Tuesday, 8 February 2022

A Platinum Jubilee

Hello, thank you for calling in.  Is all well?  I seem to be careering from one metaphorical punctuation mark to the next without taking time to sit down and read the whole paragraph and it's making me feel quite unsettled.  This time of year is all about birthdays in our family which is rather lovely, but we've also had two stress-inducing covid isolations and the hideous news of a terminal illness.  However, I am trying to be a glass-half-full kind of person so the good news is that there is plenty of supply teaching work for the Best Beloved so the coffers are filling and I might even be able to buy myself a new, hardback copy of Jane Eyre!

The news over the weekend was dominated by the revolving doors at 10 Downing Street but something significant happened on Sunday: the seventieth anniversary of our Queen's accession to the throne.  During my lifetime we have had ten Prime Ministers but only one Queen and no British monarch has reigned for as long as Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith (to give her her full title and yes, I did have to look it up).  Celebrations will come in June when, hopefully, the weather will be sunnier, warmer and drier than it is in February and anyway, I always feel a little bit sad for HM on this day because it is, after all, the anniversary of her father's death.  Here is the first paragraph of her message to the nation, published on Saturday:

Tomorrow, 6th February, marks the 70th anniversary of my Accession in 1952. It is a day that, even after 70 years, I still remember as much for the death of my father, King George VI, as for the start of my reign.

So, there was no great royalist celebration here on Sunday (or, perhaps, on any day) but I did ask my mother about her memories of 6th February 1952.

Ma was born and raised in London and was at primary school that day.  It was an ordinary Wednesday until just before lunchtime when the headmaster, Mr Kershaw, entered the classroom and told the children that the King was dead.  This was shocking news and after Ma had bolted down her lunch she ran home and relayed it to her parents; ordinarily, her father would have been at work but he had annual leave to use up and had taken a day off work so he was also at home to receive the news from his young daughter.  Isn't that funny, that he should have taken that particular day off?  Ma told me that her parents couldn't really believe it so they turned on the radio and heard the BBC announcement which confirmed that the King was indeed dead.  Although we now know that he had been ill for months with lung cancer, Ma says that the general public didn't know that at the time which was why the news came as such a shock. 

The King's body lay in the church at Sandringham until 11th February when the coffin travelled to London and was placed in Westminster Hall.  The King lay in state there for three days and my grandfather took Ma to pay their respects.  Apparently, at times that queue was four miles long because in all, more than 304,000 people passed through the Hall before the funeral on 15th February.    

There may be more family folklore to come later, perhaps next year, as both of my parents were on the London streets on Coronation Day in 1953 to watch Queen Elizabeth drive past in her golden carriage.  In the meantime, I raise my cup of tea to HM and thank her for seventy years of service.  If nothing else, she deserves admiration for enduring weekly meetings with those Prime Ministers and for wearing coats made heavy by the weights in their hems and hats with contraptions fitted inside to clamp them to her head and prevent them blowing off in the wind.  

I don't have any photographs of the Queen and her father to show you so instead I offer you this image of my mother with her father and younger sister, taken in the summer of 1952.

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Yours Grumpily

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  It has been very cold here this week, not warmer than three degrees (oo-ooh, aa-aah, precious moments, as we sing in our house), not bright, sparkling, makes-you-smile cold but dull, murky, seeps-into-your-bones-and-makes-you-miserable cold, the kind of cold which slows me right down almost to the point of torpor.  Today the sun is shining which ordinarily would make me feel much more cheerful but in fact, today I am grumpy, VERY grumpy.

Earlier this month I found a second-hand copy of Jane Eyre in an online charity shop and I bought it.  I read a school copy of Jane Eyre when I was fourteen and last year I decided that I wanted to read it again as, being very familiar with the novels of Emily and Anne Bronte - which is no great accomplishment as there are only three of them - I felt uncomfortable about leaving Charlotte out and apart from that, Jane Eyre is a great novel with which any woman who considers herself to be "a reader" should be familiar.  I was truly tempted to buy a new copy, especially as The Crow Emporium published a beautiful, illustrated volume last year, but  in the end I followed my instincts and bought this copy instead.  It is a hardback, in good condition, lovely to hold in the hand and older than I am, and I polished my metaphorical halo at the thought that I had acted sustainably and supported a charity to the modest tune of £7.  I am enjoying reading it very much and yesterday I reached page 204.

An idea popped into my head yesterday afternoon: a couple of years ago my sister bought me a book written by Jennifer Barclay called "A Literary Feast, Recipes inspired by novels, poems and plays" and I thought it might be fun to marry up my novel with the appropriate recipe.  I turned to page 179 and found a passage in which Jane is served seed cake by Miss Temple, the superintendent at Lowood School.  Hmm.  Jane had left Lowood on page 70 of my edition and I did not recognise this passage.  I had a look online and discovered many references to the incident, which occurs in Chapter 8.  I scanned through Chapter 8 and there was no seed cake.  This morning I have reread the whole chapter and there is DEFINITELY NO SEED CAKE.  I have reached the conclusion that my edition is abridged, although that is not stated anywhere, and I am mightily disappointed.  I am a serious reader with a very rusty A Level in English Literature and I do not want to read an abridged version of Jane Eyre, I want to read exactly what Charlotte Bronte wrote.  Harrumph.  Have I made it clear enough that I am VERY grumpy?  


I shall carry on reading the book because I am enjoying it (and because I never leave a book unfinished) but I think that I shall have to buy another copy.  

Yours grumpily,

Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Monday, 17 January 2022

Happy Birthdays

Hello, and thank you for being here, I wasn't sure whether anyone would have stuck around and the fact that you have done has cheered me right up.  As promised, I am back for a witter.

Today is 17th January and I cannot let this date pass unmarked.  To begin with, Anne Bronte was born on this day in 1820.  I have read both of her novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and if you haven't read them, I wholeheartedly recommend Agnes Grey which, in my opinion, is the better novel.  Anne's work seems to be less well-known than that of her sisters, Charlotte and Emily, and I think she deserves better.

In 2010 I visited Scarborough with the Best Beloved and The Teacher.  We parked the car at St Mary's Church and as we were walking through the churchyard we came across Anne's grave.  I had no idea that she was buried there so it was a surprise and it felt very odd to just come across her in such a casual way.  Obviously I asked the Best Beloved to take a photograph.



I was pleased to see that somebody still cared enough about Anne to have laid flowers but saddened by the dilapidated state of her headstone.  I know that coastal weather can treat stone harshly but I felt that the grave of such an important writer should receive some special care.  Well, it seems that little can be done to conserve the headstone itself but in 2013 The Bronte Society had some work done which included the laying of a new plaque - if you are interested, you can read about it here.  

17th January is a rather special day in our family for other reasons.  My great grandmother, Martha Jane Stevens, was born on this day in 1871.  She died more than twenty years before I was born but I have known this photograph for almost as long as I can remember and I have a tablecloth which she worked with knitted lace around its edge; we use it at Christmas and as I unfold it and lay it on the table I think of her hands doing the same decades earlier.  Martha is pictured here in 1900 with my grandmother on her lap.


We have another family birthday today, too: The Mathematician has been celebrating in Guernsey while I have been wistfully remembering earlier birthdays: little girls in princess outfits, sausages on sticks and jelly, wintry weekends spent in cosy cottages, Saturday sleepovers with a houseful of excited teenagers.  Here she is on her fourteenth birthday which we spent in a cottage in North Wales at her request.


Happy Birthday to Anne, to Martha and to The Mathematician!

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Sunday, 9 January 2022

I'm Back

Hello, Happy New Year and if you are celebrating Christmas this weekend, Happy Christmas.  I am truly sorry for my prolonged absence; I succumbed to the dreaded Covid-19 in September and although I was unwell for only days rather than weeks, it left me a few unwanted gifts when it departed.  These included a distorted sense of smell, overwhelming tiredness and a lack of mental clarity.  I have been woolly-headed for months due to a combination of this Covid gift and some new medication.  I didn't read a book for two months, I just couldn't concentrate on the words on the page, and although I have been reading blogs, I haven't felt able to conjure the words to either comment or to write here.  I didn't even have the energy to feel sad about that.

However, I feel much better now and intend to write here regularly.  I have missed this little space.  I am aware that blogging has largely fallen out of fashion but I have never been particularly fashionable (except for a while in the 1980s when I sported the most fabulous hair) so although I am tentatively dipping my toe into Instagram waters, this is my comfortable place.  Thank you for sticking with me.

I'd like to finish by showing you a photo which my daughter sent me earlier this week, just because I can't bear to leave without showing you a picture.  It was taken on the first really cold day of the year and shows her children wearing the mittens I knitted for them for Christmas.  This bright little pop of colour has lifted my spirits all week and I hope it makes you smile too.  

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x