I ended November with a couple of Christmas e-books borrowed from the library.
Christmas Cheer by Vicky Howard
I checked this out from the e-book section of the library. It’s a nice little book of Christmas quotes, recipes, and cute illustrations—very enjoyable to look at while listening to Christmas carols.
A Very British Christmas: Twelve Days of Discomfort and Joy by Rhodri Marsden
This book is about British Christmas traditions and how people there experience them. Once I started, it did not take long to realise that I needed a tissue handy because I could not stop laughing and I needed something to wipe the tears from my face. Some of the stories people shared were really funny and the author also had a witty way of writing. There are some serious and/or sad stories included, but mostly it was really funny. One thing that interested me in reading people’s stories was how several of them really disliked Christmas when they felt the pressure of doing things the ‘right’ way, but ended up having to do Christmas very differently for whatever reason—lack of money, being in a place where Christmas isn’t celebrated, or not being with the usual people, for instance. In each story, these people discovered that they could like Christmas if they did it their way. As someone who does not go for the ‘normal’ trappings of Christmas, I love that. I enjoyed this book a lot.
I also had an unexpected read with this one:
Kumihimo Endings: The Finishing Touch for Every Braid by Pru McRae
When I first read about kumihimo in a blog post over a year ago, I was intrigued and immediately went in search of more information. I discovered this author’s youtube channel and started watching. Then I got some disks and started playing around. Our approaches to kumihimo are different and while I love much of the work she showcases in her videos, I have never wanted to make the kind of finished pieces she demonstrates. Rather, I watch her videos because she explains things well and I’ve learned a lot about process by watching them. I find that I can relate to her experimental approach. One thing I’ve played with is endings. I quickly discovered that people usually buy or make jewellery fittings to finish their braids, whether beaded or not. These are often glued in, but sometimes wired in. With infrequent exceptions, I don’t like the way these look. I like my braids to be about the thread or yarn I’m using to make them. I don’t bead them, although I might do some small embellishments at the ends. I just don’t like the look of a textile braid shoved into an end cap. I do like the tassels I can have at either end and I’ve usually left it at that, although I’ve experimented with some other beginnings and endings. When Pru McCrae posted a video about her new book on endings, I was curious about it.
Every once in a while, I search the library website using certain keywords in order to see what new titles have been added to the system. Last year, when I searched for kumihimo, nothing came up. When I searched again recently, several titles came up, including this one. This is a great little book for anyone interested in kumihimo. I ended up surprising myself by reading it cover to cover. It is true that I will not use most of the information provided, but even reading those sections gave me a better understanding of the structure of kumihimo and also some possibilities on how to adapt some of these techniques to my own work. And there were a few sections that include techniques I will use. I expected to possibly find a page or two of this book interesting or useful, but I did not expect to have quite so much information contained in it, so that was a very happy surprise.
I'm not sure why I borrowed this one--I think I was intrigued by the concept:
Morning Glory on the Vine: Early Songs and Drawings by Joni Mitchell
In 1970, when she was considering what to give friends for Christmas, Joni Mitchell had some of her poems, song lyrics, and drawings made into a book. Only a few copies were printed and it was never published widely until this year. I’ve never been a big fan of Mitchell, although I did have one of her albums in the 80s. Still, when I came cross the title in the poetry section of the library’s e-book pages, I figured I might as well have a look.
I wasn’t that keen on it, to be honest. I liked one or two of the artworks. The poems were hard to read, because they were presented as photos of her handwritten pages, so sometimes words were hard to decipher. More than once, I misread something and it was only context that caused me to go back and re-read. There was apparently no editing because many words were spelled wrong in ways that would not be due to differences in British and US ways of spelling English words (she's Canadian, so I could see why those would happen and they wouldn't be misspellings, of course, either way). I recognised a few of her more famous songs, but I don’t know how many of the other handwritten pages consisted of song lyrics and how many were poems that didn’t become songs.
This was a wonderful book:
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
She writes beautifully and as she describes her journey of recovery and growing self-awareness, she also takes us back to the life she is recovering from. I could relate to some of that--I also used to drink too much. I never got to the point of seizures, as she did at one point, but had I kept drinking, I would have. I drank a lot, until one day, I decided I'd had enough of feeling like crap and stopped. I know that I'm lucky, because the day I decided to stop drinking, I made myself really feel and remember what I felt like--the nausea, the headache, the shakiness, the inability to do anything other than wait to feel better. Not only did I never crave a drink after that, but I actually felt repelled by the idea. That was 24 years ago. I suppose we all have to find what works for us in these situations. To her surprise, the author found herself back where she grew up--the very place she was so eager to leave a decade before. As she begins to pay attention to that world and place her attention on the landscape and wildlife around her, she begins to grow, heal, and find new ways of being. She found interests that surprised her and followed where they led her. I fell in love with Orkney as I was reading this book. It sounds like my kind of place--northern, remote, not many people, gorgeous landscape, windy, short summers, and plenty of cold. If I was younger, I'd be looking for ways to go live there. The book is worth reading for the nature writing alone.
I'll continue the November book list tomorrow, but in the meantime, I'm off to start December.