Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Summary


I mean 168 books which I have not ever read before. Some of them are indeed newly published, but most are "pre-loved"; if I had bought 168 brand new books at full price in the last year, my husband would likely be having a lengthy discussion about our limited budget....    :-)


In 2010, I read 168 new books and re-read quite a lot of others; the Thursday Next series I have re-read in its entirety at least three times this year as comfort reading :-)

I also wrote one book :-)

Not bad for a year, even though I say so myself.......and I have at least three books half-read which will count as 2011 reading now !!
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I was so looking forward to this, after loving her first book, but found the gratuitous and detailed sex to be a tedious distraction from the wickedy clever plot. A good read, nonetheless.

                                   This was sheer delight, from one cover to the the other !
A collection of original work by Elinor Brent-Dyer, creator of the legendary "Chalet School" series, and work of many other fan-writers who have written "fill-in" stories with a Christmas theme and starring characters from the Chalet School series.
Being a fan writer myself, I loved this present from DD2 and her partner,  and tomorrow I get to start using my super present from Mr & Mrs DoomHamster; photo to follow :-)

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Feeling Blue

Today I had the sad task of taking my mother's 19 year old cat to the vet to be put to sleep. Poppy was no longer grooming herself at all, struggling to eat and was becoming incontinent, and this morning Mum made the decision that "the time had come".

I stayed with Poppy right the way through , and for a few minutes after she passed. I came out of the vet's and howled all the way back to the car, and am crying now as I type this.

Poor little cat. She was such a sweetie, but although we have known for weeks that her end was approaching, it made it no easier to hold her as she died.

And tonight is the yahrzeit of my dear stepfather Gordon, who reposed on this night; may his memory be eternal.

I shall be glad to see 2011 arrive.
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Moonacre Music

Although the film "The Secret Of Moonacre" really did tamper with the plot of Elizabeth Goudge's masterpiece, "The Little White Horse", the music by Christian Henson was stunning, especially this piece:

and this variation by the composer:

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What The Dog of Doom Thought Of Christmas....

                                                        But where are all my presents ?
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On Christmas Day

........... in the morning !
 Snow and sunshine for Christmas :-)
The snow only disappeared on the 28th when it finally
 started to rain in the early hours of the morning...

This is all that remained of our snow family on the 28th...

and a few remnants of snow in the back garden.

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Recently Read

This was a serendipitous charity shop find ! I love Louisa M. Alcott, and this was a new one to me. I so enjoyed reading it, although most people would probably condemn it for being pious, moralistic and too dated to be relevant.
I don't think that wanting one's children and wards to grow up to be sensible, decent people who care about what happens to others  is ever old-fashioned or irrelevant to modern society....quite the opposite, in fact !!

This book of Jewish folktales from around the world was a delight, especially the story of the Golem of Prague :-)

Both of these I had previously borrowed from the public library and thoroughly enjoyed them. 
 I was especially thrilled to pick them up very cheaply in the charity shop and read them again before Christmas :-)
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Laughing Out Loud

I was reminded of an article published in "The Independent" newspaper in 2000, lamenting that future generations would miss out on the fun of seeing snow.

I would redirect you to recent photos I have posted., and announce that it is snowing yet again today, despite the predictions of The Independent :-)

Text of the original article (20 March 2000) follows:

Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.
Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters - which scientists are attributing to global climate change - produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

The first two months of 2000 were virtually free of significant snowfall in much of lowland Britain, and December brought only moderate snowfall in the South-east. It is the continuation of a trend that has been increasingly visible in the past 15 years: in the south of England, for instance, from 1970 to 1995 snow and sleet fell for an average of 3.7 days, while from 1988 to 1995 the average was 0.7 days. London's last substantial snowfall was in February 1991.

Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. Average temperatures in Britain were nearly 0.6°C higher in the Nineties than in 1960-90, and it is estimated that they will increase by 0.2C every decade over the coming century. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the Nineties.

However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".
"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.
The effects of snow-free winter in Britain are already becoming apparent. This year, for the first time ever, Hamleys, Britain's biggest toyshop, had no sledges on display in its Regent Street store. "It was a bit of a first," a spokesperson said.

Fen skating, once a popular sport on the fields of East Anglia, now takes place on indoor artificial rinks. Malcolm Robinson, of the Fenland Indoor Speed Skating Club in Peterborough, says they have not skated outside since 1997. "As a boy, I can remember being on ice most winters. Now it's few and far between," he said.
Michael Jeacock, a Cambridgeshire local historian, added that a generation was growing up "without experiencing one of the greatest joys and privileges of living in this part of the world - open-air skating".

Warmer winters have significant environmental and economic implications, and a wide range of research indicates that pests and plant diseases, usually killed back by sharp frosts, are likely to flourish. But very little research has been done on the cultural implications of climate change - into the possibility, for example, that our notion of Christmas might have to shift.

Professor Jarich Oosten, an anthropologist at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, says that even if we no longer see snow, it will remain culturally important.
"We don't really have wolves in Europe any more, but they are still an important part of our culture and everyone knows what they look like," he said.

David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes - or eventually "feel" virtual cold.
Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. "We're really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time," he said.

The chances are certainly now stacked against the sortof heavy snowfall in cities that inspired Impressionist painters, such as Sisley, and the 19th century poet laureate Robert Bridges, who wrote in "London Snow" of it, "stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying".

Not any more, it seems.

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"Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride" From Valaam

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Snow 18th Dec 2010 Part Two

I went for a walk in the snow, and it was simply lovely.

Even the gravestones looked festive....

The Cross, towering above everything else.

And for a little touch of Narnia, 
an old-fashioned lamp-post.
I half-expected to see Mr Tumnus
 peer round the corner at any moment......

The Church is very lovely anyway,
but the combination of snow and sunshine was perfect for taking photos:

Not even the Commonwealth iconoclasts destroyed everything;
 luckily this angel survives !

I was standing under the giant Yew, looking out .....

Walking back the other way through the Village was also delightful .

This cottage has a thatched roof under all the snow !

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Snow On 18th December 2010

From my bedroom, looking onto the courtyard.

My front garden !

One of the old houses in the village.

Looking down the hill to the Village Green.

Gateway to a house....

The ancient Parish Church.
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Snow on 17th December 2010

One of the bushes just outside the front door, first thing in the morning..

My front garden :-)

Looking up the hill.....

If it wasn't for the telephone pole and wires, this would have been a nice picture :-)
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Recently Read

A very varied crop of books this time....

"La's Orchestra Saves the World" is a very gentle, feel-good book, which starts off  by being quite sad in places, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book as a whole.

"The Gunpowder Plot" by Lady Antonia Fraser is heart-rendingly sad.  She presents both sides of the eponymous plot, and outlines under what hardships the Catholics existed in Britain under King James.

Imagine :

When to even attend a secretly held Mass in private was a felony against the State, punishable by heavy fines and/or imprisonment.

You could not have your child baptised in the Rites of your Faith; all children had to be baptised in the local Anglican church by the Anglican minister. All marriages and funerals had to be carried out by Anglican priests in Anglican churches by law. On your deathbed, you would not be able to have the Last Rites freely; it would depend upon the bravery of local priests and Catholic layfolk who gave them shelter against the law, and once dead, you had to be buried in an Anglican churchyard.

Once a child reached 16, it was compulsory to attend the local Anglican church each and every Sunday, and mandatory to take Communion there at least twice a year, on pain of heavy fines and/or imprisonment.
Catholics were not allowed to become lawyers, to attend English universities and gain degrees, nor to vote in local elections. Catholics were not alllowed to serve as officers in the Army or the Navy, though they could act as cannon-fodder in the lower ranks. They were not allowed to act as executors of wills nor as guardians of minor children under 16. 

 In 1613, a Bill was introduced into the House of Commons which proposed that all Roman Catholics would be compelled to wear  distinguishing red hats or multi-coloured stockings so that they could be mocked ("hooted at"), though this measure was not passed.  Catholic priests and lay folk were captured, imprisoned, tortured and killed for their beliefs. Like so many religious conflicts, it was a sad and dreadful period in British history. How would we Orthodox have fared under such circumstances?
Lord have mercy on us all.

Love Over Scotland was a clever book, written from multiple third person viewpoints in short chapters; an engaging and sweet book, particularly those parts related by Bertie, a six year old child prodigy whose life is made a misery by his scheming and "hot-housing" mother and a more than slightly deranged Psychotherapist engaged by his mother to "treat" him.

"God's Reality Show" presents a premise where God hosts a reality show based on eleven key Old Testament characters: Eve, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Deborah, Samson, Ruth, Saul & David. Funny, clever, and with a nice ending, both DD3 and I loved it.

Jennifer Worth's "In the Midst Of Life" is very well worth a read. An experienced nurse and midwife, she discusses the benefits and pitfalls of modern medicine at the end of life, and whether the medical desire to battle death has reached a position where people are dying in misery, agony and degrading conditions because they have been aggressively treated for illnesses that thirty years ago would have been accepted as invariably fatal and the sufferers nursed with compassion and love in their last hours rather than being left to die alone in hospital, linked up to monitors.

She presents a series of case studies which argue both for and against her claim, and it is a well-reasoned and thoughtful book, whether one agrees with her or not. I am currently reading it again for the second time, and am finding much food for thought.

Sobering reading, I know, but it is essential that we all think about what care we would wish for ourselves as we approach the end of our lives, and make sure that our loved ones are well aware of what we do and do not want done to us when we can no longer articulate these things for ourselves.
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Slightly Festive!

The stove has been burning brightly these last few days......

And the Christmas tree has been corralled away from the mad Dog of Doom.......
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Miscellaneous Photos

These were taken on Monday night, walking DD4 to and from her school's Christmas Concert :-)

This was a lovely sight; one of the local cafes belongs to a family of Italian heritage, and each year, they place their large Creche in pride of place in the front window of the cafe.

From the sublime, above, to the slightly bizarre, below :
this was an advert in a bus shelter, of all to embiggen !

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Comment Moderation Back On

I only disengaged comment moderation at teatime yesterday, and by this morning there was already spam being posted, so I am sorry, but comment moderation is back on :-(

$%£&*$ spammers !
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Half An Hour

I have half an hour to "fill" before going to pick DD4 up from here is some black humour I just produced.

It is in no way altered or polished, and may well undergo extensive editing and revision before I am happy with it, but I just thought you might like to see something that has come straight from my fingers, grammatical and spelling mistakes included :-)


She'd arrived early, determined to get a good seat, and preferably as far away from the biting draught that whistled through the open doors of the building, through which the crowds were currently pouring. It had been bad enough walking for forty minutes in the bitter cold; she had no desire to feel the cold air until it was time to start the long walk home again.

She sat in the vast, echoing chapel, painted stark white and fitted with the original wooden box pews, watching as parents and friends filed in - or in some cases, galloped in - for the carol concert, jostling for the best seats. Best seats, of course, meaning only that they provided closest access for those wielding cameras and camcorders to record the event for posterity. Quite how many of the camera wielders took anything of the real meaning of the performance home in their hearts was difficult to judge, and, in any case, as she sternly reminded herslef, none of her business. She knew she was too judgemental by far.

The reality, of course, was that most of the dvds created of the concert would be watched once then languish on the top shelf of people's bookcases and cupboards - too "precious" to be thrown away because they contained images of that family's beloved children, yet too "boring" to bear repeated watching. Unless , of course, your particular child had a special starring role, in which case, every visitor for the next month was likely to be forcibly sat down on the sofa with a glass of sherry and compelled to watch and make appropriately admiring comments about your child prodigy. :-)

Each pew contained a few copies of a modern language "inclusive" Bible, and on the walls were a few crafted banners. For a denomination which eschewed idolatry of any sort, with not even a plain cross hanging on the walls, there were banners instead, though all but one were abstract in design or created so that the biblical figures represented were viewed from the back or a half angle, thus obliviating the need for - gasp - faces. Faces which might, of course, lend themselves to idolatry. Backs of head obviously did not carry the same danger.

Many of the families actually belonged to the denomination at whose building the carol concert was being held, and could be seen clutching their own cameras so they could indulge in their own version of idolatry and capture images of their children.

They made strange bedfellows, she mused, modern technology and  heresy..................
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Carol Concerts and Conversations

Last night was DD4's  school carol concert. Unfortunately, DH had to work away and could not be there, so I was charged with taking photographs and filming, which made the time go much faster.  As I am getting older, I find that it seems really "weird" going to these concerts when it is still only Advent, and spiritually I  am only preparing for Christmas, not celebrating it yet :-) 

We put up our own Christmas tree last weekend, and the Nativity set has pride of place on the table. DH was busy eating when he noticed that something seemed amiss. "One of the figures is missing from the Nativity set!" he informed me anxiously, me having been in charge of overseeing the children doing the decorating. His important role is that of extracting all the said decorations from the inaccessible attic space in the first place, by the way.....

"I know!" I replied calmly. "It's quite safe."

"Why isn't it with all the others?"

"Because Baby Jesus  hasn't been born yet! He doesn't go in the crib till dusk (and therefore time for Vespers) on Christmas Eve." I explained. As I do every single year when we put up the Crib.

DH just looked at me and laughed. "You always do everything by the rule book, don't you?" he said affectionately.

I just grinned.........
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Shovellers Revisited

A male Shoveller duck, with a good view of its amazing spatulate beak. 
 Click to enlarge and see it better.

Male and female Shoveller in the same picture :-)

Busy dabbling for food !
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Asking For Prayers

....for my friend Jane and her husband, whose final hearing before the Judge regarding the little boy they are in the process of adopting will be held on Dec 15th.

...and for Nicola, whose mother died this morning after a long illness.

Thank you !
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Fun Maths And Doodling

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Chalet School Story

By special request, my Chalet School fanfic about St Nicholas' Day is now  posted here.
Enjoy :-)
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Recently Read

The pursuit of learning Latin continues, albeit slowly.
 I seem to be far better at buying books than mastering their contents,
 though the "House At Pooh Corner" in Latin is wonderful !!

"That Others May Live" is the life story of  Senior Master Sergeant Jack Brehm, a ParaRescue Jumper of the  US Air Force's 106th Air Rescue Wing.
 Brilliant book.  
The Chris Ryan book was also a cracking good read.

I am almost at the end of "Crossfire" so I have included it:-)
  "The Circuit" is extremely interesting as it is a purely factual account of an ex-SAS soldier who went "private" protecting people involved in the Gulf War and other places. It is a salutary reminder that fiction is often glamourised and does not always paint a good picture of the SAS.
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Birds, Domestic And Otherwise

The cold weather has brought some unusual visitors to our little lake; hidden amongst the mallard were three very handsome male Shoveller ducks - who were remarkably camera-shy - and these two females in the foreground, who were happy for me to photograph their remarkable shovel -like beaks.......

I will endeavour to catch a snap of the males later today :-)

I bought a super new bird feeder for only £8.99. The peanut holder and fat balls were not included, but it cost only a few pounds to stock up the feeder with food. Like Margaret noted, many of the birds in my garden also seem remarkably dense and ignore the feeder, choosing to walk on the ground instead. My resident robin is very territorial and has had several aggressive fights with other small birds today, scaring them out of the garden, which does not help.......
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Walking To School This Morning.

Still some red berries remaining, despite the bitter weather and large numbers of birds heading south.

This spider's web was completely frozen solid with heavy frost - minus 5 C this morning.

No snow, just heavy frost and the sun rising, giving the hills a pinky glow.

This young cygnet was acting as an ice-breaking ship, ploughing its way through the newly frozen ice.

I will never get tired of this view.

The sun rising higher, by the time I was on my way home from the school.

Picture perfect :-)

I loved the heart-shaped ivy leaf, its edges coated in frost.

A frosty fir tree.
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