Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Reading


Snake Ropes by Jess Richards
I heard of this book when a woman, whose blog I follow, reviewed it:

From blog by Catherine at Still Standing On Her Head

Jess Richards was born in Wales and grew up in South West Scotland. The setting of the book is a mysterious island somewhere far to the west of Scotland. The inhabitants have long been isolated. Their only visitors are the mysterious tall men who come from the mainland to trade for fish and for the women's craft work, being careful not to disturb the culture of the islanders too much. The story is told in the voice of two young girls, Mary who is an islander, and Morgan whose parents have settled there from the mainland, after fleeing something dark in their past. If I had to label this book with a genre, I would say "magical realism". Morgan can talk to the dead, and the myths told by Mary's grandmother become tangled in the story so that it is not quite clear what is myth and what is real.

It's a stunning book, highly imaginative, unlike anything else I have ever read. I highly recommend it. 

I agree. It is a strange but compelling book! It is classified as fantasy, which I guess it is, but is nothing like anything I have read before. I won't say I liked it but I couldn't abandon it either. I haven't decided whether I'll read her second book, Cooking with Bones, which sounds from the title as if it is even creepier!

The Cornish Knot by Vicky Adin

The Cornish Knot is the story of Megan, a widow of 12 months who receives her great-grandmother’s journal written a hundred years ago. She embarks on a journey to trace her family tree, discovering secrets and finding herself immersed in the world of art. She follows the footsteps of her ancestor from Cornwall via Italy to New Zealand.This is the first of a series, The Past Finders, which will all be about 'history, family, love and renewal'. It's an easy read, not badly written, and well researched. However, it is somewhat unrealistic in its unfolding of the story, for the sake of drama - in a real life situation, the story would have unfolded in a much less orderly fashion story-wise, but way more logically in terms of a woman travelling the world to trace her predecessors.

As I say, an easy read, good for a journey, or for curling up with when you are sick, or like me, suffering from a sore back.


Garlic and Sapphires by  Ruth Reichl

 I'm a vegetarian. I don't much like restaurants, especially the posh ones where the food has been artistically arranged on the plate - I get creeped out at the thought of all the fingers involved in arranging it - and I have never read a restaurant review. I also have a horror of big cities. However, a woman I met recently, and who I, so far, really like, mentioned Ruth Reichl, and one of the ways I like to get to know people is to read books they recommend. Well, I'm hooked! I'll be finding more of her books for sure.

Garlic and Sapphires is a memoir about Reichl's years as the restaurant reviewer for the New York Times. It is based around some of her reviews, but is about her discovery of sides of herself that she didn't previously know about, as she develops disguises so she can visit restaurants without getting the special treatment that recognition brought. She writes so well that her descriptions of food that would have me gagging even if I was 3 tables away, make me salivate. She is incredibly funny and insightful, and I can't wait to get my hands on another of her books - I'm looking forward to some cold, wet days in front of the fire!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Today Next Year

A writing prompt asked: What was there about today that you will enjoy remembering in a year's time?

Not the woman
that the council want her
to either chain up her dogs
or build a secure fence.
Not the man
that the bench seats and tables
outside the chippie shop
aren't clean enough.
Not the woman
the concrete path
to the jetty
is in the wrong place.
On this bright
yellow and blue
mid-winter's day
I smile at small boys
dropping rocks
into the sea
with a satisfying splash.
I smile at the curve
 of the blue footbridge
leading the women
pushing strollers
following toddlers
over the water
to the playground.
I notice the leaves
of opportunist
self-seeded plants
sprouting from the top
of the broken palm tree:
like a comical toupee
on a balding man.
There's a shiny
 black and chrome
better than new
nineteen forties car
parked outside the cafe,
a chance to chat
to one, no longer a stranger.

The dog runs into waves
the boy follows
foaming water fills his boots
and, nearly mine.
Gulls run along the sand.
There is laughter and barking,
shells and driftwood.
If this day next year
is as cold and wet and dark
as one expects in July,
these will be the memories
I will take out to enjoy,
to taste, to smell,
to relive in front of the fire.


lemon zest
lime juice
hot drinks
for winter days

honey mixed
with memories
of summer,
hay rides
and shearing sheds

of saxophones
and cool jazz
and long black
barely restrained
wild ringlets

memories and connections
and almost no-one left
to understand them.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Before the Concrete Sets

I have been following Twisted Stitches and Hazelmade and Katwise and loving their clothing for quite a while. Today I discovered that Katwise also has a blog. With crazy writing, and pictures of her crazy clothing and crazy house and crazy buses, and I know that if I hadn't become, in childhood, a terrified-of-being-different, boring, jeans and black t-shirt kind of person who has aged into a boring, grey, fat old woman - this is the sort of person I wish I could have been. Not in quite the same way, because I was never a Grateful Dead fan, but colourful and colour-filled and fearlessly me. Too late now - I'd look a complete dork if I wore clothing like that and danced around singing (badly)and shit.

I wish I had learned to play music. I wish I had learned to sing. I wish I had learned to dance. I wish I had written more poetry. I wish I had worn the clothes I loved and the colours I loved and the fabrics I loved. I wish I'd said to more people, "Hey, I like you - would you like to meet for coffee on Tuesday?"

I wish I hadn't let my life be ruled so much by what I thought I should do. Ruled by fear of looking a fool, being rejected, tripping over my feet, getting things wrong. I wish I'd told certain people to just get the fuck out of my life. Now, I'm so set in my ways that I just can't bring myself to wear inappropriate colours and clothes. My body's not up to dancing or learning to surf or riding a unicycle. I do act 'inappropriately' sometimes, but not as often as I would if I followed my inner voice.

Pretty much I am happy with my life now. I love living here and doing the back-to-the-land thing. I have interesting friends. I have old and loyal friends. I have sons and grandchildren. I have a husband, without whom life would be seriously empty.

But if you are still young, hear me and listen - be who you are, now, before the concrete sets.