Friday, September 07, 2007

HAVE NOTHING IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW TO BE USEFUL OR BELIEVE TO BE BEAUTIFUL. So said William Morris, and I am trying desperately to apply his wise words to my decluttering/packing programme....but it's easier said than done.


Can there be anyone in the English speaking world who hasn’t heard of “Just William”, the archetypal mischievous small boy whose life and adventures have entertained generations of readers for over 85 years? His creator was Richmal Crompton, and until a year or so ago I thought that the only things she had written were the William books, and was surprised to find out that she wrote 41 novels for adults, most of which are now forgotten and out of print. Thank goodness for Persephone Books who are rescuing women’s novels from obscurity by reprinting them; it was their edition of Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton that I have just finished reading.

Published in 1948, Family Roundabout is the story of two families, linked by marriage, each family has at its head a widowed matriarch. Set in an English country town during the 1920s and 1930s, the families represent two strands of the middle-classes. Mrs Fowler is fading gentility, verging on upper class, whereas Mrs Willoughby is well-to-do “trade”. Each woman has a very different approach to parenting (or as it would have been called in those days – ‘mothering’) and each of them disapprove of the other and their ways. In the end, it really makes no matter as their children grow up and behave in ways they couldn’t have imagined, and then begin parenting their own children in their own ways.

Family Roundabout is a clever title as it exactly describes how families go round and round through the generations, and at the same time individual members of the family go up and down as their fortunes wax and wane, just like the horses on a carousel.

The book contains some very acute observations about life, love, and what makes a good mother, and at the same time is a really meaty family saga.

All in all it is a most enjoyable, comfortable, book, just what I needed to read at the moment, and I recommend it wholeheartedly

Rated: 5*


I have lived in the London Borough of Islington for nearly thirty years, and I am feeling quite unsettled by the fact that in less than a month’s time we are moving elsewhere.

When we first moved here, Islington had a well deserved reputation for having a “Loony Left” Labour Council, flying the Red Flag above the town hall, crummy services for local folk, and rampant cronyism. Finally, and to great rejoicing from me and many others, after running the council for 40 years they were turfed out by the Lib Dems, and within months everything started to improve, from educational standards to rubbish collection.

This inner London borough has some of the poorest housing estates in the country, and they are cheek by jowl with some of the most expensive property in the country, property which is owned by some of the most influential people in the country. One of the biggest problems across the borough is the dearth of affordable housing, Islington is not alone in this I realise, many other boroughs have a similar problem. Our nurses, teachers, firemen, and other key workers all need places to live and the prices in Islington are very, very high. The council has been working hard to try and improve the situation by increasing the availability of affordable places.

It seems however that their efforts are being ignored/undermined by one of Islington’s own MPs. The borough is made up of two parliamentary constituencies, which have returned Labour MPs since the dawn of time. The latest incumbent to that role in Islington South, is Emily Thornberry MP who has a majority of just 484 votes. Just last month she was photographed at the Town Hall protesting that there are still 13000 people on the waiting list for housing in Islington.

One of her constituents , a tenant in flat owned by the Ujima Housing Association, which specialises in providing housing for black and Asian families, was told that he and his family had to move out; the property was to be sold because Ujima couldn 't afford the renovations that were needed. Extremely worried, as were the other tenants living in the property, he went to see his MP, as one does, and asked her to help. She said she would speak to Ujima, look into the matter and let him know what was going on. So far, so predictable. None-the-less, the property did get sold, and her constituent was forced to move. Ah well, that’s life you might say. But hold on a minute, who has bought the property, for just over half a million pounds? and has now let the flats out to Labour party pals? None other than the husband of Emily Thornberry MP. I don’t think she wrote back to her constituent and said ‘tough luck chum, my hubby is rich and he’s bought the place so you’ve got to hop it’.

What appalling brass-faced hypocrisy. This kind of behaviour really stinks. No wonder the populace have such a low opinion of politicians.

I will be living in a neighbouring borough by the time of the next election, but I sincerely hope the voters of Islington will get rid of Ms Thornberry


Last week I went to a dinner party given for an old college friend of one of my dearest girlfriends. The old college friend now lives in downtown New York and is one of THE classy caterers in aforementioned city. Anyhow - my friend turned out a dinner to die for, and this was one of the dessert options. After two rich and quite elaborate courses, the cool spicy pineapple was a really refreshing finish. This is going to be a real favourite of mine.
As so many other friends are on diets - including BFCT - I thought they would like this recipe as it is low(no) fat, and incredibly delicious:


Serves 6

1 medium pineapple
6 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons water
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger
1 red chili
Juice of one lime

De-seed the chilli and chop into very, very small dice
Peel the ginger and chop finely
Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil, add the finely chopped chilli and ginger, continue boiling until the liquid is reduced by half and becoming syrupy. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Peel the pineapple and cut in half-lengthwise, de-core each half and then slice the pineapple wafer thin. Lay the slices in overlapping circles on a large shallow serving plate.
Gently spoon the cooled chili/ginger syrup over the pineapple slices, and then squeeze the lime juice over them.
Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until time to serve.


BFCT said...

At last a no fat dessert! (Never mind the bucket of sugar!) Pineapples on tomorrow's shopping list - sounds really interesting....

Bybee said...

I'd never heard of "Just William".
Your pineapple dessert looks yummy...I love the mixture of tastes.

Anne said...

interesting.. cool and hot at the same time.