Books we love as children can date and grow out of kilter with our modern mores and beliefs – we still enjoy them, albeit with a more knowing heart and mind. We haven’t checked the Law of Books as to what delineates a classic as of late but these are some of our candidates- both niche and mainstream, for kids which feature fulsome or whimsical descriptions of food in their pages. Some are based around food and others use it to enhance the narrative or as a theme or metaphor but they are all compelling and have stood the test of time, ready to be rediscovered by each new generation of children.
The moral of this story is “Be careful what you wish for.” Frances loves bread and jam so much she wants to eat it every day. Frances is a fussy eater too. She won’t touch her squishy soft-boiled egg. She trades away her chicken salad sandwich at lunch. She turns up her nose at boring veal cutlets. Unless Mother can come up with a plan, Frances just might go on eating bread and jam forever! Mum Badger in her infinite parental wisdom knows the best way to deal with this is to let Frances learn that some things are made less special by over familiarity. Adventures with food and fussy eating is addressed with a light non moralising hand as Frances learns to try new things to eat and more importantly, works this out for herself. Richly descriptive in word and illustration, Hoban creates a prose masterpiece about a childhood life experience.
“Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not in a house. Not with a mouse. I would not eat them here or there. I would not eat them anywhere. I would not eat green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am”
(From Green Eggs and Ham by Doctor Seuss)
Do you like green eggs and ham?” asks Sam-I-am and Sam keeps asking persistently (like very young child we have ever met). With distinctive characters and unmistakable rhymes, Dr. Seuss’s beloved books have earned a place in the cannon of children’s classics. Growing cumulatively longer and longer, the list of places to enjoy green eggs and ham, and friends to enjoy them with, grows. Follow Sam-I-am as he insists that this unusual treat is indeed a delectable snack to be savored everywhere and in every way then cook Nigella’s famous riff on the meal- Green Eggs and Ham.
“The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable.”
This description of Turkish Delight by CS Lewis in the ‘Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is the one that tantalised, confused and ultimately disappointed me the most when I finally got to try it for myself. Bouncy, jellified and perfumed, the texture and taste of Turkish Delight was so far removed from the candy of my imagination that to this day I wonder if CS Lewis actually muddled it with some other, lovelier candy. The magical description allied itself with a magical world during my childhood- a time when I so very desperately needed to be taken out of my own unloving and bleak home and my disappointment after trying Turkish Delight for the first time was bitter indeed.
Once upon a time there was a town called Chewandswallow, devoid of grocery stores. Food is provided by the weather and comes three times a day. It snows mashed potatoes, has split pea soup fog, and rains orange juice. It begins to storm and flood making the food become giant. This forces residents to build boats made out of bread and sail away in search of a safer place. Imagine super sized donuts rolling down the streets and wondering if a pancake could really be bigger than a house? It’s a great story that opens up questions about the weather and how fun the imagination can be, facilitating mind bending feats of creative thought. Read this with your children, get them drawing their own imaginary foods then click here for some surreal Cloudy inspired recipes to make with them.
Matron: “You are suffering from Midnight Feast Illness! Aha! You needn’t pretend to me! If you will feast on pork-pies and sardines, chocolate and ginger-beer in the middle of the night, you can expect a dose of medicine from me the next day.” (From the Malory Towers series of books)
One of my very favourite things to read as a child was any of the Enid Blyton boarding school tales from the cliff top Malory Towers to the less striking St Claires, attended by the O’Sullivan twins. Despite being set around the time that war would have resulted in serious privation, we are kept insulated from the vagaries of this and other historical event- indeed Clive of India was one of the only historical figures I recall being mentioned (as the groan-worthy subject of revision). Despite the broadest of plot and character brushstrokes, I still read them as an adult. As Jane Brocket writes in ‘Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer’, a Proustian revisiting of the world of food in children’s literature with its recreations of famous meals and recipes, Blyton is especially gifted at depicting amazing scenes of food. Consider that these books were written during a time of rationing, surely Blyton must have been gripped by the throes of wish fulfilment as she wrote? Either that or she had great contacts in the world of black-market foodstuffs.
Think of the writing skill it takes to make sardines pressed into slices of ginger cake sound tempting. That is what some of the girls ate during one midnight feast, as they sat by a cliff-top swimming pool carved from Cornish cliffs wearing tennis shoes and sturdy utilitarian flannel and wool dressing gowns. Then there were the unctuous sounding match tea ‘Jammy Buns’ to celebrate their Malory Towers fifth form Lacrosse win. So much more desirable than their Greggs equivalent! We read the account of the midnight feast in a St Clare music room where Isobel and Pat fry mini-sausages on a purloined camping stove and rail against the sneakiness of Erica who subsequently ratted then out to their schoolmistress. To this day I can smell those sausages…and I don’t even like them. Even the description of Elizabeth’s peppermint creams in ‘The Naughtiest Girl in the School’ books made me long to try what are actually pretty average tasting candies.
In fact this love of celebrating the food in children’s books from an adult perspective leads me onto my next book discovery, the ‘Little House Cookbook’ by Barbara Mi Walker who discovered the “Little House” series when her daughter, Anna, was four. Eight further years of intermittent reading, writing, and testing produced The Little House Cookbook, a lovingly detailed exploration of just about every foodstuff mentioned in the entire series, including the appetites of the seemingly gluttonous Almanzo- Laura’s future husband.
The authors bibliography is four and a half pages long and in each chapter, she locates recipes within their historical context and explains every ingredient. Did you know that at in Laura Ingalls’s day, the tomatoes available were not sweet in the manner that they are now? There were no chemical raising agents (egg whites would be stiffly beaten and ipes to the modern day kitchen.
Take the recipe for Stewed Jack rabbit with Dumplings, “If you can’t find a hunter to give you a skinned rabbit (he will want the pelt), look for a farm-raised rabbit at a German butcher shop. (Hasenpfeffer is a favorite German dish).” There is the Mittel European influence upon American migrant cooking right there.
Horehound candy, vinegar pie, parched corn and Johnny Cakes; fried apples ‘n onions, (the favourite birthday treat of Almanzo); green tomatoes or pumpkins were used for pie when apples were not available. They ate Vanity cakes at a Plum Creek birthday, the cakes’ puffed up emptiness serving as analogy for the hated Nellie Olsen and savoured salt-pork melting into pans of baked beans: even the loaves made from wheat hand-ground in a little coffee grinder during the blizzard racked Long Winter are researched and written about. I was obsessed with trying Wintergreen Berries, something that Almanzo (again!) and his sister Alice went ‘pawing for’ on the snow-frozen slopes of New York State where their father had a prosperous farm. The description of crunchy berries gushing aromatic icy juices into their mouths was more than I could bear. The fact that I live in an area with chalky alkaline soil, ill suited to growing the plant that bears these berries, Gaultheria procumbens is a further torture.
I have never drunk tea and detest milk but I got my grandmother to make me a Cambric tea just like little Grace drank- basically hot water flavoured with milk and a smidgeon of tea, so comforting during the cold and a hint of just how poor the family often were. I basically spent my childhood pretending to be Laura and named my first born after her too. “At noon Ma sliced bread and filled bowls with the hot bean broth and they all ate where they were, close to the stove. They all drank cups of strong, hot tea. Ma even gave Grace a cup of cambric tea. Cambric tea was hot water and milk, with only a taste of tea in it, but little girls felt grown-up when their mothers let them drink cambric tea”. (The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder).
Another fantasy figure from my childhood (I begged for a hay filled mattress that would smell clean and sweet), Heidi lived the kind of simple life that even as a young child, I recognised as something of an unattainable fantasy. The contrast between this unctuous piece of cheese on toast and the hard rolls with the knot on top served at the formal dinners in Clara’s frigid and cold city home was painful to me. The author, Johanna Spyri was actually a resident of Zürich and thought of the story of the simple Alpine girl while she was convalescing from an illness in the Grisons, which is in the eastern part of the country and a biographical parallel with Clara’s illness:
“Meanwhile the old man held a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork over the fire, turning it round and round till it was toasted a nice golden yellow color on each side … the old man filled her bowl again to the brim and set it before the child, who was now hungrily beginning her bread having first spread it with the cheese, which after being toasted was soft as butter” (from ‘Heidi’ by Johanna Spyri)
Finding out what type of cheese this was turned out to be no easy task when you consider that goats cheese was actually not eaten that often in Switzerland then, even though Uncle Alp was a goat farmer who made cheese from his own animals. Cheese toasting over a fire was not restricted to people living in huts on the side of an Alpine mountain though; this method using toasting forks was also written about by Enid Blyton and by Robert Louis Stevenson in ‘Treasure Island’ but none comes close to Spyri’s description. It is THE uber cheese on toast but unlike Proust I have yet to rediscover my Heidi Temps Perdu. I Still don’t know what type of cheese it was although Raclette is the likeliest candidate, being an excellent melting cheese.
As a young girl I read and re-read Susan Coolidge’s ‘What Katy Did’ series of books and was intrigued by the bottle of shrub they took to drink on one of their rainy day picnics in the loft at the very start of the book. Although Cece later admitted that the ‘Shrub’ was little more than vinegar and water, I was determined to both try it and enjoy it <shudder> and took a glass of what we had, Sarsons, mixed with tap water down to the orchard at the bottom of my grandparents garden and tentatively forced myself to drink it. Illusions firmly shattered and deciding that American vinegar was clearly superior to ours (or they had the stomach and constitution of goats) I shelved any ideas about this becoming my new go to summer refreshment.
Until the latest post from the Bojon Gourmet landed in my in box that is. One of my favourite food writing bloggers from San Francisco, her Shrub recipe has about as much in common with my (and Cece’s) version as the saintly and slightly sanctimonious Cousin Helen from the books had with Mae West. Lavender, Kumquat, honey and apple cider vinegar all add a mellifluous depth that cancels out any tendency towards the tongue-sucking rasp of vinegar. The colour is amazing, the floral and citrus sophisticated enough for parties. Go on, try it. Even Katie would have been made good by this drink and would thus have avoided the back injury this, in part, morality tale visited upon her to show us what happens to naughty girls.
The ‘What Katy Did’ series are liberally scattered with references to food and to the occasions surrounding it. Here is the picnic in their version of Paradise where they built a rose bower to eat under;
“Katy, who sat in the middle, untied and lifted the lid of the largest basket, while all the rest peeped eagerly to see what was inside.First came a great many ginger cakes. These were carefully laid on the grass to keep till wanted; buttered biscuit came next – three a piece, with slices of cold lamb laid in between; and last of all were a dozen hard-boiled eggs, and a layer of thick bread and butter sandwiched with corned-beef. Aunt Izzie had put up lunches for Paradise before, you see, and knew pretty well what to expect in the way of appetite.Oh, how good everything tasted in that bower, with the fresh wind rustling the poplar leaves, sunshine and sweet wood-smells about them, and birds singing overhead! No grown-up dinner party ever had half so much fun. Each mouthful was a pleasure; and when the last crumb had vanished, Katy produced the second basket, and there, oh, delightful surprise! were seven little pies – molasses pies, baked in saucers – each with a brown top and crisp, candified edge, which tasted like toffy and lemon-peel, and all sorts of good things mixed up together”
And who recalls Debbie’s Jumbles sent in the boarding school Christmas hamper to end all hampers? I found the books faintly torturous; even the ‘thick pale slices of pudding with a thin sugary sauce’ served by the new headteacher on one of her weird food fad regimes for school lunch tempted me. What on earth was this pudding?
Katy’s trip to Europe with its ill fated expeditions to various locations associated with her favourite novels had her gravely disillusioned with our food, showing particular distaste for some disagreeable flannel blanket-textured muffins, which she described as ‘scorched and tough’. Little pan fried fish reminiscent of what she called ‘Scup’, commonly known now as ‘Porgy’ with its fine light flavour, and a light gooseberry preserve both met with her approval in what she called ‘Storybook England’.
An old, little known book, ‘Girl of the Limberlost’ by Gene Stratton Porter, is a story of a girl of the mid western woods; a buoyant, loveable self-reliant American with a philosophy of love and kindness towards all things; her hope is never dimmed. The story and romance of Elnora growing up in the wetlands of northern Indiana is also a cautionary tale for ecology-lovers.
Gene Stratton-Porter paints a picture of coming industry destroying nature and those who try to save what can be saved for future generations. My sigh of relief when Elenora’s mother turned her life around and started acting like a good mother as opposed to her original not so good one, was immense and of course that meant that food = love with glorious descriptions of the goodies placed in Elnora’s lunchbox- spice cookies, raisin turtles, candied pears, popcorn balls, haws, doughnuts, and hazelnuts to share with friends or feast on alone.
Turtles brand candy were developed by Johnson’s Candy Company (which became DeMet’s Candy Company in 1923) in 1918, after a salesman came into the commissary’s dipping room and showed a candy to one of the dippers, who pointed out that the candy looked like a turtle. Soon after, Johnson’s Candy Company was making the same kind of candy and selling it under the name “Turtles.” Commonly made in the American South, they are now a classic of the candymaker- as a child without the internet to do my research, my mind ran in ignorant riot over their name. You can imagine what I thought they were made from.
Less a children’s book and more of a book that I read as a child, ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn‘ by Betty Smith beat Jamie Oliver to the post regarding the mythologizing of Cuisina Povera with its delicious description of mother figure Katie Nolan’s pitiful attempts to make a bone with scraps of meat on it, an onion and some stale bread into what she called Frikadellen.
Frying scraps of stale bread, sending the children to cajole that bone from a butcher who would give them the one with the most meat attached (in exchange for a ‘pinch on their cheeks’), making nothing stretch to something because of her marriage to a charming yet feckless Irish singing waiter, Katie is a true heroine. Jack Monroe and her campaign against food poverty with a blog offering inexpensive ways to feed a family,comes to mind when I read this book and as an adult, fully cognizant of the hardships faced by many families, it makes me weep. Read this and see what I am referring to:
“The Nolans practically lived on that stale bread and what amazing things Katie could make from it! She’d take a loaf of stale bread, pour boiling water over it, work it up into a paste, flavor it with salt, pepper, thyme, minced onion and an egg (if eggs were cheap), and bake it in the oven. When it was good and brown, she made a sauce from half a cup of ketchup, two cups of boiling water, seasoning, a dash of strong coffee, thickened it with flour and poured it over the baked stuff. It was good, hot, tasty and staying. What was left over was sliced thin the next day and fried in hot bacon fat.
“Mama made a very fine bread pudding from slices of stale bread, sugar, cinnamon and a penny apple sliced thin. When this was baked brown, sugar was melted and poured over the top. Sometimes she made what she had named Weg Geschnissen, which laboriously translated meant something made with bread bits that usually would be thrown away. Bits of bread were dipped into a batter made from flour, water, salt and an egg and then fried in deep hot fat. While they were frying, Francie ran down to the candy store and bought a penny’s worth of brown rock candy. This was crushed with a rolling pin and sprinkled on top of the fried bits just before eating. The crystals didn’t quite melt and that made it wonderful.
“Saturday supper was a red letter meal. The Nolans had fried meat! A loaf of stale bread was made into pulp with hot water and mixed with a dime’s worth of chopped meat into which an onion had been cleavered. Salt and a penny’s worth of minced parsley were added for flavor. This was made up into little balls, fried and served with hot ketchup. These meat balls had a name, fricadellen, which was a great joke with Francie and Neeley.
“They lived mostly on these things made from stale bread, and condensed milk and coffee, onions, potatoes, and always the penny’s worth of something bought at the last minute, added for fillip”
The most memorable banquets aren’t necessarily the most palatable or convivial: take the very adult Oscar Wildes black banquet in ‘Portrait of Dorian Gray’ with charcoal pathways, basalt-edged ponds and baskets of purple-black violets adorning the black-clothed table. Feasting on dark olives and Russian rye bread, slices of black puddings turgid with clotted blood shipped over from Frankfurt and wild game served in puddles of liquorice-dark sauces, the guests wore black and ate off black-edged flatware whilst mourning the passing of the protagonist’s sexual potency. Not one for children although the pepper laden meal that Cruella De Vil invites the dogs owners the Dearlys. to is just as forboding and sinister. Taking place in a Dalmatian-inspired room with its black marble walls and white marble table, reminiscent of a sarcophagus or grand tomb, Dodie Smith tells us:
‘The soup was dark purple. And what did it taste of?
Pepper! The fish was bright green. And what did it taste of? Pepper! The meat was pale blue. And what did that taste of? Pepper! Everything tasted of pepper, even the ice cream – which was black. (The Hundred and One Dalmatians)
The meal become entrenched in our minds eye in a far more potent manner as it takes the staff of life- food, and marries it with death in that tomb -like room.
Perfect little local mouthfuls these. Scented with East Anglian Lavender and flavoured with local honey, the two ingredients in these macarons go together perfectly, giving you a plate of the prettiest little cakes. So pretty you will want to name them and take them home as pets.
A light hand with the lavender is needed so you don’t end up with something reminiscent of Miss Havisham’s knicker drawer and don’t worry about a few cracks or imperfections- their charm is in that homespun look. They are a lovely match for afternoon or high tea, weddings and christenings or kids birthdays- children do love these because little children love little food! Can you imagine how great these would look in an Alice in Wonderland themed tea party too?
Should you wish to explore the wonders of local Lavender some more, we can highly recommend a visit to Norfolk Lavender, near Heacham with its patchworked fields of blue, children’s playground and cafe for visitors.
This recipe is by Adam Coleby and Laura Wheeler @purpleted_88
To make the macarons– 110g egg white / 55g caster sugar / Natural food colouring in light lavender or violet / 110g ground almonds / 200g icing sugar / 1 Tsp lavender flowers
To make the butter icing– 75g butter / 250g icing sugar / 10-15ml milk (add more if too firm) / 1tbsp honey
Pick the Lavender flowers and check over them for bugs if you are using fresh. If using dried, halve the quantity otherwise you’ll get too much of a floral hit. Sun dried lavender is intensified in flavour, you see.
Infuse the ground almonds and icing sugar with the lavender flowers for a minimum of 1 hour in a covered bowl left in a warm spot- aim for at least an hours infusion. Whisk the egg whites, sugar and natural colour to the consistency of shaving foam but do not over mix! Sieve the icing sugar/almond mix to remove any lavender seeds and ensure there’s no clumps.
Fold the dry ingredients into the meringue mix and keep turning until the correct consistency is achieved (shaving foam) and it is beautifully incorporated. Draw a ribbon of meringue on top of the mixture and it should settle back into the mix after a short time- that’s your test.
Pipe into a baking mat with a small plain nozzle, leave to stand for a minimum of 25-30 mins, they should form a skin on top the doesn’t stick to your finger when you touch it.
Bake at 150c for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool and pair up on the cooling tray, ready for sandwiching together.
Honey buttercream method –
Soften butter by beating well in a bowl and then add in the rest of the ingredients, beating well until you have a soft honey scented cream. You may need to add in more milk, tiny drip by tiny drip to slacken the consistency if its too stiff to spread inside the macaron. But don’t let it get too sloppy, it needs to hold the two halves together.
Pipe a small blob of the honey buttercream into the inside of the macaroon and sandwich together. When you’ve done them all, you should have some leftover filling. Add a couple more drops of milk to this until it is runny enough to drizzle decoratively over the top of each macaron.
The leap from a healthy glow to a perspiring crimson mess is not so huge during summer, no matter what your skin type or colour is. Going from air con to full sun, from sun baked car to the blast of the chiller section in the supermarket plays havoc upon our equilibrium, our disposition and our complexion and trying to maintain some semblance of grooming requires the cosmetic big guns. Keeping it as simple as possible is THE mantra when it is hot and I try to maintain an inverse relationship with what is going on in my life- the busier it is, the more I scale back my hair and beauty regime. Indeed I try to streamline by using products that double or triple up and avoid the use of skin covering bases and creams which tend to melt, crease and generally look pretty ropey after a few hours. I cannot claim to be a Dermatologist nor do I possess any special knowledge of products for problem skins; only the problems I have had with my skin, so if you have regular break outs, Rosacea or other specific skin needs it is worth looking online for tailored help and information about products and the best ways to apply them. I’d love to hear your recommendations though and here, then, are my beauty superheroines- the products that always save the day.
I don’t waft around the White Isle (Ibiza) in a straw hat, a Maillot and a pair of kick ass shoes all summer but that vibe suffuses Charlotte Tilbury’s products. Brought up in Ibiza and in full possession of a certain Balearic spirit, Charlotte works the most unlikely of colouring- pale skin and red hair- in the heat, making this world famous make up artist an authority on faking a sun kissed look when you don’t really tan. Her website is packed with two minute tutorials on how to get her looks with her products (or others) and my favourite is the Beachstick in ‘Formentera‘, a sunkissed berry shade (in Charlotte’s words) bringing a slick of semi translucent colour to lips, cheeks and anywhere you want highlighted. The texture lets your natural skin tones show through so it actually looks natural albeit a kind of ‘looking your absolute best’ natural. The ‘Ibiza’ shade is a burnished bronze, inspired by her famous breakthrough Castaway Kate shoot by Mert & Marcus for British Vogue which is now cited by make up schools everywhere as THE uber beach look.
I don’t do bronze or brown tones shades- being incredibly fair skinned I just look muddy although if I had darker skin tones this is the shade I would choose- it would look glowingly spectacular. They have a little bit of glimmer but not so much as to send you back in time to an inner Halston draped seventies disco chick at Studio 54, riding a white stallion a la Bianca Jagger, who, with her Nicaraguan skin tones, would most certainly suit it.
Hei Poa Pure Tahiti Monoï Oil Tiara is my gift to you, coming in at a rock bottom price of around £6:50 on Amazon; even more of a bargain when I tell you that my 100ml bottle has lasted me two years (I keep it in a cool dark place). Going solid in cold weather and liquifying in the warm, this is not the swiftest product to use being very oily and slow to absorb and so definitely not one for the slap it on and get dressed brigade. For Gods sake, whatever you do, keep it away from silk, viscose, white clothing and other very porous thin fabrics. If you can cope with all that then this oil is manna from heaven for dry skins, sun battered skins, annointing you in a manner that suggests you’ve been cavorting in a Tahitian flower bed. Use it as a hair pack (will need two lathers to get it out), slick it onto hair before sunbathing, use as a body oil after a bath (wear an old terrycloth dressing gown afterwards) or as a highlighter on cheek and brow bones.
Red Fox’s Tub ‘O Butter, is a close relative of Bottle ‘O Butter which became scarcer than the Chinese White Leopards after India Knight eulogised it in her Sunday Times column. Even more prosaically packaged in its yellow plastic tub, which to me is actually quite cool, this is utilitarian chic and even more so because it doesn’t insult my (or your) intelligence with a load of pseudy cobblers about amino acids and peptides, reclaimed youth and invented derma-anatomy. I never believe any of that crap anyway and choose my products via word of mouth, the look, smell or feel or whether I will find them easy to work into my over complicated life. Tub ‘O Butter can be found online but for me, the glory of its discovery lay in finding it in a tiny local store in Bethnal Green which sold all manner of international hair and beauty products, most of them completely unknown to me. The excitement is ramped up when the instructions and descriptions of a product are in Arabic or Spanish or even in a language that I cannot recognise at all. These discoveries get double points and I exit the store feeling like some intrepid beauty explorer putting my derma life on the line.
So thick you need to scoop it from the tub (you’ll spend all day getting it from under your nails if they are long) and smelling blowsily of cocoa butter, dry skin will suck this up like sump oil leaving you a glowing (a little greasily at first) and soft, soft, soft. I have used it to heal scars, windsear, burns, grazes and gnarly feet and it is supposed to help combat the ashy look that black skins can sometimes develop. I have even used it to soften a pair of leather shoes adopting a similar principle to Liberaces skin regime- tan fiercely, slather with unguents. Oh and it only costs a few quid.
The polar opposite to Tub ‘O Butter in packaging, Klorane Cornflower Eye Makeup Remover with its dark blue bottle, delicately etched flowers and Ph level identical to that of tears is a brand that is frequently used by teenagers on mainland Europe but remains bewilderingly under appreciated in the UK. In this gently scented make up remover, Centaurea extract is obtained by distilling the dried flower heads, which contain a natural blue dye called cyanocentaureine known for soothing and decongesting. Many have found this is the least bothersome eye makeup remover to use for eyes dried out and irritated by Hay Fever and pollution. Cheaper than Clarins Alpine Milk cleanser and indeed all of the Clarins range, for me, Klorane is very similar with its use of botanical extracts and simple pharmacie style packaging. I like to think that when they briefly discontinued it a while back, my ‘Are you nuts?’ email was the prod they needed to bring it back. For six quid you are getting a little star here: models like it too and they know what they are talking about when it comes to torturous eye make up routines and how best to avoid piling on yet more torture when it comes to removing it.
Blue Dog in Clare is one of our lovely little independent Suffolk stores and what makes it even more of a must visit in my opinion is that it stocks Steamcream, one of my top five liniments both in design and actual contents. Lightweight but moisturising and handmade in Poole, a shot of steam is used to fuse together the fresh and natural ingredients such as oatmeal, lavender, rose and orange flower oils, cocoa butter and organic jojoba. An ever changing lid design means Steamcream has developed a cult following, especially in Japan where the appetite for limited edition tins commemorating events such as cherry blossom season is never sated.
A story of love lies behind my own love of Geo F Trumpers Extract of West Indian limes cologne first introduced by the company in 1880 and to me in the early nineties when I first encountered it whilst living in London. Having moved away to London from Suffolk I was initially very lonely and after starting a new post in a local drugs and alcohol unit, I used to chat with the janitor after work as he spent fifteen minutes preening himself in the office bathroom before going to meet his lady love and watch him slosh this sharp little cologne over his beard and locks then carefully replace the gilt crown shaped stopper back onto the bottle. He would trail the scent all over the office as he pottered about, replacing his tools and checking every room before we both left.
This janitor was aged seventy nine and was determined to not only keep his job (fortunately being a charity, the rules were more flexible regarding retirement) but to marry his girlfriend who was a few years his elder. Reader he did and I attended the ceremony held at a pentecostal church in West London. As the groom walked past me in the chapel, bride on his side, he was followed by perfumed clouds of West Indian and Sicilian limes, the scent that his new wife admitted made her first notice and follow him down the road after he walked past her to find out what cologne he used. Her intentio? To buy a bottle for the man she was with at the time. He talked her out of him and into his arms. Charm + perfume, a world beating combination.
It may be marketed as a cologne for men but I use it every summer during the daytime in rotation with Lancome’s ‘O De Lancome’, an invigorating citrus and green based EDT – lemon, mandarin, and bergamot, the green notes of basil, rosemary and coriander underpinned by the base notes of oak moss, sandalwood, and vetiver. ‘O De Lancome’ is a scent that doesn’t last all day being an eau de toilette but is light, cooling and clean on hot sticky evenings, a deeper and more complex version of extract of West Indian limes for nights out.
Having drier skin means I am a bit of a skin oil addict and Goē Oil is another favourite with its bag friendly tube packaging and scent, a result of a combination of 28 plant, fruit and flower oils and butters. Lightly scented with Monoi from Tahiti (that old favourite again), it goes into the skin quickly and leaves it feeling incredibly smooth. Less is more—only a small amount is needed and your skin will feel the difference. The ‘science’ behind its brilliance lies in the use of heavy concentrations of jojoba oil which is not technically an oil, instead it is a polyunsaturated liquid wax which is similar to sebum. Sebum is secreted by the human sebaceous glands to lubricate and protect the skin and hair and so jojoba oil supplements this action or replaces it in sebum deficient skin. Not one for those of you with oily skin to be honest. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse does a similarly great job in a more haute glam way; shimmery and glimmery, this is the oil to give you sheeny limbs and the slightly bronzed cheekbones of Helena Christansen circa 1985.
With its alluring scent and adaptability of use- face, body and hair, this is my choice for evenings, especially after a day in the sun when you want to accentuate your tan- add a stripe of oil down your shinbone or atop a cheekbone for emphasis. The oil comes in both clear and bronze tinted variants-the clear makes a great addition to a bath for super parched skin after you’ve subjected it to wind, sun, saltwater and chlorine. Not cheap but it does last- like most oils, a little goes a long way.
The warmer months often mean embarking upon the crop spraying and deforestation required to rid a girl of her winter pelt and if you believe the beauty press, one needs to spend a heck of a lot of cash in order to effectively remove ones unwanted body hair. I’m not going to go into the feminist argument for and against the retention or removal of leg, pubic and underarm hair here except to say that if you are still reading, I am going to assume that you have made the decision that the fur has to go. Or at least some of it. I am not an expert on permanent or semi permanent body hair removal techniques although I do highly rate threading for eyebrows- a technique that is easy to find the masters of in London, not so much in rural Suffolk. If anybody knows of a threader locally, please PLEASE do let me know.
I am old skool, so old skool I use a disposable Bic and shaving foams belonging to my husband and other some such. He uses Noxzema because I bought it for him after seeing another London based friend using it and adored its sinus clearing menthol smell. I got it so I could filch it, being an upfront kind of girl. (or just plain cheap) Thick, thick, Mr Whippy style foam in that classic menthol or a newer cocoa butter scent (not so much a fan) in a fat, short can with trad-cool barber shop graphics, I feel all fifties when I see it in the bathroom. If Danny Zuko used shaving foam, Noxzema would be it.
I used to use whatever brush came with a product or even my fingers. I would use the wrong tools for the wrong job and what a surprise I got when I was given a set of these beauties and saw the difference proper application makes. Bdellium Tools Green Bambu Series brushes are professional eco-friendly makeup brushes with sustainable bamboo handles and all vegan soft synthetic bristles. Bamboo is one of the most sustainableand renewable resources and environmentally sound plants on Earth and due to its rapid re-growth cycle, it can be harvest with virtually no impact on the environment. I can vouch for this because the bamboo plant in my garden is currently making a break for the border, triffid like, and seems to bow down to no man, his spade or weedkiller.
All very noble I am sure and yes, I do want to save the planet and all but most of all I love these make up brushes because (1) they are super cute with their stubby, grasp friendly handles and (2) they do their job really well. They come in green, yellow and pink and in all manner of shapes, sizes and kit permutations. I wash them out with Johnsons baby shampoo and soak them every week or so in a solution of Miltons to disinfect them.
As a British child of the sixties, I am emotionally attached to the Rosehip due to the old NHS policy of prescribing a free bottle of rosehip syrup to every child born in the country from the Second World War onwards. War time fruit and vegetable rationing led to a rise in the cases of Scurvy (caused by Vitamin C deficiency) and people were initially encouraged to make their own from hedgerow roses. As need escalated, the government stepped in and my generation of children was the last to receive this overly sweet, viscous reddish pink concoction, a spoon of which was proffered every morning at breakfast from babyhood onwards. The Sargasso Trading Company has taken the rosehip, a very overlooked botanical ingredient and added it to its new healing balm, augmenting it with Amazonian cupuacu butter, rose geranium, ravensara oil and that mango butter again to make a balm that tackled my Latitude festival damaged feet and made them whole again.
Spending two hours on my feet in a pelting thunderstorm in a muddy field watching Daman Albarn, followed by a slippery walk back to our tent illuminated only by biblically epic lightning, wearing strapped leather sandals which chafed and abraded my feet led to a seriously infected blister and awful sores over my toes. I don’t want to think about what nasties lay waiting for me in that fetid mud. Once the infection had abated, I bought in the heavy guns, slathering my poor (now hideously unattractive trotters) in the balm. The heroic Rosehip has saved the day and the expected scarring has been averted and I am going to trial it on my daughter next. Being a Patissiere, she is constantly faced with a spitting and malevolent cauldron of sugar syrup which rises up and bites her. If this balm can sort out her burns, then the Sargasso Trading Company have a better version of Creme De La Mer on their hands, which itself was originally developed for post surgical patients and burns.
The downside? It may be made of lovely ingredients but the smell isn’t brilliant. Don’t put loads on if you are going out in polite company because as your skin warms, the ‘scent’ becomes even more pungent rendering it a product for those days when you are confined to the house. You may wonder, ‘Is it worth it when I can find products with a better scent doing pretty much the same thing?’. All I can say is that Eight Hour Cream, in my opinion, smells vile yet millions of tubes have been sold. Sometimes you have to live with the less fragrant in order to get the goods. And this works.
I am perpetually in search of the worlds best eyeliner, being a wearer of contact lenses and sometimes wearer of glasses too. The former renders my eye make up prone to smudging and smearing and the latter renders it all but invisible anyway unless I lay it on thicker. Which I don’t really want to do being no fan of the Houri look at midday. Finding an eyeliner that makes upper lash lining easy in a rush has been a life’s work that compares time wise with the search for the elusive Higgs Boson and they will probably find it first. However the Clarins Three Dot Eyeliner is the nearest I have come to it although it looks like a tiny raccoons paw emerging from a tube and not something you instinctively want to wave around near your eyes.
The clever triple point sponge applicator helps you deliver precise lines and intense colour with ease. The space between each lash can be filled in ‘dot by dot’ to naturally accentuate the eyes and add volume to the lashes . This is handy for klutzes like me who can never drawn that perfect unwavering line and removes the chance that over correction leaves me looking like Liz Taylor, all tired and emotional during her Cleopatra years. If you prefer to use a pencil, Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil is great, since it’s soft so it goes on easily and smoothly, comes in a bunch of non-boring shades, and lasts if not forever, then a goodly amount of the day. For something a little more portable, Hourglass Precision Liquid Liner comes loaded in a pen and has a slightly shorter brush than many, which makes for a less dramatic, more daywear-appropriate line and better control over application.
I need lip balm more in the summer than I do in the winter and unless I am some kind of unique beauty freak, I imagine some of you do too. Where I do start to become a little freaky is in my love for this pretty prosaic item of personal maintenance and my specialist Mastermind subject could well be this.
I collect them (basically) and the launch of a new brand like Maybelline’s Babylips is a cause for great happiness in my make up bag. I go high and kitsch low when it comes to lip moisturising- I am no snob but I do love a bit of Clinique and the Clinique Black Honey Almost Lipstick is a favourite lippie shade that now comes as a light glossy balm. Those people who prefer pink can always grab a tin of Smith’s Rosebud Salve with its Victorian apothecary packaging or go utility-medical chic and keep a pot of Carmex handy (How much do I love Carmex?). This is my everyday go to because it multi tasks, works for blisters and other abrasions when you have nothing tailor made to hand. The happiest moment of my holidays in the USA besides discovering the cool and tiny tins of Aspirin (Excedrin) on sale there is seeing stacks of Carmex and Blistex in Walgreens and Walmart and Target- loads of different scents and colours, in tubes and pots, none stocked here. Finally the sweetly sheepy (but not in scent, only in packaging design) Lanolips is worth buying if you don’t mind spending a few extra pounds on lip balm. I love this stuff and the banana flavour is addictive and comes in a pale primrose coloured tube that is really really pretty.
One for baby now (and therefore also for you) on these stuffy and therefore hard to settle summer evenings. Milk Baby Nighty Night Room Spray relaxes and calms your baby, preparing them for the perfect slumber- I hope. With just a few sprays, the lavender, chamomile and sandalwood oils based formulation can help work magic on baby and therefore you too. If it doesn’t, just put the baby in another room or send it to its grandparents until it sleeps through or is eighteen or something (joking).
Available online and selected high st stores, we have used this spray in our sitting room at night after a stressful day (trying to postpone the moment when the alcohol comes into play) and a friend who found breastfeeding difficult found that using it before a feed helped calm and centre her, allowing her milk to let down. Every little helps!
I’m a long time superfan of a silk pillowcase for less bedhead, less wrinkles and a cooler, deeper sleep on hot nights. Silk is naturally hypoallergenic, allowing a healthier night’s sleep for you and your skin, and this pillowcase is made from top quality 22 momme colourfast 100% pure silk Charmeuse, made by hand, stitched with French seams which lie flat. They are super luxe and yes, they cost a bit more than JL cotton but make a wonderful gift for a mother to be instead of baby clothes that baby will son grow out of. All profits from this Silky Kisses pillowcase go to the Fistula Foundation charity for mothers in developing countries who have experienced injury during childbirth. Multitasking at its best- help others whilst you slumber!
The last time I visited Sardinia, not only did I discover Fiore Sardo cheese, Maloreddus pasta and Bottarga, I also bought shed loads of this fragrant and gentle rosewater tonic- “Acqua alle Rose”. Created in 1867 by the Roberts herbalists, pure Centiflora rose petal are distilled in spring water with no drying alcohol or artificial colours. Perfect dabbed on hot dry skin, used on babies and children and as ironing water or linen mist. Or do the Cleopatra bathing in rose petals thing and add a capful to bathwater. Widely available online and at independent chemists.
Think of all the classic summer foods- watermelon, tomato, grapes, strawberries, cucumber and what they all have in common is a high water content. Adopting this principle with beauty products, we end up with scents that scream summer whilst keeping us fresh and unencumbered with heavy, stultifying scents that are better suited to night times rather than the light and bright of day. The Yes To Cucumbers line uses organic cucumbers, anti-inflammatory green tea extract and lush moisturising ingredients like aloe vera and rejuvenating vitamins that help cool and soothe the skin. Most loved by us is the shower gel but the eye gels, creams and moisturisers are super refreshing too. Boots do a less expensive version (which was first) and it is just as good. I have a tube of the cucumber facial wash gel by the sink at all times and it is the single best way to wake up a tired face. If you want to continue the allotment theme, the Yes to Carrots and Yes to Tomato ranges are perfect- tomato leaves have such a distinctive sharp scent (think of a greenhouse full of them after you have watered it) that we love but we also know it can be a bit marmite with people hating it equally passionately. Plenty of local stores stock these ranges and I buy mine from Holland & Barrett in Bury St Edmunds.
My obsession with stationery as a kid continues to be expressed in the ownership of cases full of pens to draw all over my face and body with. But I still love notebooks and writing pens and those cute little scented erasers that sit atop your pencil (tThe ones I loved at school were in the shape of fruits-biliously coloured with manic grins and sticking out little skinny arms I used to bite off.). I was weird. Now, my pencils and pens are a <ahem> tad more expensive with names like Chanel and Dior and Shu Uemura BUT they are still delicious of scent and bright in colour. Sometimes though I feel the need to be all swish and grown up and the glam Dior nail polish pen (Dior Instant French Manicure Pen) is made for people like me whose yearning for the accoutrements of childhood is matched by their inability to paint tidy, ‘between the lines’ nail polish onto their nails. I have zero dexterity so the pointed felt tip makes delicately manicured nails pretty foolproof to achieve. And the pale pink shade is fashion show quality; by this I mean beaucoup de pigment and a Mercedes pain spray level of depth. Not cheap but keep it in the fridge and it’ll last. Way to go- a French Manicure that looks pro.
A bright lip in the summer is the thing isn’t it? No matter how little you tan, or how dark your skin is there is always THE colour for you if you are prepared to get down and busy in the cosmetics department and try them all out- and most counters stock cotton balls and make up remover so you can use those samples hygienically and avoid walking out with hands striped with lipstick tests. For darker skins brilliant fuschia looks amazing, making teeth and the whites of the eye look brighter. Stila Color Balm Lipstick in ‘Betsey’ is a favourite as is IMAN moisturising lipstick in ‘Mod‘. Both have some glossiness, moisturise (important in the summer where the air is drier) and have staying power- they are beach friendly.
Revlon Colourburst Balm Stain is one of those super chunky pencils that I am obsessed with; similar to the super successful Clinique Chubbysticks (which we also recommend), both so super cute they should be family pets really. ‘Honey‘ is a heathery, light pink/brown, especially suitable for light skins whilst those wanting more drama should go for the orange/red ‘Rendezvous‘. Easy to draw on, non draggy on delicate lip skin and they moisturise too.
Although I adore my monthly subscribers copy of US Vogue (even if Anna Wintour has been dialling it in lately), it really bugs me when I see a new beauty product that has yet to hit the shores over here- more so when it is an inexpensive buy. Paying shipping for cheaper products somehow hurts more. Neutrogena is the latest culprit and at time of writing (Aug 2014) I have yet to find this versatile little beauty on sale here- do tell me different if you know where to get it.
SPF 20 in ‘Healthy Blush’ is a flat wide stick balm in a range of subtle colours and this flushed pink shade makes your face look so healthy and bright, who needs the sun? Or healthy lifestyle choices? Just fake it and suffer those shipping charges until the beauty goddesses in their infinite wisdom, make it available here.
Neutrogena is a bit of a go to brand in my house to be honest, especially after reading that one of my all time favourite models, Helena Christansen uses ‘Rainbath’, a curiously scented bath gel (curious in a good way with its spices, herbs and flowers). Now when you recall that Michael Hutchence once said that La Christansen’s skin was ‘like a percale sheet, satiny, stretched very tight with no imperfections’, it is a perfectly reasonable assumption that emulating her body washing regime might help in the attainment of a sheet like epidermis. Not the most romantic of swain-like declarations about his loved one to fall from the lips of a celeb but ho hum, I’m sure she greatly appreciated it. Rainbath is sold online and I have also seen it in quite a few independent chemists- another great reason to support them.
If your baby has nappy rash, it seems counter productive to load chemical filled products onto their skin in an attempt to cure it yet so many very well known products contain ingredients I am a bit hmm about. Burts Bees nappy rash cream has no phthalates, parabens, petrolatum, or SLS and its gentle almond oil and sunflower oil base allows it to glide on smoothly, avoiding dragging already sore skin. I am also a huge fan of their Marshmallow day cream in the sweetest packaging, soft and whippy in texture and not heavily loaded with scent. That’s a day cream for us, not our babies! Marshmallow Day Cream comes in a fifties style glass jar which makes it even lovelier in our opinion.
A bit pricey but Raw Gaia floral spray for babies and children is heavenly mist in a bottle. Made with organic and distilled floral waters, Roman chamomile, rose otto and lavender, I cannot claim any special effects other than relief from heat and prickly rash, a room made wonderful and the possible sleep inducing effects of both. And watching a baby laugh as the mist lands on them is hilarious in itself.
Hair is my bugbear- so much so that I resort to bad rhymes and cheap wine every time I catch sight of my unruly mop in the mirror. Funnily enough the best hair look I have ever had was after a dip in the sea and a blast of wind drying on a less sheltered Sardinian beach a few years back. Using the various commercial sea salt sprays doesn’t quite match that naturally acquired tousle and they seem a lot of money for what amounts to basically salt + water + chemicals to make the concoction cling to the hair shaft- especially if they don’t bloody work. The Guardian rates Toni & Guy Sea Salt texturising Spray but I don’t- if you have to leave it in overnight because you cannot wash it out, it leaves you with the textural equivalent of a coughed up hairball on top of your head. The Umberto Gianni one isn’t much better although the bottle design is cute.
Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray weighing in at over £20 is about the only one that comes near to the proper strand-y separated waves that I remember and loved. It keeps elasticity in the hair so you can get a comb through it the next day, or even later on, smells like sun cream covered skin on a hot day by the beach and lasts- you don’t need much. Spray into dry or towel dried hair, tustle through with fingers or wide toothed comb and shake out. If you go out in the wind or blast your hair with a fast dryer then you’ll get the full effect,
Keeping in with the hippy vibe, all us chicks who were born in the sixties and early seventies remember those suntan oil ads- Bergasol with the one pale and one uber tanned woman- single perfect plait dangling along their spines, sitting by the pool side. How times change hey? Nowadays only a light tan is desired; sun protection whatever your skin colour being the thing, and there is a widespread awareness that even the most pigmented of skins is still vulnerable to all kinds of sun related damage if not looked after.
Aged sixteen and on a four week holiday to Korea and Hong Kong I decided to ape the locals and annoint myself in the carrot oil, advertised and sold everywhere- a dark orange sticky concoction probably better suited to well tanned Korean skins, although I cannot imagine it being safe or hydrating for anybody to be honest. I mean, look at the skin of a carrot- hardly baby soft is it? I spent the rest of the holiday being treated for partial thickness burns, unable to feed myself because of the rawness of the skin on my chest rendering me unable to lift my arms (yup I sunbathed topless and nearly burned off my nipples). It took three months to heal, looked like a side of well fried bacon for some time and I am now a factor maximum girl. On that day I learned that cloud does not = no rays and that adverts sometimes lie.
My teenage brand of choice after this little episode was Hawaiian Tropic (and still is to be honest) because that smell of coconut, salty hot skin, tiare and other exotic flowers is super intoxicating and instantly transporting. So much so that I retain out of date sun creams for use as a general moisturiser. Oh that smell…. Anyway, they have a rather lovely after sun body butter (a term I hate- who wants to imagine butter all over their skin, slowly turning rancid?) out which is only five quid from supermarkets and chemists, has aloe and is even more effective if you keep it in the fridge. There is also an ‘exotic’ coconut one <swoon> too. I’ll take both.
BTW, make sure that your sun cream protects against both skin ageing UVA and the potential for triggering skin cancer UVB but remember we also need a few minutes of sunlight every day to make vitamin D and using sunblocks all the time will render you vulnerable to deficiencies in this. Be balanced. Continuing the smelling like the beach theme, I used to buy an amazing perfume by Aramis called New Skinscent West for Her which has been sadly discontinued. Imagine if you stuck a melon on top of a car, drove it around a tropical island in the sea breeze then distilled all of that into a bottle? Well, there you have it and a large part of my adulthood has been spent on a quest to find something similar. I found one a couple of years ago that omitted the melon bit but otherwise smelled gorgeous- Sweet Sun Dior with mandarin and middle notes of tiare flower and jasmine. The sun screen scent is from a base of vanilla, musk and ginger. They claim that the fragrance includes pro-endorphin which gives a natural feeling of pleasure. I think that last bit is a load of old cobblers personally. Any natural feelings of pleasure come from (1) smelling lovely and, (2) being reminded of holidays.
I have also been trying out a Jil Sander fragrance ‘Sun‘ which is not as easily available but is a little less obvious yet still stunningly summery in an oiled on the beach kind of way. A really cool design too with sans serif block lettering along the rectangular bottle. Estee Lauder have their ‘Bronze Goddess‘ hybrid of scent and body oil which has that salt skin + on shore breeze fragrance but a terrible name. Finally, a mix of Body Shop coconut, vanilla and a flower oil of your choice will produce very pleasing results. From a time when financially that was all I could afford to now when I can afford to spend a little more, it still pleases me to mix my own scents by spraying layers of them on and seeing what happens (people run screaming from the room?). Sometimes it can have unexpectedly good outcomes.
I love Daniel Galvin Jnr. Honeydew & Watermelon Hair Juice Shampoo, to continue the melon theme. Ostensibly for kids, this will gently cleanse hair and leave it smelling of honey and honeydew melon which is what one would expect: the clue is in the name. No more tears either. Not cost wise (Waitrose stock it) nor use wise. They often have price incentives on the whole range too so be sure to snap up the DG Kids Top to Toe 3 in 1 if you see that on offer too. I’m not necessarily a fan of products that smell like (1) pudding (no creme brulee hair for me), or (2) cheap fruit salad at a Holiday Inn buffet meal but those clean sharp scents like tomato, melon or cucumber and the warmer honey, vanilla and coconut smells are perfect for summer. Washing hair or body in tepid water on a hot day is super refreshing with this shampoo (it can be used for both) and kids tend to love it too.
I seem to have a bit of an obsession with facial sprays but this one is where it all started. Paul Mitchell hair products haven’t had such a high profile lately but in the nineties they advertised far more widely and were quite THE brand in London where I lived. The beauty of Awapuhi Moisture Mist is in its multi tasking. Made for hair and body it is divinely scented and impregnated with Sodium PCA (giving it a silky feel on the skin), spirulina and plankton extracts alongside that awapuhi, a tropical ginger plant widely distributed throughout Polynesia although originally from India. An uber plant to be honest – all of its parts have a use from the rhizome which is pounded to make remedies for toothache, indigestion and a poultice for sprains to the leaves and stalks which flavour pork and fish.
In Hawaii, the clear and sudsy juice present in the mature flower heads is excellent for softening and brings shine to the hair, used both as wash out and leave in conditioner. Locals pick or cut the flowers, squeeze the sweet juices onto hair and bodies and then swim, letting the mountain streams wash the residue off. Now if that does’t make you want to use this spray and the Awapuhi shampoos and conditioners in this range, you have no poetry or romance in your soul and I cannot help you. Look for Paul Mitchell in independent salons.
The red telephone box is a British icon, standing by the roadside often in the most isolated of places, providing phone services at a time when many British homes were not connected. Nowadays they are rarely needed and many have been decommissioned and sold off to private buyers where they sit in back gardens; a nostalgic link to our past.
The village of Lawshall in West Suffolk has retained its red phone box but things are not as they initially appear. The tiny cast iron box opposite Swanfields was purchased by the village for £1 when British Telecom decided it was no longer cost effective to maintain it as a telephone booth. Deciding upon a use for it, the villagers settled upon its conversion into a book swap and community notice board, replacing the old telephone logo with a sign proclaiming its new lease of life and function.
Local library services have taken a beating with the effects of cuts and whilst librarians are keen to emphasise that the phone box is NOT a library per se (they are rightly protective and proud of the profession of Librarians), the book swap is well used and maintained and you will find some eclectic and contemporary books inside. Should you wish to read your newly acquired book nearby, the Swan Inn has been recently refurbished and offers meals alongside well kept ales which carry Cask Marque approval.