We are on holiday ….

….. in a part of the world that has inspired authors to read lovely books like these:


The will be days out, and there will be quiet days pottering about, when a certain amount of reading will be done.

A certain small, brown dog will have her own half acre of meadow.

She hopes that when she come home her promenade will be open again.

We’ll see you then!

More of my New Design for my Reading Life

I wrote a while ago that I’m aware that I’ve read less then I used to, and less than I might, and that I’ve been spending far too much time working on plans and lists, and hunting down books. I’m happy with the projects I have in place now, that I have the right balance of plans to give me direction and freedom to read what I want to read.

Now I need to address something more fundamental.

I live in a house full of books, many of them are unread, and the number unread – and the number of books I want to read again – is growing and growing.

That means I need a change in outlook.

I need to be more aware of the books that I have, the books that I do want to read, and be a little more patient when I find that there are more desirable books out there in the world.

I’m not going to give up new books, and I’m not going to read a book just because it’s here in the house, but I need to strike a better balance.

How do I do that?

* * * * * * *

Well, I’m accepting the Double Dog Dare from James Reads Books

All you have to do to win the TBR Double Dog Dare is to read only from your TBR pile between January 1 and April 1. You can still buy books, you just can’t read them until the TBR Double Dog Dare is over. You can make exceptions ….

tbr-dare-2014Here’s my plan.

For three months I will read:

  • Library books that were in the house on the first day of the new year.
  • Books that I owned on that same day.
  • Just the occasional review book, that I really want to read and will read straight away.
  • Books that I’m hoping might arrive on my birthday.

I’m going to find giving up the library trickier than giving up book buying, but I have a plan. The man in the house has agreed to take books back so that I won’t be tempted to borrow more, and I can’t resist a visit I’ll borrow books that I own or books that I’ve already read, just to help their statistics and support the library.

I’m not sure that I can do this, but I have to try. I’m going to take it one month at a time and see what happens …..

* * * * * * *

I’m making some specific plans for books on my shelves too.

Amanda at Simpler Pastimes has a Classics Children Literature Event next month.

2015_childrens_lit_originalI have some interesting possibilities:

The Young Pretenders by Edith Henrietta Fowler (1895)

The Children Who Lived in a Barn by Eleanor Graham (1938)

Mermaid House by Gwendoline Courtney (1953)

An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden (1956)

Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge (1964)

And there are one or two more events I have books ready for a little further ahead ….

* * * * * * *

And I know that there are one or two other things I can do – I’m not going to talk about them now, they’ll happen as and when – to try to make sure that I’m choosing the best books to read from the ones on my shelves and the ones out there in the big wide world.

That’s all I want to do ….

A New Design for a Reading Life

I have read many wonderful books this year, but something has gone wrong.

tumblr_lwvmyjdxHY1qz71rio1_400I’m aware that I’ve read less then I used to, and less than I might, and that I’ve been spending far too much time working on plans and lists, and hunting down books.

I will always love a project, I will always follow the links from book to book, but I need to do things differently so that my plans and projects are working for me, making sure I continue to read the authors I love, guiding me towards new possibilities, and making sure that my reading time really is reading time.

I’ve been through a lot of ideas over the last few weeks and now I think I have a plan.

* * * * * * *

I’ve ditched my 100 Years of Books project.

Reading the 20th Century was lovely – and I don’t rule out doing it again one day – but the 1850  to 1949 century wasn’t working.  Huge numbers of books congregated in some years and other years offered nothing at all. And suddenly every book that called me was either too late or too early.

So out it goes.

* * * * * * *

My Non Fiction Adventure stays, a list of books that I want to read and I’m allowed to alter.

I’ve read almost entirely fiction – and knitting books – this year , and the non fiction is piling up.

* * * * * * *

I’ve rebuilt my Classics Club list, around the books I’ve read since the club began. The books that were there just because I ought to read them and the books that I’ve lost interest in have gone; and the books I forgot and the books that I’ve discovered since I made my first list have arrived.

It’s still one book for author so that The Classics Club can introduce – and re-introduce – me to as many authors as possible.

I’ll follow up the ones I love; I’ve been doing that since the start.

I think – I hope – that these are the right classics for me:

  1. The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox (1752)
  2. Emmeline by Charlotte Turner Smith (1788)
  3. A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe (1790)
  4. A Simple Story by Elizabeth Inchbold (1791)
  5. The Coquette by Hannah W Foster (1797)
  6. The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott (1816)
  7. The Collegians by Gerard Griffin (1829)
  8. Helen by Maria Edgworth (1834)
  9. Old Goriot by Honore Balzac (1835)
  10. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
  11. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (1848)
  12. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery (1848)
  13. The Morgesons by Elizabeth Stoddard (1852)
  14. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1852)
  15. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853)
  16. Villette by Charlotte Bronte (1853)
  17. The Daisy Chain by Charlotte M Yonge (1856)
  18. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857)
  19. Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot (1857)
  20. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1859)
  21.  Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade (1861)
  22. Henry Dunbar by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1864)
  23. Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu (1864)
  24. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (1865)
  25. The Fortunes of the Rougons by Emile Zola (1871)
  26. Hester by Margaret Oliphant (1873)
  27. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)
  28. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877)
  29. The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green (1878)
  30. Moths by Ouida (1880)
  31. Belinda by Rhoda Broughton (1883)
  32. Bel-ami by Guy Maupassant (1885)
  33. La Regenta by Leopoldo Atlas (1885)
  34. Thyrza by George Gissing (1887)
  35. Eline Vere by Louis Couperus (1889)
  36. The Real Charlotte by Somerville & Ross(1889)
  37. Esther Waters by George Moore (1894)
  38. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane (1896)
  39. The Beth Book by Sarah Grand (1897)
  40. Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim (1898)
  41. Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley (1899)
  42. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905)
  43. Fidelity by Susan Glaspell (1915)
  44. Cullum by E Arnot Robinson (1920)
  45. Kristin Lavransdattir by Sigrid Undset (1922)
  46. Anderby Wold by Winifred Holtby (1923)
  47. The Home-maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1924)
  48. The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy (1924)
  49. The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham (1925)
  50. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928)
  51. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sea by Patrick Hamilton (1935)
  52. The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann (1936)
  53. Mariana by Monica Dickens (1940)
  54. Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden (1947)
  55. One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes (1947)
  56. The Far Cry by Emma Smith (1949)
  57. The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay (1950)
  58. A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Tayor (1951)
  59. Fenny by Lettice Cooper (1953)
  60. The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West (1957)

* * * * * * *

I ‘m working out the details of  a brand new project too.

There is no list – this time the project builds the list.

It’s called The Remember This Book List and I want it to be a home for the lesser-known older books that I love and that I don’t want to be forgotten.

I think I know how it will work, but I want to make sure before I explain.

* * * * * * *

Suggestions would be very welcome. And please do tell me about your own plans, and how you organise your reading life.

Weather, Work and Words …..

This was our promenade a century or so ago:

The Rain It Raineth by Norman Garstin

The Rain It Raineth by Norman Garstin

* * * * * * *

These days it’s considerably wetter and windier, and we’ve been warned not to expect things to get better, save the odd calm day between storms, until March. It’s calm tonight but the next storm is due this time tomorrow…..

But let’s not talk about the weather, because we’ve been luckier than many.

Though a certain small dog is displeased that the ground is so waterlogged that it’s impossible to bounce tennis balls for her …..

The Classics Club Spin has been very kind to me this time around – I have been spun ‘Black Narcissus’ by Rumer Godden. I love the film, I have been meaning to read the book for ages, and I think it gives me legitimate grounds for replacing my tatty old copy with a lovely new Virago edition.

But I have been somewhat distracted by work. I still love my job, but I have been dealing with ridiculously tight year end deadlines, the retirement of an experienced colleague, picking up some of his duties, and saying goodbye to old owners who have sold us and hello to new owners. I hope that things will settle down in a few weeks.

As a result there hasn’t been too much reading. I did finish Samantha Ellis’s ‘How to be a Heroine’ and I loved it, so I’m going to wait until my head is a little less cluttered. And now I’m re-reading ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ by Penelope Farmer.

But I’ve been listening more than reading, to ‘The Thirteenth Tale’ by Diane Setterfield, read by Jenny Agutter. I  liked BBC dramatization, and I think it would be fair to say that it was as good as it could be given that it was squeezed into an hour and a half. But it made me want to go back to the book and remember all of the bits that were left out, and I saw a mention of the audiobook somewhere, I checked the library catalogue and there it was …..

It’s lovely seeing all of the signs, enjoying all of the details, and though I have noticed a few weaknesses this time around, the strengths outweigh them. The dramatization did lose the wonderful bookishness of the book.

I’ve not been a great lover of audiobooks in the past, but life has changed over the last few years and now I’m appreciating being able to read while I knit or while I do things around the house.

This month’s knitting project has been using up half a dozen balls of green wool in two similar shades. I’ve just finished a hat and I’m two-thirds of the way through a scarf. I put it down to knit the hat, so now I can carry on with the scarf until there’s no more yarn.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’m wondering about Audible, because the library is heavy on Dickens and Austen but rather light on many of the other classics I’d like to hear read. I’ve read some very positive comments about Timothy West’s reading of Trollope …..

I’ve been wondering for a couple of days of my time for doing this was coming to an end. On balance, I don’t think it is, but I do need to step away from the computer for a while and catch up with myself.

So things may be quiet for a few days but I’m still here.

There are far too many books – old and new – that I so want to read and write about.


A Human Blogs: Diary of a Stormy Night

Well, it’s the morning after the night before and we’re all still here in one piece, the house is still in one piece too, but it’s been one of the wildest nights on the prom in living memory.

This morning we have a run of the mill stormy day, but this is our story of yesterday.

The morning was fine, but we knew it was the calm before the storm.

(This was taken from across the bay some time before high tide - our house is hidden by the wave.)

(This was taken from across the bay some time before high tide – our house is hidden by the wave.)


3.30pm – Looking out of my office wondow, began to notice the wind through the trees increasing, and I knew that would just be the start.

4.15pm – One of my collegues had the radio on in the workshop, and he told me the the prmenade was closing at six – a full two hours before high tide – and that there were a couple of trees down in the road between here and town. I worked out the possibilities for getting home via the back roads.

5.00pm – I set out and the roads were clear but the road around the harbour was already closed – I wouldn’t have used it any way in such a wind – and I joined the queue to get home around the back of town. Progress was slow but steady. When we weren’t moving the wind shook the car, which was unnerving.

5.30pm – I arrived in the car park, but the wind on the short walk home was the strongest I had ever been out in. I borrowed a trick from Briar – deep breath, head down, and forward – but I was genuinely worried that I would lose my footing. I didn’t, but I was more scared than I’ve been in a storm before.

6.00pm – We watched the news headlines – which didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know. We could hear the wind, we could hear the rain, waves were coming right up, and the water level in the garden was slowly rising. But there was nothing more we could do, and so we settled down to eat .

6.45pm – We were all lined up on the sofa, waiting for the local weather forecast. And then the lights went out. Looking out of the window we could see that our terrace and the next were in darkness, but there was light further along the road. We lit candles, and we were very thankful to have a gas aga. Briar assumed that it was bedtime, and curled up to sleep on a cushion.

7.00pm – We heard a drip, and we realised that water was coming in through the frame of the downstairs bay window. After a short period of panic I deployed the preserving pan and the lid of Briar’s toy box to catch the drips. And then we realised we had a similar problem in the porch, We lined the floor with old sheets and towels, but at that point we were really worried, because we were still a way from high tide.

7.15pm – I checked the upstairs bay window, and that was fine, so I came downstairs and watched the water pouring off the gutters.

7.30pm – We realised that the storm was easing. Just a little, but at that stage a little was enough. It was still wild, but the gutters weren’t overflowing and the dripping had stopped.

8.00pm – I-Spy by candlelight.

8.30pm – The tide was dropping and though it was still wild we were relieved that we had passed what might have been crisis point.

8.45pm – I realised that without my modem I had no broadband, and I also realised that I should have brought a Kindle with a light.But we had a round of naming songs with questions for titles, songs with instructions for titles, songs about boats ….

9.30pm – The lights came on. And then they went off again.

10.15pm – We decided to settle down for the night, because we knew we could be woken early before the next high tide in the morning.

10.30pm – The light came back, and it stayed back. Hooray for Western Power!

And then we slept …..

I’m at work now, I’m hoping for some light to read by tonight, and then we’ll get the house straight and get ready for the next round of storms that we’ve been promised.

Tomorrow …

….. will be my mother’s 80th birthday.

The birthday cardigan has been knitted and wrapped.

2013-11-27_18-32-31_240This year we took Heidi Kirrmaier’s lovely pattern Rocky Road and we tweaked it just a little. Instead of three patterns repeated in bands we made every band different, and my mum picked the patterns she liked from a stitch directory. She loved that, it gave her a real involvement, and it sparked some lovely conversations when she was sitting in the lounge.

And she picked the yarn, RYC Cotton jeans in a lovely marled shade of blue. It’s the nicest cotton I have ever knit with and though the pattern doesn’t pop as it might, I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing. It means that it’s not a ‘look at me’ cardigan, but knitters will spot the details ….

(One day I’ll get a decent camera and I won’t be rushing around at last minute to get a picture, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

An announcement has appeared in our local paper, with a photograph of my mum and Briar that she particularly likes. I’ve hung a pinboard in her room and put up some nice family photographs, and every time I see her in her room she points to that one and tells me what a good picture it is. So that one and her wedding picture stay, and I change the others from time to time.

untitledFlowers have been ordered, because she has always loved them, and because I notice that she is always very aware of the things around her, and because I know she will still appreciate that ‘specialness’ of having flowers delivered.

And I have taken the day off so we can visit in the morning, because I know that’s the time of day when she’s at her brightest.

I think that’s the nicest birthday I can make for her.

I miss the days when we had birthdays at home. She loved an old fashioned high tea and a special cake, and I can still picture her sitting at the aga room table grinning from ear to ear.

And visiting a nursing home – however good the nursing home is – is just a visit, it’s not the same as being a family at home.

I miss the days when she would remember. Moving to a nursing home was the right thing, she needed the support, and in a strange way she’s more herself now she’s been freed from day to day concerns. Even though the dementia often leaves her confused, even though she’ll forgets so quickly.

I’m luckier than some daughters though, because she remembers me, she’s always pleased to see me, and she trusts me to remember things for her.

And I can still make happy moments, and I that think they stick, that the warmth lingers even if the memories that created don’t.


A Dog Blogs: One New Home, Two Anniversaries, and a Lot of Books …


Hello. It’s me – Briar!

Can you see me in the long grass? I like sitting in long grass, especially when it’s hot.

Today I am here to address the world, on behalf of my family.

First I must say thank you, to so many people who have sent kind and thoughful comments and messages after our last post. It helped us a lot, and Mother would have been very touched too if she understood about computer boxes and all the lovely people we meet through them.

We have done a lot of rushing around, going to meetings and assessments and visiting homes. I didn’t go to all of them, but Jane took me when she could because I have made lots of friends in mother’s nursing home and I wanted to be there for them.

The move is not going to be a good thing for anybody, but things seem to be working out as well as they could have:

  • The lady on the mobility scooter did get the very last place, and she will still be able to go on her scooter to see her husband. We were there when she heard and there were lots of happy tears.
  • The very frail lady will be moving to a specialist home not too far away. She has a nice big family, and we know that they will do their very best for her.
  • The lady with lots of memories is moving to a home on the coast that we know is very nice. She is coming to terms with things, and she was very pleased to hear that a nice friend of mother’s lives there too.

I will miss them, and all of the others, and the staff.

But mother is in her new home now. She moved yesterday. The staff from her old home took her, and the staff at her new home are going to a lot of trouble to help her settle in. Jane saw that it was a cosy, friendly home when she went to see it, and it should suit Mother very well, but moving is a very big thing.

Jane realised that she had to step back, to give mother the best chance of settling into her new home and building relationships with the other residents and with the staff looking after her. But she made sure that everyone know that they could ring her, and that she could come out to see Mother if they thought that would be helpful.

We rang last night and they said she had settled in nicely during the day, but she was a bit confused when it was evening and she was going to bed there. It is worrying, but we have to trust in the home. They are expert in looking after people, wheras we are just expert in knowing Mother.

It was Mother’s 53rd wedding anniversary yesterday. We still celebrate it, because her wedding was a happy day, and because she married the right person and they were very happy. It’s just sad that he has been gone a long time. So we usually do things quietly, with a candle and a glass of wine and looking at old photograph. Mother has many sad days, because her parents, her brothers, her husband and her son are all gone. So we try to make as many happy days as we can for her.

But this year we missed it for the first time. She has lost track of times and dates, so Jane thought it best to let it go.

It was our half anniversary too. Me and Jane and my Uncle Buggy. We met on 6th February 2006, and it was all thanks to me.

I was a very small puppy, and all my innoculations hadn’t kicked in so I wasn’t allowed to go out and walk on the ground. But Jane carried me to lots of places so that I could see what the world was like, and get used to people and traffic and noise and things.

We found Uncle Buggy in the Morrab Gardens. He stopped to admire me, because I was a very cute puppy and he didn’t know what sort I was. He didn’t know what a border terrier was back then, but I have taught him all about us since.

Jane had to go to work in the day, but we had an anniversary jaunt to the woods in the evening.

And now we are trying to get back into a normal routine after all the upset with nursing homes and carpenters and plumbers. It had been quite a few weeks.

Mother will have her weekend visit and I will have to look for some new dog walks near her new home.

And Jane will be back to tell you about books soon. She has done a lot of readin in between times, and when it is too hot to walk far in the evenings we go to the garden and sit in the shade. I watch the world go by, and she reads.

She has to tell you about two green Virago books, a book by the sister of a Virago author, a book by an out of print author who kept coming up as a recommendation, and a couple of new novels.

And she’s still reading more books! It’s ‘All Virago All August’ over on LibraryThing. We can’t quite do that, but we are going to do ‘Very Virago All August’. Lots of Viragos and a few other things too.

And I will be back soon too.

I have plans for another round of my game …