Writing Women … Then and Now …

I’ve had wonderful luck in recent years browsing the library’s reserve fiction stock. I’ve found out of print works by authors I’d discovered thanks to Virago and Persephone, I’ve found books that had been reprinted but I couldn’t quite justify buying,  I’ve found books that I read about in books like Nicola Beauman’s ‘A Very Great Profession’, and I’ve found books just by random luck and following links.

A few days ago I ordered up the first volume of the Lucy Maud Montgomery’s journals, and while I was there I thought I’d check a few other authors who would work for my Canadian reading challenge. I searched for Margaret Lawrence, a Canadian author from the Virago Modern Classics list, and I found a title I didn’t know that intrigued me. It was a book titled ‘We Write as Women’ that had been published in 1937. I placed my order.

Today I picked the book up, and I decided that I had found a gem.

Here’s the first paragraph:

“Sappho wrote her beautiful lines, and then there was a long silence. It was a silence broken here and there by the letters women wrote, and the diaries they kept, but these were personal, and so we do not have them to show as the writing of women. The little songs that were made to sing to children, the little phrases made to say to a lover, all of these were the very fabric of a woman’s expression of herself, but they could not be kept as literature. They were too fleeting. They were like prayers, something a woman who would not put them down to show. But there must have been many of them.”

This words gave me hope that there was a wonderful journey in front of me. And when I saw the author’s name in the table of contents I knew that there was.

The early selections were obvious: Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot …. but I loved seeing George Eliot described thus: ‘Who sat like the recording angel and wrote.’

And then I spotted twenty-two – yes twenty-two – authors from the Virago Modern Classics list.

How many of then do you recognise I wonder?

1 Women Who Write

Among the others I found familiar names – Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Pearl Buck. I found others I have in my sights – Sylvia Thompson, Clemence Dane, Phyllis Bottome. And I found just a few new names to investigate – Mary Borden, Beatrice Kean Seymour, Margaret Goldsmith.

And I should tell you the names of those Virago authors. I found that some faces were familiar but others I knew not at all. From the top:

G B Stern
Margaret Kennedy
E H Young
May Sinclair
Sylvia Townsend Warner

Kate O’Brien
Dorothy Richardson
Dorothy Canfield
Rosamond Lehmann
Winifred Holtby
E M Delafield

Willa Cather
Daphne Du Maurier
Rebecca West
Naomi Mitchison
Edith Wharton
Vita Sackville-West

Katharine Mansfield
Mary Webb
Rose Macaulay
Olive Schreiner
Radclyffe Hall

And now I realise that Storm Jameson was in there too. No slight was intended, far from it, and here she is:

storm-jameson-1

Now at this point I had planned to write that it was wonderful to think that the authors celebrated and the author celebrating them had been brought together again by Virago decades later. But those who know their Canadain woman authors better that I do will have spotted my mistake.

The Virago author I was thinking of was Margaret Laurence not Margaret Lawrence. And she was born in 1926 and so it’s unlikely she would have published a work like this at the age of eleven!

There’s a more recent author called Margaret Lawrence, but this book is too early for her, and so I have no idea who this Margaret Lawrence is. I might do a little more digging, or I might not, but I think I’ll begin working my way through her book.

I may be some time, because I have a feeling it’s going to inspire me to pluck any number of books from my shelves along the way, but I’ve ordered a copy to keep.

Because I’m still thrilled I found so many wonderful woman authors being celebrated in the same book!

I didn’t mean to disappear…

… but once the initial euphoria of having a job again wore off I was beset by doubts.

Could I juggle everything. A full-time job, a dog, a mother in a nursing home, a life, a blog …

I retreated for a while, and I spent my evenings just reading and listening to music. New music, found via the lovely medium of artist radio on last.fm.

And after a few days I realised that I had to do this. That I had to sing the praises of the lovely books I’m reading. As soon as I stopped thinking about what I would write the words and the ideas began to form in my head again, quite naturally.

I just need to find a little more self-belief, and maybe to think as little bit less.

Things may be a little quieter than they were, but I’m still here.

I have a plan for next week. And here it is, interspersed with some of the things I’ve been listening to.

Monday: A novel published last year, that spins around an early twentieth century icon to tell the tale of a very different woman who crossed her path. It was very nearly perfect …


Three sisters from Watford offered up the first new piece of music that caught my ear. It seemed very timely, and now it is lodged in my head …

Tuesday: An extraordinary work of non fiction: London at war brought to life through the the letters, diaries and fiction of five remarkable writers. I can’t find the word to explain how wonderful this is yet, but I will …

I was on the other side of the room when I heard a voice coming out of my computer, and I was smitten …

Wednesday: Briar returns, with another game of guessing the blogger from five of their books…

I thought this was going to be a little too folky for me, but I was charmed. And The Leisure Society sound rather like Belle and Sebastian in their more up-tempo moments, and that has to be a good thing …

Thursday: A first encounter with a familiar name from the early part of the twentieth century, that left me eager to read more of his work but uncertain about what I should read next …

I loved Natasha Khan’s first record, I was a little less taken with her second, and her third passed me by. Until I heard this …

Friday: A gothic romance from the seventies, set in Cornwall. The perfect book for a cold, damp, dark night like tonight. Unless I change my mind, and pick up another book, of course …

Turn of the Century Salon: An Introduction

turnofcenturysalon

This was to be my year of not joining things, but an invitation to the Turn of the Century Salon was simply too lovely to resist.

“I love it when I find out authors I’ve read or know of were friends/acquaintances with each other, perhaps they wrote letters, were friends since childhood, or formed a literary group. Oh, to be a guest at one of those gatherings. Imagining it becomes terribly exciting! But the next best things is to group up and share our thoughts, impressions, and enthusiasm with each-other on the works of these inspiring Classic authors.

It’s lovely to be at the start of a year long event focusing on novels written during the late 1880s and early 1930s.

And it’s only polite to start with introductions, with answers to a few questions put forward by our hostess …

What draws you to read the Classics?

There are many reasons, but for me at this point in my life the most important one is this:

The Classics are a bridge linking me with my past. My mother is frail now, but she still loves talking about the classic novels she read when she was at college, and she still loves to hear about what I’m reading.  We often wonder if her mother read some of the books I’ve read from the first half of the twentieth century. We know what my grandfather read, because we still have books of his by Dickens, Thackery, and Scott; and so, even though he died when my mother was seven years-old, those books tie us together.

What era have you mainly read? Georgian? Victorian? Which authors?

I began with the Victorians, and though I have neglected them a little in recent years, I think they will probably always have first claim on my heart. I began with Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, the Bronte sisters. I have come to love Charles Dickens, Emile Zola, Elizabeth Gaskell. And I hope that this might be my year to build a relationship with Anthony Trollope.

I’m less fond of the Regency: the only author I’ve fallen in love with there has been Jane Austen.

And I feel at home in the early years of the twentieth century. Especially with books by Edith Wharton and Willa Cather.

 •What Classics have you read from the 1880s-1930s? What did you think of them?

I’ll just mention half a dozen books that I love, and could happily read over and over again:

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (1886)
Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim (1898)
Miss Cayley’s Adventures by Grant Allen (1899)
A Room With a View by E M Forster (1908)
The City of Beautiful Nonsense by E Temple Thurston (1910)
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West (1918)

Name some books you’re looking forward to read for the salon.

My plans aren’t fixed, and I hope to be inspired along the way, but here are half a dozen books from my own shelves that I’d love to read:

The Odd Women by George Gissing (1893)
Liza of Lambeth by W Somerset Maugham (1897)
Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley (1899)
The Book of Months by E F Benson (1903)
The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson-Burnett (1907)
Fidelity by Susan Glaspell (1915)

Which authors do you hope to learn more about?

There are so many, but I’d particularly like to re-read Colette, and to read more about her.

Which literary characters are you most akin to?

The Dormouse from Alice in Wonderland …..

Is your preference prose? poetry? both?

Both!

Work, Commuting, and a Poem From The Underground

Tomorrow I have a new job, and for the first time in around eight years I won’t be able to walk to work. It won’t be a bad trip – just a couple of miles in the car, out of town to a nice modern building on an industrial estate – and I could walk it, but not each way every day.

But a  certain book that has been sitting on our dining table for a while now, a lovely new edition of Poems on the Underground, reminded me of past journeys to work that I remember with some fondness.I’m recalling a time when I was living in North London, in Queensbury, which was (and I’m sure still is) near the end of the Jubilee Line. That meant that I always got a seat and so I could sit and read happily all the way to Charing Cross. Then I just had a five-minute walk, across Trafalgar Square and up St Martin’ Lane to my desk.

The journey took a certain amount of time, but I got so much reading done.

I’ve written before about browsing and buying in Charing Cross Road in my lunch breaks. What I haven’t confessed before is that there were times when I headed into the Charing Cross branch of Waterstones on the way home as well. Not too often, but often enough.

And with Charing Cross being at the very end of the Jubilee Line I almost always got a seat for the journey home. And that was more reading done.

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. I can forget the disrupted journeys, the early starts and late nights, but I can remember the wealth of book shops and the regular blocks of guilt free reading time …

I realise now that I have the book that I must have missed many Poems on the Underground, poems where  advertisements would usually be, when my nose was stuck firmly in a book.

This is one of them that caught my eye.

Sonnet XLIII by Edna St Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

* * * * *

I didn’t discover Edna St Vincent Millay until a few years after I left London, but now I love her.

So it is worth looking up from your book from time to time to see what you can see in the world around you.

And it’s always worth looking in poetry anthologies, because you might just find the poem or the poet you didn’t know you was missing from your life.

A New Home for Old Books

Starting next week, I shall be working out of town Monday to Friday, and I suspect that my Saturdays will be divided between my mother’s nursing home, my two libraries and doggy time. That’s not going to leave me much time for trawling through charity shops and second-hand bookshops for lost gems, so it was particularly lovely to find two caches of bookish treasure today.

The first was a short line of green Penguins.

haul1

I spotted Murder Included by Joanna Cannan first, instantly registering the name of a Persephone author. Murder at a family run country house hotel and stables sounded a fine prospect.

Then I noticed two titles by J C Masterman: An Oxford Tragedy and The Case of Four Friends. Two murder mysteries set in Oxford colleges, and  notice that Karen thought very highly of the one she read.

And the last one I picked up was The Follower by Patrick Quentin, the story of one man’s search for his missing wife. It’s a collaboration between two authors, and that’s something that always intrigued me.

I also spotted The Haunted House by Virginia Woolf, a 1944 collection of short stories. It was 1970s edition, not numbered bit very pretty, and when I realised I had none of Mrs Woolf’s short stories on my shelves I had to bring it home.

I left a few books behind; one that I already had and a couple by crime writers still in print. Much as I like early Penguins I’m not really collecting them, I’m just picking up the out of print titles and authors that look interesting. Though I would like to arrange my numbered Penguins in numerical order one day …

I noticed with these four that the title on the spine read from bottom to top on the earlier numbers and from top to bottom on the later numbers. When did that change I wonder?

Those finds alone would have made my day, but I found more. There was a table-top sale in another charity shop. somebody had left a large collection of poetry, literary criticism, and sprinkling of good quality fiction and non fiction from the early to mid 20th century. All at £1 per book! So of course I had a very thorough look, and I picked up a few more books to bring home.

haul2

I hadn’t heard of Beatrice Chase or of her novel Lady Avis Trewithen, but I picked the book up because it sounded like a local name. The subtitle ‘A Romance of Dartmoor’, a signature from the author, and a nicely written first page said to me that it was worth taking a chance.

Then there was The Indomitable Mrs Trollope by Eileen Biglund. I’ve been meaning to find out a little about Fanny Trollope (mother of Anthony) for ages and this looks lovely. It’s a biography, but it reads like fiction. And it’s a Tauchnitz Edition. Tauchnitz is a name with a wonderful history in publishing, and had authors including Elizabeth Goudge, Daphne Du Maurier, Elizabeth Taylor, and Margery Sharp in the same series. Which has to be a good sign, doesn’t it?!

Then there were a couple of blue Penguins. Edward Lear by Angus Davidson, because I realised I knew nothing of the man beyond his verse, and the chapter headings suggest that he travelled widely and mixed in some very interesting literary and artistic circles. And I had to pick up As We Were by E F Benson too.

A pretty hardback edition of Rhoda Fleming by George Meredith came home, because I have heard much praise for the author but I had never heard of this book.

And I pounced on Orphan Island by Rose Macaulay. It’s the story of a governess shipwrecked with a boat-load of orphans, and of their descendants who are found by travellers seven years later, and I’m anticipating a fine story, much humour, and quite probably some satire too.

My last pick was a biography of Wilkie Collins by Kenneth Robinson. I’ve never found a good biography of Collins, though I must admit I haven’t looked that hard.  This one dates from the early fifties, it once belonged to the library of Kings College London, and it looks solid, though maybe not spectacular.

And that was it. All old, most out of print, but those are the books that I tend to buy. The ones that probably won’t be in the library, and that I may not see again.

Usually they turn up her and there in ones and twos. Days like this are rare.

Do you know any of these books I wonder?

Just one more thing That I must mention: there was a side-effect to this burst of book buying. It confirmed my feeling that I want to rein in my library borrowing and read more of my own books. And I know now how I’m going to do it. But this post is probably long enough already, so I shall set out my plan on a day or two …

New Year’s Eve: A Waking Dream

dark-night-full-moon

I have not any fearful tale to tell
Of fabled giant or of dragon-claw,
Or bloody deed to pilfer and to sell
To those who feed, with such, a gaping maw;
But what in yonder hamlet there befell,
Or rather what in it my fancy saw,
I will declare, albeit it may seem
Too simple and too common for a dream.

Two brothers were they, and they sat alone
Without a word, beside the winter’s glow;
For it was many years since they had known
The love that bindeth brothers, till the snow
Of age had frozen it, and it had grown
An icy-withered stream that would not flow;
And so they sat with warmth about their feet
And ice about their hearts that would not beat.

And yet it was a night for quiet hope:-
A night the very last of all the year
To many a youthful heart did seem to ope
An eye within the future, round and clear;
And age itself, that travels down the slope,
Sat glad and waiting as the hour drew near,
The dreamy hour that hath the heaviest chime,
Jerking our souls into the coming time.

But they!-alas for age when it is old!
The silly calendar they did not heed;
Alas for age when in its bosom cold
There is not warmth to nurse a bladed weed!
They thought not of the morrow, but did hold
A quiet sitting as their hearts did feed
Inwardly on themselves, as still and mute
As if they were a-cold from head to foot.

O solemn kindly night, she looketh still
With all her moon upon us now and then!
And though she dwelleth most in craggy hill,
She hath an eye unto the hearts of men!
So past a corner of the window-sill
She thrust a long bright finger just as ten
Had struck, and on the dial-plate it came,
Healing each hour’s raw edge with tender flame.

There is a something in the winds of heaven
That stirreth purposely and maketh men;
And unto every little wind is given
A thing to do ere it is still again;
So when the little clock had struck eleven,
The edging moon had drawn her silver pen
Across a mirror, making them aware
Of something ghostlier than their own grey hair.

Therefore they drew aside the window-blind
And looked upon the sleeping town below,
And on the little church which sat behind
As keeping watch upon the scanty row
Of steady tombstones-some of which inclined
And others upright, in the moon did show
Like to a village down below the waves-
It was so still and cool among the graves.

But not a word from either mouth did fall,
Except it were some very plain remark.
Ah! why should such as they be glad at all?
For years they had not listened to the lark!
The child was dead in them!-yet did there crawl
A wish about their hearts; and as the bark
Of distant sheep-dog came, they were aware
Of a strange longing for the open air.

Ah! many an earthy-weaving year had spun
A web of heavy cloud about their brain!
And many a sun and moon had come and gone
Since they walked arm in arm, these brothers twain!
But now with tim餠pace their feet did stun
The village echoes into quiet pain:
The street appear餠very short and white,
And they like ghosts unquiet for the light.

‘Right through the churchyard,’ one of them did say
-I knew not which was elder of the two-
‘Right through the churchyard is our better way.’
‘Ay,’ said the other, ‘past the scrubby yew.
I have not seen her grave for many a day;
And it is in me that with moonlight too
It might be pleasant thinking of old faces,
And yet I seldom go into such places.’

Strange, strange indeed to me the moonlight wan
Sitting about a solitary stone!
Stranger than many tales it is to scan
The earthy fragment of a human bone;
But stranger still to see a grey old man
Apart from all his fellows, and alone
With the pale night and all its giant quiet;
Therefore that stone was strange and those two by it.

It was their mother’s grave, and here were hid
The priceless pulses of a mother’s soul.
Full sixty years it was since she had slid
Into the other world through that deep hole.
But as they stood it seemed the coffin-lid
Grew deaf with sudden hammers!-’twas the mole
Niddering about its roots.-Be still, old men,
Be very still and ye will hear again.

Ay, ye will hear it! Ye may go away,
But it will stay with you till ye are dead!
It is but earthy mould and quiet clay,
But it hath power to turn the oldest head.
Their eyes met in the moon, and they did say
More than a hundred tongues had ever said.
So they passed onwards through the rapping wicket
Into the centre of a firry thicket.

It was a solemn meeting of Earth’s life,
An inquest held upon the death of things;
And in the naked north full thick and rife
The snow-clouds too were meeting as on wings
Shorn round the edges by the frost’s keen knife;
And the trees seemed to gather into rings,
Waiting to be made blind, as they did quail
Among their own wan shadows thin and pale.

Many strange noises are there among trees,
And most within the quiet moony light,
Therefore those aged men are on their knees
As if they listened somewhat:-Ye are right-
Upwards it bubbles like the hum of bees!
Although ye never heard it till to-night,
The mighty mother calleth ever so
To all her pale-eyed children from below.

Ay, ye have walked upon her paven ways,
And heard her voices in the market-place,
But ye have never listened what she says
When the snow-moon is pressing on her face!
One night like this is more than many days
To him who hears the music and the bass
Of deep immortal lullabies which calm
His troubled soul as with a hushing psalm.

I know not whether there is power in sleep
To dim the eyelids of the shining moon,
But so it seemed then, for still more deep
She grew into a heavy cloud, which, soon
Hiding her outmost edges, seemed to keep
A pressure on her; so there came a swoon
Among the shadows, which still lay together
But in their slumber knew not one another.

But while the midnight grop餠for the chime
As she were heavy with excess of dreams,
She from the cloud’s thick web a second time
Made many shadows, though with minished beams;
And as she look餠eastward through the rime
Of a thin vapour got of frosty steams,
There fell a little snow upon the crown
Of a near hillock very bald and brown.

And on its top they found a little spring,
A very helpful little spring indeed,
Which evermore unwound a tiny string
Of earnest water with continual speed-
And so the brothers stood and heard it sing;
For all was snowy-still, and not a seed
Had struck, and nothing came but noises light
Of the continual whitening of the night.

There is a kindness in the falling snow-
It is a grey head to the spring time mild;
So as the creamy vapour bow餠low
Crowning the earth with honour undefiled,
Within each withered man arose a glow
As if he fain would turn into a child:
There was a gladness somewhere in the ground
Which in his bosom nowhere could be found!

Not through the purple summer or the blush
Of red voluptuous roses did it come
That silent speaking voice, but through the slush
And snowy quiet of the winter numb!
It was a barren mound that heard the gush
Of living water from two fountains dumb-
Two rocky human hearts which long had striven
To make a pleasant noise beneath high heaven!

Now from the village came the onward shout
Of lightsome voices and of merry cheer;
It was a youthful group that wandered out
To do obeisance to the glad new year;
And as they passed they sang with voices stout
A song which I was very fain to hear,
But as they darkened on, away it died,
And the two men walked homewards side by side.

By George MacDonald

The Final Chapter ….

… it’s not really a happy ending, but there is an interesting twist.

When I arrived at work this morning there was a note from the chief executive on my desk. He asked if I could do the wages first thing, as he would be going away at lunchtime until Saturday. So I did the wages and one or two other little jobs, thinking that I would at least be there until the end of the week. He came in and out, and it seemed to be business as usual.

It’s not that I want to stay, but I’d like to leave things as tidy as I can for my successor, and it’s a little nerve-wracking stepping away from any job into an uncertain future.

But then at quarter to twelve a young woman in casual dress, not the usual sort of visitor we see, appeared at the door. She had come for an interview. With the chairman, his wife, the chief executive and the HR manager. I pointed her in the right direction, pushed the accounts to one side, tidied things up and took backups.

And, sure enough, half an hour or so later my much threatened meeting began. And that was where the twist came.

The recently departed HR/Finance Manager had dropped me right in it! He had told them that I was unhappy in my job and had been ‘putting my cv about.’ Which was sort of true, but to me there’s a difference between being not happy and being unhappy and I have been quiet and professional about my job seeking. And I would have given notice when the time came, and done whatever I could to facilitate a smooth handover.

And there was more. Back when placed the advertisement I responded to he was supposed to be recruiting a receptionist with some accounts skills, not an accountant who was prepared to help out with other work when necessary. And so the chief executive and I had been working with different views of what my job was for the last nine months.

Knowing what I know now I can see that HR/Finance Manager hoped for advancement when planned changes happened, and recruiting me was part of his plan to build his power base. And when the changes didn’t come, when he saw he wasn’t going get the things he’s hoped for, he turned.

He placed the advertisement I saw last week, without any authority! The chairman didn’t ask him to call me last week!

Now there are quite a few other things that he said I have to ask questions about, and I am quite sure he steered me in the wrong direction quite a few times.

Maybe I should have worked it out before, but I am inclined to take people at face value.

My job is gone now, but we parted on friendly terms. I’ve been promised a good reference and they asked me what sort of person they should be looking for.

My feeling now is that the chief executive has his failings, but he is doing his best. I still have reservations about the external accountant, but we might have had a better relationship under different circumstances. And the HR consultant handled things today reasonably well, so maybe he is the right man to move things forward.

I calculated what I was owed, the CEO wrote me a cheque, and I issued and filed my own P45!

I’m a little wobbly right now – I’m trying to be positive, but I have more uncertainly in my life right now than I’m comfortable with – but I need to get back on track for another job interview tomorrow.

And that really is the end of this chapter.

One job interview later I feel less like a lost soul and more like a soon to be unemployed accountant. That’s progress!

The first thing I must say is thank you so, so much for all the thoughtful and caring comments on my last post. It makes so much difference, knowing that I’m not alone, and that there are so many lovely people out there.

I have been back at work for a day and a half, working steadily, tidying up as much as I can, and drafting a constructive exit letter to the chairman. Because I care about the future of the organisation, because I know my successor won’t have things easy and I want to do what I can to help, and because it’s what I need to do for my own professional pride and self-esteem.

That I’ve been able to do that at least reassured me that I hadn’t inadvertently done something really dreadful and not even realised.

The Chief Executive had asked me to go with him to meet the new HR Consultant at 4.30 yesterday, but 4.30 came and went and 5.00 arrived without said chief executive coming back from wherever he’d been, and so I left for home as usual.

Maybe I should have pushed the point, but I didn’t. And the chief executive said nothing about it when he came through this morning, so who knows what’s going on?!

My thinking is let them have their say and then counter-punch. Because what ever they might say they are unhappy with I can say that they should have told me before so that I could have put it right, done it differently, explained my reasons …

Even before this whole business started I had a job interview line up for this afternoon. It went well. I don’t really expect to get it, because it’s in a business sector I’ve never working in and using accounts software I don’t know – but it reminded me that there’s a whole world of people out there who I haven’t met yet, and that I’ve done some interesting work in the past that I can build on to do more interesting things in the future.

And so while I was lost at the weekend, going back to work, looking at new possibilities, talking about things, has restored my confidence, at least in part.

It may not be easy, but I will extricate myself from this job, and there will be something else out there for me.

If there is a ‘career break’ along the way just think of all the books I can catch up with!

And tomorrow, all being well, I start to write about books again!

We said that this was going to be our year …

… the year when, after some difficult times things would go right.

We thought that we were heading in the right direction in march, when I found a job again. It wasn’t my dream job, and I was rather over-qualified, but it was close to home and being a little less than full-time it would work well as I continued to look after my mum at home.

I wasn’t overly happy that I found myself in a small office, alone for all of the day, having to deal with phone calls and visitors as well as sorting out one heck of a mess that had been left behind by my predecessor. But I did it. You have to be adaptable and I knew that change was coming. That the chief executive and the outside accountant were both retiring in the spring. Then we could drag an organisation that was way behind the times into the twentieth century.

When my mother was taken ill I was shattered. Now though she his herself again, but her lack of mobility and general frailty meant that coming home wasn’t viable. The adjustment took time, but she is settled now and, I think, much better for being relieved of many of life’s practical concerns. I’m in the process of applying to the Court of Protection so that I can become my mother’s deputy, and take on the responsibility for everything she needs. It’s a long, painful and bureaucratic business, but hopefully it will be sorted out soon.

It also leaves my fiance and I free to marry, once we get our finances on an even keel. He’s looking for a job, but he’s had health issues in the past, and so it’s not at all easy in times like these.

Meanwhile, my chief executive decided to stay on a little longer. And his very good friend the outside accountant decided to stay on too. And they didn’t want change, they wanted things to stay just the way they were.

I decided it was time to look for another job.

My relationship with the outside accountant had been cordial at first, but it changed. Actually, it became non-existent – he would only speak to me on those occasions when he range to speak to the chief executive and I picked up the phone. He made critical reports to the board, nitpicking, just little things that I could quite easily have explained or put right if I was asked. But I wasn’t.

Because if there aren’t issues with the accounts to be sorted out before that go to the auditor, if the in-house accountant knows her job, how does the outside accountant justify his very substantial fees?

Definitely time to look for another job.

The Finance/Administration Manager quit last week. He was called into a meeting about the accounts, and he was appalled at things that were said. It was clear, he told me, that the outside accountant was stirring things, exploiting the lack of understanding that the board had of day-to day accounting. He told me to watch my back.

I had a week’s holiday booked this week. I’d only had one day off in eight months and I had days to use or lose before the end of the year. A little down time, a little sorting out at home, and a little job-seeking.

On Tuesday night I emailed the agency that got me my job, to say that I was looking again and explain why.

I looked on their website while I was there and I saw an accountancy job close to home. When I pulled up the details it was horribly, horribly familiar. It was the same job description that they had sent me nearly a year ago, but with a rather lower salary, and it had been placed two days before I went on leave.

I was in pieces. I wanted out, but I had given them no reason to push me, they had never asked me to do anything differently or questioned the way that I did things.

The Finance/Administration Manager called me on Thursday. He was taking his notice period as annual leave, but the chairmen had asked him to come in and sort out a few things. And to call me to tell me that I would be meeting with the chief executive and the newly appointed HR Consultant (a friend of the chief executive) on my return to work next Monday.

That was my holiday well and truly wrecked.

Now UK employment law allows dismissal without warning – and without reason –  in the first year of employment. And I can’t say that’s wholly a bad thing. Sometimes things just don’t work out.

But even if that is the case – and  maybe it is – the way things have been handled here is distressing, and just plain wrong.

My first response was to withdraw, to abandon this blog, the internet, and just curl up with my books, my knitting and my dog. But then I rallied.

I will deal with whatever is thrown at me on Monday and I will state my case. Calmly and rationally.

I will find a new job. A better job, doing what I’m good at.

That may take a little while, and I hate that in all probability I shall be unemployed at Christmas for the second year in a row, but we will survive. A little time off may even do me good.

My mother had a lovely birthday, she is very happy with the cardigan I knitted, and she is being taken out to a carol service on Sunday. I’m a little anxious because she hasn’t been out – other than sitting on the patio – since she moved into the home, and it is cold out. But I’ve taken out her winter coat and a selection of hats and gloves, and I do have confidence in the staff who have been looking after her beautifully.

And Briar is fit again. She’s much brighter, though she hasn’t found the confidence to jump into her chair yet. I’ve provided a little step, and I will make it smaller and smaller until she’s jumping. We’ve noticed that she uses the step when we aren’t looking, but when we are she waits in the hope that we will lift her. But we aren’t going to fall for it!

Now I need to sort myself out. While I’m dealing with difficult things I’m going to be comfort reading and blogging sporadically, and so challenges and commitments have been thrown out of the window. I’m just hanging on to the long-term projects to keep me heading in the right direction.

End of rant – I don’t do this often, but once in a while I have to.

Hopefully next year will be our year …

I had intended to write about a book tonight …

… but I have been distracted by other, quite lovely, bookish things during the day.

I spotted the Slightly Foxed Winter Catalogue this morning, when I should really have been working. But I was in the harbour office on my own and I needed a little distraction.

It’s lovely to have a publication focuses not simply on selling its ware but on celebrating a wonderfully diverse range of books that its readers might enjoy. Rhythms of the Countryside; Recent Pleasures; Sparks, Whistles and Trails of Steam; Cornish Cliffhangers; City of a Hundred Names; Mobsters and Mafiosi; For the Love of Old Bindings; Roads Less Travelled; Shared Enthusiasms; A Picnic in a Foreign Land; No More Socks and Scented Candles …

I spent a damp grey lunch hour at my desk spotting favourites,  remembering books I have on hand and must read, checking the library catalogue, and adding rather a lot of books to my wishlist.

Just one small complaint: The Cornish Cliffhangers shouldn’t have all been books by Daphne Du Maurier. Leo Walmsley’s Cornish books were celebrated in Slightly Foxed a few years ago – though, if you want to be pedantic, they were set on an estuary not on the cliffs – but there are others.

Maybe that’s a project for another day. Six Cornish Books to recommend to lovers of Slightly Foxed ….

But not today, because I already knew that there was more waiting for me. A phone call from home had announced the arrival of the new Persephone Biannually!

Knowing that the two new titles for autumn aren’t out until Friday I hadn’t been expecting it quite yet. I was blessed with an advance copy of ‘Patience’ by John Coates, and even though I haven’t quite finished I can say that it really is a little gem. And the Persephone Book of Short Stories is high on my wishlist.

The Biannually is every bit as lovely as you’d expect and a little bit more. Two short stories, lots about the new books, a 1934 review of ‘Harriet’ by Elizabeth Jenkins, pieces on Miss Buncle and ‘Little Boy Lost’ … much more too, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, and I want to save it until I have time to sit down and concentrate.

I have a particular attachment to ‘Little Boy Lost’, because when my copy arrive my mother told me that her mother had read Marghanita Laski. When I’d finished reading she borrowed the book, and she loved it so much that she offered to loan it to a number of her friends. Sadly, but in a way fittingly, it was the last novel she read before her short-term memory failed her. She still likes the idea of books, so now I talk to her about what I’m reading instead.

And that lead me on to one more Persephone related delight, which came courtesy of Slightly Foxed. I read a description of A Month in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair in their catalogue that brought out a point that I hadn’t noticed before, and that point really struck a chord:

“In 1942, 38-year-old widow Cressida Chance is forced to take in paying guests at her faded Georgian house in the English countryside.”

That is so, so close to life. In 1941 my grandfather died and my grandmother was forced to take in paying guests at her lovely Victorian House on the Cornish Coast …

My heart skipped a beat. And if that isn’t reason to be distracted I don’t know what is!