Sunday Sevens #48

I love sharing my weekly updates with you in the form of a Sunday Sevens. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. 🙂

An Impromptu Day Off Work:

On Wednesday my boss called in sick, meaning I was not needed. So faced with a day off work, I made a trip to the local Costa for a coffee with mum. 🙂

The Yarden:

This week I have been watching a dunnock couple visit the yarden for grubs and bugs. I spied the male dunnock in the magnolia tree, so I snapped a poor picture of him before he flew away.

Also, I have one lowly snake’s head fritillary that has grown from bulb. I don’t know what happened to the other bulbs I planted!

30 Days Wild:

It’s that time of year again… time to sign up to some wonderful summertime initiatives. You can now sign up for The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild. Can you do something wild everyday this June?

Bee Count:

Friend’s of the Earth’s popular survey The Great British Bee Count begins on the 17th May. I love spending time with our energetic pollinators. An app for recording sightings will be released in the near future.

1d2a33a64763975083cb72df60f8Book I am Reading:

Having finally finished Ben Okri’s psychedelic The Famished Road. I have now picked up Ted Hughes’ collection of poems and short stories, Wodwo. The choice was inspired by reading Mark Haddon’s short story, Wodwo in his collection, The Pier Falls.

Have you read Ted Hughes? What’s your favourite book of his?

#Walk 1000 Miles:

We spent a good hour this Sunday walking around Sefton Park. The daffodils were out en-masse and were a lovely splash of colour on a rather drab day! My total for this week has been 38 miles walked, bringing my annual total to 540 miles.

If you are partaking in the challenge, how are you getting on?

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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A Year in Books 2018 – January to March

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A new year means a new selection of books.

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge.

I started the new year finishing off a book from 2017.

A Parliament of Rooks – Karen Perkins

I did a short review of this book in my Sunday Sevens #40. Though the narrative brings clear visions of a modern day Howarth, the actual characters and tale fell rather flat. The modern day characters were rather annoying and two dimensional but if you like anything relating to the Brontë’s then you will enjoy this book.

The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe

I’ve read this poem a couple of times now. The first time I read it I was on a bus on a dark, cold January morning. I thought, ‘what on earth was all that about!’

Then on the second reading, I think I have understood a little more. The narrator is a man who mourns his lost love, Lenore. A raven visits him and in answer to the man’s questions the raven only says ‘nevermore.’ This perplexes the narrator who gets more and more exasperated. Others’ interpretations of the poem is that of the man slipping into madness.

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

What do you think? Have you read this poem? What was your interpretation?

The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

Debut novel and one of Richard and Judy’s Book Club for spring 2018. The Witchfinder’s Sister is about Alice Hopkins who returns from London, widowed, to be reconciled with her brother Matthew (the self-proclaimed Witchfinder General) in the midst of the witch hunts of 1645-47. The English Civil War is waging, a time of religious, political upheaval, which the printing presses are at cost to publish. Reading what few facts on Matthew Hopkins there is online. I read that he and his accomplices were responsible for the deaths of up to 300 women in just three years. Legitimised serial killers is what I thought of them. Though men were not immune to being called ‘witch’ it was mainly females that were blamed for unnatural deaths of babies, droughts, famines and disease. When science and understanding was hundreds of years away, those without a voice (midwives, bewitching young women) were victimised. The author dips into that paranoia. Alice is at first an innocent bystander but is soon forced to be complicit in the torture and deaths of a number of women as she and Matthew travel through Anglia. Though a piece of fiction, it made me angry that this reign of terror was allowed to happened (an encouraged) in not just Britain but in Europe and the USA too.

The Crucible – Arthur Miller

After reading Beth Underdown’s novel, I just had to read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. I found my old copy and re-read the play written at the height of the Korean War (1950-53). The play, written when Communism was seen as a threat to the western world, can also be read as criticism of the ‘witch-hunt’ McCarthy Trials. Miller cleverly links this contemporary fear to the paranoia of the witch trials in Salem (1692-3).

Unlike Beth Underdown’s novel, who writes from the viewpoint of a witness, The Crucible quickly draws you into the drama where accusations and blame are voiced by Abigail Williams and friends. A sense of heightened fear is present straight from the start where Betty Parris, one of Abigail’s friends is lying prone, mute, for no apparent reason. The girls have been accused themselves of dancing with the devil but Abigail turns the tables on the adults and begins to accuse members of the cast. They believe her, due to her ‘purity.’ One of the main characters John Proctor who has had a fling with Abigail and afterwards rejected her, tries to show Abigail as a telltale but the cast, some of high office, seem bewitched by the girls’ accusations that devilry is rife in Puritan Salem.

The play in some ways is a tragedy. The final act is seen as redemption for John Proctor who finally denounces Abigail, however this does not stop the executions. In little over a year, due to the hysteria created by girls who tapped into the bleaker side of human nature, of fear and jealousy, 20 people were tried and executed in Salem.

The Ice Queen – Alice Hoffman

This book wasn’t what I had expected. ‘A fairy tale for grownups’, it was advertised. The story however is so sad. I was choked with emotion reading the final chapters. Perhaps it was the butterfly migration that set me off? The whole story is well written, you meet many strange characters along the way. The tale is of loss, love and acceptance. The best message I got from this book was that to conquer death you have to live. Something I have been trying to achieve these past few years. Is this a book you would enjoy? Let me know!

Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks

I have to admit, I found it hard to get into Hanks’ writing. The choice of first short story to open this collection wasn’t the strongest. I found the unending list of commercial brands exhausting to read. Does it really matter what name of footwear a character wears or what brand of fridge freezer a man gets his chilled beer from? There are better ways of creating a time in history than listing company names. I found Hanks’ writing very like Dan Brown’s, perhaps it’s a style American’s default to? I did persevere and his style grew on me. There were a few stories I enjoyed, These are the Meditations of my Heart, Stay with Us (screenplay) and The Past is Important to Us. Have you read this collection? What were your thoughts?

The Waste Land – T.S. Eliot

Regarded as one of the most influential poems of the 20th Century. The Waste Land was written a few years after the devastation of WW1. The poem loosely follows the legend of the Grail, and is set in five parts which lack any cohesion. The fragmentation of structure and voice is a reflection of a post war world. I enjoyed the lyricism of the poem and the images it created. I wouldn’t say the poem was easily understandable. The many vignettes of peoples’ daily lives is intersected with lines taken from world mythologies, literature and languages. I think the poem needs further in-depth study. Have you read this poem? What was your interpretation?

Autumn – Ali Smith

I downloaded this book onto my Kindle before I decided to read 1 star ratings on Amazon. What I read worried me a little but once I started reading the stream of conscious type narrative, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though the story doesn’t really go anywhere, it is a study of time, and poking fun at British life and society. I liked Smith’s style of writing. I look forward to seeing what her next novel Winter is about.

1st quarter books

A Gathering Light, The Secret Life of Bees, The Pier Falls and Pax

A Gathering Light – Jennifer Donnelly

I don’t remember who recommended this novel to me but I didn’t really enjoy it. I found the narrative very tedious. The secondary tale about a real life crime rarely featured. The writer could have done so much more with this idea but the result was a novel I would not recommend to anyone! How about you? If you have read this book and felt differently, then do let me know!

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

Set among the backdrop of racial tensions in 1960’s South Carolina, this coming of age tale is both entertaining and emotive. The protagonist, Lily goes on a journey that takes her away from her abusive father, to the protection of three bee keeping sisters, where she learns about her mother and herself. The novel has a strong cast of female characters. From the tormented May to the resilience of Rosaleen and the wisdom of August. It is a feel good book, one that I would recommend. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

The Pier Falls – Mark Haddon

Sadly Haddon’s collection of short stories left me feeling sad and morbid. Most of the tales centre around death which was rather difficult to read one after another. There were a few standout stories. I enjoyed the tale of the Wodwo or ‘wild man,’ it made me think of Ted Hughes’s book of the same title. Another was the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Woodpecker and the Wolf. The title does not bring to mind astronauts stranded on an desolate, unforgiving planet. However I enjoyed the characters and there is a happier ending!

Pax – Sara Pennypacker

I decided to get this book as other bloggers have read it and been enchanted with it. The illustrations by Jon Klassen are beautiful but I have to admit I struggled to get into the narrative. As the story progressed, however I soon warmed to the characters. I enjoyed the Pax chapters more so than the human story. The underlying sadness to the writing is that animals suffer during war, and there is a lot of animal suffering in the novel which was painful to read. I had expected the ending to be emotive but I just felt numb, it wasn’t very satisfying. It made the whole novel seem a bit of a waste of time to me. Have you read this novel? Did you enjoy it?

A Cold Case in Amsterdam Central – Anja de Jager

This copy was kindly gifted to me by a lady who I chat to whilst waiting for the bus to work. Anja de Jager draws inspiration from cases her father worked on as a policeman in the Netherlands. To date she has written three crime novels in the Lotte Meerman series. This was the second book. It was easy to read and could be read as a stand alone novel. I enjoyed the read and will probably look up the other novels in the series in future.

The Famished Road – Ben Okri

I’ll probably still be reading this book come April. It is such a word dense book, separated into eight books. I’ve read book one and the language and imagery is beautiful, almost psychedelic. The tale is of spirit-child Azaro, who turns his back on the land of spirits to experience the life and death of the living. Okri blends human hardships with fantastical beasts from the spirit realm and beyond. I am enjoying the telling so far. I will let you know how it goes.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #43

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Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series, Sunday Sevens. Here’s a quick update on my week.

Fashion:

This week the long awaited reflective dog jacket I ordered for Riley arrived. You have to admit it looks fantastic on him!

Romance:

This Wednesday was Valentine’s Day. David and I took a trip to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall to hear the RLPO perform passionate pieces of music. The auditorium was full! My favourite pieces in the programme were Prokofiev’s retelling of Romeo and Juliet and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 2 performed by Chinese pianist Zhang Zuo. It was a lovely night!

Designer Art:

For the past five years David has wanted to purchase a table lamp created by Hebden Bridge based artist, Hannah Nunn. We just couldn’t justify the cost, however this week I noticed there was a seconds sale being held for only a few days. The lamp David had had his eye on for so long was half price! We decided to order it. A few days later we took delivery of the lamp. It doesn’t look much unlit, but once the bulb is switched on the etched design comes to life. It is a fine addition to our bird inspired living room. What do you think?

Book I am reading:

I am currently reading Mark Haddon’s collection of short stories, The Pier Falls. So far I have read two of the short stories and feel rather unmoved. I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and his play Polar Bears. However this collection of stories is falling flat. His writing makes me think Tom Hanks‘ collection is far superior. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

maris peerGardening: 

This weekend I purchased some potato chits to plant come spring. I bought maris peer potatoes. They are new potatoes to me, but I have read that they are good in salads, much like the maris bard. Even though we had blight on our potato harvest last year I will continue to try and grow ‘our own’. I will document how we go with these second earlies.

 

#walk1000miles:

This week I have managed a good 39 miles, bringing my overall total so far to 235 miles. It hasn’t been a bad week of walking. I’ve enjoyed a few good walks to work with the sun shining and the scent of spring on the air. Monday I thought, would have been a perfect day to go wild swimming. So I walked to work, smelling the air, hearing the birds singing and dreaming of slipping my cool body into an even colder body of water. It made my spirit soar! Spring/Summer can’t come quick enough!

David and I have also embarked on many evening walks with Riley as well as taking him on a good three mile walk today around Otterspool. We have all enjoyed the exercise, Riley and myself most of all. 🙂

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week Four

o0OhgWNNIt’s been a rather depressing week here in the UK. To escape the dirge from the media I have dived headlong into wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild. Below is an account of my fourth week, the last full week of June. I have tried to find light within the gloom!

 

Day 22: Wednesday

Sing a rainbowOn the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, someone had created a collage of rainbow colours taken from nature. I thought I’d try one. All pictures are taken from the yarden. Featuring: antirrhinum, honeysuckle, foxglove, jasmine, campanula, erysimum and lithodora.

Day 23: Thursday

This week has been National Insect Week, an initiative to encourage people to learn more about insects. In celebration of this week, I have been putting out insect pitfall traps in the hope of catching sight of the creepy crawlies that make the yarden their home. Unfortunately on both occasions, the traps were empty, probably because they were not the best traps.

Since we have had some fair weather these past few days in the NW of England, I decided to try my hand at a moth light trap. During the day we see many Cinnabar Moths, but I wanted to see what night moths we attract to the yarden. I draped a white sheet over two chairs and positioned a light directly behind and waited for the darkness to deepen.

It was almost 11.30pm when it became dark! I could see many micro moths fluttering but no hawkmoths which I had hoped/wanted to see! As the stars and planets twinkled from the indigo sky, the light trap only attracted one small moth. I think it was a Webbing or Common Clothes Moth!

Though moth sightings were thin on the ground, David and I did manage to have fun in the yarden. David took to photographing the stars and dodgy ‘ghosts,’ while I enjoyed the perfumed scent of the air. Everything feels so calm at night, unlike the madness daylight hours tend to bring.

On clearing up the equipment for the night, as David was in work the following day, a beautiful marbled moth fluttered towards the light. I was half in the house, half out as it danced around the halogen bulb. Sadly we didn’t take a picture, so I don’t know what type of moth it was. I feel I have some unfinished business with moths in the yarden. I hope to maybe fit in another observation session before June is out! Needless to say my dreams were full of moths that night!

Day 24: Friday

The weather this June seems to have conspired against us! Today was another one of those days with sparse sunshine and heavy showers! With having little ‘get up and go,’ I turned to the ‘wild’ cards for inspiration. The card I chose, search for mini wildness, suggested to look for lichens and forests of moss in pavements. So I decided to take a closer look at the liverwort growing in my yarden! (I didn’t know it was liverwort until I started researching it!)

The type of liverwort in the yarden is called Marchantia polymorpha. Apparently they like compacted, wet, acidic soils. Bad luck for my camellia, but the liverwort does look nice as a green base for the plant in its shaded pot. I shall evaluate how the plant is growing and if the liverwort is effecting it in future!

Day 25: Saturday

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I usually make lard cakes for the birds come winter time, but as I did this task for last years 30 Days Wild, I shall replicate it this year too!

I used a block of lard (it’s usually cheap in the supermarkets). I then microwaved it for 3 minutes until it was liquid. Threw in handfuls of mixed seed, (you can use peanuts and fruit also.) I then bulked it up with wholemeal flour. I used the suet holders with paper lined templates and scooped the fat mixture into these. I left to solidify. I shall hang them out tomorrow!

 

Day 26: Sunday

I never thought I was a big technophile but participating in this years, National Unplugging Day, I have discovered I turn to my computer and phone more than I care to. A typical day usually starts around 7am, the alarm on my phone wakes me up! While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook and look at WordPress. Throughout the working day I communicate with David  via email. I text my mum, even though she lives next door! I use the timer on my phone and playlists on my laptop while I am working out. I also use the timer when I am cooking. I have many books downloaded to my Kindle. I turn to Google whenever I have a question. During 30 Days Wild I have been hooked to my blog feed, looking for new posts from fellow bloggers. I wind down to BBCi and music on YouTube. All day I have Classic FM playing in the background!

So, participating in this initiative is going to be both challenging and enlightening!

1

My unplugged day started at 9.30am. I had asked David when he got up an hour earlier to wake me after 9. I awoke at 9.15am and lay there waiting for my wake-up call. I snoozed and woke up again fifteen minutes later. Still no wake-up call. I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast when David came out of the living room. ‘Oh you’re up!’

‘Yes, where was my wake-up call?’

‘I didn’t know the time,’ meaning he had been busy playing GTA5! I shook my head! I took my breakfast and a hot cup of black coffee back to bed. It was a Sunday after all! While relaxing, I perused the pages of my paperback of Katherine Mansfield short stories. Though I had to fight the urge to reach out and grab my phone!

To counter the boredom I had moved the household chores from Saturday to today. The opposite was done for my session on the treadmill, which I did on Saturday as I use my laptop for motivational music! At 10.30am I climbed out of bed, got dressed and made a start on the cleaning. I dragged Henry around the house and wiped/disinfected surfaces and floors. The whole task took me three hours, with lunch in-between!

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen. I baked bread, which I shaped in the form of butterflies and made a very healthy, (and tasty) pan of blind scouse, (vegetable stew). I got David to take pictures of the finished article! I really missed my phone for taking pictures!

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There wasn’t much opportunity for communing with the wild, as persistent rain arrived in the afternoon. I watched from the kitchen window the birds visiting the freshly filled feeders, of which there were:

  • 2 House Sparrows (males)
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 1 very disheveled Blue Tit
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 8 Starlings, (1 was a baby)
  • Many Pigeons!

I also saw Tree Bumblebees brave the rain to forage from the campanula flowers.

Come evening, I chatted to David while he cooked his lunches for work that week. All day he had been teasing me about not using technology. At one point he even came down the stairs with the laptop, and said ‘aww but you can’t watch!’ Meany! I then relaxed by reading some more Katherine Mansfield stories while enjoying a nice cold glass of pinot grigio.

10pm arrived. I cheered and ‘wooped!’ I had survived a day without a phone or laptop! (It was hard!) A text off my mum was waiting for me saying, ‘welcome back to the technological world!’ It was an enlightening initiative. One I would repeat. I find that technology is so habit forming! It’s so easy to reach out for that mobile device, have information at your fingertips. I do think that it contributes to a general lack of concentration and an inability to face boredom. I already don’t like phones at the dining table. I may encourage David and I to have technology ‘black-holes,’ times when we don’t use phones or computers, in the future.

Did you participate in the day? How did you fill your time?

Day 27: Monday

I felt a bit jaded today. In the afternoon Artie and I popped out into the yarden, to see how the plants were getting on (the lily and passion flower have flowered at last,) and to listen to wild sounds. It also gave me the opportunity to sip in the wild, I indulged in a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

I closed my eyes (but not for long as Artie was on the prowl) and could hear the wind rushing through the trees. A plane thrummed overhead. Goldfinches twittered, pigeons cooed, and a family of house sparrows, babies begging, flew onto a roof nearby. The yarden was filled with bees buzzing softly and the dunnock shrilled his song loudly!

Day 28: Tuesday

To end this post I took inspiration from the 30 Days Wild app. Of the 101 ‘random acts of wildness’ I chose look up at the clouds. I actually did this activity yesterday as today the NW of England is shrouded with increasing cloud and the threat of further rain!

Of the clouds gracing the evening sky yesterday, I noticed cirrus (fair weather cloud) and cirrocumulus, (could precursor rain). It shows how contradictory British weather can be!

Final thoughts:

I really don’t want to mention the EU referendum, the result made me sick to the stomach! However like many, I will make a comment.

At present the air is thick with depression! I avoid the news the best of times, but my Facebook page is full of doom and gloom. It makes one want to reach for the razor blades! But we have to endure, what else is there? (Those razor blades look inviting). We have survived plagues, famine, wars. We will endure this!

Life probably will be tough, for a while, but we will recover, (we have to). Instead of the constant backbiting, we must forego bad blood and look to a future, a future we can only make good if we work hard, together!

There has to be a life outside of the EU. We had one before, there will be one now. Though many of us did not vote to leave, we have to make the most of this decision. Perhaps we can learn from the EU and build a better Britain, with transparent laws, human/worker rights, wildlife protection and a more uniformed distribution of wealth throughout the kingdom? Perhaps I am dreaming, maybe not with this government! I have not followed any of the hype surrounding the referendum. I have felt disgusted that we have been placed in this position! But the unthinkable has happened and we have to deal with it. Not with a culture of blame but one of acceptance and action.

I don’t know why but the whole farce calls to mind a soliloquy in Hamlet. To be or not to be!

Hamlet:To be, or not to be–that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Only two more days until the end of June! Come with me as I approach the finale of 30 Days Wild 2016 and see what wonders I find!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

I haven’t written in a while…

… though I will undoubtedly be using this medium to assist with my Open University writing course. I tend to have a habit of writing more than I should! Hence needing my blog to post my latest exercise. Perhaps you can all comment on the quality of the writing too??

 

IMAGINING WRITING SPACES:

OK, I know it doesn’t really address the title of the assignment but this is what I have written in response.

Scene that is most suited to me:

Autumnal light shone blazingly through the large panes of glass that lined one wall of the room. The brightness was magnified by the white painted walls and the gleam from the chrome of the chairs. There was a hushed sigh of reverence from the other students in the library as Susan sat with head resting on hand, gazing sidelong out of the window. The screen of her laptop glowed as the curser flashed on a blank Word document. She knew she should have been writing. She had been sitting in her favourite room for half an hour now after getting up early, just to enjoy what was left of the morning sun. However, her eyes had wandered to the Sycamore Tree that burned red outside. Its leaves drifted to the road below burnishing the pavements. She had been watching a couple of Blue Tits flit about the boughs of the tree, pecking at the blackened bark before calling their alarm as a Magpie flew by.

Susan blinked and turned to look into the room she sat in. She started when she saw a pair of dark eyes peer over the rim of a cup at her. She subconsciously sniffed at the air and the comforting smell of roasted coffee reached her olfactory. Those eyes looked at her accusingly, knowing she should be writing. They made her feel very much like the day she had been caught dancing in her bedroom by her uncle. She couldn’t remember what he had said, but whatever it was it made her feel like she had been caught doing something wrong and something inside of her recoiled.

The owner of those eyes lowered the cup of steaming coffee revealing a handsome face with full lips and square jaw. Susan smiled shyly in reply. She knew he should have been working too instead of sneakily peaking at her. She watched as he picked up a paperback with something to do with tort written on the front and pretended like he was deep in thought. Susan turned to look at her computer screen and smirked. She began typing.

‘It was in the library that she first noticed him…’