Friday, February 03, 2023

Five on Friday: Musings on a February Morning

One - Outside my window

"A sharp, sugaring frost"
ROGER DEAKIN, Winter Anthology with Melissa Harrison

Our January was mild for the most part, and we enjoyed many days of this sharp, sugaring frost, aka as rime frost. I didn't realize it's different than hoar frost—rime frost isn't something we often see in our dry northerly climes. We enjoyed the winter wonderland it created for many days. The days are noticeably lengthening, and I feel a lift in my spirits to see these earliest hints of seasonal shift. Weather forecasters told us to brace ourselves for some nastier weather in February and, yes, the last few days were feisty, with cold temperatures, snow-rain, and roaring winds. But this morning, we woke to a calm, blue-skied, sunny day—the winds had blown away the cold and brought warmer weather for the weekend. Happy face here!

~ ~ ~

Two - A new cube shelf

In December I said I'd show you pics of Christmas decorating, my new Christmas pencil tree, the new IKEA shelf in my study. I'm sorry it didn't happen. At this stage, we'll give the Christmas things a miss, but above, finally, are a few poses of the new cube shelf in my study. I'm so pleased - it was an early Christmas present from Santa. It's set against the wall behind me when I'm sitting at my computer (a great backdrop if I ever want to zoom-video where I write. I always love to look at what people have on those backdrop shelves in videos, don't you? It didn't take long to fill; the books you see here are mostly new purchases made with Christmas money. I'm having great fun reading them one by one. Although I haven't got everything set up as I might want, it's a start. 

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Three - Surprise email

Out of the blue, back in November I received an email from the author of the lovely book Foxgloves and Hedgehog Days, Secrets in a Country Garden by Daniel Blajan. You may recall, it was a book I highlighted during my Pressing My Books Into Service series during Covid lockdowns in 2020.

Surprised was I when he reached out to me, all the way from the Netherlands, to say he'd happened upon my post about his book during a google search and wondered if I'd be interested in an autograph. Oh my goodness, would I like an autograph, oh yes please! We enjoyed a couple of lovely email exchanges. And then one day before Christmas, a lovely note in a seasonal greeting card arrived in the post with his autograph. Daniel mentioned the prickly fellow on the card was one of the hedgehogs he wrote about in his book back in 1997.

His autographed note is now safely tucked inside the book. And my secret hope is that one day, when I'm no longer here, and perhaps many years hence, there will be someone who discovers the book with enclosure on a dusty bookshelf somewhere. And she will be as delighted to find such a treasure.

I was so pleased for this little flurry of excitement that came out of the blue and made my day.

~ ~ ~

Four - Something from Jan 2020

I came across something I jotted in January 2020 about housekeeping:
I undertook a major cleaning of every square inch of my house. It took me weeks to go through every nook and cranny, but when I was done, there wasn't anything in my house that I didn't love or need. And more importantly—for smooth household running—everything had a home and like items were stored with like. It stayed tidy and in order for a long time, because for the most part I'm good at putting things back. But time eventually unraveled the pristine orderliness and things needed taking in hand again. . . .

(In my notes, I say): So, if I do a thorough job this January (2020), and if all goes well, and if I work at putting things back when I'm finished using them, I shouldn't need to do this major deep cleaning again until, say, January 2023. Wish me luck?"
Well now here it is 2023. And you know what, that major deep clean held its own for a long time. I'm much better disciplined than I used to be at tossing, sorting, giving away, and putting things back. So this January, yes, I spent several days putting away Christmas, cleaning, sorting, and packing things for the thrift store. But it was a much simpler job than it had been several years ago. I hope to carry on and be able to say that in future Januaries. 

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Five - A few lines from Twitter

I found these lines back in 2020. It's from author, podcaster, and joie de vivre dispenser Joy Clarkson who wrote them on Twitter one day. Her words sparked courage and joy that day—they did the same as I reread them this week.
"The world has always been on the cusp of disaster, the globe shall eventually be consumed by the sun, and all men do die in their time. Don't let this knowledge paralyze you. Live a valiant life, love deeply, create beauty, seek the things that outlast death. Don't be afraid.

This is what I remind myself of when the news makes me anxious. We're all going to die eventually. You weren't promised an easy life. You can't control the times you live in, but you can live well in your complicated times. And I have a sneaking suspicion love outlasts death.

And then I eat fish and chips because life is short and little pleasures must not be eschewed."
JOY CLARKSON, Twitter, 2020

 ~ ~ ~

Bonus - My commonplace book

You may recall that last January I started a pint-size five-year diary, in which I planned to write short, pithy quotes that I came across each day. As I mentioned then, we are often bombarded with information coming from every direction. And as the old saying goes, it tends to go in one ear and out the other—with hardly a tracery of its message left on our minds.

So, this venture continues and I've now started Year 2. My aim remains: to watch for the special 'word' and write down at least one notable thing each day. Sometimes it's a quote, a line of poetry, a phrase from a song, a comment seen on social media, a sacred passage. It could be a comment that expands my mind, thrills my soul, makes me LOL, cheers me up, reminds me to take care of myself. For the most part I have been faithful to this little ritual. Here are my January 1st entries:

Jan 1, 2022
"Every good poem fulfills a longing
and puts life back together."
attributed to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American poet

Jan 1, 2023
"i don't have to explain why i need a break,
not even to myself.
I do not have to earn rest."
Yasmine Cheyenne, as seen on social media

Thank you for stopping by. Wishing you a beautiful day.
Heart hugs,

(Top) Photo by Dr. Georg Wietschorke from Pixabay
All other photos are mine

Friday, January 27, 2023

Let's Talk Books: Rooms of Their Own by Alex Johnson

"This is a book about...
rooms that tell stories."

The weekend is here, and I'm sorry that I don't have a new post for you today. I've been writing a guest post for InScribe which was published this morning. In it, I chat about a new book I have been slow reading. Called Rooms of Their Own, Where Great Writers Write by Alex Johnson, it's a new favourite for me. To read more, click HERE.

I'm including a couple of illustrations from the book to whet your appetite:

Beatrix Potter's writing retreat at Hilltop

Isabel Allende's writing studio in California

It's snowing here this morning. And the temperatures have dropped back down to more normal winter  temps (-14C). We were enjoying above freezing temps earlier in the week. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Till next week then...

Heart hugs,

Saturday, January 14, 2023

A Short Review: Miss Marple, The Life and Times

The Life and Times of Miss Jane Marple

"There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady
of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands."
Rev. Leonard Clement, Murder at the Vicarage

I think it was Miranda Mills from Yorkshire, UK, who recommended this charming book a few weeks ago on her lovely vlog. My interest was piqued and I ordered a copy. Such a familiar, cozy read it's been over these past few wintery days. As one reviewer puts it, 'a great treat for Agatha Christie addicts'. And yes, it has been a treat.

Author Anne Hart shares how she enjoyed working on this short biography of the beloved fictional female sleuth, Miss Jane Marple. (She's also written a biography for Hercule Poirot). The Marple book was first published in 1985—with the 'kind' approval of Agatha Christie's daughter, Rosalind Hicks. The revised edition, with the charming book cover you see above, was released in 2019.

In this slender volume, Anne Hart describes Miss Marple, where she came to live, who were her friends, hints of her family and upbringing, and how her crime detection path began. Ms. Hart gathers all the clues and descriptions found in the twelve Miss Marple books and twenty short stories. And in weaving together these bits and pieces, she gives the reader a fuller picture of the bright, elderly woman behind the fluffy yarn and knitting needles. A bibliography at the end of the book includes not only a list of all the Marple novels and short stories but the various Marple stage, film, TV, and radio productions (and who played in them), as well as the audiobooks and who read them. This biography is a lovely companion to tuck alongside all your favourite Christie novels.

If you are a fan, you've probably heard the tale of how years before actress Joan Hickson ever played the role of Miss Marple, she played other roles in several Agatha Christie productions. When Agatha saw Joan Hickson in one of these productions, she told Joan, 'I hope one day you will play my dear Miss Marple'. Of all the actresses who have played Miss Marple, Joan Hickson is my absolute favourite. In my view, she seems to have best captured the old world feeling I get when I read the books. All three women—Agatha, Joan, and Jane Marple—seem to have similar backgrounds, being brought up in the late Victorian to early Edwardian eras.  

For interest's sake, Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and died in 1976; Joan Hickson was born in 1906 and died in 1998; and from the novels and stories, as Miss Marple reminisces about her childhood and youth, we get the idea that Jane Marple was created to have a similar upbringing, very late Victorian to early Edwardian. Joan Hickson would certainly have understood the times the old spinster was thought to have known and experienced. Maybe that's why Joan felt so authentic.

I hope you've enjoyed this little book chat, and I do hope your weekend is unwinding in pleasant ways.

Heart hugs,