Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Fabric Africa: Textile Exhibition at Bristol Museum

I happened by chance to come across this all-too-small exhibition of African textiles at the Bristol City Museum. It encompassed only two relatively small rooms, but what a lot they managed to pack in!

The first room was a display of various different fabrics and clothing. The items came from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, and Mali to name a few of the countries and spanned the late 1800’s to the present day. There was audio commentary, insights into the textile’s origin and first-person stories to provide context.

The second room showed a video of a tailor making up a dress. He had an old electric sewing machine, probably as old as mine. He was so quick and sure with his sewing, it was amazing to watch. I really marvelled that he could apply yards and yards of trim using just one pin!

Here are the pictures I’ve taken of the exhibition and some notes about some of the fabrics. I’m hoping I’ve got all the details down right as I know very little about African fabrics. This exhibition really opened my eyes to the great variety of textiles that come from the continent.

Kaftan (Sierra Leone)

Boubou, or kaftan, made in Sierra Leone (possibly Mandinka people) in the 1960s-70s (on the left)

The kaftan is ancient Mesopotamian in origin. Islamic influence brought it to Africa and from the late 1950s European fashion adopted the garment, where it is commonly seen as beachwear. This kaftan has been dyed using tie-dying or Gara as it is known locally.


Bogolanfini, or “mudcloth”, made in Mali (Bamana people) in the 1980s

Mud cloth is cotton cloth and dyed using fermented mud. The high iron content in the mud produces a black pigment when applied to the cotton textiles. The cloth was originally worn as wraps or made into shirts.

One familiar textile to me are the West African “wax” print cloths. In the early 1800s the Dutch tried to sell their mass-produced version of wax-resist cloth, batik, in Indonesia. But the production process gave a “cracked” look to the finished print and the textiles were rejected by the Indonesians, but became popular in West Africa when Dutch and Scottish trading vessels began introducing the fabrics in those ports. The Dutch company Vlisco still makes this type of fabric, and it is also produced in Ghana.

Tunic made in Cameroon

Tunic, made in Cameroon (Bamenda Tikar people) in the 1960s-80s

Animals are often used as symbols in African art to associate the owner with the qualities of a particular animal.  The elephant represents qualities associated with leadership, strength and wisdom. The u-shaped designs are iron bells on the tunic (above) and are a royal symbol. This type of tunic until recently would have been worn only by the elite of North West Cameroon society.

Tunic from Sudan, Fabric showing Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe, Commemorative fabric, Malawi

Left: Jibbah, or tunic, made in Sudan in the late 1800s Right: Fabric showing Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe Behind: Twentieth anniversary of forming of Republic of Malawi

There were a few textiles that had been designed to commemorate particular events, such as the 20th anniversary of the forming of the Republic of Malawi or for politics, such as the fabric showing Robert Mugabe above.

Sun dress and Masquerade costume

Left: Maxi sun dress (bought in Kenya in 2018) Right: Masquerade costume, made in Nigeria (Igbo people) in early to mid-1990s Behind: Kente cloth, made in Ghana (Asante people), early to mid-1990s

Kente cloth from Ghana was originally woven in traded silk. Between 16 and 24 strips would be sewn together to create the cloths worn only by the king and his family. Today mass-produced and high-end versions of Kente are worn throughout Ghana. The colours in the cloth have symbolic meanings; blue means peacefulness, yellow royalty or wealth.

The masquerade costume from Nigeria represents a young woman who has died. The performer, would wear the full costume which includes a mask, and attempt to help the deceased pass onto the next life.

Adinkra cloth, Ghana

Left: Adinkra cloth made in Ghana (Asante people) in the 1960s-80s

Adinkra cloth was originally worn only at funerals, but it is now worn commonly seen at other important occasions in Ghana. The word “adinkra” refers to the hand-stamped symbols on the cloth. Adinkra means farewell to the dead. On the cloth above the heart signifies love, patience and tolerance, the circles which look like “eyes” mean accepting the supremacy of God and the leaf-like symbol represents keeping confidences.

I noticed on the website once I’d seen the exhibition that they also had put together African textile handling boxes. I think these were primarily designed for children and somehow I hadn’t seen them. There is no better way to explore fabric that to feel it in my opnion, so I was disappointed that I’d missed this.

The exhibition runs until May next year and there is a Fabric Africa fashion show on 17th October.



Sewing The Seventies: 1979

It’s my final year of the 1970s and today is the final year of my tour through the decade. The start of 1979 was the coldest winter for sixteen years, and during a freezing January, the widespread industrial action spread to the public sector as the “winter of discontent” continued. With many workers in the private sector having secured substantial pay rises, public sector workers became concerned that their salaries were not keeping pace with those in the private sector.

Winter Of Discontent Cartoon

Winter Of Discontent Cartoon

Rail workers began a series of 24-hour strikes. Ambulance drivers took strike action in mid-January. Piles of rubbish, due to a refuge collectors strike, built up with local authorities running out of space and using local parks to store the rubbish. Leicester Square, in London became one of these storage points and was unofficially renamed “Fester Square”. Even more notorious was the industrial action by gravediggers. Eighty gravediggers went on strike in Liverpool and the council had to hire a factory to store the unburied bodies. The gravediggers settled for a 14% rise after a fortnight’s strike.

Fester Square

Rubbish uncollected in “Fester Square”

On 28th March, James Callaghan’s government lost a motion of confidence by one vote, forcing a General Election. The famous “Labour Isn’t Working” advertising campaign was run by the Conservatives in the lead-up to the election. It featured a queue of people outside an unemployment office, snaking back into the distance. It remains one of the most iconic political posters to this day.

Labour isn't working poster

Labour isn’t working poster

On 4th May the Conservatives win a land-slide victory in the General Election and Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister of the the United Kingdom. On winning the election, on the doorstep of Number 10 Downing Street, she remarked:
“Where there is discord, may we bring harmony;
Where there is error, may we bring truth;
Where there is doubt, may we bring faith;
And where there is despair, may we bring hope.”
She later won two successive general elections and has become one of the dominant political figures of the twentieth century
Margaret Thatcher1979 Election

Margaret Thatcher 1979 Election

Today I’ve opted for some warmer clothing as it is snowing again. I’m wearing my new late seventies popover Liberty shirt and my jeans.

This evening I decided to try a recipe that I remember from my childhood – meatloaf I’m also making a recipe that I’m simply dreading. It is an atrocity of the seventies that completely offends my Italian heritage. It’s “Macaroni Fritters with tomato sauce”. Essentially, cooked pasta is cut up into smaller pieces, covered in egg and cheese and fried. If I had to come up with a recipe for left-over pasta, this would not be it, but actually it was harmless, if slightly weird. The meatloaf which featured layers of meat and egg was deemed rather bland by all, but again edible.

Macaroni Fritters

Macaroni Fritters

Meat Loaf

Meat Loaf

I apologise for the photos which seem for some reason to be blurred. You can’t go back and take more photos when you’ve already eaten the food! Incidentally I decided to check to see if Italians do make anything like fried pasta and I did find this recipe, which seems to be a frittata, therefore more like an omelette. Somehow that looks so much more appetising.

Finally, we’re about to settle down to watch Pink Floyd’s The Wall and just a little word on my reading from this week. I’m still reading Joan Aikin’s “Voices in an Empty House”. I’m been really enjoying this book. Rather than appearing dated, it actually seems to read as a book that is just set in that period. The story revolves around a kidnapping of the son of a famous scientist and author, but it isn’t a straightforward plot. The story jumps around and is told in chapters, by the boy, his mother, his uncle and his step-father. The characters are richly drawn and interesting. I read the many books in the Wolves of Willoughby Chase series by this author as a child, I’m just left wondering why her adult fiction is not well known.



Sewing The Seventies: 1975

I’m at work again today and it turns out that 1975 was a particular important year for working women. Two new laws, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Equal Pay Act 1970, come into force aiming to end discrimination and the unequal pay of men and women in the workplace.

The gender pay gap for full-time employees was about 45% in 1970. [1] This has narrowed considerably over the years, with the average pay for full-time female employees 27.5% lower than full-time male employees in 1997 and 9.4% in 2016. [2]

Of course, this isn’t the full story, there are many other factors at play here. Women tend to work in occupations which offer lower salaries or they may take time out of the labour market to have children. Many women, including myself work part-time. When these factors are taken into account the statistics are less impressive.

The gap for all employees (full-time and part-time) has reduced from 27.5 % in 1997 (before this point, data was not collected) to 18.1% in 2016. 

Ford Machinists

Dagenham Ford Machinists’ protest about unequal pay paves the way for the Equal Pay Act.


At the same time though, unemployment in 1975 was regarded as high. The jobless total in this year rapidly rises to the 1,250,000 mark. This figure was shocking at the time and set to get worse. It’s a little hard to place this in context with today’s statistics as successive governments were committed to the principle of full employment during the 1970s and obviously the working age population is larger now. Unemployment today stands at 1,439,000 based on the latest figures. [3]

A more appropriate comparison could be to look at the employment rate (the number of unemployed people over 16 divided by the sum of employed people over 16 plus unemployed people aged 16 and over). In 1976 this was between 4.0 – 5.1%, today it is within the same range at 4.4 %.

This look at the working world in the 1970s got me thinking about what sort of wardrobe a working woman would have worn during the 1970s

The term “capsule wardrobe” was coined in the seventies by London boutique owner Susie Faux. She set out to help her customers define a wardrobe that was versatile and confidence-boosting.

According to Susie, the elements of a capsule wardrobe are:

  • a jacket
  • a skirt,
  • trousers, which could be part of a suit,
  • a blouse,
  • a sweater,
  • shoes,
  • tights,
  • a coat or raincoat,
  • a dress,
  • a bag,
  • a belt,
  • jewellery,
  • gloves and
  • evening wear

She states getting a wardrobe right “will make you look and feel confident and successful”. It’s all sensible advice. Susie continues to dispense her wardrobe advice today on her website I was hoping to include a few links to her old website, which had numerous detailed articles on the capsule wardrobe, but it seems to have disappeared since I wrote my draft for this post. I did copy out this snippet from the blog about jackets and cardigans, which I thought was aimed just at me:

To my mind, the jacket has to be the basis of every busy woman’s wardrobe. Research has shown that women are taken far more seriously when they’re working if they wear jackets.  Cardigans are all very well, but you may be asked to make the tea.”

Well, that’s told me! When I meet customers, I often wear a smart pair of trousers or a skirt teamed with shock, horror, a cardigan! Clearly, this is where I am going wrong as I surely can’t be taken seriously while I’m wearing a cardigan!

I think working in IT does give me quite a bit of licence to dress-down. Often face-to-face with customers and colleagues is limited, communing as I do, with my computer all day. I am wondering though how I would have dressed in the work environment in the 1970s. I work in an office after all. I wore my flared jeans and the Butterick 5024 shirt today. I’m sure such a casual outfit would not have been worn to the office in the seventies. Oh, and a wore a cardigan to work today too…..


[1] The gender pay gap (BBC website)

[2] Recent pay gap statistics (Office of National Statistics)

[3] Employment statistics (Office of National Statistics)

[4] Employment rates (Office of National Statistics)


Sewing The Seventies: 1974

Before I forget, I have had a few queries about this challenge on instagram. The hashtag to use is #SewingTheSeventies2018.

Today marks 1974, a very turbulent year – the Three-Day Week, two general elections, a state of emergency in Northern Ireland and numerous Provisional Irish Republican Army bombings on mainland Britain.

The Three-Day week was introduced by the Conservative Government of Edward Heath as a measure to conserve electricity during another period of industrial action. The coal miners were already on “work-to rule” and threatening all-out strike action. The measures involved cutting electricity to only three days a week to conserve coal and other fuel stocks. There was also an ongoing oil shortage caused by an embargo by members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) targeting nations supporting Israel during the recent Yom Kippur War.

Three Day Week

Three Day Week

The minutes of the cabinet meeting on 3rd December 1973 [1] bring home the seriousness of the situation:

“If demand for all sources of fuel remains at its present level – a very serious situation would arise in early February. There would be widespread electricity disconnections and some oil consumers would be without supplies for a period……This paper considers measures to reduce demand for all types of fuel so as to postpone the date at which this situation would arise and so as to minimise the damage to industrial production and the distribution of essential goods, to reduce hardship to individual firms and companies and to avoid gross inequities, but yet to bring home to the public the seriousness of the position and the need for all measures of conservation.”

The measures also “prohibited the use of electricity for display lighting and flood lighting and for the heating of commercial and other similar premises” There was also “an anti-hoarding Order.”

The good news is that heating in the home will not been restricted: “Orders to limit the use of domestic heating, seem to be unenforceable, even if we took the undesirable step of taking powers of forceable entry into people’s homes. But the importance of savings on the domestic front makes it essential that there should be further appeals for voluntary co-operation in the home

Even parliament were not excused from the restrictions:

“THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL said that in the interests of electricity saving, and in order to ease the travelling problems of Members and of Parliamentary staff, it was desirable to consider proposing some temporary changes in Parliamentary hours.”

At a cabinet meeting on 24th January 1974, with the industrial action entering its 4th week, the cabinet discussed the possibilities of relaxing the electricity restriction and returning to a five-day week. It was strongly argued that the restriction could not be endured much longer and “many companies, large and small, would soon be in difficulties, and this could have wide repercussions throughout the economy.”

However the government didn’t want to appear they were relenting to pressure from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

“Relaxation now, would be seen as a sign of weakness on the part of the Government: the miners would be encouraged in their resolve, since a relaxation would be taken as firm evidence that the economy could not stand a three-day week and that the Government, rather than impose even harsher measures, would quickly settle with them. Public opinion would almost certainly see relaxation in face of the risk of a strike as an act of great imprudence.”

No decision was made by the Cabinet at that meeting and on 7 February, Heath called an election for 28 February. [2]

On 10 February, the miners went on strike and the three-day week continued. The general election resulted in a hung parliament. Labour formed a minority government and brought and end to the strike and the three-day week in March.

Private Eye Cover Feb 1974

Private Eye Cover Feb 1974

Meanwhile, the newly formed Northern Ireland Assembly with a power-sharing executive made up of unionists and nationalists was dissolved. The government re-established direct rule over Northern Ireland  after declaring a state of emergency.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) continued its campaign of violence with extensive bombings on the British Mainland. In June, a bomb exploded at the Houses of Parliament in London.

In October, the Provisional IRA (a sub-group of the IRA) planted bombs in pubs in Guildford frequented by British Army Personnel, killing 5 people. In the following month, 21 people were killed and many others injured in the Birmingham pub bombings. 

A second general election was called in October and resulted in a narrow victory for Harold Wilson, giving Labour a majority of three seats.

I’m not been very adventurous with my clothing choice today and have just gone for my Burda dress and purple shirt, just like Saturday’s (1972) outfit.

I did try today to make a pack lunch improvement. I bought some ryvita and took the remains of the Avocado chilled soup and the cottage cheese to use as dips. I do seem to remember that ryvita was a definitely beloved of dieters in the seventies, which might explain why it really wasn’t a filling lunch.


Packed Lunch

This evening, we are experiencing a power cut. We’re eating our dinner by candlelight [3]. But we’re all cheered up by the Eurovision Song Contest which is held in Brighton this year. It was won by the Swedish group ABBA with their song “Waterloo”.

Abba Eurovision

Abba performing Waterloo at the Eurovision Song Contest

[1] Cabinet meeting 3rd December 1973

[2] Cabinet meeting 5th February 1974

[3] A collection of photos from 1974 with employees working by candlelight and queuing for bread



Sewing The Seventies: 1973

The Farmhouse Kitchen recipe book has quite a mixture of recipes, ranging from traditional regional dishes that are centuries old to recipes tackling new ingredients. One ingredient that crops up frequently in the book is the avocado. I suppose these days we don’t tend to think of the avocado as particularly exotic, it’s been in our supermarkets for so long, but in the seventies it was relatively new. It was Marks and Spencer that first introduced avocados to the UK public in 1968. Apparently, it was introduced as an “avocado pear”, which people would eat with custard. Anyway, it seems that crimes against the avocado are still being committed in the seventies with this recipe for “Chilled Avocado Soup”. I’m slightly doubtful about the whole concept of chilled soup anyway, but this was rather weird. It is basically made from cucumber, avocado and yoghurt and is meant to be eaten with hot toast. Master Steely declined, probably wisely. Mr Steely will eat anything, but he was not impressed either. The hot toast was enjoyed though.

Chilled Avocado Soup

Chilled Avocado Soup

Today I’ve just decided to go with a ready-to-wear turtle neck jumper and my rust-coloured corduroys. Although, the cords are not made with a seventies pattern, just the colour and the flares are reminiscent of the era.

Orange Flares

Orange Flares

This evening we are watching the cult film Logan’s Run. Set in a dystopian future, all citizens are required to “renew” at the age of thirty. Some people want to live beyond thirty and attempt to escape the confines of the domed city. The story follows Logan Five whose job appears to be to kill any escaping citizens, known as runners. That is, until he meets Jessica, who tells him about the existence of sanctuary outside the city’s domes. The city scenes looked like a model railway enthusiast had designed them and scanty costumes were frankly hilarious. Although clearly dated, it was quite good fun to watch.

Logan's Run

Logan’s Run

I really needed to make something quick tonight for dinner and I considered making a pasta dish from the Farmhouse Kitchen recipe book. On assembling the main ingredients I wasn’t particularly keen though. The recipe called for olives (another exotic ingredient!), ham and yoghurt. This combination sounded alarmingly nasty and in the end I just decided to make a conventional tomato sauce and add in the olives and ham. I suppose I felt like I couldn’t inflict anything that bad on Mr Steely after he bravely ate the chilled avocado soup.

Finally I’ve been placing the recipes up on Instagram under #livingtheseventies, if you feel tempted to try that soup.



Sewing The Seventies: 1971

Ah, 1971 the year of decimalisation! In this year, the UK moves away from the old coinage with its pounds, shillings and pence. This system could trace its origins back to Roman times – the pound refers to a pound (librum) of silver divided into 240 pence (denari).

Shops showed both the old and new currency and there were lots of handy guides explaining how the new system worked for shoppers.

Shoppers go decimal

Shoppers go decimal

Personally I can’t imagine why the old system was kept for so long, It just seems enormously perverse to have to divide by 12, 240 or 20 when it is quite sufficient to have a system where you only have to divide by 10. After the initial change-over I can’t imagine there were many shoppers who really wanted to return to the old system, although perhaps I’m forgetting Daily Mail readers who blame all our ills on this change which marked “the end of a proud history of defiant insularity and the beginning of the creeping ­Europeanisation of ­Britain’s institutions”. Never mind that the United States had been decimal since the eighteenth century!

Decimilsation guide

Decimilsation guide

So, I’ve now got money to spend at the shops! My first stop though is my yoga session, where I’m sporting my new t-shirt made from McCalls 5553 pattern.

Off to Yoga!

Off to Yoga!

Next, I make a beeline for shops. There have been lots of changes on the High Street in the intervening years, so I head for shops that I know were around during the seventies. First, I take a look in Marks and Spencers, a department store, where I make a rare clothing purchase (a pair of tights) and also buy some tea lights. (If you know anything about the events of the seventies in the UK, you’ll know why I bought these. If not, the reason will become apparent in the next few days).

I head into W H Smiths, a newsagents, to have a look at the magazines. I took a look at the Burda Style magazine, but decide to resist its call given that there are only a couple of really desirable patterns in there. The first book in the Mr Men series, Mr Tickle was published this year. I read loads of these as a kid. I remember liking the the final page of the story, always delivered like a punchline to a joke. I looked for these books in the childrens’ book section. I didn’t find Mr Tickle, but read Mr Greedy instead and then bumped into Mr Steely quite unexpectedly! (Mr Steely being my other half, not a book title!) Anyhow, we hadn’t been planning to meet, but obviously great minds think alike (or fools seldom differ).

Our next stop, was at the video / DVD rental shop. Yes, you’ll be amazed that such a shop still exists, but this one has survived and thrived by specialising in older, rare or foreign language DVDs and videos. It has a library of over 20,000 titles and I’d already selected our week’s entertainment from the online catalogue. I’ll post more about our selections once we’ve watched them.

Back at home we made a lunch of beans on toast. A perfect improvement on yesterday’s sad and boring sandwich!

Beans On Toast

For this evening’s meal I’ve consulted the “Farmhouse Kitchen” cookbook. This is a book based on a series broadcast by Yorkshire Television. A look on Youtube didn’t provide me with an episode or decent clip of the series from the seventies, but there is this video of the gaunty theme tune.

The most notable thing about the book is that it fetures both recipes from the presenter, Dorothy Sleightholme and viewer’s contributions. I’m therefore getting not just media trends, but the sorts of recipes that real people are making during this time. My choices for this evening were:

Marrow Stuffed with Mushrooms

I had to substitute courgettes for marrow here, but apart from that it’s the same.

Stuffed Courgette not marrow!

Cheese and Potato bake

Potato and Cheese Bake

Pork in a Casserole with Tomato and Mushrooms

Pork Casserole

Because all that food preparation was rather time-consuming, I decided to just make some Angel Delight for dessert. Basically Angel Delight is added to milk and whisked to make a dessert and is a true convenience food. Angel Delight is something I remember from my childhood, but I suspect the E numbers have been left out since the seventies!

Angel Delight - E number heaven in the seventies



Sewing The Seventies: 1970

Today I embark on my voyage through the seventies. Each day over the next ten I will be writing a 1970s-themed post, each one based on a year in the decade, starting with 1970 today. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the food, music, TV and current affairs and anything else that grabs my attention while I experience my time slip back nearly four decades. And of course, I will be wearing items from my 1970s wardrobe.

So, 1970. I have one serious problem with 1970 and that is that I don’t have any legal tender. In 1970 the currency in the UK was pounds, shillings and pence. My work-around was that I wouldn’t spend any money in the shops today. This was fine in principle being a work day and the only thing I usually buy is some lunch. In the 1970s it just wasn’t possible to pop into the supermarket for some sandwiches anyway, so unless you were planning to eat in a tea shop or pub, you would take a packed lunch to work.

Old Money

However, over the weekend I developed toothache and ended up having an emergency dental appointment this morning. So, I had to go modern and pay for that, with a debit card! Unfortunately, the wisdom tooth problem isn’t fixed (at least not yet), which isn’t great and I’m trying to feel enthusiastic against slightly masked tooth pain. Anyway, I’m going to do my best with how things are. By the way, my appointment cost £20.60 (or £20 12s)

A simple Purchasing Power Calculator would say the relative value is £1   9s   0d. This answer is obtained by multiplying £20 12s   0d by the percentage increase in the RPI from 2016 to 1970. [1]

To be honest that’s a pointless calculation given that going to the dentists was actually completely free in 1970!

I’ve now made my packed lunch. I’m going to make something fairly boring that I know will fit in the time period; a cheese sandwich, a packet of crisps (Walkers), two small satsumas and two Club biscuits. The crisps and biscuits are both brands that were available in the 1970s and are still around today. What a dull looking lunch by today’s standards! I’m going to try to come up with something more exciting for my next work day on Monday.

1970 Packed Lunch

Packed Lunch

And here’s what those branded products would have looked like in 1970:

Walkers Crisps and Club Biscuits

Club Biscuits and Walkers Crips Packaging from the 1970s

I haven’t got an extensive seventies-style wardrobe yet, but I think it is only fair to start by wearing the items that come from the earliest patterns in my collection. This is my newly finished pinafore dress:

Burda Dusty Dress

The dress is a Burda pattern from 1970, so I’m wearing the latest fashion here! I’ve just paired it with a plain camel-coloured long-sleeved t-shirt and boots. The t-shirt is a shop-bought item from my wardrobe, but it is very plain and hopefully therefore in keeping with the era. I’ll write a separate post about the dress soon.

Obviously, at work I’m going to be doing my normal stuff, which involves time spent on the computer. I do attend meetings and use the telephone too. I work mostly with databases and at the beginning of the 1970s the types of databases I am using would generally have been hand-written on index cards. My job is therefore quite different from its equivalent in the past. I’m sure 1970s me would have been rifling through filing cabinets and moving piles of paper around!

I’ve finished work and I’m really hungry. The pack lunch didn’t really sustain me for the whole day and worse I have no currency to spend in the shops. I can’t wait for this evening’s meal, which Mr Steely is cooking.

This evening’s entertainment is going to be some reading. I had a look in a charity shop a few weeks ago and found a stack of books from the 1970s. I was particularly looking for a book published during the era and also set in the decade. Anyway, I picked out Voices in an Empty House by Joan Aitkin. It’s a story about a search, against time, for a boy who has been kidnapped. I’ll let you know how I get on.