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!

Enjoying Less

‘The secret to happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less’

Socrates

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the course of this pandemic it’s that it is perfectly possible for me to be happy enjoying less.

Life has definitely shrunk somewhat over this past year and a bit, become smaller, more intimate and focused much closer to home, and I find I’ve got so used to it now I’m not sure I want it to be that different going forward into the future.

I’m truly enjoying spending so much time at home, especially in the garden, and there’s something timeless for me in sitting outside in nature, curled up on my garden bench in the sunshine, relaxing and reading and drinking a refreshing cup of tea… ❤

One Liner Wednesday

Housework, Hobbies and Hopes

Fandango’s Provocative Question asks this week:

How many hours, on average, do you spend per day (or per week) on blogging-related activities? And what do you think you might do with your time if you didn’t spend it on those blogging activities?

Without putting any sort of numerical value in it, right now I feel I spend way too much time on blogging-related activities. But on reflection maybe that’s a tough judgement call to make in the middle of winter in the middle of a Covid lock-down, one year into a world pandemic.

I mean, we legally can’t visit friends or family or basically socialise with anybody at all beyond our immediate household so a lot of ‘normal’ leisure activities are severely curtailed for the duration. Life has become far more restricted for everyone, so for now blogging has definitely become more important to me as a way of feeling I’m still reaching out, still keeping in touch with the rest of the world.

Usually, when I’m out at work or otherwise busy with everyday real life I inevitably blog a lot less. But right now I’m furloughed from work so I have a lot of free time and real life for me at present consists pretty much of housework and hobbies. And blogging is most definitely one of my hobbies, so in general however much hobby time I have gets divided up accordingly between all the fun stuff I like to do.

Other current hobbies include watching TV (and that encompasses watching DVDs and other recorded media too), gardening (hello, it’s winter in the North of Scotland, you’ll be lucky in this weather), crochet (although thinking about it I’ve not actually done any crochet since we moved into our house 16 months ago), photography (some of which gets shared on my blog), a lot of colouring in just for fun, and writing the occasional poem when the mood strikes me (also to be shared on my blog).

Hmmm… So what is it I DON’T do now that I blog?

My immediate response is to say ‘reading’ – I used to read A LOT of fiction, I generally had at least one book on the go at any given time, especially when the kids were small. But to be fair that was decades ago, my kids are all in their late thirties and life has changed a lot since then. Reading was my go-to fantasy escapism that didn’t rely on anyone else, that I could pick up and put down however many times was necessary and that was always 100% portable. I grew up reading, as did my mum and my maternal grandmother – we used to share books amongst ourselves. And I used to read a lot of women’s magazines, too.

So when DID I stop reading fiction so compulsively and completely?

If I’m honest that happened a long time before I started blogging, and probably dates from when I was studying for my full time degree as a mature student. For three years solid I read voraciously myriad academic books and journals and articles and essays and essays and even more essays. I absolutely loved studying and learning and all that entailed, and for those three years academic stuff was pretty much all I read. And I suppose when wholesale reading is so firmly associated with work not leisure it stops being a form of indulgent escapism.

After I graduated I seem to remember I didn’t read anything I didn’t have to for the longest time, so not surprisingly other hobbies soon filled the gap left by reading for pleasure and I simply never picked it up again to quite the same extent. I do still read my beloved paperbacks, but not like I did before. And anyway, blogging includes reading as much as writing, just not entire novels. It’s more like reading while being involved in an interactive multi-functional magazine of life you also contribute to, filled with stories and snippets and tips and shared interests and opinions and creative connections.

I’ve been blogging on and off for seven years, and in all honesty I hope to keep on blogging for years to come. I’m sure my blog will inevitably change and grow as I do, ebbing and flowing with the tide of life. In the future sits retirement, potential ill health and infirmity, and all sorts of possible alterations to my everyday experiences that may affect how I interact with the world going forward. I may blog less at times, and more at others. I may move away from one thing and towards another. I may even change direction entirely.

But overall I feel blogging has become such a valued hobby, especially since Covid ran riot across the world, I don’t see me giving it up in favour of anything else any time soon, so however much time I spend on it is never going to be time wasted, is it? 🙂

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.

I Detect a Good Story!

Oooh, I really love a good detective story!

From first reading Enid Blyton’s Five Find-Outers and Dog books as a child, then moving on to the Famous Five, then Jupiter Jones and the Three Investigators, I always loved a good whodunnit. And then as a teenager I started reading all my mum’s Agatha Christie Poirot and Miss Marple novels, and still love watching the many televised versions today.

And I really love watching current police detective dramas on TV too, espcially those made as feature-length episodes – Inspector Morse, and Lewis, and the retrospective Endeavour, all set in Oxford. And thinking of programmes set in the 1960s there’s George Gently set in Durham, and oh, that reminds me of Vera, set in Northumberland. Looking even further North there was Taggart set in Glasgow, and Rebus in Edinburgh.

Thinking about growing up with US TV detectives I regularly watched Kojak, and Ironside, and Cannon, and of course the unmissable Starsky and Hutch. There was Cagney and Lacey, and oh, just one more thing… yep, that’ll be Columbo! Closer to home again I liked Bergerac (from the Bureau des Etrangers in Jersey) and also (with John Nettles as the starring link) not forgetting the never-ending trail of victims and perpetrators in Midsomer Murders… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Detective

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