his nest of mud under our eaves, stuck against the wall. He lines it softly. The eggs are long and are pure white.
The martin, like the swallow, has a pleasing twitter.’
The Sand Martin
From the RSPB Magazine:
‘The brown one: all mid-brown above, white below with a brown chest band. This is a tiny bird, more fluttery than the others, often above or close to water.’
From Enid Blyton’s Nature Lover’s Book:
One thing that is lovely about Enid Blyton’s writing is the way she incorporates factual information into her narratives. The first part of the Nature Lover’s Book tells a series of short stories set across the course of the year. John, Janet and Pat go for a series of walks with Uncle Merry and his little black dog Fergus. Uncle Merry opens their eyes to all sorts of things that are around them, from flowers in January to nightbirds, moths and nocturnal beetles in June.
This is from ‘A Second Walk in May’
‘One morning John went into the garden and heard the swallows twittering together. He loved their little voices saying “feetafeetit, feetafeetit.” He looked up and saw that another bird was flying with them.
“That must be the swift,” said John to himself. “It’s sooty black, as Uncle Merry said. What great sickle-shaped wings it has! It looks like a flying anchor!”.
Enid Blyton’s Nature Lover’s Book has beautiful drawings by Donia Nachsen, as seen above. I was very lucky to discover a second hand copy of this in the National Trust bookshop at Blickling Hall in Norfolk while on a cycling tour a couple of years ago.
Tags: Bathampton, Caen Hill Locks, canal boat, Canal Museum, Canals and Rivers Trust, Chester Canal Trust, cygnets, Devizes, Kennet & Avon canal, Maiden's Trip., tinned milk
Hello there, and I hope you’re all enjoying the lovely May bank holiday weather. It was a little bit wetter last week when I and four chums (yes, there really were Five of us!) went on a canal boat holiday along the Kennet & Avon canal. Although the Famous Five never went on a boating holiday (they do use boats as frequent means of transport though, especially to get to Kirrin Island) it was a very FFS holiday. I suppose the closest point of comparison would be Five Go Off in a Caravan - living in a small and compact space and enjoying a VERY slow pace of travel.
We had three nights and four days on the boat, and I felt very much like Anne when we arrived at Bathampton (just outside of Bath) and were shown over the boat, the ‘Dorothy Beryl’, by Richard, her owner. In Five Go Off in Caravan, the Five are inspired by a passing traveling circus to hire two caravans to take them away for the summer holidays. When the little caravans arrive, one red, one green, Anne and the rest of the Kirrins sequel in delight as they explore their temporary homes:
‘”Bunks along one side – is that where we sleep? How gorgeous!”
“Look at this little sink – we can really wash up! And golly, water comes out of these taps!”
[...] “It’s like a proper house inside.Doesn’t it seem nice and big? [...]
The children spent hours examining their caravans and finding out all the secrets. They certainly well-fitted, spotlessly clean, and very roomy.’
Our boat was full of secrets and extremely well equipped. The dining table and seats turned into a double bed, the sitting room area revealed another bed (all bedding stowed underneath) and there were all sorts of cupboards hidden everywhere containing everything we needed. There was even a shower, toilet and little fridge – and a wood burning stove which came in very handy for us to warm up and dry our wet clothes (there was plenty of rain).
Like the Five’s caravans, out boat was fairly modern rather than old-fashioned and traditional. Before the caravans arrive, Anne asks if they will be gypsy caravans, on high wheels, but Julian shakes his head “No, they’re modern, Mother says, streamlined and all that.” I’d been secretly hoping our boat would be old and traditionally painted in classic canal boat style, but she was instead a neat blue with her name painted in bright yellow on her side. We did have a small stool by the stove that was traditionally decorated though. Canal boat art is beautiful, with roses and castles the traditional means of decoration. This example is from the Chester Canal Boat Trust.
If you live in London (as I do), you can also visit the Canal Museum by King’s Cross to see examples of canal art, find out more about the history of London’s canals and even step on board a real boat (and also play inside a recreation of one). Excitingly, the Canal Museum also doubles up as a museum for the history of ice cream (I have previously blogged on this, I think).
When my boss found out I was going on a boating holiday, he recommended a book called Maiden’s Trip, by Emma Smith. It’s about women taking on boatmen’s work during the war and hauling cargoes along the Grand Union Canal. Unfortunately I couldn’t get hold of it before I went, but I was inspired by the blurb on the Bloomsbury website to cook kedgeree for dinner on the first night. We actually ate very well on board. Richard provided delicious breakfast food for us, all sourced locally – creamy milk (with actual lumps of cream floating in it), local bread, eggs, bacon and a pot of homemade marmalade. I brought some tinned evaporated milk for my breakfast coffee (Louis brought an aeropress – I don’t think the Five had one of those). This is our lunch on the first day – cheese and cucumber sandwiches. We were delayed in eating these due to an unfortunate bump we accidentally gave some resident boaters – slightly scary men with large dogs who were not best pleased and actually boarded our boat to give us a piece of their mind. Oops.
This incident did get me imagining a Famous Five-type adventure on a canal boat, with the mystery kickstarted by a similar sort of incident (the Five think the men nasty sorts, moor just around the corner for the night and then witness strange goings on, which could be smuggling by boat, or perhaps a kidnap victim being stashed on board). However, in actuality, the only other eventful thing that happened that day was getting grounded on an aquaduct with an extreme right angle and nearly leaving Louis behind on the bank.
We also had the pleasure of working locks and swing bridges. Because the pace of travel on a canal boat is very slow (you have to go slowly for various reasons, not least because you don’t want to violently disturb all of the moored boats), having locks and bridges adds a LOT of excitement to the journey. The captain/skipper has to steer the boat close enough to the bank for you to hop off and run ahead to open the bridge, or get the lock working (two people are best for the latter). As the boat barely travels at walking pace, if there are a couple of bridges or locks coming up it’s not worthwhile getting back on board so you get a good walk as well as a work out using the windlass (lock key) to work the winding mechanism that lets water in and out. This can actually be quite physically taxing.
We worked about 7 locks on the second day which took us almost up to the bottom of Caen (pronounced ‘Cane’) Hill lock flight. This is a group of 29 locks, with 16 of them being placed in very close succession to take your boat up, or down, Caen Hill near Devizes. The guides say to allow around 4 hours to work the flight, but as as we only had 4 days, we didn’t have the time or inclination to do this (we would have just had to come back down again right away, and it would have taken a whole day). Richard told us about a time he was travelling with a relative who was a marine – he got some of his colleagues to help and they managed the locks in a record time of 1 and a half hours.
We contented ourselves with taking a nice walk up the flight, watching people working its gates and wondering if any of them would get attacked by the nesting swans. You can see films of last year’s swans and cygnets here, on the Canal and Rivers Trust website (I think this year’s must be there too, but can’t find on the website). There were also plenty of ducks and ducklings on the canals at this time of year, and we saw a number of herons plus the usual coots and moorhens.
By the time we returned to Bathampton on Tuesday evening, we all felt like experienced boaters. I’m dying to go again. Because the boats travel slowly, it’s a great way to see the countryside and also relax (if there are a few of you, there’s plenty of opportunity to work (steer, handle ropes, do the locks etc) but you rarely need 5 people so lots of time to read, write, sleep on the roof of the boat and so on. As I live by the Regent’s Canal in London, and cycle the towpath every morning, it’s given me a different perspective of the boats I pass every day. I’m actually quite jealous. There’s something very satisfying about the rhythms of life on the water. And one other curious thing – it took me a day or two to stop having a sensation of gently rocking when I got back on land.
Tags: Little Book of lunch, sandwiches
My friend and work colleague Wendy pointed out this enjoyable feature on lunchbox sandwiches in the Guardian yesterday with the instruction “scroll down”.
Ha ha! I was very pleased to see ‘The Enid Blyton’ given its full due as a valid lunch option. Sandwiches with sides of radishes and hard boiled eggs are excellent lunchtime fare, my only quibble would be to suggest that for a more aesthetically pleasing, and authentically Blytonian, experience you should wrap your dipping salt up in a little screw of paper rather than use tupperware. The sandwiches that the authors of this article and The Little Book of Lunch suggest are watercress – very tasty and classy – but Enid has a wonderful knack for making the humble sandwich sound like the most appetising thing ever, even when it includes such retro delights as Spam. So here are a few more canonical suggestions:
‘”Cucumber dipped in vinegar! Spam and lettuce! Egg! Sardine! Oooh, Mr Luffy, your sandwiches are much nicer than ours,” said Anne, beginning on two together, one cucumber and the other Spam and lettuce” (Five Go Off to Camp, sandwich-maker: Mrs Luffy).
‘”Aunt Fanny cut dozens and dozens of sandwiches,” said Anne. “She said if we kept them in this tin they wouldn’t go stale, and would last a day or two till we went back. I’m hungry. Shall we have some now?”
They sat out in the sun, munching the ham sandwiches. Anne had brought tomatoes too, and they took a bite at a sandwich and then a bite at a tomato.’ (Five on a Secret Trail, sandwich-maker: Aunt Fanny, with improvisation by Anne).
Potted meat (devoured ravenously and even two at a time by a malnourished Uncle Quentin) (Five on Kirrin Island Again, sandwich-maker: Aunt Fanny).
‘They had a magnificent lunch about half-past twelve. Really, Mrs Johnson had surpassed herself! Egg and sardine sandwiches, tomato and lettuce, ham – there seemed no end to them!’ (Five Go to Mystery Moor, sandwich-maker: Mrs Johnson, of Johnson’s Riding School).
‘”I made [Timmy's] sandwiches myself.” [said George]. And so she had! She had bought sausagemeat at the butchers and had actually made Timmy twelve sandwiches with it, all neatly cut and packed. (Five Get Into Trouble, sandwich-maker: George).
Perhaps the best sandwich-making and eating in the Famous Five books comes in Five on a Hike Together. The process of making the cheese, pork, ham and egg sandwiches (4 different types – not all together!) is stretched across no less than five pages (the children do ask for eight sandwiches each so it takes a while) and then there are seven pages of expectation and build up before the children finally sit down in the heather on Fallaway Hill in the late autumn sun to munch their sandwiches while gazing across the lonely moor.
‘At last the sandwiches were finished and the old woman appeared again. She had packed them up neatly in four parcels of grease-proof paper, and had pencilled on each what they were. Julian read what she had written and winked at the others.
“My word – we’re in for a grand time!” he said.’
(Five on a Hike Together, sandwich-maker: un-named ‘shop woman’ aka ‘old woman’ aka ‘Ma’)
Tags: Geffrye Museum, Twelfth Night, typewriter
I’ve just got back from a lovely and heart-warming way to celebrate Twelfth Night – the Geffrye Museum’s annual ‘Farewell to Christmas‘ celebration. They usually have a traditional burning of the holly and the ivy outside the museum, but unfortunately that was cancelled this year due to the blustery weather. But we did have Christmas cake, mulled wine and carols, with a fantastic brass band (the French horn player looked very red in the face). It felt like a good way to end the festive season as now it’s nearly time to return to the working world.
Since getting home I’ve been distracting myself for a little while by typing up some recipes I’ve promised to share with a work colleague (a selection of Dan Lepard’s tasty bread and cake recipes). It’s always nice to have an opportunity to get my typewriter out, but it is rather noisy and makes the kitchen table vibrate. I’ve been half expecting my next-door neighbour to come round to complain. It reminded of Enid, the BBC TV film with Helena Bonham Carter as Blyton – in which she merrily types away next to her open window, disturbing the peace of all around her. A return to the computer seemed sensible. So, to sign off, here’s a picture of the ever productive and hard-working real Enid Blyton to get us all (well, definitely me) in the mood for going back to work.
Tags: Petit Bateau, pyjamas
The Famous Five Christmas present countdown challenge is over! So, last but definitely not least, George. As we know, George would rather be a boy and likes to dress like one. She’s also a keen sailor so what could be better than this cosy pair of boys pyjamas, with a sailing boat motif and/or a stylish boy’s sailors sweater from Petit Bateau?
Happy Christmas everyone! Se you in 2014 x