Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase and Irish Spiced Port

For the first time it felt a bit odd not to be working in retail today - I’ve obviously forgotten the worst part of these next few days, and am instead remembering the camaraderie and fun of my earlier Oddbins Christmases when the craziness was both enhanced and muted by fine wine and relative youth. Maybe it’s the lurking cold that’s responsible for the nostalgia. Fortunately a cup of tea and a nice lie down cured the feeling, if not the cold.

The cold has had me thinking about another joy of Christmas, and of feeling slightly ill, and that’s the excuse/opportunity for adult reading/re reading of children’s books. ‘Slightly Foxed’ reminded me of Joan Aiken’s ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’, and that it was part of a whole sequence of books (which I did not know), and really made me want to revisit it.

For those of us who go home for Christmas, or to someone else’s home, there’s always the chance of rediscovering our own much loved children’s classics, or those belonging to younger siblings (there’s a considerable age gap between me and my half sister and brother) cousins etc. I got a second run at Terry Pratchett this way.

Tonight though it’s the gothic atmosphere of Willoughby Chase that’s appealing - it feels right for the solstice, and it’s probably now just obscure enough to be a safe present to bemuse a friends child with (I got a good few of my favourite childhood books like this; duty gifts mostly, from virtually unknown relatives or visitors who had plumped for a safe looking classic).

The drink is another one from Signe Johansen’s ‘Spirited’. It sounds a lot like smoking Bishop, but it’s a slightly simplified version, not as strong, and the quantities given are for 1, all of which sound like improvements to me. It’s also a great way to use up any port that’s hanging around.

You boil a kettle and pour about 70cl of hot water into a heat proof glass along with a teaspoon of light brown sugar. Take a thick slice of unwaxed lemon and stud the rind with 4 cloves, add to the glass, stir everything well, add 70cl of Port, give it a final stir, and drink whilst hot.


  1. This is a big favorite of mine and I enjoyed reading it aloud to some of my nephews and nieces not long ago. The first three books were in my grade school library and I reread them frequently. I am less familiar with the later books in the series and should do a complete read of the series from beginning to end. Joan Aiken is like Georgette Heyer in her love of period slang (although I don't know if she invented some of the slang she used, as Heyer did).

  2. I’ve only ever read the first one, really intrigued to read more, and to find out more about Joan Aiken who I’m stupidly ignorant about given that she sounds exactly the sort of writer I should love.

  3. I do hope you feel better soon. I am rather ashamed to say that I haven't read Wolves of Willoughby Chase, but will certainly now remedy that. Thank you for all the wonderful recommendations this year and hope you have a happy and peaceful Christmas.