Sunday 23 June 2019

Still Scattering Rainbows

Hello, thank you for popping in.  It has rained and rained and rained and rained and rained on Shropshire.  Between 7th and 17th June we had two and a half months' worth of rain - that's ten weeks' worth in ten days.  Everything is soggy.  My feet are back in my winter boots, with woollen socks because it's been cold here, too, and so dark that I have put the lights on in the afternoon, and I can't recall ever doing that in June before.  Honestly, you'd think it's November rather than June - cold, wet and miserable.  However, I am counting my blessings because I don't live in Lincolnshire where there have been awful floods, I really feel for the people who have had to leave their homes.

The last three days have been sunny and dry - hooray! - but this afternoon the rain poured down again.  However, despite that rain I am still scattering rainbows - crocheted ones.  I made my first rainbow baby blanket for a little boy born in May 2017 and recently, the little chap had to have a spell in hospital.  I was sent a picture of him in the cot, wrapped up in his rainbow and my heart lurched a little, sad that he was poorly but happy that my colourful stitches were bringing him comfort.  The Teacher's friends are still having babies so here are blankets number 10 and 11, draped over Tom Kitten's tiny chair last month.

As usual, I have used Stylecraft Special DK in Lipstick, Spice, Saffron, Lime, Turquoise, Violet, and Magenta, colours used by Heather when she was blogging at Little Tin Bird.  The straight striped blanket is bordered with Hot Fuschia and Turquoise using the Spot On Edging pattern designed by Lucy at Attic24

The ripple, also Lucy's pattern, is bordered in Petrol and Lime. I am especially pleased with the way these colours work together with Magenta, I think they just zing.

I love, love, LOVE them.  The straight striped one is for a little girl born last week and the ripple is staying at The Teacher's house to wait for Tom Kitten's sibling, who is due next month.  We are all quite excited!

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x 

Monday 10 June 2019

This Year's Books - Part One

Hello, thank you for dropping in and thank you for your comments on my last post.  You lot are lovely.  The weather here is cold, wet, dark and gloomy so I think it's time to cosy up and bring you my promised reading post.  If you were here last year you might remember that in 2017 my reading mojo almost completely disappeared so at the beginning of last year I set myself a reading target of twelve books over twelve months and I made myself document my progress here as extra motivation.  By the end of December I had read twenty-three books and made great inroads into my To Be Read pile shelf bookcase.  I have set up a separate page which lists those twenty-three books, partly in case you would like to have a peep but really so that I can look at them myself, especially as more than half of them have now left the building.
This year I decided to keep the target at twelve books but, now that my reading muscles are much fitter, the difference is that those twelve books will all be long ones.  I expect you know the sort of thing I mean, the broad spines which stare at you from the shelf, dominating it with their size and which you put off reading if you are out of condition because the distance seems daunting.  At least, it did to me. However, by the end of last year I felt ready to take on the challenge: twelve books, each one at least 450 pages long, which meant that this year, I have to keep a log of the number of pages in each book as well as its title and author.  So, here is the pile of books I have read so far this year. -

Thirteen already!  However, I am sure that you will have noticed that three of these do not meet the requisite criteria, being much shorter than 450 pages.  During this marathon I realised that sometimes, I need the refreshment of a short book, and as reading fiction is supposed to be a pleasure, I decided to meet that need whenever necessary - as long as I read twelve longer books over the course of the year, the target will still be met.  So with two more of those to read over the next six months, there should be plenty of room for other books, too. 
My heart sank on the day, more than two years ago, when a colleague brought me a bag containing seven long books by Susan Howatch, simply because it's difficult to find room for seven new, thick books in a teeny, tiny house.  "I noticed you were reading one of hers a couple of months ago," she said.  She was so kind and thoughtful that I hadn't the heart to correct her and say that the book she had noticed was actually by Elizabeth Jane Howard!  This is the Starbridge series of novels which explores different attitudes and schools of thought within the Church of England between 1937 and 1968.  Each novel stands alone, although the characters recur throughout the series.  I felt that I ought to read them but after the first one I was hooked and carried on because I really wanted to.  They are serious, and seriously good.  These four are, in order, Glittering Images, Glamorous Powers, Ultimate Prizes and Scandalous Risks.  There are two more which I haven't read yet (and that's not because I can't find them, no, it's really, really not, honestly, although it might be, and I really did need a break from mid-twentieth century Anglicanism) but The Wonder Worker takes the action to London and moves some of the same characters into the 1980s.  I didn't like this one so much, it began well but became a bit too soapy for me and I found the ending unbelievable.
The Lee Child thrillers about Jack Reacher were passed on to me with  recommendation and one of them, Killing Floor, was the first to be published.  Although they are not really my sort of thing and the short sentence structure annoyed me, I found them very difficult to put down.  He's obviously a good writer, but I don't think I'll read any more.
Rosie Thomas' A Simple Life was also passed on to me and frankly, the story itself was overshadowed by the physical book, which was horrible.  It was filthy and stained, the pages felt greasy in my hand and it's leaving my house to be pulped because I should be embarrassed to pass it on to anyone else.  The fact that I couldn't let it go before reading it probably says a lot about me! 
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver is the longest of these books, measuring up at 670 pages, and won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.  The action takes place in Mexico and the USA between 1930 and 1959 and features Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky and a cameo appearance by Richard Nixon.  I enjoyed it very much.

Asking me to name a favourite book is like asking me to name a favourite child, I can't do it, but I think that All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is my favourite of all these.  When I took it off the shelf I didn't realise that it was largely set in St Malo in 1944, but reading it in the same week as the 75th anniversary of D-Day has given it extra resonance.  I found it a beautiful, spellbinding read and heartily recommend it.  I am also thanking my bookish sister who bought it for me, as well as The Lacuna, and may be surprised that it's taken me so long to get round to them; all I can say is that they were worth the wait.


As for the three shorter books, I have written about The Wool-Pack and Cradle on the Waves in previous posts so that just leaves The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, in which the aging mother of Jesus looks back on his life and death and which I read at Easter.  This is an intense and moving novella, only 104 pages long, and I think that reading it may become part of my Easter tradition. 

These books amount to 5,716 pages.  I'm a bit stunned by that so I'm going to write it again: I have read five thousand, seven hundred and sixteen pages so far this year.  And again: 5,716 pages of prose.  I know that some of you read far more quickly than I do but for me, this is a huge total and makes me feel very positive about the whopper which I am building up to later this year.  I am so happy to be reading again.   

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Saturday 8 June 2019

A Half Term Break

Hello, thank you for dropping in and please excuse my absence.  A few hours after I published my last post the Best Beloved and I loaded up the car and set off on the long drive to The Lizard for a half term Cornish camping holiday. 

I had booked a lovely campsite which I'd found online and it surpassed our expectations.  It was quite small and very well-kept, bordered by hedges and established trees and we were almost deafened by birdsong the whole time we were there.  Here's the view from my dining table on the evening of our arrival.

Cornwall was beautiful, in and out of the sunshine.  The hawthorn trees in the hedges were still bearing their magnificent white blossom, unlike here in Shropshire, and the lanes were lined with frothy white Queen Anne's lace and pink campion.  I really wanted to get out of the car and take photographs but the lanes were too narrow for that to be feasible.  I was almost giddy with delight.  We went to the beach on our first day there, of course we did, even though it was so misty that we couldn't see much and I had to zip my fleece right up to my chin to keep out the wind, and we sat at a picnic bench outside the cafĂ© and drank hot tea and I ate a hot pasty out of a paper bag while we watched wetsuit-wearing swimmers, surfers and kayakers, hardier than us.  I couldn't have felt happier.

After that day, the weather brightened.  We went to picturesque Cadgwith and ate crab sandwiches at The Cadgwith Cove Inn and we went to Kennack Sands and sat on the beach in glorious sunshine, him napping and me reading.  We went to a pretty tea garden and ate a cream tea - and please don't be shocked, but even though I was in Cornwall I ate it the Devonian way, cream first and jam on top.  In the evenings we sat in our tent and drank wine, chatted to each other, listened to children playing and I read my book.  It was idyllic.

The main purpose of our trip was to visit the churchyard in Crantock.  My dear friend Mary moved back near there in 2011 after living in Shropshire for almost twenty years, and the last time I saw her was during our Cornish holiday in 2016.  That day, she took us to visit the church in Crantock and showed us the grave where her parents and daughter are buried; she told me that she intended her ashes to be interred there too, and showed me how she had worded the inscription on the headstone so that all that would need to be added would be the date of her death, "if anyone's interested," she said.  I told her that I would be interested and that I would visit her.  Just after Christmas I learned that she died last year,  so I felt the need to honour my promise and that's why we took this trip.  The Best Beloved discreetly and thoughtfully made himself scarce while I sat beside the grave and said my goodbyes. 

While I was packing for this trip, I found my missing book!  Typically, it was in a place which I had looked in the previous day, and the day before that, but I was obviously looking with what my friend calls "man eyes"!  So, next time I can definitely share this year's books with you.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x