(Castle Acre, in Norfolk. The village, complete with castle and priory, was a Norman planned settlement. Here you can see the remains of the motte-and-bailey castle founded by William de Warenne shortly after the Norman conquest)
Hello again, and sorry for the long silence. Here’s what I’ve been doing this summer instead of writing here or commenting on your posts:
I call it ‘running’ because to my mind that sounds a bit more amateurish and undisciplined than ‘jogging’ and amateurish and undisciplined is what I am. I realised that I am 44 thus Ageing, my idea of exercise until now has been lying on the sofa raising glasses of wine to my lips and perhaps I had better do some small thing to preserve the physical health I’m so fortunate to have before I turn into a slug. Thus far I can confidently report to you that I find running boring as hell and not exactly effortless. Moreover, where are the endorphins? The energy boost? The muscles? I continue but am unimpressed. Yes, those are my trainers, they are visible from outer space and most certainly from where you’re sitting.
While I have been designed to be in every way unsuited to summer (hay fever, skin that burns fairly easily, weird heat-related rashes on joints, increased tendency to rage at temperatures above 28oC, dislike of direct sunlight what am I a vampire?) I love it and I love it even more now that I’m a teacher and get two months’ holiday. I spent two weeks with my daughter and family in Britain, a week of which was in north Norfolk and just splendid. Although my mother performed a few scary tricks with the car. Sorry, car battery! Sorry, handbrake (burnt through)! Sorry, hedge! Sorry, terrified teenagers of Stanhoe! Sorry, vicar’s gatepost!
This year the earlier part of the holiday was consumed by Brexit, which caused me to develop an addiction to reading Twitter I am only now kicking. This has eaten into my reading time, but I am still getting through a few books:
(The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing, I haven't finished this quite yet; The Hounds of the Mórrígan, Pat Shea, and Love Songs of Asia, rendered by Powys Mathers, both of which I was inspired to track down by S.E. Graythorne whose taste is so good I shall have to buy her novel; The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Natasha Pulley, I have wanted to read this since it was first published but was too mean to buy it in hardback; Helena, or the Sea in Summer, by Julián Ayesta, as recommended by Violet of Still Life with Books, a really good blog which I miss; The Photographer's Wife, Suzanne Joinson, review to follow!)
And, ahem, adding to the TBR wing of the château:
(Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep, Eleanor Farjeon, illustrated by Charlotte Voake; Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell; At the Back of the North Wind, George MacDonald, illustrated by E.H. Shepherd, yes there do seem to be a lot of illustrated books here; The King of Ireland's Son, Padraic Colum, illustrated by Willy Pogany, what can I say, I read this by Katherine Langrish and had to find it; The Life of Elves, Muriel Barbery, so many intriguing reviews and it sounds just my cup of tea; After Me Comes the Flood, Sarah Perry, nobody can have enough Sarah Perry in their lives and now I have all that is published and am impatiently awaiting her next novel, no pressure there Sarah heh heh!; Flâneuse: Women walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London, Lauren Elkin, I have been waiting for this to come out since it was first announced and am slavering to read it; A Book of Charms and Changelings, Ruth Manning Sanders, illustrated by Robin Jacques, I love Manning Sanders' collections and am unable to resist them...)
Some of them are not for me! No, that’s a lie, they’re ALL for me.
Related to this...
I’ve recently discovered Simon’s addictive Other People’s Bookshelves and it has inspired me to get to grips with my own. Look at what I’ve purchased just this summer! My shelves have overflowed and there is nowhere and I mean nowhere else in the house to build shelves. And I still have several large boxes of books at my parents’ and I’m, as I mentioned, 44 years old! Soberingly, I won’t have enough time to read and reread everything that is already in my house before I die. Come September and the beginning of the school year, I am going to have a big ‘sorting out’. (This seems less vicious than a ‘cull’.) Really.
Yesterday I met some friends at a café; it was a very hot day (about 36oC) and I looked forward to an afternoon lolling about drinking cool drinks while our children frolicked in the attached playground. Before I knew it we had signed up to go kayaking! What follows is a sorry tale. Given the choice between paddling upstream for 45 minutes until we reached some sort of impasse, or downstream for 30 minutes to another café, I suggested the café, we had all afternoon, what could go wrong? And the ‘river’ de Kleine Nette (it’s even called the Little Nette) looked pretty crummy, obviously not much of a current.
Well. The moral of this story is, always go upstream first. It took our enfeebled frames over an hour to reach the café, which was closed, and as for coming back, what muscle I have in my arms was on fire and there was a sinister grinding noise coming from my shoulders as I struggled against a very determined current. My daughter, the passenger in this hellish craft, dabbled her toes in the water and trilled helpfully, ‘Don’t be lazy, Mama!’ As my face was fixed in a snarl of pain I heard my name called and one of my sisters-in-law and her husband kayaked expertly by. At least they didn’t see what I did five minutes later, which was to hop out of the sodding kayak and start dragging it all the way back to the starting point. (To save face I flopped back in just before we got there and paddled in; since I was dripping wet to the chest anyone could have guessed what I had really been up to but as by this time it was rather dark maybe it wasn’t terribly obvious.)
We did see a lot of very beautiful dragonflies though!
Well, this has been for much of the preceding year in the times I should have been posting here and not just over this summer, but I decided to write a children’s book and I did. It is quite possibly the worst piece of writing ever to see the light of day and the spirits of the trees who died to make the paper on which it is scrawled are weeping and wailing and rattling their chains. I wrote it for various reasons and I’ve already started on a second draft (which will involve rewriting the first half and then completely changing the entire plot of the second half so you can see what a mess the first effort was). It is frustrating but also quite good fun. Definitely an embarrassing little secret though. I’m not sure why I’m sharing it with the internets.
(Statue of King Charles the Martyr in the Church of Our Lady St Mary in South Creake, Norfolk. I have never seen a statue of Charles I displayed like this before, apparently it is part of the Anglo-Catholic tradition to venerate him. I was intrigued by the carved figures behind him. There are angels in the roof, which is peppered with lead shot from the seventeenth century when jackdaws nesting there was a problem)