Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Book Facts

As I've written other years, I can't imagine anyone but me really caring about these facts, but I enjoy looking back at them, and (geek alert) even enjoy putting them together. This year I read way more books by women, mostly because I read SO much of H.Y. Hanna! And also because I didn't read nearly as many older mysteries, which are mostly by men. I also read ten more books than last year which were published between 2011 and 2019.

In 2019, I read 65 books.

15 Fiction
4 Graphic Nonfiction
43 Mystery
3 Nonfiction

54 Kindle
11 Print

15 by men 
50 by women 

2 - 1920s
5 - 1940s
1 - 1950s
1 - 1960s
1 - 1970s
4 - 1980s
4 - 1990s
2 - 2000-2010
45 - 2011-2019

11 - Rereads

6 - Library books, all on the Kindle. I rarely borrow print books because I have so many of my own that I haven't read yet. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Six in the Second Six - 2019

I did a post in July called Six in Six - 2019. I've been looking at the blog where the idea came from to see if she did a similar post for the second half of the year, but I can't seem to find one.

Anyhow, I thought I would write about July through December, using the same questions she asked for the original Six in Six. As in the first post, some books, series, and/or authors are mentioned in more than one category.

1. Six Authors Who Are New to Me

H.Y. Hanna
I finished her Oxford Tea Room series, now up to 10 books! I read book one in the English Cottage Garden series. And I read the three books in the Tender series. These were quite different from the other two series. The books were set in Singapore. They were more suspenseful and I did like them, but they were a bit darker than I usually care for. I don't know how she can write so many books! I'll read them as fast as she writes them.

Susan Branch
Although I've bought her cookbooks, birthday books, address books, stickers, etc. for years and years, and I read her blog and follow her on Instagram, I have never read a book by her. I read all three of her memoirs, filled with her wonderful drawings - The Fairy Tale Girl, Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams, and A Fine Romance  Falling in Love with the English Countryside. She actually wrote the last one first, and then went back to her beginnings in life, and her move to the Vineyard. I read them all in September and was a happy, happy reader. I loved them so much.

Kathi Daley
I read more of her Holiday Bay series books, and have bought three more. I do enjoy the people and the Maine setting.

Elizabeth Spann Craig
I read the first in her new Village Library series. I really liked it, and look forward to more.

Laurie Frankel
I read This is How it Always Is about a family whose son feels like he is a girl from a very young age. The author's own child experienced this so she knows what she's writing about. This is a very important book about a subject no one really knew about a short time ago. It was an excellent book. We get to know the family, their reactions, their strategies, their strengths and weaknesses. The love is so evident among these people. There is a cool corresponding tale the father tells the children at night. I loved this book.

T.E. Kinsey
I am wild about his Lady Hardcastle series. I'm on the 6th, and last so far. The woman and her maid move to the country, and murder finds them. We get hints of their past adventures. The maid and the Lady are really strong friends, though the former still does "maid-ly" type things for her. Set in the early 1900s. The sixth book is in 1910. I hope this series goes on and on. There is humor and warmth, and the mysteries are good ones.

2. Six Authors I Have Read Before

Stewart O'Nan
I read his latest, Henry Himself and then went back to read Emily, Alone. I love these books.

Karen McInerney
I love her Gray Whale Inn mysteries, and read them as soon as they are published. There are nine so far, with more coming next year!

Terry Shames
I've read a few of her Samuel Craddock mysteries, and really liked them. But then I didn't. I read one that was very difficult, and then the next one didn't appeal to me, so sadly I am finished with the series. I think I am a bit more fragile in my reactions to upsetting books just now, and I am a firm believer in reading just what I want to, what pleases me. I can't always figure out why I like something, but not something else, and really I don't even try. Reading is perhaps the only thing in one's life that is strictly our own choice!

Agatha Christie
I read a couple I hadn't read before, and as always, I was so impressed. She was an incredible writer, and one of those rare cases where the hype is true. She should be popular because she is so very good!

Susan Hill
I had read her two books, Howards End is On the Landing, and Jacob's Room is Full of Books, but had never read The Magic Apple Tree, which I just loved. I'm not interested in her mysteries or ghost stories, but I do love her nonfiction.

Fannie Flagg
I went on a four book spree in November. I had read Standing in the Rainbow in 2003, but it was the second in her Elmwood Springs series, and I decided to read them all in order, including Rainbow again. Well, I couldn't have been a happier reader. She is such a good writer. And this series is tremendous. 1998, 2000, 2006, and 2016 is when she wrote the books. I don't want to give away anything so you can experience the magic yourselves. Really special and unique. I just loved these books.

3. Six Authors I Read Last Year But Not So Far This Year.

In the January through June Six in Six, I mentioned Radha Vatsal, but I did read her second book in the Kitty Weeks series in November and liked it so much.

Jessica Ellicott - her Beryl and Edwina mystery series. I read the first one from my state's downloadable books site. I just checked at Fantastic Fiction and she has written two more, which the state isn't carrying so I guess I shall buy them, and soon. Loved the first one.

Cleo Coyle - I have loved her Coffeehouse mysteries, and got the latest two in the series. I had to quit one part way through because I just couldn't stand the subject matter - internet dating. It was just unbearable to read of people swiping through other people on their screens like choosing paint. I will go on to read the latest in the series.

Jacqueline Winspear - I haven't read the latest Maisie Dobbs yet. I'm balking at paying 12 dollars for a Kindle book. Part of me wants to really splurge and buy the whole series in paperback. I think of doing that with Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Ramotswe series as well. I probably never will but I love thinking of a whole section of my shelves with these books there! I just checked and the state library has it so I put my name on the holds list.

I haven't read any of the old English mysteries authors I read last year - George Bellairs, E.R. Punshon, or Cecil Freeman Gregg.  I'm not sure why. I seem to be on a modern, cozy roll this year, and a newly written historical cozy roll.

4. Six Books From the Past That Led Me Back There

Other than Agatha, my books have been new this second half of the year.

5. Six Series of Books Read or Started

The ones not mentioned in the first six months -

Elmwood Springs by Fannie Flagg
Lady Hardcastle by T.E. Kinsey
Village Library by Elizabeth Spann Craig
English Cottage Garden by H.Y. Hanna
Tender series by H.Y. Hanna
And I suppose one could count Susan Branch's memoirs as a series about her life!

6. Six Favorite Places to Read

Exactly the same as in the earlier Six in Six post except I did bring a second chair into the kitchen which has become my reading place of choice!

This has taken a while to put together, but I wanted to have some kind of chronicle of my reading this year. One of my New Year's resolutions is to really try and write more about what I'm reading. The little ones are all in school now, and I would like to get back to this. It has been a long time.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Quote du jour for Christmas Eve

Backward, turn backward, O Time in thy flight;
Make me a child again just for tonight.

Elizabeth Akers Allen

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Charlie Brown Christmas tree in its full glory

As I ride around town these December evenings, I see from the decorated houses that Tom and I are throwbacks. No one has the old-fashioned lights inside or outside of their houses, but I will have them as long as they are sold. I love them. The colors are the essence of my Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Today's Christmas song - All I Want for Christmas is You/Vince Vance & the Valiants

I bet when you saw the title you thought of Mariah Carey or the young girl in Love, Actually, but this is a different song, an older song. I have a copy of Eddie Fisher singing it in 1952! I love, love, love this Vince Vance and the Valiants version! I wish I could remember where I first heard it. I've recently begun jotting down what made me buy a certain song or album but wasn't doing it when I bought this Christmas album.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Today's Christmas song - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Occasionally, I look back at my blog and see that some of the old videos have disappeared. I'm going to make a little attempt to put them up again when I find them gone. This one is from Darlene Love's last Christmas appearance on Letterman with her classic Christmas song. If you don't know this woman, you may read more here. You may also remember her as Danny Glover's wife in the Lethal Weapon movies!

I originally posted this on December 20, 2014. I think YouTube has come a long way since then, and videos stay up longer now.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Today's Christmas song - All Those Christmas Clichés

This may be my new favorite song of Christmas. It isn't new, but it is new to me. I heard it on the same show that I linked to in the post featuring Memphis in June here. The station plays songs from the American Songbook all the time, but on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to three, there is a show hosted by Jonathan Schwartz. He is the most passionate, most knowledgeable person around when it comes to the American Songbook. He has been one of the four or five important teachers in my life.

Schwartz is a big fan of the late Nancy LaMott who died too young. He played this song the other day, and I was stopped in my tracks. The line about "Johnny Mathis". I still have my mother's Johnny Mathis Christmas Album.

With the date she got it in her handwriting. Means the world to me.

And I got this text from Margaret the other day, which warmed my heart.
Making cupcakes using your chocolate cake recipe for Hazel's birthday at school tomorrow, listening to Johnny Mathis - doesn't get any better!!
So, as they say, without further ado

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Litany of Cat Names; and an announcement!

When I wrote about the death of our last cat, Raya, I meant to do another posting of just the names of all the cats we had between 1969 and 2019. I don't know why - just that I wanted to list their names.

Beauchamp (from a character in Faulkner, an author Tom and I loved)
Sage (after Jim Morrison's dog. Morrison died just before our Sage was born)
Little Man
Grey Baby (my mother's cat that we inherited after she died)
Blackie (a neighbor's cat who came and stayed, with the okay of the neighbor)
Tigger (the only cat who ever appeared at Windy Poplars as a stray)
Soot (named by Margaret)
Tiger (named by Michael)
Raya (named by Margaret's friend, Ana)
Hallie (we got her around Hallowe'en and she was the 13th pet on our account at the vet's)

I have had quite a hard time since Raya died nine months ago. I dearly love my Labrador, Lucy but I missed a cat. Also, I had a few odd experiences. In the evening sometimes, I would be sitting in the living room and hear a little thud above me from the room where Raya ate. I thought I heard her bombing down the stairs the way she always did, and I even thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I bet there were eight occasions like these. Was Raya trying to tell me I should get a cat? Weird, I know. Unexplainable, that's true.

Margaret, Matthew, and Hazel decided to get a second cat. They got their Pepsi from a local animal rescue place (it says animal, but I think it is mostly (only?) cats. The other day she texted me a picture of the one they got, and I melted. She told me there were two kittens left in the litter of five. Tom and I talked and he said he just couldn't keep seeing me so sad, so we agreed to get the two! I filled out an online application, and the woman called to say I was approved. I went to visit. The kittens are only about four weeks old so they don't suggest patting, etc. yet. Well, one of mine came right up to the bars on the cage and looked right at me with those baby kitten blue eyes. I swear she was saying hello.

The other one was harder to capture. She was either snuggled with another, or nursing. They will be ready to come home next month. I am beyond happy! I'm calling them Gemma and Maisy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Quote du jour/Linus

"I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love."

This December we went back to getting the Christmas tree off our land. It was growing alone, so it actually has quite a good shape, not withstanding big gaps in the branches. For quite a while now we've bought from a local tree farm, which gave us perfect trees, but this year we decided to just walk out the door and cut one down.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Quote du jour/from the Susan Branch calendar

God bless mother and father and grandparents, too, aunties and uncles and friends old and new, the children, the doggies, the birds in the trees, and happiness-makers wherever they be.

I don't know if she wrote these words, but I suspect so because they aren't attributed to anyone. Aren't they lovely?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Unrest - film

I know a young woman who has had the illness described in the film Unrest since she was ten or eleven years old, and I know a teenager who has had it for a year now, but is just letting the news out. I also have a long-time internet friend who has it, and whose daughter has it. Jennifer Brea, who has it, and who made this film, says there are a million cases in the United States, and seventeen million worldwide. That is more that there are cases in the world of multiple sclerosis. Yet unless you know someone with it, you have very likely never heard of it.

The horrors of this disease are expressed in a few letters. ME/CFS is the sort of umbrella name. Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The latter name is the most familiar. As the movie shows, there are jokes galore. It was not taken seriously for years.

But there are many other illnesses that people with ME/CFS may also have. You should see the hashtags that my 29 year old friend attaches to her Instagram posts. Here are but a few: Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Disorder, Dysautonomia, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia, each one sounding worse than the other. And they are awful.

The people who have this, mostly women (85%) often refer to themselves as "Spoonies". The dictionary says "a disability metaphor - how much energy you have left to complete tasks before becoming exhausted".

People can be sensitive to sound, smell, air temperature. Sometimes they are unable to speak. They have "brain fog." Some, like my friend, get their nourishment through a port.

There is no day without pain. They often cannot remember what life without pain is like.

The film is available on Amazon Prime and YouTube. You may also buy the DVD. If you have never heard of any of this, the film will tell you what it is all about. If you have a friend with it, the film will help you understand the day-to-day hell which is their lives. The film educates and angers and makes one cry. We see the pain of those who have it, and the pain of those who love them.  I can't recommend it strongly enough. This is a very important subject.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Quote du jour/From television program Frankie

A doctor and a nurse are talking about a man with  multiple sclerosis who is trying alternative treatment.

Nurse: "Mostly healthy eating and an exercise regime. He got it off the internet."

Doctor: "What did patients do before the internet?"

Nurse: "We just asked our Gran. She knew everything. Like the internet but without the mucky bits."

Friday, November 22, 2019

Thirteen years

This is the same view that was on my first blog post November 22, 2006.

My beloved maple is gone. The little crabapple is now quite large. There's a forsythia tucked in there. The house is a different color. The fence has been moved a bit. Other than that, it all looks pretty much the same. Kind of like me. There are some changes, but I am pretty much the same.

To my longtime readers and friends, I say thank you so very much for still being here. And to those new readers, welcome. Each of you is more important to me than you can ever know.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Gladys' autumn

And so I come to the end of my seasonal reading written by two wonderful writers. If you haven't read the other entries, and are interested, you will find them under "Letter Topics" - Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber.

Gladys' books always contain both light and serious topics. A couple of her light ones in this chapter were how she isn't a good shopper. Her tendency is to "take the first dress I see in my size". "As long something is blue or lilac, I am satisfied." And when her friends go with her to "help" her shop, she usually ends up hanging those recommended purchases up and wearing her old clothes!

Being published in 1974, there was in the air in those days change in education. I think that is the decade when "wall-less" schools were all the vogue. A friend taught in one of those schools twenty years later, and the school ended up putting walls back! Also, there was talk of getting rid of grades and having no "required subjects". Gladys goes on to tell of her own schooling which was very different, having been born in 1899. She talks of the stress and strain of having a father who expected excellence, and how her inferiority complex came because she just couldn't always meet his standards. I had a father like that, too. Not fun. Then she went on to say
And often the straight A's are fortunate in the classes they are assigned to. They are likely to get the best teachers, and usually the best class hours. Early morning hours are fine for morning people but deadly for those like me who are at their best after being fortified by lunch. 
Boy, that is sure me. Not in high school so much, but in college my notes from an early morning art class showed my writing dropping down the page. Of course, turning off the lights and showing slides didn't help! 

Later on in her Autumn chapter, she writes some more about time.
I have difficulty in autumn as the days grow shorter even if there is no storm. When it is dark by four in the afternoon, I feel it must be time to start dinner. And I expect this shows I do not really live by the clock but by light and dark. When it is time to turn on all the lights, I am usually puttering around in the kitchen, with the result that supper is ready an hour before anyone else in the family is willing to eat. Then it follows that once it is authentically night, I am in fine shape because it should be night. By the time everyone in the house is ready for bed, I am sparkling. But little pieces of night tossed into what should be day just upsets me.  
Of course, for many of us, autumn is the time to start feeding the wild birds.
The summer birds are gone, and this means it is time to stock the big can of birdseed by the back door and be ready to wait on the winter boarders who do not migrate. After a snowfall, the air is full of wings, from the tiny chickadee friends to the flaming bright cardinals, the delicate juncos, the sea-blue jays.
That has been life at Windy Poplars Farm except for the year we saw the coyote out back. More here about that. Then three years later I wrote about feeding again. This has worked out just fine, other than last year when we had a few too many red squirrels and Tom had to relocate them in distant woods, as he does the mice we catch in the Havahart trap.

All this is building up to the fact that one day this summer, Margaret and I saw (whispering here) a rat cross the road from the tree stump to the lilacs next to the terrace. There is nothing that I hate more than those creatures. We happily have not seen it again, and I hope against hope that it went far away, but nonetheless, we made the decision that no bird feeding this winter! I can't take the chance that the animal might be drawn to those yummy sunflower seeds. So, we are back to not feeding the birds again. I suspect we won't go back, either. It is quite expensive. My sister-in-law has stopped, too, but for a different reason. She finds it just too messy.

Gladys closes Country Chronicle
It is not an ending as a season draws to a close but only a beginning of a new time. ... And I turn a fresh page in my journal because every day brings a new experience.
Such a wise, thoughtful woman.

Quote du jour/Arnold Bennett

I read this quote in a book I just finished - Murder Between the Lines by Radha Vatsal, book two in the Kitty Weeks series. Excellent, by the way. Historical mystery that felt more like it was written when it took place, 1915-16. Kitty works for a New York newspaper, and she reads these words, written by Arnold Bennett.

"We may no more choose our styles [of writing] than our character."

He advised to never pass judgment of one's own writing until it was a week old, because "until a reasonable interval has elapsed, it is impossible for you to distinguish between what you  had in your mind and what is actually on the paper."

All of us who write blogs are indeed "writers". Years ago, I was the secretary of the Vestry at the church (Episcopal) and an older woman told me how important a job I did. She said that I was writing history for later generations to read. Each of us who keeps a blog is doing the same. I often go back to read blog entries written by people who no longer write, or who have died. I get great pleasure from their words written many years ago.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Susan's autumn

The last words in Susan Hill's summer chapter are
Everybody's home [from summer vacations] and looking sunburnt, notices begin to appear on the village board, about the beginning of this and the first meeting of that. On Tuesday morning, the school bus rounds the corner of the lane on the stroke of half past eight by the St Nicholas clock.
The summer is over.
I think most of us have mixed feelings about the end of summer. We are sad to see the (supposedly) more relaxing days pass by or to lose the hot weather. Yet we are a little excited about something new - buckling down to chores or going back to a job or school after vacation. There is an invigorating energy in the air, at least in climates such as mine.

In this final chapter of The Magic Apple Tree, Susan writes about those early days of autumn when it still feels summery.
At noon, it is very hot indeed, we are still wearing cotton clothes, and the children have gone back to school in summer dresses.
I well remember those days of walking home from school, simply boiling in my new fall clothes that included wool skirts and sweaters! But that time never lasted too long. As Susan says,
But day by day there are slight changes, subtle alterations in shape, in the mood of the season ... There is a smell in the air, the smell of autumn, a yeasty, damp, fruity smell, carrying a hint of smoke and a hint, too, of decay. It fills me with nostalgia, but I do not know for what. It is a smell I love, for this is and has always been my favourite season. They said that as I grew older I should recoil from it, the winding down of another year, the descent toward winter, the end of summer pleasures, that I would begin to shift my affections towards spring, when all is looking forward, all is blossoming and greening and sprouting up. But I do not do so. Spring so often promises what in the end it never pays, spring can cheat and lie and disappoint. You can sit at the window and wait for spring many a weary day.
But I have never been let down by autumn, to me it is always beautiful, always rich, it always gives in heaping measure, and sometimes it can stretch on into November, fading, but so gently, so slowly, like a very old person whose dying is protracted but peacefully, in calmness.
And I love the wild days of autumn, the west winds that rock the apple tree and bring down the leaves and fruit and nuts in showers, and the rain after the days of summer dryness. I love the mists and the first frosts that make the ground crisp and whiten the foliage of the winter vegetables.
I know that exact smell. I smell it occasionally here at Windy Poplars Farm, but I remember it most strongly on a certain stretch of my growing-up-street where I walked every day.

And she could have been writing down my exact feelings about loving autumn more than spring. I thought it was just me - living where I do, but she can also be disappointed by spring. Spring here can be cold and rainy. The grasses are full of ticks. But I have now found an antidote for any unpleasant weather and bugs in the spring. We planted daffodils last fall, and they were a constant delight to me for over a month. And this fall we planted alliums, and fritillarias, and an early flowering zone 3 clematis. So, even more beauty if the sky and the air are not what we all think of as springlike! And now that we've got those window air conditioners, I now love summer. It is quite a delicious feeling for me to suddenly love spring and summer, though still not as much as I do autumn and winter!

Then Susan Hill goes on to say something that I think might be a new thought to us, but is absolutely true when you think about it.
In early October, the woods begin to come alive again, and that surprises many people, who think of them in autumn as places of decay and dying, falling leaves and animals hiding away for their long winter hibernation. But it is summer that there is dead time, in summer the air hangs heavy and close and still, nothing flowers, nothing sings, nothing stirs, and no light penetrates.
But now, there is a stirring, a sense of excitement.
... The trees have begun to to turn colour but they are all at different stages. In summer in this wood every tree looks much like every other, though of course if you are close up, you can distinguish them by the shape of the leaves, and in the open, where they stand in ones and twos, by the shape of the whole body of the tree. Now though, in decay, the trees have become distinct, separate again, they take back their individual character, for no two species are the same in shading and depth of colour. I stand still and see sulphur-yellow and bright, bright gold, copper and tawny owl's feather brown, sienna and umber and every kind of nut, and the whole pattern breaks like a child's kaleidoscope as a sudden wind blows over the wood, becomes mottled, darker, and then lighter, as the leaves show their backs.
 Throughout this book, I have been impressed with the author as gardener, cook, and now in this last chapter a preserver of foods. She has a delightful record of her "preserving week". Plums, apples, brambles (I think what we call blackberries), elderberries. Jellies and jams and chutneys.

She writes about the Women's Institute, and I am filled with such longing to be part of such a thing. After reading this last chapter, I watched my boxed set of DVDs of Jam and Jerusalem, for maybe the fourth time. There was a very telling part when the regional leader tells their quite small WI that it is so much more than what they do. She says that the wonderful thing about it is the way it has brought together women who would not necessarily be friends otherwise. And Susan Hill writes much the same about this. She has a long section on the "autumn produce Bring and Buy sale."
I look around the room at everyone. Friends, Neighbors, Grey-haired, lined and wrinkled faces, middle-aged faces, beginning to sag, the faces of young women. Most are married, some not. There are working wives of farmers, there are gardeners. None of us has manicured and lily-white hands. Otherwise, we are all very different. From different generations and backgrounds - different social classes, too, let it be said, for, having been said, it can be dismissed, it simply doesn't matter. There are women who use their brains in their daily jobs, work in the university city whose spires you see as you drop down the last hill of the village beyond Barley, there are the wives of dons and doctors and clergymen, women who have young children, women who have great-grandchildren, women whose ancestors have been buried in Barley churchyard for generations back, and women, like me, who have scarcely lived here any time at all, but who feel at home, because we have at once been made welcome.
Isn't this what each of us rather longs for? Perhaps especially those of us whose children are grown. We used to be more a part of things, and now it takes effort to find that "part" again. I am lucky because my children live near, and I have grandchildren, so I automatically am involved in their schools and their lives. I feel very, very thankful.

I have so loved this book. It has been a "magic" book for me. I was happy to find that Susan Hill also wrote two shorter books on the same sorts of subjects, and of course, I bought them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Snow, and a song about June

You do know how much I love snow! Here are a couple pictures from today.

But if some of you living in the colder climes are longing for June, here is a beautiful song I heard on an American Songbook online radio station today. No video - just an album cover. Lucy Ann Polk is a completely new name to me, and I will go looking for more. Memphis in June was published in 1945, with music by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. Lucy Ann Polk recorded it in 1957.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"Ramble on"

I'm writing this post because of a comment Sam made after the "Susan's summer" entry here. If you haven't seen his comment, and then Cath's, you may find them there. 

I'll just put up the you tube of Led Zeppelin singing Ramble On right off the bat so you can have it in your heads as you read along.

I'm not a huge fan (I was more of a Jeff Beck girl), but this is a great song, and even though loud and rocky it is in the English folk tradition with its words. I had to look up a couple that I didn't know because I haven't read Tolkien.



J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location
Flag of Mordor SVG.svg
Flag displaying the Red Eye of Sauron, Lord of Mordor (based on a design by Tolkien)
First appearanceThe Lord of the Rings
TypeRealm and base of operations of Sauron.

(later ruled by his freed slaves)
Notable locationsBarad-dûr (the Dark Tower), Mount Doom, the Ash Mountains, the Mountains of Shadow (Ephel Dúath), the Black Gate, Cirith Ungol, Gorgoroth, the Sea of Nurnen, Udûn
Other name(s)the Land of Shadow, the Black Land, the Nameless Land
LocationEast of Gondor
LifespanSecond Age  Fourth Age
In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional world of Middle-earth, Mordor (pronounced [ˈmɔrdɔr]; from Sindarin Black Land and Quenya Land of Shadow) is the realm and base of the arch-villain Sauron. It was located in the southeast of northwestern Middle-earth, east of the great river Anduin. Mount Doom, a volcano in Mordor, was the goal of the Fellowship of the Ring(and later Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee) in the quest to destroy the One Ring.
Mordor had three enormous mountain ranges surrounding it, from the north, from the west and from the south. The mountains both protected the land from an unexpected invasion by any of the people living in those directions and kept those living in Mordor from escaping. Tolkien was reported to have identified Mordor with the volcano of Stromboli off Sicily, in terms of geographic equivalency with the real world.

And Gollum

Middle-earth character
AliasesSméagol, Trahald ("true" Westron name)
RaceHobbit (Stoor branch)
Book(s)The Hobbit

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Two Towers

The Return of the King

Unfinished Tales
Gollum is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. He was introduced in the 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit, and became an important character in its sequel, The Lord of the Rings. Gollum was a Stoor Hobbit[1] of the River-folk, who lived near the Gladden Fields.[2] Originally known as Sméagol, he was corrupted by the One Ring and later named Gollum after his habit of making "a horrible swallowing noise in his throat".[3]
In Appendix F of The Lord of the Rings, the name Sméagol is said to be a "translation" of the actual Middle-earth name Trahald (having to do with the idea of "burrowing", and rendered with a name based on Old English smygel of similar meaning).[4] Several critics speculate that Beowulf's Grendel could have been an inspiration for Gollum due to the many parallels between them  such as their affinity for water, their isolation from society, and their bestial description.[5] Although Tolkien never explicitly stated this, he accredited Beowulfas one of his "most valued sources" when writing The Hobbit.[6]
The Ring, which Gollum referred to as "my precious" or "precious", extended his life far beyond natural limits. Centuries of the Ring's influence twisted Gollum's body and mind, and, by the time of the novels, he "loved and hated [the Ring], just as he loved and hated himself." Throughout the story, Gollum was torn between his lust for the Ring and his desire to be free of it. Bilbo Baggins found the Ring and took it for his own, and Gollum afterwards pursued it for the rest of his life. Gollum finally seized the Ring from Frodo Baggins at the Cracks of Doom in Orodruin in Mordor, but he fell into the fires of the volcano, where both he and the Ring were destroyed.

Most probably this song is where I first heard the word, "ramble". When we in the US use it, we usually mean someone is going on and on telling a story. 
But I have rambled in England. When we two young kids went over in 1971, we were enchanted by footpaths with stiles and gates. We were amazed that we could walk (ramble) right into someone's pasture. When we went with our children in 1992, we actually had to run away from a bull! 
The whole idea of land is different in the two countries. We have private land and public land, and rarely do they meet. The only time I think anyone is allowed on private land is during hunting season, IF the land isn't posted with no hunting/no trespassing signs. Land is pretty sacred. The image you must have seen of a guy with a gun keeping people off his land is not made up. 
I've read in books, and seen on television shows over the years about people parking their "caravans" on someone's land. In Pie in the Sky, a group of people move onto a vegetable farmer's land and the owner can't really stop them. The police aren't going to bother moving them off. So maybe public and private are a bit wound together there? That would never happen in the US. The police would be there in a shot moving them along. 
It's possible that other places in the country might be different. I really don't know. I have a friend in Vermont and she could only put up signs that said to stay outside a certain distance from the house and yard during hunting season. I would be a wreck having animals and kids in that situation. We might have an occasional straggler way up on the land, but over all these years people would come and ask if they might hunt here, and were kindly and polite when we said no. 
I know my cousin on a ranch in Texas would never have anyone come onto her land and make camp. It just isn't done, and isn't even thought of. 
I look forward to my English readers' comments about this situation. I've wondered about it for years, and now may find out the answer.
I also want to take this chance to say how very thankful I am for you who read, and for you who comment. In the world of social media where a quick sentence or a "like" button will do as a reply, I am grateful for the thoughtful responses I get to my posts, and the wonderfully long and meaningful posts I read on other blogs. The blogging world is alive and well, which makes me very happy.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Susan's summer

"The sky is gray and white and cloudy"

The old Simon & Garfunkel song is a perfect description for today, along with a temperature in the 40s, and rain pouring down.

It feels quite odd to be writing about perfect summer weather.

In the last entry from Susan Hill's marvelous The Magic Apple Tree  A Country Year, the spring season, I told you that I almost couldn't believe she was writing about a real place. And her summer season is even more like an English paradise. It is all the things that we Americans think we know about the olde country. It isn't that she brags or paints a rosy picture. Not at all. For example, she tells the not-so-good, as well as the good when it comes to gardening and weather in particular.

No, I'm just talking about all those magical things that we Anglophiles love so much. I think just by listing the words you may understand what I mean.


We do not have them. We have woods, period. In England more than a wood there is a forest.
It is a small wood, as all the best ones are, for small, in woodland terms is friendly and safe. It is forests that are terrifying and impersonal, deadening miles of landscape. Small woods [the plural of her wood, not woods like here] like this one, which is triangular in shape, can be walked in and through and out the other side of, can be known, and there is light at the edges, only in the very heart of it is there that oppressive green darkness, in which you glance over your shoulder, sounds are exaggerated and your heartbeats and breathing come a little faster.
 We have over 200 acres of woods, which are just as she describes. Since my earliest reading about a "wood" in England, I have recognized that this in what I could be happy walking in. My woods can be dense, they seem endless, and I fear I would get lost. And, I must admit, I've never gone in alone. I love our open fields. I love the little bits of the woods where the loggers have cut down the thickest areas and left open spaces where I can see out "the other side of". When you go hiking in the mountains, it is all slogging through woods until you reach the magnificent views from the top. That is not my idea of fun, though I did it a fair bit years ago. My hiking heaven is a hill in England or Wales where it is all open and you can see for ages. A hike that is magnificence in every step.

And add to that wood a host of bluebells, well that is pretty much my idea of what heaven must be like!

Herbaceous border

How I love to hear these two words. From the dictionary it sounds like the term originally meant plantings of herbs, but now it means what we call a perennial border. Such a boring word, whereas "herbaceous" conjures up densely planted beauty. I can "see" the words.


Here you might hear "sunroom" but not conservatory. My three windowed study (two south and one west views) is my little homage to the word conservatory. Just now I have six plants in here.


Apparently there are some in the US, but I've never read of them in an American book. I suppose in this case it is the romance of the unknown, but it sounds lovely to me.

Courgettes and Marrow

This book taught me the difference. Courgettes are what we in the US call summer squash and zucchini. And marrows are courgettes run amok. They can be huge. I mean really huge. Susan Hill writes, "Showmen used to put a special glucose drip to their marrows, and on this diet of sugar and water, and rooted in neat manure, a marrow will take over the world."

Women's Institute

They have probably changed with the times, but how I would have loved such a thing had I been born earlier. I love the idea of women getting together and doing all the things women did in those days - all associated with home - like baking and jams. But also, from what I've read, there were lectures that gave women an insight into the wider world. Over here, there is (was?) the Grange for rural women, though I think men were in it, too. But nothing like a village group of women like the Women's Institute. Of course, we don't really have villages. We have towns or cities.


Susan Hill writes of village life.
In summer in Barley, as in all the villages around, there are cricket matches, on the playing field at the top of the steep hill called Norman Way, where spectators and visiting batsmen waiting to go in and batsmen who have just got out spend as much time looking out across the Fen to the hills beyond, or lying on their backs watching the clouds drift by as they do watching the progress of the match. In the wooden pavilion, the identical model of every other village cricket pavillion up and down the country, the ladies toil over making sandwiches and the place smells of that white dubbin [prepared grease used for softening and waterproofing leather] that goes on the boots, of urn tea and freshly-cut cucumber and leather, and on the perimeter of the field, among the tatter of hawthorn and elder bushes, the children play in and out, and during tea the small boys have their own few overs on the pitch itself. 
These are the sights and sounds and smells of every English village with a cricket team in summer, they are unchanged since my childhood, when I went, Sunday after Sunday, with my grandfather to watch matches in half the villages of Yorkshire.

It took me a few television shows and books to learn that this is what is known here as a tent. A marquee is the sign that shows what the movie or play is in the US. I love "marquee". It gives the proper respect to what goes on in there, whether a party or a wedding or some other special occasion.

Brass band

We might have town bands that play in the bandstands on a summer night, but not brass bands. I love the sound of them. They can go from jaunty to deeply sad from song to song. There is a wonderful movie from 1996, which features a brass band - Brassed Off.


I have to admit that caravan sounds much nicer than trailer or RV.

Okay, I'll stop, but all of them were mentioned in just the summer section of this book. A country rich in language.

I was very interested in Susan Hill's journal of how her vegetables did that summer. She was a serious gardener. I wonder if she still has a vegetable garden.

Even in those early years of the 1980s, she speaks of a subject much talked about now.
The loss of hedgerow and coppice and individual trees, in the corn prairies of East Anglia and the Wolds, is a dreadful one.
I can remember sitting in the waiting room at the dentist with the kids when they were really quite small and reading a National Geographic magazine about the coming of fields and the loss of hedgerows. I believe the article was by Bill Bryson. So, this has been going on a long time. There is a most encouraging 2019 article here about hedgerows.

And now I am going to read both Gladys and Susan's chapters on autumn. What wonderful reading this has been, even though I haven't been as timely as I planned to be.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Today's picture/holiday cactus

I recently read of someone calling their "Christmas" cactus plants "holiday" cactus, which I think is a great idea. Right now mine are coming into bloom, and here it is almost Hallowe'en! They often bloom in the late fall/early winter, and again at Easter time, so holiday is what I will call them from now on.

I put two very close together so they almost look like one plant. The one on the right is a cactus I gave my mother on her last Christmas, 1972. It isn't very big, but it keeps right on blooming. It is kind of a peach color, while the other is a fuchsia, with a funny story. Tom was going to buy a cactus for the house and asked what color. I said anything but fuchsia. And this is what he got! In his defense it wasn't in bloom when he bought it. Ever since then we have called it the "anything but fuchsia".

I wrote about my mother's plant way back in the second month of the blog, with no comments because hardly anyone knew I was here!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Today's video/Brittany Howard

Eight years ago, I put up a video of Alabama Shakes, whose lead singer was Brittany Howard. She has just gone out on her own, and oh man, is she ever good! Listen to what James Corden says to her at the end!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber - Gladys' summer

Gladys begins her summer chapter thinking about friendships, and ponders how they have changed in recent times. Her book was publshed in 1974, which was wrought with divisive politics.

You may remember when I wrote about Susan Hill's spring, I talked about how we can't even talk about the weather now without it being polarizing well, in Gladys' summer she says that weather is about the only "safe" topic people can talk about!
The Vietnam war has been blamed for many things ... for we now tend to keep conversation superficial in case that other person does not agree with our policy. We keep our cool, as we say, by talking about the weather, and sometimes I imagine all of us in some balmy climate where it never changes. What would we find to discuss? Would we sink into a tropical silence?
She proceeds to talk about how this situation isn't true with our true friends.
This has nothing to do with real friendship, of course. A close, warm friendship is as rugged as a fishing boat going out to the wild sea on a dark day when the tide is  high. My own dearest friends do not agree with me on many things, but we can talk about anything and argue and argue, and there is benefit for both sides. For at the core of this relationship is a community of feeling which is basic and has nothing to do with disagreements about politics, going to the moon, or whether we need a new development in the middle of town.
We love and trust a true friend for what he or she is, and living is more enriched by the relationship than words can express. There is in each of us, I think, a deep loneliness, and friendship eases it immeasurably. How sad to think it is growing so scarce nowadays when we need it most.
Wow! She could have written that yesterday. I've heard of friendships breaking up in our current times. I've actually heard people say they could not be friends with someone of a different political persuasion. I told someone recently that our best friends are completely opposite to us in their politics but that matters not a whit. We don't talk about politics because we don't need to. We have way more important things to discuss like our lives and our families. These are the people whom we love, and they love us for who we are, period. We are so lucky and so thankful.

She ends her writings about friendship with these words.
I hope deep friendships will become less rare in our time, especailly since this world has become so impersonal, so much a matter of computers and ratings and machinery. We are not Social Security numbers; we are all individuals, no two alike, every one a whole being needing to experience real relationships and to have the blessing of mutual trust and friendship as we make our common journey through life.
Just a few years after this was written, Bob Seger sang, "I Feel Like A Number". There was this young man singing her thoughts. Gladys is ageless and timeless.

I expect at least a few of you just must hear the song now that I've put it into your heads, so here it is:

Then without skipping a beat, Gladys begins talking about preserving the flowers of summer with potpourri.
It was used in the very early sixteenth century by queens and princesses - partly, we have to admit, because with the lack of sanitation and plumbing the ancient castles were anything but sweet-smelling.
She describes how to make it, and how her eleven year old granddaughter "invents her own combinations". And then Gladys reminded me of something I've done only once, but am encouraged to try again this year!
Simply take a good orange (or lemon) and stick cloves in it all over, as many as you can possibly poke in. Then tie a ribbon around the whole fruit and hang it from a hanger in the closet. The spicy odor is a treat. As the fruit dries, it becomes more fragrant, and it lasts a long time.
She writes of the wonder of fresh corn.
Once you have picked your own corn and rushed to the house with it and shucked it and dropped it in already boiling water, something new has come into your life. 
So very true! This summer has been glorious with fresh corn for many suppers.

New Englanders are used to tourists, then and now, and it was interesting reading what Gladys had to say. I have written about the kind of love/hate relationship all of us have with tourists. We love them, they support the local economy, and in some cases keep it going. We love seeing and meeting new people. But we hate the traffic, the crowds, and the occasional not-so-kind encounters. Not much of which has anything to do with me. I don't work. I'm mostly home. But I do have some young friends who work in the service industries that have had some difficult times with tourists. And I've occasionally heard about some of the trash left behind in our pristine areas. But I've heard nothing as bad as what Gladys writes! She begins by saying that most are "thoughtful, gentle people we are proud to meet".
... they appreciate everything about New England that is different. (I remember one man who said to me with awe, "I never saw an old house before.")
My own horizon is widened as I hear about their home places and just what the weather is like in January.
It is a sad commentary that the vast numbers of these visitors we enjoy so much are not counted, whereas the small number who are obnoxious are made the main topic of conversation. Unfortunately, it is bad news that makes headlines because it is more dramatic.
Same as it ever was! But then she gives examples which horrified me.
What we notice in midsummer tourist season is that all the roads are suddenly strewn with garbage tossed from departing cars and that kittens and puppies wander crying along the highways, dropped off en route. [I am sure this was as hard for her to notice and write about as it was for me to read] Raw holes appear where someone has dug up a treasure to take home. Roadside signs are torn up; lawn furniture left near the roadside vanishes. Mailboxes are knocked over.
Our first sad experience was when the wrought-iron Stillmeadow sign by the picket fence disappeared. It had come from a special place in Maine and had a really beautiful wrought-iron cocker in the middle of it. I've often wondered just where the thief could put it or whether it was finally thrown away.
I have done a lot of wondering about many things, but I have decided as far as summer tourists go that the explanation is simple. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. You pack your suitcases, close the house, arrange with the neighbors to pick up the papers and the mail, cancel the milk delivery, and so on. Then you drive off down the road. ... There is no solution to this problem for those of us who live with a summer season. After Labor Day we can get the community to clean up the roadsides, take the trash to the dump, put up new road signs, fill in the holes, and so on.  
Here is a picture of the sign.

Gladys goes on to write of August's heat, and dreaming of snow and icicles. And then she writes of a subject dear to my heart.
There are two theories in my valley about defeating the heat. One is to keep all the windows shut all day, open them at night, and shut them at sunrise. The other is to leave every window in the house open and let whatever breeze there may be drift lazily in. I prefer this, for I love open windows.
Well, I have always, always been the latter. I'm an open window girl. But I am the living example that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks! As I wrote here, we got some window air-conditioners, and they have really changed my life. Even if they are not used every day, those hot, hot days are now bearable to me. I can continue with my life instead of feeling limp and half dead. And really, I must thank my daughter and her husband for the example. Matt is a keep-all-the-windows closed kind of fellow, and I had to admit that their house was a lot cooler than ours on the stifling days. And then they put in a couple window ACs, and man, the difference was even more marked, so I gave in, and am so happy I did!

And because of this new way of living, for the first time in ages I could feel the words of Shakespeare which Gladys quotes. "Summer's lease hath all too short a date." I loved this summer.

I was pleased when she wrote
I am happy to say a good many experts now feel even dieters should eat some potatoes, because they have something no other vegetable has. And they also do something to raise the spirits in a special way.
An interesting side note is I was watching an episode of the 1990s British television show, Pie in the Sky, when a man who had been two years sober tells a friend that he is having a bit of a hard time, and so he eats pototoes! They somehow give him a bit of the feeling he got from alcohol.

You may know that Gladys' house was built in 1690! It has a "coffin door" in the cellar. It was so coffins could be carried downstairs and out to the waiting wagons.
I believe a very old house holds its memories of all the lives that have been spent there. Some of them must have been sorrowful and some happy, some difficult, some easy. But there is an overtone of happiness in this house which most people feel as they come in. ... Houses all have personalities, at least to me, quite apart from the furnishings and décor and style, but this sturdy, ancient farmhouse has a special gentleness built into it. It is one reason we never felt restless. I said traveling is all very well if you can get home at night. I would be willing to go around the world if I came back in time to light the candles and set the table for supper.
That could be me talking. This woman who lived from 1899 to 1980 is as alive to me as can be.