This quote appears on the back of a book that I am about to read. Just reading it exercises me greatly. What would be the purpose of my three hearts if I were so lucky.
One would certainly be my actual anatomical heart, working hard keeping me alive.
The second I think would be a super resilient heart to house all heartbreak, sadness and grief that life serves up.
But number three, well that would be the heart of love, the one that makes every day special, the one that expands as required. The one that looks into a sunset and concludes that another day has been well-lived.
When this book was recommended to me a colleague warned me that I would need to take a break every now and then to calm down.
She was not wrong, I am only a quarter of the way through. Suddenly some things are blindingly obvious but not perhaps in the way I expected. From a historical perspective women often appear invisible because men took the credit for their work. I did not expect that simple fact to appear in my contemporary life this weekend. I was searching on line for a range of bone china that was designed a few years ago by a woman in collaboration with some art students. The design was easy enough to find using her name but when I thought about ordering some I noticed her name was nowhere to be seen. Instead the whole range was branded with her husband’s name. I am pretty certain I would have noticed this without being immersed in this wonderful book but now I am acutely aware and can’t quite bring myself to order the china.
Then today I was at a training afternoon and the course leader was trying to upscale a philosophy for children scheme * to engage with adults. I’m not entirely sure his plan was quite working as well as he had hoped, for anyone, when I also realised he had customised a visual aid by putting words in the shape of a male face with a moustache. The default male face as I now know these things are called.
So the warning on the book turned out to be a good one. Unfortunately real life is every bit as capable of winding me up now this book is my bed time reading. I also have the sequel. This could be a long week bookwise!
*P4C. Do not attempt to use on adults unless you are really sure of your material!
Wordle reminded me of the irony of my travel plans. Long haul travel is one of my great undisturbed reading moments. Prior to this North American adventure I had a physical book planned and three on Kindle . My physical book is of the heavy duty variety.
The Kindles are more recreational. Crossing the Atlantic I made a good enough start on it. Then I watched a film, Belfast by Kenneth Branagh, leaving me three hours or so to doze or crack on with history. My fingers however had different plans and took me to the TV section of the entertainment screen. Heading for Chicago my eyes were immediately drawn to a series based in Chicago. Hmmm well, Chicago Meds is about as medically accurate as a childs play set, the actors are super easy on the eye and the storylines delightfully improbable. Livers were transplanted with barely a wash down between donor and recipient. Doctors pondered over how they could possibly have missed Coronary Artery disease on a chest X-ray. Confidential data was shared and improbable blood tests were performed with instant results that cured patients of racism. Three hours was not enough, I was hooked.
What I had hoped for was some location filming of iconic Chicago architecture. Each episode featured the same 10 seconds of the Loop. The overhead railway. I know this because I watched all of the five episodes available, American History got the brush off. I was seduced by attractive actors and something intangible. I laughed, hugely inappropriately, in moments of high drama and was completely hooked half way though episode one. As I write this I am hopping across the border to Canada, there is no in flight entertainment. Belatedly I am returning to American history just as I leave the country. With some intellectual integrity left I have to admit that the first thing I do when I get home is check the TV listings for Chicago Meds, some comedies are less amusing.
I enjoyed both, David Nichols writes books that have emotional depth even if some of his characters lack it, deliberately. The BBC drama had the added benefit of giving me 10 minutes when I could enjoy the acting talents of my lovely next door neighbour, Keith,who had, unknown to me, a small part in episode 3.
I say ‘unknown to me’ as if I insist on knowing where my neighbour has his small parts. This is not the case!
Us gave me light relief after an ill advised Christmas read. My favourite historical period to read is what is known in English speaking worlds as The Jazz Age or Roaring Twenties or in French Années Folles.
My book of choice was-
On Christmas Eve I commented that I was unsure where the book was going. By Christmas Day I was all to aware that the destination was Jersey in World War 2. Even more of a surprise and grimly shocking was that I was actually reading a Biography. It is not that the book wasn’t well written or that I am not glad to have read it but maybe not my usual subject matter for the Yuletide!
My leisure reading life and my work life are intersecting currently and in truth a little bit late. I spend a lot of time in the Mayflower Exhibition when I am working in the museum.
Both the exhibition and the book have the same constraint. Very little is known about the actual Mayflower Voyage. Difficult for Historians but good for me as the original source material is the same. The curators of the exhibition do a brilliant job of explaining and expanding the known facts and illustrate them well with actual artifacts. The 60 years following the voyage of the Mayflower is the significant part of the narrative for history and probably the least accurately portrayed by the Thanksgiving myth and beyond. As I read the book my mind is illustrated with the items and documents I spend my day with.
This makes my reading of the book jog along very nicely. Neither the exhibition nor the book allow sentimental and fictional nostalgia, the darkness and brutality of the settlement and the impact on the indigenous people is all part of the story of European Colonisation. In reality the book is not a comfortable or easy read, but I didnt expect it to be.
Yesterday the hardware for our domestic WiFi was installed. Today at some point we should be back in the world of Broadband.
The last three weeks have been frustrating. When we told our network at the old house that we had a moving date the company switched us off immediately. Installation at the new house has not been a smooth operation. Coupled with a very poor 3/4g signal at the new house we’ve been out of the loop. All news and entertainment was provided by a radio. We blagged our way into a friends house to watch the Euro 21 final on TV. Curry, football and a discussion about African Wax cloth was a great experience.
Emails and WhatsApp arrived in a bunch whenever we left home. It has been a great leveller, we are as out of touch with people a mile away as we are with friends and family all over the world. Face to distant face chat outdoors has been our most reliable form of contact.
Yesterday more than 6 book group readers met in a garden to talk about a specific book. This is going to hurt by Adam Kay. ( mixed reviews) Then we shared our good reads of the past month.
All the lovely pictures in this blog were provided by Debs, a Bobber. Bobbing has probably kept us in the loop more reliably than anything else over the last few weeks. Three days a week, at least, regardless of the weather we all meet up at Tranquility Bay and swim and natter. Last night the bay reflected its name.
Yesterday was International Book Day. Serendipity put this book into my hands. I ordered it because I like the input this psychotherapist brings to a TV art programme. Graysons Art Club on Channel 4. Eponymously named for her husband, ceramacist Grayson Perry.
We have a lot of Grayson’s books @theoldmortuary. He is an original thinker. We go to his exhibitions and his live performances. I’m sure Philippa will not have written a bog standard self-help book.
This might seem like an odd book for me to read . @theoldmortuary our parents are long dead and the Pandemic has rendered us theoretical relations. No hands on parenting, grandparenting , or siblinging in this house currently.
To be honest I just fancied something that wasn’t a novel, biography or a book club essential. I’ve had a great pandemic year of reading , hardly a moment wasted on a below par book. So why not take some time with a book that is not exactly aimed at me. I love reading books by wise women regardless of the theme or its relevance to my life, there is always nuggets of information to be be gleaned and used for the benefit my mind management.
Wise women will also be significant in my next reading project. I’m writing a review for this fascinating book about women who have relocated to Italy.
Just as with Philippa Perry there is an arty connection. Linda Winter, a friend of mine who lived a similar London/Tamar Valley life as me, relocated to Italy two years ago and is the illustrator of the book. I can’t wait to get a copy in my hands, how delicious to read it with real purpose and a chance to write about art again.
Book club reading gave me the perfect word for the current Pandemic. Perturbation! The word came from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. Time to find some Welsh landscape.
Perturbed is a very useful word but I had never expanded it to perturbation.
It works so well with Pandemic and encapsulates our current times without too much jingle jangle alarm.
This months book choice is anything Welsh. I chose Dylan Thomas mostly because I remember Richard Burton narrating Under Milk Wood very effectively. Our next meeting is scheduled for March 1st St Davids Day the Patron Saint of Wales hence the theme.
This blog has accidentally become a book club blog, possibly the only sort of place I could share this odd photograph.
Here I am finishing last months Book Club book, inadvertently dressed to match.
We are not really flower growing people but the eccentricity of Dahlias has led us to attempt a little autumn colour. Last year we had an amazing show of audacious blooms. Despite proper care over winter this year has been not so good.
Pests are likely to be the cause of this year’s tatty blooms. One of the few bonuses of autumn is that as the temperature drops the pests decline. This week we have four good blooms.
I suspect dahlias inspire a certain nerdiness . Instagram search #dahlia has taken me to a world of gorgeousness. Back at home we are making the most of our four precious bugfree blooms.
In other less photogenic news our local library has opened for the first time in 7 months for browsing and borrowing. No books about Dahlias though. Shame
Coffee at my elbow, it was time to Bookclub Zoomstyle.
Again no spoilers, we all felt very much the same about this book. A complex beginning that could be off-putting but a good tale once the narrative established itself .
Three of us shared an emotional moment that had happened when we met earlier in the week,with the group. @theoldmortuary and a Covidfriend all lost our parents at an earlier than average age, we all loved our parents dearly. A passage in the book had made us all have a little weep. And then another weep when we discussed it and then today when sharing the tale of our weepings, there were more weepings.
The protagonist had never known her mother and now her father was close to death.
“On the third and finalnight, a bright light shines from my Father’s body. And in the sublime peace of his face, I saw my mother waiting for him.”
” I had never seen my mother’s face and had longed beyond all longing to one day see it. I still do.in fact- that is a desire that age hasn’t softened- because that night her face was hidden, covered by the thick tress of her dark hair.”
” But I knew it was her because she used words like mine and daughter and her breath was of the sea.”
” My father said to her: Hello my love. You’ve come back to me.”
” My mother said: I never left.”
“And in those three words was a lifetime.”
” He said: Shall we go then? And they turned to me and they said: Can you let us go do you think?”
” And I could say nothing. I raised my hand, a feeble attempt at a wave, I think. But I could say nothing. Because I was 14 years old and all I wanted to say was, Please, don’t go.”
There’s not much that can follow such a passage but fortunately the book offers a very upbeat Bonus Material addition to the book.
To be a Reader
by Sarah Winman
To be a reader, for me, is about entering a world of unimagined possibility; to have the willingness to suspend disbelief and to journey trustingly across the terrain of another’s imagination.
To be a reader is to feel a little less lonely. To be a reader is to be challenged. To feel anger, to feel outrage and injustice. But always to feel, always to think. To be a reader is not a passive state, it is active, always responding.
To be a reader is to have the opportunity to question ourselves at the deepest level of humanity – what would we have done in this situation? What would we have said? To be a reader is to feel empathy and compassion and grief. To be awed and to laugh. To fall in love, with characters, locations, the author. To be a reader is to learn and to be informed, and to rouse the dreamy inner life to action.
To be a reader is to take time out from the group. To not fear missing out; to turn off the TV, YouTube, the Internet. It is to slow down and engage; to be of the present. To be a reader is to find answers. It gives us something to talk about when we are unsure what to say.
To be a reader is to have the chance to collect stories like friends, and hold them dearly for a lifetime. It is to feel the joy of connection.