My mom’s house is small. Quite comfortable for her on her own now, but certainly cosy when we were growing up. A little two seater and two armchairs were crammed in on top of the fire. If they were all occupied when a visitor came, one of us got bumped to the stick box. Sometimes the teeny coffee table was pulled out and my parents and neighbours or family would play cards. More often the kitchen table would be cleared off for a Scrabble game. Scrabble was serious business. My mom was the unofficial arbitrator. If she wasn’t going to challenge a word, then it was probably in the dictionary. But who polices the police? She wasn’t above pulling a fast one herself.
You will notice that there was no mention of TV. The television was in a different room. It was a cold room, slightly too big with chairs that were slightly uncomfortable. You really had to want to watch the television, I always thought, to go in to it. All the action happened in the kitchen/sitting room. Newspapers and books were read, conversations had, coffee drunk and naps, napped. I love that. I always feel that a big television set in the room sucks you in and hypnotises you. Even if it’s not switched on.
We didn’t want that. When we were dreaming of our home, we wanted open plan kitchen dining sitting room with a fire roaring in the stove and a kettle singing away on top of it. The television would be banished somewhere else. This big room would be the heart of the house where everyone could come together; where the action, the mess and the buzz of family life and friendships could happen.
But we all need somewhere to disappear off to….. I always wanted a little snug. It was one of my big things. A little room off the main room. A cosy spot for curling up in and watching a DVD or maybe even pulling out my never-ending knitting project (#world’sslowestknitter). So we have our snug. It’s got a couch and an armchair, the television and all associated paraphernalia. And one wall is lined with bookshelves! I love books. Just love them. The smell of them. The feel of the pages under my thumb. The sound of turning over a page. I love the dreams they unleash. The places they transport you. And occasionally, I even learn something.
Recently I pulled The River Cottage Cookbook back down again. It is based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s initial forays in to the life of a smallholder which were filmed and shown as a television series called River Cottage. And while rewatching the DVDs gets me all fired up and hopeful, the book is great for the practical side of things. On the DVD, his great chicken experiment resulted in deciding that the best roasting birds were Wyandotte hens crossed with Indian Game cockerels. With hindsight and further research, he says he should have used Indian Game hens and crossed them with cockerels.
We are big Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall fans here. You may have realised already. I devoured this heavy tome when we first got it, skimming over tonnes of recipes in order to find out more about selecting fruit varieties for my orchard, look after my sheep and butcher wild game. (Don’t worry, I came back to the recipes. They are delicious. His roast chicken is amazing.) Please bear in mind, all this time we were still renting a house in an estate in the middle of town. Oh how I dreamed…. Now I’m having to get real. I’ll be delving back in to this book again and again.