Thursday, January 31, 2013

BTT: On Loan

btt buttonfrom DEB

Do you lend your books? Are any out on loan right now? Do you have any that have been loaned to you? Do you put a time limit on these? Do you think people should make an effort to read the loaned book quickly?

My short answer would be: It depends…

I both lent and borrowed more books among friends in the past than I do now. One reason is that there are fewer people now that I see regularly, and most of the people I discuss books with these days don’t even live in the same country!

I have some experience from far back in the past of people not returning books…  Keeping them for years, or even for good. Whether I’d lend a book to someone now depends on what book, and who’s asking.

Right now I think I’ve only got one book on (private) loan myself. I’ve had it for a while as it’s part of a series and I’d not read all the previous ones yet. But my aunt knew that when she lent it to me…  (It’s probably in turn now next time I feel like holding a “real” book instead of the Kindle.)

Generally speaking, if someone asks to borrow a book from me, I’d probably expect them to read and return it sooner rather than later, if nothing else was said. But if it’s the other way round - if I say to someone “this is a good book, borrow it if you like” - then I wouldn’t automatically assume them to dive right into it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Her father, who had observed her for so long and spoken so little, had tried again to find words with which to approach her. But silence can breed silence, and the language of his own home had somehow become a mystery to him.

Martin Davies – The Unicorn Road (2009)

Product Details

And he happened to stand on one of the thin places that Jane and Anthea had darned, so that he was half on plain Scotch heather-mixture fingering*, which has no magic properties at all. The effect of this was that he was only half there – so that the children could just see through him, as though he had been a ghost.

Edith Nesbit – The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904)

*fingering: fine wool for knitting

See these old ads I found through Google search.
Click on the images to get to the original web-pages.

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Clutha Leader, Volume XVII, Issue 875, 24 April 1891, Page 3

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Wanganui Chronicle , Issue 12873, 20 March 1913, Page 1

As I’m reading both books on my Kindle, there are no page numbers. I just took the quotations from where I happen to be in each book.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Green Tomato Marmalade

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For Lisa’s Macro Monday and Mary’s Mosaic Monday

Sometimes I’ve made green tomato marmalade myself from tomatoes grown on my balcony. Not in the last couple of years though… So I haven’t had any in a while; and was happy to find this (made in France) in my favourite tea shop in town. It’s supposed to be all natural ingredients. Like my own recipe, it also contains lemons. It’s somewhat sweeter than I remember mine. And greener. I wonder if that has anything to do with what kind of cauldron it is cooked in…???

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunrise Silhouettes

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We have another very cold week behind us. I’ve not been out much except for going  to my physiotherapy in the rehab pool at the hospital (two mornings a week) or grocery shopping (usually a bit later in the day).

The photo above was taken with my phone camera when going to the bus stop last Monday, at about 8:50 in the morning. The one below with the proper camera from my balcony on Friday morning at 8:15 (just sticking my head out very quickly for the photo…)

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Over the weekend the sun has not been getting up, but has pulled the clouds over its head, shaking down some more snow over us. (Not so much that it make’s much difference though.) I’ve mostly been following it’s example – wrapping myself in blankets and escaping to other worlds by magic (books).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Easily Amused

I just read a post by the MadSnapper Sandra, entitled: How to make a post out of Anything/ Everything/ NOTHING … And I wrote in my comment that I was just thinking of doing a post with the title Easily Amused. So now I have to.

Actually I was just going to do that anyway, so all that remains for me now is to try to explain. Which is the hard part, or I would already have done it by now.

The thing is, I’m still giggling on and off at a chapter in a children’s book that I read two days ago. At the age of 57, I’m not sure if that’s something one ought to admit.

But I just checked, and found that after all, Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) was 44 when she wrote it (or at least she was when it was published, in 1902). The book is Five Children and It, and the chapter that had me particularly amused was Ch 9, entitled Grown Up.

If I knew that you (dear readers) had all read the book, the explaining part might not be so difficult. Those who haven’t might need a little bit of background, though.

While playing in a gravel pit near their home, five children—two boys, two girls, and their baby brother, nicknamed “the Lamb”—uncover a rather grumpy sand-fairy known as the Psammead, who has the ability to grant wishes. (Only one per day and they only last for a day, at sunset all goes back to normal.)

Getting your wishes granted turns out more trouble than one might think,  as the Psammead tends to act on the very first “I wish” of the day that happens to come to mind for any of the children, whether they mean it as an actual wish or not.

One day, for example, one of them happens to wish that their (sometimes rather troublesome) little baby brother would “grow up”… Which, of course, he immediately does; and instead of being their baby brother, he becomes their grown up brother for a day. But as his brothers and sisters know he will suddenly turn back to a baby at sunset, they still can’t let him go off on his own. So they have to watch out for him, even though now it’s he who does not want their company.

That is not really the funny part though.
And neither is this, in itself:

The grown-up Lamb frowned. 'My dear Anthea,' he said, 'how often am I to tell you that my name is Hilary or St Maur or Devereux? - any of my baptismal names are free to my little brothers and
sisters, but NOT "Lamb" …

What set me giggling, and still does, is how the author treats that name-issue throughout the rest of the chapter (these are just some examples):

The grown-up Lamb (or Hilary, as I suppose one must now call him) fixed his pump and blew up the tyre.

Quietly but persistently the miserable four took it in turns to try to persuade the Lamb (or St Maur) to spend the rest of the day in the woods.

'He doesn't know who he is. He's something very different from what you think he is.'
'What do you mean?' asked the lady not unnaturally, while Devereux (as I must term the grown-up Lamb) tried vainly to push Anthea away.

[Anthea] caught the Lamb (I suppose I ought to say
Hilary) by the arm.

'Who are these very dirty children?' she asked the grown-up Lamb (sometimes called St Maur in these pages).

Again and again the Lamb (Devereux, I mean) had tried to stop Jane's eloquence, but…

If anyone would like to read the whole chapter you can find it here (Click on Part 3 and scroll down to Ch. 9).

And then you may shake your head at me, if you wish. (Just remember to be careful what you wish for.)

 

 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Booking Through Thursday: Soundtrack

btt buttonfrom Deb:

♫ Do you ever try to pair music with the book you’re reading? Play the movie soundtrack while reading the original book? Find mood music that fits with your story? ♫

I’m not sure if I ever tried listening to a movie soundtrack while reading the original book. Actually I quite like reading in silence. But if there are other irrelevant noises going on, I do prefer to try and drown them with music of my own choice. Generally, for reading, I prefer instrumental music. Either something neutral, not too intrusive, or something that I find suits the mood of the book. Or at least does not totally clash with it. For example, in the last book I just read, The Chessmen by Peter May, set on the Isle of Lewis off the west coast of Scotland, Celtic music was partly involved in the story. So with that book, Celtic music would not only be my preferred choice, but anything else would probably feel out of place.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Chess Men (Book Review)

The Chess Men is the third novel in “the Lewis Trilogy” by Peter May (following The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man – links go to my reviews).

For me this one was a page-turner from beginning to end. It starts with a disappearing loch (lake). Who can resist getting intrigued? I read the book in three days.

Former police detective Fin Macleod’s has taken a job as head of security on a private estate. In this capacity he is reunited with another close friend from the past, a reunion which continues to stir up memories and cast more light on his teen years, as well as questions about what determines our choices in life.

I really liked the whole trilogy, and the third book did not disappoint me. I wonder how determined the author is about keeping it a trilogy… While this book did tie up some loose ends, it doesn’t seem to close the door completely for a continuation. I can see a risk, though, that if it were to continue for too long, it would probably eventually grow repetitious and too unrealistic. But in this book, I think Peter May still manages very successfully to keep up the magic contained in the very landscape, climate and history of the island, as well as in the background of his main character. I’m still enchanted by May’s use of language and also the general reflections triggered by confrontations between the present and the past. My spontaneous rating (Kindle always asks) is 5 stars.

*****

The Lewis chessmen in the title refer to medeival chess pieces found in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis, which may constitute some of the few complete, surviving medieval chess sets. They were probably made in Norway and are carved from walrus ivory and wales’ teeth. One characteristic feature is their rather expressive faces.

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(photo from Wikimedia Commons, replicas)

The British Museum in London has 67 of the original pieces, and the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh has the remaining 11.

I learned the basics of chess back in childhood but I have to confess it’s been so many years since I last played that I had to check now in which order to set up the pieces. Which I did for this photo:

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The funny coincidence is, I actually have a chess set based on the Lewis chessmen. Made many years ago by my brother who bought a set of molds for casting them in plaster. I remembered I had it while he was here for Christmas and asked him about it and he said that yes, they are based on the Lewis chessmen.

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Pawn, Queen and King

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Rook (Berserker*), Knight, Bishop

*Quote from the book:

“The Berserkers were Norse warriors who whipped themselves up into a trance-like state, so that they could fight without fear or pain. The fiercest of the Viking warriors.”

*****

Some of my “highlights”, not containing spoilers but just examples of how the author uses language…

The distinctevely toasty scent of warm peat smoke filled the house. Stepping into it was like falling down the rabbit hole.

‘Because they knew they wouldn’t get a conviction in a court of law, Mr Macleod.’ He scratched his head. ‘But a court of the Free Church of Scotland… that’s another matter altogether.’

The storm had passed by the Monday, but it was still overcast, dull light suffused with a grey-green, as if we were all somehow trapped inside a Tupperware box.

‘Tell me.’ ‘Another time.’ ‘Who says there’ll be another time?’

Silence settled like down after a duck fight.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Sun and the Moon

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Yesterday I had to put my sunglasses on when going out for a short walk. Not even with the glasses on did I really stare into the sun when taking this photo – only my camera did!

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Turning round and looking in the other direction…
Can you spot the moon in the extremely clear blue sky?

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(Cropped and lomo style edited image)

The field is the football field near where I live, and the temperature at noon yesterday was around -11°C (12F). It looked nice from inside, but felt very very cold once I got out. I had imagined myself going for a somewhat longer walk but ended up with just a short one. Still my face felt all red and frostbitten when I got back in.

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Today cloudy again and –6.3°C but it still feels very cold just opening the balcony door, and I see the top branches of the trees moving a little… No, I won’t be going far today either. Better just stay in and continue reading, I think! (That’s why there are so many book reviews on this blog lately…)

Linking to Shadow Shot Sunday

Reading Classics, Not a Waste of Time

Yesterday evening, after I had just published my post/book review on The Vicar of Wakefield, I was having a glance at my daily newspaper. There I happened to find a short notice which caught my interest, entitled Poetry is good for the brain. Today I managed to find the longer article which was referred to. Here’s an excerpt + a link to the whole.

Excerpts from an article in The Telegraph, 13 January 2013
(by Julie Henry, Education Correspondent)

Shakespeare and Wordsworth boost the brain, new research reveals

Scientists, psychologists and English academics at Liverpool University have found that reading the works of Shakespeare and other classical writers has a beneficial effect on the mind, catches the reader’s attention and triggers moments of self-reflection.

Using scanners, they monitored the brain activity of volunteers as they read works by William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, T.S Eliot and others.

They then “translated” the texts into more “straightforward”, modern language and again monitored the readers’ brains as they read the words.

Scans showed that the more “challenging” prose and poetry set off far more electrical activity in the brain than the more pedestrian versions.

Scans of brain activity during reading show heightened electrical activity when faced with 'challenging' texts by great writers

The brain shows minimal activity when the text is translated into 'modern' prose

Scientists were able to study the brain activity as it responded to each word and record how it “lit up” as the readers encountered unusual words, surprising phrases or difficult sentence structure.

The research also found that reading poetry, in particular, increases activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, an area concerned with “autobiographical memory”, helping the reader to reflect on and reappraise their own experiences in light of what they have read. The academics said this meant the classics were more useful than self-help books.

Philip Davis, an English professor who has worked on the study: “Serious literature acts like a rocket-booster to the brain. The research shows the power of literature to shift mental pathways, to create new thoughts, shapes and connections”

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Vicar of Wakefield (Book Review)

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith, first published in 1766, is an English classic so classic that it’s frequently mentioned in other classics. It’s been referred to by prominent authors such as Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë and Louisa Alcott. I’ve probably been familiar with the title ever since my early teens; but I never actually read the book until now.

Just having struggled through it, I have to say I don’t blame my English professors at (Swedish) University for not including it in the course reading. I’d lie if I said I found it an easy read. The vocabulary as well as the ideas seem rather antiquated to a modern reader – even when not unused to reading other classics.

I did find it enlightening in the sense that I now finally have a better idea of the style and content of the book, and how it may have influenced other authors. I’m not quite sure what I expected, but I think on the whole I imagined it to be more on the quiet side. While it starts out that way, there’s actually quite a lot of action and twist and turns in the story before the end. In my eyes the quality as well as the “pace” of it is a bit uneven. It’s also not easy, as a modern reader, to quite determine how much it is meant to be taken seriously or as satire.

The narrator of the story is the vicar himself, Reverend Dr Charles Primrose, telling the story in retrospection. At the beginning he is quite a wealthy man, living off an inherited fortune. He’s a good man of firm principles, but charitable, and taking pride in being a good husband to his wife, a father of six children – four of them nearly grown up, and two little ones – and a good friend and generous neighbour. There is one religious thesis that is a bit of an obession with him though, and that is the idea of strict monogamy. (Meaning that while he warmly encourages marriage and family life, he does not believe anyone should remarry even if their partner dies.) As might be expected, his convictions are sort of put to the test in the course of the story.

The family’s luck begins to turn quite early on in the story, when he loses his fortune, and they’re forced to a humbler way of life than they’ve been used to. In fact, as the story goes on, it becomes rather obvious to me that the storyline is roughly based on the book of Job in the Bible, even if I don’t think Job is ever referred to ‘in so many words’. But if you have some idea of the story of Job, he was a righteous man who was put through a great deal of trials, losing one thing after another, except his faith – although even that was shaken about a bit before the end. And there is a similar thread in this novel, even if the parallels with Job are not quite so obvious that every twist and turn in the story is predictable.

There are some rather tedious parts with long speeches etc. But there are also other parts where quite a lot happens in a short time.

I’m not sure it serves much point to “rate” a classic like this. It was not an easy read but then I did not expect it to be. What I found helpful was that besides the free Kindle ebook it was also available as cheap Whispersync Audible book ($3.44). I read some chapters and listened to some, and when I lost concentration with one method of reading I could switch to the other. As it did not cost more I found it well worth the investment in this case.

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Measuring Heights: A scene from Oliver Goldsmith's "The Vicar of Wakefield". W.P.Frith.1863. Oil on canvas, 53.5 x 68 cm (Wikimedia Commons) (A scene from Chapter 16: Olivia Primrose and Squire Thornhill standing back to back, so that Mrs. Primrose can determine who is taller.)

The author, Oliver Goldsmith (1730 – 1774), was an Anglo-Irish novelist, playwright and poet. No doubt the novel has some foundation in his own experiences. His own father and grandfather were clergymen and he grew up in a parsonage. He went away to university but was not successful neither in his studies nor in finding a profession. After a walking tour in Europe, “living by his wits (busking with his flute)” he settled in London in 1756, where he briefly held various odd jobs. He became friends with Dr Samuel Johnson, and it was Johnson who helped Goldsmith to get his novel sold, to settle a debt to his landlady.

A few quotes to give you a taste of the style:

when any one of our relations was found to be a person of very bad character, a troublesome guest, or one we desired to get rid of, upon his leaving my house, I ever took care to lend him a riding coat, or a pair of boots, or sometimes an horse of small value, and I always had the satisfaction of finding he never came back to return them. By this the house was cleared of such as we did not like; but never was the family of Wakefield known to turn the traveller or the poor dependent out of doors.

---

Unequal combinations are always disadvantageous to the weaker side: the rich having the pleasure, and the poor the inconveniences that result from them.

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The pain which conscience gives the man who has already done wrong, is soon got over. Conscience is a coward, and those faults it has not strength enough to prevent, it seldom has justice enough to accuse.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Mapping of Love and Death (Book Review)

The Mapping of Love and Death

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear (2010) is the 7th book in her series about private investigator Maisie Dobbs, set in London between the two great World Wars.

The first book (Maisie Dobbs) won an Agatha Award for Best First Novel 2003.

The main character Maisie began her working life at the age of thirteen as a servant, and later came to serve as a nurse in the first World War. Years later, in 1929, having apprenticed to Dr Maurice Blanche, revered for his work with Scotland Yard, Maisie sets up her own business as a private investigator. Her assistant Billy Beale has working class background and served as a soldier in the war. Maisie’s former employers Lady Rowan and Lord Julian Compton are her supporters and sponsors of her education and provide the link to the upper class society.

I read the first book in 2006, and on average I’ve been reading about one per year since then - while the author has also continued to publish one per year, which means I am still a few books behind!

While the books are well written, and I assume a lot of research has gone into background details, I find them a bit… gloomy, and slow-paced… with more focus on thinking than on action. As the series continues there is quite a lot of repetition of background (for the benefit of those who did not read all the previous books). The War keeps hovering in the background, and Maise as a literary character still also seems to be keeping a certain emotional distance - even from the reader. At the same time I find the period of time interesting and from that aspect I find the books adding to the general picture.

As with any book which is part of a series with an ongoing background story, I find it hard to give a detailed review, as it may reveal too much to readers who have not read the others.

The short intro to The Mapping of Love and Death on the author’s website reads:

Maisie Dobbs is hired to find the woman who wrote a series of love letters to a dead young soldier while grappling with her own memories of wartime romance…

The “mapping” in the title refers to the fact that the soldier in question was a cartographer; which means there are quite a few references to cartography and its use in the first world war. This, in itself, I found interesting (learning a little bit about something I never really thought about before).

Weighing in both main plot and background story… I think I’ll stop at 3 stars. (Maybe 3½…)

BTT: Winter

btt buttonfrom Deb

 … what books do you like to read when it’s snowy and white? What books do you read to evoke a real feeling of winter (good or bad)?

I don’t think I especially turn to wintry books just because there is winter outside my own windows.

It does happen around Christmas, perhaps, that I pick up some book or story with that theme. This past Christmas for example I read A Little Book of Christmas, written 100 years ago by John Kendrick Bangs. (The link goes to a previous post of mine about that book and author.) An old favourite is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which I have in a wonderful edition with illustrations by Roberto Innocenti.

Another classic that brings to mind images of winter would be The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Can’t Concentrate…

A day or two ago I was watching a TV documentary about the human brain, and how we are a lot less capable of multi-tasking than we might think. They did experiments using magicians and film clips, and asked the test people and audience to keep count of more than one thing at the same time, or to look out for more than one thing simultaneously, and then asked them about something completely different. The amount of things, and the kind of things one misses is really incredible. (Like you’re asked to keep count of how many times two people in blue hats, among a group of dancers, step in and out of the spotlight… And afterwards they ask: Did you see the penguin? Er… what… Rewind, and sure enough, there was full size human dressed up in a penguin costume walking across the scene in the background… Unnoticed!)  

Anyway… Google seems to be doing their own show of the same kind today. HOW am I going to keep in mind what it was I was going to look up, when this is what comes up on my screen:

 

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To my credit, I did notice the ice bear! But I can’t for the life of me remember what it was I was going to google in the first place.

When I clicked the button in the middle, it got worse and turned into a game.

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It can’t be April Fool’s Day yet.
Can someone tell me what’s going on?

I can’t help laughing a little… But if it continues, I’m going to have to swith to another standard search engine. (Yes, Google – I’m serious!)

I have no idea any more what it was I originally intended to blog about today.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Recently Read

As I’ve said before, I listen to quite a few audio books, and with those, if I don’t also have access to the text, I often find it hard to write a proper review. I’ve decided to just briefly “mention” some of them now and then under the heading Recently Read.

I recently listened to two by Alexander McCall Smith – one after the other – in Swedish translation:

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party is No 12 in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency/Mma Ramotswe series.

The Comfort of Saturdays is No 5 in the Sunday Philosophy Club/Isabel Dalhousie series.

I have to say, I much prefer the Mma Ramotswe series, set in Botswana. There is a combination of simplicity and humour in that series that appeals to me; while (harshly put) Isabel Dalhousie tends to alternately annoy vs bore me. (So why did I listen to another book in that series? Answer: Because I had forgotten almost everything from the previous ones…)

Mid January

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It’s been snowing again since yesterday. I’ve been staying in today, taking down the last of my Christmas things – well, almost. I’m in the habit of taking things down in reversed order to how I put them up. My Christmas tree and various little angels and gnomes and such are usually only up for a couple of weeks around Christmas and New Year. The electric candles and window stars, which I put up for 1st Advent, usually get to stay until mid January. Even now it feels strangely empty without them the first couple of days - even though I put other window lamps back up instead. The outdoor lights on the balcony will get to stay a bit longer though – especially since they’ve just been snowed over again! The red/white kitchen curtains will stay up for a few more weeks too; as will the poinsettia, still thriving.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Cable and the Consequences

consequence:
‘a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon’
[tyda.se]

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The Hall was mentioned a lot in the [mis]information letters as being the place where it would all start from. However, the Cable’s chosen way in and out of the flat turned out to be the phone jack in my Study. (Which means the Hall did not get involved at all, except of course as entrance for the Guys who did the job.)

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From the phone jack the Cable turned left along a piece of wall I did not anticipate would be involved (so nothing there had been moved in advance) ...

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… and went up in the corner, to continue steadfastly to the left over the window…

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… and magically disappear through the wall into the next room …

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… to continue over the windows in that room as well…
… Oops, sorry! We’ll have to move the bookcase! …

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(‘Before’ photo from my archives)

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… because the new magic cable box turned out to be too big to fit above the old sockets beside the window …

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The folded piece of paper stuck in behind the magic box forbids me to plug it in yet. Before I am allowed to do that I shall have to read more INFORMATION that will be sent to me…

Conversation at the end of the day:
Cable guys: We’ll move the bookcase back now…
Terrified tenant: No, no, no… Stop!!!

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My photo albums got to sit on the sofa for a day or two – while yours truly did not get to sit much at all.

But “all’s well that ends well” – n’est-ce pas?

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The bookcase has gone to live in the study, while one of two small chests of drawers from there has moved into the sitting room instead. (The bookcase is happy, and the chest of drawers will just have to get used to it.)

As for me, I end up asking myself, like blogging friend GB did recently: “Why, oh why, didn't I do this 5 years ago?” (or 4½ in my case, as that’s when I moved in)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Chaos reigns

The only things neatly in place at the moment are the new cables. Not excactly where I expected them to be though, so neither is anything else. The laptop I rescued to the kitchen before it all started. The hall I needn’t have bothered about (but did, so all the pictures and other stuff from there is in the kitchen too). Other things I should have worried about more than I did. Several pieces of furniture in the study had to be moved. So did a heavy bookcase in the sitting room. The guys did that for me (with tons of books and photo albums still in it). They also offered to put it back for me afterwards, but the thing is, by then it had dawned on me that if they did, the same super-heavy bookcase would have to be moved every time in the future that one might need access to the new cable box. Which I anticipate that one will! So I said leave it… I need a major home make-over here…. Which I realized is probably not in their job description. I don’t blame the guys who did the job today but I’m still muttering about the incompetent writers of all the confusing and contradictory letters of (mis)information beforehand…

Meanwhile, chaos reigns and my shoulder hurts, so it’s gonna take some time to get back to “normal”…!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new

In Sweden 6 January is called the Thirteenth Day (trettondagen), and is a holiday; and Twelfth Night is "Thirtheenth Day's Eve" (trettondagsafton)(analogical with Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, Easter Eve etc). Most people (I think!) leave their decorations up over the 6th, and some keep them longer. In old Swedish traditions the Christmas tree is/was thrown out on (or around) the "twentieth day" = 13 January.

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This year I had to start taking down most of my Christmas decorations straight after New Year; it was not that I was particularly eager to get rid of them, but because the Cable Guys will be coming on Tuesday to install a new optic fibre cable for broadband and whatnot. I muttered back in December about the contradictory info we’ve been receiving about the procedure, and it’s not got much clearer since then. I still don’t know exactly how they’re going to draw the cables; but have been told we don’t have to move bookcases, as they’re going to draw the cables high along the ceiling and not along the floor. So I’m just taking down things on top of the shelves along the walls that I think may be involved. And anything else small that may break if it’s knocked over. Anything heavy (like the TV) I cannot move, however, so therefore I’ll just innocently regard that (and the chest of drawers it’s standing on) as a part of the bookcase and hope for the best!

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Before Tuesday there is tomorrow; and tomorrow I’ll start  back to the rehab pool at the hospital again, two mornings a week, for another six months. Hopefully that will be good. It’s just always something of a hassle to get used to getting up early again after not having had to worry about that for months… and especially not over Christmas/New Year…  (Don’t take my complaint too seriouosly. I don’t have to leave home until 8.45 and I’ve chosen the time myself among those available.)

The Diary of a Nobody (Book Review)

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The Diary of a Nobody is an English comic novel written by George Grossmith and his brother Weedon Grossmith, with illustrations by Weedon. The book first appeared in Punch magazine in 1888 – 89, and was first printed in book form in 1892. It is considered a classic work of humour and has never been out of print.

In The Diary of a Nobody the Grossmiths create an accurate, if amusing, record of the manners, customs and experiences of lower-middle-class, suburban Londoners of the late Victorian era. The diary is the fictitious record of fifteen months in the life of Mr. Charles Pooter, a middle-aged city clerk of lower middle-class status but significant social aspirations. Other characters include his wife Carrie, his son Lupin, his friends Mr. Cummings and Mr. Gowing, and Lupin's unsuitable fiancée, Daisy Mutlar. The humour derives from Pooter's unconscious gaffes* and self-importance, as well as the snubs he receives from those he considers socially inferior, such as tradesmen.

[Source: Wikipedia]

  * gaffe, noun: An unintentional act or remark causing embarrassment to its originator; a blunder

 George Grossmith (1847 – 1912) was an English comedian, writer, composer, actor, and singer. His brother Weedon Grossmith (1854 – 1919) was a writer, painter, actor and playwright.

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George Grossmith, as illustrated in The Idler magazine, 1897

I can’t remember now if someone recommended this book or if I just happened to come across it randomly  when searching for free classics for the Kindle. Anyway the title seemed familiar (I’ve probably seen/heard it referred to in various bookish contexts). After reading it, one main impression is that it might be best read as it was first published, in weekly portions. I was amused by the first few chapters, but have to confess I found it growing rather repetitious before the end.

Another thought that crossed my mind was that it’s kind of a 19th century equivalent of a blog. (Or a blog mocking other blogs.)

Why should I not publish my diary? I have often seen reminiscences of people I have never even heard of, and I fail to see - because I do not happen to be a ’Somebody’ - why my diary should not be interesting. My only regret is that I did not commence it when I was a youth.

Charles Pooter
The Laurels,
Brickfield Terrace
Holloway.

The Kindle copy I downloaded lacked the illustrations, but they can be found (with the full text) here.

Thinking of other classic British writers, the style reminds me perhaps most of Jerome K. Jerome, whose masterpiece Three Men in a Boat (one of my absolute favourite books ever) was also published in 1889.

However, my thoughts also wandered to The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass aged 37 3/4, by British author Adrian Plass, written about a century later - 1987. A book I found absolutely hilarious when I first read it, and have returned to with pleasure many a time since then. (I was going to call it a ‘contemporary’ equivalent here, and then did some maths and changed my mind… realizing that I may have readers who think 1987 belongs in History too.  Hm!)

Anyway, it never occurred to me before, that Plass might have picked some inspiration from some old classic that I had never read. Now, having widened my own reading experience, this suspicion does suggest itself! – even if I have no hard evidence. (Plass is a Christian writer and his fictitious Sacred Diary is set in a free church context. But other aspects are remarkably similar: Middle aged male diary-writer with wife and one young son of dating age, a few friends coming and going, and a cleverly exaggerated tendency for “gaffes”.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

5th January, 4th Blogoversary

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Counting: One, two, three, four… Yes. It’s four years today since I started my first blog (the predecesssor of this one) and wrote my very first blogpost.

It takes more advanced maths to tot up all my blog posts though … hmm… (whirring sound from my brain) … Well, just counting The Island of the Voices and this one (which are really the same blog, even if I changed the name in connection with switching account two years ago) – what-d’ya’know, the number of posts between them actually add up very nicely to exactly 1200, with this very post!

But then there’s also my Picture Book and Greetings from the Past, and a couple of others which have not been updated for a very long time… Well, let it be enough to say that A LOT more sprung from my first hesitating step into the unknown Blogworld than I could ever have guessed four years ago when in my first post I quoted the passage from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (by C.S. Lewis) where Lucy finds the Magician’s book with the “spell to make hidden things visible” (I still love the sense of prediction in this quote):

She read it through to make sure of all the hard words and then said it out loud. And she knew at once that it was working because as she spoke the colours came into the capital letters at the top of the page and the pictures began appearing in the margins. It was like when you hold to the fire something written in Invisible Ink and the writing gradually shows up...”

I also want to say a special thanks to those of you who have been “following” me almost from start and are still doing so. (It’s the two-way communication part of blogging that keeps me going!) And again a special thanks also to my long-time penpal Rose-Anne in Australia who was the one to introduce me to blogging in the first place! Smile

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