Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Full English, If You Please...

Oh the planning that has been going on behind the scenes lately.  The emails back and forth, the research, the reading of's all so exciting!  Tomorrow I set sail, so to speak, for England's green and pleasant land where I will be meeting up with The Heiress after tearfully parting ways just over one year ago.  We have plans to tour castles and cathedrals, museums and galleries, stroll cobbles and lane ways, and if we darken the doorway of the odd tea room along the way then we couldn't be happier.  Cross the threshold of a bookshop or seven, you bet.  Which reminds me of a do you browse a newly discovered bookshop?  I start at the letter 'A' and look at until I reach the last title in 'Z', this usually means that my long-suffering husband has time to search out a pub, order and consume a pint and browse some shops before returning to find me at 'N'. 

Our cardigan girl, Verity, has resurfaced on one of her blogs to announce that she will be hosting a chat on November 15 of Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor.  I will be signing into a few hotels over the next several days and absolutely can not wait to find out what Mrs Palfrey was paying for her room sometime before 1971 when the book was first published.  Poor thing didn't rip up half of London the way I plan to though.

And in other bookish news, I have ordered a copy of Friends and Relations by Elizabeth Bowen from The Book Depository.  You can still catch the pre-order price over the next couple of weeks and if you need any inspiration click here for Book Snob's review.  If her stunningly alluring writing style doesn't make you simply die with longing for a good read then nothing will.  There's more!  Not one hour ago, I discovered The Brickfield by L. P. Hartley is about to be reissued by John Murray Publishers and I just adore the cover art.  It will be followed by the sequel My Fellow Devils next June so lots of time to get in on things.  If you haven't yet discovered this author's wonderful writing then may I suggest The Hireling, which I enjoyed just a teensy bit more than The Go-Between, but both were fantastic. 

So there you have it, I haven't been hiding under a rock but simply preoccupied and goodness knows my pea brain can only handle so many things at once.  So England...plug in the kettle because I am on my way!

Monday, October 8, 2012

An Autumnal Tradition

Thanksgiving is my favourite weekend of the year and a pilgrimage to the Balls Falls conservation area is a must.  Every year I have to take a photo of this wreath on the door of the historic church.  And eat fresh apple fritters cooked in boiling cauldrons of oil by local teens.  The overbearing presence and ridiculous nature of health and safety gone mad hasn't yet reached this neck of the woods.

Patience is required to get a shot without streams of visitors parading through your photo.  You wouldn't know it but people were being shuttled in from the parking area in a nearby field by the busload.  The combined aromas of roasting nuts, woodsmoke and popcorn was absolutely divine.  I munched on a freshly roasted yam with a small ladle of melted butter drizzled on top while my husband waited in line for his fresh-cut fries and hotdog smothered in onions to be ready.  Just in case you think me a tad righteous in my healthy eating way, I whipped out my plastic fork and dug into R's steaming entree the minute mine was finished.  You know you would too!

The grist mill has been undergoing some renovations but looks as cosy as ever nestled beside the stream.
The birds of prey from the Mountsberg Raptor Centre always look unimpressed with all of the attention.  One charming mother could be heard telling her little horror-stricken daughter that this Bald Eagle eats guinea pigs.  This fellow most likely would but there was something a tad eerie about the delight Mum took in saying so.  Makes me wonder what a bedtime story at the poor little mite's house is like?
Umm...this is a rather large thingamuhjig.  It looks like some sort of early tractor...all I know is that lots of elderly gentlemen really liked looking at it.  Next to it was our favourite group of steam engine enthusiasts with their machines puffing and sputtering away and last but not least another 'must see for some silly reason' item.  The spitting cat and his tub of bubbles!  Disregard the poor thing's neighbour.
Another marker has come and gone from our yearly calendar.  A cup of hot apple cider for the road and we were on our way home.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Wedding Group by Elizabeth Taylor

With more attention than ever being cast Elizabeth Taylor's way due to this being her centenary year it is the perfect time to enjoy her books among like-minded fans, veteran or new.  Harriet is hosting this month's read-along with The Wedding Group so please do drop by at some point to find out what others have to say.  I've resisted the urge to join in for each and every read simply because gobbling up all of Taylor's work in one year would feel too much like eating a whole box of chocolates in one go.  Not that it wouldn't be a delight but delayed gratification extends the pleasure I think.

In the novel's introduction by Charlotte Mendelson, Quayne is described as an "artistic family compound where the womenfolk bake bread 'on a large scale'".  Regardless of the address, the settings in this book all have a sense of the insular about them.  The extended family is headed by its patriarch, Harry Bretton, a bit of a legend in his own mind when it comes to the world of art.  Firmly embedded in the Roman Catholic religion the family has their boundaries neatly laid out but wouldn't this story be a boring one if someone didn't question things or go against the grain?  Enter Cressida 'Cressy'...

'...Cressy had not been allowed to finish her last year.  Not exactly expelled, but the suggestion was that, all the same, it would be better if she did not remain.  She had broken bounds, was often missing for hours at a time, and had had some strange notions, which younger girls were all too ready to listen to.'

Desperate to strike out on her own, Cressy takes a flat in the village above an antiques shop owned by a rather incestuously-close sounding brother and sister.  Finally able to be herself, bliss comes in the form of a gas-ring and a tin of beans but the frustration of a knitting pattern constantly going wrong wears thin and independence turns into loneliness.  Cressy's sensitive nature means her tears are perilously close to the brim at the best of times but lately she is in floods.  She has merely traded one upset for another.  A friendship with a middle-aged journalist who is a bit on the lonely side himself perks up the situation, could life-long bliss be just around the corner for these two?

Although described as one of Elizabeth Taylor's weaker novels I have to say that I absolutely loved it.  Everything that the author does so well is all there from the deliciously claustrophobic houses, spot on characterization and meticulous observation.  Taylor also has a genius for writing about lives and situations that break your heart without feeling depressing, well not to me anyway.  If you've read the novel recently then perhaps you can indulge me and if you haven't then it's best you click away now...but did Cressy remind anyone of Stacey from Gavin and Stacey?  With her slattern-ish ways and bubbly naivete the image became a beacon fairly early on.  So sorry, Elizabeth...

Thanks so much, Harriet, for hosting a wonderful book and entertaining read!