April A-Z: J is for Jane Austen

I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen, and along with many others my favourite book is Pride and Prejudice – I really love the ‘obstinate, headstrong girl’ that is Lizzie Bennet.

But to my surprise I also really enjoyed reading ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ by crime writer PD James, set several years on from Pride and Prejudice but still following the lives of the same favourite characters as they deal with the emotional upheaval of a scandalous murder and subsequent public trial potentially destroying the Darcy’s good family name, along with a thoroughly satisfactory denouement. And yes, as one of many sub-plots the guy still gets the girl in the end!

Rather than taking a purist standpoint I was happy to allow for some artistic licence and just be carried along by the excellent narrative, taking it all at face value and enjoying it for what it is – a brilliantly written historical murder mystery incorporating well-rounded characters we already know and love…  

Life events have conspired to pull me away from blogging over the last couple of months, and the idea of taking part in this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge seems like a good way to try to get back into the habit of reading and posting regularly. Originally I thought of just using any old random words to go with the particular letter of the day, but realistically without a clear theme to work towards I’m not sure I’d be able to keep my focus for a full month… So instead I’ve opted for a relatively simple, if slightly self-indulgent work-around: This year I’ll be posting 26 things about me, nothing too taxing to write about yet still fulfilling the brief!

The Gift of Love

To be honest when it comes to adults we’re not big on giving fancy expensive presents in my family – we prefer to go with smaller, thoughtful gifts that have some meaning attached to them…

Today is my 58th birthday, and my husband has given me beautifully designed hardback copies of two of my favourite Jane Austen novels – Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. My original well-thumbed paperbacks from my younger years fell apart years ago and in time were replaced by very similar regular paperbacks which by now are also a bit dog-eared and worse for wear. So I’m absolutely delighted with my new copies… I suppose I’m going to have to read them again now, just to make sure they’re just as good as I remember… 🙂

But the best thing is that in showing that he knows me so well by finding such a thoughtful birthday present for me, my husband has given me so much more than just two relatively inexpensive hardback books, he’s given me the gift of love, and that is something that is truly priceless… ❤

Word of the Day Challenge: Prejudice

Kindness and Cake

More often than not it’s the little things in life that make me smile the most, especially in our Covid-restricted world of lockdown. So this morning I’ve been looking through a beautifully illustrated little book titled ‘The Art of Kindness: Caring for Ourselves, Each Other & Our Earth’ by Meredith Gaston and enjoying a cup of tea and a home-baked lemon cake.

I only made half a dozen small cakes rather then a huge batch (and now only four are left) but even so I really enjoyed the familiar process of measuring out the ingredients and mixing up the cake batter – and the lemon glace icing ended up a little on the runny side but that doesn’t matter, after all cake is cake and it all goes down the same way 🙂

Right now it feels like the world needs a lot more kindness and consideration in it, a lot more love and a lot less hate – and of course a little culinary indulgence now and again to lift our spirits! ❤

Weekly Smile

Books, Books and More Books

The first thing that came to mind when considering what I may have more than a hundred of in my house right now is books.

Even sitting here in my living room are well over a hundred books, some on bookshelves and some in cupboards. Big books, small books, old books, new books, hard-backs, paper-backs, fiction, non-fiction, serious books and funny books.

There are recipe books, psychology books, self-help books, yoga books, colouring-in books, blank books for writing in, filled-up notebooks, philosophy books, books about crochet and drawing and calligraphy.

In the loft there are also three boxes of my most precious paperback novels moved from London to Inverness a year ago and still to be unpacked – I did well only taking three, by donating the rest of my collection to charity.

Virtual volumes of anything are great in their place, but I also like the old-fashioned reality of touching books, the smell of them, curling up on the sofa with them and the sound of manually turning their pages one by one.

Books have been a constant in my life since childhood, first reading with mum then by myself. Between the pages of books I’ve discovered a wonderful world of imagination, a font of knowledge, a portable personal place of learning and of leisure… ❤

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Over One Hundred

Cherry Coloured Twist

Sometimes my brain comes up with the strangest memories when prompted by just one word, however different the context. Fandango’s One Word prompt today is ‘twist’ and straight away a voice in my head muttered ‘cherry coloured twist’ and there I am, back in early childhood being read Beatrix Potter’s ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ by my mum.

We read all of Beatrix Potter’s little hardback books over and over again – I think they’re probably still there somewhere at my mum and dad’s house, actually – but my two favourites were always ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ and ‘The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies’. I think I liked the illustrations as much as the stories, they were so beautifully done.

April A-Z: Z is for Zero Regrets

Z is always such a difficult letter for April A-Z, and this year is no exception, so I’m using a little creative artistic licence and going with ‘Zero Regrets’.

Zero regrets for having persevered with my alphabetical posts throughout lockdown – 26 out of 26 in a timely manner is a decent achievement, and even though I had to change quite a few of my planned posts to fit my new restricted circumstances I stuck with my original topic.

Zero regrets for having moved back to Inverness at the end of last summer, and for having bought our lovely 1930s bungalow – it’s such a huge change from our little Victorian one-bed first-floor flat in London, but is all the more welcome due to the current stay-at-home strategy.

Zero regrets for the precious back garden view from our kitchen window, and for the peaceful enjoyment of sitting quietly in my plant-lined conservatory with a cup of tea and a good book, listening to the birds outside singing their hearts out for spring…

There are certainly a lot worse places to be stuck at home during a pandemic than here in Inverness 🙂

For this year’s A-Z I’m going to take you on a photographic tour of My Inverness, Past and Present. I grew up in the local area, I went to school here and brought up my three children here, but I moved away to London for 18 years before returning home for good at the end of last summer.

P.S. My initial plan for my A-Z posts has necessarily been curtailed somewhat due to the current coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll get through the alphabet one way or another, however creative my use of subjects may have to be – so thank you for visiting Inverness with me, and I hope you enjoy our trip!

Leakey’s Second Hand Bookshop, Inverness

There are loads of old churches in Inverness, as with many old towns, and many have been repurposed. This particular old church in, um, Church Street is now Leakey’s second hand bookshop! It’s full from top to bottom with books and maps and pictures and all things paper-based, and it smells all old-booky and papery delicious…

Personally I can browse randomly in there for ages, but I suppose the only problem would be if you were trying to find one specific thing squirrelled away somewhere in all the middle of all those full-to-bursting shelves, as it seems the Dewey Decimal System is definitely not part of the overall mix – now applying that really would be a conundrum! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Conundrum

Adventure Stories from Childhood

My love of adventure stories was kindled in childhood by Enid Blyton with her Five Find Outers and Dog mysteries – oh, the fun I had alongside Larry, Daisy, Pip and Bets, and of course Fatty and Buster the dog as they ran rings around local policeman Mr Goon. The books captured the homely everyday English village life of the mid-1940s, where children were safe to explore and adults didn’t really interfere in their esapades too much.

And then I moved on to reading the adventures of the Famous Five – Julian, Dick, Anne and George and Timmy the dog. I was always intrigued by George – a short-haired girl named Georgina who always dressed like a boy – and the fact that they all went to different boarding schools so only met up together in the holidays at George’s house where they pretty much ran free around the countryside, solving mysteries here there and everywhere as they went. Again written in the 1940s, this series also left a long-lasting impression on me.

But when it came to mystery-solving the adventures of Jupiter Jones, leader of the Three Investigators took me across the cultural divide between Britain and America, to the alien world of boy’s fiction. Jupe Jones was an orphan who lived with his uncle and aunt who ran a junk yard in which the Three Investigators created their headquarters in an old hidden trailer accessed via constructed tunnels within various parts of the junk yard. Along with Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews, Jupiter Jones brought 1960s California to life for me, and I soooo… yearned for a proper bona-fide den hidden so well away from adults like these boys enjoyed so much. Freedom again…

But probably the series of books that took me furthest away from my everyday reality was The Chronicles of Narnia written in the 1950s –  truly a different world of English children’s post-war adventure stories, a world accessible variously at the back of a wardrobe, in a painting, on an underground platform, through a door, with magic rings, and finally, as a result of a train crash…

All of these beloved book series day after day took me and my voracious appetite and creative imagination many miles away from my quiet family and school life in the very rural Highlands of Scotland in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and even now my love of reading about myriad fabulous fictional characters, catapulting me into multiple alternative realities, has never really disappeared… ❤

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Adventure