Books I read over the Christmas holidays

As I mentioned in an earlier post my Christmas holidays included the following activities

A walk every day

We managed a walk most days but with our visitor in his eightieth year the walks were sometimes quite short ones.  However we did get to connect with the natural environment every day.

Lots of board games

We played scrabble, whist, dominoes, rummikub, trionimos, charades, settlers of Catan, zombicide and plague (a brand new game). The last three were my son’s games.  I approached them as a duty, but found all three really good fun and would recommend them to anyone not put off by the titles. I bought a set of pick up sticks for a few pounds, as a stocking filler and these proved to be very popular. We also tried charades but the three of us understand each other so well there is not much mystery. I also bought some wooden puzzles that kept us occupied on Christmas morning.

Reading a long list of books

I have read a blog (Dovegreyreader Scribbles if you are interested) recommending Robert Macfarlane’s Book ‘Landscapes’ and had bought a copy. After the first sentence I was hooked and ordered all the other books by this author I could find from the library.

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My favourite book so far by this author is ‘The Old Ways’ where he explores ancient ways on foot looking at the landscape, natural history, archaeology, and history. I was completely mesmerised by the language, and the mental images they engendered.

 

The smallest book by Robert Macfarlane is ‘Holloway’ an exploration of the hollow lanes of South Dorset. Written in memory of Roger Deakin another great writer of natural history, it had all the beauty of lyrical poetry. The artwork was stunningly beautiful. Of all these books it is the one I would most like to own. I still have ‘Mountains of the Mind’ and ‘Wild Places’ to read. I also need to order ‘Underland’ an exploration of the world beneath our feet. I cannot express how much pleasure these books have given me my mind traveled to all these wonderful places and I could picture them so clearly thanks to the excellent writing.

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Dovegrey reader scribbles also recommended a publisher porsephone books. Accordingly I searched the library catalogue for books from this publisher and came across ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson. This proved to be a real Cinderella story set in the 1930s. Some of the scenes resembled a French Farce but it was charming and light. I loved seeing this very moral and repressed spinster gradually softening and becoming more human.  Who could not like a frothy book for the winter when outside the rain is lashing the windows and the wind is howling.

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From the same publisher came Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd. An elderly spinster is rescued from a desert island where she has been marooned for four years and arrives home in the middle of the second world war. Her struggles to re adjust are both funny and poignant. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The end papers are truly lovely.

‘Saplings’ By Noel Streatfeild was also on the list. Most famous for the childrens’ novel ‘Ballet Shoes’, this novel examines the effect of the disturbance and uncertainty of the second would war on the lives of children. More specifically the children of a seemingly perfect middle class family. It was rather long but very moving. The trouble is it is hard to get too emotional about the trauma of a perfectly nice middle class family, when at that time people including children were literally starving and being murdered. Despite this it was thought provoking.

I read ‘The Miniaturist’ by Jessie Burton. This was gripping and as a thriller quite a page turner.It is beautifully written and the denouement is quite a condemnation of the Calvinistic attitude prevalent in Amsterdam at the time. At this time a similar intolerance is present in the world and the parallels were quite startling. It has the distinction of making me cry something very few novels manage to do these days.

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I also read ‘Various Pets Alive and Dead’ by Marina Lewycka. her first novel “A Short History on Tractors in Ukrainian” was a fantastic book. I had forgotten so much of my childhood and that book brought it all back from the pet words, to the mind set of the father and the attitude of Ukrainian women of that era. the clash between Ukrainians now and then is sympathetically protrayed. Her next two books I found disappointing. However in this latest novel the clash of attitudes and lifestyles is again explored and her voice is back as clear as ever. This novel is the story of a group of adult children, of a couple of hippies. Having grown up in a sort of commune in the 1970’s, the adult children rebel or reinvent themselves or try to move on. Their troubles and conflicts were both funny and sad. I couldn’t put the book down and finished it in a day. So what a wonderful fortnight of reading.

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Swimming wherever possible. I managed this on several occasions revelling in being nearly the only person in the pool. Despite the cool temperature of the water I find the joy of swimming and having the time to meditate at the same time delightful. Some people sit to meditate others run, however I swim and as I pace the lengths of the pool I reflect on my day, my life and any problems I have. I clamber out tired but refreshed.

Good meals

I cooked any number of roast dinners and desserts, not to mention all the bottles of wine we drank. All were eaten by my family and friends. As always, it took hours to cook everything and a matter of minutes for them to be devoured. Still we didn’t eat too much rubbish food, as a result we are facing the new year feeling a lot healthier than we usually do.

Playing some music every day I managed 2 days when I played so an abject failure there. I did manage to play a Haydn sonata this afternoon. I bought myself a book of Haydn piano sonatas as a treat and have just commenced playing the easiest ones.

So this was my Christmas and New Year. New Years day was rounded off by the first of the new season of Sherlock. Pure escapism but very enjoyable all the same. I hope that you have all had an equally pleasant Christmas Holiday and I wish you all a very happy New Year