(British) Pancake Recipe

Yesterday, I called my mother up for her pancake recipe, today being Fat Tuesday, and therefore Pancake Day. (For my friend in New Orleans, it is Mardi Gras, and I imagine her reclining on a throne of beads and silks, eating King Cake. I hope she will not tell me if this is wrong.)

So, I called my mother up for the family pancake recipe, and she reeled it off, and then noted that two of the recipe books we used for it have disappeared, including the Usborne Children’s Book of Cookery. This house does, actually, have a different Usborne Children’s Book of Cookery, but we’d amended the, extremely smeared and begrimed, pancake page of ours. Nonetheless, here is a recipe for pancakes, proportions provided by my mother off the top of her head (but from Delia Smith originally. I know this, because I called again to check, and my mother walked in halfway through and was indignant): Continue reading

A Trip to Dennis Severs’ House

“Dennis Severs’ House,” said Edinburgh Friend.

“You what?” I said, so she sent me a link to the website, and we agreed to go on her trip down to London.

To put this in context, when I came to visit her in what is not, in fact, Edinburgh, but a town between Edinburgh and Glasgow, we visited: Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh in general, Glasgow City Council Chambers, a tea shop that became a gin palace while we were there, and the Glasgow Necropolis. Dennis Severs’ House seemed like the least I could do, given that our other main excitement was a trip to Borough Market, and a trip to an Albanian restaurant, cancelled because I felt terrible.

We left, not as bright and early as we had wished, and arrived at Dennis Severs’ House to find a queue, which we duly joined.

“I hope they take cards,” Edinburgh Friend mused, and hastily checked the website. “It doesn’t say cash only, we should be fine.”

Reader, we queued for forty-five minutes, and discovered that they did not take cards. Because neither of us knows when to give up, we went, got cash, and came back, and by the time we got in it was two hours since we’d started queueing, and I’d read most of The Death of the Necromancer and started downloading The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen to be on the safe side.

The conceit of Dennis Severs’ House is that you are travelling forwards in time, though the 18th and 19th centuries, in the lives of the Gervais/Jervis family, Huguenot silk weavers and merchants. You start in the cellars, with a small part of masonry from St Mary Spital, and the kitchens, and then ascend up the house, through the years, until you reach the rooms of silk weavers at the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria, and then down again to what I am informed is supposed to be 1914. The house is set up as if the inhabitants have just risen and left, leaving dinner half-eaten, a teacup shattered on the floor, a chair still tipped over after a raucous party. (I notice that, to keep this impression going, the only completely unburnt candles are the unlit ones. The lit candles start off half-burnt. I saw them being changed.) Occasionally you hear voices,  a cat yowling, a baby whimpering, a coal scuttle being clanged.

The motto of the house is ‘you either see it or you don’t’ and, in all honesty, I don’t think I did. Oh, I enjoyed it. I liked the setup, I liked seeing all the items as if in use, I liked making small deductions about the people who lived there, but the chiding notes which effectively scolded you for reading them really got up my nose, and there’s only so many times you can see something compared to the world’s great opera experiences before you start going “Really?” In addition, while the lack of context for what you’re seeing is part of the show, I would have liked a little more. It was a very insular story.

If you read the website and like the sound of it, I recomment that you go. And take cash.

“This Is Not a Novel To Be Tossed Aside Lightly. It Should Be Thrown with Great Force”

We’ve all got them. Things which you read in books that make you want to fling them across the room, preferably while howling “WTF? WTAF?” as your friends and neighbours wonder if you’re actually being murdered this time.

I was reading this particular book on my phone, so instead I’m screaming “WTAF?” at the internet. It’s cheaper.

I’m not really talking about things that throw you out of the flow of the story, though we’ve all got those too. (Mine include improper use of noble titles, especially British ones– Barons and Baronets are different things, their children adopt different styles, and Debrett’s is here for you, which is a thing multiple friends of mine get thrown off by, and an improper understanding of the Quaker attitude to war and killing other people, which as far as I know is just me.)

I’m talking about plotlines where you put the book down going. “You’ve lost me, and my sympathy, and WTAF were you thinking? Were you thinking? WHY DID YOU DO THIS?”

(Content note: the remainder of this post discusses rape, specifically myths about false rape accusations, and sexual harassment.)

Continue reading

I Guess My Corpse Is A Swan Now: A Weird Folk Education

While noodling around on tumblr, I came across I Guess My Corpse Is A Swan Now: A Weird Folk Education, by elodieunderglass. The perfect thing to listen to as you go about your day! Including, such exciting songs as “I Dated A Serial Killer and Then Killed Him” and “An Elfin Knight Kidnapped My Wife, So I Staged This Elaborate Revenge Musical To Get Her Back”.

If anyone wants me, I will be wandering around my house, triumphantly singing that I drowned a guy.

Rules and Manners of Good Society, or, Solecisms to be Avoided

A friend recently linked me to
MANNERS AND RULES
OF
GOOD SOCIETY
OR SOLECISMS TO BE AVOIDED

BY A MEMBER
OF THE ARISTOCRACY

Printed in 1916, though as a revision of the original printing, it looks like an extremely good resource for early twentieth century mores! (Though I can tell you from experience that some of the pronunciations are no longer accurate, though this does explain why people kept pronouncing Cirencester as ‘Cis’ter’. It is no longer said that way.)

Including such vital information as:

Such casual acquaintanceships are, however, attended with certain risks, especially to persons who have been absent from England some little time, or who when in England have entered comparatively but little in society, and who are thus apt to drift unawares into close friendships with people perhaps well bred and agreeable, although tabooed at home for some good and sufficient reason. Contretemps such as these are painful to kind-hearted people when subsequently compelled to avoid and to relinquish the acquaintance of those with whom they have become pleasantly intimate. An introduction to an English resident in either town or city obviates any unpleasantness of this nature, as one so situated is generally kept au courant with all that takes place in society at home.

And

When a prince wishes to dance with any lady present, with whom he is unacquainted, his equerry informs her of the prince’s intention, and conducts her to the prince, saying as he does so, “Mrs. A——, your Royal Highness” or “Miss B——, your Royal Highness.” The prince bows and offers her his arm; the lady should curtsey and take it. She should not address him until addressed by him, it not being considered etiquette to do so. The same course is followed by a princess; strangers to the princess should not ask her to dance, but the host has the privilege of doing so. When more than one royal personage is present, the one of the highest rank leads the way, with either hostess or host.

No doubt this will prove useful should I ever travel back in time. And, of course, for writing.