Tuesday, 4 January 2022

My best books of 2021

 Sometimes a year of reading leaves me uninspired,  book after book with stories that do no more than pass a little time and are quickly forgotten. But 2021 was a good year for me, three of the books that I read were outstanding, Mary Oliver's beautiful book of poetry is a joy, I have it by my bedside to dip into. Her thoughts so often echo mine. Here is the start of HOW I GO TO THE WOODS

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.

The ending is

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.











In May I wrote about my response to Hamnet, the imagined story of Shakespeare's wife and the death of his son. This book reduced me to tears. I think it is a work of great beauty, threading together the few known facts with elements from the various plays. It is a work of great imagination.

My third book, 'The Summer Isles' is subtitled a voyage of the imagination. It is the record  of a journey made in a sailing boat up the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland to visit, really to make a pilgrimage,  to the Summer Isles. 


How do I start to describe this book? Magical - you have to read it! When the author was sailing I anxiously watched out for the weather. In harbour I relaxed and heard all the island tales. I kept saying, oh, how my mother ( a romantic Scot who holidayed on the islands as a child) would have loved this book!

Monday, 8 November 2021

October books

 The October local book group choice was the autobiography, 'Invisible Walls' by the former Guardian journalist Hella Pick. I read it on Kindle and it never aids my appreciation of a book. Hella came to Britain as a kinder transport child. Many of the events that she writes about and places that she visited are familiar to me. On occasion I felt as though she were following me about. "We were there that year!" "We've eaten there", "I remember that!" Although it was interesting there was a great deal of name dropping throughout the book which did not endear me to her and I felt some slippage  between how she intended to portray herself and my perception of her. I think a far more interesting book would be one written about her by somebody else!

Slim pickings at the traveling library. I chose another large print Agatha Christie novel but have now decided that is enough. I'm discouraged by the fact that the culprits can never be discovered because her endings are so sneaky. (Or is it that I'm just no good at detective work?!)

I realized half way through the book that I had seen this story on t.v. where there was the added advantage of looking at some pretty frocks!



This book was inspired by an actual event, the unexplained disappearance of keepers from their lighthouse. It was interesting enough but has not left a lasting impression, I have only a foggy recollection of the story line.

Saturday, 6 November 2021

In Yorkshire.

The weather was fine the last time we were in Yorkshire and I ambled about our usual walks with my camera in hand. The pleasure of returning to this much-loved part of the world is that it has changed so little. It was once a very workaday place with little passing traffic and sheep and cattle were herded casually up and down the road. These days grass verges are carefully maintained and woe betide any animal that stamps it's hooves on the turf!






















and now.


There are a number of fine old houses in the village.











Our bolt hole was formerly the stable and hen house attached to my parents' home, so it has obviously changed quite a bit!


 Former hen house









and stable.







Flowers from the garden from our neighbour, Lorraine. She and her family live in my parents' former home. We went there for supper. Two big pies sitting on top of the Aga. They looked (and tasted) wonderful - why hadn't I taken my camera! After we had eaten we sat around the kitchen table and played games. It has always been a happy house.

The Dales book club met while I was home and we discussed 'Precious Bane' by Mary Webb at the village pub, most of us staying on after the discussion for a soup lunch . All that I knew of the author was that she was one of several writers who had been spoofed in Stella Gibbons, 'Cold Comfort Farm.' The story was hard to get into. The day before the meeting it rained solidly, the only poor day of our entire stay. It meant that I could sit by the fire and read the book from start to finish. had I been picking it up and putting it down I might never have got to the end. A mixed response from me and also from other members of the group. It read like a second-rate Thomas Hardy, with a self-indulgent ending and some sloppy characterisation.












I wasn't in Yorkshire when the book club discussed this choice, another title very familiar to me but that I had never read, Eric Newby's, 'A Short Walk in the Hindu Cush.' This I thoroughly enjoyed. Oh, the amazing incompetence  of Eric and Hugh! Fancy setting out on an expedition like this in new Italian boots. Newby's writing style is light and easy and his descriptive passages are beautiful. I had thought this expedition to have taken place at a much earlier period than the '50's. I think that at that time I had a better knowledge of walking than these two  and certainly had enough common sense to break in a new pair of walking boots before going on a major outing in them.

It was very much a boys' outing, Newby having left his wife and children at home.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021


Now that the mobile library is back in action my choice of books has become rather strange because there isn't a great deal of choice. The BBC had an Agatha Christie weekend and I thought it was time that I read one of her books. I found a large print Poirot in the library, just the job. By around chapter three I said to Himself, 'it's interesting, she's told us who the murderer is, but of course Poirot doesn't know." Ha ha, that was me fooled, the murderer was, of course, someone else entirely. I enjoyed it.

Another choice based on a television programme that I enjoy was a book of Inspector Montalbano short stories.  I like the scenery, the locations and the end music in the television series, all missing from the book of course, so the book didn't do much for me.

 I picked up 'The Mitford Trial' because I liked the cover, but also because I've read factual accounts of the Mitford sisters and  their complicated lives and wondered what this book was about.  I had to google the writer to find out what relation she was to Julian Fellowes, the 'Downton' creator. She is his niece.

 I was under-impressed by the book, so much so that I can now hardly remember what it was about.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Fallen Stone

I could never understand why my mother was interested in reading the obituaries but now I find that I am doing the same. What interesting lives many of the extremely elderly have lived and how many of the  people now featured are names that are familiar to me. "Good grief, they are younger than I am!" is a regular refrain from Himself. 'Rock star lives," I reassure him, "you've led a quiet life, you'll live for ever."  But it is a fact that we have reached an age where our contemporaries are coming to the end of their lives. Last Saturday's paper had the obituary of the photographer Peter Webb showing his famous photo of the Rolling Stones. It is called the Falling Stones and it makes me smile because it is easy to imagine them falling all over each other a few seconds after the camera has taken the shot. There stands Charlie Watts, suited and booted, dapper as ever. Yes, Charlie is my sort of rock star!











I was saddened to learn of his death this week from the throat cancer that we thought had been beaten some years ago. 

I've always thought him an interesting drummer to watch - handsome, yes, and he just got better as he aged. I really liked his style. He drummed as though he were in a world of his own while Mick pranced about in the foreground. Charlie's drum sticks seemed to be alive and quite balletic. I've seen film of him playing jazz with friends and that is were he seemed to be most happy and engaged with his fellow music makers, smiling, the jazz really suiting his drumming style.

Thank you, Charlie for all the pleasure you have given over the years. 

Peter Webb, born in 1942. A very good year for gorgeous boys!

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

August reading

 I was delighted to find an Anne Tyler book on the mobile library as I love her work. Not this time. I found the central character quite irritating, a real shilly-shallier. I was surprised at my reaction as I am usually immediately involved and sympathetic to the people in her stories.









I had similar difficulties with the main character in Julian Barnes novel, 'The Sense of an Ending', narrated in the first person. Oh, I felt as though I knew this sort of man, supercilious grammar school boy who thinks he has been educated, sleepwalking through life. I wonder about the message, the conclusion that the author wants us to draw from the ending of this book. And once again the central character irritated me. Perhaps it's just the mood I'm in! It is a book that I would like to discuss with other readers.



I chose a large print book from the library. Years of detailed illustration work  has resulted in poor eyesight so I really appreciate a large print book for reading in bed. This one was a period piece about skullduggery, set in Yorkshire which is why I chose it. By 'eck, can't be nowt wrong wi' that!

The book has everything in it that one expects from a period thriller - everything bar the kitchen sink in fact. Brave lady detective, faithful side kicks, a body and so forth. Enjoyable enough for a rainy day but the story is over manipulated.

Friday, 30 July 2021

In the pink

 Did you buy many clothes during lockdown? I had been consciously cutting back prior to last year anyway, but going nowhere and doing nothing certainly made it easy not to think about having anything new. Not Dead Yet stopped posting outfits from women all about the world so I wasn't looking at my choice of clothes with any critical eye. But then I got a longing for colour and for a swishy skirt. A look online at the Boden sale delivered the goods. How cheering!

And it really does swish!

I bought a pair of trousers in the same colour in the sale while I was at it.

Constant heavy rain today and I'm confined to quarters, wearing a linen babygro/all-in-one/ jumpsuit. Blissfully comfy and such a cheerful colour. 

I hope that you are feeling in the pink as well.

I hope that you are feeling in the pink as well.