Sunday, July 15, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - June

The only mention of the natural world in the June entry of Susan Hill's Jacob's Room is Full of Books is that she goes to France for a month every year, sometimes in June and sometimes in September. When she goes in June, she misses the irises and the peonies, "but June is the best month in France." She doesn't offer much description except to mention the roses and swifts. And the wild boar which are "menacing then because they have young." One year she hit one on the road. To me, these are among the world's worst creatures. They did not originate here but were introduced in the 1500s. You may read more here, if you really want to!

The rest of her month is devoted to a variety of interesting subjects. She begins with literary prizes.
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.

Susan goes on to talk about "lit fests." Have you ever been to one? I wonder if they are similar to the various mystery conventions we have in the US. Anyway, she says the large ones
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.

She has a personal slant on Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor, and Wallis Simpson. They are an endlessly interesting subject to so many people, and I loved reading what Susan Hill had to say.

She offers The Old Shepherd's Prayer by Charlotte Mew which brought tears to my eyes.
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.

The other two instances, one involving the author herself, were horrendous examples of the dangers inherent in bullying on a huge scale via the internet. Very upsetting.

I am so enjoying this book. Honestly Susan Hill knows so much about so many things that I read her with awe.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Stillmeadow - June

Gladys Taber begins her June entry so beautifully.
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.

blackberry flowers

looking up toward the house 

a volunteer lupine that popped up beside the road

a tremendous year for locust flowers

the patio garden

My very favorite Gladys quote appears in her June entry. These words have a permanent place here on the blog in the Recipes folder under the blog header picture.
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 was delighted when I came upon a passage about whippoorwills. I wanted to put up the link to my mention of this bird here, so I did a search for whippoorwill. And I could.not.believe one result. It hasn't been decades since we've had one here, as I said in the post. In June 2013 I wrote about hearing them. Tom and I have absolutely NO memory of this. And we think we know why. Four months after that day, the whole roller coaster of fear and worry began. And afterwards, the joy of having grandchildren - one, two, three. If you are a new reader, you may learn what I'm talking about here.

So after that long digression, here is Gladys' humorous take on her whippoorwills.
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.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Today's picture/Week three CSA flowers - 2018

Beautiful, cheery flowers. I love all the colors together. A lot cooler than last Wednesday - in the seventies instead of the nineties!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Caught up!

Just wanted to pop in and say that I've just caught up with all your comments, so if you are interested you can go back and check!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mrs Bale showing you today's picture/Hot, hot, hot

Can you imagine Mrs Bale if she saw this temperature?! 

4.18 pm, north side of the house. Never seen it this hot in my 70 years. Fans in every room, drinking water, reading. Addendum: 24 hours later it was 20 degrees cooler!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Today's picture/Week two CSA flowers - 2018

In the nineties here! These flowers didn't stay outside for long!