• Naan Bread





The name’s Bond – Jane Bond


Mary dear, I’m so glad you’re here.  Binkie’s been digging around in the attic – keeps him out of my hair and gives him something to do, that type of thing.  He’s found our old photos and some of Mama’s letter’s to Pa and Uncle Claude during the war.  They’re a tad racy and not what you would imagine at all.  It gave me quite a turn I tell you and Margaret had to pour me a stiff brandy even though it was only 10.15!

That sounds interesting Agatha dear, let me get settled and I’ll get my Lorgnette – can’t read a dashed thing without it. (Pause) My goodness dear!  I see what you mean.  If it wasn’t too early in the afternoon I’d ask for a brandy too.

That’s all right Mary, I’ll ring for one – I’m still recovering myself.

You know Agatha; this is just SO on topic, as they say.

What’s that dear?  I haven’t been to the tropics, that was poor old Bertie Fry – got bitten by something nasty in the jungle, died horribly so I was told.

No, no dear – you really must clean your hearing trumpet!  No, I’m talking about female spies.  There’s a new book out by Natasha Walter called “A Quiet Life’ and its based, to some degree, on Melinda Maclean – you know Donald Maclean’s wife.

I’m sorry Mary dear, but I do think I need another brandy.  What exactly has toothpaste got to do with spying?

Agatha you really are so infuriating and I do think you should see someone.  Donald Maclean was a spy, one of the famous ones from Cambridge – you know along with Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt.

Oh, sorry dear.  So female spies are all the rage then is that it?

Yes Agatha.  There is even talk about the lovely Gillian Anderson playing Bond.


Now that’s a game I don’t know! (laughing).  Oh I do so love winding you up Mary dear, you and Binkie are just the same.  What a hoot! (pause).  Let’s have another brandy.  Yes a female 007 would be worth watching and Gillian would be superb, but don’t you think that Josephine Baker would have been good too, I mean, not only was she a famous artiste, but she helped the French Resistance during the war, she was decorated by Charles De Gaulle!


Its simply astonishing how many talented ladies were involved in helping our campaigns, and their efforts seem to be forgotten, at least not celebrated and understood by young gals today.  There was also of course Hedy Lamarr – simply stunning gal and brainy too.


Didn’t she say “Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”?

Yes, I do believe so Agatha.  Amazing what a spot of the hard stuff does for one’s brain during the afternoon.  Anyway, don’t you think that being a spy is an absolutely the ticket for any young woman.  I mean they’re just so much better a getting on with things.

Do you mean seducing men dear?  As you know, my thighs put an end to that!

Not just that Agatha, but we’re better at keeping secrets, we look more glamorous even when we are just standing still! We’re generally more intelligent and creative and above all we’re more practical and we blend in more.

And don’t forget dear if you’re talented like dear Hedy was and a real stunner to boot, then you can just about do anything.

Absolutely, didn’t she invent that secret communication system that all this wi-fi stuff is based on?  Anyway it seems that your darling Mama got up to quite a few games too.

Yes, quite surprised me.  Another brandy dear?

Oh Agatha you’ll get me quite tipsy!  But isn’t it just delish-ush???

Well, if you’re having another I don’t squeal to bad about one myself.  But I don’t even thing Pa knew that she was working for the resistance but clearly Uncle Claude was in on it.  She must have been sending back code to him.

Quite possibly Agatha dear.  Do you know what, I think it’s simply marvellous that we can celebrate all these wonderful ladies.  Its time we realised that, despite everything and that infernal glass ceiling, we can finally stand up and be recognised for everything that makes a woman great.

Well said dear. And, lets just say that we totally embrace our European friends, all those fabulous ladies who worked in France during the occupation, where would we be without them dear?  We celebrate women, and their men,  all over Europe from the past to the present day.

From sponge bakes to spying and from medals to motherhood, we just seem to take it all in our stride really.

Quite- apart from that early invention attempted by Aunt Maude of course – the world was simply not ready for mobile phones back then!


Yes, best forgotten I think. Ooh sponge, I almost forgot – cook has made Delia’s lovely Dundee cake.

Now she would have made a great spy….


My Random Musings

Colly Wobbles


Mary, we need to talk about women’s bodies.

Do we really dear?  Not whilst we’re eating, surely?

I don’t mean in a disgusting way Mary, but in a “aren’t we wonderful just the way we are made” way

Well, speak for yourself Agatha, but I keep mine fully covered at all times nowadays, even in the shower!

I think we should be proud of them, I mean look how far they have taken us in our lives.

Are you talking about that trip to Margate Agatha?

viv's greatgran

Oh, now that was a lark but no, Mary, what I mean is we should be grateful that they have given us strength, borne our children, allowed us to do everything we wanted to.  That’s amazing, isn’t it?

Yes dear, I suppose you are right.  But what particularly are you referring to?

An article, Mary, written in the broadsheets this week, about how female body image is stopping girls and women joining in with healthy sporting activities, and that is such a shame.


That is a shame Agatha dear.  Do you remember at school, we didn’t have PE kits like they do nowadays, we just had to tuck our skirts into our large grey wool knickers and get on with it!  

Perhaps that’s why boys are being allowed to wear skirts at school now?

Well dear I think that is an entirely different matter which I don’t feel I have the energy to discuss yet, so let’s put that on the back burner for the moment shall we?  Another crumpet dear?

Ooh yes please Mary, they are so delicious and as its now OK to eat fat, I don’t have to feel so guilty.  And, as I was saying dear, we all joined in, didn’t we.  There was none of this judging the size of your thighs back then.

And a good job too, for you I mean Agatha.

I’m proud of my thighs – Mama used to call my thighs stout which I always loved, until I discovered it was also used to describe sticks and boots!

I’m only teasing dear, I think you are still a topping lass!

Well, thank you Mary, but getting back to your point, are we saying that girls are feeling pressure to look perfect all the time, so getting sweaty out on the field is just not done?

It’s hard to know exactly why, but there are some shocking statistics out there. Apparently only 12% of 14-year-old girls do enough exercise, meanwhile one third of girls aged 12-15 in England are deemed overweight or obese.

Odd that no one cites the figures for boys isn’t it dear, I mean just look at old Tubby Fortesque, he didn’t get his nickname because he was playing sport now did he?

Absolutely not dear, but clearly these figures show that something needs to be done.  But what is confusing is that there are lots of female sporting role models out there, getting sweaty and winning things.  So you would think that girls would be inspired by that?

Yes, but also these are the top people, aren’t they.  And your average girl is going to feel that she will never achieve that level of success, it’s too hard, she’s the wrong shape, she doesn’t have the right trainers or tracksuit, so she just doesn’t bother.

Yes, I see your point Agatha, but don’t you think that this has something to do with the school set up?  I mean you don’t have to just do sports – dance is a really good way of getting fit too.   

I do think agree schools are putting too much focus on classroom learning, and not enough on getting out and running about which we used to do all the time – Nanny was quite infuriated when we would play outside with the other children, but there again we didn’t have all those computer things and of course it was supposedly safer for us then – there certainly wasn’t the amount of traffic there is nowadays.

Absolutely dear, but sport is important for parents too and even better if they can share these things with their children.  I’m not sure we were very good at that, back in the day.  I do remember you and I sitting in the park watching the little ones play, we didn’t join in with the dashing about, did we?

Certainly not when I was in my corset dear, but I did once go on the trampoline with the wee ones.  Nobody told me that after childbirth, bouncing up and down is simply not an option for women.

You were one of the wee ones that day, weren’t you dear!

Yes, don’t remind me, Mary

woolly jumpers

That’s not a picture of us on the trampoline, Mary dear.

No, but it reminded me of that day we spent in Margate, and they are wearing jumpers!

Horse riding, that was another thing we used to do in our youth!

Yes, and it may account for your thighs dear heart!

Just for that comment, I am not going to offer you another slice of that delicious banana cake cook has made.

Oh do forgive me, I am only envious Agatha.  And I did just want to say that I think the media, once again, bears some responsibility for putting girls off sport.  It’s getting better, we do see more coverage of women’s football.  

And don’t forget the cricket dear – fabulous game that it is.

But tennis, for example, the TV is broadcasting the men’s tournament at Queens Club, but much less coverage is offered for the women’s tournament at Eastbourne next week.  How is that right?

Well, of course it’s not right.  And they would argue that it’s about audience demand.  But I think it goes further than that.  Our media have a responsibility to cover the full spectrum of sporting activity, not just on TV but newspapers and radio coverage.  If we all talk about women’s success at sport much more, it will filter down.

And, the media should take heed, we don’t want images of impossible bodies plastered everywhere which make your average teenager feel inadequate.  Take that “Are You Beach Ready?” poster campaign with the airbrushed model who had a shape even Barbie would find it hard to emulate.

Ah, but we were like that once dear – none of this protein diet stuff and nonsense for us, it was the rationing that gave us our wonderful figures.  I’m amazed that the government don’t bring it back dear.  Who knows maybe if we come out of Europe we’ll have to go back to it!

You’re getting very radical in your old age Agatha,  I think we all need to make a lot more noise about this unfair and unreasonable portrayal of what women should look like.  After all, those pictures are not even real, are they?  Hairbrushed – I think they call it.  So even the most perfect specimen (in current tastes) of womanhood is painted over.

Should we chain ourselves to the railings with banners again, Mary?


That would be a good idea, except I think people wonder what we’re doing.  That’s a picture of Olive Croissant in her younger days.  She was always a bit batty, I mean, that chain is only tied in a loose knot, I don’t think she was taking it seriously at all.  Do you know what she’s up to these days?

Actually, I heard she had set up a home for stray cats in Haslemere with her friend Fanny Chevaux.  Anyway, lets just have some more cake and look at your catalogue of swimsuits for older ladies.  I fancy one with a long skirt attached, and a little cape to cover my shoulders.  We don’t want to frighten the horses do we?

Banana cake recipe:


3 Little Buttons</div

Frilly aprons and Feminism


Agatha, dear, did you hear about the latest carry on?

What’s that Mary dear – bit of a carry on?  Sid James has been dead for years dear, I don’t see how they could make a new one?

Now dear don’t tease!  I was just reading my morning paper that Angus had so kindly ironed for me, and I came across this article about women going back in time, to the 1950s.

What, like time travel dear? Do you remember when HG Wells came to dinner with Binkie?  Charming man, but just kept scribbling notes on the napkins –

Yes dear, but as I was saying…some women are deciding that work is not for them and they would rather be at home with the kiddies, baking bread and making scones.  And some feminists are saying they are betraying the cause we have worked so hard for over the last century.


Oh, that does sound like a step backwards my dear! After all you and I have had our battles- Jonty just wouldn’t let me work for that little charity, said I’d get ink all over my hands and I’d have to wear gloves to greet everyone; ‘nonsense’ I told him and said he had nothing to do with it so I worked for them anyway. You see dear, Men just don’t realise that feminism has absolutely nothing to do with them other than the fact that they have suppressed the female race for millennia.

Yes, Agatha dear, don’t get over excited you know how it sets you off. As I was saying, there is this professor (a woman in fact) who has decided that women who previously had good careers are choosing to stay at home and be full time mothers instead of juggling work and children, and this is partly because companies are not being flexible about their hours and working patterns.

So how are they affording this new lifestyle?  I mean, Mary, not everyone has married into the Italian Aristocracy like yourself, and although they’d be saving on childcare it all comes down to money.

Agatha, let’s not bring the Count into it, you know it’s rude to talk about money, Mama was always saying that it was just not done! Besides, he barely pays for my petrol nowadays, let alone my penchant for Bombay Sapphire!

Well that’s as may be dear, and you know I love him to bits, but his money and villa on Lake Como does sort of put you ahead of the pack somewhat!

Maybe, Agatha dear, but you’re hardly strapped for funds yourself.   Your dear departed owned half of Wiltshire as I remember – so I think that makes us even.

Well, maybe my dear Mary, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand what the young people are facing today.  I mean, my niece Lucy is struggling to find a flat she can afford on her meagre salary, let alone find time to start a family with that nice new young man of hers – Jeremy I think she said his name was.

I know, Agatha, it’s very hard these days.  Anyway, apparently this Mrs Professor Whatsit has been criticised for her research because, in fact, most women do not have this choice, its only the really wealthy who can afford to walk away from work.


That’s shocking dear.  I think I need another slice of that lovely Angel Cake to calm my nerves.  Did you know I found out the other day that our lovely British Isles has fallen way behind in gender equality, from 9th to 26th across leading countries?

That is a huge step back for us.  And do help yourself to another slice dear.

Thank you, Mary. So we were lucky to have the choice, back in the day when we were working gals.  Not that anyone would want to employ a couple of old wrinklies like us now!  I mean, what could we do?  I am not sure what skills I have to offer, apart from mixing a super G&T.  But we do love a spot of baking and cleaning ourselves, even in our dotage!

Oh but dear, I think we still have lots to offer – look at The Queen and lovely Dickie Attenborough, still contributing, working hard!

Absolutely dear, but to be honest Mary, I blame that internet thingie.  The pressure to have a good job and still fit in sewing curtains, making quilts and baking the perfect Victoria Sponge seems to be all over us like a rash.  I mean, have you seen Instagram lately?

What’s that dear.  Is that when an old lady rings your doorbell and sings an impromptu greeting?


No silly, that would be InstaGran I expect.  No this is something else.  Lots of yummy pictures about perfect lives and having been through both World Wars we both know, don’t we Mary, that life is not that tidy.  Not ever.

No indeed Agatha.  Just when you think you have all the polishing done, you have to start again with the dusting!

But Mary dear don’t you just think people have just lost touch with who they actually are? All these programmes on TV are just like middle class social porn, it doesn’t mean that everyone is baking more; it just gives them a false standard to live up to and if they don’t live up to it – they think that they are failing.

That’s an interesting concept Agatha, and instead of watching TV those people could actually be doing something like baking a cake or sewing or whatever it is.

But Mary dear, that would mean that people would have to have a hobby or get out and about!

Precisely my dear. Don’t you remember that depressing lady who worked in HR who said she simply didn’t have time for a hobby because she watched 8 hours of soaps each week?

Yes dear, and quite frankly, no wonder she was so depressed! But we seem to have digressed a bit. Do you think that these new stay at home Mums are turning their backs on feminism?

I don’t think they have to dear, only if they choose to. People seem to have forgotten that they still have independent thought; that they don’t have to buy into these programmes and social media to tell them how to live their lives. There are lots of different types of work that you can do at home…. Look at that lady who created that child’s drinks cup from her kitchen table…

Oh yes of course, Tommy Tippee! Yes absolutely! They just need to remember who they are. I mean, can you imagine The Count not knowing who he was going to wake up with?

Well dear, we have had a few occasions… but that’s another story. Another slice of Angelcake or how about some Battenburg?

Oh darling, you do indulge me, you know that’s my favourite.

Battenburg recipe

Apron pattern



My Random Musings

High Heels and Crumpets

SYg1yDz8TcASo Mary dear, did you hear all that nonsense about the young gal who turned up for work in the wrong shoes?

No Agatha, I don’t think so.

Oh, but darling, it’s caused quite a sensation.  It’s all about a dress code which has probably been created by some pompous old codger who has absolutely no idea about all the running around the poor gal had to do.

You’re probably right Agatha dear, although of course in my day we didn’t work, so we could wear what we liked.  But, I must say that I’m not sure my maid, Jenny, would survive all day in heels no matter whether they’re Manolo Blahniks or Clarks.

So, what’s the real issue here then Mary?  Is it to do with an out of date dress code, or are we talking about women not being treated the same as men?

Well of course dear, what is sauce for the goose is certainly not sauce for the gander.  Don’t you remember when poor Ethel got arrested and then force fed?

Oh my goodness yes Mary, but we don’t really want to talk about all that unpleasantness over a plate of cucumber sandwiches do we?

Maybe not darling, but it does just put things in perspective and although the Suffragettes achieved vast amounts, we’ve still got a long way to go.

So Mary dear, forgive me as I think I’ve had a senior moment, but does this mean that this shoe furore is more about freedom of choice and equality then?

Of course, dear heart.  But if  this dress code also applied to men, then we wouldn’t be getting into such a lather.  Quite frankly, I love a man in heels – Louis XIV for instance, he started it all and realised that the extra height gave him authority over his subjects.  Then of course there were all those lovely young men in the ‘70’s in their high heels and Ossie Clark outfits, David Bowie, Elton John. Nowadays we’ve got Eddie Izzard, he looks wicked in a pair of courts.


Oh, but I absolutely agree darling, with the right outfit any man can look good in a pair of Jimmy Choo’s.  Although, apparently, a pair of high heels like those young fillies wear today puts you in a virtual corset. Young Emily tells me you have to have a strong core and lean slightly backwards when you wear them.

It sounds dreadfully painful Agatha, I’d rather stick with the whale-bone corsets than hobble about in towering heels; I should imagine they make your bottom look like pigs fighting in a blanket!

You are so right, but do you remember when I needed an extra confidence boost? I had to meet that dreadful chap from the Golf Club, Muirfield I think it was.  Anyway, I wore my four inch Bally Patents, it did the trick; although I stopped short of agreeing to marry him just to become a member!

So, Agatha, are you saying that heels give you authority?

Yes, Mary, but they are also symbols of subjugation and sexualisation, exploitation and that seedy world of pornographic films that we don’t talk about.

Those are terribly long words.  Have a sip of tea dear!  So, let’s just clarify that when we talk about high heels the subject is so steeped in different meanings, many of which go back hundreds of years, that it turns into a colossal ding-dong!

Quite.  Another crumpet Mary?

Oh yes, lovely, with lashings of butter too.  

So really we just need a dress code that treats gender equally?

I think so Agatha dear, we should get rid of all that stuffiness and those dreadful dress code policy things and just let people be adult about it; after all we’re not in the school playground any more.

Oh that reminds me Mary, young Algie needs to be picked up from rehearsal at four.  I’ll get John to bring the car round, and we can drop you off on the way.

Super idea Agatha.  Next time you must come to me – cook makes a wonderful Angel cake, you’ll love it, simply divine.