SandDune’s Retirement Reads - Part 3

Dette er en fortsættelse af tråden SandDune’s Retirement Reads - Part 2.

Snak75 Books Challenge for 2021

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SandDune’s Retirement Reads - Part 3

Redigeret: apr 27, 4:05pm

Welcome to my third thread of 2021, and to my tenth year doing the 75 Book Challenge. I'm a 60 year old accountant and, after spending most of my career in the City of London, I was until very recently the Finance Manager of a local charity which provides support to children and adults with learning disabilities. But 2021 will be a year of change as I retired on 22nd January, and my husband (aka Mr SandDune) started working part-time from January onwards. We live about thirty miles north of London although retirement may take us elsewhere in the U.K. Our 21 year old son (aka J) is now at the University of Lancaster in the North of England studying History. There's also our 9 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Daisy, who tends to feature prominently in my threads.

I'm originally from Wales rather than England, so I do have an interest in all things Welsh (although I can't speak the language - at least only a few words) and I tend to get huffy if people call me English rather than Welsh! I read mainly literary fiction, classics, science-fiction and fantasy, but I have been trying (and enjoying) some crime fiction. As far as non-fiction goes I’m interested in a number of topics in particular books about the environment and nature.

In 2020 I struggled with my reading (for the obvious reasons) and read a lot fewer books than normal, and more of those were a fairly easy read.

All my family are avid readers. J has inherited a love of reading science-fiction and fantasy from me and a love of reading history from Mr SandDune so our books are increasingly shared. I read hardbacks, paperbacks, on kindle and listen to audio books particularly when driving or walking the dog. Apart from reading I love travelling, eating out, and going to the theatre, most of which have been curtailed in 2020 again for the obvious reasons. I'm getting more and more concerned about environmental issues and I have been quite involved in campaigning on climate change.

During 2020 I got a lot of pleasure from looking at the birds in my garden, so I thought for 2021 I’d start my threads with pictures of my favourites.

The bird I have chosen for this month is the red kite which is probably my all-time favourite bird. It’s a beautiful big bird, a lovely rich brown, and it swoops very gracefully and slowly at a low height to pick out its prey (frequently following the busy roads) so it’s easy to get a good look at it. And I also love it because it’s such a conservation success story. Thomas Bewick below says that red kites are common in England, but for most of my life there were not any in England at all, as they had been persecuted to extinction. There remained only a tiny handful in Wales and it’s thought that all the remaining Welsh birds have descended from a single female, so they nearly died out there as well. But following reintroduction of red kites from elsewhere in Europe from the beginning of the 1990s onwards the population has expanded massively, and there are now estimated to be around 4,500 breeding pairs. They’ve gradually been moving east from their reintroduction areas, and reached the town where we live about five years ago. So now, if I go out for a walk locally, I’m pretty likely to see a red kite if I take the trouble to look out for one, which makes me happy

Red Kite

From Thomas Bewick’s A History of British Birds:

And in real life:

Redigeret: apr 27, 4:06pm

Five star books from past years:

H is for Hawk Helen MacDonald
The Curse of Chalion Lois McMaster Bujold

The Salt Path Raynor Winn
Wilding Isabella Tree
Mothering Sunday Graham Swift

City of Bohane Kevin Barry
Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover
Frederica Georgette Heyer

1984 George Orwell
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
Persuasion Jane Austen
The Outrun Amy Liptrot
Lincoln in the Bardo George Saunders
Just William Richmal Crompton

The Shepherd’s Life James Rebanks
Gilead Marilynne Robinson

The Spire William Golding
Girl in the Dark: A Memoir Anna Lyndsey
The Remains of the Day Kazuo Ishiguro

The Lowland Jhumpa Lahiri
The Wall Marlen Haushofer
Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
Selected Stories Katherine Mansfield
Framley Parsonage Anthony Trollope

The Garden of Evening Mists Tan Twan Eng
Tooth and Claw Jo Walton
Barchester Towers Anthony Trollope
Northanger Abbey Jane Austen
The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman
Suite Francaise Irene Nemirovsky
Salvage the Bones Jesmyn Ward

Among Others Jo Walton
The Arrival Shaun Tan
The Tale of Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter
The Uncommon Reader Alan Bennett
Railsea China Mieville

Redigeret: I dag, 11:06am

Books read in 2021:

1. Piranesi Susanna Clarke *****
2. Back to Nature: How to Love Life —and Save It Chris Packham & Megan McCubbin ****
3. The Magician’s Nephew C.S. Lewis *****
4. Lolly Willowes Sylvia Townsend Warner ***1/2
5. Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns Kerry Hudson ***
6. Windsor Knot S.J. Bennett **
7. The Inheritors William Golding ****
8. The Goblin Emperor Katherine Addison ****
9. Peace Talks Tim Finch ***1/2
10. The Accidental Ali Smith ***
11. The Pride of Chanur C.J. Cherryh ****
12. Paladin of Souls Lois McMaster Bujold ****
13. The Less Dead Denise Mina **1/2
14. Night Waking Sarah Moss ****1/2
15. The Mermaid of Black Conch Monique Roffey ****1/2
16. Hamnet Maggie O’Farrell *****
17. The Grey King Susan Cooper ***1/2
18. Tribes David Lammy ***1/2
19. Silver on the Tree Susan Cooper ***
20. The Heavens Sandra Newman ***1/2
21. Penric’s Demon Lois McMaster Bujold****
22. The Town House Norah Lofts ***
23. Necessity’s Child Sharon Lee Steve Miller****
24. Motherwell Deborah Orr ****
25. Dragon in Exile Sharon Lee Steve Miller****

Films watched in 2021:

1. Clueless ****
2. When Harry Met Sally ***1/2
3. Bringing Up Baby ****
4. Patrick (Belgium) (Flemish/French) ***1/2
5. Ex Machina ****
6. Hot Fuzz ****
7. You’ve got Mail **1/2
8. News of the World *****
9. Pan’s Labyrinth ****1/2 (Spanish)
10. The Mole Agent **** (Spanish)
11. The Kid Detective ***
12. The Grand Budapest Hotel *****
13. Moonlight ****
14. Moonrise Kingdom ***1/2
15. Nebraska ****1/2
16. Palm Springs ***
17. Stray **** (Turkish / Arabic)

Redigeret: apr 27, 4:12pm

Plans for 2021:

I belong to a RL (well, via Zoom these days) book club and we meet monthly (except January & August).

February: The Windsor Knot Sophia Bennett
March: The Accidental Ali Smith
April Night Waking Sarah Moss
May Hamnet Maggie O’Farrell

June Motherwell: A Girlhood Deborah Orr
July Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm Isabella Tree

We will also be reading the Costa novel shortlist over the first couple of months of the year:

Piranesi Susanna Clarke
Peace Talks Tim Finch
The Less Dead Denise Mina
The Mermaid of Black Conch Monique Roffey

apr 27, 4:10pm

Happy new thread Rhian my dear.

apr 27, 4:49pm

Happy new one, Rhian!

apr 27, 5:07pm

Happy new thread!

apr 27, 5:21pm

Happy number three, Rhian. x

apr 27, 6:36pm

Happy new thread!

apr 27, 8:05pm

Hi Rhian.
I was going to post about the book titles from the USA that were YA classics. But then I saw how many great titles you were given and also, that the interest in the topic may be exhausted for you.

However, although someone suggested a title by Scott O'Dell, I wanted to chime in anyway that Island of the Blue Dolphins is a particularly powerful story. I know you have likely heard of this classic but did you know of Zia, a follow up historical novel published in 1976?

I loved the original story, given to me when it first appeared. As an adult, I was intrigued with Zia but honestly? I thought it entirely unsuitable reading as a "sequel". For me, looking back at my 13-year old self, I would have been so devasted with the follow up tale.

Just saying, in case Mr. SandDune was inclined to include it in his round-up of classics.

apr 27, 9:55pm

Happy new thread, Rhian. I hope you and yours are staying well.

apr 28, 4:15am

Happy new thread, Rhian!

>1 SandDune: I share your love for the red kite. There are only a few breeding pairs in our country, we mostly see them in spring and autumn migrating to their summer- and winter-habitats. I have seen red kites only a few times.

Redigeret: apr 28, 5:02am

>1 SandDune: I am getting deja vu, as I am sure I have said (or thought?) this before, but I reckon I have this book and that I *gasp* used it to make greeting cards out of. I really liked the illustrations and especially like the fun names of birds that can be applied to certain people, for whatever reason that brings up a fun mutual memory.

Did Mr SandDune get that list of historical fiction sorted for teens? I wonder if Anne/MQS could help?

Edited: I see you have already got help for the reading list from Anne! Good minds think alike, right? :)

apr 28, 10:57am

>6 johnsimpson: >7 katiekrug: >8 quondame: Welcome John, Katie, Susan!

>9 PaulCranswick: Paul I have a reply back from Mr SandDune regarding your footballing points and he says the following:

’I agree about reforming the Champions League, except that I would return it to a knock out competition. I think the group stages are a waste of time and just a means of the big clubs increasing their revenue and reducing the chances of being knocked out early. Reducing the influence of the European competitions will stimulate our domestic competitions.

Any measure to reduce the wage advantage afforded to the big clubs is a must. The Premiership is becoming increasingly uncompetitive with the richest clubs competing for places in Europe and all the others just hanging on. This lack of competitiveness is spreading into the Championship as well. Norwich and Watford are going to bounce straight back and there is a good chance of Bournemouth joining them too.

I like your proposed rule changes, but not sure about the offside rule. It would certainly stretch the game out across the full length of the pitch, but it might reduce some of its tactical complexity.’

apr 28, 11:32am

>10 drneutron: Hi Jim!

>11 SandyAMcPherson: Sandy. Thanks! He hadn’t got that one on the list. I don’t think Scott O’Dell is as well known here - in fact I don’t think I’d heard of him at all until he was suggested for this.

>12 BLBera: Thanks Beth!

>13 FAMeulstee: I’m pretty sure that I’d never seen a red kite until I was in my thirties, possibly late thirties. Although there were some in Wales there were so few, and they were in such an out of the way part of Wales that I’d never seen one. But now if you drive west from our house for half an hour or so you’re likely to see one as often as not. When I was still commuting to work I once saw four different individuals on the same morning, and we occasionally saw one from my office window on the industrial estate behind my office block. They do seem to follow the main roads (as they are mainly scavengers), and they are pretty big so they are easy to spot.

>14 LovingLit: I don’t remember you mentioning that before Megan. I hope it wasn’t a first edition!

Redigeret: apr 28, 11:55am

Finally on Monday we had the decorating finished for our hall, landing and downstairs loo. It seems to have been going on for ever. First they started in October when we were on holiday in Norfolk and then had to stop when Jacob contracted COVID and we had to come home to self-isolate. And then they were going to finish it in November but we had another lockdown and I was advised to shield. And so finally it was finished last week, with just a little bit left to do on Monday.

To be honest, we were so annoyed with it being half done that if it had been any other part of the house we’d have probably finished it ourselves. But this would have been far too time consuming and also on the stairs the wall goes the whole height of the house, and is very difficult to reach. So we needed to wait for the decorators.

It’s pretty much the same colour as it was before, but looks much fresher and cleaner now.

apr 28, 11:58am

>17 SandDune: Utterly gorgeous! I love it and have serious envy for such a gorgeous entry hall.

apr 28, 12:22pm

>17 SandDune: It looks really nice. I love your doors!

apr 28, 2:52pm

This morning we went on a nature walk along our local River Stort led by a birding expert who writes the natural history section for the local paper. We saw (or heard) a total of 36 birds. I have to admit left to my own devices I would have identified virtually all those we could only hear as ‘a bird’ (except maybe the pheasant), and a lot of the smaller birds wouldn’t have been noticed at all, or labelled as ‘small and brown?’

This is what we saw and heard:

Cormorant, grey heron, mallard, moorhen, black headed gull, herring gull, pheasant (heard), herring gull, common buzzard, nuthatch (heard), song thrush (heard), chaffinch (heard), mistle thrush, wren, robin, long tailed tit, great tit, bluetit, Cetti's warbler, blackcap, Whitethroat, chiffchaff, swallow, goldfinch, wood pigeon, linnet, reed bunting, starling, blackbird, common tern, magpie, jay, carrion crow, jackdaw, sedge warbler, grey wagtail.

Apparently, the Cetti’s warbler was a really good spot as it is heard but rarely seen and we got a very good look.

apr 28, 3:38pm

Here are some of the pictures taken by our group leader (who had a camera lens as long as your arm).

Female blackcap:

Reed bunting:

Grey wagtail:


apr 28, 5:31pm

>20 SandDune: That is a lot of birds spotted, Rhian.
I had to look up a few. Funny the chiffchaff is tjiftjaf in Dutch, it sounds the same, as it is named after their song.

>21 SandDune: Lovely pictures!

apr 28, 6:15pm

>21 SandDune: What a variety. It must have been head-swiveling!

Redigeret: apr 29, 4:03am

>17 SandDune: Love your hall Rhian. Very mediteranian.

>21 SandDune: And nice bird walk. I don't think I've seen any of those.

apr 29, 6:46am

>18 SandyAMcPherson: >19 PawsforThought: Thank you! We rarely change colour drastically in the main rooms of the house as then we would have to change the pictures. And I’ve spent ages collecting the pictures so and they all mean something to me so I definitely don’t want to change them.

>22 FAMeulstee: They are lovely aren’t they. I wish I could take pictures like that! But the camera equipment that he had looks as if it cost serious amounts of money, so it’s not going to happen!

>23 quondame: It’s a walk that we do frequently and we never see that number of birds, probably because we’re not looking hard enough. The guide was identifying the birds by song first, and then looking for them.

>24 Caroline_McElwee: Of the birds pictured we have had a blackcap in the garden (a male blackcap is much easier to identify as it does have a very obvious black cap) but I don’t recall seeing the others. Definitely need to get myself some better binoculars.

apr 29, 7:04am

I'm loving this bird-filled thread! I was amazed to see a red kite in Richmond Park the other week; I had no idea they'd come so far into London. It was soon seen off by a couple of crows, however.

And what great sightings on your bird walk! I sometimes see blackcaps from my window, which is always a treat. My sister and I saw a Cetti's warbler in a park in Berlin, which is the only time I've ever seen one. It's great that the guide was able to help you spot so many birds. Maybe now you will know the signs and see more when you do the walk on your own.

apr 29, 7:43am

I enjoy reading about your adventures in birding, Rhian. We're just getting back into it ourselves since we moved. Speaking of identifying birds by their calls, I am not skilled at that either. I've been using the BirdNet app on my phone, which I learned about through the SIBC Facebook page. You record the birdsong, and the app analyzes it and tells you what bird it is most likely to be. It's brilliant.

apr 29, 11:00am

In The Adventure of the Empty House when Sherlock Holmes comes back from the dead he briefly disguises himself as an old bookseller. 'British Birds" is one of the books he tries to sell to Dr Watson before revealing himself to his old friend at their reunion.

Happy New Thread! We apartment dwellers always gape open mouthed at people with houses who do new and exciting things with them. Your entranceway looks a treat!

apr 29, 11:21am

>1 SandDune: Lovely Kite picture there. I am close to where the kites held out, so there have always been some around here, but a couple of weeks ago I went for a walk in the upper Rheidol valley and came across a small and remote upland lake that the Kites obviously use to drink, as it is far from people, but also close to Nant Yr Arian forestry centre that does daily kite feeding and attracts a lot of the birds daily.

Although I have seen the kites often at Nant Yr Arian, there was something special about coming across them relaxing in that spot. (Well they took off while I walked past, but they soared quite low overhead).

apr 29, 1:24pm

>1 SandDune: Kites are *magnificent* aren't they!

>21 SandDune: Isn't it odd how some birds have dramatic names (hoopoe, bustard) and others are simply named after some physical characteristic (whitethroat, blackcap)?

Redigeret: apr 29, 3:48pm

16. Hamnet Maggie O’Farrell *****

Hamnet’s twin sister Judith has been taken ill, one minute they were playing with the cat’s new kittens, and the next she had felt ill and gone to bed. And now even the eleven year old Hamnet can see that she is not well at all and that he needs to find an adult who will know what to do. He goes from the small house that he shares with his mother and sisters (his father usually being away in London) to the larger house next door where his grandparents live, but both houses are unaccustomedly empty. His mother is miles away gathering honey from the bees that she keeps near her childhood home. And meanwhile Judith lies alone ...

’Judith is lying on the bed and the walls appear to be bulging inwards, then flexing back. In, out, in, out. The posts around her parents’ bed, in the corner, writhe and twist like serpents; the ceiling above her ripples, like the surface of a lake; her hands seem at once too close and then very far away. The line where the white of the plasterwork meets the dark wood of the joists shimmers and refracts. Her face and chest are hot, burning, covered with slick sweat, but her feet are ice-cold. She shivers, once , twice, a full convulsion, and sees the walls bend towards her, closing in, then pulling away. To block out the walls, the serpentine bedposts, the moving ceiling, she shuts her eyes.’

Hamnet imagines the story of Shakespeare’s family left behind in Stratford-upon-Avon while he wins success in London. His young twins Hamnet and Judith, his older daughter Susanna, and above all his unconventional wife (here Agnes). The narrative moves effortlessly backwards and forwards in time, with the appearance of the plague in Shakespeare’s house as the pivotal point. This is a wonderful portrait of what it might have been like to live in late sixteenth century Stratford. But above all this is a masterful portrait of parental love and grief.

Highly recommended.

apr 29, 4:59pm

Excellent review, Rhian. I loved that book.

apr 30, 3:59am

>26 Sakerfalcon: The red kites seem pretty unfazed by busier spots - one of the most common places that I seen them is over a busy junction. And they seem to have followed the motorways and dual carriageways around the country as they are expanding their territory.

Apparently Cetti’s warblers are hard to spot. Our guide was saying that they have a pretty small territory of a patch of bramble or something similar and then they tend to hunker down in that and don’t emerge very frequently. But they do have a very loud and distinctive song. There were several more Cetti’s warblers that we could hear, but only one to be seen.

>27 lauralkeet: I’ll have to try that app Laura. There are really very few I can positively identify: magpie, crow, wood pigeon, great tit, pheasant.

>28 magicians_nephew: I came across Bewick from Jane Eyre as Jane is reading it in the first chapters of the book.

We will be doing some more renovations shortly as we intend to have out kitchen replaced. Our current kitchen came with the house which was new when we moved in in 1995. So being as an average kitchen is supply to last 15 years it’s done pretty well. We’re unlikely to be able to have it done before the autumn though - apparently kitchen fitters are having a boom time at the moment and lead times have increased dramatically.

apr 30, 6:54am

>29 sirfurboy: I would love to go to Nant yr Arian! We will be (vaguely) in your part of the world in October as we have just booked a week in St Dogmaels, next to Cardigan, and will probably head up to Aberystwyth at some point during the week, but Nant yr Arian is probably a little bit too far. It’ll be the first time I’ve been to Aberystwyth in about 40 years (we did field trips there at university) but I haven’t been back since. We been as far north as Cardigan and as far south as Machynlleth, but not the bit in the middle.

I’ve recently been reading a bit about the reasons why red kites didn’t spread out naturally from Wales whereas the reintroduced birds are expanding relatively quickly. Apparently the area in Wales where they remained wasn’t ideal for them at all as there would be less for them to scavenge in an upland area than a more populated area with plenty of road kill. So they could never rear enough chicks to do more than maintain their population. And there was considerable in-breeding as well, which won’t have helped.

>30 richardderus: Isn't it odd how some birds have dramatic names (hoopoe, bustard) and others are simply named after some physical characteristic (whitethroat, blackcap)?

I can now bring out my two interesting facts about birds names (well, I find them interesting but then I’m interested in how English has developed).

Fact 1: I always used to wonder why blackbirds (in the U.K. obviously) are called blackbird. There are a lot of other very common bird species that are also all black (crows, jackdaws, rooks etc). So calling something ‘blackbird’ didn’t really seem a distinguishing feature. But I have now discovered that in Middle English (or a long time ago anyway) the only things that were called ‘birds’ were small birds. Things the size of the jackdaws and crows and rooks weren’t called birds, they were called fowl (which still persists in the term water fowl for instance). So the blackbird was actually the only black ‘bird’ around.

Fact 2: Robins used to be called redbreasts. And then people started to give human nicknames to birds so it was called a ‘robin redbreast’ (like ‘Jenny wren’) and then the redbreast part was dropped altogether and it became purely a robin. And it was a ‘redbreast’ rather than an ‘orangebreast’ (even though it is definitely orange) because there was no word for orange in English until pretty late.

apr 30, 7:06am

>34 SandDune: I hope you have a lovely trip when you come, and that you enjoy the trip to Aberystwyth when you get the chance. Nant yr Arian is probably only about 15 minutes away by car, but understandably if you are only in Aberystwyth for the day then you will have other things to do, I expect.

In Aberystwyth itself there is a kingfisher that can be seen on the beach sometimes - especially the rocks between the pier and the castle. You would have to be lucky to see it on a one day visit - but keep your eyes open. :)

Interesting about the blackbirds, and that makes sense, yes (although not all blackbirds are black of course!)

Semantic field of colours in languages is fascinating too. In Welsh, the term "gwyrdd" for green is a late development and historically the colour blue covered blue and green. Thus grassland is "glaswellt", blue hay - except here it means green.

And yes, the concept of orange is a late addition in most languages. The colour is named for the fruit, and not the other way round.

apr 30, 8:13am

>34 SandDune: Very interesting bird name facts, Rhian. Thanks for sharing!

apr 30, 8:36am

>27 lauralkeet: I’ve downloaded the BirdNet App Laura, and it has successfully identified the house sparrows and wood pigeons which make a noise pretty continuously in my garden. Nothing else seems to be singing at the moment. I would like it if the sparrows were a little bit more tuneful, as they make their nests in the honeysuckle outside our bedroom window and have a tendency to squawk at 5.00am ...

>32 lauralkeet: The only thing I’ve read before by Maggie O’Farrell was Instructions for a Heatwave which I rated ***, so OK, but didn’t incline me to rush out and buy her others. But this was wonderful.

>35 sirfurboy: Thanks! I knew the words “glas” and “gwyrdd” separately but my Welsh does not extend to “glaswellt”. Through the Language Glass: Why the World looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher has a very interesting section on development of colour words in different languages.

>36 lauralkeet: Thank you!

apr 30, 8:48am

Hi Rhian, and happy new thread. Kites are interesting birds – we have 4 types here in the US but none visit my neck of the woods. You’re lucky to get to see them frequently, and the saving-from-extinction story is marvelous.

apr 30, 8:48am

>37 SandDune: I'm glad the app has been useful, Rhian. We've used it a lot while settling into our new place. We're pretty good at identifying birds we can actually see (sometimes we use apps for that too), but in many cases we hear a bird in a tree or bush and can't see it. Most are birds we've seen on the feeders, we just weren't familiar with their songs/calls (sparrow, wren, titmouse). But the other day we identified a red-headed woodpecker which we hear often but have yet to see, so now we are on the lookout.

apr 30, 11:11am

I love your hall, Rhian. I like the color.

It sounds like you had a wonderful nature walk. All this talk of birds is piquing my interest...

I am so happy to see another fan of Hamnet; it is one of my favorites from last year. As you point out in your comments, the portrait of grief is just lovely.

Redigeret: apr 30, 11:59am

17. Tribes David Lammy ***1/2

David Lammy is the Labour M.P. For Tottenham in London, currently Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Lord Chancellor. He’s also a politician that I frequently agree with, and so I was keen to read his new book. For those who are not familiar with him, he sets out the ‘tribes’ that have made up his identity at the beginning of the book:
I am from Guyana, or at least both my parents were. ... my DNA is a close match to members of the Tuareg tribe in Niger, West Africa, but I do not speak their language. I grew up in the British Caribbean community in a single-parent household in Tottenham, but I spent term time as a choirboy in a boarding school in Peterborough. I am British, English and a Londoner, but my answer to where I am from changes depending on how far I am from my first home on Dongola Road in Tottenham. I am a member of Parliament for the Labour Party but I did not spend my time at university wearing a red rosette and knocking on doors. I am a lifelong Spurs fan, but occasionally I lend my support to Peterborough United F.C.. I have faith in Christianity and its traditions, but my views are progressive. I grew up working-class with no elite connections, but these days I am one of the Queen’s Privy Councillors, and I am friends with the man who became the forty-fourth president of the United States of America. I am black, but I am happily married to a white woman, with three mixed-race kids.

These are several of my identities. Each classifies me according to a characteristic that qualifies me for membership of a particular group. My identities are fluid and cross-cutting and a couple of them even contradict’

In Tribes, subtitled ‘A Search for Belonging in a Divided Society’ David Lammy argues that the natural tendency of individuals to feel that they belong is being subverted by modern society. As individualism is encouraged, and community structures that once held people together weaken, individuals are looking to new identity groups to find belonging. By looking first at the places where he himself has felt a sense of belonging, Lammy then moves on to the issues that increased tribalism is causing:
Unquestioning loyalty to a group matched by unthinking opposition to enemies can undermine our ability for intellectual honesty. When issues are split into Labour versus Tory, Democrat versus Republican, or Leave versus Remain, they are always oversimplified. We are not always able to make an honest assessment of the other side’s policy idea. We judge an idea’s merit according to its messenger rather than its content. This has the secondary effect of blinding us to bad behaviour within our own group. Members of a tribe are predisposed to closing their eyes when confronted with a fellow member’s wrongdoing.’

Certainly, the U.K has never felt more politically divided as it does currently. Labels of ‘leaver’ or ‘remainer’ (frequently remodelled as the insult ‘remoaner’) are still thrown at people who have opposing views over Brexit, years after the referendum that supposedly decided the matter. Polls show majority support for independence in Scotland, and even Wales, where independence was historically pretty much a non-starter, showed almost 40% support for independence in a recent poll, something that would have been unheard of even 10 years ago. And in Northern Ireland the percentage wanting a united Ireland has been increased by Brexit, so that it seems almost an inevitability in the medium term. And increasing virulent divisions are seen about many other current societal issues, from the requirements for COVID restrictions, to environmental issues and to the case for immigration. And more and more, rather than make a rational case for the argument, the dispute involves an attack on the individual holding the ‘wrong’ views, effectively an attack for being a member of the wrong tribe.

This is a thoughtful book putting forward some interesting suggestions on how to bring people together, harnessing their desire for a sense of belonging in a positive way. I’m not sure I agree with all of them, but definitely an interesting read.

apr 30, 12:44pm

Interesting book and topic, Rhian. The political divisions and attacks on individuals who hold the 'wrong' views are rampant here as well, as you probably know. That this dynamic is not unique to one country would seem to indicate the cause is not about the political issues, but something deeper.

apr 30, 2:04pm

>38 karenmarie: Hi Karen! I think red kites are the only ones we get here. The other biggish birds we get are buzzards, which at one time were only found in the north and west, but are now common in the south-east where we live.

>39 lauralkeet: It’s now identified a robin as well!

>40 BLBera: Thank you Beth! As I said it’s more or less the same colour as it was before, but I think the woodwork colour is a little nicer this time. It was marginally too orange previously.

>42 lauralkeet: Tribes does look at the underlying causes. I thought David Lammy did an excellent job of trying to understand why people held certain views to which he was vehemently opposed, even extending to trying to understand the motivations of a man who was convicted of sending him (as well as several other MPs) racially motivated threats.

apr 30, 4:01pm

>41 SandDune: Oh dear, that is one for my TBR! I was doing so well at avoiding book bullets. But yes, I definitely want to read that.

apr 30, 4:18pm

>34 SandDune: Live your facts Rhian.

>41 SandDune: I have this in the tbr mountain, I will nudge it up.

Redigeret: apr 30, 5:09pm

Hi Rhian my dear, we are still waiting for Amy to give birth, her due date was yesterday but that came and went, oh well it will come when it is good and ready, lol.

I hope that you all have a really lovely Bank Holiday weekend, sadly Karen is working both Saturday and Monday, her normal shifts. As the weather forecast for Monday is not good, no doubts the throng will think where can we visit, i know that well known tourist spot, the supermarket, Karen is not looking forward to Monday.

Sending love and hugs to you all dear friend.

maj 1, 3:20am

>44 sirfurboy: Sorry!

>45 Caroline_McElwee: Thank you!

>46 johnsimpson: Amy has my sympathies. Jacob was two weeks late when he arrived (and even then I had to be induced). I remember being so fed up of waiting.

I hope Karen doesn’t get too busy. We are braving going to John Lewis in Cambridge today, the first time I have attempted such a thing since 2019. Previously we would go to Cambridge every few months - seems strange that we haven’t been for so long.

maj 1, 8:27am

>46 johnsimpson: Good luck with the birth. I really hated the waiting time at the end of my pregnancies.

maj 1, 11:06am

>41 SandDune: A deeply divided and tribalized society is an easily manipulated society. I find it instructive to see where the mass of money is going to judge what reasons there are for the divisions between camps.

"Remoaner" ::eyeroll:: I've never encountered a whinier, more selfish and less tolerant group than the Brexiteers.

maj 1, 12:27pm

>48 elkiedee: Me too! I remember feeling like a beached whale and not having the energy to do anything.

>49 richardderus: There’s a lot of money flowing somewhere, that’s for sure. And it is exactly the Brexiteers that are doing the moaning ... I mean, they won, they should be happy, but they certainly don’t seem it.

maj 1, 12:48pm

I've heard such good things about Hamnet and here is yet another. Must go on the WL.

David Lammy sounds like a supremely sensible human. Enjoyed the long excerpt a lot.

maj 1, 3:45pm

>47 SandDune:, Thanks Rhian, still waiting as i type. Since the shops opened up we haven't yet ventured anywhere and now we awaiting the baby things like this are on hold for the moment. We can't wait to venture to the market towns of the Yorkshire Dales and towards the North York Moors although we have an overnight stay booked in Harrogate for Karen's 60th birthday on May 18th, we will have a good mooch around Harrogate and the following day we will go over to York before heading home.

maj 1, 3:46pm

>48 elkiedee:, Thanks elkiedee, time just seems to be dragging along at the moment although i cannot believe it is the 1st of May already.

maj 1, 5:26pm

>49 richardderus: Aw, I think we here in Murika come up with collectives just as vile.

maj 1, 6:32pm

>54 quondame: Just as vile, certainly; but not worse.

>50 SandDune: Why, anyone would think these events were orchestrated to fatten the bank accounts of some folk!

maj 1, 6:43pm

Tribalism is a real problem in American politics these days too it seems.

Redigeret: maj 2, 9:46am

Happy new thread Rhian.

I read through your thread and posted a heap of comments, but my post has disappeared. Let's see if I can reconstruct it:

>1 SandDune: Yay for conservation.

>17 SandDune: Very pretty.

>20 SandDune: Wow!

>21 SandDune: Beautiful. The bunting, especially, is cute.

>27 lauralkeet: I'll give the BirdNet app a go. Let's see if it can recognise tropical birds.

maj 2, 9:49am

Enjoy the play. I would love to get back to the theater.

maj 3, 9:12am

>51 sibylline: We have my RL book club discussion re Hamlet next week so I will report back. It’s looking like for the meeting in July, we may be able to have an in-person meeting which would be so exciting.

>52 johnsimpson: Fingers crossed John!

>54 quondame: >55 richardderus: >56 magicians_nephew: David Lammy’s book touches briefly on the U.S. but it’s main focus is the U.K. One of the points he raises is about the role of social media increasing polarisation. I’ve always been a great fan of social media (well LibraryThing of course) but I’m aware in most types of social media your political views tend to be reinforced, as you are constantly shown only those views that you are likely to agree with. But apparently research on Facebook groups has shown that the positions of the individuals making up the group tend to gravitate over time towards those of its most extreme members. Something I was not aware of.

>57 humouress: It’s such a pain when that happens! I have to admit my favourite is the Whitethroat. I wish I could take pictures like that, but his camera kit must have cost serious amounts of money.

>58 BLBera: Well it’s not until November, but something to look forward to.

Redigeret: maj 3, 9:44am

Well, we did go to Cambridge sofa shopping on on Saturday, the first time I have been in a large shop other than a supermarket since the pandemic started. Felt a little bit odd, and we did spend a lot less time poking around Cambridge than we usually do (no visits to the big Waterstones or Heffers bookshops, and no lunch at Yo Sushi) but it did start to feel like things are getting back to normal. Cases of COVID where we live were only 11 per 100,000 in the last week and a lot of people are vaccinated now so fingers crossed.

We have picked out sofas and a chair in John Lewis and are waiting for swatches for covers but it will look something like this:

Obviously, with furniture from John Lewis we will have to resign ourselves to the ‘John Lewis nightmare’ of ‘living in a skip’, but I suppose we’ll just have to cope.

For those who didn’t pick up on that current U.K. cultural reference here is an explanatory article. The U.S. had Watergate, we’ve got sofagate (or curtaingate or cushiongate according to preference). There are now apparently four separate investigations into who paid for the prime ministers sofas (and curtains and cushions).

maj 3, 10:50am

Still have to stop and stare when you hear that the Prime Minister of The UK is living with a woman NOT his wife (and twenty years younger in the bargain) and had had a child by her "out of wedlock" and has not been hounded out of office by the bluestockings.

We have heard bits and pieces of "sofa gate" - mostly amused by it. It's not going to affect BoJo's chances long term

maj 3, 11:08am

Love the sofa/chair!

...but were they worth the scandal, BoJo?

maj 3, 12:22pm

Love the new furniture, Rhian. We watch "Have I Got News for You" on YouTube and picked up on the sofa gate scandal but the Guardian piece connected a few dots for me, so thanks for posting the link.

maj 3, 2:33pm

>61 magicians_nephew: the Prime Minister of The UK is living with a woman NOT his wife (and twenty years younger in the bargain) and had had a child by her "out of wedlock" It’s not really an issue at all. I think those people who disapprove of Boris Johnson for his personal life are more focused about the number of affairs he’s had while married to someone else, and the uncertainty about the number of children that he actually has. And someone with at least six children (with three different women) saying that he needs double his current salary to make ends meet when he’s the leader of the party who blames poor people for having children they can’t afford is a hypocrite in my book.

>62 richardderus: Thanks! We won’t actually get it until the end of summer probably as there’s quite a lead time.

>61 magicians_nephew: >63 lauralkeet: I’m beginning to think Boris’s days might be numbered. The Daily Mail seems to have turned on him, and that’s very influential with the Conservative core demographics. The Conservative party is usually pretty good at ousting leaders when they want to. It hasn’t happened over the last couple of years because any prospective new leader wouldn’t want to get stuck with Brexit, or with dealing with Covid, but soon maybe? Three out of the four investigations going on re sofagate and other stuff haven’t got many teeth, but the fourth one is by the Electoral Commission and that has, apparently.

maj 3, 7:20pm

>64 SandDune: Presumably double his salary refers specifically only to his public sector salary? He's also earned lots of money from journalism in the past though presumably it's more difficult for him to do so. No doubt after being PM he will also have lots of other lucrative learning opportunities. I think his family also has some private wealth though it maybe that he was used to relying on his most recent ex wife's private income too. And I think Carrie Symonds also comes from a fairly affluent background, though I've lost track of whether she has current employment.

It's hard to judge what is actually significant for the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson's current position and what isn't, under all the froth.

maj 4, 3:39am

>65 elkiedee: I think he had to give up all his journalism positions when he became prime minister, so he had to take a pay cut. And he’s got a recent divorce settlement and possibly maintenance payments elsewhere and a fiancée with very expensive tastes. I think she’s currently got a PR job with a wildlife thing?

I find it virtually impossible to judge what is important for the Conservative party at the moment. Things that I find pretty appalling seem to not bother a lot of Conservative voters at all.

maj 4, 4:13am

"Things that I find pretty appalling seem to not bother a lot of Conservative voters at all."


maj 4, 10:42pm

>66 SandDune: & >67 elkiedee: In the scheme of things I cannot get too excited about the tiff over the renovation of the Downing Street flat but the wider issue is his complete disregard for any checks and balances and his blase rebuttals that seem to infer that, because the country has been battling COVID-19, he can do what he likes. I am far more aggrieved by the seeming corruption in the Ministry of Health relating to its procurement policies - I do think the pandemic has been an excuse for certain parties to cash-in but the fact that individual politicians may have seen the possibility to do so should place them beyond the pale. The accumulation of sleaze brought down John Major's government - well it helped to - and I believe that that same drip, drip effect is in play here.

maj 5, 3:48am

>88 I think in itself, as you say, the decorating saga is less important than others. In my mind it is just the latest evidence that shows that Boris Johnson feels that there is one rule for everyone else and a completely different rule for himself and his cronies. I have no doubt that there was corruption involved in the COVID procurement which is far more important. How so many people are taken in by his ‘cheerful chappie’ persona is a complete mystery to me. To me he’s an arrogant, lying, adulterous, sexist, racist posh boy who’s never been concerned about anyone else other than Boris Johnson.

But still, have you seen the pictures of what their chosen decorator does? It’s vile! Any incoming prime minister will have to redecorate again immediately to avoid recurring migraines.

At the moment I dislike this government more than I have ever disliked a government in my entire life, including that of Margaret Thatcher.

maj 5, 10:19am

There was a clue on the Jeopardy Game show last night here in the states about English radio stations playing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" when Maggie Thatcher died.

Pretty cheap shot even for British tabs

Redigeret: maj 5, 1:33pm

>70 magicians_nephew: Wouldn’t have been anything to do with the tabloids They were always very pro Margaret Thatcher. She was just really really unpopular among certain sections of the community, our household included. (Mr SandDune always threatened to throw things at the TV when she was on). I would never wish ill on someone, and by the end she had dementia, and it was certainly in very bad taste, but there were a lot of people who didn’t miss her one little bit. I don’t think the song was played by the radio stations though, certainly it was banned by the BBC, but I seem to remember it got to no 2 in the charts.

maj 5, 4:38pm

Yes, there was a campaign to get it into the charts. I didn't have much sympathy for Mrs T and think the song title was a bit insulting to witches.

Mrs Thatcher attended a memorial event for her tutor at Oxford, who was my cousins' other grandmother, and was really, really rude to the dead woman's daughter, as Liz was saying goodbye and thanking people for coming at the end and MT refused to even shake her hand. The politics of the event were of course those of the person being remembered and her family, and were 100 per cent not Conservative, but if you can't maintain basic courtesy over things being said at such an event that you don't agree with, you shouldn't be there.

maj 5, 10:03pm

Love the couch, Rhian.

And here about half the population still believes Trump won the election, so, sigh.

maj 6, 3:28am

>72 elkiedee: there was a campaign to get it into the charts. I’d forgotten about that. I remember being so happy the day Margaret Thatcher resigned - there was definitely a celebratory mood amongst certain people in our office. Not everyone (I worked in the City at the time) but there certainly were some very happy people.

>73 BLBera: We’re still waiting for the swatches - probably delayed as it was a bank holiday here on Monday. As soon as we have those we can choose some material and get them ordered.

maj 6, 5:16am

Love the couch Rhian. I don't share Theresa May's politics, but I couldn't see anything wrong with her decorating.

maj 6, 6:21am

>70 magicians_nephew: Jim, the ladies' comments about Mrs T are accurate and another example how international/American perceptions of the UK is not always on the money.

She was a deeply divisive individual and her policies - especially the lack of care that accompanied them - laid waste the old industrial communities of the North, Midlands, Wales and Scotland. There were street parties in many Yorkshire villages in celebration of her passing. I don't for a moment hold with that as she was someone's mother and at the least a principled conviction politician (it is just that I hold a different set of principles).

She never held the affection of the wider populace of the UK but whilst, like Rhian, I celebrated loudly her resignation, I was saddened on a basic human level for her passing.

maj 10, 5:40am

Not to be controversial (I tend to ignore politics) but I was in school when Mrs Thatcher was prime minister and I was pleased to see a woman in power. When I discovered she was 'a grocer's daughter from Grantham' I was surprised that she went to the right.

Redigeret: maj 10, 9:40am

>76 PaulCranswick: Mrs. Thatcher is the villain of the piece in "Billy Eliot" which shows up close and personal how her policies killed off British Mining.

>77 humouress: seems more often than not the "First Woman to do X" in politics comes from the conservative side.

maj 10, 9:56am

>76 PaulCranswick: Yep, what Paul said!

I recall "ding dong the Witch is dead" being sung by an eminent colleague at work on his way to the coffee room when news broke she had resigned. I never heard any such celebration of her passing, and think the sentiment was much more apposite at the time of her resignation.

In hindsight, I would much rather have Thatcher in power than the current crop of over-entitled incompetent amoral liars. At least Thatcher was honest. Indeed, she was also principled - something that sets her utterly apart from the current incumbent of no. 10. Nevertheless those who speak of her "economic miracle" (which may well be illusory in any case) should really tour the streets of Rhondda, or Durham or the other places Paul mentions and notice that said "economic miracle" appeared to entirely pass them by. That is their perception, and that is why they were happy to see her go.

maj 11, 6:49am

I’ve been trying to reply over the last couple of days but been having such problems with LT. Anyone else experiencing this?

>75 charl08: Thanks! Swatches have now arrived and several look suitable so we will be choosing colours tomorrow and then ordering them.

>76 PaulCranswick: >78 magicians_nephew: >79 sirfurboy: Yes I very much agree with Paul on this. At the time of the miners’ strike I was very much on the side of the miners. Now, decades later, as a member of the Green Party, I would say equally forcefully that coal has had its day and the world needs to move on. But Margaret Thatcher’s closure of the coal mines was very much a political act, and nothing was done to support the communities that those decisions ravaged. Relatively well paid skilled work with a sense of community was replaced by unskilled dead end jobs or no jobs at all.

>77 humouress: I think grocers probably counted as ‘petit bourgeoisie’ rather than ‘proletariat’ so I think I’d have expected her to be Conservative rather than Labour. Just not the old school tie variant.

maj 11, 7:13am

Speaking of miners, we were able to visit my mother at the weekend for the first time since last summer, and I brought home her miners’ lamp, which always used to sit on the fireplace when I was a child but was now languishing in a corner. I’d always vaguely assumed it belonged to my grandfather (who was a miner), but apparently it didn’t, but it is the same model as one that he had.

I was happily starting to polish it up and thinking that I was very grateful that I didn’t have to carry it around all day because it is heavy (never mind the actual hewing of coal), when the TV stand in the sitting room exploded for no apparent reason.

So the TV was left balancing precariously on the remains of the stand, which was making ominous creaking noises and only had two legs instead of the four it had started with. And I couldn’t lift the TV off on my own, so I had visions of the TV falling off any second. So I had to pull Mr SandDune out of a meeting to make an emergency dash home to assist.

maj 11, 7:29am

As I said, we visited my mother for the first time in nine months due to lockdowns, shielding and general prohibition of travel. Being as she is 99, living on her own, and getting very little contact with people, she is doing surprisingly well. Now that lockdown restrictions are being lifted she will get more visitors: two of her grandchildren have promised to visit over the next month, a cousin will also be visiting in the next few weeks, and my sister is coming home from Cyprus in June. I will try and visit again some time before we go on holiday in July. And hopefully the activities in the retirement complex where she lives will be starting up soon.

She has someone who comes in for an hour a week to clean, and who also does her washing, and someone else does her supermarket shopping once a month, but other than that she seems to manage.

As well as the miners lamp I also brought home my mother’s old sewing machine, which apparently had originally belonged to my grandmother. I’ve looked into it and it dates from 1910 - I’m intending to get it restored and spruced up:

There is a surprising amount of storage space for a one bedroomed flat at my Mum’s, so she tends to have this stuff hidden away. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t used the sewing machine in 40 years if not more, and she never liked sewing anyway, but it was still in a cupboard ‘just in case’.

maj 11, 9:23am

>81 SandDune: Exploding TV stands... bizarre! Glad there was no damage to the TV though.

maj 11, 10:55am

Glad your TV wasn't damaged in the TV stand explosion. So bizarre.

Both the miner's lamp and the sewing machine are beautiful and cool bits of history!

maj 11, 2:46pm

>81 SandDune: Oh my, that is an explosion Rhian. I was expecting you to say you dropped the miners lamp on it. Glad you rescued the tv.

I remember my mum's Singer on a table powered by a foot pedal, it had a name, I can't remember.

Forgot to say above, love sofa and chair.

maj 11, 3:50pm

>81 SandDune: How dramatic and unexpected! It's good no person or TV was damaged.

maj 11, 4:54pm

>81 SandDune: We also have an old miners lamp, Rhian, not family related. My father in law could not resist buying old things.
The TV stand breaking must have been a scare to you! Glad Mr SandDune could come to help.

maj 12, 10:09am

My Aunt Alice had an old Singer with a foot pedal that was much later retrofitted to run off a little electric motor and a pulley.

When my Aunt died everyone in the family wanted the sewing machine, I think in the end my Aunt Susan won out.

maj 12, 12:07pm

17. The Grey King Susan Cooper ***1/2

19. Silver on the Tree Susan Cooper ***

The fourth and fifth (and final) books in ‘The Dark is Rising’ sequence. In The Grey King Will Stanton is sent to visit relatives in Wales to convalesce after a serious illness. While there he joins with the mysterious Bran to follow an old prophecy to recover a lost golden harp to awaken mysterious sleepers. In Silver on the Tree Will returns to Wales, where, together with Bran, the Drew children first encountered in Under Sea, over Stone and the mysterious Merriman, he must prepare for the final conflict between Light and Dark.

I think I’ve enjoyed this series less and less as it’s gone on, and I found the final ending disappointing. I know a lot of people love it, but I think overall the series has some serious flaws which become more apparent in the later books. ‘The Dark is Rising’ is the refrain throughout all the books, but particularly in these last two books the Dark doesn’t seem to be a particularly challenging opponent, certainly not warranting a war lasting throughout the centuries. In carrying out his quest Will has to follow an ambiguous ancient prophecy, but invariably each time his first idea as to what it means is the right one. Consequently, there is a real sense that events are predetermined and there is no real sense of danger.

So I’m glad I’ve read the series, particularly the first two, Over Sea, under Stone and The Dark is Rising. But I’m afraid it had really run out of steam by the end.

maj 12, 12:24pm

Good heavens, the Revolt of the Objects has begun early chez vous, Rhian.

Stay safe!

Redigeret: maj 12, 1:14pm

>89 SandDune: My favorite of the Susan Cooper books was Greenwitch because it gave Jane (the girl) something to do. Solving the problem requires empathy and generosity and not waving magic swords and solving arcane riddles.

I like the series for its lovely Arthurian tone but agree that the characters are bland and un-engaging and the Quests, by and large, pretty unremarkable.

Yes the ending. If the Dark is defeated so finally why doesn't the world suddenly change magically for the better?

Some lovely poetry though.

maj 12, 1:47pm

>83 sirfurboy: >84 MickyFine: >85 Caroline_McElwee: >86 quondame: >87 FAMeulstee: >90 richardderus: It was very strange, but several people I’ve spoken to have said that they’ve also had glass objects that suddenly shattered. Darryl reminded me on Facebook of the time we went to Strada on the South Bank for pre -theatre dinner, and their large glass door suddenly shattered, also for no apparent reason.

I’ve ordered a new TV stand today but it won’t arrive until next Tuesday, so we’ve put the TV on the coffee table and I spent this afternoon reattaching all the wires and getting everything working again. It is always me that seems to do this. It was quite complex: as well as the TV we had a Sky box, Sky WiFi connector, Apple TV box, DVD player, PS3, and Wii, and because all the cables had been pulled out in a hurry I wasn’t sure what went where. I’ve left the DVD player and games consoles for now but everything else seems to be working.

And I’ve also ordered new sofas and chair from John Lewis, but they aren’t going to arrive for months. Apparently there is unprecedented demand for household furniture and fittings after lockdown.

>85 Caroline_McElwee: >88 magicians_nephew: My aunt had one of those treadle machines converted to an electric motor.

I don’t think it had ever occurred to my mother than anyone would actually want the sewing machine - she always considered sewing a chore, something to be done only if you were trying to save money.

>84 MickyFine: >85 Caroline_McElwee: It’s nice to have the lamp. Both my grandfathers worked in a colliery, one as a miner and one as a stone mason. And two of my great-grandfather were miners as well, one on each side of the family, along with numerous great-uncles and more distant relatives.

Redigeret: maj 12, 2:47pm

19. The Heavens Sandra Newman ***1/2

In the year 2000 Ben meets Kate at a party at Sabine’s apartment in New York. Kate is ‘different’ warns Sabine, a rich girl intertwined with left-wing politics, but Ben pays no attention. Ben and Kate fall in love and very soon move in together. But Ben’s year 2000 isn’t the same as ours ...

And after all, it was the year 2000 — Chen’s year, the first year with no war at all, when you opened up the newspapers like opening a gift; a year of mass protests at which the same violin-playing blind girl would always appear and play the same Irish air; the year Les Girafes occupied the embassy of Germany and flew the anarchist flag and the Jolly Roger from its broken windows; that best ever year when Ben was first in love.

Meanwhile Kate dreams. Kate has always dreamed, and in her dreams she is another woman dreaming in a different time and place. But in her dreams she is always asleep, never awake. But one day she does wake in her dream and she isn’t Kate any more but Emilia, living in London in 1593, pregnant with a child that is not her husband’s. And Emilia has visions of ‘a jagged city of fire and cinders, a writhing apparition of a dead world’. And Kate (or Emilia) knows that she has to do something to prevent that world coming to pass, but each time Kate wakes, the world is just a little bit worse.

This didn’t quite live up to its initial promise for me, but a good read nonetheless.

maj 12, 4:53pm

>92 SandDune: My mother was of the same opinion about sewing - because my best friend had so many lovely hand made dresses I talked my mother into giving it a go - something we both regretted. She didn't know about clipping seams and was angry that I didn't want to wear the dress.

Redigeret: maj 13, 5:39am

>92 SandDune: OMG, of course. I remember that door shattering Rhian. So startling at the time. I think of it whenever I pass the restaurant.

'Treadle' that's the word I couldn't think of yesterday. My mother used that machine for many years, before getting a more 'modern' one.

maj 12, 10:47pm

>89 SandDune: and >91 magicians_nephew:: Re the Susan Cooper Dark is Rising series...
Note: possible spoilers but not hidden because probably in this group, most have read it... I always wanted to say this "out loud":

I was really narked with the progression of this series. Overall, I agree that there were some good episodes in the beginning, and Greenwitch was by far and away the best for twinning a modern mystery-quest with an old fable.

However, I found Merriman rather a snotty, high-handed character and wondered why Cooper developed him that way. By Book 5, the characters associated with the dark seemed more and more contrived. What really annoyed me was the ending, because the English kids have their memory of the quest taken from them by the "old ones", which did not resonate with me and just felt really arrogant.

My kids liked the books very much when they read them as young teenagers but all of us re-read them a few years ago and it was one of those situations where the memory of the adventure was better than the reread.

maj 13, 3:24am

>94 quondame: I don’t remember my mother using the sewing machine for anything other than household repairs. But I was speaking to my sister last night (who used to do ballet as a child) and she said that my mother had made the costumes for the whole troupe for one performance, and they were beautifully done. She did do occasional very neat hand sewing for charity events and her knitting was beautiful, so I can believe that if she decided to make something she would make a good job of it. I still remember the upset I felt when I managed to burn a hole in a very lacy pink jumper that she had knitted for me, and that I loved.

maj 13, 3:28am

>95 Caroline_McElwee: I think of it whenever I pass the restaurant. Me too! Not that I’ve been passing the restaurant very much recently - haven’t been to London since Christmas 2019. Who would have thought it! I am thinking that we will go back in again shortly. I could cope with London, but I think I’d still be very dubious about the Tube.

Redigeret: maj 13, 3:36am

>96 SandyAMcPherson: Yes I had a real problem with Merriman as well, especially in the later books. The way that Will is constantly deprived of crucial information makes no sense to me. It’s like it’s all some sort of game, rather than a fight between good and evil. And I really didn’t like the end. The way that Will was left as the only ‘Old One’ and didn’t even have anyway to talk about his experiences with because the rest had their memories wiped seemed downright cruel, if you ask me. If you think about it carefully it actually seems worse than anything that we saw the Dark doing

Redigeret: maj 13, 3:47am

>97 SandDune: It's sad about the jumper.

My mom made up for almost everything by her cooking. A huge range of dishes in multiple cuisines and pastry and candy. I have rarely had meals as good as her regular fare and only maybe 2 or 3 to rival her best.

maj 13, 3:52am

>81 SandDune: Gosh! That looks scary. You’re right, we’ve had a few things either explode or crack (more like a muffled ‘pop’) in our time. Liking the antiques.

I should read The Grey King soon but I remember that it broke my heart when I read it in my childhood so I’ve been reluctant to continue with the series.

maj 13, 5:43am

>98 SandDune: I've used the tube a couple of days in the last 4 weeks Rhian. Between 10am-3pm it isn't so crowded, but right in the centre of town it gets fuller, and social distancing disappears. People will just sit next to you. 99% will at least be wearing a mask, though 10% won't have their nose covered.

maj 13, 6:54am

I caught a bus to and from Crouch End a couple of weeks ago, a Sunday afternoon and a bit late to use shops so probably many people travelling by bus in the area were going the other way at that point- a couple of miles away - not the first time since lockdown. I can't read with my mask on on the bus as my glasses steam up too much, so I was looking around and couldn't help noticing that no more than half of the other passengers were wearing their masks property, covering their nose. And I think the men on the bus were worse than the women. I think only people travelling together were sitting next to each other. And the thing of standing right in the doorway so you have to squeeze past people is back, and very annoying, because seats weren't in such short supply.

maj 13, 9:39am

I remember my son loving The Dark Is Rising and subsequent books; perhaps the later ones are more directed at young readers?

I can understand the urge to redecorate after the lockdown; I would like to gut my house. Instead, I might settle for some new paint.

Great comments on The Heavens; I remember enjoying it, but I don't remember much about it.

maj 13, 1:44pm

>100 quondame: My Mum was a good cook too, although she’s pretty much given up now. Nothing too fancy, but reasonably adventurous cuisine wise, especially given her generation.

>101 humouress: I think The Grey King had definite good points. But in my opinion reading as an adult the series doesn’t stand up well to YA fiction by some other authors (Philip Pullman, Philip Reeve, Frances Hardinge, Alan Garner for example).

maj 13, 1:47pm

>100 quondame: My Mum was a good cook too, although she’s pretty much given up now. Nothing too fancy, but reasonably adventurous cuisine wise, especially given her generation.

maj 14, 8:14am

Hi Rhian!

All this talk of Thatcher reminds me that since she and Ronald Reagan were such buds and I despised Reagan and his politics, I felt the same way about her. There’s only one person whose demise I’d celebrate right now because he’s truly evil – t****.

>81 SandDune: Its wonderful that you have finally gotten to visit your Mum, and I'm glad to hear that she's doing well. Nice to get the miners’ lamp. Oh no about the TV stand exploding. Glad it was only the stand and not the TV.

>82 SandDune: Way cool about the sewing machine, too. I’ve got my husband’s grandmother’s 1928 White Sewing Machine.

maj 15, 4:12am

>107 karenmarie: We discovered last night that I hadn’t put the TV cables back together as well as I’d hoped. The TV and various streaming services are working OK but we discovered that the Skybox won’t record anything or less us watch things that have been recorded. I’ll have to have another go.

I meant to post this picture earlier of Daisy doing an otter impersonation at Kenfig Pool, which is the largest freshwater lake in Glamorgan.

This is one of Daisy’s favourite spots and a great place for birdwatching and rare orchids. There are a couple of otters as well. It’s actually quite difficult to get to the edge of the Pool in most places so the birds have it to themselves. Unfortunately we forgot our binoculars and so weren’t able to tell if they were swallows, house martins or swifts swooping over the surface of the Pool (if only they’d keep still for 5 seconds): if I had to choose I’d say they were house martins. And we heard a cuckoo, which is a bird in decline in the U.K..

It’s a mystery to me how the tree stays alive. It’s only very occasionally out of the water if there’s a very dry summer, but it carries on regardless.

Sunday morning when we were at the Pool was the only dry time we had while visiting my Mum. Saturday was torrential rain from morning until night. The weather here has changed from an unusually cold and exceptionally dry April, to an unusually wet (and not particularly warm) May. At least the garden is now growing!

maj 15, 6:12am

>108 SandDune: Oops re cables.

Love Daisy's otter impersonation. It looks lovely. Funny how some trees do well waterlogged. There is a willow in a pond at Clapham that's been there as long as I remember. Still going.

Last time I heard a cuckoo was at Avebury in Wiltshire, many moons ago.

maj 15, 7:32am

>108 SandDune: that looks like a lovely spot, Rhian.

You have my sympathies regarding connecting the TV and all of its components. That's one of my "jobs" in our family as well. Before we moved I made diagrams of how everything connected and labeled each end of every cable. That helped a lot, but some of my labels fell off in transit. Sigh.

Redigeret: maj 15, 10:25am

I’ve realised that I’ve been neglecting my list of films. This week’s film was Stray directed by Elizabeth Lo, which follows the lived of three feral dogs in Istanbul. Apparently, after a massive public protests about government attempts to euthanise stray dogs, Turkey is now the one of the only countries in the world where it is illegal to euthanise stray dogs: instead they are neutered, vaccinated and returned to the place where they were found. I found it really interesting seeing the relationship of the dogs (who are not owned but are frequently fed by locals) to the city as a whole, above all how calm they were amidst the hustle and bustle of city life. And also the reactions of the locals to the dogs, who seem very accepting of them in their midst.

It would be a great companion film to ‘Kedi’ about the street cats of Istanbul.

I often think that dogs might well have had happier lives when they were allowed out without restrictions, and I’m pretty sure that they would have been more balanced emotionally. I’m not advocating that in today’s world (too much traffic) but I do think something has been lost from the dog’s perspective.

I remember when I was a child there were two dogs that lived (in separate houses) across the road from me. Every day (unless it was raining) they sat together in front of their houses, then at some stage during the day they would take themselves off for a walk to the beach, and then they would come back and sit some more. They always struck me as very happy dogs, able to make their own friends.

maj 15, 10:14am

It would be a great companion film to ‘Kedi’ about the street cats of Istanbul.

Funny, that's what I was thinking as I was reading your post. I really liked Kedi, and Stray sounds like it's just up my street. Thanks for the rec.

maj 15, 2:09pm

>109 Caroline_McElwee: I can’t remember the last time I heard a cuckoo either. Such a shame.

>110 lauralkeet: We have discovered that it is not the cables after all. After messing round with the cables this afternoon and spending time on the phone to Sky it turns out that the SkyBox hard disk is broken, and we need a new one. They are sending an engineer to replace it on Wednesday. So we can watch things live or on Netflix or Apple but not recorded or on catch-up.

>112 lauralkeet: Enjoy!

maj 15, 5:06pm

>111 SandDune: Your story about the dogs across the road reminds me a little of my neighbour's old dog (now long dead). When I was a around 12 or so that dog, which was old and going a bit senile) used to walk away from their garden and go for a walk. He'd usually forget where he was and get lost so we'd find him around the neighbourhood looking forlorn. Luckily, telling him to "Go home" would generally trigger the memory and he'd go back to his garden. Such a sweet dog.

I remember the feral/street cats in Turkey from a holiday there in my teens. As a massive cat lover I wanted to pet each one but we were advised to not touch them in case of rabies and other illnesses.

maj 15, 5:23pm

>114 PawsforThought: That’s reminded me of our first holiday in Greece. It was a very small guest house in a semi-rural area and the owner’s cat had kittens which wandered about. This was back in about 1990 and we were being more economical and the room had no air conditioning so we had left the French windows open while we slept. We were on the ground floor and the kittens liked to wander in. One decided to jump on my stomach in the middle of the night which was a little alarming at the time!

maj 15, 9:40pm

>108 SandDune: That picture gives such an impression of place. I can feel the shivering damps! But Daisy seems to be enjoying herself.

maj 17, 2:44am

>108 SandDune: Daisy does look happy.

We avoid letting Jasper off the leash when we take him out because, the few times he's gone out without it, he gallops off into the distance as fast as he can go. Of course, he was a puppy/ adolescent then but we don't want to risk it. Chances are good that he would come home - there was the time he got out of the gate when we had workmen over and no-one realised until two hours or so later when he was barking at the gate. But still.

I'm surprised that cuckoos would be in decline. I discovered, the other week, that there's an Asian cuckoo and I was a bit disappointed because I've never been comfortable with their survival tactic.

>110 lauralkeet: Yup, my job too. I label wires and put coloured sticker dots on them but it's still a puzzle. And it doesn't help when our cable boxes get changed and the guy who comes to install them pulls everything out and all my neatly bundled wires get tangled again.

>111 SandDune: I think I heard an interview on BBC WS about that film about a month or so ago. I think at one point Istanbul was invaded or colonised and a dog tripped the ambassador into the river, after which all dogs were banned. But then the vermin population exploded and so dogs were welcomed back as honoured guests. Or something vaguely like that.

>114 PawsforThought: That's a sweet story.
(Not the rabies warning :0) Not having grown up in the UK, we've always known not to pet strange animals. My mum, having had to have precautionary rabies shots as a child, made sure we had it drilled into us.)

maj 18, 6:03am

We have a busy week this week with household repairs, maintenance and other items.

Monday we had the carpets cleaned. It’s not that long since the last time we had the carpets cleaned but they had to cope with Jacob being at home over the winter and he is very heavy on carpets.

Today I have an appointment at the local hospital to have a steroid injection (via ultrasound) in my shoulder which has been playing up again. I can’t drive myself home, and they’ve said to rest it for 48 hours - not 100% sure if I will be able to drive in that time.

Tomorrow the car is going for a repair (covered by warranty luckily) and Mr SandDune will have to come back on the train if I can’t drive the other car to pick him up. We’ve also got the guy coming to replace the damaged SkyBox.

Thursday we have someone from John Lewis coming around to repair our mattress. The stitching of one of the seams has come apart: I knew it had a reasonably long guarantee but I couldn’t find the receipt and I couldn’t remember exactly when we bought it. But when we were in John Lewis looking at sofas the other day we were next to the mattress department and they had a sign up saying 7 year guarantee, so I thought I’d see if they had any record of the purchase. They managed to find it easily and we purchased the bed and mattress in 2016 so it is still under guarantee.

Then Friday we have replacement TV stand arriving and being assembled. I originally booked for today but forgot I was coming to hospital, so had to change it. Mr SandDune wanted me to get an electrician around as well to sort out the extractor fan in the bathroom which has stopped working, but I said enough is enough and that can be next week.

maj 18, 6:32am

>118 SandDune: That sounds like a lot to contend with at once (doesn't it always go that way?)

maj 18, 7:57am

>118 SandDune: Whew! That's a whirlwind of activity, Rhian. But then it's also satisfying to get those kinds of things taken care of. They do tend to pile up.

maj 18, 1:46pm

>116 quondame: It was pretty damp, but not so shivering. It’s gone from a very cold And very dry April to a (slightly) warmer but very wet May.

>117 humouress: Daisy’s recall is pretty good in the main. Unless she sees a deer, that is, and there are a fair number of deer locally. We keep a very close eye on her or keep her on the lead in the likely deer spots.

I looked it up and they don’t specifically know why cuckoos are in decline, as the birds that they parasitise are not. Apparently there is a suspicion that slight changes in the breeding of their host species because of climate change, means that cuckoos are looking for nests too late. (If you don’t like the life cycle of cuckoos, I would give wasps a complete miss, if I were you!)

Funnily enough, a lot of the people in the documentary seemed more than happy to pat the dogs, although rabies is endemic in Turkey.

>119 elkiedee: >120 lauralkeet: I am definitely having a quieter week next week.

maj 18, 1:50pm

Well, I had my ultrasound and steroid injection. Apparently, I have bursitis in my shoulder and there is no actual damage to the tendon. They do the injection while looking at the ultrasound, so hopefully it has hit the spot.

I will be able to drive tomorrow - apparently the prohibition was because of the anaesthetic, not because the arm wouldn’t be able to cope.

maj 18, 2:14pm

>122 SandDune: *fans self* quite the whirlwind chez vous, but all of it positive, that is fixing for free, so yay.

Happiest news is your absence of damaged tendons!

maj 18, 3:21pm

>123 richardderus: As long as this can fix the discomfort! He’s suggested physiotherapy when it’s pain free to sort it out on a more permanent basis. I’m just hoping it isn’t very painful tomorrow - last time I had a steroid injection I had a couple of very painful days.

maj 19, 12:17pm

Definitely good news that it's not your tendons!

maj 19, 12:29pm

>122 SandDune: - Oh, ouch. I had bursitis in my elbow a couple of years ago and it was miserable.

maj 20, 3:31pm

Excitement in the garden today! There was some squawking and then a bang, and so I went to see what the commotion was about. I found a starling fledgling lying on the floor with its legs in the air outside the back door. When I opened the door to see how it was doing it perked up enough to fly into a tree. And when I got back to the kitchen I saw what was the cause of the commotion - a male sparrowhawk sitting under the tree busy dismembering another starling fledgling. It must have swooped down to grab the starling, and panicked the rest of them causing the first one to fly into the glass. Anyway, I got a very good look at it while it had its meal - a lovely looking bird.

>125 drneutron: >126 katiekrug: It seems to be improving today. Last time I had this done it was agony for a few days, but not so bad this time.

maj 20, 3:44pm

I have signed up for a two hour course on Italian Graphic novels on Monday ... in Italian. I am not 100% sure that my Italian will be quite up to it, but we’ll see. It says it’s for intermediate levels and above ... my Italian is probably just about intermediate (although my reading is pretty good). But I thought graphic novels sounds an easier way to improve than ordinary novels.

maj 20, 6:37pm

>128 SandDune: Italian graphic novels sound fascinating.

Alas I haven't a word of Italian to my name

Redigeret: maj 21, 11:45am

>129 magicians_nephew: I lived in Italy for a year after University. That was a very long time ago I know, but I’ve periodically done courses to keep it up, as well as occasional visits to practise. I can generally read a magazine article say (if it’s on a topic that I know something about). I do find that as a result of my stay in Italy I can sometimes launch confidently into a sentence without really thinking about it, and then realise I have no idea how to finish it. At one time I used to be able to think in Italian, but that’s long gone.

maj 21, 2:45pm

I’m definitely getting tired of this spring. April was apparently the frostiest on record as well as one of the driest. At the start of May it started raining, and it has rained and rained and rained. Apparently now it’s on course for the wettest May ever. And it’s still not very warm. Today’s top temperature was around 12°C, whereas it should be around 18°C at this time of year. And there have also been gales, which are not exactly May weather. We were thinking about going to Kew Gardens this weekend, but with this weather it’s not just worth it.

Redigeret: maj 22, 5:38pm

>128 SandDune: I think if I was going to become fluent in any language, I'd pick Italian Rhian. I did buy a course, but haven't got to it yet. I have enough for the basic courtesies/directions/ordering of food when I am there is all.

>131 SandDune: it was 27c this time last year according to my journal, sigh.

maj 26, 7:56am

>128 SandDune: Would love to hear more about this. We have a course on GN at the institution I work at and I am rather green about it.

jun 5, 3:36pm

How's the Italian GN course going?

Happy weekend, Rhian!

jun 9, 4:58am

>132 Caroline_McElwee: >133 charl08: >134 richardderus: Well the Italian Graphics novels course is yet to happen. It was supposed to be the end of May, and then it was postponed to last Monday, and then five minutes before the session was due to start it was postponed again until next Monday due to technical reasons. They have been pretty apologetic and have given the price of the course as a discount against future courses in compensation. It is actually a reputable provider (the City Lit in London) that I have been studying French with all year, so I don’t know what has happened with this one.

I was pleased to find out this week that they are continuing with their on-line courses next year, as it would be difficult to continue with a structured French class at an appropriate level locally. I’d end up having to go to Cambridge or into London to find something appropriate, I think.

Redigeret: jun 9, 5:36am

I’ve realised that I haven’t been on LT for ages. I have gone down a bit of a Family History rabbit hole the last couple of weeks which has been keeping me busy. I’ve also been having some gynaecological investigations the end result of which is that I need to have some uterine polyps removed, which I am not looking forward to at all!

And we have been away which was so nice! We went up to Lancaster to see Jacob for a few days. When we’ve been up there before it’s very much been dropping off or picking up and we haven’t had time to look around, so it was nice to do some sightseeing. And it’s a lovely part of the world, and I’m taken with the city as well. We’ve realised that Lancaster is actually probably the furthest from home that he could go to a major university and still be in England, so it’s a long drive. We managed to eat out every night: actually outside as the weather was pretty good, so I didn’t have to go into a panic about being inside a restaurant. Surprisingly, the weather in Lancaster was better than it was here, where apparently it was quite wet when we were away.

Jacob is hopefully moving all his stuff into his next year’s accommodation at the beginning of July, so we might not need to fetch him at the end of term as he could come home on the train. It’s a long drive to turn straight around again. This term he seems to be able to do much more normal university stuff and meet people, which is nice for him.

Pictures to follow below.

jun 9, 6:35am

Here are some photos from Arnside Knott, a hill outside the village of Arnside just north of Lancaster.

This one is looking south-west over Morecambe Bay. Apparently, this is the largest expanse of mudflats and sand in the U.K. and is notorious for quicksands and dangerous tides.

This is looking north over the estuary of the River Kent (with its railway viaduct), which flows into Morecambe Bay. In the background you can see the hills of the Lake District.

And here are Jacob (who doesn’t like his photo taken) and Daisy. She was very hot at this point, which I think had a lot to do with her insistence on carrying that large stick halfway up the hill. She was so excited to see Jacob again.

jun 9, 6:52am

Some views of the village of Dolphinholme, just outside Lancaster, where we were staying.

Mr SandDune in the garden of the pub where we were staying:

Lower Dolphinholme, what would originally have been workers houses clustered around an eighteenth century mill:

The tidiest allotments that I have ever seen in my entire life:

The River Wyre, flowing through the village. Daisy found this very frustrating as try as she might she couldn’t work out how to get to the water as the river had very steep banks.

jun 9, 7:43am

Looks like a lovely trip, Rhian. I could sit in that pub garden for hours, and the allotment photo reminds me of the needlework piece you're working on which is the only other tidy allotment I've ever seen. I'm glad Jacob can move his things into new digs so soon and not have to schlep everything back and forth just for the summer.

Redigeret: jun 9, 9:42am

And finally some pictures of the Lancaster canal, which was built from Preston to Kendal completely without locks so it follows the same level all the way.

And here is a picture of the Glasson branch, which does have a lock being much lower than the main canal, and goes to connect with the River Lune where it meets the sea.

jun 9, 9:22am

>136 SandDune: + Aside from the medical issue, that all sounds very enjoyable Rhian.

Great photos too. Looks like you had perfect weather. I agree, a very tidy allotment.

jun 9, 9:41am

>139 lauralkeet: It was a very nice pub. We did sit there for some time to be honest They had a lovely garden in the other direction, much nicer than your average pub garden. And they also took Daisy - in fact they made a huge fuss of Daisy.

The needlework allotment is not progressing at the moment as I am trying to finish my crochet blanket.

>141 Caroline_McElwee: The weather was actually much nicer than forecast. As I said we managed to eat outside every evening fairly comfortably.

Redigeret: jun 9, 10:43am

21. Penric and the Demon Lois McMaster Bujold ****

This is a sweet story set in the world of Lois McMaster Bujold’s world of the Five Gods. Lord Penric of kin Jurald, a younger son of impoverished minor nobility, is on his way to his betrothal to the daughter of a wealthy cheese merchant, a match intended to mend the family fortunes. He’s less than happy about the arrangement, having met his intended only on three (strictly chaperoned) occasions previously, and he would much rather go fishing. But as the nice, sweet-tempered boy that he is, he falls in line with his family’s wishes:
How hard could husbanding be? Don’t drink, don’t gamble, don’t bring hunting dogs to the table. Don’t be terrified of tooth-drawers. Don’t be stupid about money. Don’t go for a soldier. No hitting girls. He wasn’t drawn to violate any of these prohibitions. Assuming older sisters weren’t classified as girls. Maybe make that, No hitting girls first.

But then a chance encounter with a dying Divine of the Bastard’s Order turn Penric’s expectations upside down. For when Divines die, their Demons must find a new host nearby, and Penric is conveniently close.

This is a short novella with less depth than The Curse of Chalion, but very enjoyable nonetheless.

jun 9, 10:40am

>136 SandDune: et. seq. I'm so sorry to hear that you'll need a de-polyping. I used to have the olyp issue in my colon, and the ligations they used there would certainly not work in your uterus. So I hope it's an easy-out one-visit kind of a surgery.

The Jacob pic is the first one I ever recall seeing of him...he must really dislike photo-taking!

I have never even dreamed of a *garden* as tidy as those allotments. I find it off-putting, deeply concerned with control and appearances, they must be nightmare neighbors.

The vacay photeaux are simply lovely. The Lancaster Canal ones especially make me swoon!

Splendid Thursday wishes a widge early.

jun 9, 11:05am

>136 SandDune: It didn’t sound as if it was going to be too onerous. It’s a local anaesthetic, although now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have been a wimp and opted for general anaesthetic instead.

I can get photos of Jacob but they only occasionally show his face. Here are a couple of my favourites (the hair length varies a lot).

This is from a few months ago, and is very characteristic:

This one is from 2018:

I actually loved the allotments although my own garden is very different. My approach to weeds has changed over the years. Now if a weed grows I tend to leave it unless it’s blocking a plant I want or it is particularly ugly.

jun 9, 11:14am

I absolutely love the top one! Daisy is quite clearly accustomed to getting hand-outs...she's so focused on Jacob's face to see if *this* is the one. Heh. So wonderful, dogs, they are utterly and totally in the moment. They want what they want with tremendous singleness of purpose.

Redigeret: jun 9, 12:35pm

22. The Town House Norah Lofts ***

At the very beginning of the fourteenth century Martin, the smith’s son (an apprentice blacksmith himself), runs away from his parish of Rede when the Lord of the Manor refuses him permission to marry his sweetheart Kate. The couple end up in the market town of Baildon , where Martin discovers that living as a freeman is not necessarily any easier than living as a serf. With his progress to journeyman after the end of his apprenticeship blocked by the town guilds, he is unable to earn sufficient money to keep them, and the couple are frequently on the verge of starvation. And then an attack on Martin leaves him crippled and in despair:

I lay still, thinking, my leg is broken. Broken bones will knot themselves together but like a thread which has been tied they are shortened. I thought that. Then I remembered that what I had just lately thought to be a dream was real enough. I lived in Baildon, had a wife and two children and had found it hard to make a living when I was whole and well. Henceforth I should be a cripple, a beggar.

This older book by Norah Lofts seems to be well researched about what it might be like to like in the Middle Ages, and I found that aspect of the book fascinating. Unfortunately, the characters were less well drawn. I don’t mind characters that aren’t likeable but the characters here, as the reader follows Martin and his family over time, aren’t necessarily engaging either. And it is unrelentingly bleak at times. I know living in the Middle Ages wouldn’t necessarily have been a bundle of laughs, but they must have had some fun sometimes?

This is part of a trilogy following the house that Martin builds (The Town House of the title) up until the twentieth century. I may well read the next one to see how the town has moved on.

jun 9, 2:55pm

Thank for sharing all the pictures, Rhian, looks like a lovely place to walk around.

What is it with dogs and large sticks? My first dog loved those too, and would run with it so it ended up in the back of our knees. The next large stick lover was better, he would turn his head, so the stick would not touch us.

jun 9, 4:04pm

>136 SandDune: Arrgh about the polyp thing. I've had them scraped out regularly, and have had to make sure the staff know I have GERDS and get doused with antacids before the procedure or I end up with more pain in my esophagus than anywhere else.

jun 9, 5:21pm

Love all the phots, Rhian, including the ones with your son and Mr. SandDune. Thanks for sharing.

jun 9, 8:14pm

Your photos reminded me how much I am missing travelling and the UK in particular, Rhian.
Lancaster was one of the Universities I put on list for Universities as I was looking at campus universities for reasons I cannot really recall and I finished up at Warwick (my other picks were Aberystwyth, East Anglia and for some strange reason Newcastle which wasn't campus Uni).

I remember going up to Lancaster in mid winter on the train for an interview and I got an offer for a place but I had put Warwick first and had to take them as I got the required points.

jun 10, 3:39am

Lovely photos, Rhian.
I read the The Town House and the rest of the trilogy (and most of Norah Lofts's other books) as a teenager when I was going through my historical novel phase, and enjoyed them all but I wonder if they might seem dated now. I have Kindle Unlimited at the moment and they are available there so i might have a look.

Redigeret: jun 10, 9:05am

>146 richardderus: Daisy knows that Jacob is her best bet if it comes to any hand-outs. She tries him first, then me, then Mr SandDune last.

>148 FAMeulstee: Daisy will try to pick up a stick wherever she goes, to the extent of trying to pull branches off small trees if there’s nothing more readily available. (We do stop her doing this.) But she is definitely one of the ‘bash everyone in the back of the knees’ type of dog! She has no idea how wide the stick is.

>149 quondame: From the sound of it I will get an appointment pretty quickly. But I’m not looking forward to it.

>150 msf59: Thanks Mark!

>151 PaulCranswick: Lancaster has a very nice campus, and although it’s out of town it’s got an excellent bus service so easy to get in. And it’s well connected for such a small city. We’re looking forward to getting to know it better. But it is a long way from here!

Somewhat surprisingly, since I posted yesterday Jacob is now home. He phoned up yesterday afternoon to announce that he was coming home for a few days. His laptop has broken and when he took it to be fixed on Wednesday he discovered that it will take a little while to get the required spare parts. Usually he could work in the library, but as it is exam season and there are also social distancing procedures in place in the library there are not so many computers available. So he has come home to use our computers while he does his exams (they are going to be the 24 hour online type).

>152 CDVicarage: One thing I liked about The Town House was that it didn’t feel that it had modern characters plonked down in the Middle Ages, something I find irritating about a lot of historical fiction. And I did enjoy reading about the practicalities of life in the period, and the social attitudes of the characters. It’s certainly not the type of thing that is in fashion at the moment, but it does have merit. I believe it was based on Bury St. Edmunds and I was interested in the account of the riots against the Abbey, as I remember reading about a succession of riots protesting about the Abbey there when we visited fairly recently.

jun 10, 7:23am

Lovely to see the Lancaster trip photos Rhian. I walked there ages ago, and haven't been back so maybe time for a repeat visit when the current COVID 'guidance' lifts. You were lucky with the weather, too!

jun 10, 10:36am

>143 SandDune: I just finished two Omnibus editions of the Penric adventures (Penric's Progress and Penric's Travels). I loved the stories and having the novellas gathered like this was great because then it felt like a saga. I may need to buy up the entire Pen and Des series, because they feel like potential re-reads to me.

Also enjoyed all your photos of the Lancaster countryside. What a beautiful part of England. It looks idyllic. The stone buildings and fields seem an out-of-time setting. Do you live in a similar house like the one shown in Lower Dolphinholme?

jun 10, 5:18pm

>154 charl08: I think everyone rushes past Lancaster on the way to the Lake District. But it is lovely around there.

>155 SandyAMcPherson: Do you live in a similar house Very much not, I’m afraid! We live in a fairly boring house built in 1995 on a housing estate on the edge of town. But old houses in this part of the world don’t look like that - you wouldn’t find anything that wasn’t very grand made out of stone around here, as there isn’t any stone suitable for building locally.

Old houses near us tend to look like this:

Timber framed basically, although sometimes the timber-framing is all plastered over. A feature of some local vernacular architecture is to do pargeting in the plasterwork forming patterns, so like this:

And there’s a fair amount of thatched roofs around. Our friend has one on their house which dates from the 1600’s. But definitely no stone.

jun 10, 6:46pm

>156 SandDune: I like those timber-framed houses too. The colours are fun. Remind me of how cheerful the variously-painted houses look in the photos I see from Atlantic Canada.
Thanks for the 'education'.

I går, 3:27am

>157 SandyAMcPherson: Those pictures are from a town called Saffron Walden which is about 25 minutes to the north of us. There are old timbered buildings in Bishop’s Stortford (where we live) too, the oldest dating from around 1400, but they are all shops or pubs now, rather than houses.

I går, 12:56pm

>156 SandDune: "Pargeting" is a thing! So "Jean Pargeter" was from a family whose ancestors did that (weird-looking, actually) thing to houses!

...astounding what you lot think up to pass the time...

I går, 2:17pm

>159 richardderus: Oh but it’s pretty ...

Redigeret: I går, 3:11pm

23. Motherwell Deborah Orr ****

Deborah Orr was born the daughter of a manual worker in the Scottish steel making town of Motherwell, dominated by the massive steel works of Ravenscraig. She became the first female editor of The Guardian’s Weekend magazine at the age of thirty. Motherwell is the story of how she got from one to the other, and in particular of how her relationship with her mother Win affected her along the way. Win was a woman made in a very different mould to herself: a mother who believed that girls should stay at home until marriage and who didn’t see the point of University. A mother who was controlling, and whose attitudes and expectations were to clash again and again with those of her daughter. And a mother with who Deborah Orr never came to terms until the day that Win died.

On Deborah’s wedding day to the author Will Self (and there is clearly a whole untold and acrimonious story going on there) Win was still not prepared to defer to the bride:

‘No! You are Mrs Self now! You are Mrs William Woodard Self!’
‘Please. Let’s not argue about it now, Mum. This isn’t the time. It’s my wedding day!’
‘Yes! And on her wedding day the woman takes the husband’s name!’
From that day on, every time she sent me anything in the post it would be addressed, in bold capitals, to MRS WILLIAM W SELF. I’d ask her not to, sporadically. But she always did. There are mothers who will never cease to refuse their daughters their own identity, in whatever way they can. My mother was one of them.

Deborah Orr was pretty much the same age as myself, and it was fascinating being reminded about certain aspects of growing up in the 1960s and 70s. And our background had certain similarities: my grandfathers had worked in the coal mines and the fathers of some of my friends were steelworkers (although the actual steel works was in the next town to ours). But in other ways Deborah Orr’s childhood in Motherwell was totally different: insular, sectarian and with parents whose attitudes to female education and careers seem hugely old-fashioned even for their generation.

This was a fascinating book, but by the end it just seems that Deborah blames her mother just a little too much, blaming her really for pretty much everything that goes wrong in her life. Always her mother, never her father (although he clearly has issues of his own). It would have been a better book if the editor had made her cut down on the words narcissism and narcissistic, traits with which she seems a trifle obsessed. But well worth a read.

I går, 3:15pm

>161 SandDune: Oh my heck, the invalidating parent syndrome was strong in that one. I don't wonder that Orr refused to back down...that was an inch-is-as-good-as-a-mile fight.

Sad. So, so sad.

>160 SandDune: ...okay...sure...

I går, 3:52pm

>162 richardderus: Oh she was definitely a controlling mother - there was no question about that. And she absolutely could not handle her daughter growing up and becoming a woman in her own right with her own sexuality. We read this for my June book club - most people found it interesting, but everyone felt somewhat surprised that Deborah Orr (who was apparently a formidable woman) was not able to move on from her relationship with her mother rather more successfully than she had. The mother was a pain in the neck but several of us came away from the book thinking that we wouldn’t have been that taken with the daughter either.

I går, 4:12pm

When I read Motherwell I felt quite sad that Deborah Orr hadn't had time to see the book come out, or to move on from both the experiences in the writing or from the breakup of her marriage to Will Self. (For anyone reading this who isn't aware, Deborah Orr died in 2919 of breast cancer before her memoir was published.

I was quite interested when she posted on Twitter about her ex's demands, basically wanting her to pack and label his stuff for him to make his life easier. My former boss, who left Camden before I did, the Borough Solicitor or top person in the Legal Department, responded to offer any free legal advice she could in relation to this.

I går, 4:53pm

>161 SandDune: Good review Rhian. I'm really hoping they publish a collection of her writing. The memoir was very different to her social/political stuff.

I går, 5:31pm

>164 elkiedee: >165 Caroline_McElwee: I don’t know why, but Deborah Orr’s existence had passed me by completely until I became aware of this book, which is strange as I have been an avid Guardian reader most of my life. The book clearly doesn’t cover much of her adult life, but from what it does cover she seemed to have made some appalling choices in men. I think I would have liked a little more introspection. She very much focuses on what everyone else has done wrong, but apart from mentioning at one point that she didn’t make a great job of mothering herself, there isn’t any great consideration of her own actions.

We had an interesting discussion about the book at my book club. I found Deborah’s parents attitudes to University education and the role of women in general incredibly old fashioned even for their generation, but other women in the group (who are all about the same age as me or slightly younger) had encountered more of that sort of attitude. I know that my parents would have no more discouraged me from going to University than they would have flown to the moon. The only thing that would have bettered a University education in their eyes would have been to have studied at the Royal College of Music. An ex-boyfriend of my sisters did that, and that was clearly the pinnacle of their ambition.

I går, 5:44pm

Enjoying the photos, Rhian.

It's a part of England I dont know worth shucks

I går, 6:38pm

>166 SandDune: My parents never questioned going to university for my sisters in 1965 California...the only question was which one.

Redigeret: I dag, 11:49am

23. Necessity’s Child Sharon Lee Steve Miller ****
25. Dragon in Exile Sharon Lee Steve Miller ****

Difficult to explain what is going on in these books without numerous spoilers and explanation about what has gone on before.

But in brief:

In Necessity’s Child Liaden Rys Lin pen’Chala is found almost dead by the secretive kompani of the Bedel, who live below the streets of Surebleak. Meanwhile above ground the members of clan Korval attempt to introduce schooling for the children of Surebleak, a scheme that is not universally popular...

In Dragon in Exile Korval continues their battles against the mysterious Department of the Interior and reactionary elements on Surebleak itself.

These books are great fun and better for getting back to the thread that deals with clan Korval itself. I’ve lately been reading the Theo Wately books, which are good, but not as enjoyable as these.