Booking Through Thursday … But, enough about books’¦

Okay, even I can’™t read ALL the time, so I’™m guessing that you folks might voluntarily shut the covers from time to time as well’¦ What else do you do with your leisure to pass the time? Walk the dog? Knit? Run marathons? Construct grandfather clocks? Collect eggshells?

Although I do love reading and always like to have one book or more on the go, I do like doing other things too. I’m later than usual writing Booking Through Thursday as Thursday morning I go to the course (it’s only for 6 weeks) on Dante’s Florence, so you can guess from that that I like art history, Florence, Italy and history. I like to visit anywhere with historical connections, castles, stately homes, churches, museums, etc etc and take photos. I’d like to learn more about photography and improve my photos.

I’ve written before that I do cross-stitching, but recently I haven’t done much – too much reading and writing. I suppose writing does take up more of my time now than it used to, so perhaps I should say writing. Then there is family history – that has been very time consuming recently. I like going to the theatre and cinema too.

I have several Keep Fit type DVDs but the last one I bought has proved to be really hard. It’s Strictly Come Dancersize. I love the show and was so impressed with the fitness of all the dancers and celebrities that I bought the DVD. It is so hard. First of all you have to be able to dance a bit before you can start to follow the routines. Karen and Erin go through the moves and I think I’ve got it until the music starts and some of it is fast! They go through the Salsa, Jive, Quick Step Samba and the Cha Cha. I thought I knew how to jive at least, but no I couldn’t do it – the quick step and the salsa aren’t too bad. I shall persevere.

Also to keep fit we do a bit of walking, although we’re really only fair weather walkers. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day, although a little cold, so we did get out and walked to the lake shown in the blog header. There were swans, ducks and Canada Geese on the lake and as we walked up a heron flew up onto its nest at the top of one of the tall trees at the side of the lake.

Being with the family is one of the best ways to spend leisure time. We have three grandchildren and we love doing things with them, or just being with them. So for example, we’ve been on farm visits, parties, ten-pin bowling, which I love but am terrible at, watching the ballet. Of course one of the most enjoyable things to do is going out for a meal, although after watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares progammes I’m not so sure I should!

Book Meme – Page 123

Sam at The Life and Times of Me! has tagged me for this meme. The rules are:

  1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
  2. Open the book to page 123
  3. Find the fifth sentence
  4. Post the next three sentences
  5. Tag five people

The nearest book was The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham, which I’™d just finished reading.

This passage on page 123 tells of Stroeve’™s reaction to his wife’s death:

‘œHe was absolutely exhausted. His volubility had left him at last, and he sank down wearily on my sofa. I felt that no words of condolence availed, and I let him lie there quietly.’

The Moon and Sixpence was inspired by the life of Paul Gauguin. This quote from the back cover sums it up:

‘œThe Moon and Sixpence is at once a satiric caricature of Edwardian mores and a vivid portrayal of the mentality of genius.’

More about this book will follow in another post.

I do find it difficult to tag other people and I know that a variation of this meme has done the rounds a few months ago. So if you’re reading this and want to do the meme please consider yourself tagged. If you do please let me know.

From The Stacks Challenge

The Overdue Books Challenge came to an end on 31 January 2008. The idea was to read 5 books from those you had already purchased, had been meaning to get to and haven’t read before. There was to be no going out and buying new books and no getting sidetracked by the lure of the holiday bookstore displays.

The books I chose were:

Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie
Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bowers
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom
The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers

On the first count I didn’™t do too well because I only read two of these books, namely The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson, which I wrote about on 13 December 2007 and Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom, which I wrote about on 30 January 2008.

Although I started off quite well it wasn’™t long before I began to buy more books so I failed dismally on the second count. Still, I’™m pleased that I did read at least two books from my To Be Read List, so I’™m counting it as a mini success and I will read the other books this year.

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

This was one of the best books I read in 2007. Philip Reeve is a new author to me and I first read about him on Ann’s blog. Here Lies Arthur is an adventure story, set in Britain in AD 500. I have always been fascinated by the legend of King Arthur and this book tells his story, casting a new and original slant on the ‘facts’. Very little historical evidence has survived to give concrete information about life in Britain from the fifth to the sixth centuries. The picture Reeve paints is of a turbulent and harsh world, with Arthur as a war-leader in a land where opposing war-bands fight for supremacy. Arthur is not the romantic hero of legend but a dangerous, quick-tempered man, ‘solid, big-boned with a thick neck and a fleshy face. ‘A bear of a man.’

Merlin is in this story too, not the magician of legend but Myrddin, a singer of songs and a story-teller par excellence, whose tales convince people of Arthur’s supremacy and power – the King That Was and Will Be. With the help of Gwyna, a young girl whose home has been ransacked and burnt, Myrddin works his own kind of magic on people, eager to believe in miracles, the old gods and spirits, the Lady of the Lake and the significance of the sword, Excalibur called Caliburn in this book.

Gwyna, disguised as a boy acts as Myrddin’s servant as they travel with the war-band. Then as it becomes difficult to continue with the disguise Myrddin sends her to Gwenhwhfar’s household to act as a spy. As in the legend Gwenhwhfar is not faithful to Arthur. Other characters in the legends are interwoven into the story, most memorable is Peredur, Sir Perceval of Round Table fame and the hero of one of the stories in the Mabinogion.

As Gwyna matures she takes on the role played by Myrddin, spinning tales of her own, giving meaning to his life and death. It’s the stories that matter, with their magical enchantment. We can still hope that Myrddin’s Arthur will one day return, ‘the wisest and best king they had ever heard of. You can’t blame people for wanting to believe there’d been a man like that once, and might be again.’

Gwyna ends the story with the tale of the ship carrying Arthur to ‘an island in the west’ where ‘he lies sleeping, healed of all his wounds. And he’ll wake one day, when our need of him is bad enough, and he’ll come back to us. And the name of that ship is called, Hope.’

The stories of course are made up of words and what a spell Reeve has woven with his words. The names and place names conjure up such memories and visions of the time when people in Britain spoke a language similar to Welsh and there is a list at the back of the book with a guide to how they might have been pronounced. I kept referring to the guide as I read along, saying the names out loud and letting the sounds resonate within my head.

It may be sentimental, but this is what I found irresistible in this book, the mixture of fact and fantasy, realism and enchantment, and the importance of story to encourage and inspire people. It brings the legends to life.

Old Filth by Jane Gardam and The Photograph by Penelope Lively

Old Filth tells the story of Sir Edward Feathers, variously known as Eddie, The Judge, Fevvers, Master of the Inner Temple and Teddy. Not a dirty old man, he is ‘œspectacularly clean. You might say ostentatiously clean.’ Filth is his nickname standing for Failed In London Try Hong Kong. He was born in what was then Malaya and sent home to England as a small child of five. The story goes backwards and forwards in time telling of his childhood at boarding school, then after Oxford he became a barrister and eventually a Judge on the circuit in Hong Kong. The book starts with Old Filth aged 80 living on his own in Dorset after the death of his wife, Betty. His near neighbour is Terry Veneering, also a retired lawyer he had known and detested in Hong Kong. He and Terry end up unexpectedly spending Christmas together. I was hooked straight away and read on eagerly.

As Filth begins to look back on his life, he becomes anxious to contact old friends and relations and as he contacts these people the story of his life emerges. He relives their times together, tries to make amends and sees events in a new light. There are many surprises before Filth comes to terms with his life and widowhood. It’™s a gentle book, full of humour and heartbreak.

The Photograph was the first book I read this year and I raced through it eager to find out why Kath was holding hands with a man who wasn’™t her husband, Glyn. After her death, Glyn comes across a photograph inside an envelope on which Kath had written DON’™T OPEN ‘“ DESTROY. It had been taken many years and on close inspection Glyn realises the man is his brother-in-law, Nick.

Glyn, a TV history researcher, infuriated by the photograph and the discovery of her involvement with Nick sets out to discover more. He becomes obsessed with his search as it becomes obvious how little he knew about Kath and her life.

I have always found Penelope Lively’™s books full of interest, easily readable, peopled with believable characters and this one is one of her best. It’™s about relationships, love and fidelity, grief and loss and the power of memory, all topics that for me made this book compelling reading.

Two excellent books.

Heart of a Child Challenge

I really shouldn’t be entering another challenge, but I just can’t resist this one. It’s being run by Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews – see her post on this challenge here.

The challenge is to read 3 to 6 books between February 1, 2008 and July 14, 2008, choosing from books and authors that you discovered, loved, or adored as a child. Anything and everything that you read through the age of 18 would qualify.

The books I will be choosing from are:

  • Mr Blossom’s Shop by Barbara Euphan Todd.
  • Heidi by Joanna Spyri
  • The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
  • What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
  • The Gloriet Tower by Eileen Meyler

These were all favourites. I may have to add Heidi Grows Up and Heidi’s Children and also What Katy Did Next.