Sunday, 28 September 2014

Views, books and decades of the week

 Definitely revelling in Autumn here.
 Definitely wondering if I need to revel in Autumn outside our garden.
 It's just that the novelty of having it all outside the door hasn't quite worn off!
 It's a very good time to be here.
 My baby will have been on the planet for his first decade come Wednesday, so we did lots of celebrating this weekend.
 And I even read two books this week. Admittedly they were both school books borrowed from Miss H's English room!
 I wonder did Morpurgo mean us to be wholly supportive of Tommo? Because I did find him ultimately unadmirable. There was a wonderful moment towards the end of his timekeeping when I wondered had he redeemed himself  by taking Charlie's place. But no.
I've only before this read The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. I loved Of Mice and Men just as much. I was harrowed by As Mice and Men just as much. George I did find admirable. Heartbreakingly.

In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.

 John Steinbeck in his 1938 journal entry

Sunday, 21 September 2014


So this week I did finish a book, so I did. It was the third in Tony Macauley's series about growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, so it is. He writes it entirely in the dialect that we all spoke in Belfast at time, so we did, and yousns might not understand a blind thing in it!

He went to up Coleraine University; I went to Queen's here in town. He does rightly record the snobbery to which this decision would have subjected him! He rightly records everything I remember from my university days: coming from not particularly pleasant areas of Belfast to the ivory towers of academia, the insider politics of third-level Christianity, the angst and the inspiration, the legwarmers and Duran Duran.

It was a good read and I found it incredibly poignant, though I don't know how universal that would be. Mind you, he does have a big following in the States, where I suppose interest in Island Ireland and all her corners is high. Interesting to be reading a book so steeped in the consequences of Loyalism and Republicanism in the week where not so Island Scotland decided that maybe the time wasn't just right.

I think All Growed Up isn't just as gripping as the first book, Paperboy, and the second, Breadboy, certainly wasn't. I think the two sequels bring nothing new apart from the on-going narrative. Paperboy had all the freshness of a book written in this voice, from this persepective. So if you hadn't read any Macauley, I think I'd still recommend Paperboy.

I have started rereading Divorcing Jack by Bateman- a whole other outrageous depiction of Belfast! I should really get around to reading anything other than this first novel of his. Three years ago some of us went to a reading Colin Bateman was doing and took our copies of Divorcing Jack along with us. We told him we were reading one of his books for Book Club. He was happily impressed until he asked which one. I think he was appalled that after his prolific output, including very successful TV dramatisations for which he wrote the scripts, we were stuck on the first one. At least with Tony Macauley I'm keeping pace!

PC thinks that Macauley's next book will be about his move into peace and reconciliation work, for which he was already quite well known before the novels. That can be my token nod in the direction of Peace Day!


I stayed in bed feeling cold-ridden and just plain tired this morning. Then when all the men came home they told me that there had been a video about me in church. Here it is! Maybe it's not just about me!

More on books later x

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Views not quite from my window

So balmy has it been every single afternoon that I come home from school and install myself on my long-ago birthday present lounger and I breathe. This was after all one of two goals for this year. The breathing. I think I have used the lounger more this week than I have done in a few summers.
The other goal was to link every Thursday to Jane's international views. The breathing has hitherto been the more consistently successful of the two goals, but I feel I'm making progress!
There has been a mist hanging over Belfast Lough for well nigh two weeks now, and I can't remember what the County Down coastline looks like, nor can you see the war memorial on the top of Knockagh Hill beyond the little maple tree.
This isn't the view from the window, but it's pretty close. 360 degrees from my semi-horizontal state of semi-slumber. Homeworks, dinner and all else on hold for fifteen minutes a sunny day. And it's nearly the weekend xx

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A bad book week

This week I haven't finished one single book. I did dip into one that I hope to finish for next week, but last night I gave up on one completely. I don't usually do this. I mostly have to keep going to find out what happens next. I did admittedly abandon The Shack. Literally. I left it on a bench somewhere between Guildford and Brittany. And I skim read the theme that interested me in a book about a girl from a bookshop who goes to work with a reclusive author.
However last night I realised in a liberating gust of breath that I did not have to spend one single more moment of my life being dragged through the morass of humanity's representation that is The Poet by Michael Connolly. No, I am not linking to it!
We seem to have gone crime fiction mad in book club. The Agatha books were missing from my tick-list and I was happy to have a go therewith; but this Connolly novel does exactly what I hate most with fiction.
We know that our world is an evil, dangerous, polluted pit. We know that men, and women, abuse the physical possibilities of our human bodies. We are surrounded now with tales that disgust and deplore.
I just find that sometimes with a novel, I'm not sure whether the author is taking my trust and engagement and dragging me through the dirt for the good of the themes within, or whether they are taking my trust and engagement and money and making for the hills.
So enough. No more. I shall finish the other book I started and then I shall find myself Something Good To Read. Probably starting with People of the Book as recommended by Dormouse! Warn me now, sweet mouse, if you think there is ANYTHING distressing therein!
What I did this evening instead of finishing my second book in two weeks was grab Master Heart, the Farmer's son, before he took up his usual evening position in my garden and demand apples. Mr Heart, the Farmer's Husband, had already sent me home a huge bowl of blackberries and my Good Housekeeping Cookbook tells me that blackberries and apples can be jam.
Round the corner and up the lane we all trotted, stopping to chat to our next-door neighbours, their goats. Through all the little gates, through the old garden, and into the orchard.
 We didn't need to send small boys up trees for all the apples, but it does help.
Then back down the lane and home. With clear minds and wholesome thoughts. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


We have been enjoying the most fabulous September weather this week. Every day is warm and airy. We get home from our schools and pour ourselves straight into the garden. The conkers are becoming visibly brown and are just ready to fall all over us and we cannot wait.  Please note the fine linen spread on our recently moved table.

I had not one but two parcels waiting for me this afternoon. One was very expected and may I just congratulate Clarks for using a sensible courier who can take a decision that doesn't involve spending your weekend driving the length of the borough to retrieve undelivered mail?

But Sandra of Thistle Cove Farm- thank you immensely for this beautiful tablecloth! I have been imagining what American feasts it has already hosted. It is quite the most perfect companion to Scarlet's gifts of last month. Bloggistes really are a kind and generous band of folk.

The solitary pear on my Christmas pear tree has now clearly reached a weight that allows it to hang vertically rather than horizontally. This is emcouraging, if slightly less smile inducing.

We moved the garden table from under the kitchen window because I wanted to have a quiet corner for herb pots and thinking. This is the starting point! These chairs sat in full sun just under the kitchen window in Strawberry Land and they were my thin place. A place where the barrier between Heaven and Earth is thin, and where God is strongly felt.
Glorious sunshine to the front as well. That tree in a pot was waiting for us when we arrived just over five months ago, and it has taken me all this time even to begin to have the courage to rearrange things. Its next move might involve more than a rearrange.
This tree, however, is much more intriguing. Answers on a postcard, or in a comment, please?

Bloggistes of my world, may the Son be shining on your face all day x

Sunday, 7 September 2014


 Goodness, I nearly didn't make it this week! Fifty-two books in the next year, and I just about read six short stories over seven days. This does not bode well! And to think that I deliberately started with P. G. Wodehouse because I associate him with the delicious practice of book-devouring.

 Growing up in Belfast in the seventies and eighties meant that the only place I was allowed to go to by myself, one of only two places I ever went that lay beyond the line in the tarmac at the end of our cul-de-sac, was the library. They had a whole collection of P. G. Wodehouse's Blandings books. So when I discovered this large print PGW at my parents' a few weeks ago I grabbed and ran.

I needn't have bothered. Give me pigs and castles anytime. I don't like Jeeves. I don't like him at all. One down, fifty-one to go...

 Now this is a book to savour. This was my main read over the summer. A rich, thick compendium of all the Irish magic you've ever heard and then some more. It is the story of storytellers, and it is the stories of storytellers. It is the legends of the famous and a legend of a few. I loved it. Read it now!

The rest of the summer I read Mary Berry's story. A jolly hockey sticks romp through life with parties, frocks and Agas. And a recipe at the end of every chapter. Lovely, darling. Nice behind the scenes peeks into GBBO too.

I did also read my Agatha Christie for this month's Book Club. I read the first Miss Marple which I liked very much. Then I read one of the Poirot books- the one about the dog and his bouncing ball. I think I'll have to put Hercule in the north-facing Blue Room with Jeeves in attendance. Miss Marple can sit by the fire with Mary, and Frank Delaney shall serve them coffee and delight.

I'll be in the study with a crowbar, thinking murderous thoughts about homeworks, swimming kit and music lessons.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

First Views from an Autumnal Meadowplace

I woke up in the spare room this morning. A beautifully misty morn nearly compensated for a night of bed swapping. I live in hope that one of us will grow out of this soon!
You just can't see the golden sky. But it was golden! There's one little pear on the one little pear tree out there.
Conkers are starting to fall from the chestnut tree up in the corner. Mattman wants to line his windowsill with them, and Jo is filling a vase.
Same view from my room, when I had re-united myself therewith. Can you see the cows? They were very quiet this morning. Obviously also enjoying the bodings of a fine day.
This is Mattman's new school route. He cuts through the university campus just below us which joins a little lane down to his new school. I drove him to the lane this morning. Heavy bags after a week of new routine are starting to take their toll!
And this is part of my new-ish school route. Next month I will have been a classroom assistant for a whole year.
The view coming home. Where the leafy suburbs open out onto Belfast lough and you bask in the splendour of a genuinely hot and sunny day. I went for a walk to the post box when I got home. I wore my shorts and a summer top. It was a pretty exceptional way to start Autumn!

Monday, 1 September 2014


 One of you fine Susan Branch living people shared a picture of her September tree the other day on good old farcebook. But I can't find it now or you now, so here is a teeny tiny one stolen shamelessly from Goggle. The line at the top stood out for me even more than the fabulous words. "Wind gives speech to trees". Here in the frozen North for days now as soon as you go outside you hear Autumn. Up until this year I thought you felt it in the crisper, cleaner air. I thought you saw it in the blue, blue sky whose sun didn't burn. In a little epiphany I realised last week that you hear Autumn: in the dry leaves not yet ready to take their leave (excuse the pun...) of summer.

Appropriately, yesterday morning in church we sang "We have heard a joyful sound" and I did smile broadly when we got to the verse that says, "Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves". I was smiling and hoping that the noise of His Autumn would be heard wherever the leaves fall and that salvation would come for all who most need it. As our very traditional preacher pointed out in a most untraditional way for the frozen North, being the word "saved" has many translations, among them finding peace and well-being.
 I have goals for this month! I told my extremely lovely Science teacher and co-staff room chatter today that I was going to get organised this month. She pointed out that you'd never set that as a goal for a child. "Be specific, Mags," she said. So here are the specifics, in an attempt to create accountability for myself:

I am going to have food in the house every day and that includes remembering that I need a packed lunch too!

I am going to stop forgetting swimming kit and piano lessons.

I am going to crochet my tank top from this book. My version will be in easy, monochrome grey.

I am going to start that 52 books in a year thing that everyone else started in January. So institutionalised are we, in three separate schools now, that September is really the start of our new year!

I will be in bed by eleven instead of midnight. (It's 23:29 now.)

If you're still here you'll want a cup of tea. Camomile at this hour. Thank you all for still popping in to the new Meadowplace x It is lovely to have so many porches to relax on when a moment even vaguely beckons from behind the conker-laden chestnut tree up yonder. I know that you're all finding ways to celebrate the speech of the trees this Autumn!

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 ...