Thursday, 30 May 2013

Views from my windows

 Oh, the relief when it is sunny for Jane's Views from our Windows! I'm still marking, and will be for weeks, but it helps enormously when the sun is hot on my back and the view is bright!
 Cheat close-up of lovely flowers from our lovely rector who came for (can't guarantee lovely) dinner and lovely chat this week. Mattman's wacky flower homework from way back keeping real flowers company!
 Open door to back garden; all windows in the house are open too, because, yes, Irish summer is here- the three days in May that we all await with eager expectation so that we can wear our sandals. I've had mine for possibly five years now, and they still look brand new!
 Front garden nice and shady and cool, until the sun moves round in an hour or so.
 Finally there are lilac blooms appearing- look hard to the right of the tree house!
Wide expanses of blue sky. It's the same one that's over your head right now- hope it's bright and lovely where you are too x

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Idyllic III

Once upon a time Prince Charming and his newish bride (one out of one newish brides) were driving round Ireland with one car, one tent, two canoes and two bikes. (They had, at this stage, no fridge.) They went to see the James Joyce Tower on their way from Dublin to the Wicklow Hills, and there they fell in love with Sandycove. They swam and canoed here, with seals, though this is the tame side of the rocky outcrop. The real thing- the Forty Foot- is on the other.
The Forty Foot became an "official" outdoor swimming spot in the late nineteenth century, and was a male only preserve. I am absolutely certain that I read somewhere of the nude nature of swimming off Forty Foot- hence, one must presume, the single sex rule! Now you are not allowed to swim in your birthday suit...
 Although, as you can see from our shots on Friday night, those swimming on the rougher side were encased all in wetsuits and probably needed no encouragement in the wearing thereof.
On the more sheltered side however there was a gentleman, fully dressed by now, pulling on his socks whose little bundle of swimming gear did not seem to hold such a new-fangled, lily livered nonsense as a wetsuit.
 I was with him. In spirit.
Just to the left of the strawberries are small concrete cubicles- not at all closed or private- with pegs bashed in for the holding of your clothes. Women can swim here now too- and have been admitted for oh maybe twenty-five years? Although as far as I know they still don't have the right to be full members, and thus gain a key to the clubhouse...
Joyce does describe swimming at Forty Foot in the opening pages of Ulysses: He capered before them down towards the fortyfoot hole.. They followed the winding path down to the creek. A young man clinging to a spur of rock near him moved slowly frogwise his green legs in the deep jelly of the water. An elderly man shot up near the spur of rock a blowing red face. He scrambled up by the stones, water glistening on his pate and on its garland of grey hair, water rilling over his chest and paunch and spilling jets out of his black sagging loincloth.
I'm wondering is there always the elderly gentleman, are there always the seals, will one day I too swim?

A voice, sweettoned and sustained, called to him from the sea. Turning the curve he waved his hand. It called again. A sleek brown head, a seal's, far out on the water, round.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Idyllic II

or Reasons to be Thankful 705-762
 Thank you for Sandycove, a quiet and plush beach outside Dublin with two of my favourite quirky spots in Ireland- Joyce's Martello tower being the second. Forty Foot deserves a post all of its own, and yes, it is getting one!
 Thank you for beaches to play on and rocks to climb and walks to be had in the warm evening after a smooth drive down fast roads. Thank you for PC who just decided that we would go, that we would all go, and that we would all go for the whole weekend, and it just sort of happened and was just sort of perfect!
 Thank you for the sweeping beauty of coastline and waves and intrepid human spirit. thank you for people who swim in the sea, wetsuits or no! I so wanted to be one of them on Friday night!
 Thank you for unexpected and never quite believed fabulous weather, for blue skies and sun-drenched dusk. That's the top of the tower just to the right of the tree. I've still never made it inside, though I've read those opening pages of Ulysses three times now- once for every time I've tried to read the book- yes, a post coming on that too!
 Thank you for the National Museum- and for the fact that it's free to get in-  a frugal post coming up on Dublin too...- and for the novelty of getting off the Luas at the front gate! Thank you that we found both sites, and persuaded the strawberries inside them as well! Thank you for the heritage that is Ireland's, that Anglo-Irish mix. Is it a Chinese blessing or curse to live in interesting times?
Thank you for Molly Malone, and Trinity and Grafton Street and bikes and crowds and bustle and street performers and flower sellers and sun!
Oh thank you for two days of pure, unadulterated hot sun and blue skies and basking opportunities in St Stephen's Green. Thank you that we did think to buy suncream on the way down, and that we did pack sunhats- untouched in three years! If that was our Irish summer, thank you nonetheless!
 And the rugby- well, thanks for an interesting experience! I have now learnt all sorts of chants though the "Are you Clancy in disguise?" one seemed a bit unfair to Clancy (apparently a linesman who does occasional and ineffective stints as a referee) because even I could see how rubbish the referee games official was!
 Thank you for the hilarious crowds and the atmosphere and the craic! Thank you for the two hilarious Leinster supporters who talked to us all the way there on the bus. They were right to commiserate with us in advance!
 Thank you for dry weather all through the day, as that terrace would have been no fun with two strawberries under a deluge! Thank you for that blue sky into which the Stiletto in the Ghetto Spire of Dublin seems to disappear. Thank you for how long we all stood with chins in the air. I thought the Garda would come and move us on, as they did with the skateboarders!
 Thank you as always for Dublin Zoo. It's flat. No hill to climb- not that Belfast Zoo can do much about its mountain, I suppose! And it's gorgeous. And there are playparks and ice-cream kiosks and shady benches everywhere! And lots and lots of feeding sessions.
 But finding out that Africa Day was happening in the same place on the same day, well, that was a bonus. And that was interesting! So much celebration of diversity and community and identity. So much music and colour and kindness of strangers.
 I think there would be a lot to learn on the subject of kindness in the whole field of identity and culture and community and flags.
 And speaking of kindness, thank you for Ang of Tracing Rainbows. Thank you for her great concern, and kindness, and thoughtfulness, and sheer generosity. Their Great Stash really does have the perfect solution for every dilemma- even my virtual reading one! I can get further than the second page of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry now. It really has been a time of unlikely pilgrimages for me over the last week or so. Thank you for that. Let's see where they go!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Idyllic I

Prince Charming took us all to Dublin this weekend. It was idyllic (apart from the rugby result) and the weather was tropical (unbelievably) and I will be rambling on and on about it all week. This is nonetheless Ireland and a roaring fire is always what you need at the end of any idyllic day, especially if it's in the library nook of The Red Cow, and you have both Guinness and Irish coffee to hand.
Jo was the first to investigate the bookshelves and then we were all at it. PC found French reformed theology, and I found The White Company by A Conan Doyle. I'm presuming the hotel bought some job lot of books just to add atmosphere, and so who knows what journeys the books have been on? This one was at some point being read on a tram in Southampton. The book mark is a ticket that cost 2 1/2d. I wonder did the reader ever get to the end of the book before the end of his journey, real or metaphorical? 'Twould appear not. I read on a little bit- if we all go and read on a little bit more, the ticket might find out what happens in the end...

"Whipping up the little woman, he lifted her lightly to his lips..." Great line. On the way home tonight I was reading an interview in yesterday's Irish Times with Jilly Cooper- on "bonkbusters" and Fifty Shades of the Death of Feminism. I like A Conan Doyle's style better!

For the snail lovers of Blogville- to the best of my knowledge no snails were harmed, or eaten, in the racing event of Their School on Friday. All snails seem to have been sent home with their owners. Ours were released into the wild of the playground, under a nice big shady tree, because there was no way on this snaily planet that they were coming to Dublin with me!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

View from one window

This is the view that I am looking at a lot at the minute. I am marking and marking and marking and marking from dawn (or significantly after) to dusk (or until a late bedtime).  I'm surprised I caught a sunny moment here, as we all got soaked at 3pm. Though the heavens did only open as the school bell rang!

But Spring it most certainly is. It's just that the April showers waited a month to get here. It will be fabulous if we then get the May heat-wave in June, or even during the actual school holidays?

This view will be an interesting one at around 8am tomorrow morning. All four of us will be out looking for snails. P4 homework. Bring snails. I didn't want them trapped in a box, even with holes, all night; so that's the plan. Snails. Snails to school. Marking.
Bon début de weekend à toutes!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Reading and meeting

Pom Pom noted recently that reading and meeting are what I like to do. So true! 'Tis not surprising then that books for Book Club are mostly what I'm always catching up on, especially given that I'm not always exactly early or best organised! Birds without Wings was our read for months ago. I was reading it on Kindle, so it was consigned to the waiting for boys or waiting with parents school run and hospital appointment times.  Until I realised that it was obviously as much a tome as Captain Corelli and gave it undivided attention.

It doesn't, I think, have the compelling attraction of Corelli, but I do love very much the stories told from so many perspectives. I love the richness of de Bernieres' tales, the intertwining of distressing, and shamefully, forgotten periods in time with the eternal preoccupations of women, and men, and us all. It is increasingly poignant. He builds up to the sadness, the loss, the brutality so beautifully that you fully anticipate the atrocities of war-torn Turkey, without losing sight of the delicate twists of fate that may somehow land you whole on a new shore.

On the Kindle front, incidentally, my second Kindle has died a death of the screen, in exactly the same way as the first one. This seems to be a recurrent Kindle fault, at least with the dinosaur ones. It posed a dilemma: not wanting another such Kindle, not wanting to lose all those Kindle books. Ang has been my guardian angel- and more of that anon.
The title of Birds without Wings is as linked to poetry as Lucy Caldwell's All the Beggars Riding. I will confess, even with the pages of Beggars still slightly imprinted on my fingers, that both references are temptingly forgettable. I am afraid that I am hoping for much the same outcome with the protagonists of this one.

Belfast has now, in May, the concept of One City, One Book, and challenges its citadins to read the one book in the one city and discuss it in book groups, book readings across the town. Unlike last year's wonderful book, Beggars has a tenuous link to Belfast. And exploits perhaps two of its troubled atrocities for the mere purposes of plot. These two families could have been set in any two places at all, but Lucy is from Belfast after all. (I didn't teach her, because she was leaving the Prestigious Establishment as I was leaving, but I did teach her youngest sister...)

I didn't like the halting, apologetic style of the narration in the first part. I wasn't wholly convinced that the premise of a burdened daughter who seeks redemption in unravelling her mother's story excused the excessive degree of disjointed soul-searching. There were many interesting passages on writing and telling though, and certainly the chapter where Lara finally comes to Belfast as an adult I did love.
Dissatisfaction has, however, abounded in more than my reading. Tonight we finished this version of The Seven Voyages of Sinbad. I was pleased with the suns' quick grasp of the formula, and more pleased with their disapproval of Sinbad! Rich man becomes bored at rich home, sets sail to increase riches, ship wrecked, sole survivor, often watching other companions die grisly deaths, sits astride a convenient plank. escapes own grisly adventure, ends up in palace of another rich man who takes him in and promotes him, and marries him off twice, makes lots of money after losing everything, returns home and gives Sinbad the Porter another ten (or is it one hundred?) gold dinars.  We were not amused.
Last year Book Club read Cold Comfort Farm. I had never read it before. I have now lost count of how many times I have read it since. I read it often and regularly! I know it's about trauma in the wood-shed, and milking shed, and that it was a parody of which Gibbons grew tired, but I cherish it. I dare to say that it has been one of those books that will have shaped my thinking. When all threatens to engulf and worry and o'erthrow, I'll put on something green, think about washing curtains, brew some good tea, and then go for a brisk walk.

Reading and meeting, tea-drinking and fresh air. I know what's good for me!

Monday, 20 May 2013

One thousand gratitudes 686 - 704

 Thank you for chance meetings that should always be risked, even if sometimes they turn out not quite as expected. Our French Canadians friends are being called back to the mother ship next month, so we had Strawberry Land's first (and probably this year's only) barbecue on Friday night. They brought desserts...
 Thank you that we washed all the dishes last night, even if we were grumpy with each other, and now I can plunge straight(ish) into all that marking. Thank you for all that marking. We shall eat on holiday!
 Summer term seems finally to be arriving, even if the boys still wore their winter coats this morning as we cycled and scooted down this morning. Thank you for the wit of Mattman that just grows and grows as he does this year. "May I just scoot on down now, Mum?" Big grin. Thank you for the full-on, high risk, phenomenon of that Jo. I'm sure I'll learn to breathe while watching him sometime soon. Porridge on the back step when I get back. Quiet!
Thank you for the two things that my suns learnt about you from the very start. God always loves you, even when you're bad. The Spirit lives in here (point with both bold hands to your belly button), but then it comes out (move hands as if directing the whole plane to the emergency exits). Thank you for hope to be held on to during a weekend of Pentecost and funerals. Thank you for the wind that blows our windmills round. Everything in the garden is faded and winter-beaten, and nobody much sees the spin. But thank you x

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Views from My Window

 Last week we had one day of summer, and today again another day of blue skies and warm sun.  We're learning, after many long, wet summers now, to get out there and love life while it lasts. The hills that you can just see are the Holywood hills (just one l, the County Down town!) Belfast Lough lies between us and them and it has been shimmering and turquoise and beautiful all day.
 The blossom is just past its best and starting to show signs of fading.
 Side garden never really looks anything other than the shady, mossy place for running boys that it is, regardless of seasons!
 But out front, where a small unit of mine and others' high octane suns are shining, all has been most encouraging.
 Not only washing on the line, but the slurping of ice-lollies to boot.
And no boots required today for the surveying of the, partially weeded, strawberry bed. Finally signs that something nice might be afoot...

More views from windows here chez Jane, where I hope the snow didn't stay?!

Monday, 13 May 2013

One thousand reasons to give thanks number 685

I don't know how to write this post, and maybe I shouldn't at all. What is blogging for fundamentally? When I first started reading the gratitude thing on A Holy Experience I wanted a faithful attention to the great outpouring of love and provision that surrounds us all. And I can do that without a. boring you, or b. needing to send it into the blogosphere for affirmation.

Nonetheless here is, at the very time when I think I will drop fraise's lachrymose, something for which I am grateful. Incomprehensible as it is.

My children are alive. And my neighbour's child has died. It's not fair. After the devastating news last week, I can see how normal life is creeping back in at us from the edges. We still get to go looking at tents and holiday websites and have lunch in nice coffee shops and fight and bicker and shout.

In our lachrymose year my over-riding prayer was- preserve our lives and prevent our feet from slipping. And we were overwhelmingly preserved and protected.

I know that R's family would much prefer to be looking at holiday websites and having lunch and even fighting, bickering and shouting. It has been hard enough for our little school and streets; but my goodness, how long and hard will this road be for them?

Preserve all our lives. And prevent our feet from slipping. And if not, lachrymose is back in Daniel 3:17...

Thursday, 9 May 2013

View from My Window

 Back with Jane and views from windows around the blogging world. It's got all green and lush in the Canadian Forest since I last looked. It's greener and lusher here too.
 For the first time this is the view from the boys' window, because I hadn't realised how close the blossom came. I'll have to look out for Huck Finns for the next while.
Just in front of the gate you can see two footballing suns in wellies. They've had a very sad two days in school, so out and breathing is good.
 It is rainy today, and was yesterday as well. But we had glorious sunshine and heat on Tuesday. That was probably our summer!
 This was the view on Tuesday evening. No, definitely not a strawberry sports car. It belongs to a car expert friend. Prince Charming just couldn't resist a summer spin round the block!

Time stands still

 Hello! Sending you all lots of love from Northern Ireland, where nothing much changes just as everything changes, as usual. Time has stood ...