I was born in the merry month of May, the month when Lily of the Valley blooms and permeates the air with its heady fragrance. Is it any wonder that I adore that flower?
Back in Pleasantville in New York State, where I grew up, we had a lush bed of these lilies, growing happily in the shade of an elm tree in the front garden of our family home. Every May I would gather little bouquets for my Grannie whose birthday was only two days before mine. Not surprisingly, her favourite perfume was called ‘Muguet des Bois’ – Lily of the Valley. (more…)
Okay, guilty as charged. I’m an unrepentant Shakespeare groupie, dating from when I was age17 and saw my first professional production in New York City – Richard Burton in ‘Hamlet’. In the years that followed, I’ve managed to see and/or read 36 of the 38 plays attributed to him. He is my hero, and also the hero of many others, which is why much has been made of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, which was on April 23rd. There is no actual record of his birth but there is one of his baptism in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, on 26th April 1564. Back then baptisms generally took place three days after a baby’s birth so it is assumed that William Shakespeare was born on this same date, April 23rd. (more…)
I can’t remember who introduced me to Estee Lauder’s ‘Youth Dew’ but the first time I took one whiff of it, I fell in love with it – and wore it for many years. The fragrance Youth Dew was launched in 1953 as a bath oil…and because of its success, the manufacture of the perfume followed. I started wearing it in my mid teens, delighted to find a scent that didn’t wear off in five minutes. Yes, one of the selling points for me was that it stayed with you, reacting to your skin, your body’s temperature, and went on perfuming the air around you for hours. People knew I was approaching because ‘Youth Dew’ would announce my arrival, long before I even said hello. To my teenage self, trying to budget my pocket money, ‘Youth Dew’ was definitely value for money. (more…)
While listening to Radio 4 the other day, I swear I heard the announcer say that Austria had banned fish sales. I thought to myself, why fish sales? Isn’t Austria land-locked? Had their rivers become polluted? Then, as I listened to the rest of the report, the penny dropped. Not fish sales but face veils…the kind that some Muslim women wear. My ears were playing tricks on me…again. Yes, this sort of thing has happened before…and it’s got a name: Mondegreen.
The actual definition of a mondegreen is a ‘mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony so that it gives it a new meaning.’ The word was coined by an American writer, Sylvia Wright, in 1954, when she misheard a lyric from the Scottish ballad, ‘The Bonny Earl o’ Moray’. Instead of ‘laid him on the green’, Miss Wright heard ‘Lady Mondegreen’. And so the mondegreen was born. (more…)
Someone once said: “Gardening is cheaper than therapy…and you get tomatoes.” I think that pretty much sums up why I do it – all those hours spent digging, weeding, feeding, composting, pruning, watering – losing myself in these chores, enjoying the great outdoors…and then the reward: those sweet, juicy tomatoes.
I call myself a transplanted New Yorker (the gardening pun is intentional), having moved to England many years ago. I grew up in the Westchester County suburb of Pleasantville where my mother had a small garden in which – I admit to my shame — I never took the slightest interest. It was upon marrying an Englishman and moving to the beautiful Sussex countryside that my addiction to gardening began. The gardening bug bit me and I’m still infected. Americans would say I’ve developed a green thumb; the Brits say I have green fingers. But as far as I’m concerned, I happily use both of my hands and all the digits on them to make things grow. (more…)