Monday, 30 November 2015

The Waiting Room of Books

So here are the books that are waiting. Waiting to be read or finished or revisited. They are very patient. They mostly wait quietly, just whispering their unopened potential as I glance past. But sometimes, just sometimes, they start to shout. They were shouting today because I was dusting them and they could feel that they had just a little bit more of my attention than usual. 

I read every evening when I get into bed but the Waiting Room of Books only gets fuller, the shelf longer. Would you like to meet them?

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs: She has been in the Waiting Room for a long long time. I feel very bad about her. She was given to my mum by a friend that had enjoyed her. My Mum enjoyed her and thought I would too. That was about four years ago. I liked the sound of her, really I did, it's just that I am not very good at novels. I find them a bit intimidating. I think it is something to do with being a control freak and not being able to stand suspense. Anyway, we decided to move to a tiny subtropical island and I packed my Waiting Room of Books. We had fun and frolics on our crazy rock, and I read a lot of books, but not this one. Then suddenly our adventure was done and our time was up and I packed up the Waiting Room of Books again and she was still there. Still waiting. And I brought her back. Then this summer I took her on holiday to Cornwall and STARTED her. Then I stopped. I got all intimidated again, by her being a novel. And I started something else and she's back in the waiting room.

The Road to Le Tholonet by Monty Don: He is my latest acquisition. He was being let go by the library and I couldn't help myself. I am a big fan of Monty and love the way he writes. Plus it is about french gardens and the sun shines in France and there is nothing I like more than books in which the sun shines. Sunshine books are my slightly guilty pleasure. Shhh, don't tell the others but I think he might be next...

Spilling the Beans by Clarissa Dixon Wright: You know those shelves of books in village halls and waiting rooms... Make a donation, borrow me for free, swap me for something else... Well I can't help myself. I am hoping that Clarissa will spin a good yarn when her turn comes.

Marine Life of St Helena by Judith Brown: Written by my pal Dr Jude, it is a field guide to the marine life of St Helena. I am not kidding myself that I will ever read it cover to cover. But I love that it exists and that I have a copy.

Moranthology by Caitlin Moran: A toughy this one. It was a present from a lovely friend. Before I had a chance to start it, someone let slip that it was her second book and lent me the first. I didn't like it. At all. She's going to have to stay in the Waiting Room of Books a while longer while I decide what to do with her.

The Parrot's Theorem by Denis Guidi: Lent to me by a friend. A novel of sorts but full of maths (this is a good thing - I have a rusty maths degree tucked away in a drawer somewhere). A casualty of taking more than one book on holiday and being indecisive and flighty. Definitely want to get back to it but might have to start again because it is a bit of a mystery and I think a few of the plot twists may have faded from my memory.

The Land where Lemons Grow by Helena Attlee: This lounged on my Amazon wish list for months. I like to think of my wish list as a sort of pre-Waiting Room, a holding pen or antechamber for books that might one day make it into the actual Waiting Room of Books. I have high hopes of her being a sunshine book. It is a history of citrus fruit. Not everyone's cup of tea maybe, but right up my street.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce: I have to confess that I haven't even read the back properly. A friend came to stay and borrowed some books. When she returned them she added this to the pile and said she thought I'd like it. It's a novel but you never know...

A Place in France by Nigel Farrell: Borrowed from the free library in the school foyer. Its about a chap moving to France. I think it might have been a TV series too, but that might have been another chap. It has sunshine possibilities but I might return it unread as it is not shouting very loud.

Allotted Time by Robin Smelton: He was recommended by Jo of Through the Keyhole (I think). Again he spent a while in the antechamber. It's about a chap who takes on an allotment and pulls his life together as a result. I can't even remember whether it is a novel or not. I think I might have started it but I am not sure... Oh dear, I am not very committed, am I? I do like the premise though so it'll stay where it is for now.

Sarah Raven's Cutting Garden Journal: I won this in a bloggy giveaway from Jo at The Good Life . (This is the same Jo as Through the Keyhole. She is a woman of many talents and two blogs.) It sits there mocking my good intentions to do some proper planning, and to make the most of my garden, and to write things down and all that stuff. One day...

Fork to Fork by Monty and Sarah Don: Dug up in a charity shop. Joins in with the mocking of good intentions.

The Knysna Elephants and their Forest Home: Bought in South Africa when we met some rescued elephants on the edge of the Knysna Forest. I would like to read it but it never quite makes it to the front of the queue.

In the Heart of the Garden by Helene Wiggin: I love love love the premise of this novel. It tells the story of a piece of land over 1000 years from when it is first made into a garden. Unfortunately all the stories-within-the-story of the people you meet along the way are exactly the kind of stories I dislike. They are all a bit 'real' with tragedy and discomfort, disasters and unpleasantness. I pushed myself to about half way through in an attempt to like it and then it went from bad to worse and included bullying and cruelty in its repertoire of horrors of the human condition, and I was defeated. It only retains its place in the Waiting Room of Books because I want to love it. I want it to be a sunshine book and to be everything it isn't.

Building your own Greenhouse by Stackpole Books: Bought from the unwanted shelf of Jamestown Library, St Helena. Polishing my good intentions again!

So there you have it. Fifteen books in my Waiting Room. An unusually large and unwieldy number. And the reason there are so many?  (apart from the fact that I seem to be incapable of finishing a novel)... I discovered Patrick Leigh Fermor.

In 1933 at the tender age of 19 he set out to walk from London to Constantinople. The story of his journey, the people he met, and the histories of the places he passed through, are told in three hefty volumes: A Time of Gifts, Between Woods and Water and A Broken Road. They are heavy going, but in a good way. Full of literary references (many of which are beyond me) and vivid descriptions of a time of innocence, both in his own life and in the Europe he walked across. I borrowed all three (one at a time) from the public library and I am almost at the end of the third. I suppose they have taken me the best part of three months to read, and I have loved them.

Later he settled in Greece and wrote about that, but I think I will reduce the queue in the Waiting Room a bit before I let him in again.


Monday, 9 November 2015

Maps and cushions

I ventured into my tip of a sewing room for the first time in ages on Saturday and made myself tidy up. Not the major spring clean it needs but I put away the pile of fabric that was taking up most of the floor and sorted through the pile of things to be fixed that were engulfing the sewing machine. It was good. Good to reclaim the space a bit. I fixed the zip on Big Trouble's lion costume and sewed the tassel back onto his favorite hat. I established that J's PJ bottoms are unfixable and found a couple of small projects that were just waiting to be finished. 

Back in the summer when we went to Whitby I bought a tea towel from the Captain Cooke museum. It shows his voyages of discovery and it was quite clear that a couple went via St Helena and Ascension island. The trouble was the islands weren't marked.

So I added them.

On Saturday I rediscovered the tea towel and finally did something with it. It was never intended to be just a tea towel you see. I backed it with a simple envelope back and stuffed a pillow inside.

Ta Da! One extremely large cushion. I kind of love it, even though it is a bit ridiculous.

Next I dug out another map. This time not made by me, but made by my dear friend Lucy. She gave it to me as a leaving present when we left St Helena in July 2014. I think she had intended to make it into a cushion but ran out of time.

She even marked Longwood where we lived. The different panels show the districts.

I backed it, in the true St Helena spirit of upcycling everything, with the front of an old shirt using the buttons as the fastening.

Finally I can see and enjoy it. I completely completely love it.

Thank you my lovely friend.