The Pooh Character Test

I found this test on Emily’s blog and couldn’t resist doing it myself. I’m not sure I really match all Owl’s characteristics. I’m not as confident as Owl in my own abilities, but I like to think I’m not a Bisy Backson type of person. Although I do like going out and seeing things I also like to stay at home and reflect on things. I don’t really get enough exercise – but hopefully better weather is on the way and I’ll be tempted into the great outdoors.

Your Score: Owl

You scored 16 Ego, 11 Anxiety, and 11 Agency!

“Correct me if I am wrong,” he said, “but am I right in supposing that it is a very Blusterous day outside?”

“Very,” said Piglet, who was quietly thawing his ears, and wishing that he was safely back in his own house.

“I thought so,” said O-wl. “It was on just such a blusterous day as this that my Uncle Robert, a portrait of whom you see upon the wall on your right, Piglet, while returning in the late forenoon from a– What’s that?”

You scored as Owl!

ABOUT OWL: Owl is considered highly educated because he can spell his own name (WOL) and he can even spell Tuesday… although he doesn’t always get it right. Owl is a good sort, really, although he can be a bit of a stuffed shirt, and he tends to overlook the smaller details in life – like the fact that his bellpull is actually someone’s tail.

WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are confident and you feel capable of dealing with whatever life throws at you. You know that you can handle just about everything… mostly because you know how to delegate the job of actually handling things to the people around you. You aren’t one of those Bisy Backsons, who rush around trying to do everything at once. You prefer to stay at home and reflect on life, rather than go out and live it.

Sometimes, you know, you need to stop waiting for things to come to you and go out and get them. You need to go enjoy the weather, smell the fresh air, and pay attention to the little people in your life. They may not be as great as you… but maybe they could use your help.

Link: The Deep and Meaningful Winnie-The-Pooh Character Test written by wolfcaroling on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
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The Sunday Salon – New Books Today

Well, new to me at any rate. I’ve been out shopping – it still seems wrong that the shops are open on a Sunday, but every now and then I do go, despite feeling slightly guilty. Of course I had to go to the bookshop, have a cup of coffee and then just have a look at the books. Fatal, I came home with four.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I’m reading this along with Danielle. I borrowed a copy from the library but I’ll only have to keep renewing it and I’m enjoying it, so I bought it. The copy in the shop was slightly damaged – so I got a discount, can’t be bad.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, because I enjoyed Half of a Yellow Sun (I wrote about it here). It was one of the 3 for 2 books and the marketing worked, because I then had to pick 2 more books.

I bought The Gathering by Anne Enright – the 2007 Booker Prize winner, because I’ve read mixed reveiws and wanted to see for myself.

And Owen Sheers’ Resistance because it looks so interesting – a war story but this time an imagined history of what could have happened if D-Day had failed and the Nazis had invaded Britain.
And now I’m off to cook the dinner and hopefully read some more of Les Miserables in my new copy (I’m only up to page 164).

The Sunday Salon

This is my first post for the Sunday Salon and I feel very much ‘œthe new girl’. I’™m the 99th member so there are many experienced members and I’™m feeling quite shy. I’™ve read the notes on what to do so here goes.

This morning I read a few pages of Elizabeth Gilbert’™s Eat, Pray, Love. I’™m not terrible impressed with it so far and I don’™t think I’™ll finish it as it’™s a library book and someone else has reserved it and I have to return it next by Wednesday. I’™m still in the ‘œeating’ part, which is in Italy. The first few chapters explain the background to Elizabeth Gilbert’™s reasons for travelling and it is her depression and despair that I found hard going. Now she is in Italy it’™s beginning to grab my attention and this morning I read her account of going to watch a football match between Lazio and Roma. Apparently Italian men go to a bakery after their team has lost a match and cheer themselves up by standing about leaning on their motorcycles, ‘œtalking about the game, looking macho as anything, and eating cream puffs.’ I must remember to suggest this to my husband and son the next time their team, Manchester United, loses. Fortunately that’™s not today because they beat Aston Villa 4 ‘“0 yesterday. I hope the Italians will be eating cream puffs (and there will be no violence) on Tuesday when Manchester United are playing Roma in Rome.

What else am I reading? Yesterday I started to read Penelope Lively’™s Consequences. I’™ve yet to read one of her books and be disappointed and so far this is living up to my expectations. It starts in 1935 when two young people, Lorna and Matt meet quite by chance in St James’™s Park in London. They come from very different backgrounds but are instantly attracted to each other and despite opposition from Lorna’™s parents they get married. As the title indicates the predominant theme of this book is how events follow on from chance meetings and how our lives are changed because of the decisions we make. For some time now I’™ve been interested in the Second World War period and from my reading of this book so far it sets the scene and captures the atmosphere of the pre-war and early war years. There is a nostalgic feel to the settings, looking back to how things were and how the war inevitably changed people’™s lives and expectations.

This morning I’™ve read some more. Lorna and Matt have had a daughter, Molly, the war began and Matt was called up. I won’™t say too much as I don’™t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’™t read it. This book is just so good, I can’™t praise it enough. It’™s full of such quotable extracts, such as this in defining happiness Lorna realises that it is ‘œanother condition, of a different quality, a state of being that lifts you above ordinary existence, that pervades every moment, that confers immunity.’

Later in my reading this morning I came to the section when Molly having gone through university, takes a job as a librarian ‘œbecause someone had left a copy of the Evening Standard in the tube’ advertising the job and she thought why not? Thus setting in motion another train of events. But the bits that I particularly like in this section are the descriptions of the library and of books (I used to be a librarian). Here are just a few examples:

‘œFiction is one strident lie ‘“ or rather, many competing lies; history is a long narrative of argument and reassessment; travel shouts of self-promotion; biography is just pushing a product. As for autobiography ‘¦’

‘œThat is the function of books: they offer a point of view, they offer many conflicting points of view, they provoke thought, they provoke irritation and admiration and speculation. They take you out of yourself and put you down somewhere else from whence you never entirely return.’

‘œThe surface repose of a library is a cynical deception.’

That’™s all for now. More thoughts later on today.

LibraryThing Early Reviewers Group

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

I’ve just added a new widget to the sidebar to the left but I’m putting it in this post as well because I like the image and I’m so pleased that there are now some books available to us in the UK. LibraryThing in conjunction with publishers provide advance copies of books, in exchange for reviews.

I didn’t expect to be lucky enough to get a copy as there many more people applying for copies than are available. So I was so pleased when I had a message that I had snagged an Early Reviewers copy of Our Longest Days edited by Sandra Koa Wing – it arrived in the post yesterday.

It looks fascinating and fits in so well with my reading interests as it’s full of extracts from diaries written during the Second World War. I’ll be writing more about this book!

Dante’™s Florence Week 5 Part Two

Dante’™s Exile from Florence

Dante entered politics in 1295 and in 1300 he became a Prior, one of the Governors of the City giving him great prestige. It was a dangerous time with fighting between the factions of Guelfs and Ghibellines. The Guelfs supported the Pope, opposing the Ghibellines who supported the Holy Roman Emperor. The political situation was very complicated and became more so when the Guelfs split into two opposing factions, known as the Whites and the Blacks. The Whites, including Dante, opposed the Pope wanting more control of their own affairs ‘“ Dante thought the Pope, Boniface VIII was corrupt and was too involved with temporal affairs. He wanted more independence for Florence and a split between the Church and the State. Dante attacked the Pope and the Church in The Divine Comedy, for example in Canto 19 Inferno he describes the punishment for simony, the crime of buying a position within the church and denounces Boniface as a simonist.

In 1302 Dante was accused of fraud and as he refused to pay the fine he was sentenced to death by burning and was banished from Florence. He was offered an amnesty in 1315, but the conditions were too humiliating for him to accept and he never returned to Florence. He refers to his exile in The Divine Comedy through a conversation in Canto 17 Paradiso XVII with his great-great grandfather Cacciaguida, with Cacciaguida forecasting Dante’s exile from Florence:

‘œYou will leave everything you love most dearly;
This is the arrow which is
loosed first
From the bow of exile.

You will learn how salt is the
Of other people’™s bread, how hard the way
Going up and down other
people’™s stairs.’

Dante spent 19 years in exile. He championed writing in the vernacular and in 1304 he published De Vulgari Eloquentia(On Eloquence in the vernacular). He started to write The Divine Comedy in 1306/7 and finished it just before his death in 1321 in Ravenna. During, 1315 ‘“ 1316 whilst he was the guest of Can Grande della Scala in Verona he wrote part of Purgatorio. Below is Maria Spartali Stillman’s painting of Dante in Verona, showing Dante surrounded by a group of admiring women.

In 1317 he was offered a home by Guido Novello da Polenta in Ravenna, where he completed Purgatorio and began Paradiso. Can Grande was a patron of the arts and sheltered exiles, giving Dante his own apartments and treating him very well. Dante dedicated Paradiso to Can Grande in gratitude.

Dante died on 14 September 1321and was buried in the Church of San Francesco in Ravenna, where there is a shrine containing his sarcophagus and a votive lamp.

Despite requests from Florence to return his body to the city, Dante’™s tomb in the church of Santa Croce is empty.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2007, Harper Perennial 433 pages. Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2007.

This book is based on the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967 – 70 and I’m old enough to remember hearing about it at the time. Then I had little idea what it was all about – now I understand a bit more. Nigeria became a Republic in October 1960 and Half of a Yellow Sun begins in the early 1960s in Nsukka in the south eastern area where Ugwu becomes Odenigbo’s houseboy. The story centres on these two characters and Olanna, Odenigbo’s partner, her twin sister Kainene and her partner Richard. Odenigbo is a professor at the University and his house is the meeting place for academics who debate the political situation as it leads up to violence and the secession of Biafra as an independent state. The title of the book comes from the symbol on the Biafran flag, which was half of a yellow sun.

The novel moves forwards and backwards in time between the late and early1960s as the civil war proceeds. Focussing on the struggle between the north and the south, the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa people, it brings home the horrors brought about by war, the ethnic, religious and racial divisions and the suffering that results. Ugwu at the start of the book is an ignorant young teenager from a poor village eager to learn but still steeped in the superstitions of his family – the old ways. By the end of the novel he has become a valued member of the family and is writing a history of his country. Richard, the white man in love with Kainene but not fully accepted into her world, is eager to be considered Biafran, but is still on the outside. He is in Nigeria studying African art – the Igbo-Ukwu roped pot – and is recruited into writing articles about the war for the outside world, but the story of the war is Ugwu’s to tell and not Richard’s. Olanna’s family is wealthy and even though they are Igbo, they cannot understand her relationship with Odenigbo who is committed to the Igbo cause and would prefer her to marry Madu, a major in the Biafran army. Once the war starts they are all drawn into the conflict, the situation spirals out of their control and they each react in differing ways.

The book explores the conflicts between nationalities, different cultures, different backgrounds and upbringing, between what is traditional and tribal and what is new. Although the violence and deprivations of the war are horrifying and form the dominant element in the story this is not just a war novel. It is also a novel about love and relationships, between parents and children as well as between men and women; about how people learn to adapt and cope with life.

I found the characters to be real, so much so that I could imagine I was there in the thick of things. I sympathised with Richard in his efforts to be accepted and suffered with Olanna when she was confronted with the horror of war and grieved over the plight of the refugees. It reminded me of Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart, which I read about 10 years or so ago and Adichie writes of his novels in an article at the end of her book:

Achebe’s war fiction then, humane and pragmatic as it is, becomes a paean to the possibilities that Biafra held. The stories have an emotional power that accumulates in an unobtrusive way and stuns the reader at the end; there are sentences in them that will always move me to tears.

She writes of her own work:

If fiction is indeed the soul of history, then I was equally committed to the fiction and the history, equally true to the spirit of the time as well as to my artistic vision of it.

How well she has succeeded. Half of a Yellow Sun is an emotional book without being sentimental, factual without being boring, and I was completely absorbed in it to the end.

Easter at England’s Eden

We spent the Easter holiday in Cornwall. Whilst many parts of Britain had snow over the Easter weekend it was sunny, but cold, at the Eden Project near St Austell. Actually we did see a very brief flurry of fine snow at one point on Saturday afternoon and it was very windy. We stayed with our son and his family at Carlyon Bay Hotel just outside St Austell overlooking the sea.

The Eden Project was first opened in 2001 and we’™ve been meaning to go there ever since then. Their website says, ‘œEden is all about man’s relationship with and dependence upon plants. Much of our food, our clothes, our shelter and our medicines come from the plant world. Without plants there would be no oxygen for us to breathe, no life on earth.’

It has been constructed in what was a clay pit and the view is most impressive as you approach the deep, steep-sided, flat-bottomed bowl containing the hugh domes. They are the biggest greenhouses in the world, called Biomes. From the entrance in the Visitor Centre we walked down towards the Biomes looking first at the Outdoor Biome following the winding path down the hillside passing areas planted with crops, and daffodils and spring bulbs. As it was Easter there was an Easter Egg hunt to follow with clues hidden throughout the site. We tried to follow the trail, but the clues were too hard for us adults, let alone the children, although we did solve a few. There is a giant bee, the magical land of Myth and Folklore, and a willow maze looking bare at this time of year.

As it is Eden I wasn’™t surprised to find Eve there, but she wasn’™t quite what I expected. She is a large reclining statue, her face made up of small mosaic mirrors and moss is just beginning to grow on her body. Eventually she will all be covered in moss ‘“ a green woman. I didn’™t see Adam.

There is a grotesque piece of artwork ‘“ the WEEE Man, a reminder that the Project is an educational charity aiming to show the need for environmental awareness and sustainability. WEEE Man is a three-tonne, seven-metre tall robotic figure, made up of old washing machines, computer mice, TVs and a vast array of other electrical goods. WEEE stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. The sculpture is made up of the amount the average UK citizen will throw away in their lifetime ‘“ really horrific.

The Rainforest Biome is my favourite. It covers an area of 15,590 square metres (1.55 hectares), is 55 metres high, 100 metres wide and 200 metres long and it’™s high enough to hold the Tower of London or eleven double-decker buses piled on top of one another. As we went in people were rapidly taking off coats and jumpers because of the heat. It is truly most impressive and it’™s steamy, hot and humid. You can see what it is like living in Malaysia,

West Africa and South America as you walk through and up the biome passing waterfalls and tropical plants. I saw the biggest, smelliest flower in the world, the Titum Arum, although it had gone beyond its best, as it had flowered. By the time I took this photo my camera had steamed up!

The Mediterranean Biome was much cooler, but surprised me as there were displays of plants and scenes from South Africa and California, not just the Med.

As it is spring and in England, the main displays were of spring bulbs, being mainly tulips ‘“ such beautiful colours. I thought the best part of this section was the display of the Rites of Dionysus.

Dionysus was the Greek God of wine and its intoxicating power. I think these statues illustrate nature in its wild, untamed state, clearly capturing the frenzy induced by the music and wine. I liked the stark contrast between the displays of flowers and these sculptures standing on the bare earth.

There was an Ice Skating Rink, a ‘œSimply Delicious Marquee’ where the children decorated cupcakes, and a storytelling tent where we were entertained by the “Spice Man”, with his tales of sailing the seas and the uses of spices in days gone by.

Then there is the ‘œCore‘ shaped like a sunflower, which houses exhibitions, paintings and an enormous nutcracker.

The children had goes at turning the wheel of this massive metal structure. As the handle is turned a big steel ball is raised up to the top of the machine, where it is tipped down a chute, spiralling down to a hammer at the bottom, which then strikes the nut. It was mesmerising to watch.

The centrepiece of the Core is a giant 70 tonne granite sculpture of a seed made of silver-grey Cornish granite estimated to be 300 million years old.

Called ‘œSeed’ it was carved out of a boulder extracted from the De Lank Quarry, in Cornwall. There are 1,800 nodes on its surface in Fibonacci spirals, representing the extraordinary growth pattern found in sunflowers, pinecones and daisies. The Seed is four metres in height and three metres wide at its widest point. I wasn’™t sure that I liked it ‘“ it’™s so strange seeing a seed so large and solid; somehow it looked too sterile, but the age of the granite is awesome!

The Eden Project is a remarkable experience, well worth a visit. If we lived nearer I would like to go more often, spending just a few hours each visit rather than a whole day, which was exhausting, but most enjoyable and educational. I can’t believe that I didn’t buy any books from the Visitor Centre – that must be a first. There are a number of books listed on the Eden Project website, so I’ll browse through these to see which ones I would like.