Invalid Cooking: The Doctor in the Kitchen

I’ve written before about a cookery writer and radio personality, Mrs Arthur Webb who toured the country meeting housewives form across Britain, giving advice on cooking and collecting their recipes too, traditional old recipes, maybe hundreds of years old.

Let me share her story again:

Mrs Arthur Webb was a cookery writer from the 1930’s and 40’s; ‘Preserving’, ‘Farmhouse Cookery’, ‘War-time Cookery’, ‘Invalid Cooking: The Doctor in the Kitchen’ and ‘Mrs Arthur Webb’s Economical Cooking’ are some of her books. Mrs Arthur Webb (who never used her own first name) toured the country in her car in the 1930’s, writing columns for ‘Farmer’s Weekly’.  At this time she also had a radio slot to give cookery talks, for example, ” Meat from Stove to Table ‘ by Mrs. Arthur Webb: ‘ Pot Roasts ”

There are so many healthy eating books around at the moment, so many suggesting that many ills can be ‘cured’ by eating the right food prepared in the right way, some people might think this a new idea. Mrs Arthur Webb was a head of the game with her ‘Invalid Cooking’ : “Food properly prepared and given to the invalid in the right quantities at the right time is of vital importance to build up strength and put the invalid on the road to health.”  She understood how importance appearance was to tempt the appetite, attractive presentation, including the dishes on which the food was offered; she also was very firm in promoting scrupulous hygiene in the kitchen and the home. her recipes included the good old standbys of Victorian cooking for invalids, beef tea, jelly, broth, fish, vegetable and ‘restorative cordials’.

During the war, like many cookery writers, Mrs Arthur Webb had advice on how to be economical and cope with rationing; she suggested using a pressure cooker or three-tiered streamer to cook several things at the same time and so save fuel. Vegetables, meat and a pudding could all be cooked at once, and even a cake could be steamed; covered in a double layer of grease-proof paper, tied securely and steamed for one hour per pound of mixture was her instruction.

Apparently in the 1940’s the BBC were finding people who could speak on the radio, such as Alistair Cook and Sir Malcolm Sergeant; of Mrs Arthur Webb, a BBC official said that ‘once she would start talking without notes, have to be stopped with a hammer’!

Here is an interesting post which mentions Mrs Arthur Webb, and gives a delicious recipe too:

Stopping at a station

I had a great weekend – I caught up with my oldest and closest friend, Andrew Simpson; we met rather a long time ago, when we were in our first year doing a degree at the College of Knowledge as the College of Commerce, part of Manchester Polytechnic was called.

As usual Andrew and I didn’t stop talking, subjects ranging over just about everything especially about our writing; we are both published authors, and writing is our life! We also talked about how things have changed – all sorts of things in all sorts of ways, since we first met. Andrew had a great idea for a blog post, or an autobiography ‘How Far We Have Travelled’. It’s not just our own personal circumstances which have changed several times in the course of our friendship, the world has changed too. We often say, rather wistfully, that when we were at the Poly doing our degrees, despite the impoverished circumstances and to be frank insalubrious living conditions, we actually lived in a golden age. We don’t mean that we wished things hadn’t changed – we don’t! Good grief, if anyone could revisit the attic ‘flat’ I shared at the top of an old vermin-infested Victorian house when I was a student, and then compare it to the halls or residence my children lived in when they were doing their degrees, no-one would wish to reverse the progress which has been made in so many ways!

Our journey is not just our lives, and our personal lives and our circumstances, our wonderful partners and children, it’s the station where our life train has pulled into at the moment, I guess it could be called the writing station! Both of us write blogs as well as our books, both of us observe, reflect, record. I write from my imagination, Andrew writes imaginatively but using historical facts and materials.

If I could just go back to myself at eighteen or nineteen, and look forward to the future, it would seem like a dream come true to be where I am now – how far I have travelled, how far indeed!

Here is a link to Andrew’s piece, ‘How Far We Have Travelled’:

… and here is a link to his books which I recommend you read if you haven’;t already:

… and to my books:

Infographics, charts and graphs… a challenge for the 73

I am a bit obsessed by the list of 73 that a friend and I found; my friend and I share a blog and he came across a list of seventy-three suggestions of different sorts of blogs you could write… and we ended up having a bit of a challenge. Yesterday I wrote about listicicles, and as I am working my way through the list in order (which is random and as the creator thought of it I think), the list which in itself is a listicle… but that is a different blog, a yesterday’s blog.

Today I am looking at infographics. I think this is just a catch-all word for lists, graphs, charts, pictures, diagrams, etc which offers information visually rather than through words, or just words. ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’  is a well-known saying – and yes, to a certain extent it is, but not always. A picture can show you a beautiful scene, but words can enhance the scene with descriptions of aspects of it such as the scents and perfumes of a place, the particular and maybe unique sounds you can hear,  the feel of the wind or the sun, and also an explanation of certain features – geographical or historical that you might see in the image.  I guess as a writer and word person (wordsmith is too pretentious!!) I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Advertisements are a really good example of images giving over a message rather than a lot of words – some adverts have virtually no words, or just a simple catch-phrase. However, thinking beyond images, and thinking of diagrams and charts and other visual representation of information, the best ones are brilliant – the worst ones makes my heart sink… When information is to do with numbers, it is much easier to understand to see a bar graph or a line graph than have it all written out. One of my interests is names and how they change and go in and out of fashion; for example, I looked up how my own name, Lois has gone in and out of fashion. Lois is in the Bible, she was St Timothy’s grandma, so maybe it has been associated with old ladies; it has never been a really popular name, rising in numbers from the 1850’s, peaking in the 1920’s and 30’s, before dropping away to almost none as the century ran out. I looked at a coloured graph to show me this; it was easy to see at a glance, and if I wanted more specifics, then the basics were there – in the 1030’s, Lois was the 21st most popular name!

In science and maths, commerce and industry, infographics are vital; some information would be very difficult to put over in any other way! I guess I have neatly demonstrated that I know little about this side of knowledge by the fact that I’ve written a couple of paragraphs above about visual images, just touching briefly on graphs, and by the fact that I am about to quote a quote from Wikipedia:

‘In his 1983 “landmark book” The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte defines “graphical displays” in the following passage:

Graphical displays should

  • show the data
  • induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than about methodology, graphic design, the technology of graphic production, or something else
  • avoid distorting what the data have to say
  • present many numbers in a small space
  • make large data sets coherent
  • encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data
  • reveal the data at several levels of detail, from a broad overview to the fine structure
  • serve a reasonably clear purpose: description, exploration, tabulation, or decoration
  • be closely integrated with the statistical and verbal descriptions of a data set.

Graphics reveal data. Indeed graphics can be more precise and revealing than conventional statistical computations.’

I think that sums it up really!

Here is a link to my novels:

… and to my piece on listicles:


The 73 blogs… dare I mention listicles?

A friend and I drifted into a challenge to write 73 different types of blog from an article we read about blogging… Article… a word ending in ‘icle‘… I tried to find the origin of this suffix, ‘-icle‘, and it comes from Latin, and usually means a small part of something as in particle, of course.

The reason I have deviated to find out about ‘-icle‘ is that one of the 73 suggestions for blogs is ‘Listicles’ – which I had never come across at all. I guessed maybe it meant lists, and yes it does, so why listicles?  Listicle is a portmanteau word from ‘list article‘; I investigated and found that a listicle is something which appears in a blog or in an article which itself revolves round the list. Usually the list is numbered, and often the article is headlined with such titles as ‘25 things you never knew about...’ or ‘17 foods you should never eat if… ‘ or ‘The world’s 25 most…‘. I confess that I’ve looked at some of these (without realising they were listicles) usually because I have thought they might be interesting or relevant; however it seems to me, and I don’t want to be rude about anyone who has written these things or who reads them, most of them seem ‘off the top of your head’ style of journalism; a few Wikipedia researched facts, fluffed up with a few generalisations and a lot more totally random things which seem to be totally imagined by the writer. For a list of the world’s most famous/beautiful/ /interesting/ healthy/happy whatevers I get the feeling that they are whatever or whoever the writer likes best or least! There are other listicles which are photos, probably just trawled off Google images, of the wackiest/weirdest/ugliest people or places or homes or occupations or fashions or dogs…

There is an excellent listicle here by Steven Poole:

People like lists, that’s for sure, and having read about them now, I find I am guilty of including listicles – or lists as I prefer to call them in some of my blogs here.  A list can be a way of writing a blog or article from nothing very much – I guess students doing homework love them because you can fill a whole page, and they look neat and important! A list can be a lazy way of writing too – not much to say? Include a list!

The original article about 73 blogs says this about listicles: ‘Who doesn’t love lists right? List articles are always among the most shared on the internet. You can create a list of just about anything.’

I guess I had better include a list… so here is a list of the books on the ‘language’ shelf of one of my bookshelves:

  • The Rough Guide to Iceland
  • Complete Icelandic and –
  • – Complete Icelandic  CDs
  • Teach Yourself Icelandic
  • The Little Book of Icelanders – Alda Sigmundsdóttir
  • New Junior Latin Course
  • Teach Yourself Ukrainian
  • The Good Jewish Home – Emily Haft Bloom
  • Chineasy – flashcards – Shaolan
  • Pocket Guide to Iceland
  • Westfjords of Iceland
  • North Iceland – the Official Tourist Guide
  • Langenscheidt Universal Dutch Dicitonry
  • The Dhammapada – The Sayings of the Buddha
  • Spell It Out – David Crystal
  • A User-Friendly Dictionary of Old English
  • A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse – Richard Hamer
  • Wordcraft – New English to Old English Dictionary and Thesaurus – S. Pollington
  • Living French – T.W. Knight
  • Harrap’s French Grammar revision Mille et un Points – Neil Creighton
  • Forgotten Places of the North Coast –  J.D.C. Marshall
  • Dalraida – A Guide Around the Celtic Kingdom –  J.D.C. Marshall
  • Heath’s Modern French Grammar
  • English-Irish Dictionary – Tomás de Bhaldraithe
  • So You Want To Write – Lois Elsden
  • The Geology and Fossils of Bracklesham and Selsey – David Bone
  • Bognor’s Rocks – David Bone
  • Man-o’-War Rhymes – Burt Franklin Jenness
  • The Chrysalids – John Wyndham

I mentioned the Wikipedia article – it is very interesting:

Lost and forgotten, now found

Last night I was looking though the different posts I have written here over the five or so years I have been writing, and I came across something I had completely forgotten I had written.  I had so completely forgotten it, that I felt as if i was reading something written by someone else!  I found it interesting… and because it was such a long time since I had originally published it, that I shared it again, and if you missed it, here is a link:

The idea in this piece was that we see things vividly but we don’t always see what is going on beneath the surface –  in actual things such as the weedy pond in my little story, but in many other aspects of life.

As a writer I am doing this all the time – I am presenting scenes and characters, but hiding certain aspects which I later reveal which may inform or explain more about the characters or their actions. Sometimes it is done for dramatic effect, sometimes because that’s the way life is!

In the present story I am writing, there is the main action on the surface; Thomas and his wife and their five children lead a very busy life, as you can imagine. On the surface all is well, and from the outside – from the point of view of other characters in the fiction, and my readers in reality, although busy, they are all successful and happy. As the writer, I can let the reader peep beneath the surface; one of the children, a niece now adopted, had a very troubled past – she seems a happy and  confident child but she has nightmares and disturbed sleep. Thomas himself, exuberant, confident, cheerful, ‘bumptious’ his wife calls him, is still haunted by his own childhood and full of fear that his present happiness might be snatched away. He is secretly anxious most of the time, about his family, about their finances, about aspects of his work, about whether his beautiful wife will become fed up with him…

As I mentioned, I had completely forgotten I had written the story about the pool, covered with duckweed, wavytail weed and watermeal, but here it is, here on my blog; Thomas may have forgotten about his past, but it still lurks within!

here is a link to my paperbacks and e-books:

… and to my Thomas stories:

PS duckweed and watermeal can be found on ponds and rivers… I made up wavytail!

A pool in a park

This is something I wrote several years ago…

I came across this photo I took a long time ago, maybe ten years ago. It shoes a pool in a park and floating on the surface is a scum of duckweed. You can just make out pale orange blobs of goldfish swimming around, but you can also see the reflection of clouds, sky, and bare trees – autumn trees, winter trees or spring trees, I don’t know, I can’t remember when I took the photo.

I’m playing around with a story at the moment, one I wrote some time ago, and in it there is a mystery. There is what is obviously true… a bit like the actual pool and the actual water. Then there is the duckweed, or is it pondweed? It could be algae or it could be something called watermeal or something called wavytail weed… Then in the story there are things happening beneath the surface, like the goldfish and koi carp, you know they are there but you can’t make them out very clearly and don’t know what size they are or how many of them are swimming around. Then there are the different aspects of the story which are viewed from different perspectives or from characters reporting what they have seen/done/said… rather like the oak trees and sky and clouds you can see.

But this picture isn’t real… it’s a photo of a real thing… but that real thing isn’t there any more in the way it is there in the picture; the fish will have got bigger or may have died – eaten by herons maybe, the trees have changed shape, some have lost branches because they have fallen off in gales or been cut of by park workers, or maybe the trees have been cut down. Those clouds have gone… they are ephemeral and can only be captured in paint or in photographs.

But this isn’t a photo, it’s an image I have copied and put onto this page, but this isn’t an actual page like a paper page in a book…

Maybe I didn’t even take this picture, maybe it is some random image I’ve found on Google images… maybe I’m making it all up about the pond and the park…

Actually I did take this photo, I took it on November 4th at 15:21 in Grove Park, Weston-super-Mare… but there is no such thing as wavytail weed, the trees are sycamore not oak and there are no koi carp in the pond and have never been.

Where late the sweet birds sang

This must be the best reflection on autumn, life and love:

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

William Shakespeare