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Monday, 5 August 2013

Evidence that one's learning can continue even while one is enjoying a weekend's mini-break

Three important lessons learned from a weekend in the Cotswolds.

Lesson 1.  Don't ever say to your horticulturally-minded husband in a botanical garden, 'Hey, look, that lily plant is broken.'  The chances are, despite what he KNOWS about how lily pollen can stain, he will more or less climb INTO the bush to help out the stricken stems.



Fran's husband was regretting only bringing one sweater for the weekend away.


Lesson 2. A book soaked in beer is not as pleasant to read as a book not soaked in beer.

I'm reading 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett for the second time in preparation for teaching it to A level English Lit students in September.  I recommend you read it, although preferably a beer-free version. We were in a lovely Cotswold pub and my husband went off to fetch some drinks.  I got my book out to read it. Then, when he came back, one of us - I won't say who because it'll only embarrass him - oops, too late! - knocked over his glass of beer and it soaked pages 173-279.  These pages are now yellowed and smell of Cotswold Real Ale which is just about as far from 1960s Mississippi as my thighs are from winning any 'Miss Special K of the Year' competitions.  Bourbon or perhaps Jack Daniels would have been more appropriate, although I still prefer pages to smell of pages than of stale alcohol.  But maybe I'm just fussy.

Lesson 3.  If I ever run a bed & breakfast establishment, I am going to put toffees in the rooms.

I was as excited by these free toffees as a flea on a fresh cat.  We were in the Red Room at Staddlestones B & B in Chipping Campden which I can't recommend highly enough - here's the link if you love toffees  - and when I saw the bowl of toffees and fudge I kept saying, 'There are toffees!  Look!  There are toffees!' until my husband suggested I stopped hanging out of the window to yell this at poor unsuspecting passers-by and got my bags unpacked.

There's a Red Room in 'Jane Eyre' where Jane is locked up for a night for 'misbehaving'.  Here's what had happened in there:

Mr. Reed had been dead nine years:  it was in this chamber he
breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne
by the undertaker's men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary
consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion.

... and in a fab example of Gothic overload, this is how Jane begins to feel ... unsurprisingly

Daylight began to forsake the red-room; it was past four o'clock,
and the beclouded afternoon was tending to drear twilight.  I heard
the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, and the
wind howling in the grove behind the hall; I grew by degrees cold as
a stone, and then my courage sank.

The story continues ...

THEN I NOTICED THERE WAS A BOWL 
OF TOFFEES AND I KNEW EVERYTHING WOULD BE OKAY.  I SAT AND 
STUFFED MY FACE AND THOUGHT, 'SOD MRS REED AND HER VILE
SPAWN OF SATAN OFFSPRING.  AS LONG AS I'VE GOT TOFFEES, I COULDN'T CARE LESS
WHO DIED IN HERE OR HOW BECLOUDED THE AFTERNOON IS. NOM NOM
NOM.'




'Mwah hah hah!' thought Charlotte.  'Austen would NEVER have come up with the toffee scene!'



27 comments:

  1. That photo of Dad is brilliant. I love how you left his face out. Was his beard also covered in pollen?!

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    1. No - I dragged him out of the undergrowth just in time.

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  2. Love it, Fran - especially the newly-discovered toffee scene from Jane Eyre!

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    1. Newly discovered? I can't think what you mean! It's been there all the time...

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  3. Jane Eyre with toffees! Why has no one thought of that already? As for the lily stains, they come off with brushing (but it's probably too late?). BTW I do,hate the way some florists circumcise lilies and take away their stamens. Safe, but....unnatural.

    Loved your post.

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    1. Next, Northanger Abbey with Nougat. And, yes, the lily stains did eventually come off with brushing, but it didn't help that I was doubled up with laughter and of no help at all to my poor pollen-bedecked spouse. And I've never heard of circumcised lilies until now. Having one's stamens taken away sounds really painful.

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  4. Haha :) Was the hubbie as excited by the lily as you were by the toffees? I will definitely note down the name of that pub because I'm rather sold on fudge myself. A good laugh as always...

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    1. It was the B & B that had the toffees. Maybe we should go together for a girls' weekend, filled with toffees and fudge and wine.

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  5. I read "The Help" when my wife finished it for her book club. I enjoyed it tremendously.

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    1. It's a debut novel, Stephen, and debut novels as good as that make me want to SPIT!

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  6. As a happily retired teacher I found this post inspirational. All those years of plowing through Macbeth or The Great Gatsby would have been more enjoyable with alcohol fumes wafting up from my text each day.

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    1. You know, I think you're onto something there. How to inspire the modern generation to study Shakespeare?...

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  7. "A book soaked in beer is not as pleasant to read as a book not soaked in beer. . ." but a reader soaked in beer means anything and everything is pleasant. . .

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    1. Ha ha! And I nearly was, too!

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  8. Chipping Camden may never be same... a toffee-crazed, beer-swilling guest of a local B&B launching herself on unsuspecting locals and foreign holidaymakers!
    PS Really looking forward to Northanger Abbey with nougat... :-)

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    1. Toffee-crazed ... because crystal meth is SO last year.

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  9. Beer and books. What's not to like? Just the fumes would make me happy as I waft through the pages.

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    1. And it's alliterative. Even more reason to combine them.

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  10. Now I have been reading your blog for years and I always find it both entertaining and full of comments I have to agree with. But, at long last, I have come across a post I profoundly disagree with in part. I refer, of course, to your Lesson 2. Many a good book has been improved by a rich patina of beer stains and many a boring book has been made more digestible by the alcoholic effects of the staining material. It is not too late to publish a correction. Cheers.

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    1. Just for Alan:

      Recently, we published a blog post in which we included a completely erroneous idea about the effect of spilt beer on books. We would like to apologise. We did of course mean the opposite and therefore the statement should have read 'A book soaked in beer is FAR MORE pleasant to read than a book not soaked in beer.'

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  11. so, you had toffees ?

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    1. You're making it sound like no big deal at all. How can you?

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    2. Knowing my luck I'd pull a filling out !

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  12. That wasn't just beer though , presumably , that was Real Ale .
    Never mind about the book ... think about the waste !

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    1. Ah, now, that's perspective for you....

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  13. Personally I prefer fudge. My fillings are very fond of toffee and (like Bad Penny's) adhere to it rather than to my teeth.

    Now, would a book which had rather too intimate acquaintance with toffee be better or worse than a beery one? Sticky pages or...?

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    1. Yuk. No, beer every time.

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