Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Katharine Stewart: A Croft in the Hills (1960, my edition from 1994), illustrated by Anne Shortreed


In the 1950's Jim and Katherine Stewart long to get out of the city and when they see an ad for a house plus 40 acres, they quickly set off to see it and buy it. The croft is situated in Abriachan, nearly 1000 feet above sea level and can only be reached on foot. When they move in (with their small daugher Helen) there is no piped water supply and no electricity. A winddriven dynamo provides them with light (after a few years a hydro-electric scheme will provide electricity).  They get to know their neighbours and begin to understand "what good-neighbourliness can mean in lonely places. Since that day, we have borrowed and lent everything from a loaf of bread to a broody hen and have exchanged services of every kind, from a hand at the dipping to the rescue of a snow-bound truck. We are all faced with the same fundamental problems and we have learnt how utterly dependent we are upon one another in dealing with them." During their first spring they buy a small tractor and a plough and start to work on their farm. They are able to buy a neighbouring property to extend it. This also gives them access to a road. This farm comes with cattle, hens, sheep, goats, ducks and Charlie the pony. From the start they realize that what they are doing can never be more than subsistence farming. "As a business proposition its appeal was abolutely nil, but, of course, we had never looked at it strictly in that light. As a way of life it had endless fascination and reward."

Their aim is to be as self-sufficient as possible. They need to buy little, except clothes. During the years that follow they sell and buy cattle, buy more chickens, grown corn, keep pigs, grow vegetables, cut peat and keep sheep.

To make ends meet Jim needs to take a job and Katherine starts to write. "In a flash it came to me: might not people who were forced to spend their working hours between walls like to hear about what went on in a hill-top croft, of how it was possible to get an immense amount of fun and satisfaction out of lifting loads of mud into a cart, even though your boots were leaking and you knew there was not enough in the kitty to buy another pair?" She sends off an article to a Glasgow newspaper, who are not interested, but much to her suprise and joy The Weekly Scotsman accepts it.

Daughter Helen thrives, making friends with neighbouring children, and walking home from  the school bus on her own: "She has always had to do the last bit of the road from school on her own, along the track, through the heather. Sometimes, if the day is really bad, we have hurried to meet her, for she still seems such a minute scrap of humanity, set against the vastness of hill and sky. But not once have we found her in the least disconcerted by snow, gale or thunder. She plods along, with a twinkle in her eye, taking whatever comes."

This is a classic, loved by many.

"There is certainly little room for dramatic highlights in this story of ours". This is very true. This is not a book to read if you want to know how to run a smallholding. This is about the rythm of the seasons and the joy in caring for oneself and sharing everything as a family. Describing it to someone the other day, I realised it sometimes reminded me of a children's book where there may be storms,  the farm may be completely snowed in, but inside all is warm, safe and cosy. "The following morning we awoke to the now familiar sound of a northerly gale tearing at us all day. We struggled out three times to see to the animals. The rest of the day we spent huddled at the livingroom fire, swathed in woollen garments, heating panfuls of broth and making tea and cocoa. Helen loved those days of storm, when we were marooned together cosily, in the firelight, with the world whirling madly outside the windowpanes."

My edition features a new postscript by the author, written in 1979. She describes how many things have changed in Scotland and some remain the same. Jim has died and Katharine now lives in the old school-house where she runs a (tiny) Post Office. Daughter Helen and her family live nearby on their small farm.

Kaherine went on to write many more books. She died in 2013. A very interesting obituary can be found here here .

Monday, 23 May 2022

Phil and Maureen Rooksby

Years ago I used to follow Elspeth Thompson's blog about her garden by the seaside, and I was shocked and saddened to read about her death in 2010. Yesterday I was leafing through her book A Tale of Two Gardens, and came upon a piece called 21st-Century Self-Sufficiency, about books written by Phil and Maureen Rooksby. I had never heard of them, so naturally I googled their names. And found a website called A Simpler Life , which includes free PDF's of their books. Worth a look!

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Living in The Netherlands: bridge poetry

London has Poems on the Underground, we have Bridge Poetry. As we spend quite some time waiting for ships to pass, there is time to read, and many bridges in Amsterdam and Rotterdam now feature poems:


Monday, 9 May 2022

Yorkshire Cottage, continued

A very kind lady from Quaker House sent me the following information, on children being excluded from WWII evacuation schemes, as mentioned in Yorkshire Cottage by Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartley (see earlier post):

I think this book has slightly mis-represented the situation at the time. Firstly, Quakers could only bring over children under the government scheme, so they would not have been able to bring over any refugee children who did not meet the criteria of the scheme. The criteria for rescuing refugees would have been about establishing whether the children were ‘in danger’ from the Nazi regime as opposed to their racial profile – although of course it was the Nazi’s racial profiling of citizens which led to them being in danger.

The Jewish relief agencies, and the non-Jewish relief agencies (Quaker, Catholic etc) in the UK, agreed amongst themselves to divide up the refugees into those who identified as Jewish, and those who did not identify as Jewish (but whom the Nazis decided to persecute as ‘non-Aryan’, usually as they had mixed parentage or a Jewish grandparent). So, Quakers tended to support refugees who were non-Jewish, or had mixed heritage, but not from any particular ethical stance, just as an effective way to organise the available resources and manage the caseload.

As far as I know, the government let the relief agencies on the ground assess who should qualify for the scheme – i.e. they let the relief agencies decide who was ‘deserving’, i.e. at risk of the Nazis. All the government was concerned with, was that financial support of a certain amount had been arranged for each child. You can read more about the Kindertransport here: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/kindertransport/

There are records for the Kindertransport children here: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/search-world-records/kindertransport

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has information here: https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/kindertransport-1938-40

I am not sure the child in question came over with the Kindertransport, as she was French and fled with her mother and brother. But it did make me feel better that  Ella Pontefract perhaps misunderstood the situation.

Monday, 18 April 2022

A Curious Thing in a Yorkshire Cottage

In my earlier post I wrote about Yorkshire Cottage by Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartley. On page 101 of this book I came across this paragraph:

The text refers to a three year old girl who, with her mother and small brother, has fled from Belgium. Her father is 'interned' (= in a concentration camp) in France. She is being evacuated to Yorkshire and spends some time with Ella and Marie. 

According to this book being mixed race barred you from benefiting from Government evacuation schemes. Can this be true? I keep coming back to this paragraph as is just sounds so cruel. I have contacted a few organisations about this, but so far have received no replies. If anyone can shed any light on this, or if you know of any sources I could use, I would be most grateful.

Monday, 4 April 2022

Yorkshire Cottage by Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartley (1942)




This book was bought by Marjorie and William Blake on 29 October 1942, and the authors signed it on 15 April 1943.

Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartley wrote about the social history of the Yorkshire Dales. In the late 1930's they buy an old cottage in a Yorkshire village. The name of the village is not mentioned in the book, but Wikipeda tells us it is Askrigg. 

(a garth is an enclosed yard)

The first part of the book tells the story of how they rebuild, decorate and furnish the house. We also learn a lot of the people (especially local craftsmen) they meet, with conversations in the local dialect.

Only part of the rebuilding is finished when war breaks out. 'For us life altered in a night. It became a confused programme of learning to drive ambulances, of attending first aid and antigas lectures, and of helping to sort the scanty A.R.P. equipment which was all that was allowed us in those early days. (...) Amid these duties the cottage seemend unreal, as if it were something we had known long ago.' Materials and men become scarce, but two and a half years after they bought the cottage they move in as permanent residents. Some of their furniture they buy from Thompson's in Kilburn. This furniture was and is famous for having a mouse carved somewhere on it. 

The second half of the book describes their first year in the cottage.

There is some talk of soldiers, refugees and evacuees, but otherwise the war does not seem to impinge very much and life goes on in the Dales much as it always did. I can see why this book might have been popular during the war. It is like one long cosy fireside chat about things that have always been so and will never change. The landscape, the climate, the well, the garden, the village: life goes on. Parts of this book I found, dare I say it, a little boring, but I am sure lots of people will find it the ulitimate comfort read.

Monday, 14 March 2022

A House by the Shore: Twelve Years in the Hebrides, by Alison Johnson, with illustations by Christine Dodd (1986)


Alison and Andrew meet at Oxford and, after finishing their studies, don't want to join the ratrace. What will they do? Andrew is a good handyman and Alison is a good cook. Thinking about their interests, gradually a plan emerges: they will buy a large and derelict old house, near the sea and in the country, restore it and run it as a hotel. For this of course they need money and they decide to become teachers. After a postgraduate course in Aberdeen they find jobs on Harris, where they spend three years teaching, living in a rented house and getting to know the island, the islanders and the weather (which can be vicious). After three years they discover an old and derelict house, a former manse (Scottish term for a dwelling of a minister of the Church), near Scarista Bay, and they manage to buy it. 'We wanted everyone to come and see this miracle. Those who did were inexpressibly shocked". 'The house itself had about 19 rooms, but the six in the attic had insufficient headroom to comply with building regulations, and the two outlying single-storey wings at the front had their internal access blocked up. They and the ground floor of the back wing were the most derelict parts: very derelict indeed."  

First of all they set out to make a few rooms habitable (so they can live there) and to restore the water and electricity supply. They start to keep hens and make first attempts at a vegetable garden. At first they combine doing up the manse with teaching, but it is slow going: 'At this rate it would be ten years till we were finished". They resign in September 1977, a year after buying the manse. Months of hard work follow, repairing the roof, walls, floors, doors, windows, the list seems never ending. 


There are nine months between stopping teaching and opening day, and this is barely enough. Furniture and furnishings have to be bought, mostly on the mainland as very little is available on Harris. 'We were amazed and amused that bookings were coming in at all. Our attempts at publicity had been very haphazard. As we were starting with only four bedrooms we did not need to attract large numbers of customers. (...) Looking back, it is suprising anyone came at all.' On the last day their neighbours help to clean the whole house. 'Next morning we stepped out of our filthy attic into a house unnaturally clean and luxurious." Once the guests start coming the kitchen becomes Alison's domain, while Andrew is 'front of house'. There is still lots to do, doing up the remainder of the house, cleaning and ordering food, supply being a problem as little is available on Harris itself. The hotel is closed in winter giving them time to catch up.

The hotel had brought them self-confidence and a flourishing reputation - even some money. But: 'by the end of the second season, we could see it coming. We had proved to ourselves that we could what we set out to do, and after that we felt aimless, marking time until some new goals surfaced.' They keep going for a good few years though, inventing new projects, like creating a new dining room, building a cottage for the housekeeper and her family, and building a new block with extra rooms. 

The last chapter is called Dropping Out Again? They are looking for something new, but don't know yet what it will be.

On the surface this is a perfectly pleasant book. However, there were several things about it I did not like. Alison and Andrew seem to think teaching a useless activity, so I was glad to read they gave it up. Also, Alison has a way of being self deprecating which irritated me. Its seems everything they do is amateurish, falls to pieces, goes wrong, but then in the next paragraph they are running a successful hotel. And I can't stand people who can't control their dogs and who think that's funny. Alison thinks it is hilarious and devotes a whole chapter to their dog. So, all in all, not one of my favourite books!

As for a new venture, Andrew, Alison and Sarah (their daughter) Johnson now run The White Horse Press.  An interview with Sarah (referring to her childhood on Harris) can be found here.  Scarista House is now run by Tim and Patricia Martin.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Living in The Netherlands: Water and Bridges

I would guess that most of my readers live in English speaking countries. So I thought it a nice idea to, every now and then, give you a glimpse into what it is like to live in The Netherlands. First stop: water!

We live in a large (by Dutch standards) town, round the corner from a large canal. There is a bridge we cross often to visit the supermarket and the open air market or to go the metro station. It is a busy canal and the bridge opens at least once every hour to let the ships pass: empty ones on their way back to the locks and the port of Rotterdam, full ones on their way to Delft or inland ports further north. It is with reason that one of the most used excuses for being late at school is: 'de brug was open' (the bridge opened). Here is what the ships look like:

So, we were shocked to hear that a defect had been discovered which made it dangerous to open the bridge, necessitating urgent repairs. Suddenly the bridge stood open permanently, like this:

The small building on the right side of the bridge is the former 'brugwachtershuisje' ('bridgekeeper's house'), now a tiny coffee bar. The bridgekeeper now occupies the new building, just seen on the left of the bridge. From this building he can operate two other bridges as well.

All road traffic had to use other bridges.  For us, it meant about 30 minutes extra walk (though the council did operate a shuttle bus). After a few weeks we heard repairs where going to take longer than expected, and instead of a bus we would get a ferry! 

And here it is (the building above that bridge is also a bridgekeeper's house ). I suppose people in a hurry may dislike it, but we enjoy it. It feels like a tiny holiday every time you board. And also: people talk to each other.

I am sure we will miss it after the bridge is fixed!

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

The Fat of the Land by John Seymour, with illustrations by Sally Seymour (1961, my edition from 1974)


'Here we all sit, Sally my wife, Jane who is five and a half, Ann who is two and a half, and Kate who is seven (days), a mile from a hard road, with no electricity, no gas, no deliveries of anything excepting coal, provided we take at least a ton, and mail, and the post woman gets specially paid for coming here. And we are self-supporting for every kind of food excepting tea, coffee, flour, sugar and salt.'

We all know John Seymour as the godfather of a movement but it seems he stumbled upon his calling. After living on a boat John (who works as a writer) and his wife Sally (who is a potter) start looking for a house for their young family. On page 14 he states: 'Certainly we did not want a farm.' They have a hard time finding a place to live but then they are offered a double cottage in a remote location ('The Broom') for very little rent, provided they keep everything in repair. When they move in they have one daughter, a second one is born while they are living there. 

It is the remoteness that does it. 'For every single thing we wanted we had to go a mile and a half to the village to buy it. Our milk we arranged to have left every morning at some cottages a mile away from us, and every morning somebody had to go and get this.' So they get a cow (in August 1957) to provide them with milk. 'We were forced into pigs by circumstance of having three or four gallons of milk to dispose of every day.' This was when they had not yet learned how to make butter and cheese. 'And what were we going to do with all that dung? We would have to extend our gardening and farming activities. Brownie forced us, a long way, along the road that we had never planned to travel: the road to self-sufficiency and a peasant economy.'

In his biography on the Seymour family website it says: John Seymour roared through life. This is certainly the feeling you get while reading The Fat of the Land. He displays all the zeal of the newly converted, in his hurry to tell the story he often has to stop and say: but that was later, I'm getting ahead of myself.



John and Sally start growing vegetables and acquire chickens and ducks and plant fruit trees.  They are novices at it all: 'We worked ridiculously hard. For not only did we have to do a great number of jobs every day - but we had to learn how to do them. (...) Whether it was planting a fruit tree, sowing some radish seed, wringing a duck's neck, gutting and skinning a rabbit: we practically had to do it with a book in one hand and the thing in the other. This made everything ten times as difficult.'

Learning to mild a cow is hard. 'I have found that there is only one real teacher for difficult things: necessity. I milked Brownie because I had to milk her'.
Though John devotes a chapter to the house (describing the rooms and what they are used for), we get no idea what it was like to live there as a family. After the first few pages the children aren't mentioned in the book.

John and Sally use books at first to find out how to run a smallholding, but a few chapters later John seems to have thrown them out. He does not care for anything"modern" and as for the poor wageslaves who live in modern houses, in villages or towns, they have lost all connection with nature and simply don't realize how badly off they are.

The book is part story, part how-to (it includes an index). John relates all their successes and failures with vegetables, their use of different kinds of wood, the slaughtering of pigs. There is also a large section on thatching and chapters on preserving, wild foods and the use of tools. John also gives an insight into the amount of money they spend and earn (John works as a writer and broadcaster, and Sally sells her pottery).

For transport they first use their old van, and they dig the land by hand. Then they decide to buy a horse. 'A horse will plough, cultivate, harrow, roll, horse-hoe: very much faster than a garden tractor costing a hundred pounds. It will do it silently without drowning the song of the birds. It will do it on grass, which is cheap and does not entail the expenditure of foreign currency. You can ride a horse, and teach your children to ride, and you can make him pull a cart and take you to the pub when you want to go. And bring you back again, which is more important. He knows the way.'

My edition from 1974 ends with an extra chapter in which John looks back on his time in Suffolk and tells us of his move to Wales. 'When we found ourselves becoming self-sufficient in food at the Broom we were probably the only family in England living this way. Now hundreds are doing it - and tens of thousands who would like to. ' The story of his Welsh farm is told in 'I'm a Stranger Here Myself' (1978). 

The Broom is now available for rent as a holiday cottage.

A good source for further reading on John Seymour is his family's website Pantryfields


Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Adrian Bell

A tip from Avis: Slightly Foxed's latest podcast is on Adrian Bell   I will listen to it tonight. All of the podcasts end with recommended reading and I was very pleased to see that one of my favourite books (Acts and Omissions by Catherine Fox) is included.

Friday, 11 February 2022

The Hovel, revisited

Sue, at My Quiet Life in Suffolk, just put up a great post about Elizabeth West's books. It includes photo's from a hardback copy of Hovel in the Hills, and pictures of the "Hovel" in 2005. Enjoy!

Thursday, 27 January 2022

She Took to the Woods by Alice Arlen (2000)


This book contains a biography of and selected writings by Louise Dickinson Rich (1903 - 1991), who is best known for her memoir We Took to the Woods (1942). 

Alice Arlen was able to talk to Louise's children Rufus and Dinah. She also had access to various scrapbooks, diaries and letters . The book includes some very pale and badly printed photo's (or was that just my copy?), which we spruced up a bit after scanning to show them here,

Louise grew up in Bridgewater, Maine, where her parents, intellectuals, Democrats and Christians, owned the local weekly newspaper. I suppose her upbringing can be described as spartan (by today's standards anyway) and happy. At 17, she entered a teachers college, where she began to write. Shortly after starting her first job she met and married John Bacon. The marriage was short-lived and they divorced in 1931, Louise returning to teaching. During a canoe trip in 1933 she met Ralph Rich and she soon joined him at Forest Lodge. This is the periode she described in We Took to the Woods. As this is one of my favourite books I was very interested to read about this time from another point of view. One thing that becomes clear is how very little money Louise and Ralph had in those early years. Writing stories and entering in competitions was done out of sheer necessity: 'Why did I write my first story? ' Louise answered in an interview. 'Desperation, I guess'. This first story (1936) brings in $50. In 1938 they were doing OK, but in September a hurricane struck, partly destroying the house. To quote Alice Arlen: 'They were desperate again'. From Louise's 1938 diary (it is one of those 5-year ones with very little space, hence the short entries) : 'October 24: Snow squalls. Ground white. Food situation acute. Started Gerrish sweater. 25: Warm and lovely. Worked on story. We are practically starving. Don't know what the outcome will be. They kept afloat, but only just, by selling stories. 

Ralph and Louise in the 1930's.
Louise's luck turned in 1939 when she came to an agreement with New York agent Willis Wing who provided her with a monthly check in exchange for a monthly story. An additional element was the plan for Louise to prepare sample chapters and an outline for a book on her wilderness experiences. After this book, We Took to the Woods, was published things took a turn for the better, with serial rights being picked up, and selection for the Book of the Month Club.


In 1944 things were still going well for Louise and Ralph, with Louise selling stories and earning royalties. But then, on December 18, Ralph suddenly died of a cerebral hemorrhage. In addition to dealing with the loss of her husband, Louise faced debts run up by him. She slowly picked herself up, once again turning to story writing to earn money. Happy the Land (sequel to We Took to the Woods), was published in 1946, My Neck of the Woods in 1950. In total she published 24 books. She always remained in Maine, in Bridgewater where she grew up, and later in several towns on the coast, a region she also grew to love. She spent her final years with her daughter Dinah and died in 1991, aged 88. Her ashes were scattered at Forest Lodge.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Apple Acre by Adrian Bell (1942)

My edition is from 1964, with a new foreword and epilogue by the author. Illustrations by Richard Kennedy.

Apple Acre is the story of farming and bringing up young children in the dark days at the beginning of the Second World War. " I had come to this village of Gruncham from West Suffolk just before the Nazi War. I had a few acres there, and later in 1943, I acquired more. Our children were infants when the war started, Anthea was three, the twins (Martin and Sylvia) were only one. We were five miles from the nearest town, and had no car nor petrol to get there. There was a bus twice a week. Otherwise we relied on bicycles or a pony trap for our shoppings. We seldom left the village in those years. There were shortages of the necessities of life - of clothes, food, milk, eggs. We were lucky in having our own pig, our own hens. Our staple food was potatoes and bacon. My wife made all the children's clothes from old garment of hers or a store of material we had laid in in August 1939. We had no piped water. Our well ran dry regularly every summer: unless it rained we could not have baths."

This is the story of Adrian's farm, the landscape, the farmers,  craftsmen and other people in the village. Or rather, it is not so much a story as a collection of Adrian's thoughts and observations. After reading the book you don't actually know much about his farm, but you do know what it felt like to live there at the beginning of the war. Adrian needs few words to paint a picture.

One day he and his wife Nora buy six goslings who turn out to be voracious creatures. "We referred to a book and read: "Goslings require very little artificial food, as they consume large quantities of grass." I wished these goslings could read.  And then one day towards Michaelmas, they happened to be at the far side of the orchard when I went out with their food. They stretched their necks and came full pelt - full waddle, that is - their wings flapping. Suddenly the leading goose became airborne and then the others. Their feet continued paddling the air. My impression was that they were as surprised as I was to find themselves flying. They gathered momentum, overshot the food, gave one despairing honk at it, and sailed out of sight over the hedge." The geese return to the farmer who sold them to Adrian ...

At first the war hardly seems to intrude and life goes on like it always did. The children seem to take the noises they hear (guns and planes) for granted: "It's only an aeroplane," Anthea says, as we look up and see one of England's battle planes sailing over at two or three hundred miles an hour, and she stoops again to make another sand pie. Aeroplanes are not very interesting birds, Anthea thinks. Not as interesting as the blackbird sitting on five eggs in the hedge." But later the threat of invasion becomes more real and Nora and the children spend a year in northern England.

"The war is more than bombs, it is a state of being. I feel it in the furtive quiet of the town. It is the soul of civilization that has fallen, caved in, long-decayed, hollow: and everybody goes furtively, knowing the end has come."

I especially like this book because of the way Adrian Bell writes about his children. He has an eye for their behaviour, an ear for their talk.


"Martin has seen the big mirror. Nora is left playing nursery rhymes to herself. Mirror superseeds music. Martin is stood up in front of it. He looks first at us in the mirror. They are here, yet they are there: what is the solution? His eyes get wider and blacker. Sylvia is held up to it. She quickly takes it for granted that there should be two of everybody. Anyhow, she is not going to worry about it. Grandma swings her to her reflection: she laughs uproariously. Martin is not amused. To be waved at in the mirror makes it the more puzzling. He struts around the room very worriedlooking."

"Filling being put into a new cake. Anthea has got on to a chair to see. 'I want a piece'. Occasionally she tries something quite obviously unpermissible. 'I want a piece now.' 'Whoever heard of such a thing!' It has worked: she begins to chuckle: 'I want a piece now.' Taking off my boots, feeling warm and cheerful beside the chrysanthemums, I begin, 'Do you know, when Father was a little boy - '  That always makes Anthea look. 'Yes?' 'When Father was a little boy he always had to have two slices of bread and butter before he was allowed to have a piece of cake.' 'Yes. And did your mummy make you a chocolate cake, with fillin' in it?' 'No, it was just a plain sponge cake: (I do remember a lot of plain sponge cake) and no filling in it.' 'Yes." A small voice. I look up sharply. The head is lowered, the face red. The thought of Father getting only plain sponge after the dutiful two slices is almost too much. I hasten to add, 'But if he had been a good boy he used to have a chocolate biscuit sometimes." Yes." A whisper. 'But then', crescendo, 'when it was his birthday he used to have a lovely cake, all sugar icing, and Happy Returns of the Day written in pink, and candles -' 'Yes' The head higher. 'And he used to have lots of little boyes to tea with him, and they played all sorts of games.' A smile. 'Why, look at pussy - she's trying to catch her tail.' She is having a whirling fit on the floor. Relief and joy."

Much has been written about Adrian Bell, there is an Adrian Bell Society , but this book seems to be less well known.

The back flap of my 1964 reprint gives an interesting glimpse into how men and women were thought of at that time: The children of whom he writes in Apple Acre have now grown up. Anthea and Sylvia are married and have young children of their own, while Martin is a journalist. Quite.

Anthea became an eminent translator , perhaps best known for her translations of the Asterix comics.