Sunday, 22 November 2015

Happy Holidays and Books from my Bookshelf

My bookshelf holds two versions of The Glass Slipper. The first is a children’s play written by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon.  

The Glass Slipper - Illustrations by Hugh Stevenson. 
Published by Allan Wingate, 1944.

The play was commissioned and produced by Robert Donat and performed at the St James Theatre, London in 1944 and 1945. Hugh Stevenson who illustrated and decorated the book also designed the scenery for the stage production. Geoffrey Dunn, John Ruddock, and Betty Baskcomb were all members of the original cast. 

Illustration by Hugh Stevenson 

The rise of the curtain discloses the kitchen in the dim light of dawn. Snow outside. A grandfather clock, a broom, a tap, a fireplace, a pump, a string of onions, a kettle, a rocking-chair, a table, a sink, fire irons, unwashed cups and dishes. Cinderella is asleep – a cock crows. The stage lightens a little. Cinderella sits up and rubs her eyes.

Oh! Oh!
Silly old rooster!
Crow, crow!
Shrilly old rooster!
Every morning Crow, crow!
“Time to get up!”
I Know!
Fire to light,
Kettle to boil,
Lamp to polish
and fill with oil.
Ashes to sweep
Up in a heap,
Oh Dear!
I’d ever so rather go back


In this the second version the play has evolved into a story with illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard.

The Glass Slipper by Eleanor Farjeon
Published by Geoffrey Cumberlege, 1955.

Outside the kitchen in the falling snow, the Rooster crowed: 'Cockadoodledoo!' Inside the kitchen in her narrow bed, Ella pulled the thin blanket over her ears and tried not to hear him. As well as being thin the blanket was short, so when she covered her head it left her little feet bare. They were not only the prettiest, but the littlest pair of feet that any girl of sixteen was ever blessed with; but when they poked out of the blanket they were blue with cold. The kitchen was a vast dark stony room, more like a cellar than a kitchen, which is often the cosiest room in a house; but nothing could make this cold vault cosy, even when the fire was lit on the wide open hearth...

Illustration by Ernest H. Shepard.

I'm a fan of Ernest H Shepard's artwork and while the price of an original illustration from Winnie the Pooh is beyond my budget, the following was more affordable; 

Auction catalogue entry  - ticks and scribble added by me in my excitement!

I'm also lucky enough to own a letter written by Eleanor Farjeon, which reads “Darling, I expect you know this already in its other form. If not – here it is – if so, here it is again. Love and blessings on you all from Eleanor! The letter was found inside the front cover of the book on the left of this picture.

The story of Cinderella and the glass slipper is familiar to most of us, while Eleanor Farjeon is perhaps less well known.   If you would like to find out more there is an excellent piece about her here.


As many of you already know our son, his wife and their two little daughters are spending Christmas and the New Year with us.  They arrive on the 6th December and return to Australia towards the end of January 2016, which means I will be away from my blog for a few weeks.

But … before I go I'm sending you a message, wishing a wish or two.
To let you know I'm thinking, this Christmas tide of you.

Kind thoughts  

and Yuletide greetings

I'm sending loud and clear.

To wish you a Merry Christmas and the happiest New Year.

I am very grateful to everyone who visits me here, thank you. I hope this coming holiday season brings you all much joy and happiness.
I hope to see you again in 2016.
With love, Barbara xx

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Adventures of Be-Wee the Gnome A Guest Post by Julie Drew

I have got to let you know that my long-awaited and sought after treasure,'The Adventures of Be-Wee the Gnome' arrived earlier this week! Monday to be more precise, so I have been enjoying it immensely with its entire complement of 20 full-page colour plates by Lilian Govey! She and Anne Anderson did a great deal of works which had similarities in many areas, and I guess this is why I just am so besotted with them both as illustrators! Their Black and White drawings are just as gorgeous as their colour illustrations, which I do find to be such a real talent. Charles Robinson and his brother W. Heath Robinson also had this extraordinary talent with their illustrating skills! I never cease to feel extremely fortunate to have so many amazing treasures in my extensive library of old children's books!

Be-Wee,though,is just SOOOOO cutesy and adorable, even if, or maybe even because, he has a very cheeky streak to his personality! I actually just added all the photos from the listing where I managed to purchase him from, to my Pinterest page "In Books I Own!!!' as I recently decided to start a couple of pages after it was suggested by so many folk I have come to know through buying on-line from all over the world!   I must say that I do cheat by googling most of my beloved subjects and Pinning from there as the photos are usually so good!  The problem with Pinterest though, is that you can so very easily lose an hour or several every time you go into it!! It certainly has opened my eyes very wide to just how many precious and extremely special books I DO have, and I feel very humbled indeed to know that I am able to pluck any one of these off my shelves whenever I feel like!

Be-Wee The Gnome

Again I do thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing my snippets with your blog readers, Barbara. I have been so thrilled to read such kind and genuine comments left by many of these people who I have never met! We do share so many common interests with others all over the world, and being able to link up this way is almost like magic in its own way! I am not the most computer literate human being on the planet, so if you would like to add my Pinterest page's Be-Wee pics to your site so that they may be shared and enjoyed by your book loving community, I think that you will also fall in love with this timeless little fellow! And maybe it will encourage more of us to hunt down and read about Agnes Grozier Herbertson’s Fairy Folk from so long ago!!! Even as an adult, I am always finding and enjoying lots of the now lesser known authors' works which were a staple in the huge Annuals of days gone by!  In fact, it was in one such volume that I first met Be-Wee and his friends from the Happy Common, and other similarly named places! I now also have the gorgeous 'Hurrah for The O-Pom-Pom’, Cap O'Yellow' and 'Bob-along, The Brownie Man' in very early
editions and featuring similar characters to my adored little Be-Wee!!

A later edition of Bob-along-the brownie-man by Agnes Grozier Herbertson

Loving the way this author wrote, with her additions of sweet little rhymes throughout, I then went on to discover more of A.G.H's books such as 'Lucy-Mary (or The Cobweb Cloak)' as well as 'Teddy and Trots in Wonderland' both of which are delicious and original fairy tales with delightful illustrations. The latter was originally published chapter by individual chapter in the Ward Lock & Co 'Wonder Story Books’, during the late 1800's, and then finally all were re-published as a complete book of those adventures and illustrated by Thomas Maybank who also did the fabulous endpapers to the afore-mentioned annuals well into the 20th century .He also was the initial illustrator of Oojah, that wonderful elephant who had his own very appealing annuals in the 20th century! My copy of Teddy and Trots is from the 1920's, and is in extremely well-read condition, but I still could never part with it! Lucy Mary is illustrated by Margaret Tarrant, so to see her early colour plates is a real treat and I often look through it again, even if not re-reading the book! And of course, I simply love going through my numerous large old annuals and being delighted to re-discover the stories and poems by this favourite author about her little gnomes and pixies as they get up to mischief!  I never get tired of seeing the various characters, especially when accompanied by their very own Lilian Govey pictures!

Teddy-and-Trots in-Wonderland by Agnes Grozier Herbertson

I am blessed, truly I am, to have gotten to know such wonderful stories, even in my adult years. The more of these old children's books I discover, the more I find life still has to offer!! And being able to enjoy and then share, makes the experience all the richer!

Until the next time I am able to share my thoughts with you all, which shall be after Barbara has spent a well-deserved and long, most enjoyable break with her family, I thank you for reading and enjoying my little ramblings from Australia; and I wish you a truly special Festive Season doing your favourite things with your favourite people.......

Many warm smiles always, Julie and the Fur Babies here in Oz.    xoxo  'Wu-u-uff!!!'

**All images Pinterest

Thank you so much Julie, I look forward to ‘chatting’ with you again in the New Year. Barbara xx

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to call in – you are all wonderful! Barbara xx

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Fruit Cake and Flower Girls

You may be wondering what fruit cake and flower girls have in common but read on and all will become clear …

It's a lovely sunny morning ...

The recipe looks straightforward, so I'm sure it will be OK. Whoops - please excuse the blob, I softened the butter a little too much!

Plain Fruit Cake

Ingredients 150g (5oz) soft margarine (I used butter), 150g (5oz) castor sugar, 2 eggs, 275g (10oz) mixed dried fruit 225g (8oz) self-raising flour 1 level teaspoon mixed spice, 100 ml (4 fl oz) milk.

(One) Preheat oven (150 deg C, 300 deg F, Gas 2)

Castor sugar in the bowl and flour in the scales - we are under way.

1 level teaspoon (and a bit extra because I love it!) mixed spice

(Two) Put all the ingredients together into a mixing bowl (told you it was easy) & stir well until the mixture is blended to a soft dropping consistency. 

(Three) Turn into a prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake for 2 hours until firm to the touch.

(Four) Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

(Five) Try to decide between a pretty plate or one that tells it like it is!

(Six) Settle for the one that tells it like it is.

(Seven) Sit back and enjoy.

In recent years our Christmas cakes have come from Marks & Spencer but this year I want to make my own hence the practice run before tackling the real thing. My sister kindly sent me her foolproof (never had a failure) Christmas cake recipe, and that will be my next challenge. 

Our son, his wife and their two little daughters are coming over from Australia. We have all kinds of things planned with a trip to Disneyland, Paris and a few days in London at the top of the list. We also have a big family get together and a trip to the pantomime to look forward to.  We are counting down the days until the 6th December when they arrive. It will be two years and one month since we last saw them. 

Zoe Rose and Lilly Grace when we were last together. Malaysia 2013.

Zoe Rose and Lilly Grace last weekend (with thanks to their mummy for the photographs)

Zoe Rose

Lilly Grace

Don’t they all look adorable?

I promise not to bombard you with lots of cookery inspired posts – books will be back on the menu very soon! However, I must just tell you about my Madeira cake ... no, not really!

Lots of you know the very talented Willie (he of the amusing comments) but did you know he can cook?  To prove it, he has agreed to share his Christmas cake recipe with us all!  

Ingredients: or something like this

* 2 cups flour
* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup of water
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup of brown sugar
* Lemon juice
* 4 large eggs

* Nuts
* 2 bottle brandy
* 2 cups of dried fruit soaked in brandy

Sample the brandy to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the brandy
again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and
drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a
large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point
it's best to make sure the brandy is still OK. Try another cup... Just in
case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and
chuck in the cup of dried fruit with plenty of brandy.

Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner.. If the fried
druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.
Sample the brandy to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt.
Or something. Check the brandy. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your
nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you
can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to
fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl
through the window. Finish the brandy and wipe counter with the cat.
Take a taxi to Tesco and buy cake.

Bingle Jells

Willie Wine....Top chef!  Living on a mountain, somewhere in Dorset! Hic! 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Dogs and Roses - A letter from Julie

After I published Julie’s previous letter Diane from Always Crave Cute left a comment suggesting that Julie needs a blog of her own I agreed with Diane and asked Julie about it. This is what she said; You asked if I have ever done a blog, and truthfully, I haven’t as yet! But I adore the written word and have even written articles for magazines over the years. Many folk have asked if I am a writer by profession, and it always makes me smile. What a huge compliment!! 

Now for the next instalment - over to you Julie;

So ... is the weather still gorgeous over in UK? We have been in the throes of a rather chilly snap which has affected the southern half of Oz as well as most of the Eastern coast. We are far enough North that it has not affected us up here! Thank heavens as the cold and I am not fond bedfellows at all. So many youngsters have been seeing and touching snow for the very first time in their lives this weekend. Amazing! Brrrr....

Cobweb in Julie's garden. 
It's beautiful Julie but did I ever tell you about my fear of spiders? I can only imagine the fearful eight-legged nightmare that built this. 

I am smiling as I think of your family members in Adelaide. My step mum, Adele, is from the Adelaide Hills and snow is so very rare in that area. The news reports were filled with children who were having such a fabulous time as they made their snowballs and even Snow Men. The huge smiles on their mesmerised faces was a real delight to see, after all the awful and sad stories which the news has been filled with for what seems like ages. Of course, though rather chilly here in the tropical area of North Queensland, it is gorgeously sunny, so the early-morning  temperatures climb very rapidly to the mid 20s, and it is just wonderful at this time of year and quite heavenly really!  I know what you mean about the warmth you are having, which means that a raincoat is quite a nuisance. And to think that our idiot Prime Minister (who no one admits to liking) keeps on about there being no such thing as Climate Change!! (Julie wrote this when Tony Abbott was in power. Malcolm Turnbull, a former investment banker and lawyer, is the new prime minister.)  

Our seasons have changed so radically in just the past three or four years, that even the fruit crops such as Mangoes, don't know whether it is winter or summer. A good thing about the lovely, if weird weather though, is the amazing strawberries which are available at the moment so cheaply in Queensland. I can easily live on them! I love all sorts of fruit and with everything growing to perfection here, I feel so lucky. We have got passion fruits on the vine at the moment, but my banana tree decided to curl up its toes recently!! I chop up my strawberries and then scoop the passion fruit pulp all over them, with just a small amount of sticky brown sugar. Too Yummy! And I love stewing the winter apples with a few strawberries tossed in too.

Another visitor to Julie’s garden

The weather the whole world over is just mad ... I think you and I had almost identical temperature ranges the other day, from what I saw on the World News! Your poor dahlias seem to be suffering the mixed up signals from Mother Nature, just as all the plants here are doing with the summery climate we are having during our winter. The mango tree which is in my neighbours yard, but overhangs into my yard is FULL of fruit and blossoms all at the same time! We do not usually see even the start of its flowers till late September for December fruit. It is totally bizarre! The Fruit Bats are not even aware of their favourite fruit being there so these mangoes are actually seeming to grow without being destroyed, unlike when they are on the trees at the normal time of year. 

My girls are all out lazing in the sun right now. Bless their hearts.... They felt the chill earlier on, that's for sure! It was MUCH cooler than yesterday. We had just 6.5 degrees at 6.30 this morning. However, it had climbed to 14.3 by 8 o'clock, and now at 9.30am it is already 18.  We should get to the mid 20's by lunchtime and stay there, till late afternoon hopefully. Mmmmm...Beautiful! My big chairs have lovely fleecy throws on them so it is little wonder that the Fur Babies love curling up on them early in the morning and late at night. Well dear Barbara, I shall head off and have a nice hot cup of tea. I think that going out on the veranda with the dogs and enjoying the warmth sounds like a good plan. 

Much love and many smiles too, Jules xoxoxoxo
August, 2015

PS The wrinkly teddy bear is LouLou, my almost totally deaf Shar Pei. The big dog with the floppy ears is Georgie, who was so badly abused that my vet had to keep her over for four months to get her well enough for me to adopt. The small dog with the pointy ears is Koo, who has adopted us by coming over from next door after she decided that she loved the company and being allowed to sleep on my bed with the other two every night when she stayed for a weekend when Kylie and her sons were away.  The boys still come to play with her all the time and it works out perfectly for us all.  

All photographs courtesy of Julie Drew

Previous letters from Julie here and here


A follow-up from Julie 

I too had a shocking fear of spiders as a small child, and was cured of it by my darling dad!  One evening there was a huge huntsman spider up in the corner of my bedroom and I was beside myself with fear, screaming for Dad to kill it! He flatly refused, instead catching it and putting it in a lovely big jar. He made me catch insects for it and basically have it as a sort of pet, telling me that it would be far more afraid of me who was so much like a giant to it, than I had a right to be frightened of IT!!  I did release my new friend into the garden after a few days, by the way!! My dad is such a clever man to have thought of such a thing!

Well, it worked, and ever since I have had a healthy (if respectful where venomous ones are concerned) fascination for these amazing critters. I even did a long assignment when at high school, all about their web-spinning abilities!! I love to see the very delicate little webs in my garden as the sunlight catches them. They truly are beautiful and so amazingly complex.

Thanks so much Julie, I'm sure readers of this blog will enjoy hearing from you again, just as I do. 
Love Barbara xx

This talk of spiders reminded me to wish you all a Very Happy Halloween.  

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Win this competition and see your design on sale at

I’ve got a really fun competition for you this week. 

Get creative; design a pair of Joules wellies to win a luxury three night break in a Golden Oak Treehouse Cabin worth £5,000 or one of ten runner-up prizes of a £250 Joules gift card. Nothing could be easier or more fun.  I just tried out the design website and it’s simplicity itself.

I chose shades of blue, orange and beige with a doggy motif (naturally). What will your design look like? 

The winning welly design will go on sale at

To enter submit your design here.

You have until the 4th of December to get creative don’t delay doodle today! 

All proceeds from the sale of the limited edition winning welly will be donated to charity via CHARITABLY JOULES.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Ruth Cobb a Guest Post by David Redd

Ruth Cobb (1878-1950) was an English illustrator and writer, particularly noted for portraying children and dolls in colourful costumes.  Some of her full-colour plates may be found disbound and sold separately as prints (“My First Pet”) or reproduced as modern posters (“Little Girls of Other Lands”).

My First Pet & Little Girls of Other Lands

Ruth was born on 14th June 1878 to Thomas Cobb, a future novelist but at the time evidently a tailor in New Bond Street, London.  Curiously Ruth’s birthplace is stated as 164 Regent Street, later the sumptuous studio of Victorian society photographer Walery.  However the family soon moved to Tunbridge Wells where her sister and brother were born.

All the family became busy writers, but young Ruth was determined to be simply an illustrator.  She worked first in a studio then as a freelance, eventually selling to magazines as varied as Chatterbox, the Autocar, the Builder, and Punch.

Notable success began from 1902 with her three books in the Dumpy Books series, where Richard Hunter’s verses accompanied Ruth’s vivid colour sketches of Dollies, More Dollies, and Irene’s Christmas Party.  (Other Dumpy titles included one by her father and two by Mary Tourtel, pre-Rupert.)  She then produced larger-format books such as The Wonder-Voyage and A Trip to Fairyland, and provided illustrations for books by others.

The Wonder Voyage - front & back covers 

Meanwhile her holiday sketches of old buildings started seeing print, eventually blossoming into a long secondary career of illustrated articles.  For adults she decorated works such F J Harvey Darton’s A Parcel of Kent, her brother’s first novel Stand to Arms, and – a striking dust-jacket – E H Young’s 1930 best-seller Miss Mole.  However she remained devoted to children’s art.

Ruth Cobb cover art (Image The Bamboo Bookcase

During the Twenties and Thirties Ruth contributed to an astonishing number of children’s annuals and miscellanies for Blackie, Collins, Nelson, Tuck and others.  At times she provided both text and pictures for stories or articles.  Some young readers could not resist colouring her black-and-white drawings, and surely a portfolio of her children’s sketches would make a lovely colouring book for modern times.

However, this long extension of the Edwardian Summer in children’s illustration was ended abruptly in 1939 by the outbreak of World War II.  Ruth’s market was shattered, and so was her whole way of life.  A memoir states: “She went to live with relations in Sussex.  There, she did a lot of voluntary war work, became President of a Women’s Institute, did map drawing, for the War Agricultural Committee in Lewes, and spoke for the Ministry of Information.”  Typically, a 1941 lecture of hers was “Some of London’s Bombed Buildings.”

Later she resumed her work for periodicals, and as the war ended she began producing a quartet of slim illustrated topographical books, all well-received.  Evidently she suffered a sudden heart attack, being found dead on 7th December 1950.  Her wartime struggles seem to have deepened her appreciation of liberty; the first chapter of A Sussex Highway is entitled “The Beginning of the Road”, its main illustration dated shortly after VE Day.  The final chapter of her final book commemorates Thomas Paine, author of The Rights of Man.

Charming as those late adult books were, it is for her delightful children’s illustrations that Ruth Cobb will be remembered.

Illustrations from The wonder voyage

Note on Ruth Cobb’s family.

Her father Thomas Cobb (1853-1932) was the author of nearly 80 popular novels and many shorter items.  Her sister Joyce (1890-1970) produced poems, articles, short stories (notably WWI fiction) and one novel.  Her brother (Geoffrey) Belton Cobb wrote approximately 70 crime thrillers.  Ruth herself created only a dozen books of her own, but contributed to over a hundred more.

Note on signatures.

Her preferred location was generally the lower right-hand corner, as “Ruth Cobb” or “ruth cobb” sometimes boxed or enscrolled.    Smaller drawings bore initials “r c” or perhaps nothing.  In Edwardian times, the plates for Dollies etc were unsigned, while larger paintings gained a stylised slanting “R” within a “C”.  Sketches for adults published then or as late as 1953 were signed “Ruth Cobb” in handwriting, with smaller items initialled.

Grateful thanks to The Society of Women Writers and Journalists for providing the picture of Ruth Cobb and for other kind assistance. David Redd.

I would like to add my thanks to David for sharing this very interesting article.   

The Miss Mole cover image is from The Bamboo Bookcase, other images supplied by David Redd.

Update 25th October, 2015

David kindly sent along another example of Ruth’s work.

This plate is from The Collins’ Children’s Annual for 1925 which is currently available to purchase from eBay.

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