Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A Morning Adventure

This night owl stayed up a bit later than usual last night reading. There was some clown parked outside blasting some sort of talk. It wasn't music, which I suppose is good, since it might have been really horrible music. It sounded like someone giving a talk or speech or something. I could not hear the words, just the cadence and the voice, which I wasn't keen on hearing at 2-ish. Finally it stopped and I went to bed (kind of against my will, since I would have liked to stay up and finish the book). I woke up this morning in my usual summer befuddled state. I had to run through all the usual things in my head. What day is it? What is on my to-do list today? What have I planned for supper and what do I need to do ahead of time? It was all just like every other morning until I flushed. I woke up pretty quickly when water started spraying from the pipe connecting the tank and the bowl. I grabbed a mop and started sopping up the water. When that was soaking wet, I grabbed another one to finish cleaning up. Then I woke up a still-sleeping Bill to tell him not to flush and I filled a bucket with water and placed it in the bathroom.

When he was up and dressed, I called the landlord's wife and told her, after the usual pleasantries, that we had a problem and told her what it was. She said she'd call her husband to tell him, but that he wouldn't be available until this evening. I asked her what we were supposed to do in the meantime since we couldn't use the toilet. She said she'd call me back after she called him. I was glad that they re-opened the public bathrooms around the corner near the shore walk. Those are always clean and well-kept.

An hour later, she called and said he'd rearranged his schedule and would be here at lunchtime, which was about another hour away. I'd consumed some water and a coffee, so had to go use the facilities around the corner and when I came back around on my way home, I saw a plumbing van parked outside. I assumed he was here. I went inside and smelled some after shave or cologne and knew he was here. Then a masked Bill appeared at the top of the stairs to say he was here. He had a helper. He was somehow under the impression that the problem involved not being able to effectively flush things down the drain. I explained what the actual issue was, which required both of them to go down to their van. After that it was fixed in short order. There are other problems in the bathroom, though, like the soft floor. He confirmed that he will have to remove the sink and toilet, take up the flooring, and see what needs to happen. He is backed up as far as work goes, because of the long lockdown we are emerging from, but he said he'll bring someone with him in a week or two and work on it for a day or two (depending on what he finds when he takes up the flooring) to get it fixed. We'll see how all that goes. If he really does this, we will probably have to go somewhere for a few days while this work is being done. Luckily, B&Bs and hotels are allowed to open up in a week. They're filling up fast, because this is a staycation destination for people in the republic and a holiday destination for people in Northern Ireland--some places are already booked up and taking reservations for next summer! But if the work is done soon, it might be early enough for us to beat the season. I guess we'll find out!

Monday, May 24, 2021

In Real Life

 Iris asked to see the pin loom triangle hat in real life, so here it is from this morning:

We were heading to Aldi to do our weekly shop, thus the mask. And I am experiencing my usual summer poor sleep and other crud, thus the numerous layers of bags underneath my eyes! In real life for sure!

I hope it's a nice day in your part of the world.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Triangle to Square to Circle the Head

 I recently finished weaving enough triangles on my pin loom to create a hat, which I love. My triangular pin loom has the pins closer together than my square or heart, so fingering/sock yarn is perfect. I love the way the sock yarn weaves up on this loom, although sometimes with yarns that have longer colour changes, the triangles are just a single colour. It's fun to see how each yarn behaves on the loom. 

I finish all my pin loom weaving pieces by crocheting a slip stitch border around the edge. I like this better than just leaving the loops as they are when they come off the loom--it adds a nice frame and it gives a sturdier edge for connecting pieces. In this case, I decided to add another crochet border with dark blue laceweight yarn, which made the colours pop.

To start, I put four triangles together to form a square, which became the crown of the hat.

Then I added triangles along each edge, point side down. The next round was triangles in the corner spaces, points towards the corners. Then two more rounds like that, before a couple rounds of crochet at the brim.

Since it's all sock yarn, which is superwash, laundering will not shrink the triangles, but the dark blue is plain wool, so I did toss the hat in the wash just to firm that part up a bit. It's a slouchy sort of hat, but not a huge slouch. It's lightweight, colourfully funky, and comfortable to wear. I had lots of fun making it. I do love my pin looms!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Is This Really the Appropriate Time?

 Today has been frustrating. I was rudely awakened this morning by an idiot who decided that a bit before 6 was the appropriate time to start power washing the sidewalk. Because Bill and I both like to breathe, the window in the bedroom is open. The noise, the open window, the fact that it's summertime and light out before 5, and the early hour were a very bad combination. The washing went on for over an hour and continued even when it began lashing down rain. I love rain. I especially love heavy rain. And I am happy for every raindrop that they each had a nice, clean sidewalk on which to fall. However, I also enjoy sleep and that is way too early for this night owl to be up. I tried valiantly to get back to sleep, but without success, so after an hour, while the noise was still going on, I gave up and got up. Thus it's been a zombie sort of day. I've dragged myself through it, doing the bare minimum, feeling like my head is almost buzzing. I can't really focus on anything, so even reading is out. I hold out hope for a good night of sleep tonight and a decent day tomorrow. Spring and summer are bad enough without this kind of crap.

This concludes my rant. I hope you are having a good day, wherever you may be!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Oh Happy Day!

The library is open again for browsing and borrowing! YIPPEE! I am thrilled! THIS is what I've been waiting for! Today I went in because I had a request in--one that's been 'in transit' since December, when we went into the latest lockdown and the libraries closed again. This was the first time in over a year we could go in and look around, not just do contact and collect. Don't get me wrong--I was SO grateful that Fiona, our librarian, was doing contact and collect, but it was wonderful to just meander around and peer at the shelves to see what was there. Even though the library is small, I did not have time to explore everything between the time we moved here and the first lockdown, so today I had fun poking around in the Irish and local history sections. There is more there to check out in future. I was not greedy and I did restrain myself 😁 Plus I filled up my request list as soon as they turned the request option back on, so there will be more books coming from various libraries around the country.
Why the Germans Do it Better (the subtitle, which I love, is Notes from a Grown-Up Country) was the request I went to pick up. I read an article about it back in December and was interested. 

Some people are happy about shopping, going to the cinema, or eating out again. Those aren't things I did before, except on a very occasional basis, and they aren't things I care about doing now. The library is a different story.

It's funny--a few months ago, I was talking (on the phone, not in person) to a librarian in one of the places we used to live, and I was saying that I'd gotten used to not using the library anymore, other than for digital stuff, and I wasn't sure how much I'd use it when it opened back up. 😆 Obviously I was having a delusional moment. If there is an open library nearby, I'll be in it. And if my card works in that library, I'll be walking out with a pile of books. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

April Books: Nonfiction and Poetry

 In addition to all the fiction I read last month, there was some non-fiction as well as a couple of haiku collections, the latter delivered right to my inbox. Fun!

A Traitor’s Kiss: The Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan by Fintan O’Toole
To be honest, I would not have pulled this book from the charity shop shelf had it not been for the author. The title would have put me off and I would have passed it by, but I have read several of O’Toole’s books and essays and I have always found them informative and well-written, so I picked it up and had a closer look. When I saw that it was a biography as indicated by the subtitle, I decided to buy it. I did not recognize the name, but I figured I’d learn something. I am so glad I decided to buy this book, because it was fascinating! Not only was it a biography of this one Irish-British person, but it also described Irish and British history in the second half of the 1700s and the first decade and a half of the 1800s, because Sheridan was at the heart of a lot of the political stuff that was going on in both places. He was a member of parliament and at the heart of power through his connections, particularly with the prince regent, so political culture of the time was necessarily part of the narrative. Because he was a playwright, and owner of the Drury Lane Theatre, I learned about the culture of the theatre and the role of the theatre in the larger culture. This book was a really good read—well-written and almost novel-like. This isn’t a book I would have ever known about or sought out, but that’s the thing about libraries and charity shops—I never know what happy surprises I will find.

Why Are We So Angry and What Is It Doing to the World? by Oliver Burkeman (audiobook read by Oliver Burkeman)
I came across this in the e-audiobook section of the library website and it seemed worth listening to, so I borrowed it. It was quite interesting. The author talks to various experts in psychology, sociology, and tech to explore various aspects of anger, how it works, and how certain aspects of life today serve to exacerbate the problem of widespread anger and its consequences for us all.

Calm Waters During the Storm: Donegal Tales from a Pandemic by various authors
One day, I noticed that the library e-book website had a new tab called ‘local content.’ I clicked on it to see what that was about. There were only a few books, two of which were about gardening, and this one. I borrowed it at once. It’s a collection of writing done by some retirees who live in County Donegal. They came together for an online writing workshop during the pandemic to document some of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I was quite taken with this book. I could personally relate to what some people described. I could empathize with others. I laughed sometimes. And I thought how valuable this and other documents like it will be for people in the future.

 La nuit d’eau / The Water’s Night: A Book of French Haiku by Micheline Beaudry, translated by Mike Montreuil
This was a Book of the Week from The Haiku Foundation. There were some gems in this one. For example,
The maples have left
their leaves at my door
it’s raining again.

Between Two Waves by H.F. Noyes
I get a daily email from The Haiku Foundation and one day it included a link to this e-book (they have several books available on their site). Great collection. I love this one:
shooting the rapids--
even the back of his head
looks surprised

Who knows what happy bookish surprises await in May! Looking forward to finding out.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

April Books: More Fiction and a Short Story Collection

 There were a couple of classic fiction titles among my April books, along with a disturbing short story collection.

Last Ditch by Ngaio Marsh

This is the 29th in the author’s Roderick Alleyn series. I have three more to read. In this book, Alleyn and Troy’s son, Ricky, is grown and goes to a Channel Island village to work on a book. He meets some old friends of his parents there and one day, when they are riding, they come across dead equestrian who appears to have had a terrible accident. But was it an accident or was it somehow involved with the drug smuggling ring that may be operating in the area? Alleyn is sent in to find out, but his job is complicated by Ricky’s involvement. As with the other books in the series, I enjoyed this one a lot. I’ll be sorry when I reach the end.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (Phoebe Reads a Mystery podcast)
It appears that Phoebe is branching out from the usual mysteries, as this was the latest book she read, one or two chapters per day. I am always glad when she is reading a book I enjoy. 

This book revolves around the Dashwood family, particularly sisters Marianne and Eleanor, who live with their mother and younger sister in a cottage. They’ve gone to the cottage after the husband/father dies and the estate they had been living in reverted to another family member and his snobbish wife. This turn of events meant that the Dashwood women were forced to live on less money, so finding an affordable home took a while and they had to stay in the large house for some months after the death of Mr Dashwood, much to the dismay of the new mistress of the house. She was even more unhappy when Eleanor and the snob’s brother, Edward, became very close. It was a relief to everyone when a relative of Mrs Dashwood’s offered them the cottage to live in. Shortly after moving in, Marianne took a bad fall while out walking. She was rescued by a hiker, Willoughby, who was a frequent visitor to the Dashwood home after that. He and Marianne began a relationship, as they were also a part of the same social group. Various people move in and out of the story, as Eleanor and Marianne meet new people and spend some time in London with an older woman who befriends them. There are disappointments along the way, not just for the main characters, but for some of the others, too.

It is commonly thought that Eleanor represents the sense of the title and Marianne the sensibility (feelings). But after the audiobook was done, I listened to a video in which a persuasive case was made that this is overly simplistic. The examples provided did show that quite the opposite was true, at least some of the time. 

We Are Attempting to Survive Our Time by A.L. Kennedy
This is a relatively new addition to the e-book section of the library website. I am a fan of short stories, so I borrowed it. After reading (most of) it, I am not sure I would read more by this author. It’s not that she isn’t a wonderful writer. The writing and the stories were powerful, but I can’t exactly say I enjoyed the book. The stories were unsettling at best and distressing at worst. I found one so disturbing that I did not read beyond the first couple of pages and I am sorry that I have the memories from those in my head. The other stories were not so disturbing, but some were uncomfortable and some contained a creeping sense of menace, as I gradually saw where the story was going. Again, the fact that she could evoke such feelings is a testament to her skill. But while I could appreciate that, it was not an easy book to read from the perspective of the feelings evoked. 

All the stories were written as a kind of monologue, in an almost stream-of-consciousness sort of way and all but one, if memory serves, were written from a first person perspective.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

April Books: Fiction

 I was transported to several different places in April as I read a bunch of novels.

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa 

Wow! That was my reaction to this book. I came across the title in a list of books by Irish women writers that were on sale at Kenny’s Bookshop in honour of International Women’s Day. I bought a poetry collection, a short story collection and this novel. I’d read work by the other two authors before, but although I’d heard of this woman in the context of her poetry, I had not read any of her other work. I was immediately drawn into this book, which surprised me to be honest. I was a bit put off by the image of the earlier poet’s reaction to her husband’s murder in the description,  but that gruesome detail is not really dwelt upon. The book is characterized as auto-fiction, but in listening to an interview with the author after I finished the book, it seems like it hews pretty closely to her own life. I almost never re-read books, but I think I will do so with this one. It’s a keeper for sure! And I love the cover, too!

Higher Ground by Anke Stelling, translated from German by Lucy Jones
I was drawn into this book from the first page and this continued throughout. It’s a great books. It sounded good from this description on the library’s e-books site and it did not disappoint:
‘A prize-winning novel about class, money, creativity, and motherhood, that ultimately reveals what happens when the hypocrisies we live by are exposed ..

Resi is a writer in her mid-forties, married to Sven, a painter. They live, with their four children, in an apartment building in Berlin, where their lease is controlled by some of their closest friends. Those same friends live communally nearby, in a house they co-own and have built together. Only Resi and Sven, the token artists of their social circle, are renting. As the years have passed, Resi has watched her once-dear friends become more and more ensconced in the comforts and compromises of money, success, and the nuclear family.

After Resi’s latest book openly criticises stereotypical family life and values, she receives a letter of eviction. Incensed by the true natures and hard realities she now sees so clearly, Resi sets out to describe the world as it really is for her fourteen-year-old daughter, Bea. As Berlin, that creative mecca, crumbles under the inexorable march of privatisation and commodification, taking relationships with it, Resi is determined to warn Bea about the lures, traps, and ugly truths that await her.

Written with dark humour and clarifying rage, Anke Stelling’s novel is a ferocious and funny account of motherhood, parenthood, family, and friendship thrust into battle. Lively, rude, and wise, it throws down the gauntlet to those who fail to interrogate who they have become.’

The book reads in such a way that it reflects the frazzled narrator—quick shifts in time and perspective as Resi thinks back to her history as well as that of her mother and gains new insights into what is going on in the present. 

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter (audiobook read by Louise Brealey)
This sounded like a great book when I came across it in the e-audiobook collection of the library website. 
‘Megan Hunter's honed and spare prose paints an imagined future as realistic as it is frightening. Though the country is falling apart around them and its people are forced to become refugees, this family’s world – of new life and new hope – sings with love. In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as the baby's small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds.’

It was not what I expected. After listening to the first couple chapters, I was moving towards the idea of skipping the rest, but I was oddly compelled to continue listening, so I finished it (it’s pretty short, otherwise I might have chosen differently). I ‘enjoyed’ the dystopia aspect of the book, but the motherhood/baby stuff, not so much.

The book is written in short bursts with sudden shifts to excerpts from various creation myths. The whole narrative goes back and forth like this. After finishing the book, I looked it up and read a couple reviews, one of which said the author is also a poet. This shows in the way the book is written. It was well written and her descriptive writing is quite good.

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
I read about this book somewhere last year and sent the article to Bill, who requested it from the library during the window of time between lockdowns when that was possible. Our local library has not been open for more than a year because the county council decided to open one in each of the county’s municipal districts and ours wasn’t one of them. Still, we could request things nationwide again for a while and our local librarian was nice enough to do call and collect. Either she’d let us know when something was in or we’d see it online and call her. She’d let us know when we could pick things up and we would go. Then we went into another lockdown and everything closed again, requests stopped, and that was that—until last month sometime when a different librarian called Bill to say that there were things in and he could pick them up. He called her from outside the building and she came to the door with books, including this one. He read it and liked it, so I decided to read it, too. 

The story takes place decades in the future and covers a number of years, describing the effects of the climate crisis and responses to it. The book begins with a deadly heatwave in India that kills a lot of people. Frank, an aid worker originally from the US, is the only survivor in his area. He is in rough shape when found and after recovery is a changed person with PTSD and other issues. He sets out to make a difference.

Irishwoman Mary Murphy is the director of the Ministry for the Future, a UN agency tasked with representing generations of people yet to be. They don’t really have any power, but they do what they can and Mary’s thinking evolves as the book goes on.

These are the two main characters and the author keeps returning to their stories throughout the chunky book, but there are many different stories, people, settings, and locations scattered throughout the book. Many different disciplines are represented in these stories—economics, various sciences, geography, sociology, anthropology, and more. Much of the book takes place in Zurich, and the descriptions of that city are vivid and it becomes almost a character in its own right.

The book was very well-written and the story moved along well, with the exception of a few pages which were essentially a very long list of projects undertaken around the world. The book jumps around in time and place, from one story to another quite quickly. Many chapters are very short, so there’s a brief glimpse into one situation and then suddenly readers are on the other side of the world.

I enjoyed the book, but to be honest, while I found the analysis of the climate crisis and responses to it, on both individual and national levels to be very plausible in the beginning, I found it less so as the book went on. However, it’s a work of speculative fiction and it really doesn’t matter what I think of the author’s speculations! It was a good story.