The Simple Things Magazine November 2019

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Taking time to live well

November

Hips and sloes for jellies and gin • Zesty orange cake • Indie bookshops Woolly yarns & whodunnits • Weasels • Birdwatching from your sofa Why we love a puffer • Nice mugs • Greek gods & paper moons


A delicious whodunnit… LIGHT THE CANDLES, DRESS IN CHARACTER AND SOLVE A CRIME OVER DINNER AT A MURDER MYSTERY PARTY Photography: CATHY PYLE Recipes & Styling: KAY PRESTNEY

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ancy dress, devilish delights and murder most horrid are a gruesome, yet glorious combination for a dinner party with a difference. Combine an end-of-year gathering with fake moustaches and flapper girl dresses to host a murder mystery party where you can discover who is playing the victim and who will stab you in the back – all before the cheese course! Our simple seasonal menu means less time in the kitchen so you can enjoy the fun and still have the time to work out which of your guests did the dastardly deed…

Set the scene for a murderously good dinner party with vibrant cocktails, oozy canapés and a simple one-pot bake that won't have you tied to the kitchen


GATHERING

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LOOKING BACK

THE YARNS THAT CONNECT US INTERWOVEN WITH BRITISH HISTORY ARE TALES OF KNITTING. ESTHER RUTTER SHARES STORIES GLEANED FROM RESEARCHING – AND RECREATING – SOME MUCH-LOVED WOOLLEN GARMENTS Illustration: ANNELIESE KLOS

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ool has been worn for millennia on every part of the human body. Coated with lanolin, its fibres are waterproof and absorb odour. Wool draws moisture away from the skin, keeping us warmer and dryer than most synthetic fabrics. For several thousand years, humans have spun the hair from sheep, goats and other animals using spindles and spinning wheels. Once twisted into yarn, wool fibres can be knitted or woven into cloth then draped across the floors, walls and windows of our homes, blocking drafts and damp. Wool cocoons our families, and its thread runs back several thousand years through British history. It’s this thread that I followed as I knitted my way from north to south, east to west. SOCKS FOR A VIKING I challenge myself to recreate Britain’s oldest surviving needle-made piece of clothing. Natural fibres rarely survive the ravages of light, oxygen and time, but in the 1970s, 211 Viking-era items were unearthed from beneath the city of York during excavations to build a new shopping centre. Wool, plant fibres and even silk were all found, including one complete woollen item: the ‘Coppergate Sock’. Discovered in the yard of a 10th century wattle building, it had been made by Scandinavian ‘nalbinding’ which, unlike knitting, uses one large-eyed needle to pull lengths of yarn into interlocking loops. The ‘Coppergate Sock’ is like a little slipper; it has a gently pointed toe and swells to mirror the

curve of its first wearer’s foot. Measuring just 26cm long, it shows signs of darning at the base of the heel. Pale reddish-brown, stained by the peaty soil that preserved it, it stops below the ankle. Today it’s displayed at the Jorvik Viking Centre, carefully stuffed, as though its Norse owner had left their foot inside. I wanted to make a replica Coppergate-style sock, but first I needed a suitable needle. The Norse used broad, flat, wide-eyed needles made of wood or bone. Mine was handmade by my husband, Tom, from a branch lopped from a birch tree in our garden. As long as my forefinger, it’s silk-smooth to the touch, creamy coloured and its broad, wide eye, can carry thick and lofty yarn. As a Viking sock needs Viking yarn, I worked with lightly-spun Icelandic Lopi yarn the colour of barley. Months later, I pull the finished item on my foot. It’s more like a closefitting slipper than a softly-flexible modern sock. The stitches are dense and, though warm, quite stiff. I imagine the Norsemen wearing these as they went about their lives on Coppergate. There is over 1,000 years of Britain’s human history wrapped around my foot. THE FISHERMAN’S GANSEY Heavy and dense, these traditional fishermen’s jerseys are tightly knitted to repel water, encasing the wearer in a woolly cocoon from »

“They use patterns discernible not just to the eye but to the fingertip”

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H O U S E PA R T Y WANT TO VISIT ONE OF THE BEST BIRDWATCHING HIDES IN THE LAND? THEN STAY HOME. HERE’S OUR ROOM-BY-ROOM GUIDE TO WHAT BIRDS YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE FROM YOUR WINDOWS Illustrations: STUART COX. Words: RUTH CHANDLER


GARDENS

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ffer up a modest backyard buffet and, just as the colour of the garden begins to fade, birds will swoop in like a chirpy troupe of actors bringing energy, drama and beauty with them. Autumn is when the avian population is at its highest – the young that fledged over the summer are now descending on feeders and species such as long-tailed tits return to gardens, having nested in woodland. With their open-air theatre, feathered visitors please both the eyes and ears – listen out for the return of some star performers, including blue and great tits, robins, song thrushes and wrens. Birds improve our mental wellbeing, too – a recent study by two universities and the British Trust for Ornithology found that “afternoon bird abundances were associated with a lower prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress.” Different foods tempt a variety of species and each will plump for the receptacle that suits its location, feeding style and perching ability.

THE VIEW OF YOUR FRONT GARDEN

FEEDER: Window-mounted. Whether it’s a sitting room, dining room or study, the space with a view of your front garden, is a good spot from which to admire bolder birds. Get up close and personal with blue tits (known for their daredevil upside-down dining), great tits, house sparrows and starlings. You needn’t have a large garden – roof terraces and balconies can nourish them, too. In fact, your outside space can act as a giant feeder in itself. Plants sustain birds in two ways: with their seeds and fruit, and the insects they attract. By letting your plot become a little wild around the edges, you’ll provide feathered visitors with treats. Allow noninvasive weeds such as grounsel and chickweed to thrive and plants to skip a trim so that old growth remains. Modest patches of thistles and teasels may even draw glitzy goldfinches to dine on their seeds.

THE VIEW FROM THE BEDROOM

Don’t forget that avian visitors also need a drink and a wash – a shallow container with gravel and a floating ball to avoid freezing will do the job

FEEDER: Hanging types in trees. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to wake up to the aerial acrobatics of coal tits and small flocks of greenfinches breakfasting? Try and attract them by suspending tubular feeders from a branch as high up as you can reach in order to refill. Being a woodland species, the siskin also likes to feed close to cover, while the goldcrest, our smallest native bird, may peck at hanging fat balls in extreme cold. You could also smear a fat and seed mix into the cracks and crevices of the tree itself to draw the athletic treecreeper. If you rise early, you might spy the shy jay – this colourful and divisive member of the crow family takes full advantage of first light, when fewer of us are up and about.

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STRIKE A LIGHT CREATE YOUR OWN CANDLES AND YOU CAN FILL YOUR HOME WITH YOUR FAVOURITE NATURAL SCENTS Photography: ANNA BATCHELOR Styling: TAMINEH DHONDY

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CREATIVITY

CASE OF THE MISSING ENDING We love a good murder mystery. Back in the summer we commissioned crime author Sophie Hannah to write a murder mystery short story for The Simple Things – but with no ending. Instead, we asked readers to come up with their own. Many of you did just that and we had an impressive shortlist. But the winner is Leah Holroyd, whose ending is printed over the page. For those of you curious to know how Sophie would have ended it, visit thesimplethings.com/blog/murder-mystery-ending Case solved!

PATERNOSTER

A murder mystery by Sophie Hannah and Leah Holroyd Offices of Unwin-Carruthers & UnwinCarruthers, Solicitors, April 1930 “Philip…” “Hm? Oh. Good morning, Miss Marfleet.” She looked troubled. “I see. You’re back to addressing me as Miss Marfleet. No more Alice. Am I to stop calling you Philip?” “I’m sorry. I never know what to call you, or how to think about our… predicament.” My own grumbling bored me. The trouble with complaint is that it does not move things forward. “Do you have good news for me?” I asked. One might as well remain optimistic for as long as is feasible. “Philip, I can’t bear this uncertainty. I must decide. I have decided. I can’t marry

you. Not with Father’s passing still unresolved. Don’t you see? It’s bad enough to live with one unanswerable question. Endless not-knowing is a torment.” “Well, true, but… you could say yes. Then I could refer to you as Mrs UnwinCarruthers — no more Miss Marfleet! Yes is as firm an answer as no, and one that would prove more satisfying for us both.” “I’m not fit to be anyone’s wife, Philip, not with this horrible… question looming over me. Tell me truthfully: do you still believe that we will one day know who killed Father?” I left my desk and walked over to the window. Was it time to risk unvarnished honesty? “I believe that if you sincerely wished to know, then you could.”

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Faux sheepskin rug | £20 Place this indulgently soft faux sheepskin next to your bed so that you can sink your toes into it on chilly mornings. argos.co.uk

Things to want and wish for

Grey Amara cup and saucer | £16 Whether it’s a warming spiced latte or a hearty soup, this ceramic mug is just the right size. ellajames.co.uk

Seamless chevron yoke sweater | £155 Layer up against the autumnal chill with this beautiful 100% pure wool Scottish-made sweater. toa.st/uk

Loving your home, inside and out. Books and treats for you to enjoy. Chosen by Louise Gorrod Reviews by Eithne Farry

Dualit four-slice Classic toaster | £195 Enjoy hot buttered toast all year round, courtesy of Dualit’s stylish Evergreen toaster. dualit.com

Prime oak round table | £950 Available in any colour you would like, these Devon-made tables can host any gastronomic get-together. farmhousetable company.co.uk

Miller Harris x McQueens candle | £65 Our favourite of the four fresh scents is Green Stem which is evocative of trimmed stems and dewy air. millerharris.com

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WISHLIST

100% Linen bedding in Olive | ÂŁ15-ÂŁ165 As the temperature drops, dive back under the duvet with sumptuous linen bedding made from the finest French flax. secretlinenstore.com


The rich flavours of mushrooms and chestnuts in this rustic tart pair up well with the tangy dressing on the warm walnut, squash and stilton salad

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FORAGING

FINDERS KEEPERS AS THE FORAGING SEASON DRAWS TO A CLOSE, ENJOY THE LAST OF THE HEDGEROW PICKINGS WITH ROSEHIPS AND SLOES, SAYS LIA LEENDERTZ Photography: KIRSTIE YOUNG Illustration: ANNELIESE KLOS

Foraged crops are free, abundant and flavourful. All you need do is get to a good spot at the right time, basket and secateurs in hand, and you have some of the best food available. Through the foraging seasons of spring, summer and autumn, we’ve shown you where to find these crops, how to pick them, and ways to turn them into delicious dishes.*

THE MONTH O F N OV E M B E R

November brings us to the close of the foraging year. The hedgerow harvests are all but over, packed away in jars and bottles. But there is still one final act. As the leaves fall away, a last harvest of berries is revealed: the rosehips and the sloes. These are the toughest and most astringent of the berries, softened and slightly sweetened by a frost, but needing heat and sugar to bring out their best. They’re packed with the vitamin C and antioxidants that will shepherd us safely through winter. So pull on your wellies and thorn-proof gloves and step into the frosty air and crunching leaves for one last forage. » * Missed any of the series? You can order back issues at picsandink.com.


FLOWERS IN THE HOUSE Bringing blooms indoors: it’s what every home needs

PHOTOGRAPHY: NGOC MINH NGO/TAVERNE AGENCY

Paper Moons

When these out-of-thisworld flowers bloom, they have pale blue petals, but it’s when the globular seedheads form and take on a creamy bronze colour in autumn that they come into their own. Also known as Scabiosa Stellata, these alien-looking flowers grow in the UK, although you may have to convince friends that they’re not from outer space.

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both HOW WE LIVE

To boldly go CHOOSING BRIGHT COLOURS FOR YOUR HOME CAN LIFT YOUR MOOD AND ELEVATE YOUR STYLE Photography: CATHERINE GRATWICKE Words: JANE ROCKETT & LUCY ST GEORGE

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rom peaceful pastels to creative greens and passionate reds, colour evokes emotion. So, whether you want your home to have a sense of happiness and wellbeing or to foster an atmosphere of fun and frivolity, a pop of colour can either lift your mood or leave you feeling off-kilter. We are all wonderfully unique and enjoy colours in a multitude of different ways, but there are some fundamental rules that identify

how particular colours affect our moods. If you’re looking to shun the magnolia and varying shades of grey and embrace a bolder colour scheme, picking bright colours for the right rooms can help to boost your creativity or create a sanctuary away from the rat race. Choosing colours is never easy, but by knowing how different hues make us feel we can then translate these emotions to make houses that feel like real homes… »

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CONCRETE CALM INDUSTRIAL MATERIALS BRING A SURPRISING FEELING OF COMFORT TO THIS VICTORIAN COTTAGE NEAR HAY-ON-WYE Photography: MICHAEL SINCLAIR/TAVERNE AGENCY Styling and words: SUSANNAH LE MESURIER

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HOME TOUR

A palette of greys is far from gloomy, providing a cossetting neutral backdrop. And industrial feels cosy with a labrador on your sofa


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THE SIMPLE THINGS NOVEMBER 2019

November

CANDLELIGHT & FEEDING THE BIRDS

www.thesimplethings.com

FABRIC: CRUZ PARAISO BY ANDREWMARTIN.CO.UK

Hips and sloes for jellies and gin • Zesty orange cake • Indie bookshops Woolly yarns & whodunnits • Weasels • Birdwatching from your sofa Why we love a puffer • Nice mugs • Greek gods & paper moons