Friday, 31 January 2014

January Ends

January feels like a month to be endured, despite having a birthday in its middle I still feel less than enthusiastic about it.  The fairy lights and sparkles are packed away and once more life is earnest, life is real.  Life is also wet, windy and dark.  So I cannot say that I am sorry to see the back of January.

Meanwhile there has been knitting activity in the background, I have finished the knitting on Dad's jumper, started the making up and in between times, in the interests of my own sanity, knocked up a quick baby jumper and a warm cabled hat.  Pictures anon I hope.

One of the little bright spots, like a missive from a brighter, happier land, has been the arrival of the first catalogue of books published by Daunt's Books, an excellent independent chain of London bookshops.  If you feel gloomy about the survival of the High Street, or wish for inspiration for how to revive the High Street, go to one of their shops forthwith.  Preferably their Marylebone High Street shop branch, which is where I found them, fortuitously, on the way to a medical appointment nearby.  Going to one of their shops is a joyous experience, the Marylebone shop is an original late nineteenth century bookshop, with a wonderful galleried room of books on every country or region of the world, arranged by region, then country, covering more traditional guide books, dictionaries and maps as well as books on their literature, history, art and cookery.

The bookshops are well curated and always have something new to catch your eye and the publishing list is similarly good.  It is like a well thought out and selected delicatessen rather than a pile 'em high behemoth and full of such tantalising titles.  Like Persephone Books they are mostly titles that have undeservedly gone out of print and I look forward to spending some of the book tokens my kind friends and family have given me for Christmas and my birthday.  But don't take my word for it - go and feast your eyes.

As a last note I am pleased to note that Persephone are currently selling Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield, a funny little book that deserves to be better known.  My copy is one that had belonged to my mother's cousin, 'Aunt' Daisy and although she died when I was 12, it is lovely to make that connection and read a book that I know she enjoyed - we inherited two copies, one an omnibus edition which is falling apart.  Albeit she did not managed to obtain a copy with the original illustrations; I suppose you cannot have everything?

Anyhow onwards into February, searching for signs of the beginnings of spring as we go.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Year in Books: January

I know I am a little late to the party but I came across this idea from Laura at a Circle of Pines, for an informal, book a month, book group and thought I would join in as I have been doing a lot of reading lately and because joining these things can be fun.  You can find out more about the idea behind the year in books here.

So my book for this month is Angel by Elizabeth Taylor (not the film star), one of the books I had for Christmas.  One of my neighbours, who has a similar taste in books, recommended Elizabeth Taylor and Elizabeth Jane Howard, a friend of Taylor's, also spoke highly her books in her autobiography.  Angel tells the tale of Angela Deverell, a writer of popular, somewhat racy but badly written novels and explores the relationship between real life and fiction, truth and delusion.  Elizabeth Taylor writes with skill to make you engage with a character who is prickly and not always the most likable and she avoids censure or judgement, simply telling her story.  It is almost as though she found herself wondering who writes these novels, which might be equated to modern *Mills and Boon* novels, who are they and what motivates them?  I did wonder if Taylor had the writer Ethel M. Dell in mind when creating Angel Deverell, perhaps reading the introduction (I never read it before reading a novel in case of "spoilers") will cast some light on it?

Elizabeth Taylor

I tend to do a lot of my reading in the bath in the evenings and it is a mark of the quality of this book that my baths grew longer and longer as I got more gripped by the story.  Elizabeth Taylor's books fit into the Persephone Books, Elizabeth Bowen, Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Jane Howard sort of genre of novels of small happenings in seemingly ordinary lives which are nonetheless capable of tremendous interest and of being utterly compelling.  Naturally each of these authors have their own flavour but they all operate in the same sort of sphere.

If you wish to read what others have been reading this month you can see the list back on Laura's blog here, meanwhile I need to consider what to read next month.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Year's Resolutions?

At the end of my last post I wrote that I would be back with some goals or aims for the new year; however, when I came to think about it being a New Year (the words seem capitalised in my head) and thinking about what I wanted to achieve in those 12 months I ended up overwhelmed.  During the closing month or so of last year I had many ideas about how the New Year was going to be, changing my life, being bolder, doing various things better, the usual sorts of things.  Then the New Year came, in its usual underwhelming style and over the first few days of the year I have felt a sense of disappointment, that things are not immediately better, that I am still making some of the same mistakes and failing in some of the same areas as before, that each day feels the same as it did last year.

My expectations both of myself and of an arbitrary division in the calendar were vastly over-inflated.  Surely I should have remembered how overwhelming it is to look at something as big as a whole year in one piece?  And I had also failed to remember that my body has not magically got better overnight, the succession of headaches that has marred the first week of the year should be a sharp reminder.

So instead I am rethinking the goals and aims and what I want to achieve and breaking things down into smaller, more manageable chunks.  Overall this year I want to live more boldly and be more prepared to try new things and take risks, albeit carefully calculated risks.  But I do need to start where I am, more rest needs to be on the agenda and my first big goal is finishing my dad's jumper, which is becoming something of a struggle due to lack of motivation.  Fellow knitters will understand when I say that I am on the sleeves, often a dispiriting section of a jumper.

On I go, step by step, taking the year day by day, with my usual slow dance of two steps forward, one step back, trying to keep trying and not get discouraged.  After all an arbitrary change of date is not enough, on its own, to change life.