There’s a thunderstorm cracking on at the moment, bringing welcome rain and cool after some very very hot days. ‘Isn’t it dangerous to be working on a computer during a thunderstorm, Helen?’ I hear you cry. I expect so, but it’s all in a day’s work for a book blogger. If I disappear mid-sentence, you’ll know my house has been struck.
Not everyone is welcoming the storm though. It seems to have made the cats bad-tempered, and they actually fought in the kitchen a few minutes ago. Poor Mister Puss, erstwhile tough guy, hid under a cupboard, hissing, while Clara, puffed out to almost the size of a normal cat, stalked up and down with lashing tail.
Here she is on Saturday morning demonstrating her strange attraction to our paddling pool. (This is the second paddling pool we have owned, since she riddled the first one with punctures from her tiny claws scrambling up it – what cat seriously climbs up paddling pools don’t they all hate water? – and even this one has been patched a few times due to her insatiable but spiky love.)
In the chicken coop, friendship has triumphed. Fluffy feels no further threat to her queenship and stopped being mean to Frosty some time ago. Phew.
Anyway, moving on, some of you probably already know that the independent Norfolk publisher Salt has asked readers for help: if you’ve ever considered buying one of their books, now is the time to do it. Here is the page with the explanation and a list of fifty of their highlights. You can order direct from them or from a bookshop. They have a really interesting list, including fiction, poetry and literary criticism, with a crime fiction list, and their better-known authors include Meike Ziervogel and Lesley Glaister, plus Christina James’s series about DI Tim Yates.
I’ve ordered a copy of Simon Okotie’s In the Absence of Absalon, about an investigator looking into a series of disappearances. Nicholas Lezard, whose taste in books is always impeccable, wrote about it: ‘This is literature as insanity, the mind stuck in an endless loop – focused, it would appear, too closely on the job at hand. The detective story as existential crisis took form with Beckett’s Molloy more than 60 years ago; and the concept of the novel as crazed digression was first incarnated in Tristram Shandy, over 250 years ago. Okotie is in very good company – and has also set himself a high bar. He succeeds. Superbly.’ So if you feel like taking a punt on an author or book you haven’t previously come across, today’s the day to do it...
Finally, look look! After 150 years I finally finished sewing a mermaid doll for my daughter. I call her Rasta Mermaid, but she has now been named Stella, which I fear is only going to lead to trouble in E’s bedroom since her purple unicorn is also called Stella. The curious thing is that I made her from a pattern (in Jane Bull’s Crafty Dolls, though I made her hair using the method described here) and yet she is still bizarrely wonky. Truly, I am terrible at sewing. She is wearing a jacket made from a pattern in the same book. My mother says that mermaids don’t wear jackets; she is quite right but dolls are more fun with clothes. I wanted to give her a brooch too but E felt that was overkill.
Here she is again with her little sister, also modified from a pattern in that book, but this time (mainly) by E. I helped a bit. Instead of 150 years, she took us about an hour. The little sister has had about five names, I can’t keep up. I’m now working on a home for them, a tarted-up cardboard box, to be honest, but fortunately E is easily pleased.