Posts Tagged 'family'

A diary of cakes and tea.

It has been brought to my attention, by three separate people, that my family and I are forever eating scones and drinking tea.  Actually, it’s true.  A combination of two months of wet spring weekends, a mammoth festival of bank holidays thanks to Easter, the Royal Wedding, and May bank holidays, plus four damp days in Wales, have resulted in a string of occasions where we have found ourselves at a table, perhaps in a teashop or on a lawn somewhere, with a cup of tea and scone with jam and cream.  In fact, I’m not complaining, because it is a lovely, very British way of spending an afternoon, whether it be sunny or drizzling.  The teashops of these fair isles are a thing of wonder.

Spring started with a weekend full of picnics.  The first was a bikeride to our local Heath, and saw the début of the heart-shaped picnic basket I’d received for Christmas from my Grandmother.  The second picnic took us to Wales, the beautiful town of Conwy, for a small stony spot by the beach, surrounded by fishing boats and the wing of a dead seagull, which was only discovered after we’d eaten.

We celebrated two birthdays this Spring, both with Cake.  For one we  went for breakfast at the local teashop, and ordered Pizza in the evening, for the other we went walking in Derbyshire.  Both were lovely.  In our family we always make a special fuss of birthdays, and never let one pass without doing something special.

April 29th 2011 brought with it THE ROYAL WEDDING, and the country celebrated in true old-fashioned style.  In fact, I didn’t even have to verify that date, I just know it.  In our house we eschewed the children and beer ridden street party that our neighbours were holding, and instead had our own celebration, with cakes and tea, and dresses from Jack Wills and Cath Kidston.  We spent the night before making bunting, and had a whole day devoted to shopping for outfits and porcelain memorabilia.

We watched the event, glued to the screen, from start to finish, relishing every moment, feeling part of something special.  The only thing that momentarily robbed our attention, and only in the boring bits, was the food.  Chocolate cake, pink fairy cakes, strawberries, trifle, garlic bread, pizza, tarts and quiches, homemade pies, and everything in between.  It was a true feast.

We wanted to make it a special day, one we’ll always remember, like the wartime street parties and jubilee celebrations of our grandparents, and we certainly succeeded. I’ll always look back on it as a lovely day.  Of-course, we had champagne and lots of tea.

The Easter weekend felt like much-needed holiday, and with the bank holidays, and royal weddings, and days off, it felt like a long break.  We had a day walking in Derbyshire, with a picnic on the edge of a river, always entertaining with pensioners, walking along eating Easter eggs, and a sumptuous dinner in a beautiful hotel in Buxton.  Now that we have a child in the family, my cousin who’s almost two, we had a legitimate excuse to have an Easter egg hunt, something we’ve been doing for years anyway.

We hunted for eggs in my grandparents’ garden, on an unusually warm and sunny morning, and then we sat down to tea and cake.  My Mum had baked fairy cakes from scratch, and arrived with arms full of cake tins and Tupperware, and my Nanna made a typically eccentric chocolate cake with layers of cream and strawberries.

My Nanna comes from a family of master bakers, and was rightly proud, as was my Mum.

The past two weeks have been busy, with three beautiful but slightly damp days in Wales in a caravan, which gave us two opportunities every day to have tea and cake, an opportunity we took full advantage of.

For the record, I drink builder’s tea.  Medium strength, but with lots of milk, and two and a half sugars.  Any other way, and I can’t drink it.  Made properly, I luxuriate in tea, feel comforted by it, am taken to a higher plane by it.  I am so grateful whenever anybody makes me a drink and brings me an unexpected cup of tea, it’s a lovely surprise and kind gesture, but one thing I can’t stand is when someone makes you a drink the way they think it should be made, rather than how you like it.  The worst culprit is my grandparents.  They believe that tea should be the colour of mahogany, with a thimbleful of milk, and one sugar.  After years and years, I’ve finally succeeded in making them accept that I take more than one sugar, and they’ve gone up to two very small ones, but will never reach the full two and half.

There’s nothing quite like sheltering from the rain on a cold day, or stopping off on the way home after a long journey in a cramped, packed-up car, for a nice cup of tea and some sandwiches and cake.  Better yet, a lasagne.

I’m actually in love with tea and cake, I’ve just realised that.

These last few pictures were taken at The Davenport Tea Room, at Acton Bridge in Cheshire. http://www.davenportsflorists.co.uk/tearooms.html  It’s down a tiny lane, signposted opposite Marco Marco and The Leigh Arms, and is well worth a visit.  In a beautiful old farmhouse, with antique tables and exquisite china, they have a wonderful menu and the perfect atmosphere.

All this writing about tea, I’m gasping for a brew!

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The Power of Songs to Make Us Cry

What is it about certain songs that touch one so deeply?  With some it’s the lyrics, others have such a beautiful melody, or even just the tenderness in the voice of the singer.  For me, there are a few, just a few, very special songs that I know, whenever I listen to them, will move me.  I’ve never actually shed tears solely from listening to a song, but some bring me very close.

Some songs hold a connection to someone we know, the subject and lyrics may remind us of someone in our family, which means that the song automatically connects to that person in our head.  An example would be Handbags and The Gladrags.  I find this song so incredibly sad, because it makes me think of my own Grandad and the line ‘That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you’ makes me think of all the sacrifices my Grandad has made to give me things I wanted over the years, and how hard he worked to do it.  Some connections are less obvious.  For example, (another Rod Stewart song, sorry) in Maggie May, there is a line; ‘The morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age.’  The line always makes me think of my Dad, and how he’s ageing but still wants to be young, and the injustice of growing old, hanging on to youth.

Sometimes songs remind one of a time and place, a period in one’s life.  For example, two songs will always remind me of the phone call that told me I’d been accepted into University.  Immediately after I’d put the phone down, I played Last Night and Someday, both by The Strokes, to celebrate, and those two songs will always take me straight back to that moment of elation and pride.  Similarly, a group of songs will always remind of a certain summer that I spent in my flat, shut away behind closed curtains, which I will always think of as the summer when I found myself and learned to write.

I mentioned, at the start of this post, tenderness of voice.  Some songs have an emotional power, for me, because of a quality in the singer’s voice.  Examples of this would be Last of The Ladies, or any song really, by The Courteeners, because of the gentleness and  touching quality of Liam Fray’s voice.  All of their songs are excellent, and almost all of them are beautifully moving, because of his voice.  Similarly, Pete Doherty.  Many of the songs Doherty sings with The Libertines, Babyshambles, or on his own, have a euphoric and celebratory note, and are uplifting.  I happen to think that almost all of them are fantastic music.  Some of them, a small selection, are more sedate and take on a beautifully poetic and almost heart-breaking quality.  An example would be For Lovers, which is Wolfman featuring Pete Doherty.  This song is so sad in the tone, audibly, and incredibly sung.  Last summer I was out walking on my own with the dog and I turned off the path onto the Heath, near where I live.  I was surrounded by a vast expanse of fields on one side and a view over the river and fields full of horses on the other.  As I set off, veering slightly downhill, with the sun setting in a flare of gold and orange and green, over the fields, For Lovers came on my Ipod, and it took my breath away.  The beauty of the moment, and the sound of the song, was magic.

Just over a year ago I went to the funeral of an eighteen-year-old boy, who was a very close friend.  This young man was devoted, in a way you can’t imagine, to music.  He spent any time he had travelling down to London for gigs.  His heroes were Morrissey, Robert Smith, and Pete Doherty.  He’d shook Morrissey’s hand, and was a regular visitor to Pete Doherty’s gigs and flat, and was on friendly terms with him.  There is a video of him playing the guitar while Pete warbles through Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.  The funeral was a very religious, catholic ceremony, and nothing in the service moved me that much.  Aside from feeling undeniably devastated at losing this friend, I didn’t actually cry all the way through the ceremony, until it ended, and I heard the first few notes of Music When The Lights Go Out by The Libertines.  Nothing else in the service had spoken about this person as an eighteen-year-old lad, or even as a human being.  The service talked about God and heaven, but nothing personal.  When this song started playing, I felt suddenly that it was Dale’s funeral.  Since then, the song will always be special to me, even more than it was before.

In the way that smells can take me back to a memory, or a time and place, and make me instantly remember where I was and what I was doing, create a picture in my mind of a specific situation, music takes me instantly back to specific emotions, and recreates that feeling deep inside me, every time I hear it.


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Sylvia Plath said; "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences". My aim in life is to find things and people to love, so that I can write about them. Putting words together is the only thing I can see myself doing. This blog is an outlet, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment on posts, or contact me by the special e-mail I've set up (vikki.littlemore@live.co.uk) with your thoughts.


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The New Remorse, Oscar Wilde.

The sin was mine; I did not understand.
So now is music prisoned in her cave,
Save where some ebbing desultory wave
Frets with its restless whirls this meagre strand.
And in the withered hollow of this land
Hath Summer dug herself so deep a grave,
That hardly can the leaden willow crave
One silver blossom from keen Winter's hand.

But who is this who cometh by the shore?
(Nay, love, look up and wonder!) Who is this
Who cometh in dyed garments from the South?
It is thy new-found Lord, and he shall kiss
The yet unravished roses of thy mouth,
And I shall weep and worship, as before.

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Music I Love (In no particular order, except that The Smiths are first)

The Smiths,
The Libertines,
The Courteeners,
Nina Simone,
Oasis,
Pete Doherty,
Gossip,
The Kills,
Amy Winehouse,
Arctic Monkeys,
Rod Stewart,
The Doors,
The Rolling Stones,
Etta James,
Babyshambles,
T. Rex,
The Jam,
Morrissey,
Guillemots,
The Kinks,
Jack White,
The Deadweather,
David Bowie,
The Winchesters,
The Cure,
Kaiser Chiefs,
The Kooks,
The Twang,
Kings Of Leon,
Pulp,
Blur,
The Housemartins,
The Ramones,
James,
Robots in Disguise,
The Klaxons,
Kate Nash,
The Raconteurs,
Regina Spektor,
Aretha Franklin,
Stereophonics,
The Contours,
Dirty Pretty Things,
The White Stripes,
New York Dolls,
Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
The Clash,
Style Council,
Velvet Underground,
The Horrors,
The Cribs,
Reverend and The Makers,
The Subways,
The Wombats,
Foals,
Elle S'appelle,
The Troggs,
The Beatles,
Echo and the Bunnymen,
Florence and the Machine.

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

Olive Cotton, Tea Cup Ballet, 1935

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Will it ever be alright for Blighty to have a Queen Camilla?

One less tree from our window each day


Vikki's bookshelf: read

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
1984
Twilight
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
The Hobbit
The Da Vinci Code
Lolita
Tipping the Velvet
Wuthering Heights
The Picture of Dorian Grey and Other Works by Oscar Wilde
Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Irish Peacock & Scarlet Marquess: The Real Trial of Oscar Wilde
The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman
Moab Is My Washpot
The Bell Jar
The Other Boleyn Girl
On the Road
Brideshead Revisited
Revolutionary Road



Vikki Littlemore's favorite books »

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