Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Mainly about books

 Anna Rose Bain - The perfect evening

For some reason my Word document that I use to draft my blog posts has decided to make its dictionary French.   I do use the French dictionary when writing to a couple of friends but why this particular document has become Francophile I cannot imagine.

I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time in bed this last week.  Actually, change the expression ‘seem to’ to ‘have’.   There are times when fighting pain just gets too much and I have to head for bed and try to sleep.  If I can’t sleep I can at least try to get as comfortable as possible and float my body as if it were in the Dead Sea (a good trick if you can do it).  The problem is that I feel so guilty at taking time out and doing nothing, especially when Partner-who-loves-tea is working so hard – and such long hours.  So there I am, lying in bed half-watching a football match to take my mind off pain and there she is still working at nine o’clock at night.  Well, that’s my moan for the month completed!

A blog to visit
Every now and then I recommend a blog I have come across. And anyone who reads my blog will know that I post on a rather eclectic (wide-ranging, wide, broad, broad-ranging, broad-based, extensive, comprehensive, encyclopaedic, general, universal, varied, diverse, diversified, catholic, liberal, all-embracing, non-exclusive, inclusive, indiscriminate, many-sided, multifaceted, multifarious, heterogeneous, miscellaneous, assorted) mix of subjects.  But, so far as I can recall, I have never posted about people with unusual names.  That task has now been more than adequately undertaken by Jenny aka Fenifur.  If you enjoy family history, true stories, good writing, and a sense of humour, please visit her blog – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Books, books, books…
Having virtually killed off my book blog and said I would do some reviews here I have largely failed to do so.  There is a huge list of books I’ve read that I haven’t commented on.  (It’s 3.02 a.m. as I write this –I’ll obviously have to get up a bit earlier if I’m to do all I’ve promised to do…)

At the moment I’m in the middle of Edmund Crispin’s wonderful ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ (1948) an intelligently written piece of cosy crime.  I’ve read it before but the ending is escaping me at the moment so it’s almost like the first time around.  I would suggest it’s an ideal book for people whose second (third or fourth) language is English because there will be novel words every couple of pages.  (Whatever happened to my Word blog????)  I find Crispin’s characterisation leaves a little to be desired at times but his story-telling and style of writing more than make up for that.
I’ve just finished ‘Glaciers’ a debut novel by Alexis Smith (2012). 
Smith’s debut novel’s main character, Isabel, is a cute, introspective young woman who works with damaged books at the city library and shops almost entirely at vintage/thrift stores, collecting remnants, things cast off or left behind by others.  The plot moves through a day in Isabel’s life of working in her basement office at the library, strolling the streets of Portland, Oregon, daydreaming of distant places, and lusting after her co-worker, Spoke.   But tucked between the chapters of the present day are stories detailing Isabel’s childhood—discovering her first thrift store when she was 4, watching the calving glaciers while growing up in Alaska...  I thoroughly enjoyed it.
On the non-fiction front I’m reading “Quiet; the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking” by Susan Cain (2013).  I’m only a third of the way through it but already I’m fascinated by the study of the cult of character which dominated in the Nineteenth Century and the cult of Personality that gradually took over in the 20th Century. A change that I don’t think has been for the better.
For Christmas a friend in Nebraska gave me a wonderfully illustrated book by Mike Whye – “Omaha Impressions” (2008).  It’s definitely a keeper despite my attempts to cut down on book space.
Ambrose BierceThe Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter  (1892) was another recent read.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it but I thoroughly enjoyed it and am glad to have read my first Ambrose Bierce novel.  I have been quoting little gems from his satirical lexicon “The Devil's Dictionary” since I was a teenager.
From "Perfumes: The guide" by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez.

As usual I’m also reading half a dozen other books at the same time.  One which is keeping me amused and from which I shall share little snippets in a future post is ‘Aunt Epp’s Guide for Life’ by Elspeth Marr (edited by Christopher Rush) (2009).  Covering all manner of subjects from chastity to copper kettles these musings of a 3woman who lived from 1871 to 1947 are sometimes old-fashioned, sometimes sensible, and sometimes downright hilarious.  This is the entry for Diaries:-
Maintain a diary all your days. A diary is a doorway to a second life, running parallel to the one you live, and produces even a third life, for by recording the day's events, you preserve the days like berries. You may return to that day, taste it, and live it over again, but without that act of preservation the day has gone; it is nothing. More than this, by preserving your days, you will allow others to live that day for themselves, that hour, that afternoon, should they read your record, a day culled from the past, perhaps even hundreds of years from now; and this indeed is the aim and enjoyment of all writing, however humble, to seize the day, and to store it away on a secret shelf, out of reach of the Reaper and his swinging scythe.

Friday, 24 January 2014


Youngsters think using abbreviations and acronyms is a concept that arose with texting and emailing.  But we oldies know it's been going on since the War.  SWALK (Sealed with a loving kiss) was a popular acronym put on envelopes from the Front.  And there were plenty more where that came from.  Some of them suitable for a child-friendly blog and some decidedly inappropriate.  Among the milder ones were....

FRANCE: Friendship Remains And Never Can End
ITALY: I Trust And Love You
HOLLAND: Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies
MALAYA: My Ardent Lips Await Your Arrival
BURMA: Be Undressed/Upstairs Ready My Angel

ENGLAND and LOWESTOFT will have to be left to your imagination (or you can Google them!)

Perhaps as well known as SWALK was NORWICH: (k)Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home.

I'm not sure how the parents of the girls back home reacted to the stronger ones but the girls themselves were happy to use acronyms when writing back.  Perhaps the best know was CHINA: Come Home I’m Naked Already and the unmarried soldiers must have dreaded seeing CHIP - Come Home I'm Pregnant!

So we know it went back to the 1930s (and probably the previous War as well).  But it’s actually been going on for two thousand years.  In Roman times when a Roman wrote to his friend, it was traditional to begin a letter along the lines of  ‘I hope you’re well, I’m fine.’   But the Romans got bored with writing "Si vales bene est, ego quidem valeo" (If you’re well, that’s good—all’s well with me) all the time and abbreviated it to SVBEEQV.

I wonder if the Ancient Egyptians had something like as an abbreviation for 'It's dangerous where you are going - watch out for snakes, falling masonry, and ropes lying about...'

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

What's going on in my life

I’m not sure that there is any news from The Willows that doesn’t relate to a) my mania for postcard sending and receiving; b) Partner-who-loves-tea working herself into the ground; c) the pair of us slipping out for illicit cups of coffee and assessing the many local cafés; or d) wandering into local charity shops to seek that unmissable bargain.   I’m having difficulty making any of these things into something really newsworthy and fascinating for you.

So here are some pretty trivial items…

 My annual self-portrait.  I don’t think the passport office would accept it but I assure you it’s better than full frontal face. 

 My latest money box.  I haven’t decided what its proceeds will be used for yet.  Any suggestions?

The study wall.

Son-who-watches-films making the first use of his new mortar and pestle.  

The fields between Pensby and Heswall on a sunny January morning while most of the rest of the country seems to be under three feet of water. 

 Today’s happy fact – to combat the blues:- Not only do sea otters mate for life, but they sleep holding hands with their mates so that they don't float away from each other.  How adorable is that?!

 Photo from Wikimedia

Monday, 20 January 2014

Blue Monday

 (Photos from other blogs on the web - 
original photographers unknown) 

How are you today?  The odds are you aren’t that great because today is ‘Blue Monday’.  The third Monday of the year has been calculated by psychologist Cliff Arnail to be the day on which we are at our lowest ebb.  On what he has based this supposition one does not know.

Perhaps it’s to do with the failed New Year resolutions that have come home to roost or the weather with its gales and snow and floods.  Maybe the prospect of summer just seems at its furthest from us.  Or the receipt of the bank and credit card statements after the Christmas spending may contribute.  How about getting on the scales after the Christmas binge – is that a factor?   The dark trip to work and the dark trip home can’t help, can they?  Lack of exercise and staying indoors (because of that weather again) may make us feel grotty.

Or perhaps Blue Monday is simply something the travel agents have dreamed up to make us get that summer holiday booked.

Whatever, perhaps you should have an early night and console yourself that it can only get better from here on in…

Friday, 17 January 2014

Take care of planet Earth.

Take care of planet Earth.  It's the only one where there's chocolate.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Dept of Work and Pensions

Having spent years fighting the DWP I can only agree about how insensitive they are (see below). They find it impossible to accept an illness that can have you rolling in bed with pain one day and able to stand up the next. They assume you can pick which days you are ill so you can work the other ones...   I think I’ll be ill on Wednesday this week and have Thursday and Friday as good days…  If only.  Mind you, even on good days I still have migraines and I fall over and burn myself and do foolish things like that.  Obviously falling over and hurting myself would be contributing to my own illness.  

 In case that last sentence is not large enough -

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Year Thingies...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

West Kirby, Wirral, Cheshire, England, UK, The World

Last Sunday was one of those perfect days you sometimes get over the Christmas period when the sun shone, the wind had died down, and although cold it wasn’t bitterly so.  As a result the world and his wife (and their dog) went to West Kirby, our local seaside resort, to walk off the calories they had put on with Christmas dinner, chocolates and all the nuts and snacks consumed in front of the television.

 We went there with a different purpose in mind – to have something to eat and to test out another café for our ‘find the best food and drink on the Wirral’ experiment.  We went to Lattetude for this, a café which deserves a bonus point for its name if nothing else!

After we had eaten we went for a wander and we saw something we hadn’t seen before – a mural of a similar design to one of my favourite digital ‘paintings’ .  It has presumably been there a while but we don’t normally pass that corner, though we go to the shop on whose wall it is painted.  The shop - The Bizz - is my favourite one in West Kirby because it sells stationery and fancy goods (and postcards).  

The mural is a composite of three views of West Kirby.  

At the bottom are the shore and the Marine Lake.  The middle shows the board-walk between the Marine Lake and the River Dee, with Hilbre Island in the background to the left and the Northern end of West Kirby to the right.  And the top of the composite mural shows a view from the promenade.

Partner-who-loves-tea and I then walked down to the shore where dozens of people were taking advantage of the low tide to walk out to Little Eye and then turn right to Middle Eye (Also known as Little Hilbre Island) and Hilbre Island itself.  


It can be a dangerous walk across the sands with quicksand and tides that sweep in so swiftly one cannot outrun them.  Misty days are to be avoided but today was an ideal one for going out there so long as you are prepared to move swiftly so you can get back before the tide comes in.  The alternative would be a 24 hour wait on the island since the next low tide would be in the dark.

The hills of North Wales are on the left on the opposite side of the Dee Estuary.

On the left you can see Little Eye and on the right Middle Eye and Hilbre Island. 

Little children play on the shore.

And some big kids do as well!


And plenty of dogs enjoy the exercise (and getting dirty!).

While horses also benefit from going on the sand.

 Hilbre Island looks a lot nearer through the telephoto lens.

The Marine Lake is bounded by a boardwalk from which little children fish for crabs and along which the energetic take in the sea air.


In Spring and Summer the Marine Lake is filled with boats of all sorts and windsurfers enjoy the breeze which can usually be found there.  (These two photos are from May 2008 when I was there with GB).

Black-headed Gulls in winter plumage sit patiently in the hope that someone with sandwiches or fish and chips will come along.  Meanwhile Pigeons circle above aiming to get there first.

While waders have to work hard for their livings.

This next one is a photo I took of West Kirby from Hilbre Island (looking past Middle Eye / Little Hilbre Island) on a summer day in the 1970s.  It shows what it is like when the tide is in – and it comes in very quickly!  It is not unusual for the Lifeboat to be called out to rescue people who have stayed on the sand too long.  Fortunately we were on the island intentionally - on a birdwatching expedition.  We went out around eight in the morning and went back to West Kirby around seven at night.

In this one you can just see Little Eye over the top of Little Hilbre. 

On that day we saw plenty of birdlife on the island and the occasional seal just off shore.

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