Wonderful Words

Some great reading this week. At the weekend I finished Penelope Lively’s Ammonites and Leaping Fish, A Life in Time. It’s a memoir, but being Penelope Lively she bypasses all the clichés. It’s a social history as well as her history; beautifully written which is a given with her as an author, and absorbing. It’s perceptive, observant, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant. There is a little impatience with the ageing process but never self-pity. The only time Penelope Lively has disappointed me was Spiderweb, which I think was written not long after her husband Jack’s death, so might be forgiven as a potboiler.

I won’t go into all the structure of Ammonites and Leaping Fish. There are lots of reviews you could read. I rather like this one. But this is how the book begins:

This is not quite a memoir. Rather, it is the view from old age. And a view of old age itself, this place at which we arrive with a certain surprise – ambushed, or so it can seem. One of the few advantages of age is that you can report on it with a certain authority; you are a native now, and know what goes on here.

I borrowed my copy from the library, but there is so much in it that I want to return to it will soon be on my shelves. Continue reading

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A Load of Trollope

For the last couple of months I have been spending chunks of my time in Barchester. It was Radio 4 that started it. There was a serialised adaptation, a very good one of the last chronicle, and I loved it.

This year work has taken me to Salisbury several times, and as I have walked through the cathedral close, I have felt guiltily aware that while I have enjoyed BBC television adaptions of Trollope, I have never read the books.

Well that’s changed now. He wrote a lot, so I still have opportunities to read more but the for the moment, the Grantlys, the Dales and dear Johhny Eames can get on with their lives without me peering over their shoulders.

Trollope’s frequent references to womanliness and manliness grated at times, but he also made me laugh, something Dickens seldom manages with this reader. His writing is less sentimental, more forgiving. I get the feeling he liked people more than Dickens did. Certainly I know which of the two men I’d prefer to spend a day with if I could time travel. Continue reading

Of Camomile Tea, Cameras and Brilliant Books

I don’t know about giving up alcohol for January (and if you’re asking, no I haven’t; a nice glass of Grenache with dinner, and now I am slugging back camomile tea in anticipation of an early night) but I seem to have given up blogging.

It’s not intentional, I just seem to have been busy. And I was eye deep in my book, The Book Thief, which a friend of Cousin’s gave me in the summer. If someone had told me in my faraway youth that in my sixth decade I’d finish a book sitting on the hall carpet because I couldn’t wait to get to the sofa I’m not sure I’d have believed them. But that’s what happened. My bus journey ended about five pages short of the final page. I came home, took off my outdoor things, sat on the floor to fuss MasterB and opened the book again. Continue reading

Busy Bee

Last year was supposed to be the Year of the New Kitchen, to be followed by the New Flooring, and New Sofa Covers.

For various reasons, none of those things happened. The kitchen continues to fall apart, the carpet has almost achieved antique status, and I drenched the sofa in red wine a few weeks ago. Going backwards and forwards to see Mother in hospital, check out nursing homes, and simply working, meant other bits of my little home were also neglected, and boy does it show. Continue reading