Thursday, 30 September 2010

Belated Books- beware: this is lengthy! Get some tea!

I had promised to talk about brilliant books I read this summer and so once again Alphabe-Thursday prompts me to do what I wanted to do but never did- and at least it's still September! And Left-Handed Housewife might still talk to me if I do!

I actually started with The Outcast by Sadie Jones. C lent it to me one Friday night. I put the boys to bed and started reading at 9.30pm. I rang her at 10.30pm to discuss. I read until it was finished- 2.30am Saturday. I rang her 10am to discuss again! Family and society fail a traumatised child in post-War middle-class England. Harrowing, challenging, obviously influenced by Camus's Outsider but all her own tapestry of pain. With lovely hope as the weft!

Then I got into the car and drove to France. On passenger stints I devoured Family Album by Penelope Lively. C had been totally disturbed to find herself, she thought, a character in Outcast; well I was destroyed by the mother in Album! It's one of a very few books since university that I annotated as I went along!

"This is all she ever wanted: children and a house in which to stow them- a capacious, expansive house... And Denby ovenware and a Moulinex and a fish-kettle and a set of Sabatier knives. She has all of these things and knows that she is lucky. Oh, so lucky." And so obtuse, and so so wonderfully, brilliantly terrifying!

This one I got at a service station somewhere in England, and it sounded interesting. I read it in Brittany,and it was. It articulated much of what I had tenuously formulated from studying French, working in France, teaching French. It explores the differences between cultures, between women, between "natives" and immigrants, between bling bling Sarkozy and what has gone before. I did test out many theories on a French family who came to dinner here in August, and they did concur!

I discovered Barbara Pym one dusty night shelving in the Library last year, and read Excellent Women. I had found this gorgeous reprint last Spring and put it aside for holiday reading- perfect for this: it's entertaining and blithe, but cutting too. Pym makes me think of Cranford with its petty quotidien lives of single women of a certain age who are nonetheless heroines of stoicism and hope. I loved Tame Gazelle, partly because so much of its satire revolves around church life! But it did make me wonder where the feminist literature is now- who celebrates single women? That got me thinking about Margaret Drabble's Millstone, which is obviously a generation ago. But is Lisbeth Salander really the champion of strong, single women today?

And so to Jasper Fforde. I want to like him. I do. It's just such a wade to get through! He took up most of the rest of the holidays! I find myself thinking that these would be good books for the boys when they're older! But you know when you just want to read something that makes you laugh? Still clever and scintillating and all P. G. Wodehouse or Georgette Heyer or Bill Bryson or who?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Julie and Julia

Nedboy confesses himself most "chuffed" at all the wonderful comments, and he promises to make further guest appearances. Me, I haven't dared raise my head since! Instead I have been discovering, light years after the rest of the bloggiste community, the joys of Meryl Streep and Julia Child and the wonderful Julie who makes me weep and laugh and smile at her romantic relationship with her husband!

And the food! And the feel of Paris! And the blogging! I'm loving it in small doses as I curl under a blanket at lunchtime, just before walking down the increasingly leaf-wet hill for Jo. It's a nice way to end September!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday Cake Bake from Nedboy, the Guest Blog writer

It was Friday afternoon and off home a bit earlier than find Magsmcc, Prince Charming and 2 Suns just arrived at the house. So the weekend began early.

For the first day in weeks, it seems, it wasn't raining. "Who wants to pick the plums?" Rather late in the season, we set to shaking a tree full of ripe and over ripe plums. "Aaagh, I got hit with a plum!" cried a small voice, as the small purple fruits rained to the ground.

When enough good fruit was gathered, washed and cleaned, we threw them in a bowl with some sugar an a shot of 'eau de vie'. Something to soak some sweetness into the otherwise sour fruit.

No time tonight to make jam, but improvised a French recipe for Clafoutis *, usually for cherries or apricots.

The tree was planted by my grandparents before I was born. The fruit was used every autumn by my grandmother to make jam. It was the first and only jam I tasted that had stones and skins in. A natural product, but inconvenient obstacles. Eat with care, or lose a tooth.

Perhaps that's a bit like all we get from our family: The choice of a tree planted half a century ago, isn't necessarilly my favourite fruit. They might not be as sweet or plump as shop bought plums. But they are a gift. There for the picking. To take or leave. A time limited offer: It's now or in a year. As much or as little as I choose. Jam, pie, sauce or whatever. A gift challenges our creativity.

And if I want some different fruit, its up to me to plant something different. It will take some ground, a lot of patience and care, to benefit me and whoever follows - and if all goes well, for every Autumn to follow.

So thanks to Magsmcc and team for calling today, and allowing us to share in who we are and what we have received. To describe it as a Eucharist of plums would overstate the case. But there was today a fellowship in the harvest, a thought of gratitude towards the faithful departed, and a hope for the rising generation...Someday we may share at one table, at the bridal feast of the Lamb.

If it's to last all Eternity, at some point, we're sure to have plums on the menu?

Clafoutis *,

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A is for Advertising Angst (and an inadvertant giveaway!)

This week the university down the road returned to class and so we trusty evening librarians, sorry, information assistants returned to the library, sorry, Learning Resource Centre. Obviously assignments and stressful deadlines have not yet been distributed, giving us a certain amount of quiet time (wo)manning the Issue Desk.

In the course of work related research, ahem, I decided to touch base with Normandy Life. We are supposed to be swapping magazines. Imagine my bemusement when I discovered that this very week sees a return to an alphabet meme. Now I have twice before Googled "meme" and still don't understand what it means! Answers in a comment only if you can be gentle!

Anyway, I was intrigued and thus here we go, Jenny Matlock!

"A" gives me an opportunity finally to discuss a worrysome bloggisme conundrum. Advertising. Coffee Lady has recently, and most sensitively, dealt with face cream. This interested me because shortly before I had received an email from someone called Digeus about something called Snap It Screen Capture 3.7. If I were to mention it on my blog I could receive a free download of this product.

I don't think I really want Snap It Screen Capture 3.7, as I have managed a little bit well hitherto, but it does claim to be a fabulously technological bloggisme thing! You can have the download if you want! Express interest and giveaway protocol, such as I understand it, will be observed! Here is the link anyway!

But what do we all think about this advertising phenomenon? I love the idea of bloggisme as a weapon of mass good. I have followed with interest Ann Voskamp's travels with Compassion. But I don't think the Land of the (sometimes) Tearful Strawberries will be promoting random products, despite the disquiet I now experience when I put in links to restaurants and coffee shops and other places I want to talk about that are ultimately commercial enterprises.

We will definitely not be subscribing to the giveaway scouts who sent me a link in a comment. This idea seems to be that I sign up and whenever I have a giveaway the link is advertised to anyone out there who wants free stuff. This seems very much not at all in the spirit of the world of bloggistes?

"A": angst!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Greatitudes 285 - 300

Well first off let's be grateful for Google images and the wealth of lush colour it gives when you whisper "Autumn Leaves" and, as if by magic, Millais appears. I actually wanted to use this by Chris Glass, but I don't know to attribute it in so you'll have to take my word that I think it would be lovely on our Autumn plate with the Yankee candle Be Thankful jar on top and our horse chestnut collection all around! And today it stopped raining!

I have had a lachrymose time this week. BUT. My suns are happy at school. PC is very prepared to be involved with them and with this present time. And I'm banking on God's patience with me and on His plan for us all.

Our Methodist minister is always class. But Sunday's children's address joined with one he did last year in giving me much food for hopeful thought. Last year he talked about how, when a wounded goose can't fly as well or as quickly as the rest of the flock and risks being completely left behind, two other geese will come either side of him and somehow carry him along. And then do other geese come along when they get tired? I think I was probably crying too much to hear that bit!

This week we had to guess chess pieces from their silhouettes, and then shout out how they could move. And thence emerged the thought that they all move different ways at different rates in different directions. But they are all part of the game.

One of my suns loves the Max Lucado book "You are Special". I'm so glad he does. Same sun said last night, when the road to the airport was closed, that we didn't need to worry about finding another road because God would show us the way. Other sun then pointed out that there weren't three people in the car, but four, because God was in the passenger seat. He did then proceed to lean forward with his hand to his ear, and tell me that God said we had to go straight on and then turn left, or maybe right....

We were collecting PC after his Worship Retreat, which he said was interesting and encouraging. Good! But we are very glad he's home! Number 300 is this link to wisdom:

Monday, 13 September 2010

Greatitudes 273-284

This weekend Prince Charming and I headed for Chillifest, where apparently the chillis were indeed extremely hot. Our main intention was to get to Tony Macauley's reading from Paperboy in the No Alibis Book Tent. So suns were deposited with my parents for a whole afternoon! We wouldn't need tickets, declared PC. We would just get in- we did not!

I continue nonetheless to enjoy Macauley's book about growing up in Belfast in those days, as I did and as PC did- the author being his youth leader back in the day, the church mentioned being his home church, and the Lesley of the closing pages being his dad! It is a book to be grateful for, in its funny and down to earth juxtaposition of rites of passage with rites of conflict.

I'm glad that Chillifest was sold out- who ever would have thought then that such a thing would ever happen in the city centre, let alone sell out completely. We met friends outside who said that it isn't the city we grew up in. Praise be; indeed not.

But it is a gorgeous city! We walked all over the town in the bright Autumn air, hand in adult hand! And ended up in Made in Belfast- which is as quirky as shabby chic can be! I sat on a sheepskin clad sofa sipping Earl Grey with blue flower something, and tried not to look like a hick from the suburbs on her first outing in months....

We were both Made, Marred and Matured in Belfast, I suppose, and haven't fallen out of love with her yet. She is a better place than once she was, or than people let her be.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Blackberry picking and the FINAL instalment of Finn's Ice-Cream!

Thank you for your patience and forebearance! Finn's ice-cream (more a sorbet actually) is very lovely and went well with today's 7oth birthday cake. Happy birthday to the, chronologically, first wonderful man in my life!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Blackberry picking and the third exciting, if relentless, instalment of Finn's Ice-Cream...

We substituted our blackberries for the blackcurrants in this Delia- as recommended by a friend on facebook! Jury's still out- or is rather freezing in the freezer!

Happy St Patrick's Day!

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