A House in Flanders

In the summer of 1951 when Michael Jenkins was fourteen-years old he stayed with a French family in Flanders. In A House in Flanders Michael Jenkins, British ambassador to the Netherlands from 1988 to 1993 amongst many other diplomatic duties, tells the remarkable story of spending a summer with “the aunts in Flanders”. These aunts were in fact a group of elderly women whose connection to the family was somewhat tenuous but who embraced him nonetheless. With the memories of two world wars hanging over this new home and the unravelling of the secret at the heart of this family, Michael Jenkins tells of the summer that changed his life in evocative detail. He writes:

I was fourteen when I first came to the house on the edge of the plain. Some epidemic at school had, as was not unusual in those days, closed the establishment in the early summer, and my parents took the opportunity to despatch me for several months to ‘the aunts in Flanders’, mythical creatures as far as I was concerned, who had last been visited, I believe, by my father some time in the Thirties. Despite a French ancestry on my mother’s side we were not related to the family and my parents had always been vague, deliberately I now think, about the origins of our connection with them.


A House in Flanders is a vivid record of life amongst the various personalities whose lives are scarred by memories of the war. Don’t trust us, here are some of the people who have been most affected by A House in Flanders:


“There are some books, not necessarily the longest, in which the author’s intention is so perfectly realised, a seminal experience of life so beautifully recorded that the book becomes a small icon to be treasured not only on the shelf of a personal library, but in the mind.” – P. D. James, ‘Slightly Foxed’

“Artfully adds up to a portrait of a family, a time and a place … A very charming memoir.” – Penelope Lively, ‘The New York Times’

“This is a radiant book … A Whole spectrum of colours and lights, of delights and elegances, of wistfulness and love.” – Dirk Bogarde, ‘Daily Telegraph’

Published today, you can get your copy here: http://amzn.to/2nas5po

House in Flanders cover

Do Parents Matter?

Robert A LeVine and Hannah Hiles talk about their new book Do Parents Matter?  in this week’s The Green Parent magazine. Distinguished anthropologists, Robert and Hannah have been researching parenting for almost half a century, in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Do Parents Matter? provides a wide range of parenting practices the world over with the intention that parents ‘might have a better chance of evaluating, and perhaps resisting, advice directed to them from the media, the internet, and the “experts”.’ They argue that we have exaggerated the need for total parental involvement and the negative outcomes while underestimating the resilience of children.

New parents and old will be fascinated by the range of parenting practices, from sharing the care in the Indian joint family to the universality of co-sleeping in Japan, a country they note ‘with one of the lowest rates of infant mortality in the world.’ Why not take a well-needed break, free yourself from the stress of expert advice and read this enlightening article.

If that sparks your interest, you can order a copy of the book here: http://amzn.to/2iIDDjD

Do Parents Matter cover

Happy International Women’s Day!

To celebrate international women’s day we thought we would bring you news of our very own Jess Thom who has been appearing at the Sydney Opera House as part of the All About Women festival.

Jess has Tourettes syndrome and in 2011 she was in the audience of a show where, after complaints about disturbing other audience members because of her tics, she was asked to sit in a sound booth. Jess was stung by the incident and decided to do something about it. Last Sunday, Jess was front and centre of the Sydney Opera House, accompanied by improv actor Jess Mabel Jones in an excellent show which blends comedy, puppetry, singing and her idiosyncrasies to explore her own creativity and disability in her spontaneous and inimitable way. In Jess’s show Backstage in Biscuitland audience members are encouraged to make noise, move and tic. Jess believes that theatres must be more inclusive so that people like herself are not shut out in the way that she was. She has written more about this issue here: https://www.timeout.com/sydney/blog/hedgehog-biscuit-fuck-cats-touretteshero-jess-thom-calls-for-theatres-to-be-more-inclusive-030317

Jess is also the creator of touretteshero, which celebrates the creativity and humour of people with Tourettes. Touretteshero is on Twitter (https://twitter.com/touretteshero) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/touretteshero/) and her funny and interesting #dailyoutburst’s are an absolute joy.

Jess will also be taking her new project Adventures in Biscuitland around the UK, beginning at the Tate Modern on March 24th, 25th and 26th and it’s completely free to attend. For more information about this event see Jess’s blog at https://www.touretteshero.com/2017/02/24/biscuit-land-a-new-adventure/

Jess tells her inspirational story in Welcome to Biscuit Land which the Evening Standard called ‘an invaluable resource for families coping with Tourette’s’. This ‘moving, year-long diary’ (Daily Mail) is available in print and e-book with an excellent foreword by Stephen Fry here: http://souvenirpress.co.uk/product/welcome-to-biscuit-land-a-year-in-the-life-of-touretteshero-jess-thom/

Welcome to Biscuit Land cover (002)