Sunday, 6 May 2018

Sunday night blues

It's been a gloriously blue sky sunny day today and there is no school tomorrow! So tonight's Sunday blues really are just Sunday blues and not Sunday Blues at all! The boys came willingly, for the first time since they were much smaller boys, to see some of our annual Festival of Fools this afternoon, and now we are packing rucksacks for a day in the mountains tomorrow. Hope you're all enjoying your weekend too x

ps Apologies that I can't seem to comment on anyone's blog- all my comments are coming back as undelivered mail. Any and all advice most gratefully received!

Monday, 30 April 2018

Sunday night blues

I think my Sunday Night Blues are beinning to shake off gradually- too much late-night catching up with BBC's current Woman in White adaptation!  I've only read Wilkie Collins' Moonstone- is W in W a very feminist book, or is it just this C21st TV interpretation?

 I did wonder last night if it would be more creative to take that phrase literally- so here were last night's blues! I didn't wander too far from my dusk-time chair.

ps Hello again x

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Books of 2017

This is in no way as analytical a post as Kezzie's overview, but I find that I want to have a record of months passing wildly. I have always needed to be able to prove to myself that I have something to show for my life, but recently it all seems more contrived! So, last year, I read:

Mary Wesley: The Vacillations of Poppy Carew
Edna O'Brien: The Little Red Chairs

And these were two wholly awful books with which to start the year. Sandra most kindly left me the Wesley, but that Poppy Carew was not my type of girl! The O'Brien was distressing and disturbing, and based on too true war crime events. I'm not sure what she wanted me to be able to do about them. I do wonder about some gritty novels. Do the authors consider why they are wringing out their audience?

Jonathan Franzen: Purity

I had asked for this for Christmas. From standing sitting amazed and enthralled years ago at The Corrections, which I may need to reread soon, and then wanting to be just as impressed though less so with Freedom, I really found Purity too specific to its themes less relevant than my own domestic ones, which at least featured highly in the earlier novels.

Flann O'Brien: The Third Policeman

Recommended and lent by a friend, this is a favourites contender. So bizarre, so very Irish. Must get my own copy! 

A S Byatt: The Children's Book

Distressing, disturbing, but so much more challenging and stimulating than the Red Chairs. Byatt remains possibly my nearly favourite author. 

Sebastian Barry: A Temporary Gentleman

No. On Canaan's Side does all the same, but much, much better. Maybe I'll read Secret Scripture this year.

Enid Blyton: Five Go Parenting

A fun, short read. Not really a read at all! But I was very sunburnt and it kept me distracted for an afternoon!
Sarah Perry: The Essex Serpent

I meant to blog about this one- I did have concerns. I loved the story and the style, but still- there were definitely places where I wanted to have Perry to myself for a while- or even be one of the question-asking audience if she was ever on Radio 4's Book Club. Great holiday book.
Harper Lee: Go Set A Watchman

Now, this was strange, I thought. Could it be read without having first read Mocking Bird? I thought not. I found there to be no real events in the whole narrative, bar that one key scene/overseen. An intense exploration of one woman's mind. Maybe I have too much intense exploration of one woman's mind any day of any week!
A S Byatt: Possession

Back to Byatt. I hadn't read this in too long. I was alarmed at how, after this long gap of boy-rearing, I found it nearly too erudite entirely!
Antoine de Saint Exupery: Le Petit Prince

I had never read this! I have been given it as a gift, in French, not once but twice. A revelation. A wonder. Favourites contender.

Stephen Fry: Moab is my Washpot

I rarely read non-fiction, but this I loved. I found it much less God-hating than I had expected from Fry's interview with Gay Byrne. It was funny, moving, humble. I enjoyed it very much. Even the title kept me thinking long after.

Anne Fine: Telling Liddy

More annoying women. Nearly didn't finish. 

Keith Stuart: A Boy Made of Blocks

I struggled with this at the start- maybe because my day's work is mostly in the field of autism. But the characters are beautifully "crafted".  which is a bit of a pun.
Jane Austen: Mansfield Park

More annoying women.

Laura Esquivel: Like Water for Chocolate

Wonderful women. Wonderful recipes. I think about this book every time I cook dinner in a bad mood. Which is often. Thankfully my bad dinners have not yet had quite the same effects.
Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat Pray Love

I had not before wanted to read this, because I assumed it would be vaguely pretending to be a spiritual love story with Julia Roberts in print. I was wrong. This was a beautiful read- honest, humble, seeking, like Fry's book really. But this time with even more God.

Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems

Oh, but this exercised the little grey cells, still feeling hopelessly inadequate after two Byatts. Distressing, disturbing, but thrilling nonetheless to mind and soul. This was my whole autumn.
Ruth Hogan: The Keeper of Lost Things

Do. Not. Read. Tat.

Ali Smith: Autumn

Do read! I loved How to be Both last last year. Here Smith is just as metaphysical, constructing conceits so lightly and cleverly out of really hard and heavy things. I am waiting to read Winter because I think I'd like to have all four seasons in the same paperback edition! I'll probably read Winter as we move into spring, just as I read Autumn when it was really winter!
Kate Atkinson: When Will There Be Good News?

I was astounded when I heard, after reading, that this was on the A-Level English Literature syllabus. I loved it- more an array of fascinating, intertwining, ultimately twisting characters than a proper detective story. But I'm not at all sure what all the poor sixth formers find to write a whole essay on?

Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch

I had not before wanted to read this because the blurb sounded so distressing. I'm sorry I waited so long. Though if there was a way to fast-track the long and detailed descriptions of drugginess and get more quickly to the sublime final discussion of life, the universe, and art, that would have been good too!

Rosamunde Pilcher: Winter Solstice

This was my upstairs, bedtime book for the holidays, and it is a pretty perfect choice for such a time!
Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol 

Another pretty perfect choice for such a time, though infinitely more wonderfully written!

I don't think I can pick a most outstanding favourite. I'd like to find more soul-grabbing books this year. I always seem to be catching up on all the big contemporary titles, and lamentably behind in knowing my classics. I think I'd just like to get back to my Barbara Pym chronology.

I also have this fine idea that this will be the year when I will start Ulysses for the third time and actually make it to the end...

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Last Book of the Year

 I was determined to get to twenty-four books by the end of this month- surely it is possible, even in this uncomfortably hot sandwich time of life, to read two books a month?! So, in the interests of both speed and relevance, I reached a few nights ago for this Platonic ideal of a Christmas book.

We are having a wonderful Christmas break, with just the right balance between exciting things and time quiet at home, or indeed long mornings in bed! We have been up a misty, snowy mountain, into town with sales shoppers, to the cinema to see Voldemort and Professor Snape try their hand at the Star Wars genre for a little change, and have cooked and cooked and fed and fed.

Already feeling alarmed that this time, even this time, will pass, I dearly want to hold on to Scrooge's resolution (in the absence of any others) that, "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."
We had a wonderful sermon this morning, from three passages at the start of Luke- passages where different characters from the Nativity narrative are told not to be afraid. If I had two resolutions for whatever shall unfold next year, this would be the second!

Apparently, as farcebook said last week so it must be true, an old Irish tradition is to light a candle in the window on Christmas Eve to promise hospitality to the traveller. Always late, I'm lighting my unlit Advent candles tonight. They are a pale imitation of that bright moon shining beyond the pane, but they reflect our desire to shine what light we can here where we are. You are always welcome! May you know God's blessing and light in your heart, and all the year, with much love from the Meadowplace,

Mags and men x 

Monday, 25 December 2017

Third, fourth and Merry Christmas!

 We're having a relatively balmy Christmas this week, as opposed to just a while ago when these pictures were taken! How we loved our first heavy snowfall in this house. Earth really did stand hard as iron after a two day freeze, and the snowman stood as high as the boys for quite some time after.
 A prayer from one of my reflections last week said, "Pour down, oh heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness." I smiled as I listened, and replaced rain with snow- let the skies snow down righteousness. This struck me as beautifully apt, standing only because I know that God sees me clothed in Jesus, as bright and shining as my muddy garden clothed in pure snow.
This morning I was reading the end of Romans 16, marvelling at a terrestrial night when the celestial mystery of Jesus could break through. Merry Christmas, bloggistes, and a mysterious one too x

Thursday, 14 December 2017

A second (possibly even later) Pause in Advent

This is our Advent calendar. For the last few years we have filled each pocket with both a sweet and a challenge. The latter are vaguely along the lines of random acts of kindness: so far I have had to feed the birds, give my teacher the sweet and wish her happy Advent, and phone someone who lives far away.

Earlier this week Jo's challenge was to write a Christmas poem, so without further ado, here is our strawberry reflection for this week. (He also bakes!)

Winter is coming
Christmas's dawn
He may be in Heaven
But he's not gone
He's lifting our spirits
Stopping the suns
And his name
It is Jesus

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A (characteristically belated) Pause in Advent

Dear Baby Jesus,
I know that I keep you small and baby-like in my life. Swaddled in a corner with my dusty Bible amid the novels that I do get on and read. My babies cried for attention, and they cry less now, but it's all attention anyway. Attention to meal-times and homeworks and this week's exam revision, and bathtimes and bedtimes and fall asleep on the sofa after times. Attention to school runs and hospital appointments and dentist appointments and all the things that fill a diary without even thinking about the special events of this month. Into all this attention, please be bigger than the space I give you,

O come, o come, Emmanuel.

Dear Boy Jesus,
You honoured Mary and Joseph, but kept your eye on your Father. You knew His business; you knew His place. This sandwich generation thing goes up a gear when it's a turkey sandwich generation thing, organising two houses for food and presents and cards. But more than that, wanting two homes to be filled with joy of the season, joy of lights and warmth and fun. Wanting the ones who have given everything to you at all times to have everything that makes their Christmas right. Into two homes, with all their expectations, spoken or barely acknowledged, with all your pointing to our Father,

O come, o come, Emmanuel.

Dear Man Jesus,
It was always going to involve death. It wasn't all about the death; there was the resurrection after that changes everything, but you knew there had to be a death. This Advent you know the ones who are waiting but not for Christmas Day, the ones for whom Christmas Day will never be the same again, because that's the season she left them, for an earthly time. Into the places where grief sings louder than the carols and the Pogues,

O come, o come, Emmanuel.

Dear Jesus,
I don't know how this happened, this all-consuming focus on being ready, this year round. Ready for what? I'm usually all about the making space for Advent, the taking of the time to celebrate presence, that doesn't come in an Amazon box. I haven't time for that this year, haven't thoughts for that this year. Must be ready, must write my lists. Ready for one day? Have I really fallen prey? Into this lamentable state of affairs, my Jesus,

O come, o come, Emmanuel