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Suck it Up

Some more pics from 1930s housekeeping manual The Home of To-Day. This time, me and my Hoover.








Christmas card Message

I’ve not seen a less festive Christmas card. In Thomas and Penelope’s defence, maybe this was a work greeting, and their friends would have received something warmer.

I picked this up for FREE from the kind people at Edinburgh Books (my husband was buying a proper book too, and the shop had no change). From a quick Google, I reckon Thomas could be the MP and Baronet Sir Thomas Cecil Russell Moore – the dates, Scottish connection and Thomas’ likeness tally.

1930s Kitchen Furniture

1930s Kitchen Furniture

Our new favourite shopping destination is the flea market which takes place on the last Saturday of each month at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Edinburgh. So far, we’ve got some good deals by going along towards the end of the day (out of laziness more than drive to get a bargain, mind you).

On my first trip, I picked up The Home of To-Day: Its Choice, Planning, Equipment and Organisation. This housewives’ manual was published by the Daily Express in what looks to be the 1930s. Here’s what it presents as the desirable kitchen:

Fitted kitchen cupboards

Fitted kitchen


Small gas cooker

Large gas cooker

Family-size gas cooker

Anthracite stove

Anthracite stove

Fitted sink cupboards

Fitted sink cupboards

Kitchen sitting room

Kitchen sitting room for a maid


Well-organised dresser

Enclosed units

Enclosed units for easier cleaning

I certainly wouldn’t mind the dresser or anthracite stove.

The mysterious coffins of Arthur’s Seat

I’d forgotten all about these. If you like the weird and are ever in Edinburgh, do pop along to the National Museum to spot the Arthur’s Seat coffins.

The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

The mysterious coffins of Arthurs SeatThe mysterious coffins of Arthurs Seat detail

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W.I. Fashion

Bridgnorth’s charity shops always come up with the goods. Today, I bought a compilation of Home and Country for £1.25. Home and Country is the magazine that  the UK’s Women’s Institute (W.I.) started publishing in 1919.

Because you can never have enough pictures of inter-war clothing and hair…

Summer dresses

Summer outfit ideas, 1941

Ostrich skin shoe

Ostrich skin shoe, 1922

Bra and girdle

Brassiere and girdle, date unknown

Women's legs in tights

Anlaby Hosiery, World War II years

Women in overalls and aprons

Women’s overalls, date unknown

Women in felt hats

Francobarbe remodelled hats, date unknown

Women and hair clip

Lady Jayne Wave Clip, 1920s

Women in dress

Dress dyeing, date unknown

Women in swimsuit

Knitted two-piece bathing suit, date unknown

Women in 1940s dresses

Spring afternoon dresses, 1941

Sad and incommodious things | Early Modern Medicine

If I ever did another PhD (no danger of that, mind), it would be in the history of medicine – women’s medicine, probably.

Googling Jane Sharp’s Midwives Book tonight, I came across this blog post about miscarriage (an experience I wish I wasn’t familiar with…) by academic Jennifer Evans:

What struck me was that several hundred years ago, as now, pregnant women were making every possible effort to control an outcome that was, in all likelihood, already decided – whether they gave birth to a healthy baby.

Should I ever get a third stab at pregnancy, I’ll not judge myself so harshly for seeking out my own Dragon’s Blood; I’ll not be the first or the last woman to do so.

1961 – Bavaria and Austria

In this instalment of the postcard collection, our writer is back in Bavaria for her annual holiday.

Updated January 2014 with a couple of extra cards.

Kurhaus Ruhpoldimg

Ruhpolding, Bavaria

23rd May, 1961

Sunday night

Have been on familiar territory again at the Kurhaus. We don’t sit at the same place so haven’t seen George yet, but we were doing all right. The Dutch girl courier is there again and came and spoke to us, so we are well in. The Kurhaus didn’t look like this to-day. It has poured since lunch time, just like the day at Caithness. They say the weather forecast is good for to-morrow, we will have to wait and see.

Was George a hot waiter?

postcard showing Traunstein, Bavaria, GermanyTraunstein, Bavaria

[day unclear] June, 1961

I am trying to number my cards but whether I do it right or not I do not know. We have had breakfast and are waiting for our train. The crossing was beautiful at first then it was terrible. I lost some of my lunch but will soon make it up, Hope you are managing.

Although I cannot make out the exact date on the postmark, the writer’s numbering indicates this is the second postcard in what I’ve got.


Water lilies

Ruhpolding, Bavaria

5th June, 1961

I know that this card is not Ruhpolding, but it looked nice. We have got the length of knowing that we go to Vienna next Wednesday. We have had a lazy day to-day, Monday looking round the shops and trying to book tours. We are sent somewhere different every time. We sat and knitted on the veranda for a while as it was showery. Hope you are doing all right at home. Still no sign of K.

Ooh, who was K?

The German Alpine RoadRuhpolding, Bavaria

7th June, 1961


To-day we have been going round all the back streets. They are just [xxxxx] but the houses are very pretty. We are getting as bad as you for looking for seats. The weather is still not good, misty and cloudy but not so cold as home. To-morrow we go to Salzburg so we will have plenty of energy. How are you doing? Fine I hope. Must get going again to the nearest café as usual.

With their occasional references to men and shopping, I had always got the impression the writer was sending these postcards to her sister. The way the last few cards have been signed off, though, give the impression the recipient isn’t in the best of health; that, and the reference to looking for seats in this postcard, make me think she is writing to someone older – her mother or grandmother.

Terrace in SalzburgSalzburg, Austria

8th June, 1961


Here we are in Salzburg. We came on the German tour. It has fired up now but the journey was very wet. As usual we are at our favourite occupation, eating. We hope to get to the castle but haven’t bought much, for a wonder! The streets are very narrow in the [xxxx], so is the café, it is a squeeze to get in. We haven’t even taken photos. Have a bash at the bottle [?] before I get back.

Rattenberg, AustriaInnsbruck. Austria

9th June, 1961


We are now in Innsbruck. The run was beautiful at first but then rain. We have been half way up a mountain but the view was spoilt by the cloud. We have lunch then go a tour of the city and then shop. It was the amateur night last night in the Kurhaus, and the [xxxxxxxx] went up to do a turn.

Pink flowersRuhpolding, Bavaria

12th June, 1961


Had a nice day although there is still not much sun, In the morning we wote cards and in the afternoon we went a run on the horse cart. It was beautiful, right into the mountains. You certainly see the scenery, we climbed (on foot) away up a path to see the waterfall, the most energetic we have been yet. Hope you are feeling fine.

House 'Feichtner', Winkl, BavariaRuhpolding, Bavaria

14th June, 1961


another very wet day. We have got most of our shopping done. I got your letter to-day and got the material, it looks nice. N.D. seems to be doing her stuff. She might have brought something with her. I have marked our window. Its upstairs but we haven’t meeded the sunshades. There isn’t any news to-day. We are getting ready for Vienna to-morrow, we start at six in the morning. I hope it is fair. I hope you are not feeling too fed up.

You might just be able to make out her blue cross showing her room against the top left window of the hotel. This hotel, Haus Feichtner, is still going today; it is in the village of Reit im Winkl on the German-Austrian border.

I wonder who N.D. was.

1960 in Bavaria

It is more than six months since I last blogged, and nearly a year since I last blogged about the postcard collection. My only excuse is that work and home life have been pretty full-on, although that’s not really an excuse – I’ve still watched plenty of crap TV.

Anyway, seeing as I work in a UK university, I can officially claim September to be the start of a new year, so my resolution is to get back on top of this blog and, in particular, to finish telling the story of our Edinburgh lady’s trips to Europe.

Postcard of Westminster Abbey, London

London, SW1

21st May, 1960

Have arrived safely in London and are waiting to eat. The train was packed and very warm, managed to doze off and on. It has been very wet here but seems calm so I’ll hope for the best. Hope you are all right.

Koenigsschloss Herrenchiemsee

Königsschloss Herrenchiemsee, Bavaria, Germany

23rd May, 1960

We have just toured this castle. It is very beautiful with mirrors and  chandeliers, crystal and china. Puts your candlesticks to shame. The weather has cheered up and we had to sail to the island We are experts at eating wedges of cake our frocks will soon not fit. I don’t think we will have time to do half of what we want. Hope you are feeling all right.

Hotel Schmied von Kochel

Kochel am See, Bavaria, Germany

24th May, 1960

We are sitting at this hotel drinking cider. This is our first stop on the way to Oberammergau. The sun is shining and we have had a lovely run. Imogen liked her birthday presents, we were up at 5.30am. She is getting off with a Swedish courier nothing like mixing the countrys. Must go now.

Imogen has accompanied her on previous holidays. 


Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany

24th May, 1960


We have arrived in Oberammergau at last. We are staying in a little house half way up the mountain so we have quite a walk but the view is beautiful, as usual our first stop is a cafe but there are plenty shops, we have still to find the  flowers [?] we should see. The run was cloudy specially at the end when we climbed into the mountains. We have seen the highest mountain in Germany, still covered with snow. It is a very nice village although we haven’t seen much of it. 


Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany

25th May, 1960


Have had an afternoon shopping, there are lovely shops but we don’t seem to be getting on very quickly. The men here have all got beards and long hair and look very wild, and you can’t tell the boys from the girls. We had dinner in a little café and it was very good. We met some Americans, the place is overflowing with them. This is the mountain we passed this morning but it doesn’t have much snow now.

St Bartholomew's Church, Koenigsee

Königssee, Bavaria, Germany

27th May, 1960

We have just been on the Königssee again, it was cloudy but quite nice. We have just been down the salt mines, we had to wear trousers a jacket and a hat and looked like something out of a harem. We went in a little train and down shutes. I can hardly sit down now. The salt is the mineral salts for curing different troubles. It is fine knowing [?] our way about.

Taking the tram

Before Christmas, I started stripping the paint off the cast iron fireplace in our bedroom. Using a heat gun worked well, but I got spooked when I realised that I was almost certainly vaporising old lead paint, so we decided to get the fireplace dipped ‘n’ stripped instead. (The whole fireplace is put in a big vat of paintstripper by specialists.)

Dipping ‘n’ stripping is surprisingly cost-effective – £40 for a bedroom fireplace versus £20 and a lot of time doing the same job with a heat gun – but the downside is that you have to remove the whole fireplace. As we speak, I’m waiting for someone to come and refit it – another £60 as the plaster on the surrounding wall needs fixing after a messy removal executed by moi.


In spite of the expense and insidious rubble dust from the crumbling wall, the process started to feel worth it when I found an old tram ticket behind the fireplace.


The tram stops listed are for east Edinburgh, in and around Leith, and its edges are blackened from the fire. A little calendar card I found with it dates from 1919, so I’d like to think the ticket dates from then, but in truth I have no idea.


Incremental kitchen make-over

We love our flat (to be fair, we would have loved almost anywhere after spending five years above a strip-club, but it really is a nice flat), but it needed some upgrading when we bought it in 2009 and we’re still nowhere near completing it. Something that clearly needed to be done was the kitchen, but now is not exactly the time to be taking out credit for home improvements and it seemed like it would take an age to get the lump sum together for a new fitted kitchen. In the end, me and an awkwardly positioned kitchen island came to blows and I won, triggering a piece-meal renovation to work with our gradual accumulation of funds.

A very inoffensive, surprisingly sturdy workbench from IKEA’s Varde range was the first thing I bought. Thanks to the wonders of Gumtree, we got it half-price from a guy who even delivered it for just a few quid. This is now our main pan and cutlery store. The best part of it was that no installation is required; I just sanded and varnished the floor where the old island had been, put new lining paper on the wall and then plonked it in place. Here you can see the scar of the old island on the floor:


Clearly, we wouldn’t be able to make a statement through a high-spec finish, so we were going to have to bring some character to the kitchen instead. I love all the 1950s metal larder units selling on Ebay, but the majority are collection-only and relatively few come up in Scotland. Just before Christmas, though, I spotted a sideboard whose seller lived near my family and which hadn’t attracted much interest. My Christmas present was decided:


Made by W. Lusty & Sons, it just needed a scrub and lining with paper before it was fine for storing canned and dried food. The atomic-style pink breadbin and lime green kitchen roll holder are both by Typhoon, bought from the Shelter charity shop chain and Ebay respectively.

The third key piece we needed was something to give us a sink and extra worktop. I toyed with freestanding again, but the state of the wall behind the existing units and the need for a good-sized food prep area meant that fitted would be more practical. After repeatedly dismissing the possibility that we could afford something by the guy who built the on-show kitchen for Freemans cafe in Edinburgh, I bit the bullet and called him. (Until recently, his contact details were on a brass plaque by the till – good marketing.) It turned out he was up for a small, no-frills job, so by tomorrow night, our sink unit will be ready to go! Here’s a picture of the reclaimed scaffolding planks we’re having:


Next, paint and lighting. My inspirations are the aforementioned Freemans and the enviable interior of another new Edinburgh cafe, Brew Lab. Watch this space.

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