Apple paring machines, perpetual mousetraps, sardine knives and figs! Figs!! Figs!!!

We are so used to everything being available in our shops all the time, or if everything isn’t, then do some on-line shopping and it will be with you in a trice! Occasionally some item – a film, music, special edition game, is announced pre-sale and then everyone is mad to get it, queuing up outside stores, pre-ordering on-line, the excitement building…

Just imagine being in a remote place, where most products manufactured, grown, made elsewhere, have to be brought in. Imagine if the journey to deliver them is perilous – as a retailer you daren’t advertise them in advance in case they get lost, broken, mysteriously vanish,, arrive broken or in a different condition from what you expect, or what arrives isn’t what you ordered.

In 1873, in countries such as Australia and new Zealand, items which couldn’t be made or grown at home, or specific items of a particular make, had to be brought in by ship. My great-great-grandfather had an import/export business in Hobart Tasmania; he would ship out whale products, timber and wool, and import all manner of goods from various other countries in Asia, Europe and North America.

I came across an advertisement from the business of H. Hounsell, Henry Hounsell, general furnishers at 1, Bridge Street Nelson, New Zealand. The Hounsells came from England at some point earlier in the nineteenth century.

In this advertisement, there is great excitement over the newly arrived goods – and what a variety! Many you might expect, guns would be useful for hunting and for protection in those times, furniture too, chairs, beds, and kitchen items (including Nottingham jars!)… but other things, which if you think about it are very necessary – rat and mice traps for the introduced rats and mice brought on ships – maybe even the Echo, which brought Mr Hounsell’s cargo! Sausage-makers, perambulators and figs! And what are kitcheners? I’m guessing they might be free-standing stoves or ovens.

Have a look at what Mr Hounsell proudly advertises:


Hounsell’s Advertisements

ON SALE, at H. HOUNSELL’S, No 1, Bridge-street

JUST OPENED, 2 Cases Superior Single and Double-barrelled GUNS, by Hollis and Sons; quality guaranteed; including a few light Guns for Boys’ or Diggers’ Use, to be SOLD CHEAP.

  • Eley’s Wire Cartridges, all sizes
  • Eley’s Waterproof Gun Caps
  • Eley’s Thick Cloth Gun Wads, in bags
  • Powder and Shot Flasks and Belts
  • Gun Cleaning Rods, Patent Cap Chargers, and a large assortment of Gun Fittings for repairing Guns.
  • Hall and Son’s Glass Gunpowder
  • Hall and Son’s treble F
  • Patent Shot, all sizes
  • Blasting Powder in any quantities, by the single pound or by the keg
  • Single and Double Tape Patent Fuse

including Folding Bedsteads, with lath bottom, NOW ON SALE, in great variety


  • 12 dozen Superior Windsor Wood Seat Chairs
  • 3 dozen children’s Low Chairs, with pans complete
  • 3 dozen Children’s High Chairs, assorted
  • 24 Cane-seat Chairs, in great variety

comprising tall and low-covered Pots, Cream Jars, Bread Pans, Starch Pans, Nottingham Jars and Covers, &c.
1 crate Sets Jugs, well assorted

1 CASK, containing –

  • 6 dozen BM Teapots, splendidly assorted, all sizes
  • Timmin’s Apple Paring Machines
  • Pullinger’s Perpetual Mousetraps
  • BM Chamber Candlesticks
  • Sardine Knives, new patterns
  • Wire Rat-traps

1 CASE containing every description of Household Brushware, Painters’ Brushes and Whitewash Brushes copper-bound, best Wool Mopheads, and Chamois Leathers.


  • 1 Case Round and Oval Tinned Frypans
  • 2 Casks Hollow and Enamelled Ware, including Iron Saucepans, Pots, and Kettles, all sizes; Enamelled Frypans, Gridirons, Washbasins, &c, &c.


  • 1 Cask HOUSE BELLOWS, all sizes, including a few fancy Parlor ditto
  • 6 dozen Tin Prospecting Dishes
  • Avery’s Gold Scales, Blued Fire Guards, and a large assortment of Fenders and. Steel Fireirons

EX ECHO, 3 Dozen Lovelock’s SAUSAGE MACHINES, all sizes

Perambulators! Perambulators!!
Just Opened and Now on. Sale

Just Opened,

  • 2 casks Princess Cut Goblets
  • 2 casks Plain Goblets
  • 1 cask assorted Cut Tumblers and’ Wine Glasses

Kitcheners !! Kitcheners !I!
10 MORE CASES of Flavel’s Patent KITCHENERS, from 3ft. to 4ft. 6in., Now on Sale at lowest remunerative prices.


This advertisement was shared from the collection of The National Library of New Zealand


Do children still play hopscotch? We played it at junior school – there were two versions, chalked onto the playground or road; one was a line of numbered squares, single and then side by side  so you could hop then land with two feet, hop, two feet etc… I think there were ten squares, altogether. My actual memory of the rules are a bit hazy, but I think each player had a stone and would throw it onto a number hop around without stepping on the lines, and pick up the stone on the return… something along those lines (or within those lines I should say!) The other version was circular, like a snail shell, also divided into squares, but with a couple of symbols inserted at random. One symbol meant you had to hop over it, the other meant you could put both feet down. I think when you got to the centre you had to turn round and come back again. If you made it all the way back without falling over or stepping on a line, you put your initials in any square, everyone else then had to jump over, but you could put both feet down.

We did have other games, tig, skipping, some sort of singing game, but hopscotch was my favourite. I mentioned it in a story I was witting, and then couldn’t really properly remember how to play it. Apparently it’s a really old game – at first, before there were paved roads, children would mark the game out in the dirt – scratching or ‘scotching’ the outline. Some things I’ve looked at say it was an ancient British game, going back before the Romans, others say it was actually a Roman game; elsewhere there are claims it began in India or China, or that it is the last vestiges of some labyrinth ritual.

Who knows, who can ever know… my completely instinctive opinion is that children are inventive and love hopping about and balancing, and making up games, and that all over the world children invented similar games. Maybe the outline was based on something else – a pattern they saw, a mosaic, a ritual pathway, whatever, but I think kids made it up!

Where are the walking people?

Although we moved here about sixteen years ago, we’ve been visiting for much longer than that. Ever since we’ve been coming down here we have from time to time seen a couple we call ‘the walking people‘.

There are two of them, a man and a woman, both quite small in stature, quite slim and wearing similar clothes. She has long dark hair (although there may have once been a different woman with him with long brown hair) he has longish wispy hair, once brown now very grey, and he has a beard. In the winter they wear warm anoraks/longish waterproof coats, he in trousers, she usually in a skirt but sometimes trousers, and sturdy shoes (not walking boots). In the summer they wear lighter clothes, usually pale or white, they always wear hats with brims, although sometimes she has hers on the back of her neck. They always have smallish backpacks and sometimes plastic shopping bags.

Although I’ve seen them all over town, and in different areas, I have the feeling they live near here. They are nearly always walking, purposefully, steadily, but not hurrying, walking almost in step with each other, side by side. Quite often he is talking, she listening. Sometimes I’ve seen them in supermarkets, each with a basket, and each pays separately at the tills.

This sounds as if I’m spying on them, I’m not, I just notice them as I drive by. They are out walking at all times of the day, and one night as I came home from somewhere, probably a gig, I noticed them sitting on the bench by the telephone box in the village, just sitting in the dark in the early hours of the morning… it must have been summer because I noticed their light coloured clothes and white hats. I know absolutely nothing about them, apart from seeing them walking.

However, it struck me the other day that I haven’t seen them for ages, in fact I don’t remember when I last saw them, have I even seen them this year?

Have they moved away? Have they stopped walking for some reason? Do they wear different clothes so I no longer notice them?

I’m beginning to feel a little concerned… I hope they’re not ill or unwell…

Where are the walking people?


The first uniform I had to wear was my Brownie tunic and yellow scarf; it was second-hand but I didn’t care I was very excited, and liked to wear something which showed I belonged to a group of others who I liked. Thinking about it, I’m surprised at how much being a Brownie influenced me – not the uniform wearing, I’m not a person to conform these days, but the commitments I made as a little girl to ‘help other people every day’, ‘to do my best, to do my duty’ – and by duty I now understand it to mean to do what I have promised/agreed/undertaken/committed to doing, are actually sound things to try to do.

My next uniform was my secondary school uniform, bottle green skirt and jumper, white shirt, green and blue striped tie, green duffel coat. I never minded wearing this – it was convenient and easy, it made us in many ways equal, and later when I was a mum with children I really liked the fact that they had particular clothes to wear which kept other clothes in good condition, which were easy to wash, easy to organise for busy mornings, and were, to my mind so convenient.

There were other ‘uniforms’ in the loosest way – at the swimming club we had a club costume which we felt proud to wear. it was when Speedos first came in – before that the ideal was to wear a black costume, very plain, just black – we all aspired to have one!  Out club costume was a blue, Cambridge blue colour, and how proud we were to wear them!

When I became a teacher there was always the issue as to whether students should wear uniform or not; the arguments were that it made everyone equal, that children out of school were identifiable, that it would be easier for parents (grants were available to help buy it)

In the news today was a school where the boys, adhering to the uniform, turned up in skirts because long trousers were too hot to wear and shorts weren’t allowed. Good for them!!!

Writing letters

Like many people who were young before the internet arrived, I wrote lots of letters. From being about nine or ten I had penfriends in countries all over the world. Some of my penfriendships were only short-lived, but some continued for years, a friend in Norway, a friend in France who I went to stay with, and then she came to stay over here, a friend in Singapore who I ‘knew’ for nearly twenty years, and also visited. I also had a cousin who lived in Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong and we corresponded all the time she was away – she lives in Norfolk now and we still keep in touch but these days it’s phone and email!

It was obviously a very different world then, everything was slower and took more time, so a question asked in one letter would take maybe a month to have a reply… sometimes I would have replies to things I had obviously been interested in but by the time they came I couldn’t quite remember what I’d been wondering about! I know some people kept copies of letter they sent, I never did that, too many letters to write without doubling up!

I still have lots of correspondents, but these are done through email and social media, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to go back to handwriting – partly because my handwriting is so terrible! However, it’s not just the handwriting, it’s the speed and ease, and the conversational quality you get from the way we keep in touch these days. it is different, I know it is, but I like the way pictures and photos can be so easily attached, links to other things – blogs, recipes, photos, music can be so easily included. Many people can now actually speak to their friends through Skype and other similar clever things.

I lost touch with all my penfriends, except my cousin… some just drifted away as no doubt I might have drifted away from them. Some became involved in other things, marriage, families, national service, careers etc… I moved house a lot when I was doing my degree and maybe they didn’t get my mail, or maybe they moved and I didn’t get their letters with their new address…

I still think about my far away friends and hope their lives are happy and successful – maybe one of them might see my name her and remember me and get in touch!


Postscript… maybe i should write a novel through letters… I used to enjoy reading stories told in this way when i was young… thinks…

Here is my latest publication, my first Radwinter novel now available in paperback:



Last night after an enjoyable but hectic weekend at the end of an extremely busy and tiring (but successful week) we went out for dinner at a local restaurant we hadn’t been to before but had been highly recommended, called Panache. It’s what is generically called an ‘Indian’ restaurant but in actual fact it is Bangladeshi; we were welcomed in by friendly staff, shown to our table and then the difficulty began – what to choose from the varied and delicious sounding menu! So many tempting things on offer! Because we were in on a Sunday night, we were able to take advantage of a special offer menu for a set price – although it’s less extensive than the everyday menu, there was a great choice of wonderful meals (we’ve been told they are wonderful by people who visit often!

I love very hot, very spicy food – but I don’t like hot for the sake of hot – it has to add to the whole dish! In the end after much contemplation, I chose something I’d not had or heard of before, lamb hara, described as ‘cooked in a medium hot sauce with whole spices and a touch of tamarind, garnished with coriander’. It was really good – maybe not as spicy hot as I usually have, but the balance of flavours was perfect. If I had one little criticism, for my taste it was a little sweet – but that is just me! We all enjoyed our meal and the staff were wonderful, the setting lovely, a perfect evening!

I got to thinking about the word ‘panache’… synonyms of which include –

flamboyant confidence, flamboyance, confidence, self-assurance, style, stylishness, flair, elan, dash, flourish, verve, zest, spirit, brio, éclat, vivacity, vigour, gusto, animation, liveliness, vitality, enthusiasm, energy

…and began to wonder where it came from… French maybe, maybe originally from latin… I looked it up, visited my favourite on-line etymological site

and found this:

from the 1550s, “a tuft or plume of feathers,” from Middle French pennache “tuft of feathers,” from Italian pennaccio, from Late Latin pinnaculum “small wing, gable, peak”. Figurative sense of “display, swagger” first recorded 1898, in a translation of “Cyrano de Bergerac”, from French.

The play ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’, was written in verse in 1897 by Edmond Rostand, based on the real life Cyrano; it’s been translated and performed many, many times, and it was what brought ‘panache’ into common use in English. The real  Cyrano de Bergerac  born March 1619 and dying young in July 1655, was Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, a French novelist, playwright, man of letters and a duelist.

Cars… cars… cars…

I’ve been able to drive since i was seventeen, I had my first car when I was twenty, and have driven and loved driving all my life. I’m sure it’s the same for most people, but these days the amount of traffic on the roads is horrific…

I can’t offer any solution, public transport isn’t always convenient – it has just taken my daughter four and a half hours by train to do a journey which would have taken two and a half hours to drive… plus walking from station to home at the end.. In theory I am in support of using public transport, but in practice… well, usually I just get in the car.

However, the amount of traffic, as I said… We took our daughter to Bristol to catch her train and because it has been a very sunny and lovely day, our little seaside town has been full of happy jolly visitors – plus it was also the airshow, which attracts even more people! We left to catch the train very early – but not early enough, and we coincided with the beginning of the rush to leave the town. It took us three-quarters of an hour to  do about four miles (what should have taken eight minutes) … luckily our daughter caught her train. (It was delayed for some reason too, so she arrived home an hour after she should have done so public transport is also not always perfect.

We got home in less than three-quarters of an hour – not speeding, keeping to the limit, but the roads going home were pretty empty. However, once we hit the junction of the road leaving town and the motorway, for the poor folk going in the opposite direction… what a nightmare. The four miles it had taken us on our outward journey was chock-a-block with stationary traffic. The cars were stopped, engines off, drivers, standing in the road. I cannot imagine how long it took them – for all I know they are still there now, poor people.

It was an exceptionable situation I know, thousands upon thousands of people coming to our town and all wanting to leave at the same time… I can’t imagine what could have been done to make it easier – park and ride? Free transport from nearby towns? I have no idea…