radio-777219_1280Just like everyone else in the 1950s we had a radio that was encased in a large wooden box with a few dials on the front and a circle of fine lattice-work mesh over the speaker.

The dials were to tune the radio and the station choices were BBC, BBC and BBC: The Light Programme, The Home Service and the Third Programme.

In the afternoon we had “Listen with Mother” with Daphne Oxenford and the never to be forgotten “Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin”. We listened to “Children’s Hour” at tea-time featuring Larry the Lamb and Toytown.

And then “The News”.

On Sunday it was “Two Way Family Favourites” with record requests between people at home and their relatives abroad in the British Army. BFPO40 seemed a very popular address.

“Mrs Dale’s Diary” and “Woman’s Hour” were our mother’s favourites although our dad preferred the Third Programme which was more highbrow.

The radio was known as “The Wireless” even though you had to plug the wires into the electric socket in the wall. Quite often it crackled with interference and you had to turn it off.

If you tuned the dials away from the BBC sometimes you got a voice in an unknown language but usually it was just a high pitched wail.

Read more of my 1950s memories in Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood available in the Amazon Kindle Store.

If you have nostalgia towards the 1950s you’ll probably enjoy this website where there are some of the best 1950s fashion images I’ve ever seen. The photos are by renowned photographer Norman Parkinson and you can see more of his work here.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Catch me on Twitter most days at @spurwing_ or on my website blog.



Everything in its place

image credit
image credit

It’s been many years since my mother passed on but some of her wise words linger on.

She was very fond of quoting:

A place for everything and everything in its place.

My sister and I thought that she particularly overused the words in relation to our teenage bedrooms!

We understood the expression to be attributed to the Victorian domestic goddess, Isabella Beeton but it’s also credited to Samuel Smiles and Benjamin Franklin.

Isabella was born in London in 1836. Her mother was widowed when Isabella was four years old and she lived with grandparents for a couple of years. Her mother re-married and her four daughters made a new family with Mr Henry Dorling, the clerk to the Epsom Racecourse, and his four children.

The newly weds had thirteen more children over the next twenty years and Isabella became an expert at household management through first hand experience.

As a young adult Isabella lived in Germany and became proficient in the German language and pastry making.

On her return to England, aged about eighteen, she continued to take lessons in pastry making from the local baker and became engaged to Samuel Beeton, a publisher.

The couple were married in 1855 and after a honeymoon in Paris settled into a new home together in Pinner.

In addition to several pregnancies and miscarriages, Isabella began to work with Samuel in his publishing business writing copy for his magazine ‘The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’.

She began collecting recipes from readers and these and many recipes of her own were included in further magazines.

In the early 1860s her magazine articles were collected together into one large volume: ‘Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management’.

image: public domain via Wikicommons
image: public domain via Wikicommons

Despite the success of the book, the Beetons experienced considerable financial difficulties and had to sell up and re-locate from Pinner to Greenhithe in Kent.

Aged only twenty eight years and pregnant again, Isabella went into labour and died from puerperal fever.

Soon afterwards, Samuel sold the rights to ‘Household Management’ to another publisher by whom he was employed until his own death from TB in 1877.

I don’t know if my mum ever actually read Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. She worked as a library assistant so I suppose it’s possible.

She would have liked this quote attributed to Mrs Beeton:

Friendship is no plant of hasty growth. Though planted in esteem’s deep-fixed soil the gradual culture of kind intercourse must bring it to perfection.

And here are some more words of Mrs Beeton’s wisdom:


Afternoon tea should be provided, fresh supplies, with thin bread-and-butter, fancy pastries, cakes, etc., being brought in as other guests arrive.

Thanks for reading my blog today. Maybe you’ll be tempted to some Jam for Tea! 


You don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books.

image credit

I’ve been reading ebooks for over five years and now download most of the books I read onto my Kindle instead of buying paperbacks.

At first I had the basic, cheapest Kindle which only weighs 166 grammes and is very easy to use.

When I bought an iPad mini I downloaded the Kindle App so now I read ebooks on the iPad as well.

If you want to read Kindle books but don’t want the expense of buying a Kindle,

just go to this page on the Amazon site and download the free app for your preferred device.

As well as iPad there’s an app for laptop, P.C., phone, tablet etc. Just follow this link to the Kindle Store and start reading some fantastic ebooks at very reasonable prices.

I keep meeting people who say they would like to read one of our books but they don’t have a Kindle. I blame “Downton Abbey” which had an Amazon Kindle sponsored advert before each episode and in all the commercial breaks! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve explained that you don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books.

I’ve posted about this on my other blogs over the years and thought I’d mention it here in case any readers don’t know about the free Kindle app.

You know I like quotes.

How about these:

Stephen Fry:

“Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.”

Douglas Adams

“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.”

Penelope Lively

“It seems to me that anyone whose library consists of a Kindle lying on a table is some sort of bloodless nerd.”

Charlie Brooker

“Until recently, I was an ebook sceptic, see; one of those people who harrumphs about the “physical pleasure of turning actual pages” and how ebook will “never replace the real thing”. Then I was given a Kindle as a present. That shut me up. Stock complaints about the inherent pleasure of ye olde format are bandied about whenever some new upstart invention comes along. Each moan is nothing more than a little foetus of nostalgia jerking in your gut. First they said CDs were no match for vinyl. Then they said MP3s were no match for CDs. Now they say streaming music services are no match for MP3s. They’re only happy looking in the rear-view mirror.”

Have a good day!


Catch me on Twitter most days at @spurwing_ or on my website blog.


Does anyone like corned beef and cabbage?

Image corn beef 1898 By A.C. Cunningham, San Francisco, California [Public domain], via Wikimedia

I’ve never actually eaten corned beef and cabbage together on one plate. Have you?

Corned beef – yes.

Cabbage – yes.

The two together don’t appeal to me in the slightest but as it’s #NationalCornedBeefandCabbageDay on social media I’ve been giving the combination some thought!

During World War Two and the years of austerity immediately afterwards Corned Beef and Cabbage seems to have been a menu staple.

This recipe is from 1941.

Sunday Mirror – Sunday 28 December 1941 Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

And the dish even received royal endorsement!

In 1923 the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII who abdicated in 1936) was on a visit to Canada when apparently he enjoyed his corned beef and cabbage.

Western Daily Press – Wednesday 19 September 1923 Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

The Prince had previously visited Canada in September 1919 when he travelled throughout the province undertaking a series of royal duties. The visit in 1923 was in a personal rather than official capacity so that the Prince could spend some time at his ranch in Alberta. His affair with Mrs Freda Dudley Ward ended in 1923 so maybe he just wanted to be alone for a few weeks.

A short history of corned beef

The precise origins of corned beef are unknown but it probably began in Ancient Europe and the Middle East when people began preserving meat through salt-curing. The word “corn” derives from Old English and describes any small, hard particles or grains such as the coarse granular salts used to cure the beef. The word “corned” may also refer to grains of potassium nitrate which were also used to preserve the meat. Potassium Nitrate is also known as saltpeter – a main component of gunpowder!

The production of corned beef on an industrial scale has been going on since the middle of the the sixteenth century. Britain and Ireland were major producers for both civilian and military consumption.

By the early 1940s production had shifted to South America and was concentrated with Fray Bentos in Uruguay. 16 million cans of corned beef were produced in Uruguay in 1943!

Today, around 80% of the global tinned corned beef supply originates from Brazil.

Everyone has probably heard of Spam fritters

but in the 1950s my mother went one better. She changed the Spam fritter recipe into one for corned beef fritters. She substituted the Spam with corned beef, dipped the slices in a thick batter and deep fried them in hot oil. Served with peas and chips they were pretty good as far as I can remember. I wouldn’t eat them now, of course. Too healthy-eating conscious to risk the cardiac arrest!

Mum never served cabbage with our corned beef whether frittered or not. In fact she didn’t cook cabbage too often as my younger sister had a massive aversion to it unless it was fried up in bubble and squeak. More heart attack food but delicious!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

You might also like Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood which is in the Amazon Kindle Store. If you want to read Kindle books but don’t want the expense of buying a Kindle, just go to this page on the Amazon site and download the free app for your preferred device.

Please “Like” my new Facebook page at if you’re a Facebooker. Thanks 🙂









Like a garden full of weeds

umbelliferae-1341786_1280At secondary school I had a teacher who was fond of quoting these wise words:

A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds
And when the weeds begin to grow
It’s like a garden full of snow.


I always understood this rhyme to be a longer way of saying “deeds not words” and hadn’t realised until recently that there was more to the rhyme than these four lines.


The origin of the poem is credited to John Fletcher (1579 – 1625), an obscure playwright and contemporary of Shakespeare.

The poem was mentioned in 1899 by Percy B. Green in his ‘History of Nursery Rhymes’. Green states that the rhyme can be found in a document in the British Museum dated 1680 written as a Puritan satire on the changeability of the  character of the restored king, Charles II. Not sure where that leaves Mr Fletcher….

Green quotes another rhyme from the time of the Restoration (1660) for context:

Come Jack, let’s drink a pot of ale
And I shall tell thee such a tale
Will make thine ears to ring.
My coin is spent, my time is lost
And I this only fruit can boast
That once I saw my king.

Green’s History of Nursery Rhymes is available as a free download from
in a variety of formats for different types of e-readers including Kindle.

However, the formatting is very poor and the book is difficult to read; I don’t suppose Mr Green ever thought his history would be available across the globe.

A man of words and not of deeds 
Is like a garden full of weeds
And when the weeds begin to grow 
It’s like a garden full of snow 
And when the snow begins to fall 
It’s like a bird upon the wall 
And when the bird away does fly 
It’s like an eagle in the sky 
And when the sky begins to roar 
It’s like a lion at the door 
And when the door begins to crack 
It’s like a stick across your back 
And when your back begins to smart
It’s like a penknife in your heart 
And when your heart begins to bleed 
You’re dead, and dead, and dead indeed.


Thanks for reading my blog today.

You might also like Cabbage and Semolina – my memories of a 1950s Childhood.

Hope you’re having a good day.

I shall have to start deciding soon which weeds to remove from my garden and which to allow to grow!



How to make a cup of tea

mrs-beeton-4I’ve been reading Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management and enjoyed her directions for how to make tea.

Mrs Beeton says:

There is very little art in making good tea; if the water is boiling, and there is no sparing of the fragrant leaf, the beverage will almost invariably be good.
The old-fashioned plan of allowing one teaspoonful to each person, and one over, is still practised. Warm the teapot with boiling water; let it remain for two or three minutes for the vessel to become thoroughly hot, then pour it away.

Put in the tea, pour in from 1/2 to 3/4 of a pint of boiling water, close the lid, and let it stand for the tea to draw from 5 to 10 minutes; then fill up the pot with water.

The tea will be quite spoiled unless made with water that is actually ‘boiling’, as the leaves will not open, and the flavour not be extracted from them; the beverage will consequently be colourless and tasteless, – in fact, nothing but tepid water.

Where there is a very large party to make tea for, it is a good plan to have two teapots instead of putting a large quantity of tea into one pot; the tea, besides, will go farther.

When the infusion has once been completed, the addition of fresh tea adds very little to the strength; so, when more is required, have the pot emptied of the old leaves, scalded, and fresh tea made in the usual manner.

Economists say that a few grains of carbonate of soda, added before the boiling water is poured on the tea, assists to draw out the goodness: if the water is very hard, perhaps it is a good plan, as the soda softens it; but care must be taken to use this ingredient sparingly, as it is liable to give the tea a soapy taste if added in too large a quantity.

For mixed tea, the usual proportion is four spoons of black to one of green; more of the latter when the flavour is very much liked; but strong green tea is highly pernicious, and should never be partaken of too freely.


Nowadays I’m a lazy tea maker

who dips a teabag in a mug of hot water for a few seconds and adds some milk but when I was growing up things were rather different.

In Cabbage and Semolina I wrote:

Tea was always made in a pot.

I don’t know if teabags had been invented in the 1950s but we always used loose tea and the tea was poured straight from the teapot into the cup without a strainer so there was the danger of swallowing the tea leaves in the dregs if you weren’t careful.

The pot had to be warmed first with boiling water and the kettle was brought back to boiling point before the tea leaves were scalded.

The tea was then left to brew or “mash” as we called it before being poured in a heavy, caffeine laden stream on top of a dash of milk in the bottom of the cup. Usually at least two spoons of sugar were added as well.

Not much difference from Mrs Beeton in the 1860s to life in the 1950s and just the same for purists today too!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Time to put the kettle on, I think.

If you have a few minutes to spare you might like to check out my publishing website too. It’s at



Random Conversations with Strangers

blog-793047_1280In addition to this blog I have five other blogs for various interests. I enjoy writing my blogs and it’s great whenever a reader leaves a comment or shares a post with their family, friends or followers on Twitter or Facebook.

On social media I use Twitter almost every day and Facebook, Pinterest and Google Plus occasionally.

All the other social media sites have passed me by.

I read somewhere that Twitter is planning to extend the length of tweets. I hope they don’t: the brevity is the great attraction.

I enjoy Twitter.

It’s a bit like standing at a bus queue in the 1970s: random conversations with strangers for fleeting moments while disparate segments of life pass by.

There’s some interesting data on the website of the Office for National Statistics.

The survey analyses Internet use and tracks the data over time.

88% of adults in the UK (45.9 million) used the Internet in the early months of 2016 compared with 86% in 2015.

Although the over 55s continue to make less use of the Internet than their younger family and friends, the gap is diminishing. Amongst retired people Internet use has increased by almost 20% since 2011.

There are still over 5 million people in the UK who never use the Internet and half of them are in the over 75s age group.

However, amongst women aged over 75 Internet use has risen by 169% from 2011.

Looking at Twitter, there’s some interesting data from the final months of 2016 on the Statistics Portal website. In the final quarter of 2016, 319 million users were active on Twitter each month. Wow! That’s a lot of people I haven’t met yet!

There’s some interesting data on the Pew Research Centre website. This data appears to be the source for all the other websites that share demographic information about social media usage.  24% of adults who go online use Twitter but users are predominantly under 50.

59% 18 – 49 years

21% 50 – 64 years

10% over 65 years.

This data is for USA but I would imagine it  would be the same in the UK with maybe even fewer Twitter users over 65. I’m only guessing but I don’t personally know any babyboomer Tweeters. How about you?

Although as far as Internet shopping goes, the over 55s aka ‘digiboomers’ are set to dominate as online shopping customers according to research commissioned by greenlightdigital. 

Within the next decade, the over 55’s will account for over two-thirds of all retail activity and more than a third of the population.

In a 2015 survey the 55+ market was estimated to spend £14.45 billion online. More than three quarters (76%) of the digiboomers surveyed shop online at least once a month with many shopping online every week.

Digiboomers were spending on books and magazines (76%), clothing and accessories (74%), CDs and DVDs (66%), small appliances and houseware (61%) and consumer electronics (60%).

I conform to most of these spending patterns. I shop online every week, sometimes more than once. In the last six months I’ve made nearly all my purchases online apart from food, clothes and magazines. Although I have had the occasional online supermarket shop. For some reason that doesn’t seem to have been included in the survey.

Anyway, whether you’re a digiboomer or not, thanks for reading my blog today. My account is @spurwing_ if you’d like to join me on Twitter. I usually followback unless you’re one of those accounts that sells porn or Twitter followers by the bucketload.

Have a great day!










Try and Try Again

image credit
image credit

My grandmother tried to teach me to knit.

My mother tried to teach me to knit.

My teacher at school tried to teach me to knit.

But all I ended up with was a web of cross-threaded-holes and a ball of tangled wool.

Time  and time again my mentor would untangle the wool, repeat the knitting instructions and offer these wise words:

If at first you don’t succeed, 
try, try again. 

The origin of these words is the well-known legend of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland in the Middle Ages.

The legend as now told was first published by Sir Walter Scott in ‘Tales of a Grandfather’. Published  in 1828, almost 500 years after the death of Robert the Bruce, the book is available as a free download in several formats here.
However. the download seems to have very poor formatting so I purchased a corrected version for 99p from the Kindle Store and I enjoyed reading it.

Robert the Bruce: Public Domain via Wikicommons
Robert the Bruce: Public Domain via Wikicommons

Eventually I learned to knit.

As a left-hander herself, my aunt realised that my problems were spatial and she set about showing me how she managed the knitting needles and the wool.

It didn’t happen overnight but by the time I was thirteen I’d mastered the craft sufficiently to knit my half of a pair of bootees for a new baby sister.

I’ve done very little knitting since then apart from the front of a sweater which after about six months I passed over to my mother for completion. But the wise words have stayed with me and I’ve come to regard perseverance, persistence and determination as personality traits to emulate and admire.

image credit
image credit

If you want to read free and low priced Classics but don’t want the expense of buying a Kindle, just go to this page on the Amazon site and download the free app for your preferred device: iPad, phone, tablet, laptop, PC etc.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Catch me on Twitter most days at @spurwing_ or on my website blog.

Dinner for Six


image: public domain via Wikicommons


I mentioned Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management in my blogpost the other day.

I thought you might like to share Mrs Beeton’s ideas for a dinner party for six guests.

This meal plan is designed for July to take advantage of seasonal produce.

First Course
Julienne Soup (Broth with vegetables evenly cut in long thin strips).
Crimped Salmon (The flesh of the fish contracts and becomes firm by gashing or cutting it before rigor mortis sets in) and Caper ( the small flower buds of the Capparis shrub) Sauce
Whitebait (Young sprats, most commonly herring. Normally deep-fried, coated in flour or a light batter, and served very hot with sprinkled lemon juice and bread and butter.)

Croquettes a la Reine  (Cold cooked chicken chopped with some mushrooms, parsley and thyme and seasoned with salt, black pepper and cayenne with a tablespoonful of butter and 2 well-beaten eggs added. The mixture is formed into croquettes, dipped in beaten egg and fine bread-crumbs and fried in deep hot lard until golden brown  and served with a cream sauce.)

Curried Lobster

Second Course
Roast Lamb
Rump of Beef Jardiniere

Third Course
Raspberry Cream
Cherry Tart
Custards, in glasses
Gateaux a la Genevese
Nesselrode (cream-enriched custard mixed with chestnut puree, candied fruits, currants, raisins and maraschino liqueur)  Pudding

Obviously, the Victorians hadn’t heard of cholesterol!

image: public domain via Wikicommons

If that seems a bit on the heavy side you might prefer Mrs Beeton’s suggestions for Plain Family Dinners for July.

Salmon trout and parsley butter
Roast fillet of real, boiled bacon-cheek; peas; potatoes
Raspberry and currant tart; baked custard pudding.

Green-pea soup
Roast fowls garnished with water-cresses; gravy; bread sauce; cold veal and salad.
Cherry tart

John Dory and Lobster sauce
Curried fowl with remains of cold fowl; dish of rice; veal rolls with remains of cold fillet
Strawberry cream

Roast leg of mutton; vegetable marrow and potatoes; melted butter
Black-currant pudding

Fried soles; anchovy sauce
Mutton cutlets and tomato sauce; bashed mutton; peas; potatoes
Lemon dumplings

Boiled brisket of beef; carrots; turnips; suet dumplings; peas; potatoes
Baked semolina pudding

Cold beef and salad; lamb cutlets and peas
Rolled jam pudding

It seems illogical

to have so many vegetables on Friday and none on Tuesday. I wonder if anyone actually followed Mrs Beeton’s menu planner. Or if readers just flicked through The Book of Household Management in the same way I flick through celebrity cook books.

image: public domain via Wikicommons
image: public domain via Wikicommons

This is Mrs Beeton’s recipe for Friday’s pudding: Baked Semolina.

3 oz of semolina; 1 and a half pints of milk; 1/4 lb sugar; 12 bitter almonds; 3 oz butter; 4 eggs

Flavour the milk with the bitter almonds, by infusing them in it by the side of the fire for about half an hour; then strain it and mix with it the semolina, sugar and butter. Stir these ingredients over the fire for a few minutes; then take them off and gradually mix in the eggs, which should be well beaten. Butter a pie-dish, line the edges with puff-paste, put in the pudding and bake in a rather slow oven from 40 to 50 minutes. Serve with custard sauce or stewed fruit, a little of which may be poured over the pudding.

Mrs Beeton writes that Semolina is, after vermicelli, the most useful ingredient that can be used for thickening soups, meat or vegetable of rich or simple quality. Semolina is softening, light, wholesome, easy of digestion, and adapted to the infant, the aged and the invalid. That of a clear yellow colour, well dried and newly made is the fittest for use.

And if you would like some more Semolina try my memories of a 1950s childhood ebook Cabbage and Semolina.

Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood

If you’re wondering why I titled my ebook Cabbage and Semolina then you definitely didn’t go to primary school in Britain in the 1950s. Everyone had either to stay for school dinners or go home to eat. There were no packed lunches or going out to the chippy in those days. I know every generation complains about school dinners but in the 1950s they really were bad. If Cabbage was on the menu it was chopped and cooked, stalks and all, until it came out onto the plate as a gritty, lumpy, stringy mush which you had to eat whether you liked it or not.

Of course, once the main dish of the day was eaten your reward was offered. Pudding!

Baked suet and treacle roll; stewed fruit crumble; chocolate sponge; pink sponge; jam sponge; stewed fruit pie, all served with custard: fluorescent yellow, thick and glutinous. In summer for our puddings we had jelly, trifle, cold stewed fruit, ice-cream (once), cold custard. And at any time of year, Semolina: vanilla, chocolate, pink, and sometimes with cold stewed fruit added for an extra treat. If you look at a bowl of wallpaper paste and a bowl of semolina there’s not much difference but we ate it anyway. Read more here.

Have a good day!


Catch me on Twitter most days at @spurwing_ or on my website blog.

If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun

snowdrop-1025050_1280If you love snowdrops as much as I do then you’ll enjoy these poems.

Christina Rossetti

I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
Sing robin, sing:
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The bed of flowers
Loosens amain,
The beauteous snowdrops
Droop o’er the plain.
The crocus opens
Its glowing bud,
Like emeralds others,
Others, like blood.
With saucy gesture
Primroses flare,
And roguish violets,
Hidden with care;
And whatsoever
There stirs and strives,
The Spring’s contented,
If works and thrives.

easter-2072302_1280Victorian Language of Flowers

A lovelier blossom
lights the gloom,
That timid fears impart.
The heaven-fed flower of Purity;
Oh! nurse the snowdrop still!
And in it’s breath, a charm shall be,
To guard thee from all ill


Dante Gabriel Rossetti

So Spring comes merry towards me here, but earns
No answering smile from me, whose life is twin’d
With the dead boughs that winter still must bind,
And whom today the Spring no more concerns.
Behold, this crocus is a withering flame;
This snowdrop, snow; this apple-blossom’s part
To breed the fruit that breeds the serpent’s art.
Nay, for these Spring-flowers, turn thy face from them,
Nor stay till on the year’s last lily-stem
The white cup shrivels round the golden heart.


Hope you have a great day!

Catch me on Twitter most days at @spurwing_ or on my website blog.