Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016: an Alphabet of Authors

You know, sitting here with a streaming cold that takes rapid, arbitrary dashes into 'flu, and able to do not much else other than read, certainly not walk in the Mourne Mountains, travel down to Dublin Zoo for the day and stay over at the Red Cow so we can go to the National Gallery the next morning, stroll round the new C S Lewis Sculpture Park with one of today's free guided tours, or even just mooch about my favourite go-to of the Ulster Museum bribing boys with cupcakes and the shop, if they would just brave the dinosaur bones and ensconce themselves in the bird hide...

Sitting here with an ocean of nose and a thumping head, I'm very glad that I got through 26 authors in alphabetical order- as I can't for the life of me think what else I did this year! So here are my twenty-six books of 2016. For my own records and reward. It's definitely good to have something to show for another twelve months on the round! (Forgive the gaps in memory- I'll plug them as they offer themselves back from the mire...)

Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility
Saul Bellow: Him With His Foot in His Mouth
Chris Cleave: The Other Hand
Vanessa Diffenbaugh: The Language of Flowers
Umberto Eco: The Prague Cemetery
Helen Fielding: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Nina George: The Little Paris Bookshop
Ernest Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Eva Ibbotson: The Secret Countess (or A Countess Below Stairs?)
Henry James: What Maisie Knew
Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis
Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
M
David Nicholls: Us
Maggie O'Farrell: After You'd Gone
Barbara Pym: Quartet in Autumn
Matthew Quick: The Silver Linings Playbook
R
Ali Smith: How To Be Both
Colm Toibin: Nora Webster
Rachel Urquhart: The Visionist
Voltaire: Candide
Virginia Woolf: Mrs Dalloway
Xintan: Sky Burial
Yeats: New Poems, 1938
Markus Zusak: The Book Thief

Best: Bellow, Lee and Hemingway- For Whom The Bell Tolls is now my touchstone of the perfect novel, and that surprised me: Hemingway not being all about bulls and testosterone. An all American top three!

Worst: do not read The Prague Cemetery

Authors I'll read more of now: Bellow and Xintan, possibly starting with Xintan, though first I'm going to find out just what has happened in Tibet...

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Advent Ending


My Advent began with a huge sense of expectation. What did I want God to do for me? Do for me this Advent? That turned into a greater sense of chastising challenge when the nothing transpired within the usual time-frame from an application that I had made. Was God my Father Christmas to deliver a list? I could only offer myself, like Mary, as a servant. Still believing that nothing is impossible for God, but thinking not this time. Then mid-week mid-Advent, an email came, followed by an interview, following by an offer.So, my Advent ending is a happy one, full of wonder that actually God heard the deepest desire of my heart, and blessed me.

This is Prince Charming's favourite Christmas song to sing, and he does sing it beautifully. There is a short burst of him on farcebook! (His band is called North.) I have been crocheting a snowflake for every day in December: some I give away, some I use on present wrapping, the rest are yarnbombing my Jacob's ladder- shall try to get it looking respectable enough to post! Snow is a bit of a theme- all wishful thinking thus far, with crisp frost giving way to cold rain this afternoon!

Meanwhile- may your Advent ending be a happy one, full of wonder and blessing.


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Then December begins as well

It is an odd one, isn't it? Advent starts on the first of the four Sundays before Christmas day, but we get the Advent calendars, and the chocolate, out on 1st December. We do too. We have a fabric calendar, with twenty-four pockets, which are a bit tight for this year's generously proportioned H%r&e$.

We aren't organised, or consistent, enough to sign up for the on-line Advent Challenges, but we do steal their ideas! Last year I wrote out twenty-four challenges and stowed them away with the chocolate. This year I decided that we could jolly well come up with six each. So, on Wednesday night no-one got to leave the dinner table until everyone had written out their challenges. I was impressed! If all goes to plan the gerbils will be too- their care features high on some of the directives, and I didn't even write those!

So far the said gerbils have had half an hour of conversation, everyone in the family has had a great big hug, there is an anonymous Christmas card written and ready to be deposited on a desk in a school tomorrow, and someone has yet to ring the bell to pray at dinner. (We ring a bell to say grace, inspired by the constant thankfulness of the Sandras.) The strawberries take it all in very good heart.

I am taking it all in a very perplexed heart this week. The events of the week have made me think about what I expect when I come to God with answers to his question, "What do you want me to do for you?" Am I really expecting him, like PC and me I suppose at this time of the year, to give his child everything on their Christmas list? Am I really expecting the God of all Creation to be my personal Santa?

Prince Charming is once again leading worship at the cafe church that our church runs for three weeks of Advent.This morning's speaker looked at Mary, and stopped me in my thinking tracks. "'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered. 'May it be to me as you have said.'" Nothing is impossible with God.

Prince Charming was also leading carols at our Assembly Buildings at Stormont last night. The benediction was that lovely one, along the lines of wishing for us the unbridled joy of the angels, the perplexed curiosity of the shepherds, the unsettling peace of the Christ-child. PC sang this Ash song as one of his solo pieces- this is a version by Duke Special, a very distinctive Belfast musician, singer, songwriter, and man of faith. It's dedicated to MK, who saw Prince Charming's video on farcebook and wanted a bit more Norn Irish accent!