Tuesday 27 February 2024

Poems and Pomposity


I have been reading 'Books Do Furnish a Life', a selection of writings by Richard Dawkins but they were mostly introductions and reviews of other people's books, so you are not getting ideas but his opinions about people's ideas. There are lots of ideas for interesting books to read but I decided to take it back to the library.

Liked this:
"From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord deliver us.
Some say it is Scottish, not Cornish, but wherever it comes from the sentiments are shared worldwide. People are afraid off the dark. Science, as Sagan argued and personally exemplified, has the power to reduce ignorance and dispel fear. We should all read science and learn to think like scientists, not because science is useful (though it is), but because the light of knowledge is wonderful and banishes the debilitating and time-wasting fear of the dark." 

'Men Who Feed Pigeons' by Selima Hill was utterly surreal, juxtaposing the most mundane of situations with the weirdest of images, articulating random thoughts that might flit across the brain unnoticed for anyone else but that she somehow manages to pin down. 

Sometimes lovely cosy images:

His head is like a barn full of straw
where piglets go to sleep in warm heaps.

Sometime very disturbing ones:

Everyone is Watching
Everyone is watching me and wondering
if somebody sitting on her own,
even though she's clean, and a woman,
is in fact a serial killer.

Sometimes just plain weird:

I do confide in him, but only rarely,
and when I do I always regret it:
he acts as if I'm smearing him with honey
in the dark with my bare hands.

Stay safe. Be kind. Don't be afraid of the dark.

Saturday 24 February 2024

Meanwhile in Japan ...

Monkey sensei had a long weekend and so took herself off to visit Mount Fuji. In Japan the hotel will provide you with pyjamas and a yukata.
She did some random exploring:
Went to a weird museum:
Admired random statues:
And finally got to see the beautiful snow-topped mountain itself (it was really cloudy on Friday) (and the last time she visited in 2022):
Meanwhile back on this side of the world, I had my brother Giles to stay. We went out for dinner and then on for a cocktail at Corbiere's and then on Wednesday went to see 'The Holdovers' at the Everyman Cinema:
Tish and Jun had their two year anniversary and went out for waffles ... 
And dad, recovering well from his operation, made his annual batch of marmalade:
Stay safe. Be kind. Make yourself some toast.

Friday 16 February 2024

Sleepless in Manhatten

I arrived at Claire's and she handed me 'My Year of Rest and Relaxation' by Ottessa Moshfegh. I had bought her for her birthday and she was sure I would enjoy it. And then I realised how I had come across 'Eileen', because I had bought this, sent it to Claire, and then just search in the library for anything else she had written. 

A privileged young woman seems to have so many (unspecified) 'issues' that she decides to sedate herself for a year in the hope of resetting her brain. She finds an amenable doctor, to whom she describes a variety of sleep issues, and they prescribe a steady stream of medication that keeps her insensible. She allows herself to wake up every few days to eat and clean herself. The book became a bit of an endless list drug doses and self pity and I am not sure that I found myself caring about her much. This was how she functioned before deciding to retire from normal life:

"At work, I took hour-long naps in the supply closet under the stairs during my lunch breaks. 'Napping' is such a childish word, but that was what I was doing. The tonality of my night sleep was more variable, generally unpredictable, but every time I lay down in that supply closet I went straight into black emptiness, an infinite space of nothingness. I was neither scared nor elated in that space. I had no visions. I had no ideas. If I had a distinct thought, I would hear it, and the sound of it would echo and echo until it got absorbed by the darkness and disappeared. There was no response necessary. No inane conversation withy myself. It was peaceful. A vent in the closet released a steady flow of fresh air that picked up the scent of laundry from the hotel next door. There was no work to do, and nothing I had to counteract or compensate for because there was nothing at all, period. and yet I was aware of the nothingness. I was awake in the sleep, somehow. I felt good. Almost happy." (p.39-40)

At the utter other end of the spectrum we have 'The Library of Heartbeats' by Laura Imai Messina. In it Shuichi, who is starting to clear out his childhood home, finds himself drawn into a friendship with Kenta, a neighbouring child and a young woman, Sakaya, and their growing bond helps him grieve his mother, his childhood and his young son who drowned a couple of years previously. These three people tiptoe around each other but eventually come to trust and care for each other, and in return you care for them. Shuichi struggles with his loss and loneliness but together they find connection and take a visit to the library of heartbeats (which is a real thing).

This little moment when he makes a snack for Kenta:
"'If you're going to do something, you have to do it properly.'
The echo of those words, uttered with the exact intonation of his mother, filled the kitchen, then fell, like a glass of water slipped from a hand." (p.61)

And later thinking about incidents from his childhood that his mother tried to pretend had not happened:
"Shuichi thought about it while he looked in the fridge. For example, the trip to Nagano when he was ten, shredded memories that had been visiting him in his dreams recently: the snow three metres high that made every road into a bastion; the red-faced monkeys floating in the hot springs; the oyaki dumplings that were so delicious he insisted on having them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But in Nagano he also rode a horse and was maybe thrown off: he landed on his back and his mother screamed - he physically remembered the sound. And if, as a child, Shuichi ever asked about Nagano, his mother would change the subject so determinedly that at a certain point he started to wonder if any of it was real: the compact walls of snow, the monkeys, the spring rolls filled with adzuki beans, the horse's tense body as it suddenly arched its back." (p.110-11)

I found 'The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint Exupery on a random bookcase in the spare room at mum and dad's. I had never read it to my children. Bemused as to what all the fuss is about 😕.
Stay safe. Be kind. 

Bloom Day for February

Too much working, not enough blooming for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.
Nothing much happening this far north (though I have only been out as far as the worm house) but my sister's garden had some lovely blooms (and the broad bean seedlings are going strong too), and we stood for several minutes listening to a robin perched on the pergola, singing just for the joy of it. She did tell me what they were but I've forgotten now ...

Stay safe. Anticipate the spring.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Singing and Dancing

 Four and twenty blackbirds broke the silence down Hart Road in the early morning today, and then I enjoyed mat dancing to 'You Can Call Me Al' by Paul Simon at the gym after work...

Get your fun where you can in 2024.

Thursday 1 February 2024

North and South

Lovely things this week.
Delicious Wyatt:
The NHS that provided my dad with his bionic knee:
Blackbird visitors at breakfast time:
Dad and Bart taking a turn part way around the lake (he has a new knee, he's supposed to be taking things gently):
And 'Delay Repay' on the GWR that means I'll get my train fare back from last week's visit.
It's been nice to spend some time with mum and dad, but nice to go home too.