It’s my sister’s birthday today.
Happy Birthday Susan!
Sending lots of sunny thoughts, love and hugs!
edited by Tracy Chevalier
Why Willows Weep is a collection of nineteen short stories written by well-known contemporary British authors (an impressive list, as you can see on the cover above!). They are all fables, explaining some of the mysteries surrounding our trees. For example, why are crab apples sour, why are lime trees sticky, and why does the horse chestnut bear white candles?
All the trees are native to the UK, and for every book sold, the Woodland Trust (the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity) will plant five native trees.
The book is magical, with a few of the stories really standing out above the others. Yet all are enjoyable. Each story is only a few pages long, and they are all linked by their style – brief and poignant. The simplicity is a gift. There is some beautiful language in there!
Some of my favourites were most definitely “Why Willows Weep”, written by Sally Vickers, “How the Blackthorn Got Its Flowers” by Susan Elderkin, and “How the Oak Tree Came to Life” by Maggie O’Farrell.
If you love words and trees, this will appeal to you… A moving, peaceful and charming read for a rainy Sunday afternoon!
by Ann Cleeves, Seth Godin, Susan Hill and Tom Holland
In the light of government cutbacks in the UK hitting public libraries across the nation, this collection of “short stories” is primarily a fund-raising project for The Reading Agency, a charity that promotes reading, especially among the young.
The stories are mostly recounts of the influence libraries had on these authors’ lives. They are all well-known writers and entertainers who have contributed, such as Stephen Fry, Julian Barnes, Alan Bennett, and Zadie Smith. And they are all united in their support of British libraries.
I must admit I was slightly disappointed that, although most of the writers are able to speak for their younger selves, they have not succeeded in explaining why libraries are so important TODAY. Only few touch on the social side of libraries, and the necessity of well-trained librarians to help us access all the knowledge there is, either in book form or on the internet.
Having said that, this book is a nice read. It’s cosy, very English and reminds me of my childhood experiences of libraries. The chapters are short, so the book can be dipped into at leisure. (Ideal for a Kindle to put in your handbag/pocket). It made me smile and even laugh at times; Stephen Fry is so clever with words, and Lucy Mangan’s rules for her own library are charming! One of my favourite chapters was a short story by Kate Mosse, where a scary mystery is solved! And another was Susan Hills’s story which included her encounter with E.M. Forster in the London Library when he dropped a volume of Elizabethan poetry on her foot – a historic moment she will never forget!
One of my own earliest libraray memories:
I can see myself now, waiting at the roadside for the door of the mobile library van to hiss open like magic. I literally have to climb the HUGE steps into the back of the big brown vehicle. My satchel slung over my shoulder clunks against the door on the way up. It’s mostly adults at our stop, so I am left to my own devices… no instructions where to find anything, but although there is not a great deal of choice for a reader of my age, I still enjoy the rare experience of carrying home one or two books that I have chosen myself. They will be read several times over before they have to be returned…
What are your thoughts on or memories of libraries?
When I found that out, I was so happy to have another excuse to do some baking!
The national day takes place in November every year, to remind people of the great British pudding, and provide an extra opportunity to indulge in it. (For other British Food Days, take a look here)
“A little of what you fancy does you good!”
I have wanted to try this dessert for ages. It is basically apple (guess why it’s called “Eve’s” pudding!) which stews under a simple sponge topping. Most of the apples I used are Boskop, which cook down nicely, but an inventory of my freezer revealed pounds and pounds of blueberries and rhubarb! Not sure about a blueberry-apple combination (has anyone tried it?) I stuck with the rhubarb, but all apples would be fine, and certainly more traditional. I also couldn’t resist straying from tradition and adding a few spices…
Preheat oven to 190°C. Mix fruit, allspice and brown sugar/cinnamon sugar together and place in a buttered ovenproof dish. Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Gently fold in the sieved flour and salt. Spoon batter over the fruit. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown. (Note: in a deep dish it will need longer, maybe 40 minutes or more, even though dark brown on top).
Yummy! Still a bit gooey, just the way I like warm sponge puddings! And so British!
If you want to try some other traditional British puds, take a look at this great site by the UK store Marks & Spencer!
Click here for conversion tables:
Those huge leaves by the stream need further investigation…
Fabulous if you have the space…
A little nearer now…
I’d love to kid you into thinking it’s rhubarb, but you are all far too clever! (It isn’t even related!)
As I get right up close, I can see sharp prickles, fluffy pink stem bases, and… could those green shoots be the flowers?
An amazing herbaceous plant that comes from the southern hemisphere. These have been in this particular garden I visited for many years and have to be kept in check, along with the Bamboo and the Japanese Knotweed! (Japanische Staudenknöterich – Fallopia japonica)
Are there invasive species threatening your garden or local vicinity?