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.
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.
@theoldmortuary are having a strange old week. Lots of work to do towards an anticipated end point without ever quite knowing where that end point might be. As a consequence we’ve had no wi-fi and poor signal coupled with too much physical work for pondering. On a positive note there has been time for reading this week. I’ve finished the book club book mentioned in Pandemic Pondering #236. Some bits needed rereading before the Monday Zoom meeting.
My choice of reading has changed with the pandemic. With more time I’ve given myself the chance to enjoy a broader range of styles. This book is as marvelous as it’s title. A contemporary dose of magic realism. A tale of the West Country with the cliché content woven in a unique way.
This is quite a ride. Is it poetry or prose? A breathtaking, stay awake long-after-bed-time read. No spoilers here. I’ve never read anything quite like it in its style. It has the punch of a short story with twists and turns that made me squirm with anticipatory caution for the protagonist.
Finally number three
This has everything that book one has in using geography I am really familiar with, London. Coupled with Modernist Fine Art and a Windrush generation narrator. The Spanish Civil War is also a massive character in this book.
In my Covid Friend Collection I have gathered a scatty English teacher who probably winces at my punctuation and grammar but can also talk the hind leg off a donkey. I’m pushing these three in her direction so we can have a good old book natter. Happy Sunday xxx
Lockdown @theoldmortuary changed many things , some things stayed the same.Today we received half of a prize that represents change and we await the half that represents no change. This is to encourage anyone who sees those ‘share and comment’ posts on Instagram for a chance to win a prize. The prizes are real and random people win them.
Our reading habits changed during Lockdown. Hannah completely lost the ability to commit to a book. I lost the focus for the kind of books I like to read and developed a thirst for foreign based detective drama. We weren’t unusual, everyone in my book group reported changes in genre choice. None of us managed to read the classics or ‘ difficult’ books that you might imagine time and limited life choices might allow.
Today we received the first part of our prize. 4 books fromhttps://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/ Neither of us are thriller readers but with changes in reading style so fresh in our minds and a gift of books, now must be the time.
What a clever coupling, books and coffee. Perfection would be enjoying both in a foreign place beside a pool. What may well happen is a flask of good coffee, a book and some warm clothes after a swim at the only pool available to us.
It’s Sunday so there is cake.Merlin Jobst- Best Boldest Coffee Cake- For Jamie Oliver.In true Sunday style half the cake has gone off on its travels. Tomorrow another quarter will go on its way.This Sunday the cake accompanies books.I’ve been invited to share 7 books I enjoy on Facebook. No explanations, no reviews. Then I invite 7 friends to do the same.It just seems a bit sad not to share my reasons so I’m doing it here and I can pop a link on Facebook.In no particular order.This is a recent read , all the action takes place on one New Year’s Eve. But the narrative covers almost 60 years of New York History and the personal story of Lilian Boxfish. It was a page turner yet the subject matter was poetry, advertising and the life of a business woman. Hardly normal page turning material.I love words. I’ve owned this book since 1972, it’s preferable to on line thesaurus searching.Like the Thesaurus this book is never far from my bedside. 5 minutes or 5 hours can be lost between it’s covers. My favourite diarist in this brilliant book is Alan Bennett.New York by Edward Rutherford. The same city as Lilian Boxfish but this time the history is counted in centuries. As a reader I was kept on the edge of my seat/bed/sunlounger by the way history turned and altered not by planning or intention but by coincidence, missed encounters or wicked intent.Colour theory and the history of colour are some of my favourite subjects to read about when I might get interrupted. This book always accompanied my on- call nights in a London Hospital . It didn’t always get a lot of attention.Blood and Sugar , a story of Deptford that taught me so much and explained why the historical architecture of Deptford is so outrageously and shamefully grand. I use the word outrageous and shame deliberately but this is a great piece of historical fiction.
Another tale of London set in part just 50 yards from the London Hospital where the Colour Book accompanied me in my On- calls. A great read about a prostitute and her ‘ protector’ and the characters around them, it has a curious end which is tidied up by a subsequent collection of short stories
Evolving Bookworms. I belong to a small bookgroup. We provide ourselves with book sets loaned by Cornwall Library Service, we’ve just read our last book issued before libraries closed their doors as part of Coronovirus. The system is pretty easy, groups choose a years worth of book sets from a list on the Library website. The sets are then delivered to our local library once a month. The system is not foolproof and we don’t always get a set that we selected but every month there is a set of books waiting for us at the library. Unexpected books have given us the opportunity to read something none of us would have chosen, we always have lively discussions regardless of how much the book was enjoyed.
So that’s pre- pandemic book club, but now we are in Pandemic Bookworming.
We opted to use WhatsApp as our platform of choice, too many of us to use the video function but we could record voice messages and obviously write our opinions. We used it live for two hours during the time our actual meeting would have taken place. One unusual aspect for our group is that the book remains with us so I’ve been able to reread bits of the book with new insight provided by my bookworm colleagues. I can re listen to their comments and read the written notes. Normally we hand the book back.
Why did we never think of a WhatsApp group before? Bookworms unable to attend the meetings could have been fully involved even on months when attending a meeting was impossible.
For the next month the WhatsApp group remains open for bookish chat and for our next month two hour meeting we will bring a piece.of poetry to the group and talk about our individual literary adventures.
Initially I’m switching gear a bit. Swapping H E Bates Uncle Silas, a book that was not much to my taste despite some amazing descriptions of country ways.
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk was in my holiday reading pile until this morning. A pile that will sustain me for some time.
All my reading life I’ve loved libraries, as I got older bookshops took over because library opening hours are not always convenient for working people. We always visit libraries whenever we travel to cities. Birmingham and Seoul stand out as two of the best. Yesterday I was in our local library doing some admin for a book group. Not planning to get anything for myself I had a quick wander around in case something irresistible caught my eye. Two books leapt out at me, not because they would take me on new journeys but because they reminded me of journeys already taken.
Alan Johnson’s In My Life will be the second Alan Johnson book I’ve read. The first one The Long and Winding Road was the third book of his memoirs. I have yet to read the first two parts. The Long and Winding Road was significant to me because during the period it covered we were neighbours, not close, but some of his roads were my roads and when his days of secure chauffeur driven cars were over we shared our regular commute into Victoria or London Bridge. Obviously like proper London commuters we never made eye contact.
Alan Johnson is not the only recognisable face seen on the platforms of Gipsy Hill Station.
One stands out as the ‘ most’ famous. Fanny, the Gipsy Hill Cat. Famous throughout London for her duty of care to the commuters of South London. She has her own station waiting room.
and is nearly always on hand for cuddles or ticket checking.
Spiri Tsintziras book Afternoons in Itheka is the second book that grabbed me and is the second based in Itheka that I have read.The first was North of Ithaka by Eleni Gage, a book that fueled a trip to Itheka last summer.
The trip to Ithaka was serendipitous and wonderful. It is such a peaceful island.
We had a huge rustic supper in a general store and occasional cafe.
Some of the artwork was surprising.
The food was everything you would expect of Greek hospitality. Comforting, delicious and never ending.
Reading is my favourite pastime, it gives me time and location travel. Sometimes backwards like these two books but often projecting me forward to adventures as yet unknown.
My favourite place to read is at home in the World’s Most Comfortable Chair. It is not always the most effective place to read.
My particular ‘World’s Most Comfortable Chair’ was bought on eBay from Penryn . It was in a sorry state but was an original from the 1960’s, the deep chocolate brown velvet was faded to an unattractive lilac . Reupholstered and recovered it lives in theoldmortuary with other bits of mid- century modern furniture.
The chair is the problem. It makes any book soporific. Not for me sleeping on hard surfaces with a book.
This preamble is a shameless lead-in to share two of my favourite book related images. I captured them within the same few hours in Seoul, South Korea. The first was a wall mural in Bongeunsa Temple, Gangnam-gu.
I imagine this photo would have rested undisturbed in my Seoul photo archive had it not been reconstructed in a contemporary way just a mile or so away at the Kyobo book store. I love the peace expressed by the relaxed hands in both images.
I had completely forgotten these two book related dozes were captured in Gangnam district, so more shameless image sharing and with it, hopefully, an earworm. Seriously, you’re welcome no problem at all.
My response to Rothko is to be peaceful and calm. Shonibares work makes my head fizz. It’s not just the vivid, vibrant colours but the stark utilitarian librariness of it.
3 walls of a gallery are filled with bookshelves. All the books are brightly coloured, covered with Dutch Fabric, a mass produced batik style material from the Netherlands. On the spines in gold leaf are the names of first or second generation migrants to Britain who have made significant contributions to the culture or history of Britain. Some books have the names of people who have opposed migration, this negative group is balanced by the huge number of books that have no names on their spines representing the future when currently unknown migrants will boost and embellish British life in unimaginable ways. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/shonibare-the-british-library-t15250
Central to this exhibition is a website where migrants or their descendents can add their stories. These additions can be read on the website.