I had a really nice thing happen the other day. I was asked to do an interview by Jennifer Carroll who has an online magazine called Celebrating Everyday Life
(what’s not to love about that title). She asked the best questions, about A FINE ROMANCE, but she covered lots of other topics too, like “who would you have for dinner if you could have anyone?” I liked that question! Had to think! I answered them as best I could, and then I thought, this would make a nice post for the blog. I think she’s planning to run the interview in January or February 2014, I’ll be sure to let you know… in the meantime here’s a preview for you, my Girlfriends . . . some of you will recognize these answers, but so many people are writing to say they just discovered my books or my blog … we have new Girlfriends, and this is especially for them . . . here’s some MUSICA as you read:
Jennifer: When did your love of England begin?
me: Little by little, mostly through reading, art and seeing old movies (with lovely old music like this), clues of interest kept coming up.
England is an “empire of imagination.” I think we crossed this bridge in our car!
But those clues were like the lambs scattered on the sides of English hills, one here, one there, they did not come in a clump. My mind was slowly cataloguing them. Over time I became more and more curious about the culture, then about the history and learning about my English ancestors as I discovered them.
It was a very slow unfolding, but after seeing my first English garden and realizing there were hundreds of them all attached to ancient castles, cottages and manor houses; realizing I could visit and even stay at some of the homes of my literary and artistic heroes . . .
. . . seeing the countryside where all the history I’d read about came alive because it’s all still there, nothing has changed; learning more about the interesting lives of people I’ve known from their art and writings, and then the surprise and serendipity of learning about people and lives I’d never heard of before (but should have), I became more and more enthralled more and more inspired. Each time we have gone over, we found ourselves deeper in love and always learning something new.
Jennifer: A Fine Romance – what was the creative process of writing and illustrating the book like?
me: I wrote the whole book while we were traveling for the two months in England, as a diary, one day at a time as it unfolded; mostly I wrote it while we sat in gardens and pubs.
Sometimes I would paint at night. When we came home to Martha’s Vineyard, I rewrote it in my good writing, and put in the photos of the Queen Mary 2, of Beatrix Potter’s House, of the gardens and pubs; I drew the maps, tested the recipes, added more watercolors, and after it was all done, I compiled everything into an interactive Appendix for the blog (under I LOVE ENGLAND). As always with all my books, I just work one page at a time and try to make each page as interesting, fun to read, and as informative and pretty as I can.
It’s a joy, I’ve been so lucky because I love to make things, and I love to share my passions with other like-minded people; the Internet has been quite a blessing in that way. Beauty is the very best of life. I love to try and make some to add to all there is.
Jennifer: A Fine Romance has been a runaway hit. Can you tell us your favorite part of being a bestselling author and what has been your biggest challenge in the journey?
me: When Joe and I made the decision to go to England and keep a diary of the trip, we decided to take all my “blog girlfriends” with us. I told them in a blog posting to get their passports ready and lose some weight, because we were going to . . .
Every one of these chaise lounges had a Girlfriend on it, but they were so careful — I got out the camera and turned around, boom, they were gone. We did not get caught.
. . . smuggle them aboard the Queen Mary 2 and take them along with us to England and they needed to be as tiny as possible. We would hide them in a lifeboat. It was the joke that ran through all the postings of the trip ~ that they were being so “good and quiet” and no one knew they were all smooshed into our stateroom with us. They complained sometimes about being “packed so tightly” in our suitcases as we moved from place to place and about having mash lines on their faces, but they handled all the folding and unfolding very well, and were very quiet when room service came. They liked to dance, and one of them fell into a river on a walk to Ellen Terry’s house, but we all returned safe and sound with memories galore. Whenever I took pictures for the blog (and the future book) I always thought, “What can I show them? What would the Girlfriends like to see?”
What will make them laugh, or cry or go ahhh, or go OH! ~ and that awareness of them made it even more fun for me. Previously, I’d written all my books totally alone in my studio with kitties to keep me company. This time I had a whole group of Girlfriends cheering me on. That was my favorite part. When the book was finished, it was “our book.”
I can’t think of any real challenges except
. . . of course, as I am showing Joe in this photo, the phone never worked while we were there. “See? It doesn’t work!”
Jennifer: What is your favorite region of England? Why?
me: This question is kind of impossible because it’s shockingly beautiful almost every place you go. But, I will say the Yorkshire Dales put a thrill from the tips of my toes to the top of my head . . . positively spiritual with a strong feeling of coming home, tears-in-eyes beauty, the history and sweep of it all. As the wind blows fragrance of wildflower, rain and grass across the vastness of the Dales and the lambs are baaaaing high on a hill, you want to open your arms to the view and draw it all into your heart to keep it there forever.
Jennifer: You’ve also published several cookbooks. What first drew you to cooking?
me: I helped my mom by making desserts when I was very young, brownies and potato chip cookies for sack lunches for my brothers and sisters. But, really, it was setting the table that truly got me going.
I just loved to set the table, mixing and matching old china dishes, etched colored glasses, putting flowers from my garden in little vases, lace-edged napkins, or the ones I would embroider myself, mixing and matching bowls and silverware, lighting candles and making it pretty. It was like playing house. But then, it was difficult to get people to come look at my pretty table without food on it. They simply did not care. So I learned to cook. And loved the art of it, combining recipes, flavors and trying new things.
And when I walked into the room carrying a homemade banana cream pie with the flakiest crispiest crust, rolled out on my kitchen table with my wooden rolling pin, just like my Grandma made
with sugared whipped cream and bananas and toasted coconut, my friends would go, “OH MY, look at that, you are wonderful Susan, yum yum yum ~ and the table by the way, it looks so beautiful!” They made me feel so good, I couldn’t wait to do it again. It was the first time I really felt like I had something I could give. It was one of the ways I began to notice it was the little things that made life sweetest.
Later writing books, hoping I could help others experience that wonderful feeling when they brought a homemade banana cream pie into the room, became my passion.
Jennifer: What do you consider your “go-to” dish?
me: With all the cookbooks I’ve written, there are so many recipes that are go-to for me. My Mom’s Spare-ribs and Juice with Onion Pudding (I’m the oldest of eight children so my books have lots of home type dishes) . . .
. . . always has them rolling in the aisles from happiness. I also have the best Apple Crisp recipe alive in the modern world as we know it today. I’ve tested them wherever I go (a rotten job but someone must do it), and this is a true thing if I do say so myself. ♥ Also, crisp-skinnedroasted chicken with my Grandma’s Bread Stuffing. I really could go on all day. A big one-dish casserole of Pork Chops, Apples, and Sweet Potatoes. Cold White Rice Salad scattered with fresh flowers and herbs. My roasted Cranberry Sauce mixed with Orange Marmalade for toast and tea. In my new book, A FINE ROMANCE, there’s a recipe from my English girlfriend Siobhan. It’s her Orange Lavender Polenta Cake, moist with the little crunchy bits, it’s gluten-free and it serves about twenty-four people so it’s perfect for a tea party. You would like the recipe? Oh yes!
Jennifer: Tell me a little about your ideal day at home?
me: I go into my studio very early before it gets light. I close my eyes and meditate and count my blessings which is a good way to start because it usually brings on a bout of ecstaticness. I have my tea and maybe it’s snowing outside and all I can hear is the furnace humming and the patter of snowflakes on the window. I swirl my watercolor brush in water then load it with paint, put it on paper, and watch the color spread. I write in my diary, make a list or work on a new book. Later, I take Joe his tea, the snow melts and we put on our big jackets, mittens and hats and walk out to the water through the woods (we live on an island so there’s lots of woods and lots of water) . . .
We come home and eat a healthy breakfast. I shoot ponytail bands across the room for my kitty Jack and he retrieves them; we do this about a hundred times. I take my book to lunch, sit at a corner table next to a fire, eat and read. Then a nap. Then a bubble bath. Then Joe and I make dinner together and friends come over and we laugh and drink wine.
I normally don’t get all those things in one day, a nap and a bubble bath and lunch with my book? Not all on the same day. But those are the things I love best and you said ideal. I have red letter days, red letter weeks, etc. Where I get to do the things I love in moderation.
Jennifer: What’s your favorite way to make ‘an everyday’ feel special?
me: I would say the Bubble Bath. With the book. Then the diary, and of course the kitties and Joe make every day special.
Jennifer: Describe your favorite celebration…
me: I love Valentine’s Day. I think it was invented for women, so I like to make sure all my Girlfriends feel loved on that day. I also love to give Tea Parties. There are so many creative things you can do with decorating the table! So many delightful little taste treats that go along with it. I’m a Christmas person too… I don’t think there is a holiday I don’t like! I like non-holidays too, which all seem to revolve around winter and breakfast. Sunday breakfast in bed. Winter breakfast parties with friends.
Jennifer: Can you share your philosophy when it comes to entertaining?
me: I go by the six senses. Does it smell good, look good, sound good, feel good and taste delicious? (The sixth sense is Imagination.) If all those bases are covered, you can’t ask for any more. Hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows in front of a crackling fire, dinner under the arbor draped with twinkle lights in the garden, cinnamon spice wafting from the oven, old music playing, if the church bells ring across the street, then it’s perfect. Most important to remember: It’s not what’s on the plate that counts, it’s what’s on the chairs. Your friends and family. A party is a gift you give the ones you love.
Jennifer: If you could have anyone in the world over for dinner, who would it be?
me: What a wonderful question. I would like Albert Einstein to talk about the spiritual side of his life ~ put his elbows on the table, start talking and not stop until he told it all. I know a little but not enough. I’d love a dinner with Elizabeth von Arnim to hear how she was inspired to write her first book (Elizabeth and Her German Garden). I would like Beatrix Potter to talk to me about her childhood. I would love to get caught in a big nor’easter storm with Gladys Taber where the electricity goes off and we light candles and make baked apples in the embers of the fireplace while shadows dance on the wall from the flames. I would love a fashion-show tea party where Diane Keaton models everything she’s ever worn — at the end Greta Garbo would come out wearing the dress she wore in Ninotchka (the white off-the-shoulder sparkly one, the prettiest in all movie history) ~ while Frank Sinatra (preferably with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra) sings It’s Always You.
One date with Mark Twain, lunch on a rainy afternoon, just the two of us, elbow to elbow, at the Plaza Hotel in New York. That’s the young Sam → in that photo. (I would probably come home and write “Susan Clemens, Mrs. Sam Clemens” a hundred times in my notebook, wondering will he call? Which he won’t because there are no phones, maybe he will write!). After the Plaza, I’d jump through time to pass a tray of orangey-cherryish Old Fashioned’s to everyone at the Algonquin Round Table in the 1920’s (the way to be popular with this crowd, but never saying a word, only listening and praying not to be disillusioned. It’s always dangerous for dreams to truly come true, you take your chances, imagination is a wonderful thing and perhaps all is best left there; in some cases the dream itself might be enough). And that’s all. I’ll just leave you with a few words of wisdom from the genius who should know all about it . . .
I bought your book about England and gave it too my husband to give me for Christmas, it was the BEST present I had. I thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down and finished it in 2 days….of course then I was sad that it had ended! Many of the places in the book, for example Tetbury and Lacock were places we took the children all the time when they were young, walking over the meadows, enjoying the feeling that the cottages had a history and a tale to tell if we could only listen to the walls talk, enjoying the fact that Pride and Prejudice was filmed there with the wonderful Colin Firth. It brought back so many memories We live in Washington State and have done for last 13 years, but this year I really was missing Britain, the cobbled streets, the little shops with their twinkly lights…everything on the West coast seems so new! So it was wonderful to browse your book and see the beautiful photo’s and illustrations and know how much you appreciate all you saw. Next time go to Bath and visit Cornwall where you will get caught up in the tales of King Arthur, the folklore, the old tin mining stories, the art galleries and fishing cottages in St Ives….and of course….Cornish pasties. Thankyou once again for a thoroughly delightful book, I have already given a copy to an unwell friend whose Mother originally came from Britain, she loves it too. Keep up the excellent writing and the beauty that your books add to the world.
Thank you Anthea! That was so nice to read! We did go to Bath, but we are saving Cornwall for our next trip!
I am not much of a computer whiz so this is how I have found a place to write you.
I recently, in fact yesterday checked out your new book “A Fine Romance” and finished it in the wee hours of the morning. I’m retired so I wasn’t fired. It was wonderful. I cannot tell you how excited I am finding you. Not just for me but for my eldest daughter Karen (Kari) who adores England and has been imitating the English accent since she was a wee child.
We lived in Germany for many years when my four children were growing up and when they became teenagers I was trying to do everything “right”. That is a joke. I decided to take Kari on a trip to London. We took a ferry to the Clifts of Dover and from there ended up in the City and also saw Anne Hathaway’s home and other wonderful places. She fell in love and everything was wonderful until we went to the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” with the original cast. When the smoke started coming out across the audience I thought the theatre was on fire and almost had a heart attack. She assured me it was part of the play. We saw “GiGi” that was just precious. What a great trip. Since
that time she has returned but that trip was for a daughter studying in London who had not seen much of Europe and they made a fast trip to many places, especially where her mother grew up on the Neckar River mountain in Heidelberg. My heart is there.
I am about to purchase your book for Kari. She is going to go just nutty over it and I am sure will go back to England.
I life there are people we run into that we just know instantly we would be great friends. Kari will adare you. She is the most precious, loving and fun person. Of course I am prejudice. I do have two other daughters and a son that I feel the same. God has truly blessed me!!
Thank you for also being a loving and fun person. I am happy that you found your honey in life. God truly is good.
How is it possible for me to dream that you would be able to sign a book for my Kari? It will be a treasure for her.
We, she and I are busy baking, making and so alike with God’s creatures in the kitchen. I have just finished this morning making wax molds of rabbits and eggs, etc. Just a little something to place in Easter nests. We love and have precious tea sets and I could just go on and on and on!!!!!!!!
I am a Texas gal and live in San Antonio, Texas. It’s nice but soon I will move to a cottage and Kari’s hubby is building for me behind their lovely home. He is a home builder and awesome. I will have a precious garden, small little chicken house and fruit trees and a balcony to see the Hill Country. Can hardly wait!! This will be in Dripping Springs, Texas. You would love it!!!!!!! I will soon be 76 and love my life!!!
Sylvia Jo Smith
8100 Huebner; 235
San Antonio, Texas
So nice to hear from you .. say hello to your wonderful Kari for me!
You are such an inspiration! My husband and I just returned from a short holiday trip to North Carolina celebrating our upcoming anniversary, and while we were gone, I enjoyed the most unexpectedly wonderful treat…A Fine. Romance! It was completely accidental and coincidental that I acquired a copy of the book, but as soon as I opened the book, I just knew it would be a cozy treasure I would look forward to snuggling up with…and it most certainly has been! I’m so glad that my 3-year-old daughter led me on a wild goose chase through the book store… which just so happened to include veering into the travel section! Thankfully, my older daughters (9 and 11) were able to temporarily occupy her at the water fountains while I quickly glanced at the titles on the shelf… and just so happened to catch a glimpse of the quaint and peaceful countryside adorning the cover of a book that caught my eye, and I just knew that I had to read it! Thank you so much for sharing your trip with all of your Girlfriends…and your blog… if only I’d known about the blog earlier!! I have so much “catching up” to do! Thank goodness for SNOW DAYS… like today… so I can start “catching up”!!! Thank you for renewing my faith in dreaming!
How nice Samantha!
Just finished “A Fine Romance” as Season 4 of Downton Abbey was starting!! I too am a proud Anglophile, so was swept away by the book and all the wonderful detail. Love everything British from tea to swans to sheep to my very favorite area………The Cotswolds.. where we rented an 18th century cottage as our home base Also being Canadian we have the Queen as our Head of State, so am also a Royalist. Thank you so much for the lovely excursion……I enjoyed every minute and will probably re visit over and over.
Just finished your new book and absolutely loved it. Made me want to pack up and go to England. Just discovered your web site. Love, love, love it! I will be ordering some tea and cups. I live in the high desert north of Los Angeles – no English gardens here so I really appreciated your pictures and narrative of the English Countryside.
I am a terrible traveler. Never bring the right stuff with me. Always miss my own bed and pillow and Scottie (Wally) after about 2 nights. BUT, I would try to get over all of that to go to the one country I always said I wanted to see. England! And now your book. I feel like I have been there through you and Joe. Thank You, TY, TY, TY!
Thank you back Linda! xo
Hi I am an artist too, a East Coast transplant and former Hallmark Artist. I love your blog! This site is amazing. I too was very inspired by the Artist Way.
I need to get back to some of the disciplines I learned. In fact I recently pulled the book off my shelf and relocated my art studio with the hopes of getting back to the drawing board. It is a beautiful snowy day in Kansas and I have told myself to get to work and face that blank sheet of paper, but here I am getting inspired by your blog and procrastinating (in a good way of course) and yet I want to go play out in the snow and catch some Vitamin D. Oh anyway, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your beautiful work with the world! Best to you in the New Year.
Overland Park, Kansas
Thank you so much Roseann … I call that kind of procrastination “The foundation for the creation” — you have to do that before you can begin. So nice to meet you!
I’m savoring your England book which I purchased yesterday. I’m trying to make it last, but I hate putting it down! In 3 weeks time, my 11th trip to England will arrive. I’ve gone yearly for the last several years with my 5l-year old daughter. I’m 73, and I plan to keep going yearly as long as I can, and as long as Jenifer will put up with me! Besides our photos, yours and the book will remind me of the call of the English countryside. Jen and I book cute, quaint cottages, usually in two different areas, and stay for two weeks. My husband and I have gone together there once, but he used to work in Reading, and is not an Anglophile, so thankfully, Jen loves it like I do. We prefer the country villages, and often do not go near London, except for the airport! I’ve been fortunate to have played piano at Queen’s College, Cambridge, and on two different trips at the Pump Room in Bath. These are among my dearest memories. Thank you for adding to my already abundant appreciation of England with your darling book (and blog). Jen and I have just become members of Daughters of the British Empire. We take turns hosting meetings and serving tea & scones, etc. I will be trying some of your teatime menus for the group when I host in May!
Have a wonderful time Linda — thank you for your sweet comment and hello to Jenifer! Kindred spirits!
I didn’t buy your book the first time I saw it. I didn’t think I wanted to read a travel book. I own all your cookbooks. But then my friends one by one kept telling me what a great book it was. So in preparation for this Valentine season I decided to buy it. As I read it and you mentioned songs, I played them on my cell phone while I read your love story. OMG, I was so engrossed in the adorable romance of it all. We have met. You put my art in your bathroom in your store in California. I know you had to close it but we met at your fruit stand one day. Love the book! Can you do Ireland next? I’m half Irish. You have inspired me. Tereese Smaldino Radenbaugh Thank you
How wonderful Tereese, thank you for that! I’ve had lots of non-cooks say they liked to read my cookbooks too! Very huge compliment, thank you so much!
Hi Susan, I felt like I had met a new friend when I found your website the other day. I have been reading all the different sections and love your take on life. As soon as I saw your book I had to order it and I totally adore it. I am Scottish, and I love Scotland, but my husband and I also love England, and, as very old fashioned newly weds, we had many holidays in the Yorkshire Dales and Cotswolds, and have treasured memories of those times. We met in 1989, just two years after you and Joe. It was a good vintage, the late ’80’s!
Now that I have found your beautiful website and books, I am looking forward to collecting all the back numbers!
Like you, I adore Emma Bridgewater, and have lots of her mugs, plates, jugs etc, all of them in use. If they break, I just use them to hold old pennies, little treasures, or some flowers from the garden.
Come to Scotland next time you are over in the UK, I’d love to see your watercolour painting of the wonderfully atmospheric Kilchurn Castle, in Argyll, just beside where I grew up! Not to mention all our lochs, hills and glens, remote highland brochs, stags, and birds of prey wheeling overhead against the steel grey sky.
I feel I am chatting to an old friend, which is ridiculous, but I think it is because of the warmth and love and appreciation of life that shine through your work.
I’d like to declare ,myself a fully paid up member of the ‘Girlfriends’ club please!
With very kind regards and best wishes to you and Joe, from me, Penny x
Welcome to the best club in the world Penny, we are so happy to have you here! Thank you for the sweet comment … and you should know, the next time we come over, Scotland is top on our list of places to go!
Excellent! You and Joe are most warmly invited to mine for a cup of tea and some home baking when you come!
Thank you Penny!
Well, I just found the right place to write you. Feeling not the brightest star.
But, since I’m here forgot to say how much I love your sight and appreciate it all. Thank you for the books that I will be reading now and the page and hope I am considered a Girlfriend some day.
Love, Sylvia Smith
You are now Sylvia, welcome!
you are an amazing blogger me and my grandmother read your blog. and love it very much
I was introduced to your book: “A fine Romance, Falling in Love with the English Countryside” just last month. A friend from Northern CA, where we lived for almost 45 years, mentioned it in a letter. I just finished it this morning, and cried when it was finished. We’ve been to England several times, as my husband is an Aerospace Engineer, and we traveled around a bit after our 4 children were grown. I loved your pictures and descriptions of the English countryside, the little villages, the pubs, the castles and manor houses and especially the gardens. I could just move right into your book and never come out. We are in our mid 70’s but are inspired to take the QM2 next year and go. There are so many gardens and manor houses we missed in the Cotswolds, and Peak Dist. I’ve been by Hill Top Farm 3 times, and it’s never been open, I have to go back! Thank you so much for your wonderful inspiration of the Arts and Crafts movement. I’m a Quilter, Gardener, Knitter and love to cook. My husband paints beautiful oil pictures of our area here in the Colorado Rockies. And above all thank you for your wonderful book. I bought one for two of our daughters, who are Anglophiles, and another copy for a gardening friend in Minnesota. My Granddaughter, who is expecting our first Great Grandchild loves your baby book and we are giving her a Baby shower next month, and of course it will be an English Tea Party. We’ve given them ever since she was two and could say coo coo for cookie! Love, Bev Wiedeman, a sister in the “I love England” Club.
I wasn’t wild about coming out of that book either! 🙂 Just so pretty in that world. Be sure to put William Morris’s house on your travel list. O’to be in England!
As an American living in England for the last 13 years, I love your England travels. Gloucester which I lived for 2 years has the Beatrix Potter shop which is so cute. And Bath which is one of my favourite places to visit has the Jane Austen visitor centre which is a must if you get to Bath. Love your books and recipes.
Thank You Mai Lara!
I last emailed you shortly before daughter Jenifer and I went to England in March. This was trip number eleven, and this time we were in Norfolk. As Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” I had just come down with a horrible case of shingles (!), so that explains “the worst of times” part. However, thankfully I have since fully recovered – PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: EVERYONE, PLEASE GET YOUR SHINGLES VACCINE ASAP !!! Jenifer and I have begun planning our next spring’s England trip – this time, back to Cornwall for our second visit. Our airline reservations are made; we’re waiting to hear from owners of Driftwood Cottage in Fowey. Cornwall is indeed a magical place, and so very different from other English areas. The weather is temperate, and flowers abound in March, earlier than other places in England. The very best clotted cream in all of England comes from there, too!
I was just buying tea at the British Emporium in Grapevine on Saturday, and I spoke with Sheela, the owner. She has stocked your book at my suggestion, and she mentioned how she would love for you to come for a book signing. I would spread the word to my Daughters of the British Empire group. By the way, I hosted our May meeting, and I loved making an afternoon tea for them. I used my Royal Albert Old Country Roses dishes, and the table looked lovely. Typically I spend an hour daily on your blog, and it all makes me happy. Thank you for writing it – don’t ever stop! Love, Linda
I would LOVE to do a signing at the British Emporium. I’m putting them on my list for our next trip out. You were so sweet to get AFR placed there — such the perfect place! We spent a night in Fowey. In a little hotel at the top of a street with water running along the curb like a little river. We loved it there.
Thank you for the shingles reminder!
I was born in a little village near Oxford (Frilford) and have a hard time believing I live in the States, when I love England so much. I have had a business where I imported tea, Whittard Tea, bone china English teacups etc and write about teatime, recipes etc, I was given your book , A Fine Romance, and couldn’t put it down. I love anything and everything about England and have loved your book…the honesty about driving with your husband and the enthusiasm of all the wonderful places you visit! Yes, wonderful idea to belong to Royal Oak Society. I wrote s book about my love of tea and Edwardian England…”Tea on the Titanic” and having a tour in Sept! When England is on your blood, you can’t help but share that love with others. Now that I have read the entire book I can go to bed!!! Thank you, and love your drawings!
XOXO Penelope! Thank you!
I love your blog and everyones comments. I feel like we are friends already, we have alot in common. Love your England book, I didn;\’t want the story to end so…..I read it again! Love your quilts and kitties etc. I’m DYING to go to England and Scotland some day [soon] and write a diary so I don’t forget a thing! You are inspirational!!!
I’m so happy to meet you Joanne!
Are you familiar with Susan Allen Toth’s books, “England as you Like it”, England for all Seasons”, and “My Love Affair with England”? These are all wonderfully descriptive of her many trips there. Also, I’m sure you’ve read Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island” and “Neither Here nor There”. They are absolutely hilarious! Of course, your “A Fine Romance” is at the top of my favorites list!
Thank you Linda! What lovely company!
Susan, your entire world has enveloped me since I began reading your book AFR. Being Anglophiles, my (lobsterman) husband and I have visited England/Scotland 8 times, beginning with our honeymoon in 1986. Your story was similar to ours.
I thought I’d left you a comment yesterday but I got interrupted and didn’t know if it went through. There is so much to say to you but I’ve read through a lot of the comments in here, and everyone has said it all! You are well-loved and I can’t wait for more of your books to arrive here soon. I have long been a lover of the Bloomsbury group, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell and her family, and Dora Carrington, etc. I so envious that you visited Charleston. There are some fabulous books on that house written by Vanessa’s grandson. There is just so much to say, but I’ll stop here. Yorkshire is our adopted home and we have friends who live there. That is where we always stay – in self-catering cottages… especially in our favourite town on Earth, Whitby on the east coast.
Well, back to your book. I have ordered Eliz. Von Arnim’s book also and am looking forward to that. Oh, one more thing, I am acquained with the owners of the MUCH ADO BOOKSHOP that is now located in Alfriston, but it used to be located in our home town of Marblehead, Mass. I used to shop there and knew Cate and Graham, the owners, from the bookshop in Marblehead. They are super people and I was green with envy when they told me they were moving to the land of my dreams, my spirit, my home (my ancestors all come from Yorkshire and Bedfordshire!).
Here is my blog entry about the day we MET the real James Herriot right outside our cottage doorstep! Yes, a dream come true! journalscape.com/Bex/2010-03-27-09:40
I love “A Fine Romance”!! It popped up while I was searching our online library catolog for something else (can’t remember what!) and so I quickly put a hold on it, knowing just from the title/subtitle that it was one I had to read!
Once I got it, though, I would say that I more than read it — it was more like a multi-sensory experience! Each moment it was in my hands I felt as though I had entered into your excursion, feeling the sea swells and rain drops, hearing the wood pigeons and lambs, smelling the fragrant hot tea and garden flowers, tasting tea treats and cider and, of course, seeing all that lush green countryside, cute cottages and stately mansions. Thank you so much for chronicling your excursion and bringing it all to life such a beautiful way! (And for including recipes – I ate Coronation Chicken for lunch today and next up to make is the Polenta Cake!)
It also resonated with me because it was like reliving a similar trip we took. Almost exactly one year before your trip, my husband and I and our 18 year old daughter spent three weeks in England and Scotland, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I’ve always loved to read books that take place in Britain and my husband loves to sketch and paint watercolors, so we set off on a literary tour that gave him plenty of places to draw and paint, and satisfied my yearning for all things British!
While we didn’t arrive by ocean liner but by airplane, I knew exactly what you were feeling as you drove, as we also rented a car and my journal describes many times putting my foot to the floor as though a brake was there, while sitting in the passenger seat as my husband navigated us through all kinds of traffic! We got so we’d describe the roundabouts like a clock, entering at the six and then I’d tell him “we get off at two o’clock”! He, needless to say, was the only one who drove — and managed to do a very good job at it.
We visited so many of the same places as you – Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, (my daughter Abby and I had tea in Cassandra’s Tea Cup while my husband sat in the car in the rain and did a sketch/watercolor of the house, which I’m looking at right now as I write), the Cotswolds (staying in a darling cottage in a tiny village where I also got try ringing the church bells, like Joe), Beatrix Potter’s house (so cute and tiny and smelled throughout of the peat fire smoldering in the front hall), James Herriot’s territory in the Yorkshire Dales (we toured Skeldale House in Thirsk, wandered the roads through the dales and ate at Herriot’s Pub in Askrigg, where they filmed the show) and just generally oohed and aahed our way through the countryside.
I have just ordered my own copy of your book! I wish it had been available before our trip, because of all your helpful tips! But now it is providing seeds of inspiration for putting together a little trip journal, even though it has been three years now. And, your book is the first I will read before we take the next trip to England, which I know we will some day!
Thanks again for such a lovely book!
P.S. I also have to say I love Gladys Taber’s books and read many of them this past winter, after inheriting them from my mother’s and grandmother’s collections. It was a thrill to see your posts about her and visiting Stillmeadow!
Fun to relive it all with you Brenda!
We read your book for our book club, and loved it.
My husband and I have traveled through England three times, and saw many of the same things that you and Joe were able to see, however, you did travel many place that we did not. With your wonderful pictures, and writing, you have started a whole new trip for us.
We are members of the Royal Oak Foundation. As I understand it this organization is for Americans that want to support England’s beautiful castles, and other attractions.
Keep up the good work.
You did? Oh that’s so nice. I wish I was in your book club! Yes, the Royal Oak does that, and that membership also gives you free entrance into any of the National Trust properties.
I too am an anglophile. I think it goes back to “Mary Poppins”, which I adored as a child. Loved the movie and love your book!
We had returned from our trip to England last year and I too am a huge Jane Austen and Beatrix Potter fan. Certainly our trip itinerary had to include both their homes. They were both “pinch me” moments!
Reading your book brought back fond memories of that trip and is an inspiration to see the many other sites you included in your trip. BTW, love Joe. What a great travel buddy!
I will certainly refer to your blog and the information and websites you provided in it, when planning our next visit. Thank you for that!
It was fun reading the many posts of all the other anglophiles’. Glad to know that there are others with this preoccupation with England. My husband read the book with me at night and thought that it was uncanny or even scary how similar we are in that regard. I now feel like I have a new best friend to share this passion with, while on your blog and sipping my tea!
Your Nantucket neighbor, Susanne Curtis
How nice to hear from you Susanne! I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book xoxo Fellow Anglophile! Yes there are lots of us!
If I may ask, Is there any especially charming cottage rentals you or your bloggers could recommend or any especially charming villages in England? I want to make our next trip very special.
I think renting cottages, as you and Joe did, is the way to go. Nothing like relaxing and relishing one area at a time. It would be nice to have an English kitchen to prepare the “Coronation Chicken” and “Hot milk” cake recipes you included in your book, and taking in the whole English experience.
Thanks again Susan, for all your inspiration!
SO glad I found this blog, love it!
If you go to the top of the blog, under I LOVE ENGLAND you’ll find a drop-down with an appendix for A FINE ROMANCE … go for the alphabetical one, and look under Rentals. I included links to lots of places to search for the perfect cottage. Be sure to try and get one with a fireplace or wood stove, it’s very cozy after tramping around in the rain all day (which can happen because it’s England) to come home and have a little fire.
What a gem ‘A Fine Romance’ is. I was given it for my birthday in October by my best friend Betty. It was inscribed ‘ to Dear Lyn – Remembering the many years we have been friends and the good times we have shared’ We met way back when we were work mates in a bank then travelled together some years later, 1963 with our other friend Claire. We spent two years living and working in England. Like you we travelled by ship going from our homeland Australia to England via Peru in South America, through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale, Bermuda and finally to Southampton. We returned home after many adventures some two years later via the Suez Canal. We had a small Austin A35 van called JOGO because of its rego number and from time to time camped in a three person tent. For us ‘girls’ going to England was like ‘going home’ as our ancestors had come from the British Isles although I do have six drops of French blood. One of my ancestors Jane Huntington was an 18 year old convict lass from Lancashire. I am in awe of her tenacity and endurance and ability to marry and bear 11 children and survive in a strange land – Australia; such a contrast to the green rolling pastures of England 12,000 miles from her homeland.
Susan your book is a gift I shall treasure and share and I’m glad that my friend “Gumleaves” from ‘down under’ is a blogger with you. Lyn J.
What a lovely story you tell! Thank you so much Lyn! Give my best to Betty! xoxo
How wonderful to find someone who shares a passion for England and who can put it into such lovely words. I just discovered A Fine Romance in my local library yesterday and am loving it! I have been to England 10 or 11 times now. My next trip is in May and I’m so excited that it seems like my first. I planned it myself. We are staying at the Priest House in Sissinghurst for a week then on to the East Cottage at the Foreland Lighthouse overlooking the white cliffs at Dover. My focus is to see as many of the gardens as possible…Great Dixter,
Scotney then we are on to the Cotswolds for two weeks to see Kiftsgate, Hidecote, Mill Dene,
Snowshill,etc. will also see where my 7th great grandparents went to church and are buried in Banbury. Their grandaughter became one of the 7families settling Sandwich,Mass around 1637 or so. Like you, I have shared most of these trips with the love of my life who also loves England (One time I went alone having been inspired by Dorothy Moroncelli’s Britian On Your Own. It was good but different.)
I have diaries of my trips which tend to be a little bland so now you have given me some tips on how to be more myself and spice them up a little bit.
Well, I’ll get back to my tea in my China cup and finish reading your diary…ain’t life grand!
The Priest House!!!! Oh my! Great Dixter, Scotney, Snowshill (there’s a lavender farm close to this, don’t miss it) . . . Hidecote is probably the most amazing of all. I’m as excited for you as you are! What a trip! Glad you’re enjoying the book.
Oh people! Your wonderful postings are making me so utterly homesick! I was born and bred in England, with ancestry going waaaay back there. As newlyweds my late husband and I emigrated first to Canada (sailing — in a stormy February — on the original Queen Elizabeth, where, with 60 foot waves days and night we just wasted away in our stateroom until it was time to stagger gratefully down the gangplank onto terra firma. A couple of years later we emigrated again — to the US, where our daughters were born and our transplanted roots grew pretty deep. For years we were able to go back every two or three years, but it was always a struggle to not allow my emotions too close to the surface, since I had to steel myself for the inevitable goodbyes again. California is beautiful and I admit that coming back to the US was also a coming-home thing in its own way. But now, in my senior years, I know at my deepest level that you can take the girl out of England but you can’t take England out of the girl. Circumstances have caused twelve years to pass without a trip back to England, and I think I am more homesick now than ever in my life. If I can go next May and stand in the bluebell woods near a village in Cornwall just one more time, I will probably have a good ol’ weep and feel the better for it! By the way, Susan, I have ordered your A Fine Romance for a granddaughter who feels her English heritage deeply, though has not been there . . . yet. So pleased to have discovered your blog and your books today. I’m here to stay!
Well, you’re making me cry right now. Please go back and be with the bluebells. I want to go too! I almost know how you feel!!! xoxo
I am almost finished reading you” A Fine Romance” book and I am loving it! I only got it yesterday and I am 3/4 way done. I will be sad when I finish it. I already recommended it to two friends and one ordered a copy last night. I feel like I am on the trip with you. I have been looking up some of the places you went to on my IPad and I get a better view of what you saw!
Today I preordered your upcoming book. I can’t wait to get it!!
Oh, so nice to hear that Celine! Makes me happy. xoxo
Dearest Susan, I bought a copy of ‘A Fine Romance” for my friend Karen and it came just before I was leaving for two weeks away in early December. When I got home, Karen had us come over for Christmas turkey dinner, and she said to me, ‘I loved that book! I finished reading it, and instantly turned back to the beginning and started it again! ” Isn’t that the BEST reaction to your wonderful story? I hope I can get her to look at your blog, she isn’t a computer person at all, and neither am I, but your blog makes my day, and I have loved reading all the bits and parts and thoughts and searching for fun on a cold white day ! Oh, yes, it is snowing in central Oregon, with lots of snow on the ground ! 107″ of snow at Crater Lake this December, goodness! I think we have YOUR snow as well as the snow we have been missing for a few years! hugs from Oregon, where it is 11 degrees outside!
Perfect! I couldn’t ask for more. Thank you Suzette for telling me . . . and tell Karen I said hello. I think you have everyone’s snow! Stay warm!
Wow, I would just love to have lunch with you. I bet there wouldn’t be a dull moment!!
Would love to read some of your books, where would I find them. I have a Kindle. I have been to England and we watch a lot of English programs on tv.
After enjoying A Fine Romance I bought my sister a copy and she enjoyed it as much as I did. Our Mom went to England and kept telling us how “old” everything was. Since her father came from England she has always wanted to go there. Love your gentle humor and comfort from your books. Maybe someday we will see it for ourselves?
My sister and I felt like we were on the journey too when we read your wonderful book. I miss the New England snow and the patter of doilies tapping at the wondow, The hot chocolate in front of a warm fire after making snow angels and sledding down Logger Hill. Love to open your cookbooks and cook with all the pictures tempting my palette.
Have fun with Isle of Dreams for without dreams life would not be very interesting and hopeful.
Thanks for sharing your life.
Margie XOXO ❤️
Hi Susan ~ I just had to comment on how much I love you for giving voice to everything I love…you are truly a kindred spirit and the best friend I do not know personally… i will always read and enjoy everything you write books blog posts and anything you recommend that I don’t already know about! 😊 Thank you! happy New Year!
I loved this interview post. She did ask good questions. I dream of your fireplace. Two things i have wanted alll my life and not had yet are : a small porch or balcony, and a small fireplace. Im afraid time will run out before i get one. However, that photo of fireplace and mention of home made marshmellows in cocoa..i think ill make some. Its very rainy tonite here so perfect. Good evening
I love this interview – and I love the romance that is included in all of your answers! Romance is alive and well, and we shall keep it so!
Thank you Vicki! I am with you all the way!
I cannot express how much I adore you! I feel like I’ve known you in another life. I was a child of the 60s also and so many things in your books were talking about ME! I love your books and your artwork and your life and YOU in every way. Oh to meet you some day!
Does the link for the appendix for A Fine Romance no longer function?
I’m not sure, but here it is . . .
Christmas Day, I started Fairy Tale Girl, early February, I began Martha’s Vineyard-Isle of Dreams and today, I finished A Fine Romance. I didn’t want it to end! What a beautiful journey that opened my eyes and heart to memories, the faces of love, longings to travel and so many other delights. I have questions – how are the kitties, has your dear Mother found love again, could you- have you forgiven ‘K’, do you still hold close your first little home on the island, have you found your own stream to have tea on with friends, did you earn any other Girl Scout badges, what’s in your garden today? I will imagine only the best to all of these! Thank you so much for opening the door to your girls on the blog. How I hope you are planning your next trip across the ocean. With an overflowing heart and the new determination to live in this moment, I am gratefully yours-
Kitties are gone to heaven, are buried in our backyard under lovely little stones, and now I only have Jack. Mom did find love again, but he is gone too. I never think of K, it was only a passing fancy. I visit Holly Oak when I can, love it, would buy it back in a second if I could. Tea with my girlfriends is a life-long staple, but we usually keep our feet under each other’s kitchen tables. I never earned any other badges than those you see in the book. My garden, right now, is just waking from a long winter’s nap. You can read about my garden HERE. And we ARE planning our next trip across the ocean!!! SO happy you enjoyed the books! I loved writing them. I am also, gratefully yours. xoxo
Thanks! Now I’ll hope for the movie. You’ve inspired me, and so many others to write, draw, garden, travel, and on…what will Susan do next?! Tea poured, journal open, MUSICA playing in the background, anticipation in full force. And here I was thinking I was old at middle age. Way to prove me wrong. Just getting started…again!
Middle age? You’re only getting good! Finally completely hatched! Takes forever! Sending love you creative person!
I just discovered A Fine Romance at the mini book sale at the Acton Library here in Old Saybrook, CT; I picked it up and thought “I’d buy this book just for the cover alone, and figured I’d get my money’s worth.” (It was $2.00) It’s been a lovely read and appeals to me on so many levels: I’m half English (Mom immigrated here in 1946 by sailing on the Ile de France), I love English food and make sure I get my English comfort food whenever I’ve been able to visit, I’ve been taking dance lessons at the local Fred Astaire Studio, etc. Thank you for this lovely book and all the wonderful quotations. You’ve also piqued my curiosity about Beatrix Potter. I know we have a wee version of Pierre Lapin on the bookcase behind me.
You must be a kindred spirit, gravitating toward A Fine Romance! I’m glad you enjoyed it Valerie!
SO SORRY! Had to come back and correct my email address! I hope that you got my previous post! Would love to hear from you Susan! I was born In NYC, grew up in the Bronx, with my 2 younger sisters, Mom <Dad, and now live with my Mom in Ohio, sister lives down the block from us and baby sis lives on a lake in Maryland with hubby, and her house is FAB! You can look at the lake, and just drift away!
Hope to hear from you soon! Love your art! And your books! Luv Linda S. L
I got it Linda … thank you!
RUNNING NOT walking to the Library! Two of your books are IN at my library and I can not wait to go pick them up!
Let me know what you think! xoxo
Hi! Have not gotten to the library yet to get your books, it will probably be on Friday. I have diabetes, and have had several operations on my eyes, I have been reading your books and blogs with one eye since my right eye has blood in it that is making it hard to see or read. Had cataracts removed but that did not help my bad eye, so now on weds I am having another operation to remove the blood in my eye, and hopefully that will clear up my vision, which at this point its like trying to see through thick gauze, not fun! Luv Linda S.
Be careful! I’m sorry my books aren’t on tape!
Dear Susan,thank you and all your wonderful American and Canadian friends for your kind comments on my home,England. We here tend to be very self depreciating about our home and indeed ourselves, it not being considered”the done thing”to shout about lovely England is if you are English. So it is immensely satisfying and pleasing to have others say it for us.
Although not well travelled myself,I have ventured across the pond to your own glorious country(sadly not Canada yet,but hopefully when my lotto numbers come up) and I have to say it was a marvellous experience.I went to Maui and southern California,and the people were extraordinarily friendly to my family and I,so am thrilled that is being reciprocated when north Americans visit our shores.
May I suggest to your good self and your contributors that my own county of Sussex be considered for a visit? Being unashamedly biased as I was born and raised in East Sussex, forgive me for extolling it’s virtues, but it really is a beautiful county(both East and West Sussex) and quite possibly has the most temperate temperatures in the whole U.K. It has a wealth of historical buildings(but that’s pretty much the norm for all counties I know) the wonderful South Downs National Park,quite staggering coastline with white chalk cliffs steeply rising from the shoreline(look up the seven sisters) loads of cosy country Pubs with immense charm and very lively coastal resorts,Brighton being the most fun. Brighton has it all for me.Busy all year and very diverse and accepting and full of arty,literary,and general all round creative people. Commonly known as”London by Sea”,it was first made fashionable by the Prince Regent,as a consequence,much of the architecture particularly along the seafront,alludes to that period.There is the Royal Pavillion,a quirky Palace where the Prince made his home and had his lavish parties,built slap bang in the centre of the city,shaped like an Indian Moguls Palace.Queen Victoria hated when she came to the throne,and gave it to the people of Brighton. Brighton,sort of sums up the eccentric side of the English, and to my mind kind of dispels the myth of English”stuffiness”that some seem to have from the books and films they have seen.Well worth a visit,you won’t be disappointed,and all an hour or less by train from central London.
Sorry,i’m rambling on here,but just one more thing.A very amusing book by a Hungarian author called”George Mikes”(refugee from the cold war years)wrote a book called”How to be an Alien”. Basically a series of comic observations on the people of his adopted home, but I believe he got it so very right(book may seem a little dated now)
Anyway,thanks again you lovely people,and we look forward to welcoming our cousins from across the way.CHEERIO
Hello Steve! So nice to hear from you. It’s very easy for us to express mad love for your beautiful country and all the wonderful history you’ve managed to hold onto despite the wear and tear of humanity over the centuries! Truly amazing. I would change “stuffy” to much more true “quirky.” I’ll have to look for that book. We are Sussex-lovers, we stayed in Hastings on our first trip there and wandered everywhere ~ loved Brighton! … I mentioned some of the places we visited in my recent book, I especially loved Charleston (home of the Bloomsbury Group) not to mention Sheffield House, and so much more! We’re coming back for more next year, because we just haven’t had enough yet. Thank you for your charming comment, and good Sussex information. We’re meeting everyone on the lawn of Beatrix Potter’s house called Castle Cottage in the Lake District on May 11 for a BYO Picnic Basket party, everyone invited! … watch my blog for more info, and join us!
I only discovered you this morning and I have been astounded how similar our lives and tastes are. Yet you went to Martha’s Vineyard and I chose Alaska.
Also the answers I would have made to the above questions are very different such as for the dress I would have chosen Greer Garson’s dress in Random Harvest where she dances with the Prime Minister.
I am enjoying reading EVERYTHING. Keep up the good work!
I adored Random Harvest. I would take the cottage, over the bridge, with the flowering tree in the yard. Nice to meet you Nell!
I received the link to your blog and loved it. Could you please put me on your list of future recipients. Travelinmimi@gmail.com. Suzanne A. Kiley
I sent your address to Kellee and she will try to do that for you. They tell us we can’t sign people up, they have to do it themselves, but she’s going to try! xoxo
Dear Susan: You may have already seen it if you’re an Archer Films fan, but perhaps director Michael Powell’s most personal film that conveyed _his_ love for the British countryside is ‘A Canterbury Tale,’ a film he later wished he did in color even though it does a superlative job of capturing England’s rural beauty in luminous B&W. Since the film was made during WWII, Powell was trying to marry nature-loving themes with the more patriotic “love of country.” I do believe it can stand as Britain’s first environmental film in a time before the term ‘environmentalism’ was even coined. A very good & strangely relevant movie to see in the age we’re living now.
I just this moment turned it on . . . thank you for the suggestion! 👏
I didn’t see your ‘movie faves’ section until after I posted here, sorry. ‘A Canterbury Tale’ is an unusual film in how it also gently tackles sexism while it blends naturism with faith without banging one’s head with a cross (or other religious symbol of choice). The film is more about the scenery than the story in many respects. I hope you enjoyed it.
I loved it, but I wasn’t wild about the American actor. And so much of it is filmed in the dark! Of course that’s part of the charm! It is unusual ~ but that’s just the MORE charm of it! Thank you Nicole!
If you ever see it again I highly recommend the Criterion version, with a much brighter & clearer print. Then the echoes of Olde England really reverberate in all the medieval village scenes.
It’s true the American wasn’t a natural actor, Powell picked him because he genuinely liked Sweet as the ideal ‘average G.I. Joe.’ When Sweet died he left all his $ to the NAACP. Who needs to be an Ace actor when you’re already an Ace human being? Enjoy your Sunday!
This is very true!!! 👏