The Hares of Ladywell

My last blog post was entitled: Licet esse beatis It is permitted to be joyful. Well, I think we all know that joy is in considerable demand at the moment, so this post tells how the hares came to be such a vital – and joyful – part of The House at Ladywell and the seasonal sequel, Christmas at Ladywell.

The House at Ladywell combines my passion for history and for mystery. Back in the mid-1990s I wrote a book about a young woman who inherited a very old house in Hampshire and although it got some excellent rejections! I ended up shelving it. Every now and then I would think about it until, in 2015, I realised that the story was incomplete. Instead of a purely contemporary novel, I needed to tell the story of the very old house I’d dreamed up, which is how The House at Ladywell became a multi-timeline novel, combining a modern love story with several glimpses of the history of the house, as well as a few mysteries (because I can’t resist them).

I still had the twenty-year old early version of the story but I only used it as a reference while I re-wrote it completely. About a third of the way into the book, I decided I wasn’t happy with the viewpoint, so I tried writing in the first person, something I’d never done, but luckily the story came alive. So far so good. A month or so later it was clear that something else was lacking. I needed a running theme, something to connect past and present, and that’s when the hares of Ladywell turned up.

Harvest Hare by Nicky

Tentatively, I introduced a hare into the Roman story and felt pleased with it, so from then on the hares of Ladywell became completely real to me and added new depths to the history of the ancient and modern aspects of the old house and its family. I explored the connection again in the follow-up novella, Christmas at Ladywell, and was pleased to expand the story of the hares.

This one’s a tad chubby for a hare but I’m fond of him!

But why hares in the first place? Because I’ve belonged to a local art workshop for years and one day, for no particular reason, decided to paint a hare! It worked so I painted more and sold them – including one at an open exhibition at the Southampton Art Gallery! Now, if I can’t think what to paint, I default to painting a hare, and the more I discovered about these strange and mystical animals the more I was hooked.

It’s been a delight to learn that readers also love the hares, as well as the hints of magic and myth that they bring to the story – and several kind readers have even given me ornamental hares, among them a  sweet little metal hare who sits on my mantelpiece and a tiny silver hare in the shape of a lapel pin! Sadly, I’ve never seen a hare close up, only running rapidly in the opposite direction, but I do have my magical hares at Ladywell!

Tiny hares, 2″x 2″ canvas

I hope everyone is coping with lockdown and isolation. We’re lucky enough to have a garden with a wood at the bottom so we have plenty to do and to see. Here’s hoping we all get through this testing time, and remember, even at times like this, it is still permitted (as often as possible) to be joyful! xx

mybook.to/TheHouseatLadywell

mybook.to/ChristmasatLadywell

 

Launching and Lunching

The launch for ‘The House at Ladywell‘ took place on 25th November at King John’s House in Romsey. A mediaeval house now a museum, it has nothing to do with King John but was possibly a rectory for Romsey Abbey, which is opposite.

Attached to the older house is a Tudor cottage, with a tea room downstairs and a Tudor Parlour upstairs, which is where I held the book launch, and very nice it was too! Friends, family and strangers negotiated the uneven floors and twisty stairs to come and say Hello.

This Christmas I thought I’d give you some tips about Christmas dinner, from some of my vintage cookery books. I shan’t be using any of them this year as my elder daughter is cooking this time, but if you want to entertain in style, you couldn’t do better than follow the instructions in Phyllis Browne’s ‘A Year in Cookery’, first published 1879. My edition is the 1903 one. (Unfortunately Phyllis’s book is not illustrated)

 24th December – Marketing for tomorrow:

A young plump cock turkey (should have been bought some days ago and now hanging in a cool larder); three pounds of fresh pork sausages; chestnuts; potatoes; Brussels sprouts; celery; pork pie for breakfast tomorrow; 1/2lb macaroni; six pennyworth cream for the soup.

25th December – Menus:

Breakfast: Melton Mowbray pork pie; buttered eggs; teacakes; dry toast; brown and white bread and butter; boiled hominy

Luncheon: macaroni and bacon; stewed cheese

Dinner: Palestine soup; roast turkey; sausages; potatoes; Brussels sprouts and chestnuts; plum pudding; mince pies; apple mould; cheese. (It very often happens that plum pudding and mince pies are too rich for the digestive powers of one or two of the Christmas guests. When this is likely to be the case, a simpler dish such as Apple Mould should be provided)

Mrs Beeton, my edition 1910:  Isabella Beeton doesn’t give a Christmas menu but she has a splendid, if daunting, illustration of roast poultry and game.

Christmas Dinner Menu from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, Fanny Farmer  my edition 1921 (sadly no illustration)

Oyster Cocktail; consommé; breadsticks; olives; celery; salted pecans;

Duchesse potatoes; cream of lima bean soup; chicken croquettes with green peas; dressed lettuce with cheese straws; English plum pudding; brandy sauce; frozen pudding; assorted cake; bonbons; crackers; cheese; café noir

~

That’s it for now, do have a wonderful Christmas and if you still haven’t found something good to read over the holidays, you could always try this – it’s got lots of fabulous reviews! Link to Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2BttGRV (And if you’ve read it and enjoyed it, a review on Amazon would very gratefully received!)