Sunday, 2 July 2017

A few good reads


So many books, so little time.... a phrase often spoken by readers. Of course, it might help if we stopped buying and adding to the 'waiting to be read' pile, but who can resist an interesting cover, a good review, a freinds' recommendation? Not me... unfortunately. And it would also help if I didn't read for the Romantic Novelist of the Year Award, one of the many who get to receive a package of books to be read and reviewed each year. And if I didn't set myself challenges.... June's was to read a book that's older than me, lots of choice there, but have I managed to pick one? No. And July's challenge is to read a book by a foreign author, in English. Haven't even begun to think about that...
but here are a few I have read this last month.

Actually I am still reading 'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine'. Eleanor was hard to warm to, a stick in the mud, old before her time, and someone I thought was in her fifties turns out to be a young woman. But there has been a traumatic event in her past, leaving her with facial scars and a fractured relationship with her mother. So then I began to feel sorry for her, now, as she seems to be blossoming in, loosening up, letting people get close to her, I am intrigued as to where she goes now, so really enjoying this books.

'Heartburn' by Norah Ephron is the story of a marriage. Seven months pregnant and with a young son, Rachel discovers her husband is having an affair. She leaves, but he talks her into coming back, swearing that the affair is over. But it starts up again, and Rachel knows that she deserves better than him, better than this life. And she has a friend, Richard, who knows it too. Norah Ephron is the creator of Sleepless in Seattle, and though I enjoyed this novel, I preferred Sleepless!

Dorothy Koomson's 'When I Was Invisible' is another great story, one which was hard to put down, sadness in there, and a difficult subject really. Two little girls meet when they are eight years old and attending ballet classes. One black, one white. One goes into a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity, but are they each meant to be living the lives they lead?

'Miss Mary's Book of Dreams' by Sophie Nicholls is another for my collection of books, fiction and non-fiction, set in or about, bookshops. Maybe it's because I've always wanted to own a bookshop but never will, that I am fascinated by this type of book. Just love them and haven't had a bad one yet. This is for those who like a bit of magic in their novels. Ella runs Happy Ever After, a bookshop in a cobbled courtyard in York. She's a wife, mother, successful author, but something is missing. Then into the shop one day comes Bryony, and though she doesn't know why, Ella feels a connection with her. Bryony buys the Book of Dreams in the title and that's when the magic really begins.

Sheila O'Flanagans' 'The Missing Wife' is the story of Imogen, who is unhappy, leading a life she no longer wants, and so she has The Plan, which is to get away from her husband, Vince, a controlling man she no longer loves. She moves to a small town in France where she lived as a child, leaving no trail behind for Vince to follow. She gets a job, makes new friends and more importantly meets some old ones, and when Vince manages to unravel the trail and track her down, she finally has the courage to tell him how she feels so that she is free to get on with her new life.

'The Spy' by Paulo Coelho is a novel based on facts about the life of Mata Hari, the supposed femme fatal spy, who arrived penniless in Paris but soon became known as the most elegant woman in the city. She was shot a hundred years ago this October, for spying - based on evidence later describes by one prosecutor as "so poor that it wouldn't have been fit to punish a cat". An interesting and enlightening read.

So, that's it for now. More another time. Happy reading.... tell me what you're reading now (if you're a reader of course).

Saturday, 10 June 2017

A bit like Lazarus!

Well, he was raised after four days - this blog has lain dormant for considerably longer than that, and whilst I may not post regularly, I have decided I missed doing it. And even though I don't have much to say, don't lead an exciting, sociable life, there might be someone out there who would read it I thought. So here goes...

And the subject for today is... best friends.

Last Wednesday was Best Friends Day, no doubt an American import started by Hallmark cards. Like all these 'Days', I don't subscribe to them, being of the opinion that if you need a special day to tell Mum/Dad/Grannie/Grandad/Sister/Brother/pet dog/ Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all, that they mean a lot to you, are special, then it's a pretty rum do. You should tell the people you love that you love them, without a prompt. Being loved is one of THE most special feelings, don't you think? Loving someone is pretty special, even more so if it's returned. But let's not get on to unrequited love, this is, after all, meant to be an uplifting post. Sort of.

So, what constitutes a Best Friend? What sets one friend apart from another? Longevity of friendship? Sharing of deep and darkest secrets? The one 'go to' friend who will never let you down, always has time for you, no matter how busy their own lives? The one you feel most comfortable with, who has seen you at your worst, and your  best, and loves you warts and all? Well, probably all of those.

These days, it is my husband who is my best friend. He knows all there is to know about me, though there are some things I keep to myself. But he is the one I can offload onto,  the one who holds me when I am blue or in need of a hug for no reason other than it would be nice to have one, the one who listens to my ramblings, my moans and whinges, laughs with me at the silliest of things sometimes, the one who looks after me when I am ill (which happens too often for my liking), the one who makes fab pancakes and who is learning to cook so we can have decent meals when I am unable to cook. 

But I have been lucky and had two Best Friends in adult life. H, same age as me, spontaneous, funny, always there if I needed him, generous, discreet, and darned sexy too! We were friends for twenty years, until he got himself a young wife who wanted him to cut all ties, and so they moved abroad, rarely to be heard from again by family, never heard from again by his mates. Then there was Grace, older than me by more than a decade, not a substitute Mum, more your favourite Aunt. We spent time with each other every week, talked on the phone several times a week, gardened, baked, shopped, laughed and cried together. Her death from cancer many years ago now, was one of the hardest things I have had to come to terms with, and I was asked to write the eulogy for her funeral, which was read by her niece who is an actress. 

I still miss her so much, so often things happen or come to mind that I want to share with her, ask her advice on, moan about. We were good at moaning.... putting the world to rights as we thought it should be. This was one of the last photos of her, taken in the pretty garden of her Norfolk cottage.


 So, neither of these are around any more, and although I miss them, I don't really miss the notion of having a best friend who isn't related to me.  I have some really close friends now, wonderful ones who have been with me all my adult life in some cases. Some of them know most of what there is to know about me, some know the superficial stuff, and that's fine, they don't need - or probably want - to know more. They are penfriends, not people I meet up with. I don't have anyone I meet up with, and that too, suits me fine these days.

Does that make me sound like Billy No Mates? Maybe, but that doesn't bother me either! My life is a quiet one from necessity, but more by choice. It is made up of crafts, art journalling, books, our beautiful garden, simple pleasures of watching old black and white movies together, sitting quietly reading together, cooking together, the occasional outing, and for me, meditation as well since I became Buddhist. It's not a life to everyone's taste, but it suits us both. Completely different to twenty years ago, but then, so am I.

I hope you have a Best Friend and that you don't need a special day to tell them how important they are to you.

To my special friends, thank you for being part of my life. And we're not done yet!!!

Friday, 16 September 2016

September's Selection

 Well, after a week of unseasonably hot temperatures - I live in what was one of the hottest areas earlier this week, Hunstanton which is a few miles away, reached 33 degrees on Tuesday, and it was 32 in our back garden. Way, way too hot for me so it was nice yesterday to wake up to misty conditions and lots of cloud, which lingered on and off for most of the day so luckily we didn't get near the 28 degrees forecasted, instead hovering several degrees lower. And this morning, it's struggling to reach 18 degrees, dull and overcast with rain coming in later. I saw from the news this morning that several places have been badly hit with torrential rain and spectacular lightning.  We seem to go from one extreme to another. Still, I'm not one complaining about the drop in temperatures, for as those of my friends who read this will know, I am not a lover of the heat.



I am, however, a lover of this book. It's Kate Eberlen's first novel and I am already anticipating the second. This is the story of Tess and Gus who meet very briefly as teenagers in Italy where she is having a last holiday before university life begins and he, a medical student, is trying to enjoy a holiday with his parents, who are grieving for the loss of their other son in an accident. Tess has her life changed when her mother dies and she is left in charge of her younger sister, Hope. This would present a challenge for any 18 year old girl whose just had her world turned upside down, but with Hope having 'issues' as they would say today, it's even harder. One thing she knows is that university is now out of the question so she settles into the world of work, finding work that will fit in with Hope's school hours until such time as she leaves school. There are relationships along the way for both her and Gus who eventually qualifies as a doctor, marries and when that doesn't work out goes back to Florence to a cookery school to follow his passion for food and cooking, and Tess is given a writing holiday at the same place, a gift from her best friend. a treat to cheer her up after a particularly eventful and painful period in her life. Here Gus and Tess meet, recognise each other and recognise IN each other, a soulmate, their one true love despite all that has gone before. This book is one to lose yourself in, once picked up I hated having to put it down, and I know it will be read again. The best book of the sixty I've read this year so far and highly recommended.

As usual, there has been some arty, painty, collage-y stuff going on lately....





And also some felty stuff, this picture is awaiting a steam press to rid the felt of its creases, before glueing to a piece of thin MDF, and hanging.



As for the rest of my world....well, we are still picking and eating two types of beans and tomatoes, fresh herbs, sweet peas get picked every other day, gorgeous posies of pastel shades of pinks and lilacs with white ones as well, the air filled with their sweet fragrance for a couple of days before it fades and its time to pick more. I have had so many flowers from just a dozen plants. Each year I say I won't bother with them again, and each year I give in when I see a pot of plantlets in my village nursery and am delighted with them all over again.

I am a lover of words, and so was pleased to discover the American writer, Christopher Poindexter, a poet living in Florida. There is no Wikipedia entry for him, but if you Google him, you'll find a lot of his writings, quotes and poems and just.... words. Wonderful words strung together beautifully. He also has an Etsy page where he says he is 'not a poet but an observer'. Well, we all observe don't we, intentionally or otherwise, but to be able to put down what we observe as he does... that's a different matter. However, some of us enjoy writing anyway, so I have been able to add a few thousand more words to my novel. However, heat taxes me and concentration is hard and the imagination sluggish to say the least, add to that a shinbone injury from a coming together of my right leg and a heavy, solid wooden footstool (which won, by the way) which has given me pain every day for two weeks now, and I haven't progressed much further this last fortnight.

Still, cooler days are not far off, autumn feel to the early mornings and late evenings now, and flu jabs next week. Now see what an exciting life I lead?

Hope this finds everyone who reads this well, I just wish all who do would comment, nicely preferably! Happy Autumn.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Back for a visit

Well, it's been a while, but it seems that in common with most of my regular-reading blogs, other things have taken over, or the interest just isn't the same any more. But I enjoy writing the occasional blogpost, and reading them too, so maybe that will be how it is from now on, a post now and then.

One of the reasons for my absence has been the heat, which I don't cope with physically at all well. Won't bore you with the messy details, but suffice to say shares in Andrex might be a worthy investment! So the period with temperatures in the high 20s/low 30s just didn't suit me at all, and I hibernated. Yes, I know that's something you usually do in winter, but I'm a winter person more than a summer one. Indoors with lots of windows open and blinds closed and even when it has been down to the low to mid 20s, I've not had the mental or physical energy for much really. And today is another hot one, but I'm sitting in my workroom, window in front of me open, desk fan on the go too, and I was just in the mood for a bit of mindless rambling. So here I am...

... and this is another reason for my absence, knocking out fireplaces, installing new, redecorating and so on, and this is the new look sitting room fireplace. We've just finished the summerhouse which has been turned into my meditation/writing space, but a bit too hot and bright out there just now. However a lovely spot for morning coffee and a chat, maybe a photo next time if I remember.




I was talking to a friend recently, also in her 60s, about how our tastes change as we get older. She used to love sewing, soft furnishings mainly, but now finds her hands make it difficult to do the finishing touches, and she hasn't the patience for the fiddly bits anyway. Another friend, like me, used to love gardening, but health issues mean all we can manage these days is a potter. But that's incredibly uplifting to the soul; in my case just fifteen minutes walking around the garden, picking off a dead head here, gathering fresh herbs for dinner, picking beans and tomatoes, radish and picking a pretty posy too, of pinks and lavender, with a sprig of fresh herb in there as well.

Another friend has more or less given up all the handicrafts she used to do and instead spends her time watercolouring and sketching. And has even had friends ask her to paint something for them, had them on show in a local cafe and art exhibition, something I suspect she would never have imagined thirty odd years ago when we first met.

For me too, art - or my version of it - has become a large part of my life. Oh I still knit for charity, crochet too, make felt cushions and pictures as well, but it's the working with acrylics, watercolours, fine tip marker pens, coloured pencils, watercolour pencils, pens and crayons. Glue sticks, double sided tape, Washi tapes, paper ephemera, coloured card, and paper. And a growing collection of books on collage and art journalling.

This is a book diary, a new exercise type book in which I shall record the books I am reading as my current one is just about full - started in 2000 it has over 1500 books listed! Anyway, I decided that the purply shiny cover was too boring, so made a collage cover for it.


My diary too, had a spare page. Normally I use a journal, no dates, so that I don't feel I have to write in them... my life is very quiet, lacking in society, so not much goes on, hence the sparse posts. I just write when I feel like it. However this year was an exception as I found this lovely diary from the makes of FLOW magazine, with a week on one side and blank, lined pages opposite. Some of them have been filled in, or almost filled in, with 'stuff' but a few pages are empty. Can't be having that, it's like having a spot in the garden where there isn't anything growing! So, a bit of acrylic paint to cover it, and then because it's opposite the last week in June, decided to make it flower-themed.




One of my favourite websites since I began messing about with paint etc., is CreativeBug and here you get lots of ideas and so on, not just for arty stuff, but other crafts as well. One of the things to try was putting your pen or pencil on the page, and not looking at what you were doing, just let the pen move, drawing lines randomly. First you do it with your normal writing hand, and then with the other. You can then paint them, fill them in with colour if you wish. Here are my two examples. The BE HAPPY, was just a bit of luck, seeing the almost perfect B shape.


So, there you have it for this month, maybe next month too, who knows. I hope this finds everyone well and enjoying summer. Thanks for visiting.




Tuesday, 24 May 2016

My Spring Garden blanket



This is my Spring Garden blanket, inspired by the colours of our garden in Springtime of course.

Quite often when I do a blanket, I don't bother to draw it out, plan it too much. I usually know what I want to do and apart from a few scribbled notes in the little journal I keep next to my chair, not much goes down on paper. However this time I was a little more thoughtful about the whole thing.



This was the basic idea, it got changed a little as new colours came to mind, new flowers inspired me.  The wool is Stylecraft Special, a wool much favoured by crafters for crochet especially as it is a joy to work with, the range of colours is quite spectacular and it's reasonably priced, which is important if you do big projects. And leftovers make great leftover blankets! Or stripey knitted scarves. Or tea cosies. Or bobble hats even!



The deep pink/white/pale pink/lavender represent the hyacinths. Cream/pale lemon/saffron represent the different varieties of daffodils. The two shades of blue with claret in between represent forget-me-nots, muscari and wallflowers. The purple/lime green/orange are some of the tulips. And each group is separated with green to represent the foliage.



The edging I made up. It's one I first used decades ago, made it up as I went along and I like the effect it gives. It's a simple chain 1, skip 1 on alternate rows, and the first and last row of the edging are half trebles.

It's a lovely colourful throw, and like most of those I make, destined for my favourite hospice charity shop. And on a grey, cold day like today, it's a real cheerer-up!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Memories


The memory is an amazing tool. And not easy to describe how it works. Some of the best descriptions I've read have come from neuroscientist Dean Burnett, who describes short term memory as being like writing your name with a sparkler. It typically lasts between 15 and 30 seconds, any longer and it's long term memory.

Memories perhaps don't disappear, they're just lost, you can't dredge them up. They're in there somewhere, you know they are, but how frustrating is it when you need or want to recall something, and it just won't come out?

And why is it that as we get older we can remember past events from twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty or more years ago, yet struggle to remember what we had for tea yesterday?

The picture of me in my previous posting brought back memories of sixty years ago. The dress was pale blue and white, toile du joy material, with a tiered, frilled skirt and it came from Marks and Spencers. I know I loved wearing that dress and was sad when I no longer fitted into it.

I can remember my first day in my first job, fifty years ago, standing outside the carpet showroom waiting for my boss to arrive in his red E-type convertible. Oh I loved that car! I think that was the start of my love for fast, sporty cars - and their drivers, or one at least.

But what's brought about this trip down memory lane is tomorrow's date - the 6th May. It was on that day in 1972 that I married the love of my life, Keith Penfold. It was Cup Final Day and the owners of the hotel where we had our reception, family friends, put a television into a separate room so that the men could sneak in and have a look at what was going on.



Keith and I began as penfriends in late January of that year, had our first real meeting six weeks later, and married just three months after that. He was 25 and I was 21. He came into my life, turned it upside down, filled my heart with love and joy - and it was the same for him. We thought it would always be that way.

But life can be a bitch sometimes, because just four years later in August 1976, he collapsed and died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage. I found his body. It was a day that is imprinted on my brain as indelibly as the day we married. The day we parted. But he is with me still in spirit. Life moves on, new memories are made, but the memory of my short time with this gorgeous man will never fade.

Some memories make you laugh out loud, some make you weep inside. But all are a part of who we are now. And the sad thing is that in time, maybe even those memories that make us happy will fade. 

But that's life.....

Thursday, 21 April 2016

I love the seaside!




                                                 Me, aged about seven, Fleetwood beach    

I grew up in Lancashire, in a small coastal town, living across the road from the beach. As a small child I could sit on the huge window seat of the bay window in the front room and watch coach loads of visitors arriving, the colour and movement kept me occupied for hours. (Even now I love to watch the world go by from a window, I shall become known as 'that nosey old bag down the road' soon!)
In my twenties I married and moved inland, and it took me another twenty odd years to get near the sea.

Now the nearest bit of beach is a few miles down the road, not near enough really, but it will do. Hunstanton is a little further away, but still only fifteen minutes or so in the car - except in the holiday season when it can take longer - and I love driving along the Promenade, seeing all the visitors, all that colour and movement again. All the amusement arcades are open, there's the noise of music and laughter, the smell of fish and chips is almost inescapable, a real old fashioned holiday resort. Nothing fancy like a Big Wheel or permanent fairground attraction, and sadly no longer even a pier.


The original Hunstanton Pier was 830 feet long, and opened in 1870 and twelve years later a paddle steamer service came into operation sailing from the pier to that at good old Skeggie, Skegness, across the Wash. As the years went by, there was a pavilion, a skating rink, a small zoo and until the 1950s, and a miniature steam railway ran down the length of the pier. In January 1978 a storm destroyed a lot of the pier, leaving an amusement arcade and one set of piles, a reminder of what had been there. But then tragedy struck again in the 70s with a fire destroying what was left, and in its place what I consider an ugly monstrosity and which met with some local opposition. It went ahead though, and although it is on the same spot as the original pier, there is absolutely nothing left to show what had once been a very fine pier indeed. Sadly.


I remember these old promenade shelters from my childhood/youth. Not this one, this is on the cliff tops at Hunstanton. As a child, they were somewhere to sit with my mother, sheltering from the occasional showers or just sitting sheltered from the winds, the two of us watching the world go by I remember when she and I used to have picnics on the beach, she would light up one of her Balkan Sobranie cigarettes, 'just to keep the flies away darling' she'd say. She looked so glamorous with these cigarettes in their gorgeously coloured wrappers of deep jade green, blue and deep pink, and with gold tips I think. Of course,she would be frowned upon now for smoking in public and in front of a child, but she wasn't the only one back in the fifties. As a teenager these shelters were places groups of teenagers gathered to smoke illicit cigarettes, you could buy packs of five Players for pennies then. And if you didn't have the spends, then the cigarettes would have been taken stealthily from your parents packets while their backs were turned. Or the shelter was a place you went with your boyfriend, to be alone. After which many a teenage girl, myself included, would go home, lock herself in her room, put some vinyl on the Dansette, unlock the tiny padlock on her diary, and write down her most private, secret thoughts - in my case about a tall blonde-haired, suntanned boy called John, who told me I had 'lovely legs', who went away to be a farmer, never to be seen or heard of again after the first flurry of love letters, all signed SWALK of course, on the back!

See what memories a stroll along the seafront can evoke?

Some of my other favourite things this month have been ....


... this large heather on the edge of the terrace, it smells wonderfully of almonds when the sun shines.

And its always good to finish one crochet project, so you can plan the next. This is a change for me, monochrome, three shades of grey, black and white



And that's it for now.  except to say it was very sad news about Victoria Wood, one of the funniest women ever, if not the funniest. Her humour made us all laugh, and she will be sadly missed.