Snow-Gauge Clif & Book Review: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths

During the past week, we had three snowstorms, and the last one, on Saturday, was a corkah as we Mainers would say. Clif measured thirteen inches with his snow gauge, and the snow was wet, heavy, and hard to move. Our electric snow-thrower, Snow-Joe, just barely managed, and I did a fair amount of shoveling. Nature’s gym, as I like to call it.

Here is a picture or our car before we cleaned the driveway. Only a sliver of red shows through the snow.

More red in the snow as Mr. Cardinal comes to the feeder.

Now, on to Snow-Gauge Clif, who stood in a different place so that readers could see the tunnel that is our path to the front door.

Here he is in his usual place in the driveway.

And in the backyard.

It’s funny to think how in January there was so little snow that we were worried Snow-Gauge Clif would be out of a job this year. But Mother Nature said, “Not so fast,” and we now have snow aplenty. Good for the water table and the plants, but I think we have enough snow. I hope Mother Nature agrees.


I want to thank everyone for the notes of sympathy I received in the comment section of my post about little Ms. Watson. I really do appreciate it as did the rest of the family. A lovely example of how kind words of support really do matter.



Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns

Note: There are moderate spoilers in this review.

Recently I have begun following a wonderful blog called JacquiWine’s Journal, which is mostly about books and a little about wine. For a book nerd like me, this blog is sheer delight. Jacqui especially likes novels from the mid-twentieth century, and so do I, particularly if the writers were women. These novel chart the ways women’s lives have changed over the twentieth century, and much of it is for the better. In one book I read, Elizabeth Jane Howard’s The Beautiful Visit—set in the early 1900s—a young girl’s parents forbid her from becoming a librarian because it doesn’t seem genteel enough to them.

Jacqui has introduced me to many good writers, and one of them is Barbara Comyns. Our Spoons came from Woolworths is a harrowing novel of living in poverty in the 1930s in England. The novel has autobiographical elements, and it follows the marriage of Charles and Sophia. Charles is a painter, and, among other things, Sophia works as a painting model.

A more hapless couple you will never meet. Charles thinks only of his painting and cares about little else. Sophia is innocent in most every way, including on how babies are conceived. As a result, Charles and Sophia live in terrible poverty, just barely scraping by. Not surprisingly, Sophia becomes pregnant, and there’s a harrowing scene of labor and delivery in a hospital where poor women go to have their babies. The woman are marched, literally, through the system and are left in their bloody shifts for far too long. In short, there is little tenderness, and the care isΒ  minimal.

Sophia’s fortunes improve because of an inheritance, but once that is gone, life becomes even worse.

Our Spoons Came from Woolworths is a gripping read. Sophia’s voice is plain, steady, compelling. Through it all my sympathies were with her, despite her poor judgement. For her selfish husband, Charles? Zero.

The end is a bit like a fairy tale, but I have to admit it comes as a relief.


71 thoughts on “Snow-Gauge Clif & Book Review: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths”

  1. How many more snows will we get as we move toward spring? I’d like to think the one we got Friday afternoon and night is it, but I know it’s not. Still…spring is ALMOST here…right?

  2. Thank you for the link, for the interesting snow pictures and for your delight in the world around you.

  3. Gosh a lot of snow!

    I read ‘Our Spoons Came From Woolworths’ a number of years ago. I remember the description of having one good tea service and everything else coming from Woolworths. I vividly remember a radio adaptation of Comyns ‘The Vet’s Daughter’ a curious book!

    1. She definitely had an interesting sensibility. I recently finished The House of Dolls, which is one quirky book about four senior citizens, women, who decide to supplement their meager incomes with prostitution. It’s antic yet sad with another happy ending that seems to come out of the blue. I was thinking of reading The Vet’s Daughter. I have heard it’s very grim.

  4. That’s a lot of snow, Laurie. It looks like Snow Gauge Cliff gets to stay around. But I hope that’s it for this year. At least for the big ones down east. Be careful shoveling that heavy stuff.

  5. Clif always looks cheerful doing his snow gauge job…it is very handy to see him and his gauge in the snow otherwise I would find it hard to believe snow can get so high! (said like a true Aussie)
    Thanks for the link to JacquiWines’s Journal…so many book reviews… Wonderful!

    1. Yes, having someone stand by the snow banks really gives a sense of perspective. I have quite a few blogging friends who live in a warm climate, and I know it’s fun for them to see the snow. JacquiWine’s Journal is a real gem. The reviews are so well written, and thanks to Jacqui, I have discovered new (to me) authors..

  6. I was thinking of Clif when I was measuring our 4′ snowbank. πŸ™‚ You have way more than we do and by the photos, I don’t see the patio furniture coming out in the next few weeks. πŸ™‚ Here’s to an early spring for both of us.

      1. Not until the very end. Our goal is to be able to set up the small table by April 22, which is Shannon’s birthday. Lately, it’s been no problem. This year, we shall see.

    1. I remember Woolworth’s too, Derrick. I didn’t know how widespread they were. Mine was uptown about a block from the high school. We would sit at the soda fountain bar and pick a balloon from the many that hung above. The server would pop it and the paper inside told us how much we’d pay for our banana split. I don’t even like banana splits but that was so fun.

  7. Woolworth’s was heaven to me as a kid, and I remember trudging through snow to get there to purchase Christmas gifts: affordable for a ten-year-old on a limited income! You certainly did get your snow. I hope the melt is nice and slow, so all that water can soak into the earth. I’d guess that you’re flat enough that runoff isn’t a problem.

    1. I, too, remember Woolworths, and I bought Christmas presents there, too, when I was young. Runoff isn’t a problem where we live, but it can be for other folks.

  8. Wow, that’s a LOT of snow! Yesterday got up to 70 here (in March, can you believe it?), but it’s in the 30s today. Up and down, but thankfully, no snow. All you have to do is watch the news to realize this has been a crazy year, weather-wise.

  9. It is good that Clif did not retire from his job as a snow gauge since he has been very needed this month! We got about 3 hours of snow here a week ago. The first time that has happened in my life! It didn’t get to stick as snow became a heavy rain. So much weather drama here in s. California from Julian Sands’ disappearance on Mt Baldy to people suffering from being without services in our mountain towns. The snowy mountains views framed by palm trees and citrus trees have been post card perfect. Stay warm and know I send love!

    1. So nice to hear from you. Yes, Snow-Gauge Clif is very much needed. That snow must have seemed very odd to you indeed. I have been reading about all the weather drame in S. California and have been thinking of you. Very sad about Julian Sands. I liked him so much in “Room with a View.” I bet the snowy mountains framed by palm and citrus trees were something to see.

  10. Feel free to send the next snow-laden clouds this way. I know how it feels to be ready for spring but have to deal with a prolonged winter, but we envy you the water in all that white stuff. ❄❄❄

  11. It looks like you got plenty of snow! Thanks for the link to JacquiWine’s Journal and the book review. I remember Woolworth’s from childhood.

  12. We’ve got about one inch of snow here right now, and everyone’s panicking! I can’t imagine how we’d cope if we received anything like the amount of snow you’re contending with…Well, actually, I can – we’d cope very, very badly.

    The book review sounds intriguing. I really should look up Barbara Comyns. And I chuckled at Elizabeth Jane Howard’s comment on librarians. She’s probably right, most of them I’ve met are far from genteel (sorry, Mrs P!) but urban myth suggests – contrary to EJH’s observation – that in times past lady librarians were a bit “prim and proper”.

    1. Snow and Maine go together like peanut butter and jelly. We are very used to dealing with lots of snow, and that makes all the difference. The day after that big storm, the roads were clear, and people were going about their business as usual. But If you’re not used to dealing with snow, yikes!

      In Elizabeth Jane’s Howard’s book, I think it was a snobbery issue. The protagonist’s parents thought the wrong type of girls became librarians. That’s a new one on me as in the U.S., librarians, as far as I know, have always been respectable. Anyway, interesting.

      1. Oh, that is so funny. In the eyes of just about every self-respecting Brit I’ve ever discussed it with, there is no culinary combination less appealing than jelly (or as we would say, jam) and peanut butter. We often wonder how it is that any rational human being can believe that jelly and peanut butter is even edible, let alone desirable! πŸ™‚ Weird, isn’t, how tastes can vary so dramatically.

        On the subject of snow, our digital music playlist – which comprises around 11,000 tracks – has just treated us to Dean Martin crooning “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” Ha ha ha I don’t think! (it’s snowing hard right now and drivers, unfamiliar with the conditions, are crawling slowly along the road that passes our house. The end of our world is nigh.)

        Regarding librarians, I spent my whole career bar one year working alongside them, and – like most other professions I guess – they’re a mixed bunch, the good, the bad and the ugly. Behaviour in the staffroom is some times at odds with the “respectable” public-facing image! But one interesting thing to note is that nearly all of the public librarians I worked with or knew were/are socially and politically progressive, proudly and liberally left-of-centre. If that was the case at the time when Elizabeth Jane Howard’s novel is set, then maybe this was what upset the girl’s parents – they may have regarded anything other than stern political / social conservatism as lacking in “gentility”. This is pure conjecture, clearly, but an interesting thought (to me, anyway! πŸ™‚)

      2. (1) The Peanut Butter and Jelly combo dates back over 120 years! (2) The average American child consumes 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before leaving high school!! (3) You have a National PB&J Day!!! (4) CONCLUSION: The world’s even weirder than I thought. I really must go and have a lie down in a darkened room, to recover from the shock of it all! πŸ™‚

      3. Oh, this cracked me up. Had to read your comment to my husband. All I can say is, be prepared for April 2, which is just around the corner. πŸ˜‰

  13. Thanks for the blog recommendation, love books and wine!!πŸ™‚ Also love your beautiful snowy photos, but that is too much March snow for you guys!! We have more snow on the way tonight, but thankfully it’s not going to be the heavy snow from last week. I hope Clif has a better report for us next week!!πŸ™‚

  14. Did you ever find out what the deepest measure you’ve had on the human snow gauge? It looks as if this would be high up on the list. I smiled about the parents frowning over the gentility of becoming a librarian – and that’s for the ones that cannot travel in time and space.

    1. Yes, this is high, but there have been years when we have had more snow. It surprised me to read what the parents thought of librarians. Times changes, thank goodness.

  15. I do remember the conversations in January about the mild weather – but here Clif is in all this amazing snow!!! Viewing these almost brings a little nip to the hot humidity here. Take good care in the chill – keep those hot chocolates coming!!!

  16. Seems you and Clif had about the same amount of snow as we did here in Ontario. Whenever this happens, I remind myself to not complain (at least, not too much!) With climate change and its ravages, I know we need the snow for all kinds of reasons. Our best to you.

  17. I’m reading in reverse, Laurie. It seems you’ve had a rough patch in many ways. This is a naive question, but as someone who lives in snow-free San Jose, I wonder what happens to a car under all that snow. Does it ever seep in? Is it hard on the undercarriage. I can’t imagine how cold it must be climbing into the car after that snowfall.

    1. No, the snow never sleeps in. Cars are very water tight. the snow itself is not hard on the undercarriage, but the sand and salt used on the roads are. After a while, there’s rust. Clif has had to patch two hole and will need to do more come spring.

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