I walked today for 30 minutes. 12:08-12:38 pm. (Just 'cause I thought it would be fun to see when I walk)
This is Maybelline, one of the Shetland sheep we got in 2014.
And Nebby. Her story is here.
What I call fall dandelions.
What my desk was like when Hazel went home today. Her imagination is remarkable. She takes totally unrelated items and builds a whole world. hashtag lucky grandparents.Here is a little movie of her playing.
It was narrow and rickety and set at right angles to the road on either side, so that getting across safely and into Seymour to shop was a delirious adventure. You just never knew. Maybe this time someone would be coming in as you turned out. The old boards rattled, the bridge shook slightly. But how I grieved when the bridge was torn down! ... Even crossing it in a car, you could imagine driving over behind a pair of horses, clop-clop-clop-clop. You could imagine all the people who had crossed this river in long-gone days. It was like opening an old book for a moment and looking into yesterday.Are there covered bridges all over the US (the world?)? Around here they are kept up quite well, and are still used. They are so special. The wood, the darkness, the sound. When I was a kid, I made a wish whenever I went through one, and actually still do!
There is always something sad about change, even a change for the better. On the other hand, things must change, for there is no vitality in what is static. When I look at people around me, I sometimes think that when people reach the day in which they can see no good in anything different and new, on that day they begin to die. The will to live and the will to grow are the two foundation stones on which humanity is built. During all difficult days, I am determined to keep new interests going, lest I bog down in worry and anxiety.She then goes on to talk about the weather, as most of us do, much of the time. Especially this summer. I didn't have one conversation that didn't mention the awful heat, and then the relief when cooler weather came back. Never have I thought seriously of getting an air-conditioner. But I feel I wasted about ten days of my life being miserably hot and unable to do much at all. We'll see if it comes back next year, and if so, we will look into one. The weeds have grown exponentially. They have crept in amongst every flower plant and vegetable plant. I probably should show you. I will be brave and do so. I'll warn you - not a pretty sight.
Sometimes I am irritated by the decoration experts. The last article I read was about a woman whose house was full of whimsey, said the writer. It was. It was simply bursting with whimsey, if by whimsey she meant a lot of impossible colors slung together and toned down with gilt and red velvet and dark green. When I reached the room where "the dresser had been whimseyed up with white and gold," I uttered a frightful sound and rushed away. Passing rapidly through the living room, which has no whimsey at all, I entered the kitchen and proceeded to whimsey up the stove by cooking plain golden wax beans and a panful of beets with no humor in them. I afterwards scrambled eggs with chicken livers, and whimseyed up the table by putting on the knives, forks, and plates.I just loved this passage!
What I like is berrying. Up the hill to the old pasture land on a summer day, with an old lard pail hooked to my belt - that is something. The pasture is full of blackberries and nobody takes care of them but God. There they are, rich and purple-black, and smelling of sun and summer. They fall in the pail with soft plops, each one a perfect little nugget of goodness.When I was a girl, women used to talk about "going berrying." I wonder if anyone does this now. We are fortunate to have blackberries growing up the hill, ready for the picking anytime anyone goes up. They are a result of the logging we had done four years ago. The trees are cut allowing in the sunshine. The first thing that appears is grass, and then brush and berry bushes. Tom took a picture when they were first coming.
If it is around two o'clock, I can't get back to sleep. All the assorted worries that any woman acquires wait to pounce on me. I worry about the world situation. I go into anguish over the possibility of not being able to pay next year's income tax. I feel perfectly sure Cicely will marry some no-account man who will be an albatross around all our necks. Dorothy will be misled by some charmer who dances well and has the brain of a hubbard squash. My sinus and arthritis and a lot of unknown diseases will do me in within a week or so. ... These and other two-in-the-morning thoughts keep me occupied for some while. All those dandy little articles on not worrying run through my head, to no avail. I know I should think of pleasant things and relax, but I can't think of any pleasant things to think of. I relax so hard that both pillows fall under the bed and I have to get up and fish them out. My mind goes like an electric mixer on high.
'The men move homeward from the field; the last load creaking up the hill behind them, the hoofs of the horses thudding, their breath sounding short. Peace comes, a vision of the fairy armour of moonlight, the peace of 'man goeth forth unto his work until the evening'Having just finished a book last evening, I was ready for a new one, and went right to the shelf and pulled down my Corduroy. How could I resist after reading such words?! You may read more about the author here. Hill says that Bell's books are a "record of farming life written by an outdoors person who had a poet's eye and pen." As I have noted here before, the time period and place I would most like to live in is England between the Wars. So, this will be a perfect book for me. Who knows when I would have gotten to it if not for Susan Hill mentioning it?
It has gone into folklore as the year the judges were of inferior and 'populist' quality who had not a clue about literature. I read that I was 'supremely unqualified' for the task. I do wonder how else I might have improved my chances of being qualified. I have a first class honours degree in English from King's College, London; I have published over fifty books, including several prize-winning novels; I have been a regular reviewer of fiction in a wide variety of newspapers and journals since 1963; I introduced a TV book programme, presented BBC Radio 4's Bookshelf and A Good Read; and I have been not only a previous Booker Prize judge but a judge for every other major fiction prize. In what way was I 'unqualified'?Before I go on, I just think it is horrible how people - all people, not just politicians - are criticized by the media. One must have to have an awfully tough skin to not feel terrible afterwards. What right does anyone have to say such things about a person? I just hate it.
felt were worthy, and if the criterion was, as it must be, that every book included was a potential winner of the prize, then we failed because, hands on heart, we did not feel that one or two of our longlist choices were worthy of winning.As for the shortlist they had no doubts, and yet when it was announced they were strongly criticized to put a novel on that list by a certain person because he was gay. It was an absolutely ridiculous accusation. One of the judges wouldn't answer on principle, another said he hadn't even known, and others felt it was completely irrelevant - that the winner is chosen by the book not on the author's sexuality.
I always wait until at least a year after any of the prizes before reading those on the lists which appeal. It is amazing how everything settles down and finds its natural level. Hype never did any reader much good.She writes of the book that actually won the Man Booker in 2011.
I recently re-read The Sense of an Ending, the Julian Barnes novel which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize, for which I was a judge. The Barnes was my choice. It was the almost-unanimous choice of the panel. It is a slim book - Barnes is not one to turn out 700 pages. But within its short space it contains truth, beauty, sadness, shrewdness, observation, intelligence, poignancy, self-pity, a man's coming to terms with his past... everything one can think of about the human condition and more.And now I have only four months to go in this wonderful book. Each month I learn so very much about many subjects, and am so enjoying myself.
The deadly months. July and August. The weather often disappoints, the birds have stopped singing, the roads round here are crammed with mobile homes and caravans being towed, the beaches are also crammed full and, yes, it is thoroughly selfish of me to complain about it. But winter is best here. Empty everywhere. In high summer it is best to get back from any shopping trip by ten o'clock and then stay in the garden, to read, or write, cold drink to hand, intermittently watching the swallows high overhead.Anyone who lives near the ocean, or the mountains, or any tourist destination knows this sentiment. Often these areas are dependent upon tourist money to keep afloat. Many people do the seasonal jobs, and switch them with the seasons. There is a bit of a love/hate relationship with all the people who come. I've not had this kind of job, but I know that some workers are driven crazy by the demands the occasional tourist puts upon them.
It is a sad thing when you discover that a book you loved beyond many, a book of which you knew whole paragraphs and conversational exchanges by heart, a book you thought you would be wedded to for life, has lost its appeal, its charm, its ability to amuse and entertain, delight and impress. How does this happen? Does it mean the book has become dated, or outdated, its humour old-fashioned, its charm rusty, its brilliance tarnished? Was it a book you simply grew out of? Or one that, as you read more and got more life experience, could not keep up with you? Was it simply not up to the job, did it not bear any more re-readings, yield any more wisdom, reveal any new aspect to the wit, so that you laughed again but in a slightly different way?Do you feel this way about any particular books or authors? For a reader this is kind of like a break-up, or a slipping away of a friendship. You can't always put your finger on it, but you know that something has changed. Susan Hill goes on to tell the reader
What I am saying is that my love affair with E.F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia novels seems to be over. There are odd things that still delight... But I droop after reading three chapters of any of them and I no longer smile at all. It was a blow when this first happened. I decided it was just me and left the books alone for a while. But it went on happening. I found myself becoming impatient with these silly people - and that was fatal.Over the years of email groups and blogging, I've known a lot of people who absolutely love these books. I wonder if they would understand what she means. Personally, I saw Mapp and Lucia first on PBS ages ago, and could not stand the women! I never even tried the books.
In his Natural History of Selborne, Gilbert White records not only dozens upon dozens of sparrows but of every other sort of 'common' bird - thrushes, blackbirds, finches, tits - as well as the migrants. ... Even in my own childhood, there were probably several hundred percent more song birds than now. The telephone wires were lined with swallows and martins, the air thick with swifts.
The loss of so many over the last hundred years or so is forgotten - everyone talks about the pandas and the tigers and the giraffes, and of course they are important. Meanwhile, not far from home, people trap thousands of small birds for food.And she later writes
Watched a hen harrier on the marshes. There are several pairs, always visible, swooping across, looking for prey. They were rare once, but now they are common. The campaign to make hawks protected birds has seen to this, so they breed safely and murder small birds unhampered.It is really difficult for me to read all this. Heartbreaking.
some cannot get past the receding chins, the brainlessness, the vacuousness, the frippery, the juvenile mentality of the characters. The only one to whom none of the above descriptions apply is, of course, Jeeves. Lord Emsworth sometimes succeeds where Bertie Wooster fails, but I never press home my argument about Wodehouse, because if the magic doesn't work, it doesn't and never will. It is the uncomprehending reader's loss. Nobody half likes Wodehouse... You are an addict or you are left stone cold.I openly admit, I am that addict. I've often said that his writing is second only (maybe) to Shakespeare's. I agree when Susan notes that he is a "master of the language, whose plots and characters are of second and third importance to the writing."
There is such an air of leisure as they sun-bathe and acquire that lovely magazine tan. Often a stately gentleman great Dane or a lady Dalmation in her black-and-white summer print sits motionless just at the edge of the picture.Definitely not the reality for most of us! Gladys contrasts the picture of lounging around with her life. As she decides "to take a sun bath in the back yard" she notes that her shoes are old with toothmarks from the chewing of puppies. Her clothes are paint-stained. The chaise longue needs paint, and its chair pad is full of holes, her heavy book falls to the ground and a dog puts his muddy paw on the open page. Much more like real life, wouldn't you say?!
The garden vegetables are a source of endless satisfaction to me now. I think many people who began to garden because of the war will never be without a garden again.As I've said before, I don't have a big garden anymore. But when we first moved back to our home state after college in Boston, it was the time of the back to the earth movement. And at the same time, in our small area we couldn't buy organic vegetables. So we grew tons of food and froze it. Now, our local co-op offers organic fruits and vegetables, and in season most of it is locally grown. The Farmers' Markets in the area are another source of fresh food. It makes me so happy to see new, young farmers in the area.
The weeds in the garden begin to have their way, after the first week in July. There is a new school of thought, as a matter of wonder, that believes in weeds! Their shade keeps moisture in the soil, they say.That's a good thing because in this summer heat our weeds have gotten a bit out of control. And any moisture is welcome. We have had very little rain, and some of NH is in a drought. Our area is defined as "abnormally dry." Tomorrow they say lots and lots of rain, and it will be so very welcome.
My adventures in Spanish have led me to think about education very seriously. Adult education, I believe, is the answer to a good many of the problems we have today. If every parent became a student for one night a week, for instance, there would be a new closeness to children.
And our own outlook would be broader. We tend to grow in on our own circumscribed world, and enlarging the horizon is a magic thing. Whether it be history, or philosophy, or how to plant petunias, no matter. It is a good thing to exercise our minds on something outside the routine of living.In addition to the writing and gardening and tending to an old house and friends, Gladys and Eleanor raised and showed cocker spaniels! What energy! In this particular July, there were fifteen puppies! Three litters were born in the same week. Maybe dog breeders have a special energy gene. The woman who sold us our Lucy the Labrador has seven children and isn't 40 yet! We call her wonder woman.
The banks grow dark, and the sky is peach. It is hard to see the bait on the hook. It is hours after we should have gone home. I see in my mind's eye the dogs, hungry, the puppies wriggling, the people who did not get to come with us looking at the clock every five seconds. The curious thing about fishing is that you never want to go home. If you catch something, you can't stop. If you don't catch anything, you hate to leave in case something might bite. There never is a time to stop.She says what we all know to be true - "the days go by too fast in midsummer", and ends with
"Stay a little, summer, do not go," I whisper, as I take a last look around me before I go in.
It ill behooves me to complain that there are too many book prizes, having won some in my early career. They came at just the right time, they were lifesavers in terms of the money, but more - they gave me confidence that I was right all along. They were recognition. And they are there. No one can take them away. Forty-five years later, they still count.
So I can't complain. But every year the prizes proliferate and every year, a few of them at least come to mean less - particularly the lucrative prizes for the best short story of the year. £20K or £30K for one story? These almost always go to unknowns who may have written a single stunning story and then vanish without trace. The point about book prizes is partly to give the recipient's career a boost, to provide time and financial support for them to climb the next rung of the ladder.Such an interesting section because she has been both a winner and a judge so she has a unique outlook on the whole business.
get large sponsorship, from newspapers or TV companies or local magnates with deep pockets and cultural aspirations. Small ones survive on volunteers and goodwill. Often they cannot pay authors, in which case the authors have to decide whether the gig is worth their while.
But the joy of the lit fest is meeting with people who come to say they have always loved your books, or that this one has meant much to them, or that one kicked off their teenager's love of reading, or was their late mother's favorite ... I asked the organiser of one small book festival why they didn't apply for Arts Council or area arts funding. They had. They were turned down because lit fests are, apparently, too middle class.Completely fascinating.
Heavenly Master, I wud like to wake to they same green places
Where I be know'd for breakin' dogs and follerin' sheep.
And if I may not walk in th' old ways and look on th' old faces
I wud sooner sleep.Susan Hill ends the month with three cautionary tales, two of them concerned with social media and the other with bullying. Lives were changed. A doctor was
tricked and betrayed by her fellow partners, maligned and undermined by a process of passive-aggressive bullying, to the extent that she was forced to resign and lost her confidence as a doctor. ... It broke her, and when she was exonerated and proven innocent of all the trumped-up charges, it was too late. The damage was done.She took early retirement and has not worked since.
It might seem as if June is an old story, with so much poetry written about it, and so many songs sung. And yet every time it comes it is as much of a wonder, as much of a delight.
If I had Aladdin's lamp and the usual three wishes, the first would always be, "Give me the first day of June." The whole complete day, with the sky-blue dawn, and the golden noon, and the violet dusk, and the silvered night. With early roses unfolding and a hummingbird over the border. And a whole packet of smells too. New-cut grass, and pea vines, and freshly hoed garden soil.What was June this year like where you live? Other than ticks, I'd say mine was pretty close to Gladys' description. There is always the odd weather June, but most every year is the same, bringing the end of spring and the beginning of summer. Here are a few pictures from Windy Poplars.
looking up toward the house
When I get to Heaven, I am not going to put on golden shoes or cast down golden crowns around a glassy sea or play on my harp. No, I am going to eat all the hot bread and potatoes I want. Cinnamon rolls, pinwheel biscuits, hot muffins. French-fried potatoes, baked potatoes, creamy mashed potatoes. Potato fluff. Butter will go well, too. And fresh-made jam. Or clear amber honey.Amen! Though I'm not waiting for Heaven.
I used to think of the whippoorwill as a most romantic bird; once or twice I heard one crying in the north woods in Wisconsin and the sound was exquisite. But that was before I got so intimate with the whippoorwill. He has lost his charms for me. All night long I am jerked from my sleep at ten minute intervals, not by one lone one, but by all his sisters and his cousins and his aunts. I never knew they came in bevies, but if this is just one family group going on so furiously, I know they have sore throats.
The voice of the whippoorwill has a penetrating quality, a kind of feverish intensity as he implores me to whip poor Will. I rise up and assure him, and his relations, just as feverishly, that I would be glad to if I could only get a my hands on them. Romance or not, I like a few hours' sleep.She goes on to talk about visiting a man's beautiful place in the country.
"Oh, it is so lovely and peaceful here," I said.
Mr. Bellamy gave me an odd look. "You have any whippoorwills at Stillmeadow?" he asked.We didn't mind being woken up one single bit. We hope he found a mate, and that more and more whippoorwills will come next spring.