Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dirty Little Secret

Time to reveal a dirty little secret... I read Mills & Boon. A lot. Yes, I can hear you sniggering as you imagine me in my old dressing gown, glasses on, coffee in hand, surrounded by cats, reading tales of strangers getting down-and-dirty. You're SO wrong. I don't even have loads of cats... *moving swiftly on*

I buy a lot of used books - mostly online, and usually from sites like Awesome Books and Better World Books - mainly because I can't justify spending huge amounts of money on something I'm not sure I'll like. Whenever I buy a used book online, I donate an old used book of mine, so in my little head, it evens itself out. Don't get me wrong - I've no problem paying full whack, but when you read as much as I do, that can turn into an expensive habit pretty quickly.

The latest Mills & Boon that I read was "Hot Wired" by Jennifer LaBrecque, and I LOVED IT. I'll give you the spiel on the back cover:

Bad boy Beau has a need for speed. The racing driver's been irresistible to women - yet feisty wedding planner Natalie is the only one who can keep up with him! But does she have the power to tame this reckless rebel for good?

Oh, Jennifer LaBrecque, you had me at Bad Boy. Just to iron out any illusions you may have at this point: I'm not single, I'm not sex-obsessed, and I'm not a big perv. Well, most of the time I'm not a perv. Who doesn't love a bit of light escapism? Frankly, the only thing that shocks me about most Mills&Boon books is that more of them haven't been turned into movies. This would be an instant movie classic, I'm telling ya.

In my head, the hero never looks like the one on the book cover, but in this one, he was vaguely similar. Which got me thinking, who the heck are these people on the covers? Where do they find them? I mean, I know they're models, but is there any particular agency that Mills&Boon/Harlequin use to find their models? I'd love to know (purely for research and nosiness). I remember reading an article in a magazine once about this couple who liked to recreate Romance novel covers for the craic* and it looked like so much fun. Not that I'd ever do that, I mean, my other half is more at home under the bonnet of a car than between the pages of a book. Also, he thinks I'm strange enough as it is, that'd put me into another level of weirdness altogether!

All in all, I can't recommend Mills&Boon highly enough - laugh all you want, but the majority of them that I've read (and that's a LOT - my collection is reaching disturbing levels) have been better than any "romcom" that I've seen.

What kind of books do you guys like? Is there anything that you wouldn't admit to having in your collection?

S xxx

*craic (pronounced crack) = Irish word for having a laugh. Not shoving something up your snout.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yours Forever, Glenda

Sometimes I think that my significant other could have been related to Del Boy - there isn't a week that goes by without him finding some "bargain" or bringing home something that someone else is getting rid of. About three years ago, he arrived home with a little wooden locker. I cleaned it up and thought that it would be handy to store bits and pieces in the bathroom - but the little drawer at the top wouldn't open. Upon inspection, I saw why - there was an envelope wedged at the back of it. I took it out, and discovered a very heartfelt and beautiful 5-page love letter written in England in 1963.

I've done a fair bit of research over the last few years trying to find out more about the people involved - I hit a brick wall eventually, but I think that what I did find out is worth sharing. I'm going to write about the things I found out first, because I don't want to ruin the letter by analyzing it afterwards (I'm a bad-news-first kinda person).

The Postmark

I thought at first that the postmark said "15th August 1953", but that wouldn't make sense as there is also a stamped watermark saying "1963 Red Cross Centenary - A Century of Service 1963" on the envelope. The Centenary was in 1963, and though a special stamp was issued, the postage stamp on this envelope was one that was in circulation in the UK from 1952-1967. It was one of the Wilding series (a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II done by Dorothy Wilding in celebration of her coronation in 1952). I could have actually saved myself a hell of a lot of trouble had I just googled the song mentioned in the letter - "Moon River" was originally recorded in 1961, so the postmark can't possibly be from 1953.

The Hotel

This letter is written on stationery from The Cumberland Hotel, London W1. The Cumberland is a luxury 4-star hotel - a landmark in its own right, located at the end of Oxford Street on Marble Arch. It has over 1,000 rooms, and was the first hotel in the UK to feature en-suites and private telephones in all rooms. It is now part of the Guoman Hotel group, the deluxe range of Thistle Hotels. The hotel is synonymous with Jimi Hendrix - it was in this hotel that he gave his last ever interview on September 11, 1970. He used rooms 507 and 508 when he stayed there during the last days of his life. Rooms 506 and 507 are now "Junior Suite 5001", which is decorated in a 60s style in memory of Hendrix.

The hotel is also home to 5 restaurants and bars, including Gary Rhodes' Michelin Star "W1" restaurant. In 2003-2004 the hotel underwent a £95 million refurbishment. At the time this letter was written, the hotel was operated by Strand Hotels Ltd., a subsidiary of J.Lyons and Company. They built the hotel in the early 1930s and the stationery bears a variation of the Strand Hotels Ltd. crest.

The Writer

She was writing from Room 361 in the Cumberland Hotel. She is more than likely a maid - she mentions work and the fact that "we" are allowed to listen to the radio in the rooms while they work, so the same song was playing in all the rooms.

The Recipient

The recipient is called "Pickie" - the last name is either Pickery or Pickey, I can't deciper it from the envelope and the UK register of electors is drawing a blank for both surnames:

I found out through some property websites that the house at this address was sold in 2001 - so there may be no way to trace the one-time resident (such a shame). What is strange, though, is that after looking on Google Maps - I was about 15 minutes away from that address in the summer of 1995 when we went on a family holiday to the UK, and went to Wicksteed Park. Bearing in mind that I've only been to England twice - 'tis a small world.

Here's a transcript of the letter in full:

Darling Pickie

I wrote a horrid letter last night, mainly because I was feeling so frustrated, but I forgot to post it. When I read your letter, I was so very glad that it had slipped my memory.

I am now lying in bed. Are you coming to bed Darling? There is just enough room for you, if we hold each other very close.

Good, now that you are in bed with me, I will tell you of my experiences today. I started off well, I had an "early morning call" at 6am only to find (when I was ready for work at 6:30am) that I was not due at work until 8 O' clock. I went back to bed, as you can imagine, only to doze off and result in making myself late for work.

Today I booked at the hairdressers to have my hair dyed (really dyed this time). I only hope that it will be O.K.

On Saturday night the Wights of Wellingboro' have invited my family and you, to go to a small party at their house, wonder that we might see Michael's wedding on Thur, I don't want to go - I would much rather go to Sywell, and be alone, to love you quietly. I don't think that I could put off our first kiss for even one day. Still, we shall have to see how Mummy feels about it.

I am going to go to sleep now, my Pickie. I cuddle very close to you. I feel so terribly safe there, and we can just stay quietly side by side and love each other. That's what I like to do, stay quietly by your side and think to myself, that you're truly mine forever. I hope that day will come very soon.

Goodnight Darling

I must kiss you once more Darling. X.

Goodnight X

I am now at work, and I feel so much better after having had your telephone call, the only trouble is that I couldn't tell you how much I am missing you my Darling, the maids are allowed to play the radio in the rooms in which we are working, and from every room "Moon River" was blaring forth - it made me so happy, and yet so sad.

Good Darling once again

Yours Forever,


P.S. I don't know what time my train arrives at Northampton. I will find out and then ring you up. xxxx

*No part of this blog post may be quoted, shared or reprinted without permission* 

S xx