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Books- November 22

Oh my goodness , three very good books this month, and one merely ok. They begin with two with Autumn in the title as displayed in the library.

Ali Smith- Autumn- Well I liked the book cover! Basically nothing happens. Written in the aftermath of Brexit- clearly the author was a remainer,so she was in shock. The plot is pretty much non existent, two narrators, Daniel aged 101 in a care home and dreaming weird dreams, Elizabeth his one time neighbour who enjoyed walks with him as a child when he was in his 80’s, nothing suspect going on, visits him regularly and reads to him and recalls their conversations often about a British Pop artist called Pauline Boty. She is real , died young, largely forgotten now. And that’s about it. I skim read the last few chapters, curious to see what might happen. It was short listed for the Booker Prize. So has anyone read it, just what don’t I get about this book? But it does have a nice Autumnal cover.

Louis de Bernieres- The Autumn of the Ace-I chose this purely for the title from the library’s Autumn book display, not appreciating that it is the third book in a triology. The earlier books are, So much life leftover, and The Dust that falls from dreams, which fortunately I had read a few years back. There is no mention anywhere on the book’s cover that this is the case. Indeed it easily reads as a stand alone novel. The Ace in the title is Daniel Pitt, First and second world war hero. When we meet him he is intent on one final adventure in the Autumn of his years, which takes him to France and South Africa, and finally to Canada, before returning to England. There are multiple narrators, sometimes moving the plot along through letters, personal reflections,etc. I loved the book, I mean really loved the book. Being in the Autumn of my own years so much resonated with me, although my life has not been particularly exciting, I have made a better fist of personal relationships. I love his use of language, and some ofvthe quirky characters he interacts with. This book will be included in my top 100 books, the highest accolade I can give it. Love to know if you’ve read any of the books in this triology.

Jessica Moor- Keeper. Oh my days this is a grab you in book , read in 24 hours. A detective story, examing the apparent suicide of a young woman Katie Straw. She worked in woman’s refuge, and if you ever wondered why women stay with their abusers, this book tells it how it is. I managed a housing scheme for vulnerable women, and worked closely with women’s aid.Fabulous twist too, which I so nearly saw but didn’t.

Kate Sawyer- The Stranding- I think this must have been recommended by someone, so thank you. It is incredible, and I really enjoyed it. So I don’t spoil it for anyone I shall quote from the back cover. ” Ruth is ignoring the news. Like most people she has relationship problems, job stress, friends and family who need her. Ruth has a life. …. But the news catches up with her, her problems are swept away… Only with her old existence gone, does she realise how to live a full life”. Told by Ruth, her life before in London, and alternatively after in New Zealand. Unique and brilliant! Oh and there was swimming in the pond on Hampstead Heath!

December now. I have a stack of library books to snuggle down with , but first I shall read two books from my very own books with Christmas in the title.

Have you read any of these? What have you lined up for December, warm and snuggly for those of us shivering in Winter(freezing fog for me today), or the perfect Summer book for shade on the beach or in your garden?

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Balance- November

Nearly the end of the year, and nearly the end of my one word posts on the theme of Balance. I had a huge wobble this month. I tried to do too many wonderful things every day. Needlefelting the hare was terrific, but it really tired me. Later that week I realised I had to stop and rest. I sent my apologies to three groups, and stayed home, read a bit and slept a lot. It worked and on the Saturday thoroughly enjoyed spending time at Blenheim Palace with all my family, attending the Christmas market (cinnamon pancakes and mulled wine) and visiting the Christmas decorations on the theme of the Snow Queen. It was a special day.

So the lesson from all that? Well maybe I just have to accept that as one gets older, and even though I am in reasonable health, I do not have the energy and stamina I once had. Maybe instead of trying to do all the things, I become a bit more discriminating , not give up exciting things, but plan for the fact that I will need built in rest time.

The wobble was about ten days ago. I have pulled out of one more event in December. I will still try to do wonderful things each week, but these will be interspersed with days at home, and days when if I do go out , I go by myself and at my own pace. I love trying new things, meeting new people, and friends and of course my own rather wonderful chaotic family. I plan on saying Yes to lots of things, but will also spend time by myself. Is this what I meant by balance all along?

I started a new way to organise my time to help me achieve this. Sometime over the weekend I will plan my week. I have to use paper and pen being a tad old fashioned. I start with listing all the nice things for the week. Then I add in the chores, this morning changing the bed clothes and sweeping up leaves. I plan meals, and plan the downtime, which isn’t inactive time, I may go for a walk, or knit, read, cross stitch. I have also found if I work out what time I need to start to prepare meals I am less likely to change my mind on the food front, very guilty of saying I can’t be bothered to make that tasty casserole or whatever. And so far it’s worked. Only ten days I know, but I feel heaps better, more contented, less frenetic….I am enjoying cooking again.

And that takes me to next month. Christmas. I loved Christmas as a child and as a parent. Absolutely all of it. But.. and here’s the rub. I am the older generation now. My role has changed, and I want to enjoy my time as grandparent at Christmas, and the role is different. Mum and Dad are central to a happy family Christmas, and the last thing they need is an awkward older family member trying to muscle in. I can actually step back from all that shopping, cooking, decorating, wrapping, organising etc. So what I wonder is the secret of being the grandparent in the corner? I am lucky enough to have been invited by a son to spend Christmas Day with them. My Dad always donated a box of crackers to proceedings, so I have begun with that. I have made a Christmas cake, a small one, because I like Christmas cake , and I shall give half to the son who also likes it but whose wife doesn’t and makes a chocolate log instead. I’ll arrange to see family over the week before New Year, but for the rest I shall recharge my batteries with knitting, a huge pile of books and stay warm.

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of this. What to your mind makes the ideal grandparent? My sons loved my Dad and his skill was that he let them be, they went to him for his calmness, humour and lack of fuss. It sometimes felt unfair that he was favourite grandparent, as the others put in a lot more effort to entertain. I find your comments so helpful, so do please say what you think.

Joining as always with Carolyn and others who use a one word prompt to reflect on life. Link here-https://youronewordblog.wordpress.com/

Have a fabulous week.

Cathy x

Unraveled Wednesday

This odd looking thing will actually one day be Cinderella.

What we have here is the kitchen maid dress under construction. I think it’s too long, it’s certainly too wide on the waist but I can gather it up a bit if needed.I have the circumference of the body right so I will leave it for now and finish the ball gown which needs 12 roses knitting each with two leaves. This really is the fun bit. And this is the book I read in a very short space of time, it’s so good.

If you are in the States I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, for the rest of us, may your Christmas crafting go well.

Joining with Kat and other knitters/readers here-http://askatknits.com/2022/11/23

Needlefelting a hare

Under my own steam I had tried needlefelting a hare, with pretty disastrous results, in that I produced a shape that looked well pretty gross. So I went to a needlefelting workshop to learn to do it properly. Instead of trying to mold a suitable body shape, we began with a wire frame, which we did have to create from scratch.We had a very good and talented teacher , just three in her studio, and we worked solidly for six hours. Result… Much Better.

Yes or No? I don’t think 3D needlefelting is for me, but never say never. I’ll stick with landscapes, this one created in a couple of hours at yet another worksop.

Not keen on the sky, but I do like the sparkly sea and the beach.

It’s just over a week since I felted the hare. My hands have nearly recovered, it was hard going. Six hours is sadly too long for me in a workshop. The little grey cells can’t cope.

What next I wonder?

Unraveled Wednesday.

And at last I have a finish.

Blue and white cardigan for my granddaughter Toddler P. Yes she is now 15 months old and very much a toddler and not a baby.The lady in the button shop didn’t approve of penquin buttons, feeling I should have gone for blue buttons, but my eye had fallen on the penquins, and so it was. And of course an outfit had to be bought to go with it.

After three sons, three grandsons and another granddaughter now very much in charge of choosing her own clothes I am so making the most of shopping for little girls. There’s a matching t shirt and tights with it too.

So now it’s full steam ahead on making the topsy turvy Cinderella doll for Toddler P.

At a most unfortunate stage for this post. That’s two heads joined together. Feel it might look even spookier when the faces are embroidered on, but the dresses are all ready to go, so lots of little bits from now on. Pure fun for me.

As to reading

and it’s just lovely. The second of the books I succumbed too in the library with Autumn in the title. And I was doing so well not reserving more books, but then the BBC started to show a new series of Between the Covers and I had to add some to the TBR lists, and before I knew what I was about I had ordered five other books from the TBR list from the library.

My grandchildren get stuck to computer screens when they need time out. At my great age I finally recognise, accept and even embrace that I need to be stuck in a book for my time out.

Please join Kat and others enjoying their time out with books and yarn- link here http://askatknits.com/2022/11/16/unraveled-wednesday-11-16-22

Scrap Happy- Nov. 22

I belong to an embroidery group with the U3A ( University of the Third Age). Apparently back in the days when I didn’t live here, the group decided to stitch individual pieces to display on occasions such as the Open Day when they seek to attract new members. Several hints were dropped that new members , like me, should stitch something too. We were shown the previous contributions and I realised I could do this. There was cross stitch, free stitch, machine embroidery, patchwork, but no appliqué or beading, and it occured to me that I had previously made a cushion for Miss F and the centre panel of that was perfect. Out came my scraps of pink fabric, colourful yarn and threads and beads, all leftover from previous projects.

Pink unicorn bondawebed to background.

Adding the frou frou! Design taken from the book shown.

Taking it to our leader this afternoon and hoping it meets the brief.

Joining with Kate and other bloggers to share their projects made from scraps, do pop over and have a look and maybe join us. Link here with all the details. https://talltalesfromchiconia.wordpress.com/

Happy scrappy crafting,

Cathy xx

Donkey Love.

Many moons ago when I was tooing froing to Leeds, I kept driving past a sign that said donkey sanctuary. I meant to go, but they didn’t open every day and I never got there. The main sanctuary was miles away in the West Country, and I started to support them, through donations, purchases of diaries and Christmas cards. At the end of October I went to stay for a couple of days with family in Cornwall, and realised with a short detour I could finally visit the donkey sanctuary at Sidmouth. Stand by for some aah pictures.

Most of them are rescue donkeys. Some go onto new homes, and some stay here.

All looking beautiful, clean and content. The occasional rescue donkey is already pregnant and gives birth safely in the sanctuary.They have fields to run in, and cuddles from the visitors if they choose to come to you. They have toys to play with and veterinary care. The charity also supports donkeys and mules around the world.

I just love them. Find them at https://thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk

I wondered what animals never fail to melt your heart.

Books-October 22

An excellent month for good books in which the skill of librarians defeats me.

Michael Robotham- The Suspect. A psychological thriller. I watched this on ITV as a six part series recently, and as I had read books by the same author decided to read this and decide which I preferred. Both are very good indeed, and the TV programme was pretty true to the book. A few details had been changed for a modern audience, so Jack in the programme actually had the nickname Jock in the book ,because he’s Scottish. Characters that are clearly white in the book have not been cast that way. The setting for the ending is different but plays out the same. I think that actually the programme setting is better, I also liked the way the Detective played a bigger role in the programme. I really like the quote from Linwood Barclay on the front cover…” Michael Robotham doesn’t just make me scared for his characters; he makes my heart ache for them” . I enjoyed both the programme and the book, but you probably don’t need to watch and read both, unless you’d like too.

Kate Ellis- The Flesh Tailor- Spooky book title hiding a perfectly ordinary murder mystery not gruesome at all. Early on you have the murder followed by the discovery of some very old skeletons at Tailors Court, which might be linked to tales of body-snatching by a rogue physician, hence the name Flesh Tailor. Didn’t see the ending, thoroughly good read if you like murder mysteries, frankly can’t think if anything more appropriate to October!

Patricia Macdonald- The Girl in the Woods- Fifteen years ago , Blair’s best friend Molly was murdered, and Adrian Jones wrongly convicted for it. A death bed confession from a witness leads to Blair setting out to find the real murderer. Pretty good read.

I fully appreciate I said I wasn’t going to request more library books so I could finish the ones I had . It has to be agreed that when it comes to books I have even less will power than I do for yarn, fabric and Liquorice Allsorts .On the plus side I haven’t actually requested more books, but by the self-service returns machine the staff have taken to making table displays, oh so tempting tables, including one that had been called Books with books within. I was undone… First one to catch my eye had featured on some of my favourite bookish blogs:-

Susan Wiggs- The Lost and Found Bookshop- I suppose you could almost call it an historical romance. I’m not a fan of romances, this one teeters’ on just the right side of not being nauseous . On the absolute plus side for me it’s set in San Francisco, in a bookshop. Now I’ve only been to the US three times, once to New York and twice to San Francisco , and I loved them both. So the setting was a huge plus, and I recognised some of the locations. Whilst there we had visited a second hand bookshop on Height Ashbury, and I had bought two Jack London books. White Fang gets a mention in this book.So I am totally sold on this novel. I just wish she had brought more of the historical mystery into the plot and less slush. Thoroughly enjoyable read, loved the reminders of two wonderful holidays, including the fleeting references to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite both of which we visited.

Rosamunde Pilcher- The Day of the Storm- Being the second book I chose of books set in a bookshop. Honestly the bookshop barely featured. This is a short novel and felt very familiar. Villa in Ibiza, grandfather who was an artist based in Cornwall, a painting pivotal to the plot, love interest etc. No scrubbed wooden table, but a kitchen table made an appearance! It was highly readable, and given that the storm in the title coincided with an horrendous downpour here, which I had to drive through with floods on the road, beating rain, headlights on, leaves swirling, branches breaking, etc. I was highly relieved to be home with a nice cup of Earl Grey tea, only to encounter another rainstorm in the book. Anyway a cosy read for a wet Autumn. I’m now tempted to read another book by the author to see if Ibiza and Cornwall crop up again.

Jessica Moor – Young Women- This was recommended by a fellow blogger, and was very good indeed. Oddly the cover would have put me off borrowing it, so I’m glad I reserved it and just collected it. Very much set in the present day and concerns issues of gender power dynamics, relationships and friendships. It helps me bridge the gap between life as I knew it in my 20’s and life for women in their 20’s now. I am not at all certain which, if I could, choose when to be in my 20’s. Each generation has its own conundrums to negotiate. I was very confused about one scene concerning swimming in a pond on Hampstead Heath with a lifeguard and changing rooms. It totally made no sense to me, so I googled it, and yes there is a female pond, a male pond and a family pond, each with changing rooms and lifeguard where you can wild swim on Hampstead Heath for less than £3 a session. Well who knew? I wonder has anyone actually been there?

Ann Cleeves- Silent Voices- being one of the Vera series. I have started to rewatch the Vera TV series, and knowing I had requested this one from the library I skipped it on the TV. I’m glad I did. The novel is a solid who dun it,full of twists and turns, lots of red herrings etc. Thoroughly enjoyable. Immediately I had finished it I watched the television programme for comparison. The First thing that struck me was two odd name changes- a policeman called Charlie in the book is Kenny in the programme and a wife of Vera’s sidekick is Sarah in the novel and Seline in the TV series. I struggle to understand that. The Shetland books on the BBC result in a six part series, whereas Vera on ITV is condensed to a two hour programme. This means that a lot of characters and settings are stripped away, with no slow build up , and the locations made more dramatic. Book and programme are both enjoyable. I found the book a more satisfying experience though. In a two hour programme you don’t get chance to engage with all the characters. Love to know other’s thoughts on this.

Claire Fuller-Swimming Lessons. The third book I chose with a bookshop/ book backdrop, and coincidently a swimming session in the ponds on Hampstead Heath. Maybe there is a rule that modern books must have swimming on the Heath. Anyway it was an enjoyable read, hard to pin down with a genre.. Bit of mystery, where is Flora’s mother Ingrid, why does her father have so many books, and what are the letters he is looking for? The narrative is told by Flora and alternatively by Ingrid. There is life, love, relationships, books, oh and letters.

As it so happens I stayed with my sister in law in Cornwall very recently. We fell to talking as you do, about the family, and it turns out my father in law kept a years worth of letters from his time as a mature student in the 60’s when he lived in Lancashire with my MIL and three children remaining down South. Now Mr E had clear recollections of this time, and was 10 at the time. Letters from them all were written every single week, and it is a truly wonderful family archive . Big brother K is angsting about homework and school, Mr E is totally obsessed with whatever project he was engrossed in,. cubs, football, model making, gardening etc… Little sister M dictated her letters to K who wrote her words down for her to copy.MIL writes of domestic matters and missing N… She writes in Greek for those bits! We had a wonderful time reminiscing and comparing what we knew of this time… How we were told, by those involved. I think it’s a shame people have stopped writing personal letters…

Anyway life imitating art coincidently. I use old photos as bookmarks, the ones that missed the albums, I find them in recipe books, art books, knitting books… Gradually I’m now displaying them on the fridge. The latest one I found yesterday was of my in laws and my middle son as a baby.

Which brings me to the end of this month’s books. Have you read any of them, what did you think? How well do books translate into programmes and films? Have you got any old treasured letters?

I returned most of these books as I finished them. The library display of books set within bookshops has gone.. It was replaced with books with Autumn in the title. Yes I succumbed to two of them. What am I like? The willpower of a gnat.

Balance- October

It’s been a simply glorious month, with many warm and sunny days. The trees have been spectacular in their Autumn colours. But now the wind and rain are blowing them off the branches, and even I can’t pretend it’s late Summer anymore. I had a birthday this month, one involving a big zero, and I have to accept that actually I too have reached Autumn. Inside as many have observed before I’m still 18. Outside …. well I see reality.

And the thing is you simply have to adapt. I get tired, I wake up in the night, I ache if I don’t think before I do something… In my case not to try to stretch for something, I have to move myself not stretch or the back says ouch. I can’t eat as much,I get that full feeling faster. As to alcohol, well I always was a lightweight, now more so. And if I have to concentrate on something important, say the tax stuff well I have to do it in the morning when I feel fresh.

No Spring Chicken more an old broiler!

When I chose Balance as my word for 2022 I was thinking of the balance I needed to strike as a new widow. How to care for myself , the home, sort everything out, live well etc. After a hot Summer in which I slept a lot and passed all of the remaining first anniversaries I came bouncing back, full pelt at life. This month I have wondered if I came roaring in too fast. It’s taken me a lot of effort to keep everything chugging along. So far I have managed it, mostly I think because October was a five weekend month, giving me catching up time. It’s been a great deal of fun, outings , grandchildren’s birthdays, interesting talks, a felt workshop, seeing Mary Poppins in the West End, and culminating in a visit to stay with relatives in Cornwall.

When I came home yesterday, it felt good to be back. By the end of this year I will have lived in this house by myself for longer than I did as part of a couple. It’s hard accepting that it’s OK for me to change the house to meet my changing needs, hard to accept I don’t need to feel quilty throwing away or giving away items I have no use for, and even harder to feel good when I break into song, do a jig around the kitchen and feel happy. Providing of course I don’t stretch too far!

It’s good to remember with love, it’s good to feel happy. It’s good to be coping by myself, maybe even finally acknowledging that I am fully grown up. It’s good to have family and friends, to seek and offer help,to live and be grateful for life, to be in balance however it may wobble along, and I do wobble! I suppose balance and wobble are part and parcel of life.

Meantime do follow the link to read how others who choose a word for 2022 have got on. Everyone writes very honestly and with great insight. Link here-https://youronewordblog.wordpress.com

Take care, and thank you for being here. Now I have some leaves to sweep.

Pre-Raphaelite exhibition

This exhibition is currently at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and as I was in need of some new black trousers and therefore a shop or two , I decided to make a day of it.

Entrance to the museum is free, but not to the exhibition.

According to the flier I picked up you have a rare chance to see the museum’s collection of works by William Morris, John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne- Jones, John Everett Milais, William Holman- Hunt and Elizabeth Siddal. What I loved about the exhibition was that you saw some of the preparatory studies for the famous paintings, including a sketch on the back of an old envelope. If only I could work my sketches on the back of envelopes into something that didn’t look like a sketch on the back of an old envelope.

You could take photos but no Flash but it was dimly lit in places, so I didn’t attempt a photograph. I regret not buying the catalogue, but have hopes they might have to reduce them in price after the show… So I got postcards instead.

Top left, A stream with large standing stone by John William Inchbold. I love the sky in this one. Wondering about trying it in needlefelt

Middle top – A view in Yorkshire by William Henry Milais. The museum would love to locate where in Yorkshire, I don’t recognise it. Bottom right of this one are some rather delicate foxgloves

Top right is by a lady, hurrah, Marie Spartali Stilman, Cloister Lilies. I love the dreamy quality of this painting, the background looks Mediterranean to my mind.

Bottom Left , Home from Sea by Arthur Hughes- apparently depicting the death of his Mum whilst he was away. The girl was added later, and is there to offer comfort. I just love churchyards. Can you spot the sheep, nature’s grass cutters.

Finally bottom right Old Barn at Whitchurch by George Price Boyce. Just love the details in this one, the pigs, horse and cart and the ox. I can really imagine that farm smell !

There were a few paintings of the Pre Raphaelite women on show, but it really was the landscapes that I spent a long time in front of, just looking and becoming immersed into the scene.

After this I was hungry… time for some red pepper and tomato soup with bread… Mmmmm

Out of the museum and past the Martys monument, dedicated to three Protestants put to death by Bloody Mary, daughter of Henry VIII

And to the shops where I failed to find trousers. Oh no I shall have to go shopping again.. I’ve heard of a very nice craft shop ….. no not crafts, TROUSERS .

I wonder if you enjoy art exhibitions and which artists you enjoy?

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