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Wednesday April 7, 2021

Meeting at Wisley

UsAtWisleyS.jpg

We finally got together after over a year - on a crisp sunny day, half way between our homes. Above was towards the end of our walks - somewhat windblown and pretty cold (but nothing could spoil it). You can see that prior to that we found some sheltered spots for our (multiple) tea breaks.

MeAtWisley.jpg

Posted on April 7, 2021 at 10:26 AM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Sunday April 4, 2021

Winter Pots at Easter

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My "rescued" tray of plants from a local DIY store called Winter Ice.
Below - a reminder of how they were 4 months ago. Full marks for all different plant varieties: primrose, daisy, pansy and viola (dianthus with one tiny flower so far).

WinterIce.jpg

Posted on April 4, 2021 at 12:12 PM. Category: The Garden. | Comments (0)

Wednesday March 31, 2021

Books in March

  • The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman [Read by Lesley Manville]
    BOM-TheThursdayMurderClub.jpg Along with the rest of the world (it seems), I cannot praise this book enough. It was an absolute delight from the very opening sentences. It has to be said that this was probably very much enhanced by having Lesley Manville as the reader, but even so the characterisation is truly glorious. To know that this is Osman's first novel makes it all the more amazing. At the end of this audio version may-I-call-you-Richard is interviewed by Marian Keyes, and although it's a bit sycophantic, and very much a mutual admiration society, her excessive praise and not to mention envy is clearly sincere.
    In all, this is a lovely book, and although Richard, (along with his publicist and agent I am sure) has made his reputation as a very popular presenter work overtime in publicising this book, it really it highly creditable. I am really looking forward to (hopefully listening to) the next one - at the same time now slightly nervous as to whether he can live up to his own standards.
  • I could not help but compare the title of this book (even not knowing the story or setting) to Agatha Christie's Tuesday Night Club, which she used as a device to present some short stories featuring Miss Marple and others. Each week the group tell tales of mystery, always solved by the female amateur detective from the comfort of her armchair.

  • Winter by Ali Smith [Read by Melody Grove ]
    BOM-Winter.jpg Another wonderful book from Ali Smith, which somehow manages to be wonderful as it evolves from page to page as well as overall. It teeters on the surreal but is founded very much in politics of today, (refugee crisis), as well as the past (Greenham Common*) which in turn informs today.
    Of course, it was again poignantly sad but while I have read (much more) deeply sad books before, this one actually made me cry. I think the author has been really clever with this because it affected me in a very interesting way - you grow to love a character and it is implied the character is lost in a national disaster - which is then "poignantly sad". But suddenly it came to me that real people had died in that national disaster - which was surely to goodness much worse than the possible demise of a fictional character who is in any case a little ethereal. It wasn't that I had not known this before but it made me feel it in a different way - it went somehow beyond empathy.
    Don't get the wrong idea, though; this is not a grim book, and I have not described the story - which can be viewed in terms of literary references (the Guardian has a perfect review comparing it to Dickens' Christmas Carol - which may be why I liked it so much - who knows?). In all it's a lot about love, and joy - a tale of redemption - "luminously beautiful".
    [* I've never been very politically aware so the information about the women camped at Greenham Common - that I admired but also pretty well ignored at the time - was very interesting to me].

  • 12:30 from Croydon by Freeman Wills Croft BOM-1230FromCroydon.jpg
    One of my bumper collection of Christmas retro mysteries. This author was a well-known member of the Detection Club and much respected by his fellow members. He is known for his great attention to technical details (background in engineering) shoring up water tight cases for his protagonist Inspector French.
    However, I really did not find this book to be much fun for me - and this was entirely due to the fact that it was not at all a whodunnit. Mystery/crime novels where the baddie is revealed early on - or written from their point of view - are not my favourite at the best of times. Here the story is about a very detailed crime, all meticulously planned out, and which, of course, begins to unravel. Once the unraveling is underway, you find that from an objective point of view the murderer appeared quite suspicious to observers all along.
  • A point of interest for me personally, is that in 1953, for what were the last few years of his life, the author moved to Worthing. Many people retired to the south coast in those days - the bungalows in my home village were chock full of ex-civil servants, ex-bank managers, and spinster sisters of a certain age, tending their immaculate gardens and hedges, and enjoying the relatively clement weather in their declining years. [This retirement destination was gradually replaced by Spain during the 1970s, leaving these coastal towns looking sad and a bit down at heel, with the little bungalows' handkerchief front gardens, formerly so cherished, now concreted over to allow parking for cars. ].

  • The Honjin Murders by Yokomizo Seishi BOM-1230FromCroydon.jpg
    Another rather original choice among my Christmas presents. It was a very good mystery, and well explained for a non-Japanese reader. I'm not sure if this is due to the translator or the author. It may have been necessary to explain the historical context to Japanese readers, but the book was published in 1946, so I was slightly surprised at that. However the author does excuse himself for making several references to famous Western crime "golden age" authors, and also to other locked room mysteries. In fact one of the characters has a huge collection of such mysteries.
    This translation was published in 2019 to much praise, but despite his obvious fame in Japan (with a literary prize named in his honour), I can find only one other book by this author published in English, with another due for publication this year. However they are all with different translators, so I can only hope they will prove to be as good as this one.

  • Troubled Waters by Gillian Galbraith [Read by Lesley Mackie ] BOM-TroubledWaters.jpg
    I was able to listen to the final Alice Rice mystery rather than reading it. I'm not sure the author meant this to be the "final" one, but Alice does buy a country cottage outside of Edinburgh, probably mirroring what the author herself chose to do, and expressing her own feelings about it. In an interview, the author admitted she was unlikely to return to Alice as she was now too out of touch with modern police procedures.
    The author's personal website is a bit neglected and could do with an update. Although this book was published in 2014, her latest book The End of The Line in 2019 is a really excellent novel, and apparently, since lockdown, where ebook lending has increased 146%*, the first Alice book, Blood in the Water, was the top most-loaned adult ebook.
    [* That was probably all me...]

  • The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie [Read by Stephanie Cole] BOM-TheBodyInTheLibrary.jpg
    I thought that since I know these stories so well - watching repeats of the various TV productions of them frequently enough to be embarrassing to admit to - that it would be a good book to listen to while drifting off to sleep. However, I probably last read the books when I was about 11 or 12 years old and was really surprised and delighted at how good the actual written work is. (I know I should not be - millions of fans over the years attest to that surely...). I was also surprised at how faithfully the TV adaptations followed the book - large sections, if not all, of the dialogue being lifted straight from the page. Of course, Christie is well-known for her excellence with dialogue (as opposed to prose, I believe) so this should be no surprise - but it was nonetheless. Many of the stories are quite a bit altered in the TV versions - most particularly in Agatha Christe's Marple. [...and particularly one feature of this story, though strangely that alteration does not fundamentally alter it very much; in fact I rather liked it - it made one much more sad for the murderer... but I digress...].
    Add to all this that Stephanie Cole is a lovely reader. She has a wonderfully gentle voice - totally suited not just to the Marple character but the tone of the whole book.

  • The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie [Read by Joan Hickson]
    BOM-TheMurderAtTheVicarage.jpg I was so delighted with The Body in the Library that I rushed ahead to listen to this one - the first Marple book - and was bitterly disappointed. Not read by Stephanie Cole but Joan Hickson - who could not, in my opinion, be bettered in playing the TV character in Miss Marple, but who is strangely not really a very good reader. I can see why she would have seemed an obvious choice but a narrator needs different skills from an actor. In fact they made two glaring errors in choosing Hickson for this. The first, which Stephanie Cole would not have solved, is that this book (a surprise to me) is written in the first person from the point of view of the vicar... who knew? (everyone except me I suspect) - so obviously it should be voiced by a male narrator - no?. Secondly, in choosing an actress whose very voice is that of Miss Marple, it meant that every time she said "I", you immediately linked it to being things Marple did, which seemed momentarily slightly incongruous, before you reminded yourself that this was in fact the vicar speaking.
    I have to say the library inaccurately labelled this book as being narrated by Richard E Grant - and I found there is in fact a version by him which is much preferable (I listened to a sample). In fact the - again unexpected for me - pleasure of this book is the dry wit expressed by the vicar with his acute (unspoken) observations of his parishioners and which is well suited to Grant. One thing I would also note here is, that it is, I understand, notoriously difficult to adapt first person narratives (especially diarists) to the screen; in the case of this story, the TV adaptations are excellent, very faithful to the spirit of the book, and feature the vicar in much the way the book did - however you do lose much of that wry humour that book-vicar expresses only in his own thoughts.

  • BlackwaterBBCR4.jpg Blackwater
    Radio series written for reading by several voices across ten 15 minute episodes, it tells the story of Zoe who reappears in her home town rather dramatically after 10 years on the same day as her supposed murderer is released from prison. Consternation all round. Even worse she is unable to explain where she has been all this time.
    It's a very professionally produced polished thriller with a very credible plot - full of tension and drama. Written by Claire McGowan, produced by Celia De Wolff, and stars Clare Dunne (Zoe), Richard Clements (Steve), Aston Kelly (Paul), Sean Kearns (Phil), and Roisin Gallagher (Danny).

Posted on March 31, 2021 at 10:15 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Tuesday March 30, 2021

The other end of the Hogsmill

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We met up again as the day was predicted to be another sunny one - offset by dire warnings about the weather prospects over the Easter weekend. We walked to the little pond along part of the river which was cleaned up with help from the National Lottery. The wild flowers are lovely - celandines, wood anemones, and these periwinkles. Rob introduced me to the three-cornered leek (triangular stem) which I'd never heard of and is delicate and beautiful - but smells of onions. [Probably some sort of metaphor for life but I can't think of it].

ThreeCorneredLeek.jpg

On the way, there were some scrubland bushes full of house sparrows. These are sufficiently rare these days to be worth having a proper look at (and taking a photo).

HouseSparrow.jpg

We went along the river walk and crossed the A3 (subway), viewing a nest hole Rob had spotted some days before...

NuthatchNest.jpg

..and we were suddenly surrounded by these impossibly cute tits which stayed by us for ages, but were too nippy to get any perfect photos.

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We came back on the other side of the river and were suddenly faced with a dead end. So being intrepid - whilst at the same time realising it was not a really sensible thing to do - we went through a very large gap in the fencing and made our way through a relatively wild environment - I have to say in our defence that we were not the first and followed a pretty distinct trail. After walking through some tall grasses, we found Rob's jumper to be covered in extremely tenacious seed heads, reminding me of the Burry Man.

However, eventually, and fairly predictably, we ended up in a private area with a padlocked gate barring our way on to the A3 side. I was a bit unwilling to go all the way back in order to cross back to the sanctioned side of the river - although we had mentally prepared to do so - but luckily we found we could exit across a private driveway (hardly any trespass at all...) and out onto a residential road. From there it was easy to find our way back.
It wasn't until we were back at our cars that we discovered that I was also a Burry Woman.

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Posted on March 30, 2021 at 11:44 AM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Tuesday March 9, 2021

One day in March...

KingfisherHogsmill.jpg

We are allowed to meet for a walk and it's the only sunny day expected for a week (and it is indeed lovely). So we went to search for the little chap above, as he had been see in the vicinity of the pond which is where we started out. No joy - we met a photographer who had settled in there to wait.
We then walked for a couple of hours up the river, and on our return at lunchtime - joy. We watched (and photographed) him fishing and perching for about half an hour - and he was still at it when we finally left.

Hogsmill1.jpg

We saw quite a lot of other interesting birds in our travels including a kestrel (below), nuthatch, grey wagtail, multiple tits, parrots, various geese, cormorant, jays, moorhens, coots, tufties - and a couple of well fed rats...

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[A ranger told us that on their relatively small reserve they have over 50 recorded bird species].

Hogsmill2.jpg

This is my photo (as opposed to Rob's with his fancy camera) of the Kingfisher. The bird itself is absolutely dead centre on the branch overhanging the water - I guess you'll have to take my word for it...

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Posted on March 9, 2021 at 3:07 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Sunday February 28, 2021

Books in February

  • Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo [read by Sean Barrett] BOM-Cockroaches.jpg
    The second of Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series - this time set in Bangkok. Alcoholism still a key feature of Harry's life but he seems to have a motive to stay dry and seems to do so for most of this book. I know these should not be my main thoughts on a book but addictions always worry me - it's just a "thing".
    I listened to quite a lot of it while out walking every day (- lockdown -) and I think I should have given it more proper attention as it's a moderately complicated plot and there are lots of Norwegian and Thai names (I know - sorry... but for me, audio is harder that the written word with names). Anyway, it was excellent, though I need to read a few more to make sure Harry stays safely on the wagon...

  • The Magus by John Fowles [read by Nicholas Boulton] BOM-TheMagus.jpg
    The Magus was published in 1965, but is set in the early 1950s, when Fowles started writing it. For someone of my age, it was almost a cult book. My college tutor was utterly captivated by it, and my sister was similarly fascinated by Fowles (though I think in her case it was mostly The French Lieutenant's Woman).
    I find it hard to review this book because frankly I don't have sufficient writing skills to express my thoughts properly - and so much has been written about it I'm likely to be repeating others (using inferior prose). My tutor said the plot was "like an onion" where you were constantly peeling off more layers as you read. And given the nature of the book, I find it odd to reflect that I have read it at least 3 times in my life, as well as listening to a more recent radio play in 2016. Listening to it read out was a new experience again; it slowed me down, and drew attention to whole episodes I had pretty well forgotten. Partly this was because you (I) are so wrapped up in unravelling the mystery that you (I) mentally skim over anything that is not apparently revealing anything to you (me) towards that end. And here, I remembered a series of theological lectures I attended about 'Myth and Legend', where our Dean said that a truly great book was one you could re-read and it would have something new to reveal to you every time. Now I do not claim that this is a 'great' book in the way the Dean meant it, if for no other reason than Fowles was not very satisfied with it himself. However, it is interesting coming back to it with all those years in between, because it really did seem to have a very different point from the one I took away from it when in my twenties.
    Originally I read about a young male graduate who doesn't really know what he's doing with his life and goes to teach English on a small Greek island, leaving a behind an Australian girl with whom he has been living. From there on he is manipulated emotionally and physically by a mysterious wealthy old man and his accomplices living on the island. They use psychological illusions which become increasingly dark and serious, so that in the end our hero finds it hard to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
    Like many other readers at the time, I thought it was all about his changing, through his experiences, and coming to realise that his original love is "the one", so I was disappointed that there was no specific happy reunion at the end. In fact when asked, Fowles would impishly give different answers to the question "... but what happened in the end..." - and due to the books extreme commercial success, he continued to work on it, publishing a revision with an extended ending to assuage his readership; this new ending still left the question open but those who wanted to could be more optimistic about the love affair rekindling.
    Now I'm no longer in my twenties, I do not see the romance as the main point of the novel. Moreover, the main character is not very likeable, though he is indeed taught some lessons by his experiences. However, one wonders if he is really capable of truly understanding let alone becoming a better human being, and thus I found it less important whether he achieved his final fixation of being reunited with his original love. I read that you cannot help having sympathy for a character when written in the first person, and that this is the difficulty in writing only from that point of view, since he is forced to have a certain degree of intelligence and understanding in order to convey the finer points of the story to the reader - and yet the character himself is written to have no such qualities.
    Finally, as well as (superficially) young women, such as myself, being wrapped up only in the mystery and romance, young men, such as my tutor, were, I believe, wrapped up mostly in the idea of the exquisitely lovely fantasy woman our hero pursues, and were no doubt wholly engaged throughout by the fairly explicit text on love making. [Rather confirmed in a way as my tutor (not in any way shape or form inappropriately...) subsequently suggested I would like the Alexandria Quartet - even gave me his copies I think, which I still possess, unread - though after watching ITV's The Durrells recently it occurred to me that perhaps I should read them.]

  • Dirty Weekend by Helen Zahavi BOM-DirtyWeekend.jpg
    An interesting book from 1991 which is rather graphically violent. Bella ("Brighton Bella" she muses) is refusing to be a victim any more. Instead she morphs into a type of female vigilante.
    The text has a lyrical quality of the same type I observed in Autumn by Ali Smith, (albeit a very different book), where words seem to be satisfying explored with the brain and the tongue. However, mostly - and rather counter to the text - I really enjoyed the setting in Brighton. Here are Bella's thoughts on the West Pier, which many locals might have echoed:
    West Pier is her favourite pier. Her all-time favourite pier. It is first among piers, the pier of piers, a peerless pier. You want to head down to the coast in February. You want to pop down, if you have a moment. You want to see West Pier as it should be seen.
    They've stopped cleaning off the mess the gulls drop, and it stands out white against the grey English sea. It's forlorn and desolate and ravaged, and they want to pull it down. They say it's unsafe. They say it's an eyesore. They say it detracts from the rest of the town.
    Pygmies and philistines.
    It's the town that detracts from the pier.

    [As of now, only a partial metal framework remains.]


  • RedForDanger.jpg Red for Danger
    I experienced the same (patronising) admiration for this suspense thriller from 1954, as I did when listening to the Peter Coke/Marjory Westbury Paul Temple adaptations. As I said then, we - or I - tend to forget that fifties Radio plays were produced with great skill and realism - albeit that the realism is overlaid with slight over dramatisation in keeping with the time (and some actors are better than others). The script is good - but then is is written by Edward J Mason of Dick Barton and The Archers fame - and the conversations come across as very natural, especially considering the (fairly) preposterous plot involving a secret formula for a metal alloy, and foreign spies.
    The hero is a jeweller by trade (although it sounds as though he's a gentleman sleuth who has had other adventures). While attending a birthday party, his hostess (Red) convinces him she is in danger... Cue the music...
    Stars Ysanne Churchman. Anne Cullen, Arnold Peters, Bernard Rebel, Dudley Rolph, Gerik Schelderup, June Spencer and Peter Wilde; written by Edward J Mason, and produced by Philip Garston-Jones.
    Edward J Mason is a name particularly memorable for me as he created a number of panel game shows with producer Tony Shryane, including My Word!, (and My Music), which I used to listen to secretly in bed at night after I was given my own transistor radio (with an earpiece) aged about 10.

Posted on February 28, 2021 at 6:13 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Thursday February 18, 2021

Fungus

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"Bracket" is about as far as I can get in the identification. There are several contenders but when you know nothing about a subject it's easy to be misled by pictures (Rainbow? Blushing?). I think clues might be in the time of year (now) as well as the tree on which it's growing - which I did not observe closely at the time. I'm guessing it's not rare (but very pretty).

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Some candidates - all looking very pretty:

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TrametesHirsuta.jpg

LenzitesBetulinus.jpg

Posted on February 18, 2021 at 1:37 PM. Category: The Garden. | Comments (0)

Sunday January 31, 2021

Books in January

  • Alice Rice Mysteries: Blood in the Water, Where the Shadow Falls, Dying of the Light,
    No Sorrow to Die, and, The Road to Hell
    by Gillian Galbraith

    These are pleasing detective procedurals of the type I very much enjoy. There are 6 Alice Rice novels and the only reason I have not read the last one is that it (unlike the others) is available in audio format so I am waiting to listen to it. I was led to them after I read (listened to) the stand-alone novel "End of the Line" (quite a different theme), which is her most recent and was, I think, the best.
    According to the Times Gillian Galbraith's books have become one of the most sought after lending-library titles during the Covid-induced reading frenzy of the past year. I hope she writes more books, though I think there will be no more featuring Alice.

    BOM-BloodInTheWater.jpg BOM-WhereTheShadowFalls.jpg BOM-DyingOfTheLight.jpg BOM-NoSorrowToDie.jpg BOM-TheRoadToHell.jpg



  • The Ape who guards the Balance by Elizabeth Peters [read by Barbara Rosenblat]
    BOM-TheApeWhoGuardsTheBalance.jpg The usual amusing nonsense that faithful readers of these novels will enjoy - and expect. I am a faithless reader, and can't say I am enamoured - but I also hastily say that I do accept that this is "just me". I am not keen on the tongue-in-cheek way the main character with her false Victorian/Edwardian sensibilities is presented as the narrator. And yet I have come back to the series several times.... I can only say that they provide adequate background listening without my paying too much attention. [I might also add that this could be a mistake, as the plots are quite complex - and to that end I also feel the books would benefit from being read in chronological order].

Posted on January 31, 2021 at 10:16 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Sunday January 24, 2021

No grit here...

Skid.jpg

Someone's car slid for quite a distance down our road, (including over the pavement), deftly avoiding people and parked cars, and finally coming to rest in our fence ....

Posted on January 24, 2021 at 1:36 PM. Category: Staying at Home. | Comments (0)

Thursday January 14, 2021

3000 Things... complete

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Victory is ours - Christmas project completed.
What to do now? Why - on to Mike Wilks letter "A" of course...


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Our Christmas project - a Waddingtons 3000 piece jigsaw purchased long ago for just such a time as this.
Mike Wilks stunningly detailed picture "Sleepy Shopkeeper" featuring all things starting with the letter "S". [Including his own signature "Wike Milks" - - no? - a spoonerism].

Posted on January 14, 2021 at 7:19 PM. Category: Staying at Home. | Comments (0)

Friday January 1, 2021

Gazing out to sea

FolkestoneStatue.jpg

This seemed to me the "right" image to start this year. Mostly it's because this figure is solitary, contemplating a shrouded horizon. I can see that it might convey a poignant sadness - but that's not the view I want to suggest. Far from that idea, Gormley's figures are said to stand on the shores, not for ever sadly waiting or hoping, but gazing out to sea with a silent expectation.
It conveys to me a peaceful stillness - a calm interlude - some kind of contented solitude.

This public art sculpture by Antony Gormley is sited at Folkestone's Harbour Arm.

Posted on January 1, 2021 at 12:32 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)