Sunday, 23 April 2017

23rd April - Book Reviews 5

The Villa in Italy - Elizabeth Edmondson
A Man of Some Repute - Elizabeth Edmondson
A Question of Inheritance - Elizabeth Edmondson

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I thoroughly enjoyed "The Villa in Italy" first as escapist, light romantic fiction. The plot is gently far-fetched - four strangers brought together to stay in a beautiful villa, back in the 1950s. Everything provided by their mysterious, recently-dead, benefactor, while they work out why they are the four particular people who will benefit from her will. The connections between the four are also a little far-fetched, but who cares? Fire-flies, fountains, mystery, art, sunshine...

The name of the author sounded familiar, and I discovered that she also writes "Vintage Mysteries" which I had already read some time before. So I re-read these - again, set in the years after the second World War, centred on the family that owns Selchester Castle. No sun, fountains and fire-flies this time, but a gentle sufficiency of murder and mystery. They would probably make an excellent period thriller series for evening TV - maybe when the "Midsommer Murders" mine is finally depleted?

Death in a White Tie - Ngaio Marsh

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I enjoy these dated, period detectives, so I'm glad that Inspector Alleyn is on TV gain. We watched "Death in a White Tie" recently, and I've got the talking book read by Benedict Cumberbatch. So I listened to the story again. It's much better when you know what is going on - you can see the clues second time round rather than trying to remember how it was done. But Ngaio Marsh writes dreadfully over-wrought, class-conscious love-scenes. Not that they become very physical - it's just the terribly, terribly high-minded way that Alleyn has of expressing himself. I blame a prep-school and public-school education.   




Friday 21st April - Deer, Lewes,

Friday 21st April - after a bit of "what shall we do today" type of conversation, we decided to go to Lewes and see the Anne of Cleves House. Something we've been meaning to do for a very long time. The house is at the "wrong end" of Lewes, at river level, so if you have gone to visit the castle, or look around the shops, you are more than inclined to leave it until next time.

Driving along the A272, which, for a change, was relatively quiet, we were startled when a stag crashed out of the hedge on the right and crossed in front of the car. He hit the brakes, and we managed to give it about a foot of clear road in front of the bonnet. The doe which had been following it turned back into the hedge and forced its way through, away from the road. The car behind was lucky to miss us, by inches, mainly because the driver swerved into the path of what would have been oncoming traffic if there had been any.

The image of the stag, desperately running in front of the car, will stay like a photograph; I am trying to work out what kind of deer it may have been but can't decided.

The car that had been tailgating us, continued behind us for several miles, but at a much, much greater distance.

Onwards, without further incident to Lewes!

We parked behind Waitrose, opposite the brewery.



Most of the parking in Lewes seems to be at the bottom of the hill, at that end of the town. It meant quite a long walk, through charming, narrow little back streets and alleys until we got the other side of the railway station. This part of Lewes is called Southover, with interesting buildings and ruins here and there. We cut through a public park, to find it had been part of the gardens of an imposing Elizabethan Mansion, latterly a school, and now flats.

Property history Southover Manor House, Southover High Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7
http://www.zoopla.co.uk/property/flat-4/southover-manor-house/southover-high-street/lewes/bn7-1ht/2234828

Eventually we found the Anne of Cleves House;




. Lunch in the cafe, and then a prowl round. IN the bedroom upstairs they had one of those chairs that turns into a table;

It's quite hard to find a picture of one on the internet, especially when you are not sure what the proper name for it is;

http://www.antiquesnavigator.com/d-79036/chair-turns-into-table-antique-doll-dollhouse-furniture.html
I've since discovered it is called a "chair and tilt table". This one sold for $5 but you can see it is rather small. Whether we ever get to own a full-size one of these is another question - but he has a fully equipped shed now...


It was very interesting, looking around the house, and reading up on the history, all emeshed with The Battle of Lewes of 1264 (Simon de Montford, Henry III and Brother Cadfael) and Henry VIIIth, Thomas Cromwell, dissolution of the monasteries, history of iron making in Sussex, cannons (and therefore the Armada).

We walked up, up, up the steep hill to the top of the High Street, emerging from the little snicket to the left of Lewes' famous bookshop;




which was quite a good way of checking on how my lung function is getting along these days.

Luckily there's lots to pause and look at on the way up, including the un-nerving sight of a small girl sitting down on her three-wheel scooter and letting it take her all the way to the bottom. My heart was in my mouth, but her mother wasn't bothered so I assumed that she'd done it before and survived. I should have asked for an autograph as I expect she'll be a famous snowboarder or something in ten years time.

Back down to the car, via various shops, and an uneventful drive home.  



Daily List Saturday 22nd April - Flooring

Flooring and Floors

1.The parquet floor in the house I remember first. All the way through the downstairs. And the electric floor polisher that was required to keep it shiny. My mother said she used to sweep all our toys behind the large armchairs in the sitting room at the end of the day.

Our next-door neighbours have the same kind of floor in their downstairs, but covered with carpet. This is the first moment that I have realised that our house, and that house, were built within a few years of each other.

2.Tiles - the next house had red tiles in the large hallway. Cold underfoot. I expect they needed polishing too. I remember my mother using the electric floor polisher to deal with the gigantic mahogany table, that, when fully extended with the extra leaves and the support leg, filled the room and could seat the twenty. A contrast to my aunt, who has a similar table, and was adamant that one had to polish it by hand, with the grain at all times.

3.Black rubber underlay. The sitting-room carpet in the first house I lived in after we were married had worn away to just the black rubber. Which, having seen the remains of the pattern in the unused corners of the room, was a blessing.

4.Earth. My grandmother's sitting-room was apparently a bare earth floor when she bought the cottage. That was replaced with, I think, cork, and a carpet in those jig-saw rectangles that you still see occasionally.

5.Flagstones. My grandmother's cottage again - the passage through the house was of stones, worn into a landscape of hollows and hills. Lethal, as one grew older. I would be sorry, but completely understanding, if the people who live their now had replaced them.

6.Marley Tiles. Unspeakable. To be covered up, ripped up, replaced. As we did in the house before this one.

7.Wood laminate. One of the most beautiful features of our house is the wooden floor that covers all the downstairs, and the hall, stairs and landing. It replaces

8.Carpet, the most hideous dark brown sculpted pile carpet, that we had to pay extra for when we bought this house all those years ago. I hated that carpet from the day we moved in, and I'm still rejoicing at the transformation the wood floor has made. He did it, all by himself; I smile every time I see the neat work where the stairs turn a corner.

9.Shag pile carpet in the kitchen. Oh yes indeedy. The second house we lived in had this. The owners must have lived on fish and chip take-aways; I call tell you know that shag pile does not belong in a kitchen.

10.Sometime in the future we will replace the many unsatisfactory floorings in our bedroom with wood laminate. The cheap beige carpet that was there when we moved in more than thirty years ago is not wearing well - we are through to the floor boards in most of the main areas, and the boards are not of good quality so we can't just strip out the carpet and have done.  Every so often I take a pair of heavy-duty scissors and cut away another trailing, frayed section of carpet, and hoover up the crumbling dusty underlay. We've got four rugs down over the worst patches... It will be a might job, though, to do a sliding block puzzle with the furniture and put down a smooth, splinter- and nail-free floor.