Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management #wwwblogs

In mid Victorian times Mrs Isabella Beeton published an illustrated book to help middle class women manage their household and entertain successfully.  First published in 1861 it was a reprint of the 24 monthly installments printed in her husband's magazine.  It continued to be reprinted after her early death at the age of 28, being edited and updated as appropriate.

In 1923 my grandmother bought the latest edition, but I am not sure how much influence it had on her lifestyle.

This sunny bedroom certainly was an up to date picture, but unfortunately my grandmother had inherited Victorian furniture. Watch out for those "noxious gases" from the waste pipe!

Perhaps my father's nursery looked like this, but I doubt it.

These impressive displays look as though they came from the original edition and I seriously doubt that my grandmother and her daily maid could achieve such a banquet.

To read about Isabella Beeton go to

My Dad's war #postcards #WW2

When I was a child in the 1950s, my father used to tell me stories about his time in the Royal Engineers during the second world war. Initially he was sent for training in the north of England where he was allocated a bunk in a cold hut with a pillow full of straw and 3 army blankets and given 2 battle-dress uniforms, 2 pairs of boots, an overcoat, a rifle and a bayonet.  He also received a knife, a fork and a spoon to use and to keep clean.  They rose at 6 am and spent the day doing drill, PT, marching and learning to use the rifle and a bren gun, till lights out at 10 pm.

A humble sapper, a few months later, he set sail with his comrades shortly after his 21st birthday for Operation Husky the invasion of Sicily as part of Field Marshall Montgomery's 8th Army.  It was the first joint operation by the British, American and Canadian soldiers and the men were pleased to discover that the people of Sicily welcomed them.

Jim's soldier's service paybook gives me the dates and locations, and the collection of postcards he brought back, though pre-war photos, tell me something of what he saw.

A month later he was en route for North Africa.  The main African campaign had been successful but Rommel was still attempting to break through the British Army. 

Within three weeks, the men returned to mainland Italy, landing as part of  Operation Avalanche.  This time invasion was much harder. The engineers' tasks were to clear minefields and rebuild the bridges which had been destroyed by the Allies and by the Axis forces.  Moving north from Reggio, the British troops reached Salerno in late October 1943

before moving inland to Sessa Aurunca.

They also went to Ravello 

Agropoli and Capua

Jim remained in Italy until March 1944 when he returned to England for training prior to D-day.

Surrey County Show #animals #photographs

At this time of the year there are County Shows all over Britain.  Some, like the Bath and Wells Show last for three days, but the one day show which I have visited many times in the last 30 years is the Surrey County Show in Stoke Park, Guildford.

There are many different classes of animal to be judged.

There are competitions and displays.

There are tractors, cars and carriages.

The sheep even put on a show.

But some were just cuddly.

Billie Burke and the Ziegfeld Folies #wwwblogs #actress #moviestar

Born in 1884 in Washington DC, Mary William Appleton Burke was called Billie after her father, an American clown of Irish descent who appeared in Barnum and Bailey’s circus.  After an early childhood touring the US and Europe, Billie’s family settled in London where she had the opportunity to visit the theatres.  Her ambition to be an actress was achieved when, at the age of 18, she appeared in George Edwardes’ musical “The Schoolgirl” with Edna May and Marie Studholme.  But Billie Burke’s real fame came in 1907 when she returned to the States to star in musical comedies on Broadway.

The Ziegfeld Girls were a more relaxed version of the Gibson Girls of the early 20th century.  Billie joined this group of showgirls who looked very similar in appearance and in stature. They were beautiful young women with many young male admirers.  They danced in complete synchronization, wearing costumes designed by the Russian fashion designer Erté.  Inspired by the Folies Bergère, the Ziegfeld Follies, the creation of Florence Zeigfeld, were a series of stunning revues which incorporated the best of Vaudeville and the Broadway shows.

Ziegfeld’s common-law wife Anna Held was a Ziegfeld girl, but she divorced him in 1913 for his infidelity with another Ziegfeld girl, Lillian Lorraine and early the following year he married Billie Burke.  Three years later their daughter Patricia was born and they moved into a 22 acre estate with a mansion of 19 rooms and a swimming pool. They kept a herd of deer, two lion cubs, an elephant and many other animals.

The Ziegfeld Follies continued on Broadway until 1931 and Florenz Ziegfeld died in 1932. The Follies became a radio programme in 1932 and 1936.  Many of the girls left the show to make wealthy marriages.  Billie continued to appear in stage comedies and in film.

“I never was the great‐actress type,” she remarked years later. “I generally did light, gay things. I often had cute plays but never a fine one.”

Much of the wealth of Florenz and Billie had gone in the stock market crash of 1929 so it was lucky that Billie was able to move successfully from silent movies to spoken film roles.  Her success continued into the 1950s and her last appearance was in 1960.  She is perhaps most famous for her performance as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North in “The Wizard of Oz” originally released in 1939.  She died in Los Angeles on May 14th 1970, aged 84.


And here are two lovely postcards of Billie Burke I have just received from Sarah Talbot @Bea2Sarah