Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Books, dark books and books that might just go bump in the night...

 Goodness, but I am not doing well with my 52 Books in a Year! For all that I think myself a connoisseur of Literature, and yes, I am enough of that book snob to give it a capital letter, and yes, I could bore the hand-knit socks from your very feet with my definition thereof, I remain nonetheless utterly hopeless at choosing books to read.

 To get over a spate of thoroughly depressing books over the summer, I went back to books I'd read long ago and loved. I turn out also to be utterly hopeless at remembering anything about books that I have apparently read long ago and loved! I remembered absolutely nothing about the whole middle of Divorcing Jack and only began to catch glimmers of plot on the Bangor dual-carriageway with a car behind firing bullets. I must get myself to reading more recent Bateman. I don't think we'd laugh so ironically at bullets on main roads anymore. Not now that we have The Peace...

There is a nice little link methinks between Jack and Senor Quixote. It lies with our school librarian who is quite simply the most amazing school librarian I have ever come across. On my very first day, which was just over one year ago, I was sitting waiting for guidance on one of the nice leather sofas in Reception when in came a very plainly dressed, most unprepossessing man with a heavy cardboard box. He looked around for some guidance, got none from anyone as it was 9am in the main office of a very busy school, and looked round at the small woman on one of the nice leather sofas who was smiling inanely at him, stammering silently, "It's Colin Bateman. It's Colin Bateman!" He smiled too and disappeared in search of The Most Amazing School Librarian who had invited him in to do a reading from one of his teenage novels. Thus the heavy box of books. (I have now set eye on Bateman twice- pathetic claim to fame.)

This most amazing librarian also has shelves and shelves and shelves of books for staff. She will happily wave you off with the book you're just grabbing quickly, and be delighted to see it read. She has a whole shelf of Graham Greene. Since I have worked in four schools without ever properly utilising the libraries therein, I am now drinking deep.

Monsignor Quixote is one of the Greene on the MAL's shelves. I have definitely read this one before. I have quotes from it written out in the book I keep for such a purpose. Yet again it was all new, all freshly poignant, all freshly scathing, all freshly beautiful and satirically fine. I did also read Don Quixote a long while ago, after many months of effort, and I was glad that enough of it remained to enjoy the parallels between the old unlikely adventurer and the new.  I think that this or Travels with my Aunt would be a good introduction to Greene.



Thus introduced I thought I would work along the shelf to Brighton Rock. Dark. Work in progress. Birdsong I bought at Gatwick on the way home from London at the start of the month. Appalling in its beauty. Work in progress. A colleague lent me Judith Hearne after a most gorgeous lunchtime savour of books we knew and loved. But we know by now that I can know a book, have read a book, and remember nothing about it! So I have borrowed Judith to see what became of her all over again. It will be dark and appalling. Work in progress...


 You would think that I would be running back to Cold Comfort Farm by now. So I should be, but its location has been moved and I can't find it and I am most distressed. And anyway, it being the week that this is, I finally got around to ordering A. S. Byatt's Little Black Book of Stories. I don't know if I've told you that A. S. Byatt is one of my most most most admired writers? But I am not at all brave with scary things, so I am reading this in small doses of broad daylight, and finally remembering what it is that I love in Literature. I love the fact that you reread whole pages not just because you're loving the story, but because you are so in awe of the writing itself. What the two girls saw in the woodshed forest pales, nearly, in the glow of the prose.

The only other two spooky books that I've read are The Small Hand and The Bookshop. The first did actually scare me. A lot. I had to stop reading it in bed. A few Hallowe'ens ago I wrote about The Bookshop here. This did also scare me, or at least the civilised cruelty of the characters scared me, but like The Black Book the prose eclipses even the gripping narrative.

My my, if you are still here, forgive my lengthy ramblings! I am in a forest myself of late. A forest of busy daily grind, and this glorious week with its pale skies and pared back nature breathes a clearing where I can sit on a log and look on The Worm's trail of destruction for all it is.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Home from the wild woods

 Dark dawn. The rare treat of eating breakfast quietly by myself.
 New and interesting rock formations at Bloody Bridge carpark. Rabbits or benign sentinels of the hills?

  Looking down over Newcastle from the foothills of Donard.
 The wild woods. Not very wild at all. No bears in sight, though one young man had been quite spectacularly attacked  by a gorse bush!

 The carpark at Tollymore. Winning my Kitkat bet because the bus really was at the top of the last steep climb!
 And home to the Meadowplace.
 Where the chestnut tree has finally conceded that it needs to put on its Autumn outfit.
 And where we'll be putting on a bit more of an Autumn outfit inside to make the most of this old year in its last throes. Happy half-term!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Into the Wild Woods

No views today, sorry. I've been dubbing my boots and am packing my daysack for a walk in the Wild Woods tomorrow with school. I'll have views from here and views from there and cosy plans for half-term as the weekend wends its freedom way from three schools' gates to breakfeasts in bed and pumpkins.

We have two decent mountain expanses here in the Frozen North. I hesitate to call them ranges. Tomorrow I'll be in the Mournes area, though I think we're walking either Tollymore or Castlewellan Forest to break the Year 10s in. We also have the Sperrins and I am thoroughly ashamed to say that, apart from adoring my every high drive through the bleakly spectacular Glenshane Pass, I have never set boot thereon.

Tomorrow will be the first training walk for this year's Bronze Duke of Edinburgh group. I haven't been out on expedition walks since I was teaching full-time. I'm very excited, and have my gloves and hat and waterproofs and spare socks and will have a flask of tea.

I am also wondering if it would be very anti-social to read my book on the bus all the way there and all the way back....

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Not enough thyme in the day

 It's been a busy weekend thus far. We have been finally feeling brave enough to drag the suns away from the meadow and into the Wild World.
 Last night I demanded that they all came with me to a lantern making workshop that culminated in a lantern-lit walk up Carnmoney Hill to hear a storyteller at the old well.
 Gratifyingly, on the way down the muddy, slippy, dark, dark, magical hill, Jo did say, "That was much better than I thought it would be, Mummy." Life with boys.
 Not quite sure what this shot was exactly, but it was generally me trying and failing to capture some of the soft glow of battery powered lights in the night! This is what the lanterns actually look like, scattered around the Meadowplace. I slept with mine beside me last night!
 Tonight it's pumpkin time. Pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie for lunch with some new folk from our new church tomorrow. I have discovered that I didn't bring my pot of thyme with me in the move.
 One of our sixth form study supervisors in school is running a pumpkin carving competition in his room this week. He kicked it off with a welcoming one, so we have stolen his idea for the front step. I think I'll have to give the suns free rein on the second one, but we'll try to maintain the autumnal pumpkin theme over the ghoulish invasion that's coming in fast now!




Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Non-views from around the place

 Jane, it's the same old view out there, but buffeted by wind and rain and cold! And yes, I did leave it too late to take this week's shots so here are the last few days around the house. This is my one pear from my Christmas pear tree.
 We took off through the farmer's fields behind us on Sunday afternoon- when Autumn was still kind and mellow and bright!
 Mattman was remembering the days when we would read "Going on a Bear Hunt", as we re-enacted the splishy sploshy river, the onomatopoeic mud and the high grass!
 We forget most times that we are a little bit high. High enough to look down on the Lough if you get a clear break in the suburbs.
 And home through the farmyard, where things are taking on a decidedly end of October appearance. I will work on rotating my picture of their seasonal butler who would otherwise hang horizontally across your view and be even more spooky than he already is.
 Here too the pumpkins are gathering. I have plans for these two at the weekend. Thanks to another Jane for the tea cosy. I only wish I had made it myself!
And here we are. Remains of the day: homework debris and Prince Charming's fantasy football entries (and there's something I never thought I'd say). You can't hear the rain, but I can....

Sunday, 12 October 2014

This Day Last Weekend Part Two












Thames side all day. Globe, Tate Modern, the Tower poppies, and Greenwich. And yes indeed, country mouse is back in her Meadowplace now, washing school uniforms and checking homework. But that huge blue sky stretches from here all the way over there and all the way over you and your dreams too x

Saturday, 11 October 2014

This day last weekend Part 1

 This country mouse was well in agreement with Wordsworth Country Mouse when she looked out of her window last Saturday morning. There may well have been other things more fair, but not from her vantage point high over Covent Garden!




Arts and Crafts floor in Liberty and The earthenware Pot by Edouard Vuillard in the National Gallery.







 There was a little bit of everything last week. Drury Lane flower seller by the name of Doolittle, Strand strolling with hat, a sacred hour in Liberty, guided tour topped by lunch in the National, and then Sarah's RAF wedding, complete with afternoon tea in the Charing Cross Hotel. Bells ringing out Oranges and Lemons as they emerged from St Clement Dane to brave the Guard of Honour's swords, and the rain!