The Mitford Girls by Mary S. Lovell
The six Mitford sisters were born into an aristocratic English family between 1904 and 1920. They had an unconventional, some might say eccentric, childhood and adolescence with no formal education of any kind but all grew up to be well known as individuals. Nancy, the eldest, was a highly regarded biographer of Madame de Pompadour and Louis IVX, who spent the later half of her life living in Paris; she also wrote wonderfully sharp and witty novels and articles on English manners and mores, and coined the phrase "U and Non-U".
Pamela the most domesticated of them all, was the sister with whom John Betjeman fell in love. Diana was the elegant beauty, who first married a member of the Guiness family, and then fell in love with and married Sir Oswald Mosley M.P., leader of the British Union of Fascists, she became a figure of hate, imprisoned during WWII for supporting the BUF. The middle daughter, Unity, an unstable young woman who went to Germany in the 1930s, was in love with Hitler and totally obsessed with Nazism. When war was declared she shot herself in the head and survived handicapped for several years. Next in line was Jessica - always known as Decca - who eloped at 19 and went off to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War where her husband was killed. She then married an American,
became a member of the Communist Party and was active in the Civil Rights movement in the USA; she too, like her sister Nancy, became a writer of some reknown. Finally there was the beautiful Deborah who married the Duke of Devonshire and became chatelaine of Chatsworth, one of the greatest houses in England.
Now widowed, she lives in an old Rectory and is famous for keeping hens amongst other things. Their lives have been covered partially and individually several times by other writers, but Mary Lovell has managed to write about them in the context of their sisterhood, yet gives a clear picture of each of these rather extraordinary women. An absolutely fascinating read about a fascinating family of women.
What is the problem with the British Transport Police? they seem to have had collective common-sense failure, or maybe they are just being badly trained. Of course it could be that some members of BTP are right little dictators and love the power rush they get from officiously hassling people.
A few weeks ago the Director of the Institute of Engineers,Tom Foulkes -a former Brigadier who used to work at the Ministry of Defence, was arrested when bording Eurostar en route to a business meeting in Paris. His crime? at the bottom of his briefcase was a Swiss Army Card*. He was charged with carrying an offensive weapon.
Today, a lawyer who plays cricket as a hobby, was stopped at Belsize Park tube station by a member of the BTP. His crime, carrying an offensive weapon. What offensive weapon was that? a cricket ball. A CRICKET BALL - for crying in a bucket. Apparently a spokesman for British Transport Police said: "What if the ball was dropped and hit an old lady further down the escalator? “We would advise passengers to be careful, both for themselves and other people at this busy time."
Now I carry a lot of heavy stuff. My handbag, which seems to contain everything bar the kitchen sink, is a prime example. What if I dropped it on the escalator and hit an old lady,
or, scary thought, what if I took leave of my senses and used it as a cosh and smashed some cretin of a BTP officer over the head? My handbag obviously falls within their definition of an offensive weapon - I await my arrest.* Just in case Santa is reading this blog rant, here's a wee hint - I wouldn't mind one of these in my stocking this year, it would be so useful and I believe it is available in a variety of fashionable colours.
Friends coming for supper tomorrow evening and I have a busy day, so I'm making the starter tonight; as I know them quite well I know they will all eat mushrooms, this is not a recipe to make for non-fungi eaters! When my darling daughter was little she wouldn't touch them, I think the texture put her off; now she has become a real foodie and eats absolutely everything. This is a dish I love, in fact, left to my own devices I could scoff the whole lot! The recipe comes from a famous Jewish cookery writer, the late Evelyn Rose, via her eldest son with whom my DH and I shared a house many years ago.
MUSHROOMS A LA GRECQUE
750g mushrooms – choose medium/small closed-cap
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons sunflower oil
6 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons wine vinegar, white or red
2 teaspoons tomato purée
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 large Bay leaf
15-20 coriander seeds, roughly crushed
12-15 peppercorns, roughly crushed
10 grinds of black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or a large pinch of dried thyme
Wipe the mushrooms clean, if very small leave them whole, cut in half if medium sized, and quarter if bigger.
Put all other ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Uncover, put all the mushrooms into the pan and spoon the liquid over them, cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes. The mushrooms will shrink in size and produce a lot of liquid.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms from the sauce and place in a serving dish.
Bring the liquid up to the boil over a high heat and cook until it is reduced by ¾ and has become quite thick and syrupy. Pour over the mushrooms and leave overnight to marinate.
Serve as a starter with warm Pitta bread, or as part of a salad buffet.