celebrity shopping

What Deb Fisher (Chair of the Barbara Pym Society) Can’t Live Without

Photo: courtesy of the retailers

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the stain remover pen and the tongue cleaner. Here, we talk to Deb Fisher, chair of the Barbara Pym Society, which held its 25th annual conference at St. Hilda’s College at Oxford last month, about her favorite edition of Excellent Woman and her trusty teapot.

I just love Josh Groban’s voice. It’s like … black velvet, isn’t it? I love musicals, and he sings various songs from different musicals, like ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables, which is one of the best renditions of that song I’ve ever heard. I usually listen in the car, when I want to indulge myself fully, especially if I’m a bit down — though I suppose some of the songs are quite sad on the album, but it can be cathartic to listen to things like that.

A lot of Barbara Pym’s novels were out of print in the UK, and Virago — which specializes in books by and about women — brought them back, and I love these covers. Excellent Women is set in postwar London when times were very frugal; it’s about a youngish single woman who’s trying to be helpful to those around her and people take advantage of her. It’s the best known and most successful of Pym’s books and is my favorite. It’s most people’s favorite — it has a little bit of Pride and Prejudice to it. I’ve probably read Excellent Women at least five times.

In addition to the Barbara Pym society, I’m also involved in the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship, and Jean Moorcroft Wilson’s two-volume biography of him is essential reading for fans of this writer and war hero. Jean Moorcroft Wilson is a very well-regarded scholar — I refer to this book a lot whenever people ask me questions about Sassoon; I’ll go back and see if she’s mentioned it.

Lakeland have quite a good reputation, and this is one of their best-selling products — a Remoska design from Czechoslovakia that they reworked. I saw it at a shop and wanted to try it. It’s kind of a small cooker; anything you can cook in an oven, you can cook in this, and it’s much more economical for a small household in terms of the amount of energy it uses. You can put it on your worktop and just leave it there — it’s got its own base and the heating element is in the lid, so it won’t damage the counter. My husband and I will make Bolognese sauce or a shepherd’s pie with it.

If you want to make more than one cup of tea, it’s really much better to use a teapot as opposed to making the tea in a mug; it stops it from being so acidic, and it makes the tea smoother so you’ll get a better flavor. The traditional British Brown Betty teapot is still the best for making multiple cups. We’ve had this thing for years — the only reason you’d ever need to replace is it if you dropped it. My husband and I, we drink Tetley English Breakfast Tea.

The best tea cosies are handmade and have slits for the spout and handle, like this one. I find that the wooly tea cosies that surround the pot are easier to use than the ones you put on top — they keep the tea warmer, and you don’t have to take them off to pour the tea out.

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What Barbara Pym Society Chair Deb Fisher Can’t Live Without