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Archive for June, 2022

June Books- 2022

Some really good books this month.

Ali Smith- How to be both -The novel is two stories with a cross over. Apparently there are two versions of the books, so depending on the one you get, you may get the narratives in a different order. Glad I got the version I read. Georgia, or George as she is known, a clever teenager who is grieving for her mother, whilst caring for her little brother as her Dad goes to bits, relives a visit to Italy with her family to see a fresco her Mother loved. Second narrative concerns the ghost painter of the fresco.

I’ll be honest if I’d not paid good money to request this book I might have given up on it after two pages, in which I got totally confused by the opening conversations between Mother and Daughter,as the mother seems to be both alive and dead. Anyway I got past the weird bit and enjoyed the first half of the book. Then it goes weird for a few pages as the story is picked up by the artist who materialises in an art gallery as George views a painting. I skipped over the weird bit and enjoyed the rest of the book. Last page is weird too. I don’t know why it’s clever to put weird bits into books, but it seems to be about appealing to Book Awards. Frankly I like a straightforward telling of a tale. I accept its because I am a Philistine who doesn’t get the weird bits, to each their own. So if you like weird bits in books then you will like this, if you don’t then there’s not too much to skip over.

Tana French- The Likeness. This novel also featured in the BBC series Dublin Murders available on I Player. Again it is a big book. 529 paperback pages. I really enjoyed this. Once again the novel takes it’s time to paint word pictures so you feel you are there as the plot slowly unfolds. Briefly then and revealing nothing you can’t get from the cover. Cassie Maddox has transferred out of the Dublin Murder Squad when she gets an urgent call to go to a murder scene….the victim is her double,and her ID belongs to an assumed woman Cassie used as an undercover officer . She is persuaded to resume that identity and go to live with a group of students renovating a gorgeous Manor house. There is nothing not to love about this book. Will keep you turning pages avidly right to the end.

Elizabeth Strout- Olive Kitteridge. This one was recommended to me. It is essentially a series of short stories based on the lives of various people living in a small coastal town in Maine. Olive Kitteridge is a retired school teacher and is connected in a minor way to them all. This format reminded me a little of Maeve Binchey, except her characters and plots have a pleasant cosy feel. Olive is not likeable, nor are a great number of the other inhabitants. The plots and people are well drawn and the book won the Pullitzer prize, but I did find it a bit depressing.

Laura Purcell- The Corset. A jolly good read. I had read her novel Bone China and enjoyed it greatly so I was pretty confident I would like this. Described as a classic Victorian tale of murder most foul, twisted with a curious supernatural thread. Two narrators Dorothea, young wealthy woman with an interest in phrenology who becomes a prison visitor to further her study. Ruth the girl on trial for murder who tells her story and agrees that Dorothea can examine her skull. But is she victim or villain, mad or a murderer. Rather a page turner, and made a great read over our hottest few days whilst I hid indoors.It was also an interesting well researched account of the girls who became seamstresses. I know I number several in my family tree.

Barbara Pym- Quartet in Autumn– I first read this book shortly after it was published in the late 1970’s. I am grateful to Katie from The Cosy Burrow for reminding me of this author. One of the most neglected authors of the twentieth century, she keeps being rediscovered as a new Jane Austin, in that her characters are well observed in small metaculously described settings. In this novel, set in the 1970’s four people work in London in some unspecified office, carrying out their work , which sounds vaguely administrative. So no computers.

Now my first job on leaving college was in an insurance company valuing pensions. This means helping to make sure the company had enough assets to cover the pension payload for the schemes they administered. My job, removing people who died or updating those who left their job from the records, so that the big chiefs knew how many and how much they were liable for. I’d get a note to tell me of the death , change of curcumstances, take a card from the filing cabinet and mark it up, On a rolling yearly basis, each scheme having a different date, I’d take these cards and enter details of all scheme members onto an extremely large hand drawn book, and then make the necessary calculations using a manual adding up machine. You can see these in museums. Does that sound boring. Believe me it was. And to make things worse by 10 am I was usually done for the day as far as work went. Home time was 5pm. The only job in which I was literally bored to tears. I swore after that never ever to have a job which kept me in one place for eight hours, and I never did.

Such is the nature of the work I imagine happened in the office in the book. All four characters are approaching retirement, all live alone, two in houses and two in bedsits. They are polite to each other, they are all lonely, life for Edwin the widower centres around the churches in his neighbourhood, he attends the one with the best service, for one of the women Marcia, her recent operation and her surgeon Mr Strong are her mainstays, Norman is curmudgeonly, and Letty is full of vague regrets that she has just missed out on life. I’m not saying anything else, but if you like well drawn characters in ordinary settings you will enjoy Barbara Pym.

Imagine my delight when I discovered Ms Pym retired to Oxfordshire. I visited the church in which she is buried, but failed to find the grave. Not to worry I’ll find it one day. Here’s the church anyway.

More info here-https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/jun/29/a-small-simple-stone

Maya Angelou- Letter to my Daughter– I had been looking for this book in the library for ages, under biography. Totally surprised to find it eventually in the Poetry section. Well goodness gracious me. Maya Angelou writes a series of short essays to an imaginary daughter, explaining the life lessons she learned and her personal philosophy. If I’d had a daughter I’d have given her this book for her 18th birthday. As it is, I found it an interesting read that gave me insight into the life of this incredible woman.

So there we are for the books I read in June. I have some corkers lined up for me for July. And then I shall be looking for the perfect holiday book, what would you recommend to me please? I’ll kick off with Evening Class by Maeve Binchey- wonderful feel good read to my mind, and forever assciated with family holidays in Spain, in a tent when the boys were littles.

Balance- June

Balance, my one word for 2022. Linking with Carolyn and others here for these posts – https://youronewordblog.wordpress.com/2022/06/26/one-word-checking-in-june-twenty

Six months of the year in which I strive for balance has past. A good time to review what changes I have made, and what still needs working on as I adjust to my life on my own.

The month began with yet another domestic emergency. Kitchen lights went out fusing half the downstairs lights. I rightly diagnosed the dimmer switch. Then the panic set in, the getting of an electrician. Let’s keep it brief , I made seven phone calls to various firms, and three days later it was fixed.

Now this event threw me completely off balance, mostly because I correctly predicted the hassle it would be locating an available Sparks, and it was. After a great deal of thought and self examination I decided to pay for a home emergency deal, one which also provides a gas boiler service. That has now been booked in for August.

I feel better about it.

Meals- I am still adjusting to meals for one. This is taking far longer than I envisioned, as this time last year Mr E was already too ill to eat a “normal” diet. The effect of the Russian/Ukrainian situation is inflation for everyone, petrol, energy, food. Serious rethinking has been needed for most of us. Unfortunately everything comes in big packs , family size as if this is good for everyone. I was throwing away far too much, and that’s despite dividing and freezing food. It upsets me to throw away food. I had to change my shopping habits. No more weekly shops for me. Now I am shopping two , three times a week, walking to the local shop or banding several errands together to minimise car use. It’s a different way of being.

Exercise, was another thing I thought about back in January ,regularly berating myself for being lazy. Some people commented that I was probably getting far more exercise than I realised just going about daily activities. So I have stopped fretting about this, and all I do know is that I am physically stronger than I was a year ago. I can pick up things that a year ago I would have dragged, and formally immovable things are now pushable. However, I would like to get back into swimming every week, mostly because I enjoy it, and I get to feel virtuous !

Being useful- It’s a human need I am sure to want to be useful. If you recall I’d taken on the role of Safeguarding at the church. Now this has turned out to be far more about admin than safeguarding. Has everyone done their training, filled in various forms, etc.? It wasn’t what I expected, nor does it use my knowledge. Me and spreadsheets don’t go together well, and training is promised but doesn’t happen. I’m giving it a couple more months, to see if I feel happier. Meantime I realise I do have my uses… babysitting, trying to help the birds and insects in the garden, decluttering and making sure perfectly good things go to good homes, this month for example two guitars, an amp and an electronic organ to a local school. These of course belonged to Mr E, and I promised him I would do this. It also helps with the gradual letting go and moving on.

Being Social. I have always enjoyed my own company and that of my family , but I know that we all need friends old and new. Moving house during the pandemic , over 270 miles was always going to be a challenge to make friends. However, I am lucky in that I have friends not too far away, some of whom I have known a very long time. Mr A and Mrs S are a couple I have known since I lived on the South Coast in Sussex. I am talking nearly 40 years, I childminded their youngest daughter; they are my youngest son’s god parents. They moved to Oxfordshire when we did and stayed put, we were the ones that moved North. I met up with them this month, and it’s just so true, you simply pick up where you left up… Which was actually at Mr B’s wedding to Mrs G three years ago

Making new friends is harder the older you get. I am extremely grateful to the carers centre for everything and especially for the walks, coffee mornings and craft sessions, but I knew the support was time limited and I had to move on. The U3A has been absolutely marvellous. If you are part or fully retired and in need of company and stimulation I can really recommend this organisation. I have joined three groups, one walking group exploring local towns and villages(post on latest walk to follow at some point), an embroidery group ( a finish is on the horizon ) and poetry appreciation which unlike the group I belonged to with the same name back in Pickering, is extremely mentally challenging. So much discussion and lively debate, I feel my brain has received a total workout. And I am getting to know people.

I also attended a sewing workshop this month, new venue, new people, revisiting an old attempt to learn something…post in due course. I’m fine with new places as long as I know where to park the car. There’s no logic to it, it’s just me, so I do dummy runs.

I’m learning so much about myself this year, what I like doing, what causes anxiety, ways round it (getting the car checked out before my road trip in August for example), making choices that are right for me and taking ownership of my home. And as for the garden, well that was all about decision making, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

I’m doing ok. I’m balancing better, and change is possible.

Onwards and upwards. July will bring challenges I am sure but I am gradually learning how to manage.

Please do check out Carolyn’s page and the others who post their one word updates Thanks for reading and being here.

Day Six

Somewhere to sit in the shade at last. Will certainly need to dust off the comfy chairs.
Future proofed the steps down with a hand rail
No more nightmares about garden landsliding into the dining room.

And that’s it for a month or so. I shall be weeding like crazy and then the next phase of rescuing the forlorn patch can begin with the help of Tessa my garden guru. The chaps will also be back at some point to weatherproof the summer house. It’s begining to feel like my garden and not people’s.

Thank you for all the lovely comments and encouragement with this project. I am loving my new space.

Day Five

Busy,busy, busy

All that rubbish!
New cladding going , new hand rail going in, ignore the weed corner at the back, no mow May was not a good idea
The end is actually in sight!

The bike belongs to the youngest member of the three man team, the other two come in vans, yes plural vans, so much stuff needed!

Nearly done.

Day Four

Chaps at work

I make tea by the gallon, and basically don’t get in the way.
Tools and more tools
Keeping out of the way!

Day Three

Life got a bit hectic but the garden project went on

Examining the retaining wall, not as bad as I feared. There was a prodgious amount of concrete behind the wooden cladding, very little danger of landslide into the dining room apparently. Time for a rethink on how to proceed.
Digging out the rotten poles by the steps where the new hand rail will go.

Day Two

Shade!! So excited…

And the work continues.

Garden Project #1

Finally it’s my turn. Day One

Let the work begin

Scrap Happy June , 22

Just in case you missed it, here in the UK we had a long weekend of celebrations to mark this ladies Platinum Jubilee.

Picture from my TV magazine.

Just imagine 70 years of fancy dress, boring speeches and living your life in public gaze. I know that it comes with luxury and amazing opportunity, but at quite a price. However, I like most of the population here, have benefitted from her dedication to the job, no crummy politician to vote for as president, and there is a sense of stability and continuity which is just there, as the backdrop to our lives. I won’t feel the same I don’t think about her successor, but who knows. I do think that the country will be plunged into real mourning when the time sadly comes.

Anyway this just had to be done

All from scraps. The pattern is by Knitting by Post, patterns are well written . I prefer physical ones but also available as PDFs. Link here. https://knittingbypost.com/knitting-pattern/hrh-queen-elizabeth-ii-toy-knitting-pattern/

Lots of people have been posting theirs on line with added necklaces, hat trims , brooches and marmalade sandwiches. But this one was for Baby P so I slightly altered the hat brim to anchor it to the head, plus the body construction, I carried on knitting the head as a continuous piece, so couldn’t get the head angle perfect. I shall make her a fancier one at some point too, but this is as baby friendly as I could make her.

Do join Kate and the others for more great uses of scraps here –https://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/2022/06/15/scraphappy-june-3/

Dyrham Park

On the First day of the Jubilee Bank holiday weekend, my eldest son and I took the little ones for a picnic to the rather grand Dyrham Park.

It’s a long walk down a big hill from carpark to house, which is even longer on the way back or so it seems.

The single storey building to the left is an Orangery. The house dates back to the 17 th century and was built for one William Blathwayt, c 1649-1717. He inherited the estate from his father in law and he immediately set about rebuilding the house decorating it in the Dutch style favoured by King William of Orange and his wife Queen Mary. The main part of the house is to the right, replacing the older Tudor Manor.

At the back of the house is the stable block. The old formal gardens have mostly disappeared, but it meant we could eat our sandwiches here.
This is the village church, which you can spot in the First photo too. Nice and convenient for the big house residents.
This appears to be the back of the house, stables to the right, church to the left, but is actually the grand entrance, carriages would have drawn up so that people entered by the staircase here
Part of what remains of the formal gardens.
The Dairy.

The house when it was acquired by the National Trust was in a pretty terrible state. The roof had to be redone completely with work finished in 2015. The interior is now nearing the end of its refurbishment, and is mostly not open to the public yet. Three rooms downstairs have been used to create a bedroom and sitting room using furniture that had been brought in specially for a much anticipated but never realised visit by Queen Anne en route to Bath. I expect that’s when she stopped at Avebury instead. Can’t help wondering if the Royal party got lost, or maybe that all houses at that time were put on a state of readiness for Queen Anne’s jolly. You’d be pretty miffed if you went to the upheaval and expense and got no eminent personage. Which is a very long way of my saying, no photos of these rooms as they are kept in near gloom to save the furnishings from sun damage.

Re imagined kitchen.

On the plus side, there were lots of lawn games to play with, space for children to roar around in, nice tearoom, plants and second hand books for sale. Sadly the deer herd for which this Park was famous have all had to be culled as they had an exceedingly bad outbreak of bovine tuberculosis . Once it us safe to do so the deer will be reintroduced to the grounds.

We had a smashing day out, and I’ll return, maybe annually to see the property return to glory.

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