Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Purple Prose - make your final choice

I have managed to whittle the Purple Prose book list down to a final 5.

I’ve tried to be fair, so lots of apologies if your favourite book didn’t make the final list. I used a points system to choose - well it’s a wet day and I’ve time on my hands.

3 points 1st choice

2 points 2nd choice

1 point No preference mentioned and/or the book was on the original list.

Please make your final choice in the comment box:

English Passenger by Matthew Kneale ( A wryly humorous seafaring yarn set around an 1857 voyage to Tasmania.)

Diary of an Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster ( A series of fictional journals recording a woman’s inner life and 20c events.)

Time travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (She meets the love of her life when she is 6 and he’s 36, but he’s only really 8 years older than her. It’s not really science fiction, it’s more about two people coping with a situation beyond their control

Redemption Falls by Joseph O’Connor (This explores the enigma of life through a love story and tale of war in 1860s America.)

Unless by Carol Shields (This is about a woman who’s comfortable life is in turmoil when she finds her daughter is sitting on a Toronto street corner with a begging bowl in her lap.)

I feel I want to read them all but that isn’t possible. Please vote and the one with the most votes can be the current Purple prose book of the month.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Purple Prose - your choice

Wow! What a response. Now we need to whittle the suggested books down to 4 or 5 of the most popular before we make our final choice of purple prose.

Please put your 1st choice and 2nd choice of book in the comment box. Bear in mind the book needs to be currently in print and readily available to all.

I’ll publish the 4 or 5 most popular on Children, Chocolate and Wine. Then we can vote for the book we want to read this time.

Purple Prose Book List 29/05/07 (in no particular order)

Time Traveller’s Wife Audrey Niffenegg.

Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

Into the Wild John Krakauer

Unless Carol shields

Redemption Joseph O’Connor

Star of the Sea Joseph O’Connor

Diary of an Ordinary Woman Margaret Foster

Running for the Hills Horatio Clare

Falling Angels Tracey Chevalier

The English Passengers Matthew Kneale

A Monstrous Regiment Terry Pratchet

A Scandalous Life (biography of Jane Digby) Mary Lovell

My Dirty little Book of Stolen Time Liz Jensen

The Historian Elizabeth Kostovo

On Beauty Zadie Smith

Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Nature Cure Richard Mabey

Holberts Gift Saul bellow

Day A L Kennedy

How to be free Tim Hodgkinson

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Purple prose

I hope I’m not being too swotty but several people expressed an interest in a purple reading group. I can see some enormous advantages for me. Firstly I won’t have to drive home after having a measly fruit juice while my bus riding friends have been knocking back the red and white. Secondly I won’t have to drive home late at night and, with my eye sight problems that will be a help. Specs like the bottom of wine glasses loom on the horizon. (Well they would if I could actually see the horizon any more.)

Next, other readers won’t get lost trying to find my house in the dark. I live 20 mins from a coastal town and the village is well signposted, but my town dwelling friends go to pieces once beyond the security of street lamps. In my regular reading group the person who chooses the book also hosts the evening. The last time it was my turn three friends turned up 30 mns early, afraid they might get lost. The majority came late because they did get lost. And two intrepid travellers, driving a 4x4, didn’t turn up at all. They set out together and headed for a similar sounding place in East Sussex not West Sussex, only realising they’d gone wrong when they’d driven more than twenty miles totally in the wrong direction.

What book were we reading? In to the Wild by John Krakauer of course!

Is anyone interested in forming a group? If so, add a suggested title and author in the comment box and I’ll list them on the main page. A vote could be taken on the most popular title and off we go. Any takers?

Friday, 25 May 2007

On books and friends

I missed going to my book club last night. My sight is still a bit wobbly after the tadpoles in the sky incident, so I felt driving home from the town in the dark would be too risky. The group are all previous work colleagues, some now in early retirement and others are still 'in the thick of it' career women. It’s usually a great meeting. All of us are a bit spiky and bitchy but supportive of each other in our own way. They are sharp, funny and argumentative by turns, all willing to disagree, dish the dirt and listen to each other, offence seldom taken and usually never meant. We even get round to discussing the book occasionally.

This lively forum has ruined me for any other book group I’ve ever thought of joining. I was invited to one but turned it down when I realised the wife of a former boss would also be a member. I’ve nothing against the woman, but knew that I couldn’t trust myself to be civil about him, so thought it best to stay away.

Meeting up with my old group means a longish drive into town so, as part of my, ‘getting to know people in the village’ campaign, I a responded to an advert in the village bookshop. It said, ‘New members wanted for established reading group’ . Promising a warm welcome with stimulating discussion it seemed just the job and a way to get to know some like minded people.

Their daunting booklist for the past seven years arrived along with the title of the tome of the month and the address of the next venue. Until I get to know people I tend to be a bit quiet, so the first couple of sessions went quite well, but on the third occasion I found the book really not to my taste. Anxious not to offend people I hardly knew, when it came to my turn I diplomatically offered that I thought the book was, ‘sweetly pretty, but lacked any substance’. I smiled brightly then, to my embarrassment, noticed the woman who’d chosen the book looked distinctly upset. She bravely blew her nose and said that she couldn’t believe I could be so unkind about her favourite book, a book she had loved since girlhood. A horrible silence followed, only broken when our host quickly suggested we all had some tea. I drank mine feeling it might be poisoned.

After that I decided perhaps that book group was too well established and far too polite for me. Any one out there wishing to form a reading group? I promise I won’t make any hasty or critical comments, at least not for the first couple of weeks.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

I guess I'll have to do it in my sunglasses now.

On Friday we fancied a day trip to Sissinghurst garden, but I just had to pop into the optician on the way. When I told them about the funny little tadpole shapes that were swimming before my eyes all hell broke out. Stingy stuff was squirted into my eyes. I was puffed and peered at, the hospital was phoned, a letter pushed into my bleary hand and, with my husband driving, off I went to the eye hospital as a medical emergency.

Once at the hospital I had to sit on a special red chair and wait. A few more medical emergencies arrived and we were called one by one to have more stingy stuff squirted into our eyes. We sat together on our red chairs, with dilated eyes, like a row of bush babies on speed. By now I was peering through pupils the size of saucers but I was being very brave. Apparently in past times women would put belladonna in their eyes to dilate the pupils and look more alluring. It certainly wouldn’t have worked for me.

I was seen quite quickly by a lovely bearded doctor, who, to my confused vision , looked remarkably like my husband, only more patient and stern. After much puffing, prodding and peering I was told I had a bleeding eyeball (that's roughly what I was thinking by this time...) but nothing important was detached. I’d have known more of what he was talking about if I’d paid attention in biology lessons, but in those days they never taught the really interesting stuff and pictures of eyes still make me go all squidgey inside.

Apparently it will clear up in a couple of weeks in the meantime sunglasses might help. Today the tadpoles have turned into a sort of grey cobweb, so I guess that’s progress. When I asked the doctor what I could have done to cause it, he replied without a hint of humour, ‘grown older’. Not a nice thing to say to a woman facing a birthday. I replied , ‘Oh wailey, wailey’ and he showed me the door.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

A bit of a gloomy tail

Maybe its the weather but, in my darkened mood, I parked on the lavender and couldn’t be bothered to move the car. Why so glum? I’ve trays of plants for the allotment but I can’t get them down there. It’s been raining for days.. I’m working too much. I go months with not a hint of work then everybody is on the phone at once. Then there has been the slaughter in the garden and the cat’s smirking again.

I guess it’s all part of the perils of owning a cat, but why did it have to do that to the baby great tit and I can hear the blackbird alarm calling again. Our previous cat lived in permanent comfy middle age, always asleep in the garden or on the sofa; this garden tiger is a marauder.

I’ve told sad tales of mice under the sofa and shocked magpies smashing up my daffodils in the kitchen (alas all on the other blog site that shall not be named) but this morning I was greeted by half a fancy goldfish, the tail end. Should I confess to my neighbour or keep quiet and let him think it’s the heron again. (Answers on a postcard please.)

I know it’s not only cats that do bad things. Yesterday I met Jack, a hamster eating terrier. The hamster was on holiday at a friends house. Never assume that those jolly little plastic balls, designed to exercise a hamster, are doggy proof. Any canny dog can whiz the ball along with one foot, then decant a dizzy hamster and, wham, no more hamster.

What’s the real reason for me being gloomy? Another birthday looms. Not a significant one, but aren’t they all significant once your past the first flush of middle age.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Wine and water

My Man’s cooking the dinner, I’ve just had a couple of gulps of red wine and I’ve been sitting curled up in the armchair thinking what to write. Sounds good eh? Are you jealous? Actually I’m feeling really fed up. It’s been one of those days, starting full of promise, that didn’t live up to expectations.
Early on it was sunny so I breakfasted early and was ready to wheelbarrow my tomato plants down the allotment, when it started to pour with rain. It’s been torrential all day. Twice I tried to do things in the garden and twice I got soaked.
Then I tried to plan lessons for the week but I’ve mislaid a vital science book. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before but somehow I’ve landed up as home tutor to a delightful girl with ASD and ME. I was told she was gifted, in English I presumed. Well they’d hardly ask me to teach maths would they? Ha! Ha! Now I’m teaching English, Science and Maths to a girl who’s gifted in Maths. She has a very exact approach to life and I’ve lost her science book. I’m not looking forward to Monday. It starts in a unit for troubled children with a young person who often throws my carefully prepared work on the floor accompanied by colourful expletives. (Note how polite I’m being) I usually have to frantically improvise just to keep him in the room. Then I’m off to a delightfully eccentric household and a languid girl in her pyjamas who knows more maths than I do.
I thought giving up full time work would be easy. I’m writing this rather than facing working my way through another chapter of her maths book. Hysteria is setting in. - another gulp of wine.

The sun finally came out around 6.15 pm and I sought refuge in the greenhouse to pot up some seedlings. My man has been replastering a hole in the bathroom wall (don’t ask) and swearing when it went wrong.. He came outside for a breath of fresh air, decided to clean the greenhouse glass, threw a bucket of cold water and it went straight through the greenhouse window and onto me. I’m now wearing a completely new set of dry clothes and he’s cooking the dinner. Need I say more.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

In the pink?

I guess women often meet other women at the school gates but my kids are grown up, so I needed somewhere else to meet new people when I moved to the edge of this village. I didn’t feel ready for the W.I, Scottish country dancing would be a hopeless choice, I can’t sing in tune, so it had to be the Horticultural Society. Even with a tiny town plot I was a keen gardener so, as soon as we moved, I was off to the monthly meetings.

The village horticultural society has been running for over a hundred years and many of the members could be described as ‘heritage gardeners’, people with gorgeous inherited gardens (and houses). Some of these gardens are magnificent. They are often open for the yellow book scheme, are visited on village ‘secret gardens ‘day and are the site for charitable fetes and cream teas.

I have a meagre 100 feet crammed with a huge Bramley apple, a spreading beech, a patch of vegetables, a few flowers, a ramshackle green house and his and hers workshops. His workshop houses his tools and mountains of mountain bikes and appropriate clutter. My workshop doubles as a glass bead making studio and garden shed. In the autumn bunches of onions and garlic, trays of stored apples and squashes vie for space between racks of coloured glass rods and garden tools. I can just squeeze my plant propagator on the bench next to my kiln.

Strangely I haven’t been asked to open ‘lampwork part acre’ to the public yet. In fact my ploy for meeting new people wasn’t initially successful. I’m a loyal attender but a bit on the shy side, After a couple of years of Horticultural Evenings I still felt like a new girl in the wrong uniform.

One evening, late home from work, I rushed off to the meeting wearing my bright pink jacket instead of my usual gardeners’ drab. The effect was miraculous. Several of the older gents, of whom there are many, politely introduced themselves, another offered me a chair and volunteered to get me a tea in the interval. A few years ago I’d have said I was , 'In with a chance.' The secretary even welcomed me as a new member and looked a little taken back when I tartly explained I‘d been paying him my dues for the past two years.

The next meeting I wore my usual garb, no one spoke , so I wore my pink jacket again and was met by friendly approval, at least from the gardening gents. This took place a few years ago. I can’t say even now they are a very friendly bunch, but I got to know several of them as soon as I entered the village show and started to win a few modest prizes. Once their garlic and courgettes were under threat from a woman they started to notice me. As for the pink jacket, it’s looking a little worn. Well it’s almost at the point when I’ll wear it down the allotment. I’ve got another in a rather fetching purple. I’ll wear that when I really want to impress.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Any news, any scandal, any gossip?

A few years ago, while I was planning my move to the edge of a West Sussex village my big sister out did me once again and took herself off to the far north of Scotland, (No sibling rivalry there then!)

In the quiet community where she lives the common greeting is,

‘Any news?’

‘Any news, any scandal, any gossip, and if not, let’s make some up!’ would be more appropriate.

I was staying with her last week and had the misfortune to need to visit the local doctor on pension day. The post office is just across the road from the health centre and I passed by just as the village worthies were gathering for their morning chat. I could feel all eyes on my back as I crossed over and I swear I could hear them whispering.

‘That’s Em’s sister from down south, she’s going to the doctor…’

One old farmer, waiting for his wife, quickly rolled down his car window to be ready to greet me with a cheery, ‘How are yea?‘ as I passed. Before I’d even got beyond the waiting room door my sister’s neighbour, a kindly and inquisitive old soul and ex nurse, had phoned to enquire what was wrong and could she be of assistance. In a two minute conversation she’d managed to wheedle out all essential details and within a few more minutes I imagine most of the over sixties had been updated on the state of my health. I swear even the sheep in the neighbouring field eyed me with interest.

I don’t think I could cope with that level of speculation on a regular basis but my sister takes it in her stride and gives as good as she gets. I now know quite a lot more than I needed to about several of her friends and acquaintances. Though not one to gossip myself, if this blog was a bit more secure I might even be tempted to pass on a few particularly interesting snippets. It’s not only the porridge that gets stirred up there you know. Some other time perhaps.

I’m not saying my own village isn’t capable of spreading a rumour or three. If you want to know who’s bought the empty shop and the juicy details of why the previous tenants left in such a hurry, then a visit to the hairdressers is needed. It’s only a small village but is blessed with three hairdressers and it would be unwise to upset any of them. I even heard that they’ve actually banned a woman I know for ‘bad behaviour’ but my half hour appointment wasn’t quite long enough to find out the exact nature of the behaviour. I need a perm and colour to get to the bottom of that one. It’s even rumoured that the village restaurant failed because my hairdresser’s mum had an indifferent meal there on her anniversary, but not being one to gossip myself I don’t think I should pass that on.

I travelled home yesterday and my sister phoned this evening to say she’s had several of friends pop in to see her. One brought a cabbage she had spare, another wanted a recipe, all wanted to know how I was. I shudder to think how my medical mishap has been pondered over and embroidered, but at least I know that my sister, who’s getting on a bit and not in the best of health herself, will be watched over by a community that looks after its own and its incomers. She’s a long way from me and I can’t get to see her much so I take comfort in that.