Thursday, 30 October 2014

Yet More Books!

These three were all book-club choices, and very good ones. Some confusion over the first meant we all had to read the whole trilogy thank goodness!
Barker:The Regeneration Trilogy ( Regeneration, The Eye In the Door and The Ghost Road) follows several characters including poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon through treatment for shell shock in Craiglockhart Hospital under the charismatic (real) Dr William Rivers with his controversial view that shell shock was an illness rather than lack on moral fibre. Several other stories intertwine. Read all three, they’re compelling.
Kathleen Kent: The Heretic’s Daughter (+The Traitor’s Wife) Excellent tale of a woman who was charged with being a witch in Salem, and her reasons for not defending herself. The hysteria and assumption of guilt are terrifying. The second book was the back-story of her husband and his place in Cromwell’s England. Many very well described characters and beautiful descriptions.
Markus Zusak  The Book Thief,  Nazism from the point of view of children, (as narrated by Death) one of whom develops a passion for books after picking up “The Gravedigger’s Manual” then being mortified at school for her inability to read. Her foster family shelter a Jew who further inspires her to read and write. Funny in parts, heartbreaking in others, beautifully written and an original slant on a well-known tale.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

More books

Pat Gibbon:Ghosts Of Dunkirk is self published by a neighbour. It’s the recollections of his uncle, as related to him, of being sent to France, half trained at the start of WW2, of being abandoned and taken prisoner. His struggle for survival as a POW , with slave labour, near starvation, lack of medical care and disregard of the Geneva Convention by his captors makes harrowing reading in places. After release and the almost fatal march from Poland to Belgium he returns to England and the Army. The final insult is when he’s had up on a charge for hitting an Italian POW who obstructs him in some deliveries. The story is good with some lovely descriptions but very long, and would benefit from a professional editor. It gives real human background and “domestic” detail of the awful conditions, a useful addition to anyone studying or interested in WW1
Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill. Recommended by someone doing Hadrian’s Wall MOOC, not very original now but maybe it was one of the first timetravel stories for children. Too heavy and educational for today’s generation, but I’m working all through Kipling. 
Kesey:One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest has been a huge gap in my education, why haven’t I read it before, or even seen the film? It’s brilliant once you get used to the Americanisms and colloquial style. The characters evolve totally believably towards the conclusion but you’re never quite sure what drove Mack. Some evocative descriptions.

Reading Time

Retirement is meant to be a time of leisure, somebody said that, but having started with plenty of reading time, books have taken a second , or third, place to crafts and the garden.
I'm in two bookclubs which helps, but still would like more hours each day.

Jamie Andrew:Life and Limb, how he lost his best friend, Jamie Fisher and all four limbs in a freak snow storm in the Alps, the one that caused the devastating avalanche near Chamonix in 1999. He takes you through the fatal expedition, near despair and finally almost-too-late rescue. His girlfriend and the other Jamie's father hear that only one of the lads has survived. He then goes through his amputations and rehabilitation, including prosthetic arms with built in ice-axes, I suspect his prosthetists regarded him as a wonderful challenge. Not in the least self-pitying, he’s an inspiration to anyone with difficulties or physical disability.

Panek:Seeing and Believing was recommended by someone on my Moons MOOC, about the invention of the telescope and its implications for our changing perspective of ourselves. It’s a bit rambling but good in places. Interesting for the enthusiast who doesn’t already know it all.Andrew Motion: In the Blood is a memoir of childhood, I hope just the first part of his autobiography. As you’d expect from an ex-poet laureate he’s good with words. Beautifully written with many descriptions of the countryside and his changing attitudes, it also rings an awful bell for anyone who’s been to boarding school. It starts at the sudden end of childhood when his mother suffers a severe head injury. We don’t find out what happens, although I can imagine.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Chestnuts, cranberries and the dreaded sprouts!

It's really been a brilliant year for sweet chestnuts, a lovely wet spring  started them well. The trees at the end of our road have proper shop-sized ones, not the usual mousey ones, worm-free too. How sad that conkers are suffering so badly from the leaf miner, really positive to get school children involved in the research. How many will end up in related careers? Back to the edible ones, if you have to many to roast and eat now, drop them in a saucepan boil for a couple of minutes then leave them for half an hour, take out a few at a time and they peel easily while still warm. Ready to freeze for the turkey. I've just found a large one on my desk from a visit to Chartwell on Sunday, by today (Wednesday) it's quite dried out, I wonder what the importers do to them to keep them fresh.
Make Brussels sprouts edible, don't overcook them, slightly crunchy is best then toss them in butter, ground black pepper and a handful each of chestnut pieces and cranberries (frozen is fine). Sizzle gently until the cranberries turn them a festive magenta.
On the theme of cranberries, L has a passion for cranberry sauce, could eat a whole jar with a veggiething and roast potatoes, so I came up with a recipe for home-made which works quite well, it's on my post about chutney, have a go and enjoy it.


Some of my gardening friends have complained of large creatures in the night digging up their lawns, maybe foxes or badgers, both common round here. The RHS suggested that chafer bugs are the most likely quarry. A real problem as our beautiful British may-bug is increasingly rare, partly because of pesticides, partly competition from the less attractive European_chafer. To the untrained eye the stag-beetle larva looks similar. This spectacular chap also lives in lawns, but is endangered and protected. Some live in my beetle sanctuary, a pile of logs rotted while waiting to be stacked in the garage. It's a real pleasure to find a mature one, so keep protecting and providing for them! A few holes in your lawns must be a small price, maybe if everyone had beetle sanctuaries they'd leave the lawns alone.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


Did anyone see the lunar eclipse last week? I missed it, I suspect it was cloudy again, but luckily NASA'a Messenger, currently orbiting Mercury, was more on the ball. You can see it on the planetary society's blog. The insignificant white blob is us, the moon is the teeny-weeny one which disappears. Puts us and our worries in a different context, doesn't it?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Stained Glass

I'm still beavering away at more AdEd classes than I can really fit into a week, stained glass, fused glass, drawing (with the amazing claire harrison), pottery and Early Civilisations from to proper civilisations. And a MOOC on Hadrian's Wall, planning to walk it next year.

This is last term's project, a mirror for L&N. Huge fun to do. I could take comissions, but not cheap.                                                          Anyone interested?


The butterfly and flower centres are fused glass. Coming soon, my next one has more, and some painting.


I put a giant puffball the other day, here's a giant mouse, carved into a rough bench. I love to think of him coming alive at full moon to eat picnic scraps, even tidying away rubbish; maybe watched The Wombles as a mouseling.

Thursday, 2 October 2014


Corfe Castle must be one of the most recognised monuments in the south of england, so it's always a pleasure to take a bronze DofE group there, particularly if the route involves checkpointing from one of the excellent tea shops and a nice group of girls.

Wandering along the coastal ridge among the skylarks is a high point!