Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Antiquarian Affair, Part I

 With my copy of A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor tucked into my bag for reading on the train, I caught the 9:20 to Toronto for the Antiquarian Book Fair held at the Convention Centre.  Arriving fifteen minutes early, I waited for the doors to open with a dozen other gentleman.  I desperately wished that I had worn something tweedy and there was definitely the aroma of tobacco in the air.
 Never having been to this sort of thing before I wasn't sure of the etiquette.  Just how much fondling of the material was allowed?  Others put me at ease with their respectful flipping of the pages but it did take me some time to feel comfortable pulling treasures from their place on the shelf.  We were asked to check our coats and bags and I realized that my pen was left behind so unfortunately I can't remember all of the prices.  For me it was all about the wonder but there was a fair bit of dealing and handshaking taking place.  I heard one gentleman tell another that he had maxed out his line of credit *gulp*.

 It was fantastic to see Persephone titles as they would have appeared originally.  This copy of Domestic Cookery by a Lady was inscribed by a man to his wife and dated 1845, the price was $175.  I hope his good lady was as thrilled with her copy as I am with my grey-covered one!

 This series of four AA Milne books are first editions and signed by the author, the price tag is over 29,000 GBP.  They were behind glass so no fondling here but oh, they were charming.

There was a fair bit of Virgina Woolf to be had.  I had visions of Virginia writing away and then collaborating with Vanessa over drawings for the cover art whilst cups of tea and biscuits were passed around.  I wish that I could recollect what this book was going for but the lowest price I can remember for a Woolf book was $250 for The Writer's Diary.

I have yet to read a full-length novel by PG Wodehouse but was drawn to the comedic titles and illustrations for the cover art.  These tended to be priced in the $600 - $800 range so I admired then and then carefully returned them to their display case.  Obviously, for me the day wasn't about a shopping expedition, we have a post-secondary education to pay for.  It was about seeing certain books in their original form, the way they looked before I discovered them all crisp and sterile at our local chain bookshop.  On the train ride home I dug out my copy of A Game of Hide and Seek and wondered what it looked like hot off the press in 1951.  Trade paperback is affordable and convenient but not nearly as nice.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spooky Fun

My earliest recollection of being scared and enjoying it was reading Little Red Riding Hood.  Just what was she doing in the woods when there was a girl-eating wolf on the loose?  It kick started a love affair with the Grimm's Brothers that lasted for years.  Children being fattened up to make them all the tastier is pretty nightmare-worthy but I soaked it all up!

I will never forget a particular night when I was eight years old.  Lying in bed, I stared for what seemed like hours at a shadowy figure on my door putting on and taking off his hat!  Considering that we lived on the eighth floor of an apartment building at the time it wasn't a shadow from the window.  Or was it?  My room was at the end of a hallway and if I peeked out of my door, the television was in clear view.  If I heard the opening tune of  The Twilight Zone I was out of bed in a shot and creeping my way to the doorway so I could watch all kinds of spooky things in black and white.  That could explain a lot.

My mother thought I was going to turn out to be really weird because at the age of ten, I read Dracula and Frankenstein over and over.  Babysitting as a teen was all about the scary movies.  Okay, chips and dip had quite a pull as well if I'm honest.  I could never sit on a sofa if my back was to an opening though.  Someone could sneak up and slit your throat or strangle you before you knew it!  Scared witless and pale with fright, do you think I would turn the channel...not on your life.  We girls would talk about calling up other friends when we knew they were babysitting just to give them a fright.  Call display put an end to that sort of fun.  I laugh at the memory of one friend, Karen, telling me that she heard glass break while looking after some children.  She went to investigate, taking a with her.  A black glove came through a small window in the kitchen door.  She raised the knife and the intruder ran off!  I'm wondering now if that was a load of codswallop but what does it matter...we were lapping it up with our eyes as huge as saucers! 

When I was twenty, a girlfriend and I went to see Terror in the Aisles.  It was a movie about scary movies, there was one slashing after another.  We watched most of it through our hands but oh how we laughed when we looked at each other.

Fast forward to adulthood and choosing the scariest London Walks to go on while abroad was huge fun.  There is nothing like standing in the middle of Hyde Park and being told that on some nights, ghostly images have risen from the ground causing people to faint or run like mad!  And it's not just females left weak at the knees, R felt a bit spooked when our Ripper tour guide announced the tour was over and we had to make our way to a tube the dark...all by ourselves.  Did it put us off?  Not a chance, we were back for more ghostly tales the next evening.

Have I ever experiences a ghostly form?  There was one night when I was doing some machine-knitting in the basement.  The Heiress was just a baby and I heard crying.  Climbing the stairs I stopped to listen...nothing.  So back downstairs I went but after a few minutes I heard crying again.  Thinking I must have woken her up I trudged back up the stairs...again nothing.  This all was repeated a third time with the same result so I went all the way up two floors and there she was, sleeping peacefully.  No sign of any tears.  That did it for me, I never spent any time down in the basement if R wasn't home.

I like being scared witless when it's convenient for me!  What about you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Not Just Any Old Book Fair

An Antiquarian Book Fair is coming to Toronto this weekend and I'm hoping to stop by.  R said 'Be sure to bring something home for yourself!'  Then I started browsing some of the books on offer.  This first edition, Virginia Woolf, and in fact, the first publication of Hogarth Press is on offer for an eye-watering $86,150 CDN.

If I won the lottery, I would pick this AA Milne up for Simon (do I really need to explain which Simon?).  Also a first edition, The House at Pooh Corner is a very good deal at only $1,000 CDN.

And these three volumes of Emma *squeals with delight* by Jane Austen, are going for $27,000 CDN.  It was sheer bliss to click on the galleries and go through the titles.  Go ahead and daydream.

I will try my best to bring home a book but more than likely it will come from Nicholas Hoare, just down the road, and cost less than $20 *sigh*. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge

Dalmatia, set along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea makes for a most welcome setting in Illyrian Spring.  Ann Bridge writes descriptively of the warm sun, lapping waves and leisurely lunches taken al fresco which sounded quite nice as our days here are turning colder practically by the hour.

Lady Kilmichael escapes there, leaving her family behind in England.  Her husband, Walter, has had his head turned by yet another woman and her daughter, Linnet, takes her mother for granted.  Twin boys well on their way to adulthood are getting on with things and are not central characters.

A well-known artist (but under a different name), Lady Kilmichael spends her time sketching and while doing so meets a young man, Nicholas.  He dreams of studying art but it seems his parents think architecture a more fitting career.  A chance meeting where he criticizes her sketch of a rock is the beginning of a relationship between older woman, younger man and coming to terms with those feelings.  After all, this is at a time before even Mrs Robinson!

The author set these characters up perfectly, I really cared about each one and was beside myself wondering if anything was going to happen between them.  The glances, the brush of a hand across a shoulder, the inner turmoil, the things left was all sheer brilliance!

Eventually, we're introduced to Dr Halther, who resides in the village.  Nicholas is staying at his home through devious means but enough about that.  The Professor, as he is called, watches these two and recognizes all the signs of love between them.  He puts difficult questions to Lady Kilmicheal and she ends up finally being able to vocalize how she feels about her husband, the state of her marriage, her role as a mother and Nicholas.  I really, really liked the Professor and thought perhaps Lady Kilmichael could be quite happy with him as they interacted so well.
I know you're all riveted...wondering just what happens!  I know I was and flipped pages quicker than anything, desperate to find out.  The ending was fabulous and once again, Ann Bridge wrote beautifully about each character's resolution.  It has not been easy to close the book on the lives of these people and I miss them already.

Thank you Rachel, for sending me this book!  I really enjoyed turning the aged pages of this 1949 edition orange Penguin and wondering who else has done so before me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Frost in May by Antonia White

When Verity sent me a copy of Frost in May, I thought it would be a lighthearted story about girls in a convent.  How wrong I was.

Nanda Grey is nine years old when she enters the Convent of the Five Wounds at Lippington.  She settles in and makes friends but under the ever watchful eye of nuns whose disapproving glare is all too present. 

This book took me out of my comfort zone in as much as it was most definitely not a cosy read, it made me angry and broke my heart.

'You are very fond of your own way, aren't you, Nanda?'
'Yes, I suppose so, Mother.'
'And do you know that no character is any good in this world unless that will has been broken completely?  Broken and re-set in God's own way.  I don't think your will has been quite broken, my dear child, do you?'

The daily censorship of mail, rejection of bonds of friendship, humiliation, deprivation and fear in this authoritarian environment had me wondering why anyone would send their child to this place!  On a couple of occasions, Nanda, hopes with all her heart to be stricken with an illness as a way of escaping what amounts to daily mental and emotional abuse.  Or as Mother Percival would see it, the breaking of one's will.

'A good Catholic should live constantly in the spiritual presence of death.  Now, my dear little sisters, I want each one of you to imagine that you are lying on your death-bed....'

Like a dog that is abused by its master and yet still licks the hand that beats it, Nanda begs for a second chance when faced with expulsion.  I would offer to pack her bags and tell her to run.

For a story that started out feeling like a fairly innocuous 'school story' it turned out to be quite disturbing.  But it is definitely one that I will never forget.  For years I have been reading for pure pleasure and even though this was not an enjoyable read, I do feel that I gained from the experience.  Thank you, Verity.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Scarves and Tissues

Cold season has kicked off at our house with R succumbing first and then sharing with me.  While feeling less than energetic and miserable is not fun, slowing down your pace can be quite lovely.

A few days ago, a package arrived in the mail from Kristina.  Cheerful birthday wishes and this too-adorable-for-words booklet were inside.  Starting off...

'When the Duchess invites you for a fortnight in August...and you realise, at one and the same time, that HE will be there and you can't afford any new clothes...'

I wrote to Kristina that it reads like a bedtime story for women!  The illustrations were familiar and on closer inspection I see this is the work of none other than Joyce Dennys.  Off I went in search of my copy of Henrietta's War to admire once again.  While the tissues pile up around my pillows and blankets these little gems have been a bright spot.

A side note...At 3:20 am that annoying tickle began as my cold pill wore off so I got up to make a cup of tea.  In a semi-dark kitchen I plugged in the kettle and heard a buzzing sound.  Then horror of horrors saw orange glowing behind the switch plate!  Yanking out the plug I could see a blackened area around the switch so I resorted to boiling water on the stove for my tea.  Needless to say, getting back to sleep wasn't easy and first thing this morning I put in a work order with R for a repair. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Featuring a Fall Fair

Balls Falls Conservation Area is the perfect location for a Fall Fair.  The colours, the wide stream running through it, the oranges and golds...and the aroma of chip fat...yum!

There are a few very small historical buildings located here such as this home which would have housed a family but is the size of most people's front room!

Artisans and collectors of all sorts were pedaling their wares.  I absolutely love old portraits such as this and for some reason find this curmudgeonly looking fellow quite charming!

The blacksmith shop is usually a place we look forward to visiting so that we can warm up but it was downright warm on this day.

But not so warm that I left my Hawthorne shawl at home!  I was so happy with this one that I'm eight rows into another one in blue.  In front of me is the actual falls for which the conservation area is named and believe's quite the drop to the bottom! 

This morning we awoke to our first frost of the season.  Summer has well and truly been put to bed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

This, That and Two Birthdays

This is my favourite weekend of the year, the Thanksgiving long weekend.  It's also known in our house as Darlene-a-palooza as my birthday falls around the same time.

Fall fairs, pumpkin pie, gorgeous colours, people making merry and somehow, like magic, the weather usually cooperates making for the best country drives.

My blog is two years old today and I am another year older as well.  Later this afternoon, R and I will be joining a group of friends to tour a couple of wineries in the Niagara region.  We're really looking forward to sampling a variety of wines while nibbling on cheese and crackers and having a laugh.  And of course there will be cake!

My Hawthorne scarf is finished, just in time to wear to the Balls Falls Fall Fair tomorrow.  In J Peterman catalogue-speak, the crisp autumnal air entwined with the reddish and golden hues of fall foliage will create the perfect atmosphere for this accessory.  This project was so much fun and I was so pleased with the result that I've started another one in blue!
The Heiress has come home for the weekend full of excitement and anxiety that there are so many plans to be made for next year in regards to her MA.

And last but not least, I've finally managed to finish The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.  This wasn't the most stellar of reading experiences for me, I much preferred No Name.  There was one line though that for some reason I found utterly captivating by Mrs Catherick 'The dress of Virtue, in our parts, was cotton print.  I had silk.'  How dramatic and yet it says so much doesn't it.  This book was definitely a roller coaster ride in that when it was good it was great but then it would get tedious in description or tangents and I would glaze over.  This book, for me, would rank as one of those which I expected to love and was disappointed by but I am most definitely not put off by Collins!

Time to put on some lipstick, grab my purse and set off for wine country.  Enjoy your day wherever you are!