Never too old

russiagranniesAh Agatha dear heart.  Lovely to see you.  Come in and taste Ethel’s delectable meringues.

Mary dear, sounds delightful, and I am somewhat peckish after my morning pointing and sorting papers at our local polling station, you could say that we got into quite an Eton Mess with it all!

Well, we do have some cream and some of our lovely raspberries from the greenhouse to go with them.  I’d quite forgotten about that voting malarkey, which is a tad remiss of me considering all those wonderful women who suffered so that we could have the vote in the first place.

You are absolutely right dear friend, one has to try at least, even when it all looks rather like an uphill struggle.

I agree Agatha.  I say – you do seem a tad discombobulated today.  Perhaps you should stay off the gin until mid afternoon dear.

Mary!  I haven’t touched a drop.  But the Doctor advised I should try some new fangled pill and the side effects make me feel quite peculiar.  My mouth feels drier than the humour in the House of Lords.

Well, I prescribe some strong tea then.  I’ll ring for Ethel.

Thankyou dear.  Anyway, the voting started with quite a solid flow of suited and booted arriving early before going off to work, then mums with pushchairs and by 11am the geriatric brigade with their sticks and walking frames; I do believe they enjoy the trip out.

SUFFRAGETTE/MISS PANKHURST

And you are older than most of them dear.

As indeed we both are dear…but I must admit I’ve been particularly lucky to remain mobile and not to succumb to the family condition like poor Uncle Fortesque.  His ankles became quite the talk of society you know.  But I digress, shall you vote later?

Well, I’m sure Ethel’s tea and meringues will perk me right up and then I can toddle off down to the local village hall and put my mark on the paper.   But, dear, I have no idea who I’d currently vote for as I’ve not seen anything convincing from any party.

I know what you mean Mary dear, it’s as though Theresa had a new haircut to divert attention from the importance of the local elections.

Well, one must keep in mind the big one in June of course.  And despite the evidence that the result is a foregone conclusion, the pollsters have got it wrong before. It’s never over until the fat lady sings as they say.  Which reminds me.  You didn’t manage to hear Madelaine Cauli-Floret sing at the parish council event the other evening?

Oh yes, Mary dear, what an experience.  I had quite forgotten how …. individual….. a singer she is.  Some of the ladies went quite into a swoon at her rendition of Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden.  Fortunately she was prevented from completing an encore of ‘Three Little Maids’ by Bernard Snubbings.  He’s not a man I care to associate with, following that nasty incident with the mustard at the Little Milford Church Benevolent Fund Summer Feast last year.  It quite put me off my sausages.

It sounds eventful dear, and I am sorry that I missed it. I’ve been up to my eyes in all my sorting out and packing for our trip to Bangkok.  All my summer outfits seem to have unaccountably shrunk since last year.   I will be forced to purchase some news items which is such a bore.  

Oh a trip up to town might be just the tonic we need dear.  I can ask Snetter to drop us at the station.

Yes, of course that would be splendid.  But I can’t help worrying about people like the tuneful Madelaine, and my dear Count, who could be made to leave England if we experience a hard Brexit.

Oh Mary dear, don’t upset yourself I’m sure that it won’t come to that, we’ve been over this before if you recall.  You know our economy can’t survive without all our European colleagues and besides dear one, it is the Eurovision song contest this weekend.

Agatha, goodness you don’t still follow that do you?

Indeed I do dear one and I must say it is a tonic.  My darling Algie is coming over with his lovely partner Daniel Blyth-Williamson and we shall be decorating the house entirely in glitter balls.  I do believe Martha is going for quite a European themed buffet too.  You and the Count must come over.  I think it will cheer your spirits entirely.

eurovision

Do you believe we’ll get any points this year?

Well, it’s a long time certainly since we lifted the trophy dear one, but never say never. At least we can be thankful that that is one thing European that we will continue to support. And, between you and me, the rumour from Minnie Piersflight is that Prince Philip has retired precisely so he can watch the events from Thursday onwards.

Really dear, I didn’t know that he was a fan?

Oh absolutely, I would trust my crocheted hats to Minnie – whatever she says can be totally and discreetly relied upon.  Apparently it’s not a side of the Duke’s persona that he likes to publicise.  I do believe he even wrote a line or two for our dear Terry Wogan when he was compering the show!

Goodness me Agatha, that does explain a lot.  I do think he’s been an amazing ambassador though, despite some of his gaffes.  Of course it’s a shame that we won’t witness what he might have said to President Trump when he visits later this year.

Quite dear.  Perhaps it’s best Philip is retiring, given that the President appears rather quick to anger, and somewhat trigger-happy.

Perish the thought, Agatha.  More tea and another meringue?

htc-eton-mess

http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/international/european/british/eton-mess

Gallivanting and Golf

8108_Lady-golfer-old

Ah, Mary dear, so glad you are here.  I just need you to witness my application form with your signature.

What’s this for Agatha?

Well, Muirfield Golf Club of course.

Golf!  You haven’t taken a swipe at a ball for many years dear heart.  Why now?

Because, I vowed to be one of the first ladies to join the club when they overturned their archaic ruling not to allow women members.  I wanted to be at the forefront of the revolution to see skirts abounding across the greens.

Jolly good show.  When do you plan to visit and sink a few balls then?

I thought we could trundle up there together at the weekend.  Are you free?  I can get Snetter to drive us in the Daimler so we should be comfortable.  And we can stop in Oxford to buy some proper golfing shoes with little spikes in.  Good for the grip don’t you know.

That sounds totally spiffing Agatha.  The Count is a visiting cousin in Italy at the weekend so I would love to join you.  Is there not a waiting list?

Funnily enough, there is.  But I have an old chum who can sign me in as a guest for now.  Do you remember Dougal Mactwittle?  He used to play the drums at our annual WI tea dance.  He always looked so splendid in his kilt twirling his sticks about.

007

Of course I do.  He always caused a stir, sitting up on the stage, legs akimbo, pounding away with his sticks.  It never seemed to be his drum skills that caused the sensation if I remember correctly.  I do remember that one time when Dorothea Andrews was quite in a swoon, simply saw what she’d never seen before, if I remember correctly.

Yes, very Aunt Ada Doom dear one, but I do hear that she is quite the liberated woman now.  I believe she even did some work for Good Housekeeping testing ladies toys of some kind I believe.  

By jingo, good for her!  That might explain the new glow she seems to have these days.

Well, as I was saying, whilst Dougal’s undergarments were somewhat lacking, his golfing skills are still rather top notch.   Anyway, he seemed surprised that I wanted to join the golf club at all, saying that it will take quite some time to move on from their rather Victorian culture.

Well, that’s as may be but unless we keep persevering and pushing through barriers nothing will change at all and we’ll all become quite invisible.

Indeed so Mary dear.  If I can wield a club and knock of few of those crusty old codgers off their pedestals it will be effort well spent.

Oh splendid Agatha, quite spiffingly splendid!  A jolly caper north of the border before we have to start using passports will be just the ticket.

Yes, indeed.  Goodness knows what the next few years will bring – maybe there’ll be another great wall between us and Scotland if they decide to leave us.

Goodness, we certainly live in worrying times dear one, but Agatha let us not lose hope.  Let us not drown in the sorrows of the world, let us rise above them and together challenge the oppressors and blow raspberries in their faces, let us not go into that dark night alone….

Oh Mary dear, do stop – you’ve gone quite Winston Churchill on me.  You’ve worked yourself up into quite a lather.  Here, have one of Ethel’s delicious éclairs.  The cream is quite delicious you know and besides you have your wonderful trip to Bangkok and beyond to look forward to.

Oh yes, we have already started packing.  I dug out my old bikini yesterday.  It was a bit the worse for wear after our wonderful trip to Egypt last year.  It still had sand in the cups.

Goodness, that sand did find it’s way into the most inconvenient places.   Why don’t you treat yourself to a new one, after all you don’t want to end up like Peggy in The Archers with nothing to cover her modesty but her arms and the water!

I say Agatha, you’ve got a point there.  The problem is the construction… you know perfectly well that there’s a limited range in the shops for my endowment.  We may have to go back to our dear lady at Rigby & Peller to see whether they can assist with an architectural project that will keep my frontage in check.

Well at least you still have the courage to wear a bikini.  I haven’t revealed my midriff since 1984.  And as for my thighs – well you know I make full use of my sarong at all times.  One really must consider one’s public you know.

I believe there is simply no point in caring what others think any more.  We are well into our dotage, Agatha dear, and I do not give a jot about fitting into some outdated stereotype of what a woman’s body should look like.  Mine has served me perfectly well for years.

By jove Mary, long may it continue to do so.  But remember when we were on the deck of our Nile cruiser last year?  We did elicit some alarm from some French tourists.  You know how slim they all are.  One poor lady choked on her Bellini when you whipped off your towel.

I do believe she was jealous!  Besides, they quickly became distracted when you dived in to rescue poor Binky; but you have given me an idea – perhaps I shall just go topless as they do in France – n’est pas?

Mary dear, Europe may be sad to see us leave, but I’m not sure if the world is quite ready for your unfettered frontage.

You might be right Agatha.  Perhaps we should call for some more tea and start to plan our route up to Scotland.  Wouldn’t it be fun to drop in on our dear friends Olive Croissant and Fanny Chevaux on our way?

What a splendid idea.  I am given to understand that they have expanded their cat’s home to incorporate training in acrobatics.

Acrobatics!  For cats?

cat

Yes indeed.  Who knew our furry friends could be so adept on the pommel horse and the parallel bars.  The mind quite boggles.

Quite.  Although perhaps the two ladies could be losing their grip on reality.  

No really, I have seen the photographs.  They do shows and are thinking about touring the country.  In fact they have been in touch with our dear Author friend Eileen who has been studying acrobatics in China.  She is flying back to give a masterclass.

How wonderful.  Tea dear?

Lovely.  Chin chin.

09-01-Trex-chocolate-eclairs-Lets-Bake-recipe-book_450x450

Recipe: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pauls_chocolate_clairs_59944

 

Reasons to be cheerful – part three

ian-dury-london-19842

You know Agatha, I was just looking into all the various vaccinations one needs for travelling around Asia, and it got me to thinking how lucky we are to be able to prevent some of those dreadful diseases in the western world.  I was thinking about polio for example.  What a terrible thing, and still prevalent in some countries.  But it affected many people before the vaccine was introduced here in the 1950s.  

Indeed my dear, and even some beyond the 1950’s.  Don’t you remember the lovely Christopher Longden, such a wonderful boy and spent so much of his time in calipers.  

Goodness yes Agatha, but he was so incredibly plucky and then of course there is the dear departed Ian Dury,  not that his disability stopped him from achieving great things.

By jingo Mary, yes.  What a revolutionary chap he was.  Do you remember when we danced like lunatics to his tunes?  I do think it’s fair to say that we got a better reaction than when we Charlestoned for the first time at Charlie Fairweathers!  Of course, that was back in the day when we were young enough to fling our bodies about with gay abandon?

Well speak for yourself darling, I seem to remember that there was a certain amount of gay abandon at the belly dancing show at Christmas.  But of course my flexibility is not what it was.  Gone are the days when we could touch our toes dear.

Ah yes, the 1970s.  The decade that fashion forgot, but the music was certainly life changing.  And, doesn’t it seem as if things were much simpler in those days?  We just had a few too many ciders and danced with our friends.  Nowadays there is not so much dancing.  

punkgirls

I’m afraid you’re quite right Agatha.  But of course in our day the evening started much earlier and with just a couple of strong ciders!

Quite so dear one.  It seems that today the youngsters don’t even go out until midnight, which could explain why they seem to be obsessed with taking photographs of themselves and putting them on social media.  It really makes one wonder if they actually know how to let themselves go?

Or even talk to one another!  Goodness me, the debates and larks we’d have.  Of course, we were as they say ‘living the moment’ rather than taking a snapshot of it. I do believe that makes all the difference.

Yes, one does wonder dear.  And if they don’t know how to enjoy the moment, as you say, then how do they manage to make real friendships?  It’s all incredibly distressing.  If everything they do is through the lens, nothing is actually real.

Quite dear, mobile devices and the internet are all well and good for keeping in touch, but when they control your behaviour, well, that’s quite another thing entirely.

No wonder society is going down the jolly old drain.  But what can one do dear?

Well I do hope that on our spiffingly exciting travels we’ll be able to encourage people to enjoy each other’s company.  Talk about their lives, good and bad, spend a whole evening chatting about music, books, films, politics – what is going on in the world, rather than just taking pictures, modifying them with apps and posting them up on social media to count how many likes they have in order to make yourself feel good.

Gosh dear, you seem quite incensed by this!

Well confound it Agatha, I do believe I am.  And it’s because I have been alive long enough to know what really makes one happy.

Aren’t we getting a bit philosophical dear?  But, please, do tell… Is it cake, gin that type of thing?

Well of course those things certainly help.  But I have concluded that friends are the thing.

It goes without saying dear one.  Good friends are absolutely vital to a long and happy life.  Whoever you are.  They get you through the ups and downs of life.

Yes, and given that we are currently in a bit of a gloomy dip, I count you and my other dear friends as the reasons I stay cheerful despite what the politicians and the media want us to feel.

Guacamole.

Pardon?

Guacamole has always struck me as rather a gloomy dip.  I mean, it starts off all green and lush, but quickly turns brown and unpleasant.

Yes dear.  Not quite what I meant, but you have a point of course.

Being rather silly, and porridge oats.

I think you need a large gin Agatha.

I always need a large gin, Mary dear, but in this case I was simply recalling one of my favourite lines from Reasons to be cheerful part three.  Ian Dury and the Blockheads, a fine song and full of rather wonderful lines.

Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty, going on 40.

Oh yes.  Shall we put it on the stereo and have a listen.  It will take us back to our younger years.

The hair and makeup – do you remember?

I try to forget Agatha dear.  But I do have plenty of happy memories of that time.  Do you remember when we spent the summer at your cousin Isabel’s olive farm in Italy?

Oh yes indeed I do.  I particularly remember the scrapes we got ourselves into.  Gianni comes to mind.  Isabel’s top picker.  I do recall one sultry night when he ‘picked’ you out. We’d became quite frantic about you when you hadn’t returned by the small hours.  

Oh really Agatha, I thought the days of you reminding me of that had long passed.  You know perfectly well that Gianni was not entirely responsible for my dress getting entangled in the olive nets.  It was merely an accident owing, I believe, to rather a luscious supply of Chianti and Gianni’s Italian charm.  As you well know I was merely trying to understand what he was saying.  I think he was explaining the finer points of harvesting the fruits, it all seemed terribly romantic of course.

Did the Count ever find out?

Well, nothing really happened of course, but he did punch Gianni in the nose later that year.  He told me at the time it was all over some silly argument about the offside rule…. (both ladies look blank)…. but I think he was really protecting my reputation.

Oh but the jolly capers and scrapes we got into, they are the glue that cements a friendship, don’t you think?  

Of course, that and learning how to belly dance together.

And helping each other.  You were totally spiffing in Egypt last year.  I don’t believe I would have managed to get over that rotter Binky without your help and counsel.  I’d have probably gone into a total funk after he tried to pinch my jewels.  

You would do the same for me dear.  Let’s have some of that delicious Black Forest Gateau Mabel has constructed.  That will also take us back to the 1970s dear one.

How absolutely marvellous dear.  Cheers, and here’s to fabulous friendships!

Indeed.  To friendships!

recipe-image-legacy-id-989514_11

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2303676/black-forest-gteau

3 Little Buttons

 

Agatha and Mary’s Grand Day Out

vintage-travel-friends

Oh Mary dear, do come in.  I was just thinking about our wonderful day out at the fabulous V&A Museum.

Yes dear one, it was rather splendid and that carrot cake was heavenly.  There was so much to see, that my head is still spinning with it all.  And of course, one can’t forget the train journey – no delays, plenty of seats and on time!  Miraculous my dear.

Indeed so dear, here have a cup of Assam to soothe yourself.  Ethel has made some wonderful little macarons for us – the raspberry and vanilla are just quite delicious.

Oh thank you Agatha.  The “Undressed” exhibition is quite a revelation. You know I did find it quite fascinating to see Fanny Harvey Fleetwood Raper’s corset on display.    I seem to remember dear Mama talking about Fanny in very hushed tones.  

Ah, Mary dear, yes and I don’t believe it was for her absolutely tiny waist.  In those days 18 inches was quite normal.  That corset would barely fit around my arm, let alone my waist.  And the whalebone and steel reinforcements!  It makes me wince to remember how constricting they were.  And how was it even possible to breathe?

CIS:T.90-1984;CIS:T.90A-1984

Well, as we know, sometimes women did pass out.  And they suffered spinal deformities in pursuit of the perfect shape. But I do remember Mother getting quite agitated over the new softer elastic corsets.  She always used to say that going out without proper reinforcement  was like two pigs fighting in a blanket!

Mary dear, I think it’s quite dependent on the size of one’s endowment – As you well know we’ve had some near misses with you, particularly when you have unleashed your upper regions during our belly dancing events.   I personally couldn’t imagine what would happen if we didn’t have some sort of device to ‘divide and conquer’ so to speak.

And of course, as we saw in the Undressed exhibition, female emancipation started to loosen women’s stays and some quite unusual garments were born.

Oh yes, I absolutely loved the Dinner Pyjamas.  The black velvet with embellishments was just divine.  One could totally imagine wearing those of an evening.  With Gin and Tonic and elegant canapes with friends.

Or on one’s tod – with Gin and Tonic in front of the television.

Super darling.  But I was a little perturbed by the fact that this was a one-piece garment. Difficulties arise when one needs to use the bathroom after a couple of gins.

Oh but dear one, don’t you remember, they were open at the crotch?

That sounds rather unpleasant dear.  One can only imagine…..

Quite, dear, one should perhaps gloss over the small details.  However, the attention to detail and the quality of the work at the exhibition was just mesmerising.

Indeed dear – just like the medieval embroidery, although I would have liked to know how the actual garments were constructed after all the work was done.  The weight alone of the gold thread must be quite something and then you have the heavy fabrics they used in those days.  The clergy who wore these lavish garments must have been immensely strong.  Either that or they shrunk an inch at the end of each wearing.

Quite so dear, quite so, but I did like the fact that when they were due to be replaced, they were used as altar covers – quite ingenious and a fantastic way of recycling a garment.

Talking of that dear one, do you like my bag?

Well I must say dear, I do.  Although it’s rather bohemian.   Are you going through a mid-life image crisis dear?

Agatha!  You and I both know that those days are well and truly behind us.  No, I was inspired by a charming cloth bag we saw in the V&A shop and happened to be visiting Fenella Hart-Worthing at her charity shop and found this lovely little mini skirt.  I thought it would make an excellent small bag and decided that I may be able to make some and let Fenella sell them at her charity shop.

suitbag

What a splendid idea Mary.  Your needlepoint is just what it used to be and the colours are quite lovely.  It’s charming.

Thank you Agatha dear.  I am rather pleased with it and of course, the beauty is that it is already lined and has pockets – all I really needed to do was a little bit of re-styling and finding a means of adding a strap.  It’s kept me busy while the Count has been keeping himself in the West Wing on his top secret project.

Ooh, what’s that about dear?

I’m not entirely sure dear one, but it’s something to do with his cousin in America and the new president and his attitude towards women and non-nationals.

Well my dear, I think that will take at least 4 years to resolve.  All we can do as women is stand together and be strong.  And, whilst we’re on the subject I do find it a tad ironic that a film about Jackie Kennedy is just being released.

Yes indeed dear, we will have to see what the new first lady does, but she has a very hard act to follow.

Indeed dear she does, but all of this does rather make one think of the lovely William Golding.

How so Agatha dear?

Well, I know we haven’t seen him here for years, Papa used to be very fond of him you know.

Agatha, really dear – he’s been dead some  13 years!

That would explain why he hasn’t been round for dinner then Mary dear!  What a shame, he was so very forward thinking… his view on women was quite exceptional.

golding

Yes indeed, and wouldn’t the world be a better place if more thought in the same way.

Quite.  Another macaron dear?

recipe-image-legacy-id-660468_11

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1369639/chocolate-and-raspberry-macaroons

3 Little Buttons

Hope and horses

gorilla

Mary my dear, how lovely to see you, and goodness you do look flushed.  Has the Count been making advances or are you just a bit wind beaten?

Agatha my dear, I am simply recovering from the onslaught of the Count’s relatives.  They  have finally left and I have been able to wander about in my own home without being accosted by Uncle Rasputin in the corridors. I had to wear my Barbour and Wellingtons indoors so I could make a hasty escape into the garden.   I spent a lot of time out in the grounds, hiding.  The elements certainly don’t help one’s complexion.  I feel as though I need a holiday to rejuvenate myself.

Why don’t you try one of these Mary,  Ethel has made some delightful little Financiers.

Do you mean tiny models of our lovely friend Derek who works in the City?

No dear.  They are French almond cakes.

How fabulous darling.  Yummy!

But I do agree with you about holidays dear.  It feels that Egypt and all the joys, and camels, were several years ago.   Now, do come into the drawing room, I ran into the lovely Dorothy Lanesborough last week and thought that we hadn’t had a good catch up with her for some time.  She’s quite an inspiration you know.

Goodness me, I haven’t seen Dorothy for over twenty years; she was quite the gal about town if I remember correctly.  Didn’t she go off to canoe down the Amazon for charity?  The last I’d heard she’d married the head of some remote Amazonian tribe.  Golly, it certainly will be good to catch up with her.

_47339956_kayak512

Yes, she was telling me all about them.  They are  the Nukak.  A terrifically ingenious but terribly endangered tribe.  I believe Dorothy has been helping to raise awareness of their plight at the hands of developers and drug lords

http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/nukak

Tell me Agatha (as they walk down the hall towards the Drawing Room), is Dorothy quite changed?

Oh Mary dear, if you mean has she gone native, no she’s perfectly well dressed, in a manly fashion, but she is less pale than she used to be, and her hair has gone quite blonde from the Amazonian sunshine!  In fact, despite her advancing years (sighs) she looks quite lovely.

Oh how absolutely ripping, I can’t wait to hear about some of her experiences.

(They both enter the drawing room to find Dorothy sitting perfectly on the chaise longue, the light silhouetting her form and making her hair glow).

Dorothy darling, how lovely to see you after all this time.

Blazes!  Mary you look perfectly spiffing.  Can’t remember how many millennia it’s been since I saw you.  Goodness, you do look positively blooming!

Err, thank you dear.  You look quite transformed.  Tell me, how was the Amazon?

Well my dear old gal, it’s just as you’d expect really – hot, humid, full of creatures of all sorts.  Life with the husband was lovely for a while, even though there was little we had in common and communication was extremely hard –  I did become quite adept with a bow and arrow, and making my own clothing.  I have brought back a suitcase full of interesting garments to see if I can raise some money.

More tea and another Financier Dorothy?

Coffee please, if you wouldn’t mind Agatha.  I’ve got so used to living without tea that I really don’t think I’ll ever go back – the bush tea that we had was positively dreadful – bark and a few dried leaves from some tree or other.  But the overall effect of eating fresh and natural foods has made a real difference to my health dear one!

I must say Dorothy, you are looking splendid.  In fact you haven’t aged a jot in the last twenty two years. Here you are (as Agatha passes her coffee and cake).  Now tell us, what you are up to at the moment?

Well, I was up in Wetherby the other day at the races and had a flutter on a filly called Actinpieces.  Blow me down she came in first!  But what’s more interesting is that she will not allow a male jockey to ride her.  She bites them sharply on the bottom if they try to mount her.

mred

Much like you with the Count, Mary dear.

Anyway.  This plucky mare got me thinking about setting up a stables that is purely for women – give the men a run for their money what?

Well Dorothy, that certainly sounds a marvellous idea.  After all darling Liz Taylor rode in the Grand National!

Agatha dear, that wasn’t real – it was a film with her and Mickey Rooney!

Balderdash!  So Dorothy dear, would you be donning your jodhpurs for this venture?  I can imagine you tearing down the gallops in gay abandon.

Quite possibly Agatha.  But actually,  my real reason for seeking a business opportunity is to support the Lullaby charity after my tragedy in the Amazon.

(Mary and Agatha sip their tea in silence, not sure what to say for once).

Dear husband and I were so delighted when our little girl arrived, she would be twenty today in fact.  But we were so cut-off from the latest thinking about how to best care for babies.   (Pauses)  Well, all I can say is I wish I’d been here to read about the wonderful work that lovely Anne Diamond did following the loss of her son twenty five years ago.  It may have saved  husband and I a great deal of pain.

(Together)  Dorothy dear, how dreadful for you.  I certainly remember the campaign and how simply putting children on their backs has saved so many from cot death.  It’s such a horrible way to lose a child, feeling that you should have been able to do something or done something differently.

Indeed my dears, but Anne was, and is, such an inspiration – turning all that anger and sorrow about her son’s death into such a positive cause, I wish I’d been able to do the same; but what can you do when you’re thousands of miles from civilisation and without a paddle!

Dorothy dear, you’re incredibly brave about it all.

Oh not really dear.  It’s just that stiff upper lip stuff that Pa drummed into me – I’ve got quite used to hiding the pain after all these years.  Can’t torture myself with going there any more, but it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten, (pauses)  But I do hope that when I pass, I’ll see my beautiful daughter again; I’m hoping she’s waiting for me, ready to show me the way.

(All three sit in silence, in tribute to all those lost)

Mary dear, wouldn’t we be able to add her charity to the Bishop’s Christmas Show fund?  We could do two sessions of belly dancing – one to support Refuge

http://www.refuge.org.uk/

and one for Lullaby

https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/ 

What’s that old fruit?  You both do belly dancing?

Well, Mary is slightly better at it than me – she has much more of a rhythmic control of her bosom; but I’m not too bad when it comes to the leg department.

Is this something you’d consider Dorothy?

By Jove, ab-so-lute-ly my dear ladies!  One is always keen to try out new things you know! Maybe it’ll help tone up the old lower regions so I can get into some decent jodhpurs!

Oh how marvellous, you can join Agatha and me next week.  I believe Javala will be quite open to having a new victim, err, participant.

That’s completely spiffing dear ones.  Now, did I tell you about the time I discovered the joy of topless weaving…..?

financier

recipe:

How to make French financiers

3 Little Buttons
Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Dare to….be yourself

billiards

Agatha darling do come in – The Count is playing billiards and the clattering of his balls is positively deafening in the downstairs parlour, so I thought we’d go through to the conservatory, and enjoy my orchids.   Cook is practising her Linzertorte in advance of  a small invasion of The Count’s cousins from Austria next week.

Are these the cousins who you suspect may have (whispers) “Nazi” leanings Mary dear?

Not any more Agatha.  There was a time when their greeting caused alarm, the slight raising of the arm and clicking of the heels, but it seems that they were simply enjoying a joke at my expense!  Of course, now my Italian is coming along, I can understand The Count’s explanation for their unusual behaviour.

That’s a relief dear one!  And how lovely your orchids do look, particularly the Dracula Vampira – it always gives me a thrill.

Thank you dear.  It is rather striking and disturbing, I agree.  Now,  do tell me what you’ve been up to.  

I bumped into that lovely Miriam Shufflepuff the other day.  I’m glad to say that she still says exactly what’s on her mind, it takes a lot of courage to be oneself, and she is the most courageous woman I know.  It appears she was rather down in the dumps at not being invited to the Evangeline Hesketh’s Halloween party, but then to cap it all she didn’t get an invitation to The Club for Bonfire Night either.  She said she was rather cross, as you and The Count had had lots of fireworks on Saturday and being of very small stature she hadn’t been able to see anything over the window ledge!

margolyes

Well Agatha, it was all very last minute.  As you know The Count can be quite explosive himself at times and a feeling of ‘joie de vivre’ really came over him.  I tell you, I felt quite eighteen again, but I digress. So, Algie purchased some lovely fireworks for us and arranged it all.  We had burgers on the back lawn – handmade by Martha of course, none of your pre-made patties.  Of course I would have invited you my dear, but I knew that you were already previously engaged.  

It all sounds thoroughly modern dear Mary, I mean, burgers for goodness’ sake!  Last year you had stuffed quail and pheasant en-croute I seem to remember.  This must be the influence of your boys I shouldn’t wonder.

Oh no dear, it was all my idea.  I don’t want to fossilise.  But I am sorry not to think of darling Miriam.  However as you know my bosom does preclude me from noticing anything below waist level, so even if she was invited, I may have tripped over her in the dark.

Well, I think that we should definitely invite her to our charity fundraising with belly dancing later in the year – she’s always up for a laugh, and she may even join in.  Imagine the scene.  (Both fall silent for a moment.)

What a fantastic idea dear one.  (Cries from the billiard room are heard).  

My goodness Mary!  Do you think the Count is alright?  Should we send for Angus to go and check on him?

I should imagine he’s just sent a ball through a window dear, I took the precaution of removing Great Aunt Maud’s stuffed Iguana before he started playing.  I’m sure if he had had an accident with a mis-timed cue we would soon find out about it.  Now, have another coffee; this Linzertorte is quite exceptional.  I believe the jam was from the raspberries in the kitchen garden.

Yes it really is delicious, the jam goes so well with the hazelnut pastry and the coffee.  I really must ask cook for the recipe so that Ethel can master it too.  You know it quite reminds me of when Dear Mama asked all those lovely politicians for recipes so she could put a book together and raise funds for the local Children’s home.

My goodness, I do remember that.  We had quite some fun putting together and testing all those recipes.  

Am I right in remembering Mary dear that the late Margaret Thatcher made a contribution?

Indeed, your memory is astonishing Agatha!  Yes, Papa had it framed in his drawing room.  I believe he had quite the crush on her, but that of course was in younger days before she was our PM.

Really?  How amusing.  I  particularly loved those interviews conducted by the late lamented Jimmy Young.   As an interviewer he certainly had a charming approach, and many criticised him for being too soft.  But in reality he was an under-rated broadcasting pioneer.  His softly softly approach got so much more out of his interviewees and I believe Maggie was quite smitten with him.

I agree dear one.  Yes, so sad that he’s gone; but his methods were so those of a true gentleman.  That style seems rather out of favour nowadays, of course.  It’s all, what do they say? “wham bam thank you maam”.  But it all ends up rather shouty with no real revelations.

Quite, one does not find this rather brutal approach very attractive.  I remember there were several occasions when I was Head of Jam at the WI, and we had to raise funds from Corporate Clients.  My negotiating style was criticised, and I was told in no uncertain terms to ‘man-up’. Well, save wearing a false moustache and a banana in my trouser pocket,  I really wasn’t that sure how to do that.

womandressedasman

And why would you want to anyway, Agatha dear?

Indeed, my dear.  And Jimmy Young was told the same – that his approach wouldn’t work; that the interviews would not have any substance; but how wrong the world was.  Of course tastes change and now that we have Mr Trump as President elect I think we will see more of it.

I believe so, and I appreciate that things much change. But was it not Kurt Cobain who said:    Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.

So, we should be true to ourselves and success will follow?

Spot on!

And this Linzertorte is certainly spot on Mary dear.  Could I have another slice, while I top up our coffee?

With pleasure dear heart.  We can work it off with our belly dancing lesson this afternoon. Did you remember to bring your tassels?

In my valise, dear.   

linzertorte.jpg

http://www.austria.info/uk/things-to-do/food-and-drink/favourite-austrian-recipes/linzer-torte

 

3 Little Buttons
Mudpie Fridays

Spooky looks

1930s-makeup-the-jean-harlow-look2

Mary, dear one, what a treat to see you looking so happy.  Has anything particular happened this week to cause such a flush of joy across your cheeks.  Perhaps the Count has come up trumps with a romantic gesture?

Oh Agatha, how sweet of you to notice.  But no, my fresh faced appearance has nothing to do with the dear old fruit, but I did have my annual visit to my facialist this week.  She gave me a new treatment, something to do with hydraulics apparently.  Of course, at my age we need heavy lifting gear to alleviate the wrinkles, I think that’s what the lovely Gina said, anyway.

Is that Gina who works for the rogue cosmetic surgeon who has been hitting the headlines recently?

Yes, one and the same Agatha.  But Gina is totally above board and on the right side.  She doesn’t get involved in any of that invasive, injecting buttocks stuff.

Botox I think you mean.

Oh yes.  Well, Gina swears by natural remedies and plenty of exercise, with the odd facial peel thrown in to keep one looking youthful and vigorous.

Well Mary, you do look ever so well, tip top dear.  Perhaps I should pay her a visit?  Maybe eradicating a few lines will help me feel more attractive during the coming party season.  Perhaps, even, I might find a new beau?

Oh I do think the force of your personality is enough Agatha dear. After all, at our age, looks are not the first port of call when looking for a romantic companion.  One has to be careful about how far one goes with this kind of thing.

Well Mary, that is a rather ironic comment considering the money you have just spent having your skin pummelled and tightened.  I mean, if it’s good enough for you then it should be good enough for your oldest friend, don’t you think?

Oh but dear one, you do tend to get a little carried away sometimes.  But of course Agatha, I didn’t mean to be bossy (flushes) – but I know you.  You see a new thing and you go a little overboard.  I can imagine you being persuaded to have all sorts of procedures once you are sitting in that seductive environment, surrounded by images of ladies who have shed decades with one swipe of the knife.

Do you mean that I would go for a full face lift without batting an eyelid?

vintageimprovers

Possibly Agatha, and you wouldn’t be able to bat your eyelids for months afterwards!  Don’t you remember April Bartholomew?  She had a series of facial lifts and tucks and couldn’t blink at all by the end of it.  

Heavens dear – I hadn’t realised that was the reason she always wore dark glasses and had such a strained look about her.  I thought she was hoping to look like Victoria Beckham!  But you’re quite right Mary.  I always do get carried away.  After all, I did lose all sense of proportion over that rotter Binky.  Perhaps I should stick to the Estee Lauder counter at Selfridges, Daddy’s discount still applies there – amazing really after all these years, but I guess old man Selfridge must have been desperate.  Anyway, Florence really does look after me.  She always manages to find just the right foundation colour and texture for my skin.

And you always look glorious Agatha.  You are still a real head turner when you have had your hair done and you are wearing something expensive.  It’s your bone structure I have always admired.  Those cheek bones would shame the Duchess of Cambridge!

Thank you dear, they are a real asset as it means I’ll never really have to have any serious surgery.  But, that reminds me dear about that very sad story in the news last week.  Do you remember Pete Burns, that pop singer from the 1980s?

Oh yes indeed.  His band was Dead or Alive were they not?

That’s right dear.  Anyway, he met an untimely end last week, at the age of just 57 – so young and so tragic.

I did hear that, I agree so very tragic.  Such an interesting chap too.  I do remember being struck by his beauty when he was first on the scene.  Quite transcendent.

peteburns

Yes he was.  And for some reason he went totally overboard on plastic surgery.  One wonders what drove such a talented and good looking chap to such extremes.  He must have been quite insecure inside, I imagine.

Perhaps he was, Agatha dear.  I believe that it all started when he went to get his broken nose fixed and it went wrong.  

But isn’t that what happened to David Gest too?  Poor chap had some dreadful surgery that went horribly wrong and he too died before his time.  

Horribly tragic.  I believe dear Pete had admitted that being in the spotlight made him very conscious of how he looked.   It seems that nowadays you need more than talent to succeed in the world of popular music, you need to look a certain way.  It’s such unremitting pressure on the young ones.

I agree totally my dear.  One wonders what lengths people will go to to conform to some arbitrary standard of beauty.  

Yes Agatha, and of course, the pressure is on both men and women – it is a worry, particularly when you know that those images we are fed every day of perfect features are all air-brushed.  They are not real.

Well, let’s try and embrace the warts and all.  The good thing is that as one advances in age, one can join in the Halloween celebrations and look witchy and scary with very little makeup.

modern-covens-feature

Yes dear.  The only problem is that we sometimes scare ourselves too!  But do you remember the larks we used to have by simply putting a torch under the chin?  

Oh indeed Mary, a darkened hall and a torch was enough to make the bravest child quiver in fear.  Amazing how the simple things work best isn’t it?

Indeed Agatha dear and, talking of simple things how about a nice cup of tea and some of Ethel’s pumpkin pie?

I thought you’d never ask dear.

pumpkinpie_70659_16x9

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pumpkinpie_70659

Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Green Balls and Glitter

green-disco-ball-bonanza

By Jove Agatha!  I must confess that was a surprise last week!

What on earth are you talking about Mary?  Has Mabel been spiking your tea again?

No, no dear.  Do calm yourself.  I was talking about Strictly Come Dancing and that politician chap with his green face and alarming yellow suit.  Did you watch it dear?

Oh, ab-SO-lutely dear heart.  It is quite the required viewing at la residence.  I always make sure Snetter brings me a large G&T and a plate of Cheese Straws before I settle down, but I must admit I get so excited that those little pastry flakes do find their way into the most unusual of places!

That sounds rather itchy dear.  I do hope that Ed Balls continues to do well, he really has thrown himself into the whole thing which is just so admirable; but of course there are some lovely dancers this season.

Indeed there are – it’s such a shame that ballroom isn’t taught in schools more.  Do you remember having to practice our Flying Skips together at class with Miss Trutchington?  

mw

Indeed I do Agatha.  In fact, I am certain that the late, great Morecambe and Wise must have copied our moves for their end of show dance.

You are spot on Mary!  Although I would like to think that our rendition was a little more… feminine…. should we say!

Of course it was dear,  and everything was fine until those young chaps from Broadwick Grammar came to dance with us, but I do seem to remember a couple of them rather liked the fact that you were always taking the lead!

My goodness Mary, your memory is quite rapier sharp today.  But you’ve reminded me of that lovely man in America, Pierre Dulaine, who believed that dance could help the underperformers and trouble makers and enhance a child’s education and life.  

http://www.pierredulaine.org/about-pierre/

Oh yes, I do remember something about him.  Didn’t they make a film about him?

Yes, indeed they did dear one.  It starred that delicious Antonio Banderas (sighs) and I believe it was called ‘Take the Lead’.  But, all this dancing is so romantic and stylish it does make me think of happier days when there was someone to share the excitement with.

banderasdancing

Indeed Agatha dear, and I believe we need to find you an exciting man for the upcoming party season,  it simply won’t be the same without one.

Yes (looks wistfully at her cup of tea) I do miss old Binky.  I still feel a tad guilty about leaving him to rot in that Egyptian jail.  Maybe I could drop the charges and have him return to Blighty.

You are a soft touch Agatha.  I think you should leave him to his own devices, he needs to be taught a lesson, that you are not a woman to be trifled with.  And we need to “hook you up” as the young ones say, with a suitable gent.  In fact, you might meet someone if you join me at the party next week.

What party is that dear?  I don’t believe I have received any invitations for the forthcoming weekend.

Oh, well those charming people, the Jutting-Heskeths, have invited the Count and I to a ‘Strictly’ Halloween party.  I am determined to go, but sadly the Count will be entertaining Great Aunt Madrigal on her annual visit from Florence.  So you could be my “plus one”!  Apparently it’s going to be glitter and ghouls!  Their parties are quite the talk of society and invitations are only to a very select few.  I need to decide on my costume, of course.  

I don’t believe I do know them, dear, but it’s a thought.   Could we perhaps wear our belly dancing outfits?

Oh Agatha dear, that would certainly put the frighteners up them, and may scupper one’s chances of any more invitations.  I think I should go well covered, the less flesh on show the better in my view.  No, I was thinking more of Madame Arcarti – you know, the Medium from Blithe Spirit.

blithe-spirit-nichola-mcauliffe

That would be too perfect, my dear.  And so elegant.  I can imagine you floating serenely through vaulted rooms wafting incense and predicting futures. And maybe I could dress up as the Spirit – paint my face green.  Perhaps I might attract the attentions of a charming politician if I am channelling Ed Balls?

Oh my goodness dear, I would advise caution.  After all, our old pal Gussie Twot-Wickham was involved with that MP for a while.  I believe he was mostly made of wood – right down to his handlebar moustache.  She used to complain it gave her splinters!  Still he was rather dashing and good at parties and the like.  Always had a ready anecdote with which to thrill the assembled company.  

Wasn’t he the one who was chums with that orange man with the strange hair in America. You know the one?  He keeps bothering women.

Trump dear?

No, not me dear.  I do believe it was the dog.

Oh no Agatha silly, I mean Donald Trump who’s running for President.

My goodness (fanning herself quickly) don’t mention his name!  Just the thought of him makes my head spin and my heart sink.  My equilibrium has been quite all over the place at the thought of him becoming President – I mean, can you imagine what the first lady would be like…. goodness, I believe the whole world would go backwards……women would be quite subjugated…..and then there’s the wall…. Oh I feel quite faint (swoons)

Agatha dear, pull yourself together and have some more Apple Tart!

Thank you Mary, (munching daintily) yes that does pep me up.  Maybe an MP is not such a good idea then?

I think not dear, but perhaps a spot of speed dating would give you a lift?

But Mary dear, you do talk nonsense!  You know that, at my age, nothing is ever done at speed! Which reminds me, isn’t that Lesley Joseph amazing – a true example to all of us who are trying to mature with grace and vigour.

Oh absolutely dear.  Who knows, after we’ve mastered belly dancing we could perhaps take up the Charleston?

Now, there is something to look forward to.  Would you like another slice of apple tart ?

Do you need ask?  This really is glorious – so seasonal, and the pastry is as light as a feather!

appletart

http://thecakedcrusader.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/apple-tart-maman-blanc.html

3 Little Buttons

My Random Musings

Twirling and Whirls

feetdancing

Agatha dear I feel quite invigorated after our first belly dancing lesson.

It was exhilarating Mary, exhilarating.  I feel quite 72 again.

I really was impressed with the ability of my new brassiere to hold everything in place – there were plenty of moments which could have resulted in a wardrobe malfunction.

Indeed Mary dear, it was quite a relief for all of us I’m sure.  Viennese Whirl?

Ooh please, how delicious.  Wasn’t Lucia Pintworth a gem – quite stunning in her crimson silk pantaloons,  she was the spit of that lovely Karen Clifton from Strictly, I thought.  And a youthful 59, if I understood her correctly.

Surely not, by the way she was bending backwards in such a supple fashion she can’t be more than 42.  But didn’t she marry Maxim as a result of a holiday romance when he was on a Grand Tour?

Goodness, I didn’t think anyone went on a Grand Tour nowadays dear one, well apart from those terribly rude Top Gear boys.  Anyway, there is a little more to the story of how Maxim met Lucia.  Did you not hear about the unpleasantness between him and Fortescue Warboys?

Really, Mary?  I am quite in the dark as to any kerfuffle between Max and Forty.  

Well,  some years ago he and Fortesque had a colossal ding dong at one of their table tennis tournaments in our games room. Maxim got quite out of hand, bordering on the violent.  As a result they smashed the display cabinets in the Count’s games room and nearly took out his favourite stuffed Parrot.  In fact, the dear old fruit was certain that there was going to be pistols at dawn!

Goodness Mary, I do believe your husband can get quite carried away sometimes!  I can imagine his Italian blood quite on fire at two English Toffs smashing their ping pong balls about and getting into a tizzy.

ping-pong-match-1922-jpg-838x0_q80
That is true dear, I had to calm him down with several large glasses of Chianti.  But the whole episode was really about Maxim wanting to marry Fortesque’s cousin, and dear old Forty went into a total fizz about the whole thing, protesting that Maxim was only after the Fabergé snuff box that the Tzar had supposedly given her.  Trouble was everyone, except Fortesque and Maxim, knew it was a fake!

He sounds too much like Binky dear, and we all know how that ended.

Yes Agatha dear!  Anyway, Maxim was shipped off to stop him from interfering and quite frankly at 78 he really was becoming a bit of a liability – (whispering) too many dalliances with the servants so they say.  So in Italy he met the delightful Lucia.

And such an asset she has turned out to be.  She has certainly calmed Maxim down, but she talks nineteen to the dozen and I think he just lets it wash over him, can’t understand more than one or two words of what she says.  Neither can I of course!

Well Agatha dear, I may have a solution to that, and it really is quite exciting when I think about it.  

I can see that dear.  You look positively overcome, fit to burst.  Tell me then, while I pour the tea.

Well, I’ve been thinking about this for some time now.  I’ve been reading articles about teaching yourself new things to stimulate the brain and stave off dementia.  So, I’ve decided to go back to School!

Oh Mary dear isn’t that a bit radical?  I don’t believe St Margaret for the Pure of Heart isn’t quite the same now.  I understand it’s a comprehensive and really quite modern!  And, erm, not wanting to put too fine a point on it dear, aren’t you a little old for gymslips and satchels now?  Although I must say you can’t beat a pleated skirt and a nice blazer – they’re quite ‘on trend’ this season I believe.

Oh Agatha sometimes you are just too old fashioned!  I have no intention of going back to my Almer Mater, I’m enrolling in one of those delightful online learning courses which means I can do everything from the luxury of my own home.  And besides, you know perfectly well what happened the last time I wore a gymslip and had to hang onto those bars in some kind of arcane ritual…

gymschool

Golly yes, but you did look most decorative dear heart.  But anyway, what on earth has possessed you to take on this challenge dear?

Well, you know that The Count and I just about rub along due to the differences in our languages?  Well,  recently I have found myself wanting to have chats with the dear chap around subjects that are a little more in depth than one or two ice cubes in my G&T.  So, I am learning Italian!

How confusing dear, it means I won’t be able to understand either of you!  Don’t you think this is all a bit much Mary?  I mean we’re only just back from Egypt, and most of the time I had to get by with sign language and some charades – goodness know what language they were speaking!

I do believe it was English, Agatha.

Well, yes, but I struggled to understand our guide at the Goddess Temples in Luxor.  So at our age, do you think it’s possible to learn a new language?

I do believe that women – even chaps – can turn their hand to anything at any time of their life Agatha.  After all we hadn’t been belly dancing until tonight and look at the progress we’ve made – you managed to get your tassels twirling most becomingly.  Besides, the lovely people at Future Learn – the online education people – let you go at your own speed.  

Well if you must dear, but it’s all a bit beyond me I’m afraid.

Oh but Italian is such a wonderful language, and besides, I can now successfully order a glass of white wine – “Vorrei un bicchiere di vino bianco”

Oh, it sounds so much more sophisticated in Italian – I’m transported to the old days of elegant sipping and cocktail dresses *sighs*  

prince-and-showgirl

I know, so romantic is it not.  But that’s just the start of course.  It’s totally super that after just one lesson I can ask The Count for two different types of tipple!  Now I need to learn how to say “Please may I have another Viennese Whirl”

Free online language courses:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/categories/languages-and-cultures

marys_viennese_whirls_96895_16x9

Viennese Whirl recipe:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/marys_viennese_whirls_96895

 

3 Little Buttons
My Random Musings
Life Love and Dirty Dishes

Recipes

cakes-traditional-dundee-cake

  • DUNDEE CAKE

http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/international/european/british/traditional-dundee-cake

 

bananacake

 

angel-cake1

 

battenberg

victoriasponge

applepie

jammysponge

bread_teacakes

 

naan_86626_16x9

  • Naan Bread http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/naan_86626

 

marys_lemon_meringue_pie_02330_16x9