As you may have surmised, I’m in the throes of having a major book cull. I gave seven bags full to my daughter’s school fête back in June, and have been working my way through the other piles, double-stacked shelves and bags over the past weeks. I’ve sorted out some worth selling via various routes (including the tab above), loads to car boot or try other methods, and some will go to the charity shop. There are over 200 to go now, lots still to come – I may make a list.
Apart from my own book mountains – there were a couple of unsorted bags-full from my late Mum’s still to deal with, and I’m having fun going through them…
Firstly, I’ve allowed myself to be distracted from the heavyweight pleasures of John Saturnall’s Feast by a short Edna O’Brien novel – the first of hers I’ve read, but it seemed appropriate for the time of year… August is a Wicked Month is a 1965 novel in which a twenty-something divorcée looks for love while her young son is on holiday with his father. A couple of chapters in and it’s very racy, and I’m sure that 50 shades author E L James would never describe a certain something as like a ‘foxglove‘ – ‘high and purple‘! (*blushes*). Fun though so far, ahem!
My late Mum often stuck a Post-it note with comments on book covers, or cut out a review and stuck it inside after reading a book. Delving in a bag I came to a book called Pushkin’s Button by Serena Vitale. Inside was a clipping from the Literary Review of another book about Pushkin, with her note on top – this sounds better-written than this book. Further down the bag was the book in question – Pushkin by T J Binyon – with a Post-It on the cover saying ‘Better than Pushkin’s Button’. Don’t think I’ll read them though.
Lastly – a nice coincidence… Today Simon T posted about a book he abandoned after just 1.5 pages. That was Gone to Earth by Mary Webb. Funnily enough, I found a very tatty ex-library copy of it amongst my Mum’s books – and I binned it. Seems I had the right instinct about it!
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To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk
August is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien
Pushkin’s Button by Serena Vitale
Pushkin by T J Binyon
Gone To Earth (Virago Modern Classics) by Mary Webb
My daughter and I planned a day out in London yesterday: arrive just in time for lunch at Ed’s Easy Diner in Soho – burgers and shakes and good music 50s style, then up to Madame Tussaud’s (which I’ve never been to), then taking advantage of the Kids go Free offer on at many West End theatres in August (click here) to see Wicked.
Lunch was great. The queues to get in at Tussauds weren’t great – even though we’d pre-booked, and it was a bit of a scrum inside, and one big selling opportunity – in each room the most popular figures you could be photographed with were strictly paid for only (e.g. The Queen and Wills & Kate). Some of the waxworks were eerily real (Amy Winehouse, Prince Charles, Patrick Stewart), others were really rubbish (George Clooney, Daniel Radcliffe, and R Patz in particular). I won’t be rushing to return there. Luckily, Jessica Ennis was one of the good ones (look at those abs!) …
I haven’t read the book Wicked by Gregory Maguire which gives the witches of Baum’s Wizard of Oz a cracking back story that introduces contemporary themes whilst being true to the original. The musical, with music by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell etc) has a several outstanding numbers, fabulous sets, and a great cast led by Rachel Tucker. We had the alternate Glinda, Chloe Taylor – but she was wonderful. It was Wicked!
But what did we do in between the main events? Starting from Trafalgar Square where Nelson was supporting Team GB too, we went hunting for Wenlock and Mandeville – the Olympic and Paralympic mascots. We picked up a map from one of the many helpful 2012 helpers, who were everywhere, which gives a load of walking trails around central London along which are stationed statues of the mascots. My daughter loved this; by the end of the day my feet didn’t any more! we must have walked several miles in the heat discovering fourteen statues. Then we had to stand up on the 1130 train home as far as Reading – who’d have thought that all the seats were reserved at that time of night. Home at 12.45am – and the minute we got in Juliet who is not quite twelve yet was buzzing again. We actually both had showers before we got to bed at around 1.30.
Great photo ops though, and London was looking wonderful with all the flags everywhere. What a wonderful, if tiring day out.
Doing some sorting out this afternoon whilst watching the Olympics, and found some family photos that had belonged to my Great Aunt. I adored this one, so I thought I’d share a few with you.
It shows my maternal Grandmother Ethel (known as Ettie) on the left and my Great Aunt Muriel on the right. There’s no date on the back, but it judging by their ages it’ll be early 1910s. I just loved Ettie’s nonchalant expression and casual pose, whereas Muriel is the epitome of sweetness – lovely little Yorkshire lasses.
Here they are again (below) in their early twenties, (middle two), and Muriel with the glasses has overtaken Ettie heightwise. Girls about town in Llandudno in 1929.
Finally, here is Ettie (right) with her daughter, my Mum – Maureen in 1931 by which time she was married and living in Belfast, and with me (left) in 1960.
Sadly, she died in 1961 aged only 57 when I was not quite one, so I never knew her, but it is lovely getting acquainted just a little through family photos.
I’ve just got back to Gaskell Towers from Sevenoaks in Kent, whereupon my family all descended to cheer on my brother Mike Thorn who had his ‘Moment to Shine’ this lunchtime as a Torch Bearer.
This morning there was much debate, as none of us knew Sevenoaks well, if at all, about where to park, which resulted in my daughter and I arriving ridiculously early to bag space in a nearby sideroad. But that gave us nearly two hours to get into the spirit. We walked the route of his section at the top of the town near the hospital (320yds so we were told), and the rest of the family joined us at the bus-stop where we’d been told the handover was happening, along with loads of his work colleagues and other friends.
Initially there was a lot of hanging around. Mike’s work colleagues from British Airways gave out lots of boom stick balloons – an opportunity to ‘Fly the flag’! We chatted to the stewards and found out he was being handed over to by a twelve year old called Georgia. I also found out that the point at which one flame lights the other is called the ‘kissing point’ – sweet!
Mike was nominated by British Airways, where he works at Heathrow, for his addiction to marathon running, and through that fund raising for various charities, and charitable good works locally to his home. He’s a Rotarian too, and will shortly be a District Governor; some of his Rotary Colleagues were also there to cheer him on.
Then we realised that we’d not seen Mike yet! We were all waiting at the official handover point that we’d been told, but it turned out that they decided to do it further up the road so the young girl before didn’t have to carry the heavy torch so far. So several of us ran as fast as we could (that meant a slow jog for me!) up the road, to get the all important pictures…
We’re all very proud of you.
Just in case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been… well my daughter and I went off for a week based in Pwllheli in Snowdonia at the base of the Llyn Peninsula, (which is the sticky out bit below the Isle of Anglesey), and most importantly – in front of the mountains and thus not in the rain shadow! This meant that although our day in and around Llanberis (where we caught the train up Snowdon) was damp, and our last day was drizzly all day, the rest of the week was dry and even sunny in parts!
We were quite busy, visiting: three castles (Beaumaris, Caernarvon, and Harlech which was up a totally scary 20% hill – I was so relieved to reach the top – and then discover the less steep road – blessed satnav!!!); we went up Snowdon on the steam train and as we arrived at the summit in fog, the sun finally came out; we went to the village with the longest placename in Europe - Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch; and various places with animals – cuddly, and aquatic … but the highlights for me were:
First, our visit to Portmerion.
Portmerion is famously celebrated for being the location for the cult series The Prisoner made in 1969, which was the brainchild of its star Patrick McGoohan (left). Of course you can buy souvenirs in the shops there.
The Italianate village was the life’s work of William Clough Ellis who built it between 1925 and 1975, influenced by a love of the Mediterranean and Portofino in particular. It’s bright and colourful with wonderful vistas and picturesque surprises around every corner. Many of the buildings are now gift shops, galleries and cafes, and there is a posh hotel at the bottom of the hill. You can, however, rent the cottages if your pockets are deep – from £1100 pw for a sleeps 3 in high season.
Another highlight was going out in a rib speedboat in the Menai Straits separating Anglesey from the mainland, and hanging on for dear life while Christian, our captain, executed high-speed donut and figure of eight turns alongside the stunning Menai Bridge.
The last geeky highlight for me was an underground tour inside Electric Mountain - the Dinorweg Hydroelectric power station at Llanberis.
This is a feat of civil engineering on such a grand scale. There are miles of roadway inside the mountain and the multi-storey turbine hall itself could hold St Paul’s Cathedral. The power station can provide on demand hydroelectric power to the grid within seconds of everyone switching their kettles on. The water in the lake at the top of the mountain powers the innovative turbines and piles out into the reservoir at the bottom. At night, they reverse the turbines and it’s pumped back up to the top, ready for the next time its needed. It actually costs more to pump the water back than to generate the power, but the speed of opening the valves to start generating is vital to the grid when demand peaks, so it’s worth it. Fascinating!
I didn’t have a very successful week of reading though, managing just a couple of hundred pages. All that fresh air, combined with the early and late trains arriving at the train station which was too close to the house we rented, not knowing they’d be there when we booked, meant I was too tired to read much.
I did naturally search for bookshops in Pwllheli … The first view that meets you outside Pwllheli station is a big boarded up store – but next to it with a black hoarding was a bookshop, Books, Maps, etc – which was closed – all week. Then on the High Street was The Book Zone which was closed down. Finally we found a third – The Book Seller (bottom) with its yellow window covering. It was shut! But did open eventually – so I bought a book. I found a fourth open Welsh Language bookshop too later.
Pwllheli was very much a fish & chips sort of town, although we finally discovered a decent Italian restaurant. An amusement arcade with 2p penny falls is always a bonus too, and we did quite well, making £2.50 in tuppences last all week. We had a good week, apart from the trains, and still have all the touristy bits of Northern Snowdonia to visit another time.
Now I have the rest of the summer to get on track with some serious reading. What are your plans?
Dear friends, gosh isn’t life busy! Just wanted to drop a few lines in to say that blogging is having to play second fiddle to life at the moment. I will blog when and as I can, but firstly I am rather absorbed with compiling the questions for my literary quiznight (see the previous post). Work is also hectic but, most importantly of all, I’m helping my daughter through her entrance exams for next schools. To say it has been tense these past few weeks is an understatement – and that’s just the Mums, who can’t talk about anything else – at all! The girls, who are halfway through the exams for the various senior schools, and now past the stage of having to do yet more horrible practice papers, are taking it in their stride. Good luck and best wishes to all of them – but I’m sure they’ll all do well.
January never used to be this busy – or am I imagining it?
I’m doing well on the TBR Double Dare. Five books have come through the door, but they’ve gone into an ‘embargo pile‘ except for Stasiland by Anna Funder which is our book group choice for Feb into March. At the moment I’m nearing halfway through Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey – I’m enjoying it very much but it is a dense, almost Dickensian read – more of that in posts to come. I’m also up to book four of the Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend; those nice people at Penguin sent me a set before Christmas – but again, more of him in a while.
Alongside reducing the TBR by reading it, I’ve managed to sort out a single bag of books to go to the charity shop since the start of the month. These days I cull bag by bag, and as one goes I start a new bag. When that’s full, off it goes, and so on. Much less painful than doing it in large chunks.
What will I be reading next? Well top of the pile is Riders by Jilly Cooper – which is our book group read for Jan into Feb. An indulgence? Maybe, but I for one have never read her. Also, The Man Who Rained by Ali Shaw – a second adult fairy-tale from this promising young author, and The Child Who, the third novel from Simon Lelic, author of the acclaimed debut Rupture.
How’s your 2012 going book-wise?
To Mums everywhere – I hope your nearest and dearest are spoiling you today.
I just had to share the ‘tray of joy’ I received from my daughter this morning. She’s been busy crafting over the past couple of weekends, and had made me a card, a wonderful bunch of foam and pipecleaner flowers, a super little girl figure with a bunch of roses, and a booklet of Mother’s Day gift coupons. These came together with some sweets from her own stash, and some Thornton’s chocs – I am so lucky!
The coupons are wonderful – they include ones for doing cello practice, going to the postbox, not pestering me for a go on the computer, and have her bath straight away, amongst others. They made me chuckle – she is a good girl though, so I hope I won’t have to use them!
Thank you Sweetie.
Lots of love
A dirndl, in case you’ve never heard the word before, is the name for a traditional peasant dress worn in Bavaria, the Tyrol and the surrounding areas. It consists of a fitted bodice, blouse, full skirt and apron. I’m talking dirndls today because I have one – read on …
When I was at junior school, my parents used to help out as chaperones on school trips abroad for a prep-school. Our nex-tdoor-but-one neighbour was a teacher at this school – and presumably he couldn’t get any of the staff to come on the holidays so he asked my parents – who got a cheap holiday and me and my brother went too. We went to Wales several times at Easter, but also alternately Switzerland and Austria in the summer the week after the schools broke up – this went on for about five years.
1970 was an Austria year – and we were based in the Tyrol. Day trip to Salzburg, visiting the Mozart Geburtshaus and Mirabell Palace. Sadly, The Sound of Music was far from my mind – I probably didn’t associate the wonderful fountain with Do Re Mi – well I was only ten. (I really want to go back to Salzburg some time and do the full SoM tour!).
Anyway, my Mum bought me a dirndl and the receipt is on the left there. At the time there were about ten Austrian Schillings to the pound, so it cost a mighty £27.50 old money which was an awful lot. You can see a skinny me wearing it (complete with pigeon toes and Clarks playdeck sandals) on the right – and there’s also my little brother lurking in the background with a silly hat! It’s a shame you can’t see the skirt properly behind the apron, it’s scarlet sprigged with emerald green flowers.
But I can rectify that …
Putting in a rare appearance on the blog is my daughter modelling the outfit in our garden back in spring 2008. Granny had found the dirndl and brought it to us on a visit. I expect it won’t fit my daughter any more as she’s put on a big growing spurt since, but I’m not getting rid of it – it’s too special a souvenir for that.
Ephemeral Medical Matters…
First above is my Mum’s discharge certificate from the evocatively named Purdysburn Fever Hospital after suffering a bout of scarlet fever back in 1939.
Scarlet fever or Scarletina (although Scarletina is more usually used to describe a mild attack these days) is one of those childhood diseases caused by a nasty streptococcus bacterium, characterised by fever, a bright red tongue and measles type rash, and its rather infectious. It was a real killer in the 1800s.
In the days before penicillin was available, those who became infected were carted off to fever hospitals like my Mum who was eight when she got it. Sometimes their bedding had to be burned too.
I remember getting it as a child too, but was just kept in isolation at home for a fortnight while the antibiotics did their job. I’m so glad I didn’t have to go to hospital – it must have been awful for her.
Moving on … to something less serious. Above is my brother’s ante-natal card just showing above it’s folder. What tickled me about this one is the precise nature of the list of what you were expected to have to hand when you had your baby. I’m not an expert, but am presuming this list is for a home-birth. In the event, my brother was a breech emergency, so I expect that all went a bit pear-shaped.
It was the ‘Fish Paste jar’ that got me. The added extras aren’t my Mum’s writing, so I guess the midwife may have made these suggestions!
And finally, my Mum was not so much a hypochondriac as the complete opposite – being an enthusiastic adopter of new health trends. The extract from the letter on the right was from 1960 when she was pregnant with me.
Evidently, she read about self-hypnosis for pain-relief in pregnancy and signed up to this course given by the then President of the British Society of Hypnotherapists no less – a Canadian chap with a double-barrelled name and consulting rooms in Harley Street.
Whether it worked or not I shall never know, but being willing to pay the exhorbitant fee of 18 guineas suggests that she may have been a good candidate and pre-disposed to being hypnotised!
I was hypnotised once around twenty years ago to help give up smoking. It was a totally strange feeling, and afterwards I felt as light as a feather and totally relaxed. I could never recreate that though with the tape of the session I was given – every time I sat down on the bed with my headphones to try it again, the cats snuggled up and started purring and I couldn’t concentrate. In the end I found good old willpower was the only thing I needed.