Friday, March 27, 2015

Death of our dog Sadie

Mary Oliver says in her book Dog Songs
And it is exceedingly short, his galloping life. Dogs die so soon. I have my stories of that grief, no doubt many of you do also. It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old - or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give.
Our beloved Sadie was put down yesterday afternoon after months of up and down health problems. During the up times we kept hoping she could come back, and during the downs we felt such despair. Yesterday we took her out walking just a little bit.

My poor old girl. How I miss her.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Today's poem by Katharine Tynan

Slow Spring

O year, grow slowly. Exquisite, holy,
The days go on
With almonds showing the pink stars blowing 
And birds in the dawn.

Grow slowly, year, like a child that is dear,
Or a lamb that is mild,
By little steps, and by little skips,
Like a lamb or a child.

Katharine Tynan (1859-1931)

Spring officially began in my neck of the woods at 6:45 pm

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Today's song/Carrickfergus by Van Morrison and The Chieftains

I wanted very much to post Van singing this in a live performance, but the one I found was too fast and upbeat for this very sad song. This is from the original recording. Here are the lyrics so you may read them while the song is playing. The video follows.


I wish I had you in Carrickfergus,
Only for nights in Ballygran,
I would swim over the deepest ocean,
The deepest ocean to be by your side.

But the sea is wide and I can't swim over
And neither have I wings to fly.
Oh, I wish I could find me a handy boatman
To ferry me over to my love and die.

My childhood days bring back sad reflections
To happy times spent so long ago.
My boyhood friends and my own relations
Have all passed on like the melting snow.

But I'll spend my days in endless roving,
Soft is the grass and my bed is free.
Oh to be home now in Carrickfergus,
On the long road down to the salty sea.

And in Kilkenny it is reported
On marble stones as black as ink,
With gold and silver I did support her
But I'll sing no more till I get a drink.

I'm drunk today and I'm rarely sober,
A handsome rover from town to town.
Ah but I am sick and my days are numbered
So come all ye young men and lay me down.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Rude Visitors by Gail Chislett

The Rude Visitors
by Gail Chislett
illustrated by Barbara Di Lella
children's book 1984
finished 3/12/15

There aren't words to express the special joy that comes from reading a book to Hazel Nina that I used to read to her mother. Margaret doesn't remember this book, and I'm sure it is because she was Hazel's age when I read it to her. It is one of my very favorites, and now it seems that it is also one of Hazel's. On many days, she walks over to the shelf, takes it off, and brings it to one of us to read. She plops herself up into a lap, and happily sits quietly absorbing this witty and wonderful book.

The delightful dedication makes me think there really was a boy named Bram back in 1984 whose mother wrote a book featuring him as the main character.

The Rude Visitors is about little Bram blaming imaginary (or are they?) animals for all the misadventures of a toddler.

The illustrations by Barbara Di Lella are so engaging, with both black and white, and color drawings. She makes Bram and his friends very appealing to young ones and their adult readers. I'm happy to say the book is still in print. If you are a parent or grandparent of a young child you will both love this book, and like Hazel Nina, want to read it over and over again.

Monday, March 9, 2015

February Reading

5. Bee-bim Bop 
by Linda Sue Park
illustrated by Ho Baek Lee
children's book 2005
finished 2/2/15

I wrote about this here.

6. The Bachelors of Broken Hill - book 14 in the Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1950
finished 2/3/15

The Widows of Broome (January Reading) and The Bachelors of Broken Hill are a little set. They differ from the preceding books and are alike to one another. They both involve deeply disturbing psychological cases for Bony to solve. We learn of some very weird people along the way. They are much more like modern mysteries which, to my mind, sometimes offer a few too many details that I don’t need swimming around in my mind. But still both are excellent chapters in the Bony books.

7. The Clue of the New Shoe - book 15 in the Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte series
by Arthur Upfield
mystery 1951
finished 2/9/15

The Clue of the New Shoe brought Bony out of the town into a more rural, less populated environment. This time he is along the sea investigating a body found buried in a lighthouse wall. Australia is so varied in landscape, and each book shows the reader something new. I really wish I had the time to write a single book report on each book. 

8. Belle Prater's Boy - book 1 in the Belle Prater series
by Ruth White
young adult fiction 1996
finished 2/13/15

9. The Search for Belle Prater - book 2 in the Belle Prater series
by Ruth White
young adult fiction 2005
finished 2/14/15

I don't know how I missed these two books. Exceptional writing and stories. They are set in 1950s Virginia. There is a wonderful sense of family love, and a good sense of society in those days.

10. Howards End is on the Landing 
by Susan Hill
nonfiction 2009
finished 2/14/15

I wrote about this here.

11. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good - book 10 in the Mitford series
by Jan Karon
fiction 2014
finished 2/18/15

I am so very happy Jan Karon is going on with this series. It was such a treat to catch up with the Mitford folks. All my old friends were there at different stages and situations of their lives. The author has said there’s another one coming along. She also said that Father Tim will be alive as long as she is writing. Very reassuring for this reader. I will read this series as long as the books are written. These are real people with real troubles, and with real joys.

12. Cocaine Blues - book 1 in the Phryne Fisher series
by Kerry Greenwood
mystery 1989
finished 2/22/15

I’ve been reading about this series on blogs for a long time. I’ve watched a few of the televised programs called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which are on Netflix Instant. So finally I read the first in the series, and I liked it so much that I’ve already bought the second one. Phryne has her own web page here so you may read all about her. I really liked the characters in the Melbourne Australia of the 1920s. You know about my new found fascination with Australia from reading the Napoleon Bonaparte series by Arthur Upfield, and this is a great addition to my ‘education’ on this topic.

13. The Vanishing Houseboat - book 2 in the Penny Parker series
by Mildred A. Wirt
middle grade mystery 1939
finished 2/24/15

I’m surprised at how much I enjoy these books for young teens back in the 1930s. They are exceedingly well-written with good use of grammar and language. The plots are intriguing, and the characters not at all one-dimensional. I wrote a little bit about the other two I’ve read here. As I said then, I am so impressed with the trust her father puts in her - he expects her to do the right thing, and she does. And when something unexpected happens, he understands. It is very good parent/child relationship. Much kindness and generosity is shown. Penny is a good role model.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

What I Learned From TV - March 8

Each time I do a post about What I Learned From TV, I’ll begin with the explanation from the first posting:

Now that my kids are grown, and Tom has retired, I’ve been able to go back to my natural sleep pattern which is to stay up late and get up late. Tom’s natural rhythm is just the opposite. So, he’s the lark and I’m the owl. And what this owl does in the late hours is watch television- not in the traditional way but through HuluNetflixTunnelBear, and Acorn TV. Most of the shows are British, though I am a great fan of a few American television shows, and have been watching some from other countries now that we have TunnelBear. Some of these shows Tom will watch in the mornings, but some of them are all mine. So, when I hear a great quote from a show I know he’s not going to watch, I’ll leave him little post-it notes near the computer keyboard. I had a notion this morning to begin a new ‘letter topic’ called What I Learned From TV so I can put up some virtual post-its for you to read and, hopefully, enjoy. Some are funny, some are educational, some are wise.

From The Café:

No one knows anyone’s [phone] number by heart anymore.

And isn’t that the truth. I have been the queen of remembering phone numbers my whole life, but no longer. I don’t even know my kids’ because they are under ‘favorites’ and I just click and voila, my phone dials. A little bit sad, I think. As Joni Mitchell wrote all those years ago, ‘something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.'

From Bones:

Cell phones carry 10 times the bacteria of a toilet seat!

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Year with Mrs. Appleyard - February

I will never understand fame - why some are so well known in their fields and others, who may be just as talented are nearly forgotten. Louise Andrews Kent is the example of the latter. I’ve read the very famous Thurber, and I don’t think his humor and wit hold a candle to Kent’s. Of course, humor is a very personal thing. What makes one person laugh, doesn’t even bring a smile to another. 

To me she is hilarious. As I sat reading the February installment, I laughed out loud a few times, and silently smiled all through it. This is the humor of E.M. Delafield, who wrote the Provincial Lady books, and George and Weedon Grossmith, who wrote The Diary of a Nobody.

I love how the February entry in Mrs. Appleyard's Year begins.
Harsh things have been said about February, but not by Mrs. Appleyard. She likes its uncertain temper, its ability to produce snowdrifts one minute and snowdrops the next…
She goes on to write what we mothers of grown-up children may occasionally feel.
Willows turning faintly golden against a dark blue sky with ragged clouds blown across it always delude her into the idea that this year spring will come early. When she realizes she has been fooled again, she stays happily indoors. There is a strain of groundhog blood in her ancestry, Mr. Appleyard says. She sees her shadow and digs in again. She goes to bed early and makes up for it by getting up late. She reads Pride and Prejudice, Walden, Rob Roy - long, leisurely books that she can go to sleep over and pick up another evening. ... Toward six in the morning she sometimes suffers from a few moments of insomnia. Years of getting out of bed at that grim gray hour and chivvying the children into clean clothes, making indelicate insinuations about the backs of necks and the edges of fingernails, juggling with oatmeal and poached eggs, forcing rubbers on reluctant feet, cajoling the sulky motor from the faint pop to the full-throated roar - these cannot be entirely forgotten. She wakes sharply with the nightmare feeling that she must warm the baby's bottle, sew on the lost button, ... So she must get up and begin her duties as policewoman, chauffeur, nose and throat specialist, and dietician. Only, wonderful feeling, she doesn't have to. The children are grown up. She can turn over and go to sleep again.
The author talks about February illnesses, and well I remember this from my childhood. I often wondered who would be able to come to my birthday party, and how many would have the measles or chickenpox.

From writing of guest towels,
Rather than sully such perfection, the guests have wiped their hands surreptitiously on the corner of a stray family bathtowel or on their own handkerchiefs or on the bathmat.
she goes right into world affairs, and somehow brings humor to wartime. It was startling for me to realize that as she was writing, the US was not yet in the war. I so loved reading
Mrs. Appleyard is sure the British are going to win the war. She has several reasons, but the most important are Mr. Churchill, her Aunt Hildegarde, and the British telephone. ... It was Aunt Hildegarde who wrote to Mrs. Appleyard in 1914 to ask why the United States had not yet come into the war to help Britain.'All the other colonies have,' she reminded her niece.
Louise Andrews Kent continues with what we so admire about the British in the Second World War as she explains what Aunt Hildegarde's letter says,
'I will just spend the time the bombers are overhead to write and tell you the family news.' ...'And now the all clear has sounded. Such good luck. I shall just have time to take the socks I have been knitting to the rectory and be back for tea'
The bit about British telephones is very, very funny as Mrs. Appleyard tells of a time in the late 1930s when she was in England and wanted to make a call. 
... a comfortable train with compartments much larger than a phone booth would have taken her to her friends' house in three hours and it had taken her two hours to telephone.
It is no wonder, she considers, that one of the first war measures was to forbid private use of the telephone. With the time saved simply by not chatting with City Directory, Hitler can be pushed into the British Channel. She is sure a people strengthened by contact with Buttons A and B will have no trouble doing it.
I think this is great stuff. The writing is sharp, clever, funny, and filled with warmth. I'm so loving these little monthly readings.