I've just spent a happy hour reading Milly Molly Mandy stories and found them to be the perfect cure for a bad case of discontent.
Too much time spent looking at interior and lifestyle blogs (mostly Scandinavian) had me making a list of things my home lacked. After a couple of pages I realised that to achieve the desired look of timeless, pared down simplicity I would not only need pots of money but also would need to replace all the man-made surfaces in my home with natural ones. This would include new windows, floors and kitchen and possibly a new house. I resolved to stop wanting stuff and be happy with what I had. I had Milly Molly Mandy.
Milly Molly Mandy whose real name was of course Millicent Margaret Amanda lived sometime in the 20s or 30s in a small English village with her family. She was the creation of Joyce Lankester Brisley who wrote and illustrated the stories. The illustrations are black and white. The colour has been added by me, not when I was a child but when I bought copies of the books for my daughter about 5 years ago. I never could resist colouring them in, and I bet I wasn't the only one.
My favourite picture was always the map at the front of each book showing the village where Milly Molly Mandy lived. Click on the picture to see it bigger.
Milly Molly Mandy's world was one of simple childhood pleasures; a day spent fishing in the stream with Billy Blunt, sledging in the snow, camping out in the field, blackberrying, cooking potatoes and sausages on a bonfire, running down to the village shop for a quarter of raspberry drops or aniseed balls, making a patchwork tea cosy, writing letters to a pen pal, picking mushrooms in the early morning dew, eating 'lid potatoes' in front of the fire with Little Friend Susan.
Here they are, Milly Molly Mandy and Little Friend Susan off blackberrying sensibly dressed in stout boots with walking sticks to hook down the brambles. Mother waves goodbye untroubled by thoughts of child molesters or speeding cars, she's deciding what to do with the blackberries -jam, jelly, tarts, stewed with apple....
Isn't this just the perfect kitchen? Look how uncluttered this room is. Nothing in it that isn't necessary.
My favourite story -Milly Molly Mandy Has a Surprise. The surprise is that the little storeroom used for storing the jam is converted to become Milly Molly Mandy's very own bedroom. How I love the colour scheme -primrose yellow walls and apple green curtains, coverlet and dresser and a yellow pot of nasturtiums on the windowsill. I must get round to colouring this one in. Look how few things a child needs to be happy.
The treehouse constructed by Uncle in a hollow oak tree. What a wonderful den although I expect modern recommendations would be to have a handrail on that ladder.
Fyring onions. Here Milly Molly Mandy, Little Friend Susan and Billy Blunt are alone in the cottage frying onions on a range which doesn't appear to have any kind of safety guard. They also have bread and dripping to eat which is surely a health risk. Heavens! Billy Blunt even has a penknife and he is clearly no where near his 16th birthday I'm not sure he's even over 10!
It is the descriptions of food that I love best in these stories. Milly Molly Mandy food is plain, simple and appetising. The perfect antidote to the current obsession with the new and the novel, the treat-y and the luxurious. Do I need After Eight cookies, goat's cheese in puff pastry, marinated olives, coconut curry or strawberry meringues? All I really need is a packet of bread and butter, a hard-boiled egg, an apple and perhaps a slab of Muvver's fruit cake to round it off.