Sunday, April 09, 2017

April Edition: The Simple Woman's Daybook

A Bird's Eye View of  Oxford
Photo: Sidharth Bhatia /

OXFORD: "The city is known worldwide as the home of the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Buildings in Oxford demonstrate notable examples of every English architectural period since the late Saxon period. Oxford is known as the 'city of dreaming spires', a term coined by poet Matthew Arnold." ~ excerpt from Wikipedia

In a few short days we'll be seeing this view with our very own eyes, not just as we see it on television or movies, not just imagining the historical crooks and crannies from the books I've read. In real life. Squeee.

I'll be posting photos from the 'city of dreaming spires' on my Facebook page while we are there; you are welcome to join me on Facebook.

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Since you came to read the April Daybook edition, let me begin without further ado.


For Today...

Looking out my window... a mix of sun and cloud... with chances of blue skies. 

I am thinking... there's no time like the present to wish you a wonderful week ahead. And to tell you how much I appreciate all the really nice comments you leave here for me and all our readers to enjoy. I do hope there will be a day in heaven when we can all meet and have one big kindred party.

I am thankful... for one lovely husband who says, "Okay, let's do Oxford on a whim" and books the tickets ... all because he likes to make his wife happy. And yes, she is happy -- she likes to make him happy too.

One of my favourite things... reading in a sunny room on a Sunday afternoon. With a soft breeze blowing the curtain in a lazy manner. Something smooth and lovely to sip as the pages turn. And, a snoozing kitty cat nearby to make it perfect.

I am creating... lists as the days to Oxford count down.

I am wearing... a floral sleeveless summer dress because the sun is shining now and it feels warm.

I finished reading... The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey, the book mentioned in an earlier post. Without giving anything away here, the author puts her Scotland Yard Detective Alan Grant through his paces to uncover whether the corpse found on the train is accidental or suicidal, or maybe even murder. The plot is twisty-turny without making the reader sit too near the edge of her chair. It's a relaxing, delightful read, and I will definitely look for more of her stories. 

I am watching... Gaudy Night, the third in a detective mystery miniseries with fictional characters Lord Peter Wimsey and detective novelist Harriet Vane. Produced by the BBC in 1987, the detective series is based on novels by British author Dorothy L. Sayers. I'm watching now because Gaudy Night is a story that takes place at a fictional ladies college in Oxford, England; it was also filmed in Oxford.

Dorothy L. Sayers was born in Oxford, and as a young woman, she won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied modern languages and medieval literature. No doubt her own experience of Oxford academic life created the inspiration to write her truly wonderful book, Gaudy Night. 

I am listening... to the oh-so-welcome whistles of my first robin of the season calling from a nearby roof-top. That, dear friends, signals Spring in my corner of the world.

I am hoping... for days that aren't too rainy when we get to Oxford next week. So far, the weather report bodes well for us ... mild temperatures, cloudy skies, and no sign of any sharp showers. How convenient travellers can now Google weather stations anywhere in the world -- makes it much easier to know what to pack.

I am learning... to pack my suitcase more lightly. What's that old rule -- pack everything you want to take into your suitcase, and just before you close the lid, take half of it out. Yup, it seems about right.

In my kitchen...  for our Sunday dinner, we enjoyed a small baked ham with a buttery raisin sauce, and a garden salad with fresh dill and Catalina dressing drizzled over it.

In my garden... there are tiny signs of green poking through here and there. The very first reddish sprouts of my peonies, for one, and tiny green noses of crocuses, for another. Oh joy, oh bliss. Every year I keep being surprised just how quickly things get going when it warms up. Dormant all winter, they must be most eager to get on with their work of making our world beautiful.

A favourite blog... is Carrie's very English, totally delightful Fawlty Spires. She describes herself as a 'transplanted South Dakota/Seattle girl living in the heart of Oxford, UK', and she runs a small B&B with her husband, Stuart, and her beloved dog, Jack, who I understand is her official bacon tester. I first 'met' Carrie on Twitter -- we being mutual Twitter followers of Susan Branch. So you can imagine how exciting it is that, while we visit Oxford, we're booked to stay at Holywell B&B -- click for gorgeous photos here.

So much of my yearning to visit Oxford comes from the films and movies I've watched over the years: Shadowlands (1993) starring Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis; Brideshead Revisited, the 1981 television series with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews -- total favourite; the Morse detective series with John Thaw as Morse, the follow up series Lewis, and most recently, Endeavour, the prequel to Morse with Shaun Evans as the younger Morse. To name a few.

You will imagine my delight when I learned that Carrie lives in the heart of Oxford where so many of these well-known shows and movies are filmed. In one of her posts, she talks about it: 
"Hardly a month goes by when there isn't a film crew in Oxford. Countless movies, TV series, and documentaries have all used Oxford as a beautiful backdrop. It isn't unusual to be watching a documentary and suddenly the presenter is walking down Holywell Street or through the Radcliffe Square, or some other equally familiar spot where we walk every day. It's strange to see the place you live flash on the television screen, and it's even stranger when they film outside your front door. ..."
To read Carrie's complete post, you'll find it here.


A favourite author... Years ago when I first read C.S. Lewis, I was drawn to this man's gentle approach to life and life events. I wanted to learn more about the man, his life, and about Oxford, the place where he lived, worked, and studied for so many years. In truth, his writings shaped my life -- I read everything I could find by him, and about him, in bookstores and on library shelves.

I came across some notes I jotted down in an old notebook ... something I'd read from C.S. Lewis and his thoughts on what makes a literary person. I wrote his comments carefully into my now vintage common book, and looking back, I think they helped change my reading habits... I didn't want to be found lacking in this department if anyone asked or looked too closely. Up to that point I mostly read historical and romance fiction (which is fine as one item on the dinner plate, but not for the whole meal -- if you want balance, that is). My reading habits and tastes developed over time, and I think I have C.S. Lewis to thank for it, for I never really forgot his comments. Note: I typed out the short list of notes; if you are interested, you'll find them here.

A seasonal quote or two or three...
"The window is open and a warm, delicious little breeze comes wandering in. It smells of magnolias and dogwood and it whispers in our ears enticing little stories of gurgling brooks and cool woods. Yes, we have got spring fever and got it bad." ~ Country Life, June 1922

"Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again." ~ Gustav Mahler, musician 
"Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day." ~ W. Earl Hall
Have you seen this... Sometimes I really am a late bloomer, for I haven't seen this movie yet. Have you? Testament of Youth is a 2014 British drama film based on the WWI memoir of the same name written by Vera Brittain. Young independent Vera abandons her Oxford studies to be become a war nurse. Yes, I will be checking for this one, and if I can't find the movie, I'm looking for the memoir.

Closing note...
"Whoever has a heart full of love always has something to give."
~ Pope John XXIII

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  1. Another lovely chat with you, Brenda. There is much to absorb from this post and links to explore as well as movies and books to hunt down.
    I wish you the most wonderful time in Oxford with its dreaming spires.

    1. Oh, and Dorothy Sayers - one of my favourite mystery authors, more so than Agatha Christie!

  2. Brenda, you will fall in love with Oxford, as did I many years ago when I lived in a nearby village. I hope you have a wonderful time just strolling and looking. I'm only sorry it isnt near enough this time for a visit!

  3. Truly a most uplifting post, Brenda. I'm so happy you are going to Oxford. I admire the way you prepare yourself - bathing yourself in British life and history. You are going to have a fabulous time, and I can't wait to journey with you via facebook and posts here. ♥

  4. What a lovely post. You would be so much fun to travel with! And I'll look for the book you mentioned. I love mysteries! Enjoy your week! I'm so excited for you! Hugs, Diane

  5. We have our first Spring Robin over here too. It sure is lovely to see them again!
    You will have so much fun in Oxford, I've been there but oh so many years ago. So much nicer to travel with all that history and knowledge. You can much more appreciate all the beauty there. That really will be a special highlight to meet your blogging friend. What a way to celebrate.

  6. Oh I am so glad you are going to Oxford. What a lovely B&B - hopped over to visit. Looks like you and hubby will be having a delightful stay. Have a beautiful week. Hugs!

  7. Hope you have a wonderful time in Oxford! There is much to see and do, and I can recommend the Ashmolean museum and the open top bus tour. Have fun!

  8. I am still trying to process"Oxford on a whim!""Have a marvelous trip!!!

    1. It's hard to believe we stepped out and did that. We could have taken a short trip much nearer to home to celebrate my 60th, which would have lovely, but then there was the thought of blowing caution to wind--just this once--and really doing something we really dreamed about doing 'on a whim'. And now, here we are on our way...Bren xox

  9. How wonderful Brenda!! What a great thing to do!
    I read Gaudy Night a couple years ago and really enjoyed it.
    Enjoy your trip! xo Deborah

  10. Another lovely visit with you Brenda. I am still reading Carol Weber's, Surprised by Oxford, and each time I settle to read, I say, I'm going to visit Oxford for a while! Enjoy your visit. I pray the weather will be congenial. I'm thinking now of Browning's poem, Oh to be in England now that April's there, etc. He was in beautiful Italy when he wrote that poem. I guess there is no place like home.

  11. Brenda: I saved this post, as I do all of them, until I had time to read and enjoy. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it was a wonderful read for me this morning. I especially enjoyed your information from C.S. Lewis.
    How wonderful you will be visiting Oxford. Enjoy all the precious moments and I will be anxiously waiting to see the photos, accompanied by your lovely words.
    Thank you for this beautiful post!

  12. I am so excited for you as you anticipate your trip to Oxford!! (What a great guy your hubby must be!) I look forward to hearing of your experiences and your travel highlights when you return. Safe and happy travels to you!

  13. Love the Pope John quote, Brenda - so very true <3 So excited for you - going to Oxford with your best buddy and certainly, 'Husband of the Year' for suggesting this trip! Always love your book recommendations and sweet descriptions of your days. Can't wait to see your travel photos. Enjoy every moment! xo Karen

  14. I'm so excited for you, Brenda! Oxford! I was there a couple of years ago so will look forward to your photos with a knowing eye. I was a bit disappointed to note that you did not take that beautiful photo at the top of the post. I had a lovely image of you floating above the city, like a visiting angel.

  15. Wonderful post! Just the thing I needed to read, something beautiful and interesting. Will try to write to you soon. -Merry


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo