April Come She Will

Winter returns! After summer sunshine all last week temperatures plummet, just as everyone tries to adjust to fuel bill increases. We’re all turning off vampire appliances and wearing thermal underwear.

Thanks to everyone who sent supportive messages after my post about bi-polar disorder. It has put paid to the myth that I do so much because of some kind of super-power. Getting my medication right means less time being creative and more time dozing on the sofa!

Random Tarot reading: two cards. From Sophie McKay Knight’s deck, Temperance suggests balance, patience, moderation. From the Leonora Carrington deck, Strength, with the calm woman taming the lion, using her balanced determination to deal with aggression. I can find some useful metaphors here.

Covid arrived in our household on March 6th. Cannyrob tested positive after sitting near a coughing woman in a restaurant. After two years of sanitising door handles, avoiding crowds and wearing FFP2 masks. We had talked in the early days about self isolating but now we had to do it for real. We are lucky to have a top floor with its own bedroom and bathroom. But it was strange to communicate via video calls. Cannyrob was feverish and achey, coughing, very tired, but nothing worse. I tested negative for 7 days and bingewatched Netflix and Starzplay.

Cannyrob recovered in time for us to head to the west of Scotland for a week of visiting family and friends. Our budget hotel had no mobile signal and very patchy WiFi, so we had a break from doom-scrolling which did us no harm at all, considering the general grimness of the news. I spent a lovely three hours in the Central Hotel Champagne Bar – comfy seats in a quiet corner and a serious catch-up over a cheeseboard and a bottle of rose with C, an old friend who knew me as a baby! Lots of reminiscing. Talked about our mutual passion for reading. We both read compulsively, sometimes using books as a way to block out the world. My favourite book as a child, Adventures with Rosalind was actually hers and after I had borrowed it several times a month for several years she gave me it to keep. I still have it. By Charlotte Austen published 1947.

Two dinners in different restaurants provided entertainment. At one, a large inebriated funeral party got so loud that we asked to be moved. At the second, a fist fight broke out among five young men at a table behind us, a bemused baby perched on a sixth man’s knee. A young waiter looked aghast and ran for help. The fiesty landlady flung open the emergency exit door and ejected the fighters two at a time.

I’ve been reading fiction and non-fiction lately. The Betrayals by Bridget Collins is a brilliant, absorbing book inspired by Herman Hess’s The Glass Bead Game. Set in a world apart from reality yet mirroring politics and morality, it is a puzzle in itself. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is another Neil Gaiman book which appeals to readers of all ages. Beautifully illustrated, it is sad, absorbing and poetic.

Mrs England by Stacey Halls, inspired by real events and the establishment of the Norland Nannies training school, is a dark, intriguing tale of family secrets and survival.

A Black Boy at Eton Dillibe Oyanama is an odd book, written directly from his experience in the 1960s. I found I wanted to understand the back story of his Nigerian family and his separation from them.

I read This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay to compare it with the TV series starring Ben Whishaw. The book was funny, but the series turned anecdote into drama, with much more depth to Adam’s character.

I wanted to read The Mystery of Charles Dickens by A N.Wilson as it deals with some of the less admirable qualities of the author, using clues from the novels as evidence. It makes me want to read more and re-read or listen to my favourites. I also read a collection of interviews from World War 1 eye-witnesses, now very elderly, called All Quiet on the Home Front. It was fairly slight. Perhaps they should have started talking to survivors earlier?

Sundial is Catriona Ward’s latest book. It starts with a suburban family, so no immediate Gothic horror, but it soon turns very dark. With animal murders, weird experiments and dysfunctional relationships it is as good as her other books. I couldn’t put it down.

Among Others by Jo Walton makes a nice change. Welsh valleys, fairies, boarding school and books. I loved this quote:

There are books you can fall into and pull up over your head.

I’ve been enjoying listening to these three very different books. The Wall by Marlen Haushofer was written in the 1950’s and imagines a world where a woman finds herself shut off behind an invisible wall, alone in a world where she assumes everyone else is dead. She documents two years of survival, tending animals, growing her own food and coping with solitude. Moving and thought provoking.

The 1619 Project is The New York Times Magazine’s reframing of American history, placing slavery and its legacy at the centre of a national narrative. The book, made up of prose, poetry and historical documents helps explain not only the persistence of anti-Black racism and inequality in American life, but also the roots of so much of what makes the country unique. I was very moved by much of this, especially the section on black music.

I’m now in the midst of the Gordon Riots of 1780 in Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. It reveals some of Dickens’ attitudes to class and intellect. Barnaby is an ‘idiot’ but central to the plot.

Not much space for television this time but would recommend The Power of the Dog and Inventing Anna, both Netflix. I have to admit I am seriously hooked on Outlander, Starzplay (good-looking guys in kilts!) By the way, I didn’t make it to drumming after all, thanks to Covid, but definitely going this Saturday!

Maybe the snow is just an April Fool and we will have some Spring weather for Easter. Keep warm, avoid Covid if you can and, of course, keep in touch!

Love. Elinor

The flowers that bloom in the Spring, tra-la!

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