There were so many superb signs that it was impossible not to spend the three hours of the March smiling – however sad we all felt.


It is nine months since 24 June but instead of the joyous event of a new baby being born we have the tragedy of Theresa May doing something on Wednesday that very few people in the UK actually want her to do. This week on the Post: the best of the placards on Saturday’s March, but first of all, as a reminder of what can be done by those who can’t allow themselves to ignore what’s happening, Zola’s J’Accuse.  (For the confused: the Observer’s leader  – ‘Hard Brexit is an epic act of self harm – only reinforcing rancour and division’ –  is here.)


The focus being on Ravilious’s wood engravings on the Post this week (for there is always the possibility that Tirzah Garwood stepped in to help him and did one or two, we shall never know) which means we have rather ignored the recipes in The Country Life Cookery Book. They are all useful but sometimes curious. Take this recipe for Young Carrot Soup: scrape a pound of young carrots and put them with two onions, a bayleaf and a little salt into two and a half  pints of water. Boil and simmer for three or four hours, then sieve the carrots only into another saucepan and strain the liquid over them. Cook for a little longer, season with pepper and then serve after binding with yolk of egg or a little cream. Three or four hours? Why?


It’s as though all Ambrose Heath ate was asparagus! It is of course the food of the gods (and tremendously healthy and detoxing – for those who are into that kind of thing) but still…. Eric Ravilious took no notice and did his own wonderful image for June – a beehive. But at least asparagus was a seasonal vegetable. As Simon Hopkinson writes in his Preface to The Country Life Cookery Book: ‘Seasonal is simply how it was {in the 1930s}. Those of my parents’ generation, as well as that of Mr Heath, knew nothing else other than, say, the purchase of a pound of leeks from the greengrocer in winter, followed by no leeks at all, all summer long.’


Asparagus was also mentioned in yesterday’s entry, which reminds us 21st century gardeners that a wisteria and an asparagus bed used to be the two vital ingredients for a house and garden. Yet nowadays we feel pretty creative if we put in some daffodil bulbs (and most of us can only dream of having a Sarah Raven type garden: every year we make resolutions and every year they crumble…).


Indeed, hoeing and weeding will be our principal occupations in April: but in our case this will be in the interstices of sending out the new books, Effi Briest and Earth and High Heaven, of which more anon in the Biannually scheduled to arrive around the 20th.


With so much focus on Tirzah Garwood, Eric Ravilious has been slightly overlooked at Persephone Books recently (apart from the greetings cards, which still fly out of the shop). So this week on the Post we are featuring Persephone Book No. 109, The Country Life Cookery Book by Ambrose Heath, which was of course illustrated by Ravilious.


We took a copy of Life in an English Village with us on the Great Bardfield outing since of course it is illustrated by Edward Bawden’s lithographs drawn in the village. There is a piece about the book here which is interesting; however, it says: ‘In the middle-class sitting room of “Sunday Evening” the boredom is palpable. Two women resign themselves to reading while the man smokes his pipe by the hearth. Sporting prints and taxidermy trophies suggest an active life, but the clock reads 5:40 and it looks like it will be a long evening.’ This is entirely a matter of opinion!  To some of us the two women look as though they have stepped straight out of a novel by one of ‘our’ writers. Are they sisters? Is one of them married to the man with the pipe? Is one the village schoolteacher? Surely they are self-conscious (being drawn by Bawden) rather than bored. Well, there may be a new edition of Life in an English Village soon and it will tell us!


While living at Brick House, Edward Bawden illustrated Good Food on the Aga (1933), now Persephone Book No. 45; he used aspects of life going on around him in Great Bardfield, so in a sense the whole book is an illustration of life in the village at the time.

duffy copy

This painting has a strange history. Duffy Ayers, the artist who painted the portrait of Tirzah Garwood that is on the front of the current Biannually, painted herself, or her twin sister, in the 1950s (she was then Duffy Rothenstein). But she threw the painting away (perhaps she was dissatisfied with it) and it was literally rescued from the wastepaper basket by the babysitter, Mrs Perkins. Her son Don Perkins gave it to the Great Bardfield Historical Society in 2011.


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