Save it for a Rainy Day

I know everyone thinks it rains all the time in England. No one’s skipping about in the sunshine in those Hugh Grant romantic comedies set in an idealised London where everyone lives in Kensington town houses and has a motley crew of eccentric and attractive friends with very interesting jobs. No, rather than picnicking in the park, they’re cowering under umbrellas, running through rain storms, getting caught short in unexpected showers, or looking longingly out of rain covered train windows. Apparently it would seem that we’ve all been labouring under a misapprehension, however, as we are officially in a drought. There are slightly patronising WWII style informational posters on the tube talking about being ‘all in this together’ alongside phone numbers you can call to shop your neighbour if you see them using a hosepipe. It’s like we’re living in Stalinist Russia. Or McCarthy’s America. But someone upstairs is having a laugh, because ever since the drought was announced the heavens have opened, non-stop. Apart from a brief respite yesterday afternoon, the rain came down thick and fast all weekend. I had planned to go shopping in Hampstead and mooch around on the Heath, but who can be bothered when leaving the house involves getting soaked to the skin? Β So here’s what I did instead.

1. I went to see The King’s Speech – the play! – with my mummy in this very beautiful theatre. It was amazing – arguably better than the film, as it explores much more of the back story of Lionel Logue, the King’s speech therapist, and the reasons why he came to England in the first place. The actor who played the Archbishop of Canterbury was dreadful but everyone else was wonderful, and the set was brilliant too. The King’s Speech was a play before it was a film, but sadly this production has come too hot on the heels of the film’s success and will be closing early for lack of ticket sales. If you’re in London or its environs, see it while you can – you won’t regret it.

2. I made cookies from this wonderful recipe. Felicity Cloake always does brilliant recipes in The Guardian – she takes things that you actually want to cook/bake, tries loads of different versions, then comes up with an ‘ultimate’ that is easy to make and doesn’t involve you buying loads of random jars of spices/raising agents/dried/grated/ground fruits and nuts that you’ll never use again and cost a fortune. I have never made good cookies before – not for want of trying! – but this recipe really took the (pardon the pun) biscuit. There will be a scary moment when you add the flour because it seems like there is far too much of it to ever work its way into the dough but persevere – all will be well. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to add milk. I was very close to succumbing, but I kept beating with my spoon and eventually it all worked out. Felicity knows best! However, Felicity says to chill the cookie dough for at least 24 hours before baking the cookies but I totally ignored this as WHO ON EARTH is sufficiently prepared to decide what they want to eat 24 hours beforehand?! I wanted cookies and I wanted them now so I baked half the dough immediately and left the rest in the fridge for the following day. Felicity says chilling the dough makes them taste better, but I noticed no difference in taste whatsoever – both batches were absolutely delicious and I’ll be making more this week!

3. I cut my hair. My flatmate was away this weekend and whenever I am left to my own devices I get up to no good. After reading a book, cleaning my flat and eating my weight in cookies I was at a loose end. I couldn’t go outside, there was nothing on TV, and I was restless. I’ve been thinking of having a proper fringe cut into my hair for ages, but always panic at the last minute and get a side fringe instead. I was going out in the evening (yes I did brave the rain) and had nothing nice to wear, so in lieu of buying a new outfit, I changed my hairstyle. A quick tutorial video on YouTube made me feel I had sufficient knowledge to do a half decent job, and armed with my sewing scissors, I got cutting. I’m pretty happy with the result. The last time I cut my hair, I plaited it and cut the end off – not a great look. Before that, I used a hole punch, thinking I’d end up with an amazing pattern running through my hair that would be the envy of all my school friends. Logic has never been my strong point, but I’ve got better. At least this time I thought to get some instruction first!

4. I learned more about pre-war British art and got the inspiration for a new reading project. I have been reading the wonderful Ravilious in Pictures: Sussex and the Downs, which the magnificent Mainstone Press kindly sent me (more on this later in the week), and marvelling at the gorgeous paintings of the British countryside and the fascinating juxtaposition between traditional country ways and the encroachment of modern technology. I have had Romantic Moderns sitting by my bed for months, so I desperately need to start reading that to get more of a context for Ravilious and his contemporaries. I have also discovered the work of Brian Cook and the Batsford publishing house he worked for, which published a series of books in the 1930s and 1940s called ‘The Face of Britain’, exploring the soon to be forever changed landscape, architecture and cultural traditions of pre-war Britain. It’s not hard to pick some of these up, with their original, beautifully designed dustjackets, fairly cheaply from ebay. I have some winging their way to me as we speak. I can’t wait to get stuck in!


  1. deopatriaeamicis says:

    The self-haircut looks great! I’m still re-reading the line about trying to cut your hair with a hole punch. That’s a new one to me…

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thank you! I think it would be a new one to most people…I was just a bit dim when I thought up that plan, clearly!!

  2. jane says:

    Don’t u just love the ideas you have when you are young!! Hole punch sounds like a fab idea…..! Fringe looks good and very brave to tackle it yourself!!!
    My dream would be for people to send me books free to review!! Though my husband would have mixed feelings – we are bursting at seams with books already!!. Ravilious in pictures sounds very interesting but unfortunately a little expensive for me at the moment, so will have to wait until it hits second hand stores! Will look forward to hearing your review.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I know! I had many such crazy schemes…I drove my mum mad!!

      I know I am lucky! Start a blog and see what comes your way! πŸ™‚

      Ravilious is wonderful – and the books are worth the money. I shall be investing in the whole set but yes they are expensive. However they are treasures to be gone back to time and time again I think.

  3. sakura says:

    Fringes are really hard to cut and I think you did a brilliant job! I ventured out in the rain to the V&A on Sunday with my mum and it reminded me of you. I hadn’t been there in years and I forgot what an amazing museum it is.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Sakura! Oh lovely – did you see the British Design exhibition? I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself – it is indeed wonderful. I can’t wait for the fashion courts to be re-done – they’re going to look magnificent!

  4. Simon T says:

    The hole-punch thing is hilarious! Better job this time πŸ˜‰ I’ve tried cutting a fringe too… back in my longer-haired days. Not possible with wavy hair, let me tell you.

    I hate the dob-on-your-neighbours mentality they’re trying to promote with these hosepipe things. I read the other day that domestic use accounts for only 8% of water use…

    1. bookssnob says:

      I can’t believe I was so stupid, Simon! The shame!! Longer haired days, eh? You kept those quiet! πŸ˜‰ I must admit I am having problems – my hair is naturally wavy and this wet weather is doing my fringe no favours. I don’t look that glamorous at all!

      Yes I know – the water companies should sort out their leaks first – they waste so much water that way!

  5. Darlene says:

    Oh Rachel, how I laughed when reading that left to your own devices you get up to no good. Your resulting fringe looks fabulous though and so do your cookies! You are so right about ingredients costing a fortune. I had to recover from the price of a 454g bag of pecan pieces last Friday, $20.59! It’s a sad day when you have to save your homemade granola bars for special occasions.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I am a naughty girl at heart Darlene!! πŸ˜‰ Thank you! Glad you like it. And yes I am so glad you agree and I’m not just being a grumpy old woman. Some cake recipes look amazing and I trot off to buy the ingredients and then it works out at about Β£10 and I think no, I can’t justify the expense!

  6. Chrissy says:

    It’s been raining non-stop here too. All the cherry blossom and lilac drenched or blown away. I keep thinking spring os running away leaving me just peering through a rain covered window.

    I wish Amazon showed Ravilious in Pictures with the ‘Look Inside’ feature. I looks very tempting, if expensive. Will you be showing some pages later on when you write about Mainstone Press?

    Great job on the fringe – and such a dazzling smile!

    1. Chrissy says:

      Sorry about the typos, Rachel.

    2. bookssnob says:

      I know, it’s sad isn’t it? All the lovely blossom on the tree outside my window has blown away, much to my disappointment!

      Yes I will Chrissy – I have a few images to post. It is a gorgeous book and very beautifully written essays accompany each painting. I’d say it was well worth the money and I will be buying the entire collection gradually as I can afford to.

      Thank you! πŸ™‚

  7. I went to see the play of the Kings Speech two weeks ago and really enjoyed it – I must say that I enjoyed the play more. I think it’s because the film has been hyped so much so that when I finally saw it I was a bit disappointed. I enjoyed how the play explored the historical, political and personal background. I posted some thoughts here:

    I am very impressed with your fringe. I haven’t dared to get one since the horribly thick one I had when I was in primary school, and which took months to grow out, but I am tempted …

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yes I agree – I thought the play was a lot richer. I will pop over and read your thoughts – glad you had a chance to see it too!

      Thank you very much! Fringes are scary to contemplate but once it’s done they invariably look quite nice I think – give it a go!

  8. joanhunterdunn says:

    Oh Rachel how you delight us with your stories, I don;t think I shall ever forget the hole punch – just imagine how your younger self would be today with heart shaped hole punches!
    Delicious looking biscuits – baking and rain do seem to go together. Hope you enjoyed this afternoon’s sunshine.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hehehehehehe! It would have been wonderful if it had have worked!! And heart shapes – bliss!!

      Yes they do! I have not been able to enjoy any sunshine for over a week…WHEN will it come back?!

  9. I would so LOVE to see the King’s Speech on the stage! What a beautiful theatre.

    1. bookssnob says:

      It was brilliant, Debbie! I hope it will tour and allow more people to get to see it! πŸ™‚

  10. suestopford says:

    Your blog is so interesting. This post is particularly fab and I will be making the cookies for sure. You did a great job of your hair too. I cut my own hair as got sick of hairdressers never doing what I wanted….cheeky cow aren’t I.

    Love your stuff and look forward to your next installment.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh thank you Sue! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying reading so much! πŸ™‚ Hope you will make the cookies- they are delicious!

  11. How brave to cut your own hair! When I had bangs (as we call them here in North America), I couldn’t even trust myself to trim them for upkeep. I always had to recruit Tony to do it for me! They look great on you though, so well done!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks! It’s actually really quite easy once you know how – youtube is a life saver!!

  12. Jenny says:

    I’m so impressed you cut your own hair so skillfully! I’m petrified of letting another person cut my hair, let alone me. Amazing! Can I ask what sort of method you employed the time you cut it with a hole punch? Did you just punch randomly, or did you apply some sort of method? Single hole punch or triple hole punch? The people want to know!

    1. bookssnob says:

      I know, I am so impressed too!! I double hole punched randomly. I soon realised my mistake when I saw the hair fall out. 😦 I had grand plans of amazing hair with holes running across in a zig zag pattern…I was going to thread ribbons through. If it had worked, it would have been beautiful. Alas it did not.

  13. Nan says:

    I love your bangs – oops, I mean fringe! :<) really great job. And aren't you a lucky 'mummy' and daughter to go together to the play. And I adore that picture of the open door and the window. I'd like to live there.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Nan!:) Yes we are – we had a lovely time! And great seats. Oh me too – I am planning on taking a trip to find the cottage as it still stands today!

  14. sue rosly says:

    Well Rachel, my first thought was: another Katherine Mansfield. The fringe suits you no end. I love me a fringe.

    It’s raining here in the dry old Bush Capital of Oz, full of absolutely gorgeous autumn colours.

    The Persephone no 11 2012 has just arrived. And Emma in prospect. What more could a girl want?

    Would love to see the stage version of the King’s speech.

    1. bookssnob says:

      What a compliment Sue! Thank you! πŸ™‚

      It’s STILL raining here. Glad you have lots of lovely books to keep you company while it rains outside! πŸ™‚

      I wonder whether there’s anything you can see online? It really is very good!

  15. Lucy says:

    What a beautiful theatre! I loved the movie but I don’t think I’ll have the chance to see the play. When I visited London, it was so hard to choose what to see – so many theatres and performances, so little time!

    One of the best things about baking cookies is that it’s so fast and almost instantly gratifying – I could never wait 24 hours even if I believed they would taste better! Those cookies look scrumptious!

    Great job on your fringe! I tried trimming mine once and ended up looking like a kindergarten child (it was so painfully short!!) so I vowed never to do that again. So it will probably happen again, but hopefully with better results.

    I hope the rain has stopped! If not, baking more cookies is always fun πŸ˜€

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh it was gorgeous, Lucy! I know – I often feel overwhelmed and don’t know which play to choose!

      Exactly – waiting any time to bake cookies is silly in my book!

      Thank you – the key is to cut upwards not along – that prevents mistakes!!

      Nope…still raining! Just about to make some more! πŸ™‚

  16. Catie says:

    Nice haircut! And those cookies look delicious.

    We’re having almost the opposite problem with rain in Sydney- after drought for years and years, and warnings about water conservation, the dam that supplies water to Sydney actually overflowed the other day after heavy rain! It was pretty novel.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Catie!! And yes those cookies ARE delicious. I think I will make some more this evening as it is once again pouring down!!

      I didn’t realise you were having so much rain in Australia!

  17. kittycrafts says:

    Not only have you introduced me to many a forgotten female author and the divine Persephone Press books, but now we are seemingly reading in parallel! Just as I was beginning “Pride & Prejudice” there was your brilliant post on your own rediscovery of the novel. Now, I find in this charmingly ended post, that you too have sat with β€œRomantic Moderns” by the bedside and are enjoying learning more about Ravilious! Your mention of many of the pre-war artists is interesting and I look forward to hearing more on the Mainstone Press. The Ravilious books are superb and I adore the travelling artist picture you have used as the header – for me it’s like a Ravilious version of Postman Pat, which is the perfect combination of childhood affectionate memory in a style I love today! Also, I had a rather expensive but fun trip to Henry Pordes et al on the Charing Cross Road a couple of months ago and bought some Batsford dust jacketed books which just made my heart sing – as ever your bargain hunting sounds much more successful than mine!

    In fact the Brian Cook book caught my eye and is now in the Amazon basket! I am interested in how the printing process and the artist come together to form these great dust jackets – an interesting point made by a reviewer on Amazon: β€œβ€¦an explanation of the Jean Berte printing process. This gave the Batsford covers their unique look. The process used rubber plates and five waterproof inks, the three primary colours, grey and black as a fifth working to tighten up the look of the designs and for the type. It was the overprinting of these flat colours that created the rich, vibrant designs. Perhaps more importantly to the look of the covers was the fact that the rubber plates were cut by hand which meant that the design had to be fairly easy to create. Fine lines were only possible in black.

    It still needed the creativity of Brian Cook to decide what colours to use for each cover. I was always impressed by his use of solid mauve for hills and trees and the way the really bright yellow almost jumped off some covers. These books must really have stood out in bookshops back then.”

    Great stuff!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Hello! I love it when I am reading in parallel with someone else – so exciting! I can’t believe that you too have just discovered the Batsford books! I had my first arrive yesterday – ‘The Beauty of Britain’ – it’s just breathtaking. I LOVE it. I am so thankful to you for posting that link – it’s straight on my list to get next. I’d love to learn more about the process of making and designing those covers.

      Henry Pordes is very expensive by the way. I never shop in there!!

      I smiled when you likened that Ravilious to Postman Pat – it is so cheerful looking isn’t it!!

      Thank you so much for reading along and I hope you will pick up Emma along with me as well! πŸ™‚

      1. kittycrafts says:

        Agreed – Henry Pordes is off limits for a while! πŸ™‚

        I will definitely reread Emma – haven’t read it since A Levels so would be good to pick it up again, then on to Sense and Sensibility because I feel like making it an Austen Spring…!

  18. oh for goodness sake.......more tea trolley nonsense from BOP!! says:

    The prettiest picture of you yet.

    I shall have to snap you up my dear, before anyone else does.

    Some tea to accompany those darling cookies:

    Earl Grey 20p
    Darjeeling 20p
    Chinese Green 15p
    Asda economy pack: free

    – help! help! – can’t stop this flow of nonsense, R.

    Now a Ravilious book, yes that is a seriously pleasing prospect. One of my fave books is a Thoreau text placed alongside subtle, beautiful photos. Watch out R, watch out….landscape is my ‘thing’.

    – Bop

    1. bookssnob says:

      Oh Bop, you flatter me! πŸ™‚

      Darjeeling for me!!

      The Ravilious book is wonderful, Bop – I can’t wait to get my hands on the others in the series!

  19. I really wish we could do a swap – some of our Arizona sunshine for your English rain! I get weary of the endless brutal sunshine.
    Your fringe looks amazing and now you have a new skill! And the cookies – heaven…

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yes, please let’s swap!!

      Thank you very much! And yes – the cookies were heaven. Just going to bake some more now! πŸ™‚

  20. bookgazing says:

    I had the exact same thought when I saw those posters, especially because of the bit that suggests not washing your car shows you’re saving water. That gave me a creepy feeling that jobsworths will be glaring at people with clean cars and calling them unpatriotic. The fringe came out really well by the way πŸ˜€

    1. bookssnob says:

      I know! It’s so ridiculous. Spying on your neighbours will never bring any good!!

      Thank you! Though I am a bit fed up with it now! πŸ˜‰

  21. Mystica says:

    Thank you for a lovely post specially the bits about the weather. I do wish you could send some of that rain this way.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thank you Mystica! I wish I could too – it’s STILL raining!

  22. Liz says:

    Could not resist adding (and this seemed the place):

    1. bookssnob says:

      Lovely, thanks Liz!

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