A Couple of Links

Here we are almost at yet another Saturday, I can’t believe how quickly the days go by in these Covid-19 times. Anyway, last Saturday there was an interesting article in the Guardian Review – Me and my detective – Partners in Crime. In it some crime authors write about their detectives. How does it feel to live with the same fictional character for decades, and when do you decide to call it a day? You can read the article via the link above. It includes Lee Child, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, Lynda La Plante, Jo Nesbo and others.

Elsewhere, at Son of the Rock in fact – Jack always has a music post on Fridays, sadly it’s often inspired by the death of an artist that he has admired over the years, but his recent music post is a comparison of two versions of The In Crowd, the original by Dobie Gray and the early 1970s Bryan Ferry version, though he didn’t choose a video of Ferry performing it. Ahem, that one reminds me so much of my school days and I actually bought and still own the album it comes from. Click the link to hear them.

Two versions of The In Crowd.

Ferry’s version was released in 1974 but this performance is from two years later. It’s been captioned In Crown for some odd reason. There were a lot of dodgy moustaches around in the mid 1970s. That one was a mistake, Bryan.

Covid-19 days

From tomorrow we in Scotland we will be able to meet up with one other household, outside and socially distanced – a maximum of eight people. That seems a bit excessive to me, I think it’s the eight people bit that scares me a wee bit. However I don’t think we’ll have to cope with that many visitors as our family members don’t live locally, and as we’ve been asked not to travel far – mainly because we shouldn’t be going into the house to use the loo – I think it’ll be quite some time before we are meeting up with our immediate family.

Speaking of loos – we had a bit of a domestic disaster about a month ago. While settling down to drink our 9 pm coffee and preparing to settle down to watch something on TV I discovered a puddle of water on the hall floor, while looking at it with puzzlement a drip splashed into it. I dreaded looking up at the ceiling, but it had to be done and it was even worse than I had feared. There were lots of bubbles in the plaster and in two places water had broken through it, it was even seeping down the walls. At first we couldn’t even figure out where the water was coming from but I tracked it down to the en suite shower room toilet cistern. It’s one of those supposedly water conserving push button efforts that must have been designed by an idiot as they have two holes in the cistern, accidents waiting to happen. The water was dripping straight down a pipe so showing no trace in the actual shower room. This is the second time one of them has malfunctioned here resulting in a soaked ceiling below. We couldn’t get a plumber into the house due to the lockdown and there was not enough space to fit a spanner in to fix it ourselves. After many views of You Tube videos and several trips to tool centres (wearing masks) and a DIY store which thankfully had just re-opened Jack managed to fix it. It took him about three weeks, I think he was determined it wasn’t going to beat him. I’m hoping we can fix the ceiling ourselves too, I’m quite good at that sort of thing.

We locked down a wee bit before we were told to by Nicola Sturgeon, it just seemed the sensible thing to do and after eleven weeks or so I’m well used to it, I’m amazed at how quickly the time has gone and also appalled that I don’t seem to be getting on with many of the things that have been getting put off for ages, they’re still being put off. I seem to be brilliant at dodging unappealing tasks! I have been reading a lot, especially in the early days of the lockdown, now gardening has taken over. Our weather has been scorching over the last few days and we haven’t had any rain to speak of for ages, the ground is like concrete. Actually our weather is a bit of a worry as it’s still only May and we’ve already had temperatures of 25 centigrade / 77 Fahrenheit. I think that’s a record for May, it’s definitely global warming.

Our jigsaw season is over I think. If I can get my hands on some fence paint I’ll be doing that instead, in common with half the country. I’m just so thankful that we have a garden to spend time in. When I think of some of the places we’ve lived in over the nearly 44 years we’ve been married (I know, I can hardly believe it) lockdown would have been absolutely hell in some of our early homes as they weren’t places we enjoyed living in, but were all we could afford at the time. I recall the first house we bought which was in the south of England which only had a plasterboard wall between us and the house next door, apparently absolutely legal in England! In those circumstances I might have been close to murder by now.

The only occasional strange thing that I have been experiencing is flashes of places coming into my mind when I least expect it, like picture postcards of places that I love visiting. They’re all rural scenic places, no shops involved. Hills, beaches, stone bridges, castles and riverbanks, but I’m in no great rush to visit any of them soon, just in case hundreds of other people are having the same idea. I have compiled a little list of new places that I want to visit – if life ever does get back to what we regarded as normal. What about you? Are you raring to go out and about or will you take it easy and be safe rather than sorry?

The photos of packed beaches in England horrified me – what are they thinking of?!

beach

Adult Fiction by Ian McMillan – a poem

I’m not a huge fan of poetry but sometimes one just hits the spot as did Adult Fiction by Ian McMillan. It’s in praise of libraries.

Adult Fiction by Ian McMillan

I always loved libraries, the quiet of them,
The smell of the plastic covers and the paper
And the tables and the silence of them,
The silence of them that if you listened wasn’t silence,
It was the murmur of stories held for years on shelves
And the soft clicking of the date stamp,
The soft clickety-clicking of the date stamp.

I used to go down to our little library on a Friday night
In late summer, just as autumn was thinking about
Turning up, and the light outside would be the colour
Of an Everyman cover and the lights in the library
Would be soft as anything, and I’d sit at a table
And flick through a book and fall in love
With the turning of the leaves, the turning of the leaves.

And then at seven o’clock Mrs Dove would say
In a voice that wasn’t too loud so it wouldn’t
Disturb the books “Seven o’clock please …”
And as I was the only one in the library’s late summer rooms
I would be the only one to stand up and close my book
And put it back on the shelf with a sound like a kiss,
Back on the shelf with a sound like a kiss.

And I’d go out of the library and Mrs Dove would stand
For a moment silhouetted by the Adult Fiction,
And then she would turn the light off and lock the door
And go to her little car and drive off into the night
That was slowly turning the colour of ink and I would stand
For two minutes and then I’d walk over to the dark library
And just stand in front of the dark library.

This is the first in a new series from the Guardian. The poet Carol Ann Duffy will be choosing poems from her her own library and sharing them with Guardian readers. Poems to get us through.

I also loved my local library when I was growing up and I was lucky enough to end up working in it, thankfully that one is still open, well it is the main county library, but it makes me feel really sad when I think of how many libraries have closed over the last ten years or so, meaning that so many children in particular are not going to have that library experience. It’s such a false economy.

Ian McMillan is obviously passionate about reading and literacy, you can hear him speaking about the subject in the You Tube video below.

Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton – the Guardian

A portrait miniature of Mary Pearson, thought to be the young woman whom Jane Austen based her character of Lydia Bennet on has been acquired by The Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton. You can read about it here.

Mary Pearson

Obviously the museum is closed at the moment due to Covid-19 but you can have a look at the website here.

I don’t have a bucket list as such but this is one of the many places I would like to visit – sometime.

Guardian links – books

Alex Clark’s article in the Guardian review – Hole up, hunker down… and read might be of interest to you, you can read it here. It’s his suggestion of books to read during this horrible Covid-19 situation. I must admit I’ve only read one of them – Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner, and I didn’t love that one as much as many people did. But I’ve been meaning to read The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann for decades, it’s a pity I don’t have a copy of it in my house.

Reading the description of Devotions upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne makes me think this book might be worth a read, you can read it free here. Having had a quick squint at it I’m not at all sure it’s my cup of tea now.

Otherwise, there’s an interview with Anne Glenconner, one time lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. Her book Lady in Waiting: My extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown has been selling like hot cakes. You can read the interview here.

Guardian links – Hilary Mantel

Todays Guardian Review section is a special issue as it contains the first chapter of Hilary Mantel’s much awaited book The Mirror and the Light. If you’re so inclined you can read it here. I must admit that I haven’t read it myself as it would drive me up the wall not being able to continue reading it until the book is published on the 5th of March.

There’s also an interview with Hilary Mantel which you can read here, she’s speaking to Alex Clark.

Margaret Atwood, Anne Enright, Colm Toibin and others write about their favourite Mantel books here.

It’s difficult for me to say which is my favourite because I loved Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies but I also loved A Place of Greater Safety which I read fairly recently.

I’m now wondering if I should re-read Bring Up the Bodies before reading The Mirror and the Light.

M.C. Beaton 1936 – 2019

Beaton

Sadly the author M.C. Beaton’s son has announced that she died on the 30th of December, you can read the Guardian article here. She was 83 years old and I saw her being interviewed on the BBC fairly recently. I had never seen or heard her before so I was very surprised that she was a very ordinary wee Scottish woman, sounding very similar to me accent wise. Apparently she wasn’t happy with the ‘cosy’ description of her books:

“It is patronising and implies that my books, which are easy to read, must be easy to write. Nobody calls Agatha Christie cosy,” she told the Crime Hub in 2019. “To keep writing in clear well-balanced sentences takes a lot of hard work and if anyone doesn’t want a Glasgow kiss, swallow that opinion and put it where the sun don’t shine.”

Honestly she was such a typical Glaswegian woman, not to be messed with! In the interview I saw she came over as being very genuine and funny.

In the Guardian article there’s absolutely no mention of the many Regency Romance books that she wrote in a light parody of Georgette Heyer, those seemed to be churned out at such a rate that I began to wonder if they were being ghost written, but maybe not. I’m not sure if it was the interview below that I watched, but it’s interesting anyway.

Book Inscriptions – yes – or no?

I’ve talked about book inscriptions here before. I love to read the inscriptions in the secondhand books that I buy, but I never write in books myself. I just can’t bring myself to do it, although before I got married I used to write my name inside my books and even used pretty book plates at one time. Marriage cured me of that, I think it was probably something to do with the change of name! I’ve often thought about using post it notes to stick on books, just with my name and maybe the place and date that I bought it, but haven’t got around to actually doing that. But I would never write in a book that I was giving to someone, in fact I probably wouldn’t give a book as a gift unless I knew for certain the person wanted it.

Anyway, in last week’s Guardian Review section there’s an article by Elle Hunt about book giving and inscriptions and you can read it here.

Otherwise I’m probably just like you at the moment only more so as I also have Jack’s Christmas Eve birthday to think about. I suspect that it’s only the imminent arrival of visitors, even the family kind, that makes me get stuck into the housework. I’d rather read!

Guardian links

There were a few articles that really struck me in this week’s Guardian. The first one is titled Laws of Nature. Apparently a movement is gaining momentum that grants legal rights to natural phenomena such as rivers, lakes, trees and mountains. Robert Macfarlane investigates the rise of the new animism. I’m all for it if it means that such wonders of nature are going to be nurtured for future generations instead of being plundered and polluted for business purposes as they often are nowadays. But of course it’s not as simple as that. You can read the article here.

Novel Houses by Christina Hardyment is subtitled Twenty Famous Fictional Dwellings. I had it in my mind that writing books where houses are as much a character as the people was something that was done mainly by female authors, but of course I was wrong about that as you’ll see if you read the review here.

Have you read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy? I enjoyed them some years ago and I think that the new BBC1 dramatisation has been really well done. I hadn’t realised that Pullman had inadvertently invented the name Lyra. It’s quite a rare thing to do, but the inventors of Pamela, Miranda and Vanessa get a name check, however this article doesn’t mention that J.M. Barrie invented the name Wendy, from calling a little girl a ‘fwendy’ originally.

If we were lucky enough to have a daemon (animal manifestation of the human soul) what would yours be? Mine changes from time to time, but then I am a Gemini – allegedly! Having a red squirrel daemon appeals to me at the moment.

Guardian Review links

Porto

I suspect we’re all being driven around the bend by the political news – in the UK anyway, but the Guardian Review section has an article about the relationship with Europe that some well known writers have, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Mary Beard, Michel Faber, Sandi Toksvig and others contribute their thoughts to this article. The photo above is of Porto and it took me straight back there and the lovely trip along the river we had.

The Book of the Week is Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout which is apparently a set of interlinking short stories, but as I thought that Olive Kitteridge was exactly that – and not all that well interlinked – I’ll be giving that one a miss, but you might be one of the many fans. You can read about Olive, Again here. But I’m just saying – ‘Why oh why?!’

I’ll be reading The Life and Loves of E.Nesbit by Eleanor Fitzsimons at some point in the future although it will probably be quite a sad read as from what I know of her it wasn’t an easy life. You can read Sarah Watling’s review here.

I know so many people who adore cheese so I imagine that A Cheesemonger’s History of the British Isles by Ned Palmer will be a big seller, especially for Christmas, have a read here if you’re a cheese addict.

Lastly I’m wondering if any of you have read anything by the American author Laird Hunt. I found the review of his new book In the House in the Dark of the Woods interesting but I’m wondering if it might veer too much to the horror side for my liking. You can read Justine Jordan’s review of it here.