A Country Walk on Public Rights of Way

Being a bookaholic means that I spend a lot of time inside, as I don’t really like reading outside even on sunny, warm days. But I do love walking and maps. Although we haven’t got nearly as many maps as books we do have quite a large collection of maps because every time we go to a new place we buy a map and explore the countryside and towns. The photo shows a small selection of our maps.

I’ve been meaning to write about walking since I started this blog. England is criss-crossed by many, many miles of public rights of way and my husband and I spent many years working as rights of way officers dealing with the maps, landowners, walkers, horse riders and cyclists, and not forgetting the trail riders. We love walking, although now we don’t walk as much as we used to do. We went for a walk today and although the sun wasn’t shining it was a perfect autumn day. The trees are just turning bronze, yellow and gold and the views were beautiful. The fields have been ploughed and the new crops are just showing through. It was so peaceful; we were alone in the countryside, apart from the birds, cattle and sheep and not another soul in sight.

These are some of the views from our walk.

When we go out walking we can’t help looking at things from a Rights of Way point of view. The public footpaths are all open and easy to use, but the photograph below is a good example of what I mean. It should have been marked out at least 1 metre wide by the farmer as it is a cross-field path. But it’s really narrow and because it’s only been walked out through the crop by people using the path it is only just wide enough to walk along in single file. Anyway, as we’re retired now we just moan about it to each other and carry on – it’s still walkable after all. We can’t help noticing when paths are not quite in the right position either and that’s another little gripe.

There were cattle in the next field. They weren’t the slightest bit interested in us and carried on munching the grass as we walked by.

Further on our walk we left the fields and continued down a little enclosed path, the ground covered in fallen leaves.

This led to a another narrow footpath fenced in between two fields – sheep in one and more cattle in the other. Looking at old maps I can see that it was originally an unfenced path across a larger field. At some time after 1930 the field was divided in two and the path enclosed between the two fences.

This is an awkward path to walk along as it is on a slope and is stepped, one side being slightly higher than the other and is uneven – you have to watch where you put your feet. But I’m just being picky now, it’s not hard to walk along and many people use it every day with little difficulty.

As we walked along the cattle ignored us but the sheep were very interested and came to see us.

This Land is Our Land by Marion Shoard is about the history of the British countryside and has some interesting information about the origins of public rights of way. Now the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 has made more areas of the countryside open for public access, but rights of way still provide the main access available for the public to use.

Good places to find information on public rights of way are Defra and the Ramblers’s Association. The Ordnance Survey publishes a series of Pathfinder Guides for walks in the British Isles. They’re excellent and give details of walks of varying lengths and difficulty ranging from gentle strolls to quite challenging routes over rugged terrain.

Celebrate the Author Challenge

Celebrate the Author Challenge

After writing the last post about not buying any more books for a while I found this challenge. It is a twelve month challenge from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008, set up by Becky. The challenge is designed to “celebrate” authors’ birthdays. Choose one author for each month of the year. Read at least one book a month. You can choose alternatives for each month and you do NOT have to choose a book until the very moment you’re ready to start reading. You can change your mind so long as you change your list to reflect that change.

This suits me very well as I have a long list of books to be read and so the authors I’ve currently chosen are all taken from that list. I particularly like the idea that I can change my mind as I do like to read spontaneously and this gives me that freedom of choice. I hope that this challenge will help me clear the backlog of unread books!

January – Virginia Woolf or Edith Wharton or Lewis Carroll

February – Amy Tan or Alice Walker or Charles Dickens

March – Elizabeth Jane Howard or William Morris or Robert Frost

April – Sebastian Faulks or Ian Rankin or Anthony Trollope

May – Daphne Du Maurier or Richard Adams or Margaret Forster

June – Orhan Pamuk or Thomas Hardy

July – Alexander Dumas or Joanne Harris

August – Irving Stone or Jorges Louis Borges or Mollie Panter-Downes

September – Kiran Desai or Chimananda Ngozi Adichie or Elizabeth Gaskell

October – Melvyn Bragg or A N Wilson

November – George Eliot or Chinua Achebe or Mark Twain

December – Jane Austen or Sophie Kinsella

I will not buy any more books … for a while at least

I read Nan’s post at Letters from a Hill Farm with complete empathy this morning. She has resolved not to buy any more books for a long, long time.

I can’t understand why I keep buying books and borrowing yet more from the library and other people when I have so many unread books. It’™s become an obsession and I keep meaning to stop, but then I’™ll go shopping and think I’™ll just have a look and I come home with yet more books. I do the same at the library ‘“ I think I’™ll only return books and not take out any more, but it never happens.

Here are just a few of my unread books and these are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s all getting out of hand and it’s got to stop.

So, I’m joining Nan in resolving not to buy any more books for a while – at least until after Christmas. Having so many unread books around makes me feel hassled – and it’s all self-imposed and unnecessary and getting expensive too. I have stopped adding to my wishlist (well nearly stopped, because I added one this morning, before I read Nan’™s blog). I also intend not to borrow any more books until I’™ve read the ones I got out now.

I’™ve done very well so far. I went shopping this morning at the supermarket and only looked at the books. There were a couple I could have bought but I resisted. Then when I paid at the checkout I was given a voucher for 100 extra points if I buy a book from the supermarket’™s recommended reads before 4 November. Oh dear, it would be a shame to waste it. Maybe I could buy one as a present for someone else?

Wish me luck, please!

Booking Through Thursday – Typography

You may or may not have seen my post at Punctuality Rules Tuesday, about a book I recently bought that had the actual TITLE misspelled on the spine of the book. A glaring typographical error that really (really!) should have been caught. So, using that as a springboard, today’™s question: What’™s the worst typographical error you’™ve ever found in (or on) a book?

I’ve never seen such a glaring error, although there have been many times when I’ve come across small typos in books. I’ve not kept a record of them so I can’t quote any here. Generally I find them irritating if it means I have to re-read a sentence to make sense of it, otherwise I might not even notice. Some are just amusing and don’t bother me, although I do wonder why a spell check hasn’t picked them up.

I do get upset about punctuation, when it’s is used instead of its for example and read Eats, Shoot and Leaves by Lynne Truss with great pleasure. I used to write reports on rights of way and always had to double check that the l was always there in the word public – so embarrassing if it got missed out.

A Reading Meme

I’™ve seen this meme on several blogs recently and thought I’™d like to do it too. I don’™t know where it started but the last blog I saw it on is Emily’™s.

Number of Books You Own

I don’™t know exactly how many books my husband and I own. We have books all over the house. I had started to catalogue the books in a database on our laptop when were burgled and the laptop was stolen. I felt too disheartened to start again. Later when I found Library Thing I started to use it and I keep adding to it gradually.

Last Book you Bought

Completely Unexpected Tales by Roald Dahl ‘“ bizarre and macabre stories. I bought this at The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre when we visited it on Sunday. I have so many unread books that I really shouldn’™t have bought another one, but I enjoyed the museum so much that I wanted to read something by Roald Dahl. This book includes all the stories previously published in Tales of the Unexpected and More Tales of the Unexpected ‘“ I remember watching the TV series years ago. I’™m looking forward to reading them soon.

Last Book someone else bought you

My husband bought me some books for my birthday, including Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. He knows that books always please. This is one that I’™ve heard is very good, so again I’™m looking forward to it.

Five books that Mean a Lot to Me:

Books as a whole mean a lot to me so this is impossible to choose just five. I would probably choose different ones tomorrow but these five came to mind today.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I think I like this one best of all Jane Austen’™s books. I’™ve read it so many times since I was about 12 and still have the copy that belonged to my mother. Elizabeth Bennet is the character I most admire for her forthright, strong character. I love the way she rejected Mr Collins and stood up to Lady Catherine de Burgh. I can even forgive her initial prejudice against Mr Darcy.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This was the first Dickens I read. My Great Aunt gave me this for Christmas one year when I was a child and I’™ve loved it ever since. She gave me a beautiful little illustrated book and I can’™t find it just now, which is just awful.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I could have chosen Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, but decided on Wuthering Heights as it was such a revelation to me the first time I read it. I was completely engrossed in the story ‘“ the tragedy, passion, love and mystery of it all.

An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan. I was completely taken with this book. It’™s the autobiographical account of Keenan’™s captivity in Beirut. It’™s beautifully written, compelling, sensitive and hauntingly horrific and sad. I read this along with Taken on Trust by Terry Waite and Some other Rainbow by John McCarthy and Jill Morrell also telling of their experiences as hostages. They’™re all remarkable books, but Keenan’™s is outstanding.

Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire. This is about seeing beyond the ordinary, mundane moments of our lives to the eternal. He uses examples from art, poems, novels, music and films as parables to illuminate the deeper meaning in everyday life. I love this book.

Sons and Lovers – D H Lawrence

I’ve had my second-hand copy of Sons and Lovers sitting unread in a bookcase for several years. The Outmoded Authors Challenge gave me the incentive to read it, one because I was surprised to find D H Lawrence is considered to be outmoded, two because I didn’t have to buy or borrow it and three because it could then come off my to be read list.

When I took off the tatty cover, I discovered that the book inside was not a bit tatty or worn out and as an added bonus it not only contains Sons and Lovers, but also, St Mawr, The Virgin and the Gypsy and The Man Who Died. I’d read The Virgin and the Gypsy a few years ago, but the others were completely new to me.

If you’re planning to read the book, be aware that there are spoilers ahead.

Sons and Lovers is a powerful, emotional novel depicting the struggle, strife, and passion of relationships and their intensity, and possessiveness. Throughout the book Lawrence’s vivid descriptions and observation of the English countryside are so beautiful that I couldn’t stop marvelling at his writing. There are so many examples I could quote. Here is just one:

The sun was going down. Every open evening, the hills of Derbyshire were blazed over with the red sunset. Mrs Morel watched the sun sink from the glistening sky, leaving a soft flower-blue overhead, while the western space went red, as if all the fire had swum down there, leaving the bell cast flawless blue. The mountain-ash berries across the field stood fiercely out from the dark leaves for a moment. A few shocks of corn in a corner of the fallow stood up as if a live; she imagined them bowing; perhaps her son would be a Joseph. In the east, a mirrored sunset floated pink opposite the west’s scarlet. The big haystacks on the hillside, that butted into the glare, went cold.

The story starts with a description of the cottages in ‘The Bottoms’ where the Morrels live in Nottinghamshire overlooking the hills of Derbyshire. Places feature strongly in the novel and for me provided reality and solidity. Lawrence takes the ordinary and it becomes extraordinary. The family conflict between Walter Morel and his wife and sons is one of the main themes. To Walter, his wife is a ‘thing of mystery and fascination, a lady‘ but although at first she thinks he is rather wonderful and noble she soon becomes contemptuous of him and eventually despises him.

Mrs Morel is the dominant character in the Morel family. She is described as a ‘rather small woman, of delicate mould but resolute bearing’. She is disappointed in her life and her marriage and lives her life through her children and in particular through her three sons – William, Paul and Arthur. William, the oldest leaves home, marries and dies young; Arthur, the youngest, joins the army and also marries; but Paul remains at home and is dominated by his mother and her intense, possessive love for him.

Paul is sensitive, torn between his love for his mother and his feelings for Miriam. Miriam ‘is very beautiful, with her warm colouring, her gravity, her eyes dilating suddenly like an ecstasy.’ Her intensity makes Paul anxious and feel tortured and imprisoned. It is a love/hate relationship. His mother thinks that Miriam will ‘absorb him till there is nothing left of him, even for himself. He will never be a man on his own feet – she will suck him up.’

This struggle with Paul alternately loving and hating Miriam continues for seven agonising years. Paul cannot break free either from Miriam or from his mother’s suffocating love. Indeed, he realises that his mother is the ‘pivot and pole of his life, from which he could not escape‘. At the same time this is not enough for him and it makes him mad with restlessness. Although Paul cannot finally break off his connection with Miriam, he and Clara, a married woman who is separated from her husband, have a passionate affair. He still feels a desire to be free. His mother sums him up when she says, ‘Battle – battle  – and suffer. It’s about all you do, as far as I can see.’

In parts I found it a harrowing book, in particular the illness and death of Mrs Morel, such a vivid portrayal of Paul’s agony at watching and waiting for his mother’s death. Sons and Lovers is described on the book cover as an autobiographical novel depicting his domination by his mother’s possessiveness. I think that the description of Mrs Morel’s death must also be based on Lawrence’s own experience to a certain extent as well; it is so compellingly real.

There is so much sadness and tragedy and though Paul is lost after his mother’s death he does find hope for the future:

On every side the immense dark silence seemed pressing him, so tiny a spark, into extinction, and yet, almost nothing, he could not be extinct. Night, in which everything was lost, went reaching out, beyond stars and sun. Stars and sun, a few bright grains, went spinning round for terror, and holding each other in embrace, there in a darkness that outpassed them all, and left them tiny and daunted. So much, and himself, infinitesimal, at the core, a nothingness, and yet not nothing. ‘ -But no, he would not give in. Turning sharply, he walked towards the city’s gold phosphorescence. His fists were shut, his mouth set fast. He would not take that direction, to the darkness, to follow her. He walked towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly.

Current and Ongoing Reading

Today I finished reading Sons and Lovers for the Outmoded Authors Challenge (post to follow) and haven’t started another book yet. I thought I’d take stock and see which books have been hanging around, lurking in different piles waiting to be read.

Currently I’m reading:

1. Lewis Carroll by Morton Cohen. This is a long and detailed biography and I read some each morning, so it’s taking me quite a while to finish. I’m just over half way into the book.

2. Remainder by Tom McCarthy – a novel about a man who is suffering from amnesia and trying to re-discover his identity. I started this in August and at first I was enjoying it. But then I found it hard going, as it seemed to be going over and over the same ground. Whilst this does reflect the state of mind of the main character as he tries to regain his memory it became tedious. It’s a disturbing book, strangely unreal. On the back cover the book is described as a ‘darkly comic meditation’. Well, it’s dark but I don’t think it’s funny. I’ve only got about 90 pages left to read, so I suppose I’ll pick it up again sometime. I don’t think it will matter if I can’t quite remember what happened in the first 196 pages, as it’ll probably be repeated before the end.

3. Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe. I’ve read quite a number of these and will carry on until the 31 October at least – that’s when the R.I.P.II Challenge finishes.

Ongoing reading:

I’m still dipping into is Body Parts by Hermione Lee. I came to a full stop with Thomas Hardy: the Time-Torn Man by Claire Tomalin and Michael Palin’s Diaries of the Monty Python Years some time ago. I still intend to read the latter two books, but they have been pushed to the sidelines. I may go back to one of these now.

Body Parts: Essays on Life-Writing is a very interesting to book to read, especially in conjunction with reading biographies and memoirs. Its about the relationship of biography to fiction and history and also about the writing of biography. When you think about it it’s obvious that because biographers are trying to reconstruct a person’s life from different sources – letters, diaries, other people’s accounts etc that the end result although it may seem as if it is factual, is an interpretation and quasi-fictional. So much has to be assumed. As Hermione Lee writes “Biography is a process of making up or making over.” I bear this in mind as I’m reading Cohen’s biography of Lewis Carroll. There is so much in it that Cohen has read between the lines, without any real solid evidence to support it. Cohen asks questions when it isn’t known what Dodgson’s feelings and opinions were and although he writes that these are ‘almost unanswerable questions‘ he does speculate and suggests answers, prefaced with‘perhaps‘ and questions such as ‘what if?

Body Parts includes essays on Shelley’s Heart and Pepys’s Lobsters; Virginia Woolf’s Nose; Reading in Bed; and Jane Austen Faints. Ill go into more details in another post or two (or more). It’s good stuff.

The computer room/office/little bedroom is in dire need of a good sort out, so I’m going to have to leave the more interesting topic of what book to read next until another time. I’m tempted by One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes, Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (short listed for the Booker Prize), or Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke.