Monday, September 28, 2020

Funky and Festive

 This morning, even though it might be pushing it just a bit, I put on the socks I finished a couple of months ago, when it was definitely too warm to wear them. 

At the end of last year, a friend sent me a box of yarn that she no longer wanted. It included a lovely ball of highly textured yarn in a gorgeous colourway. It was a wool boucle wrapped with a nylon thread that has little lengths of ribbon hanging off it. I loved the yarn and thought about what to make with it. There were 52 yards of yarn, so not enough to make a scarf or anything. It would have been great as an accent, but working as I usually do with odd balls, I didn't have anything that would go with it in a larger project. When I got the pin loom Bill surprised me with, I briefly considered making squares, but the ribbon bits would have made weaving with it highly aggravating. I let it percolate. One night, when I was working on something else, the yarn popped into my head along with the thought, 'Sock cuffs.' Click. That was it--if one of the sock yarns I thought would work would be OK colourwise. The next day I checked and one was, so I cast on, using fattish needles. I just did garter stitch, which, when turned sideways, is just as stretchy as ribbing. The stretch was what was most important, since the yarn is so highly textured. The stitches are not visible anyway. So I made my sock cuffs with the novelty yarn and then picked up around one side of the tube and knitted the rest of the sock with the sock yarn. I'm really pleased with how they came out and I'm glad the weather is getting to the point where it will be cool enough to wear them!

We did our weekly shop this morning in an almost empty Aldi. I turned the corner, heading for the nuts and eggs (not refrigerated here, because they have higher standards and don't need to wash them to prevent disease like they do in the US). But first, I stopped and took a pic of the festive aisle:

It runs the whole length of the aisle and at the other end are the first Christmas puddings and Christmas cakes, with the blindingly white marzipan icing. I was just commenting to someone the other day that it's about time for these things to show up. It's somehow nice to know that even in the midst of global chaos, some things continue on as expected.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

I Smile

 I wrote this poem in August as the lengthening nights were becoming more noticeable. A month later and the sun is setting before 7:30 and as of the other day, there is more time between sunset and sunrise than between sunrise and sunset. 

I Smile

(a poem for all the night owls)

August evening, 9:15

looking out the kitchen window

waiting for kettle to boil

cup of tea on the way.

I smile.

Watching the darkness


falling gently

on my shoulders

like a shawl.

I smile.

Feeling something settle--

calm, peace, ease, joy--

I wrap the night around me and

it feels like an embrace.

I smile.

The click of the kettle

draws me away;

I bring the night with me

while I make my tea and

I stay in its embrace

while I sip and savour.

And I smile.

25 August 2020

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Saturday Splendour


Friday, September 25, 2020

Sea and Sky

 I am sharing the photo Bill posted on his blog today, because it's gorgeous and I love it. 

He took it the other morning at about 8:30, about a block behind our apartment.

The link to his blog is here. He posts a photo each day. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Autumn Sunset and Beautiful Blue Sea

 I went into the bedroom last night at a little past 7, glanced out the window, and noticed the sky.

Late this morning, I went out on the landing, glanced out the window and noticed the beautiful blue of the sea. 

Simple moments of joy scattered throughout the day make me smile. I hope you have many of these today as well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Autumn Appreciation

 The other day, when we were walking home with groceries, we passed a bunch of sheep resting under some trees. I stopped to chat with them. Later that day, I was sitting with my stitching and a poem began moving through my mind, so I wrote it down. It's a tanka-ish poem (lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables).

Resting sheep chew, stare

As I stop to say thank you.

At home, yarn awaits

crochet hooks, knitting needles,

my hands--wool season beckons.

New season granny smith apples were on sale at Aldi, so I bought a bunch. I don't have much of a preference for cooking apples--they get soft anyway--but for eating 'raw' I like hard, crunchy, not-too-sweet varieties, like granny smith. It was such a treat to have these apples again. I can get them throughout the year, but once they've been stored for a while, they tend to lose their crunch. Anyway, this simple pleasure also inspired a haiku-ish verse.

New season apples

Another gift of autumn

Enjoying the crunch.

With everything going on in the world right now, it seems even more important than usual to appreciate and savour simple joys. May you have an abundance of them!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Autumn At Last!

 I am sooooooo happy that autumn has arrived! 🍂🍁🍃😁💜 After breakfast this morning, I got down my collection of seasonal decorative bits that I've stitched over the past few years and hung them up. I had two small cross stitched pumpkins that I made the other night. I attached one to a shell with a hole in it and hung the other on my rosemary plant. Each one is less than an inch. I will make some more, probably in different sizes.

In the afternoon, I cooked a bunch of apples with cinnamon and ginger. The smell of them cooking was wonderful and it lingers on several hours later. We will have these in porridge or with yogurt and muesli.

The day does have an autumnal feel to it after a week or so of summer-ish weather. It's cooler, breezy, and rainy--just the way I like it. 

I hope this day turns out just the way you like it, too. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Blooms and Sheep

Bill was in the information centre yesterday and saw this coaster. Everything about it is me--the sheep, the rain, the rocks, the hill, the foliage, and the purple wedges on the umbrella. There was only one. He bought it for me. I love it and will not be using it as a coaster, of course. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

We've had a week or so of summery weather. Hopefully this is the last gasp. With the sun at a different angle and longer nights, this was not as unpleasant as similar days earlier in the season. The forecast for later in the week looks like the weather might be a lot like that being experienced by the sheep!

Before the sunshine, we had a lot of rain. I suppose the combination made the flowers quite happy. I saw this as I walked by and wondered what it would look like when the buds open.

Then we walked on and I found out.

I have no idea what these are called, but I like them!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

August Books Three: Classics and Short Stories

 Here's the final instalment of my August book list. 

Uncle Vanya 

Three Sisters

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

Three plays, one of which (The Cherry Orchard) is supposed to be a comedy, but seems just as depressing to me as the others. All are populated with people who are bored, trying to kill someone else or themselves, depressed, drinking heavily, wishing they were elsewhere, doing jobs they hate, partnered with the wrong person, and short of roubles. Meh.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is a pleasant and funny book. There is no plot to speak of, just a series of vignettes about life in the village of Cranford, all of which revolve around a group of older women who inhabit a certain social station. The story is told from the point of view of a woman who lives in a different village, but who has ties to Cranford. She makes frequent long visits and receives letters. Before this was a book, it was published in instalments in Household Words, a publication edited by Charles Dickens, between late 1851 and mid 1853. i really enjoyed this book and I laughed more than once while reading. There is tragedy along with the funny parts, but the women of Cranford find ways to care for one another along the way. I got my free digital copy from Project Gutenberg here

The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

This was the first book I bought at the local charity shop after we moved. We were on our way to the library to pick up requests that had come in, when we popped into the shop. It’s a collection of short stories by one of the best short story writers around. I love a good short story collection and this one did not disappoint. If you like short stories, Munro is always a good writer to turn to.

Machines in the Head: Selected Short Writing by Anna Kavan, selected and with a foreword by Victoria Walker

I include this short biographical note about the author because it pretty much sums up what her stories involve. The stories were sort of weird and sometimes disturbing. I'd red about this collection in a book email months ago and this is a book that was sitting in the library since March. It is hard to say what I thought about it. I didn't exactly dislike it, but I am not inclined to rush out and find any of her other work, either. I suppose I can say that I am glad I read this book by this author I'd never heard of and I'll leave it at that!

I'm really glad I finally got to Cranford, which I highly recommend, and I am reading another Gaskell now. It's been cool and rainy--perfect for tea and books. I got some new-to-me tea the other day--white tea with vanilla and a chocolate tea. Both are excellent. I hope you get to spend some time today with your beverage and book of your choice!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

August Books Two: Novels

 Here are some more of the books I read last month:

The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray

In this dystopian novel, set in the 2050s, the earth’s rotation first slowed, then stopped a few decades earlier. This resulted in an extreme hot zone, and extreme cold zone, and a Goldilocks zone, where conditions were just right. The latter includes the UK, with slivers of continental Europe and North America on the margins. The US has managed to buy its way onto part of the UK ‘mainland’ and set up a territory there, but things are rough. 

Ellen Hopper is a research scientist, studying ocean currents on a rig in the ocean. One day, she receives a letter from a former teacher, asking her to come and see him before he dies. They had a serious falling out and she hasn’t spoken to him in years. She has no intention of visiting him, but two government officials come to the ship and ‘encourage’ her to do so. When she continues to refuse, she is told that she can visit the guy or lose her job. She goes with them. Clearly, he has something he wants her to know and they want to know, too. What is it, where is it, and will she be able to find it? 

This was a page-turner. I read all but the first 20 pages or so in one afternoon, because I did not want to stop. 

The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing

I must admit that I was a little disappointed in this book. I had not heard of it until a few months ago, when I read about it in one of the bookish emails I get. It sounded great—a dystopian novel, published in 1974, set in a near future Britain, and told from the point of view of someone watching the aftermath of some kind of collapse from her ground floor apartment window. At the time, the library was closed and not allowing requests, so I put it on my list to request later. 

When I picked up this one and read the dust jacket, I saw that there was a sci fi or fantasy element. That’s not my thing. I’m not sure I would have requested the book had I known, but it was here, not that long, and I was greatly interested in the dystopian aspects of the book, so I decided to give it a try anyway. As expected, I was engrossed in the dystopian storyline and not so much in the time travel sections, although I see what she was trying to do with them. I would have preferred a different approach to the same thing, but that’s personal taste. I hated the ending and thought it was kind of a cop-out. 

The story is told from the point of view of a self-described elderly woman, who lives in a ground floor London apartment after an unnamed ‘crisis’ that destroys life as people knew it. People have to adapt and create new ways of organising themselves, getting what they need, and everything else. There are ‘authorities’ that people are afraid of, but mostly they seem to let people get on with whatever they’re doing. People are forming ‘tribes’ as they leave the city to go to more rural areas, some of which they know are still inhabited and some of which have ‘gone silent.’ Food is scarce as  are many other things, so people get creative and learn how to use the detritus from before to create what they need in this new world. One day, the narrator is faced with a man and a 12-year-old girl named Emily. The man tells the narrator that Emily is now her responsibility and leaves. Emily has a pet named Hugo, who is part dog and part cat. The three of them create a life together, navigating the world around them from the relatively safe haven of the apartment. The time travel element comes in when the narrator periodically finds that one particular wall is permeable and she can walk through it into a different world. Here she sees visions of Emily’s past, which explain some of her behaviour in the novel’s present. As I said above, I could have done without this.

One way this book reminded me of another dystopian novel, The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver, was that Emily was a guiding force for the narrator. She took charge, much like the 11-year-old boy in The Mandibles. Lessing has her narrator observe on more than one occasion that young people don’t know any world other than the one in which they are living now. They do not have to overcome nostalgic feelings regarding a real or imagined past. It’s a good point.

Homeland by Walter Kempowski, translated from German by Charlotte Collins

I read about this author in one of the many emails I get on the topic of books. I immediately went to the library to request this one and the author’s final book, All for Nothing. This one arrived just as the country went into lockdown in mid-March. One we started moving out of lockdown, a few branches in our county opened to browse, borrow, and return, but not ours. Requests from other libraries were not available for about a month after things started opening up. 

Our library remains closed, but Fiona, our librarian, has started a call and collect system whereby we can call her when books come in and we’ll set up a time to go to the library. She lets me in and I place my returns on a table and take my new books, which she has already checked out for me. We are, of course, both wearing face coverings. So I was able to pick up a bunch of books this month, including this one.

It’s a good book, if a bit weird. Jonathan is a freelance writer who lives with his younger girlfriend in Hamburg. He is 43, but seemed immature. He is offered a job involving going to East Prussia, which is now part of Poland, to scope out the route of a potential motor rally. Since he was born in this area, he is curious and accepts the job. He is travelling with other people, so there are awkward moments between the people in the group and between the group and the people outside the group. Jonathan thinks a lot about his parents, both of whom died there. The story moves between his personal turmoil and the cultural turmoil between Germans and Poles, given the history.

All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski, translated from German by Anthea Bell

I liked this book much better than the one above by the same author. This one is his last and considered his best.

The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny

This is the third in the author’s Inspector Gamache series. I’d requested it months ago and it came in just as the country closed up due to the pandemic, so it was sitting in our local library branch since March. Had I read it then, it would have been timely, because the story takes place at Easter, when some of the residents of Three Pines decide to have a seance. Someone does not survive and appears to have been frightened to death. Gamache is sent in to investigate. At the same time he is trying to untangle this mystery, he is dealing with his own trouble with the Surete, which is divided because of a cop gone wrong situation in the past. I enjoy these books, but am probably not going to request any more for a while. As always with series books, I find myself more interested in the lives of the regular characters than in the specific cases themselves. This seems to be a series that I can read in small doses. There are some series that I can read in larger chunks—several books in a row, one right after the other. For some reason, these are not like that.

A Late Phoenix by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Robin Bailey)

Construction has commenced on a lot across the street from a young doctor’s new surgery. This location is handy because when the workers uncover a skeleton, they don’t have far to go. Of course, there’s nothing he can really do except to call in the police. Sloan and Crosby have to find out who the bones belonged to, when and why the body was put there and by whom.

A Hole in One by Catherine Aird (audiobook read by Bruce Montague)

This is the last book the digital section of the library has by this author that I had not listened to/read. There are many of her works that this part of the library website does not have, but should they get more, I would check them out. I enjoyed this one as I have all the rest, but I still like Robin Bailey better as a reader. This guy is fine, but puts a completely different spin on the characters.

In this book, the ladies are playing golf at the club when one of them lands in a bunker. What she finds there is not pretty and Sloan and Crosby are called in to find out who was buried in the bunker and why.

I'll finish the August list tomorrow. In the meantime, onward into another month of reading 😀

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

August Books One: Nonfiction and Poetry

 Happy Meteorological Autumn! I am grateful for the shortening days, the rain, and the slightly cooler temperatures. And for books, of course. It's always book season around here! Here's the first part of my August book list:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

I got this book about 4 years ago, not long after it was published, but then stuck it on a shelf and hauled it around, unread, every time we moved. Now that it has been 5 1/2 months since our local library closed, and I have not had time sensitive books moving constantly in and out, I have turned to my bookshelves more frequently and I decided it was a good time to read this book. I’m only sorry I didn’t read it sooner, because it’s a great book. 

The book is a historical look at the situation of poor white people and how they have been characterised from the settlement of what is now the US to the present day. She jumps right in by busting the myth that there is no class structure in the US, an idea which has always been ridiculous, but continues to be believed by some. From colonial times, poor white people were considered ‘waste people’ useful only for labour. Thomas Jefferson called them ‘rubbish.’ The names used to label such people evolved and some were specific to areas of the South, until at some point, ‘white trash’ became a kind of umbrella term.

The book begins in colonial times, moves through the formation of the country, and continues to the present. The book was published in 2016, so this is where her analysis ends. The author makes her points using examples from various aspects of culture—politics, economics, education, popular culture, etc. It is highly readable, very informative, and a thought-provoking read. For anyone interested in moving beyond the flag-waving nonsense of American exceptionalism and the myths about a ‘classless society,’ or for someone who just wants to understand the culture a little bit better, this is a great book, which I highly recommend.

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump (audiobook read by the author)

I’ve always believed that cruel, evil people are created. They’re not born that way, but are damaged by others and for whatever reasons, lack the ability to deal with the pain of the damage inflicted upon them. This does not excuse their actions—we all have painful experiences in our lives and it is our responsibility to deal with them in whatever healthy ways we can. I understand the need for self-protection, but I also know that the only way to get beyond the damage is to walk through the pain, not to try to shield ourselves from it. So while I understand why and how cruel, evil people behave as they do, this doesn’t let them off the hook. They should be held accountable. 

I’d listened to a couple of interviews with the author and was intrigued by her story, so when I saw this title appear in the ‘new to library’ e-audiobook section of the library website, I borrowed it. It is a good illustration of how pain and dysfunction can be passed down through the generations. It also shows how, in one family, people can create coping mechanisms for themselves. Some hurt themselves while   others set out to protect themselves by hurting others. The author’s father was in the former category and the damaged individual who became president is in the latter. It’s a striking example of what monsters can be created in families, with the help of society at large. 

The author is a clinical psychologist and she explains her arguments in a clear way that a layperson can understand. From a personal perspective, I was struck by how some of the family of origin dynamics were the same in my own situation. It was interesting to me to see the similarities and differences in my response to those circumstances as opposed to the offspring she talks about in the book.

Life and Death in the Third Reich by Peter Fritzsche

Wintering: How I Learned to Flourish When Life Became Frozen by Katherine May

This is a memoir written about a time in the author’s life when a lot of highly stressful events were thrust upon her. As is so often the case, these events caused her to rethink various aspects of her life and make some changes. She came to see these times as winter situations, in that as in the natural world, we all need winter times to regroup and get ready for the next season of our lives. As she is writing about her own life, she also talks to others who have had serious issues and have grown as a result, learning to cope and thrive. 

I was eager to read this book when I first read an essay by the author. As soon as we were able to place holds again at the library, I requested this one. I loved this book. Her metaphors didn’t work as well for me as they do for others, simply because I do not struggle in winter. That’s a summer thing. She spoke to someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and while I experience most of the same symptoms, I experience them in summer, not winter. The light is agitating to me and I feel at home in the dark, so I shuddered when she described the ways in which this woman keeps her house brightly lit throughout the winter. I rely on winter to recover from summer, so that sort of thing would be a disaster for me. That aside, I enjoyed her story and those of the people she talked to and I liked the way she came to embrace winter. It’s a wonderful book.

How to Fly (in Ten Thousand Easy Lessons): Poems by Barbara Kingsolver

I loved this poetry collection, which includes poems about nature, knitting, life, relationships, and a family trip to Italy which included the poet’s mother-in-law, whose parents came from there. 

I hope there is a lot of good reading ahead for September!