`My mother-in-law Annie lived with us for 17 years and was picture-book perfect.' It took a while before the family realised that Annie was increasingly (as she would put it) 'Mutt and Jeff'. So Phyllida began to write out the day's gossip at the kitchen table, putting her notes by Annie's bed before going to hers. One night as her husband wandered off to bed he muttered darkly that she spent so much time each evening writing to Annie she could have written a book. 'And illustrated it!' Here it is. It is a book full of the delights of a warm and loving household. Of Boot the Cat being sick after over-indulging in spiders; the hunt for cleaning products from the dawn of time; persistently and mysteriously malfunctioning hearing aids; an unusual and potentially hilarious use for a clove of garlic; and the sad disappearance of coconut logs from the local sweetshop. It's about the special place at the heart of a home held by a woman born in another age. Who polished the brass when it was 'looking red at her'. Who still bore a scar from being hit by her employer when, as a young woman, she was in service. Who could turn the heel of a sock and the collar of a shirt, and make rock-cakes, bread pudding and breast of lamb with barley.