Saturday, February 24, 2018

Death of Emma Chambers

The Guardian has a lovely obituary piece about the sadly late Emma Chambers. I so loved her as Alice in The Vicar of Dibley. She was the dearest character. The jokes at the end of the shows were just great.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Quote du jour/Oliver Goldsmith

This month's quote from the Irish Writers Calendar

comes from Oliver Goldsmith.

"I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines."

It seemed this quote was everywhere a few years ago. I might have first read it in a Susan Branch book. Goldsmith is the second oldest writer on the calendar, and it is interesting how his words still resonate with us all these years later.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The country family heads to a casino

On January 27 we did something we've never done, and never thought we would do. No, not skydiving or ice climbing, but going to a casino! We are so not gamblers. I don't know anything about gambling games, and would never waste my money that way. So, why did we go? Because our beloved daughter got tickets for all three of us to see comedian Jim Gaffigan at Foxwoods. We love Jim G's work. He mostly talks about his family (wife and five kids) and food (the junk/fatty variety). There are five of his stand-up shows streaming on Netflix, and he has also written books, which Margaret has read but I haven't yet. We had a really wonderful time, both in the car and at the place. Foxwoods is huge, probably bigger than the whole area I live in. A couple of things struck me - there weren't any drunks. I somehow expected it to be a big drinking place, but no. We all figured out that probably people stay sober to concentrate on the games they are playing. There were a few bars but the people frequenting them were likely not the gamblers. But my goodness, there were a lot of games and people at them. There were also a lot of restaurants and stores. I expect people go there for all kinds of experiences. It is spread out so much that one has to do a lot of walking to get from a show to a restaurant or to the gaming areas. And here's the other thing that struck me - the people seemed a bit zombie-esque in the walking. All together, all at the same pace. It felt weird to see them. There were people of all ages, from little kids to quite elderly people, several in wheel chairs. We ate at a California Pizza Kitchen and thought it the best pizza we'd had. Our breakfast place was also very good. All the people working there were very nice, answering our questions and just being really friendly. And Mr. Gaffigan was wonderful. We laughed the entire show.

I so love what Margaret wrote on her Facebook page.
This weekend was a thank you for my amazing parents for taking such amazing loving care of Hazel while I work. We didn't gamble or take home thousands of dollars but boy did we laugh ALL weekend!!! #jimgaffigan who knew these old hippies would have such a good time at foxwoods!!
In the hotel room

In our seats (who is that fellow behind us)

View of the stage - no pictures allowed during show

Just before we left. Had to get a pic of the games.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A different and funny take on Valentine's Day

I have the Roz Chast engagement calendar, and I just had to share her Valentine's Day entry with you.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Quote du jour/William Cullen Bryant

We had rain during the night, then a touch of snow as it got colder and colder. 'Tis a beautiful winter's day.

This was in The Old Farmer's Almanac Engagement Calendar for the beginning of February.

Come when the rains
Have glazed the snow and clothed
the trees with ice,
While the slant sun of
February pours
Into the bowers a flood of light.

William Cullen Bryant, American poet (1794-1878)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

January books

Don't faint or have a heart attack, but I am really going to try and write about my reading this year, starting with January. I've added a category to my book descriptions - the nationality of the author and the location where the book takes place. And I've begun capitalizing Kindle. I thought Amazon called it kindle with a small "k" but I've seen them use the capital so I thought I would.

1. Brooklyn Wars - book 4 in the Erica Donato series
by Triss Stein
mystery 2017
finished 1/4/18
US writer/US setting

I have loved every book in this series. As I noted when I wrote about one of the others, there is a great sense of place, much like Cleo Coyle's New York City in the Coffeehouse mysteries only Triss Stein's are focused strictly on Brooklyn. I love the historical information that is offered, and how the past can influence the present. The mother, her teenage daughter, her friend, her boyfriend, and all the smaller characters are excellently drawn, and seem like real people. I hope she continues but I can see how this one might end the series.

2. The Young Clementina
by DE Stevenson
fiction 1935
finished 1/8/18
Scottish writer/English setting

There is a special kind of reading joy I experience within the covers of a book by Dorothy Emily Stevenson. I am in the hands of an excellent storyteller, whose tales take me completely away. It makes me happy that I still have a lot of her books yet to read. This one was so very enjoyable. It is about a childhood friendship that two solitary children share, and their adult lives and what happens to that friendship. I really don't want to say any more because it is better to let the story unfold as you read it. What I will say is that I loved it.

3. Whale of a Crime - book 7 in the Gray Whale Inn series
by Karen MacInerney
mystery 2017
finished 1/13/18
US writer/US setting

I so enjoy this cozy mystery series set on an island just a short boat trip away from Bar Harbor, Maine, a place I have visited twice and really love. As with the the Triss Stein Brooklyn series, there is a strong sense of place and also some historical connections. Highly recommend for light, but terrific reading. A bonus is the author includes recipes, one of which I made already. Stay tuned.

4. Blandings Castle
by PG Wodehouse
short story collection 1935
finished 1/21/18
English writer (who moved to the US)/England and US setting

A confusing thing about Wodehouse's work, and that of many other writers is that the name of the work is sometimes changed. When I wrote about it here, it was called Blandings Castle and Elsewhere really a better title because the stories aren't only to do with Lord Emsworth and his home. I love the Blandings stories, and the one about Bobbie Wickham, but I don't care for the Mulliner tales that are about his Hollywood relatives. In general, I'm not as interested in Wodehouse' stories that involve Americans.

5. Him & Me
by Michael and Jack Whitehall
nonfiction 2013
finished 1/22/18
English writers/English setting (with a few vacation spots)

It all began with a show I watched on Netflix called Jack Whitehall: Travels with my Father. I recognized Jack Whitehall from another program I had seen called Very British Problems, but I knew nothing about him. Well, I must say that I have fallen in love a little bit with this father/son team. I've watched Jack's live stand-up show, also on Netflix, but, as funny as he is, I really think he is funnier with his father. They play off one another in this wonderful way. Jack is a very modern young man, and his father is an older man with very conservative, non politically correct opinions. Yet, they love one another deeply. They can also be seen on YouTube in some television programs they did together called Backchat. I have now bought two books, this one, and another by only Michael called Backing into the Spotlight, a memoir which I haven't read yet. I find them simply hilarious. In Him & Me, the authors alternate chapters, with little notes from the one who didn't write the chapter. When Michael tells a family story, Jack is right there with his own memory, and vice versa. I laughed and laughed as I read the book, and mildly chuckled or smiled when I wasn't laughing out loud. My caveat must be that everyone has a different sense of humor. What many people think is funny often leaves me cold. And my Margaret who very often shares my nutty sense of humor just can't get into these two Whitehall men. But I can't get enough. I want them to take another trip together. I follow them on Facebook and Instagram. What can I say except laughter is good for the soul.

6. After the Wake: Twenty-One Prose Works Including Previously Unpublished Material
by Brendan Behan
fiction and nonfiction published posthumously 1981
finished 1/26/18
Irish writer/Irish setting (mostly)

Brendan Behan was the January entry for my new Irish calendar which I wrote about a couple days ago. I had never read him, and really only heard his name from my Irish friend, Eddie. His best-known work is probably Borstal Boy which you may read about here. I am finding it a little difficult to write about this book. There were times when I thought the writing was lively and even brilliant, and other times it seemed to be rambling and a bit incoherent. Behan was famously quite the drinker and probably this influenced his writing. Perhaps I'd have done better to read Borstal Boy, but I'm not interested in reading about a boy in prison. And maybe that explains why I didn't care for this collection. The subject matter just didn't appeal to me. By the way, Behan is pronounced like bein'. There's quite a good piece on the writer here, if you are interested to know more than I have told you.

7. Silence - book 3 in the Inspector Celcius Daly series
by Anthony J Quinn
crime fiction 2015 (first time I've used this term, I think. A better description than mystery.)
finished 1/31/18
Irish writer/Irish setting

Now this is an Irish writer I really like. The setting is Northern Ireland where the past is always lurking. The Troubles are just under the surface. There's a fine article from a few years ago which talks about this. Celcius is a lonely man who lives in the cottage where he grew up, and is a man who is a serious thinker about the present and the past. This book tells us Celcius' back story and explains so much about the character. I really love this series and am so happy there are two more I haven't read. I hope it goes on and on.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Quote du jour/Brendan Behan

Some friends went to Ireland last year (one of them was born there) and brought us back an Irish Writers Calendar for 2018.

Each month has a picture of the writer, his dates, and a quote by him. Yes, him. All men, as you see in the picture. I've only read some poetry by Yeats, two stories by Joyce, a play by Beckett, a poem by Kavanagh, and quotes by Wilde. So, I have a lot of new-to-me writers to look forward to. January's author was Brendan Behan, and these are his words:

"It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody."