Friday, February 27, 2015

Rusty (FMTSO)

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FMTSO (26 Feb):
“Share with us your rusty finds. From rusty pipes to heavy machinery.
Where do you see it, and where can you find it?”

I’ve been feeling rather “rusty” myself this week, struck down with a massive head cold… So any fresh strolling around town with the camera was not in the picture for this week!

I knew I must have some rusty pictures from the past though… As usual the question was how/where to find them in my archives; since I rarely get down to very detailed, thematic tagging of each photo!

But if it had been summer, and I had wanted to find some rusty things, one good place to go would be our Museum Park with historical old buildings. So I went looking for pictures from there – and I was lucky! because I found this old horse shoe...

Now I’m wondering – does a horse shoe over the door symbolise luck where you live, too? And if so – does it matter which way it is turned? Looking at this one, an old saying popped up in my memory that the opening should be turned upwards (not downwards like in this case), or else the luck falls out…

A quick search on the internet informed me that we seem to have both traditions. With the opening downwards, it is seen as protecting what’s under it; and might also be interpreted as a fertility symbol.

There are various reasons why the horse shoe is considered a lucky symbol. For one thing the horse as such has been important in mythology (in old Norse mythology for example, there is an eight-legged horese named Sleipnir); and iron was also regarded as having magic powers (used as protection from evil spirits).

It was common to use seven nails in the horse shoe, because seven was considered a lucky number. And the horse shoe put up over the entrance of a house should preferably be an old and used one that you just happened to find  - and finding it was of course also in itself considered lucky. (Perhaps not for the horse though!)

Now I just hope that the luck applies even to just happening to find a photo of it in one’s own archives…

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

“Then we had talked for about an hour about politics and God; for men always talk about the most important things to total strangers. It is because in the total stranger we perceive man himself; the image of God is not disguised by resemblances to an uncle or doubts of the wisdom of a moustache.”

G.K. Chesterton
The Club of Queer Trades/ Chapter 5

The Club of Queer Trades is a collection of six short stories by G. K. Chesterton, first published in 1905. Each story is centered on someone who has invented a new and quite unique way of earning their living (a “queer trade”).

Linking to Teaser Tuesday

Friday, February 20, 2015

From Neighbourhood to Wonderland

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Yesterday the neighbourhood was almost completely snow-free for the first time in a while, and I went for a little walk.

There is a shortcut footpath between two roads, along the foot of a rock and a copse of wood…

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… and on the other side of that hill there is a Mystery Door into the rock, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen open before. But yesterday it was, so of course I had to sneak a shot… (feeling a bit like a spy…)

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My guess is that this was originally built for military purposes and/or as a shelter. These days it seems to be used for something to do with electricity – but exactly what, I don’t know...

… The tunnel, however, might end up in Wonderland; because pretty much on the opposite side of the hill (I had to go round, of course, because I don’t think I’d have been allowed to go through), I found these:

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White rabbits, and hedgehogs…
If we’re not in Wonderland, where are we?

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If your guess was a florist’s shop, you were right.
And there I bought these tulips to take home.

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2oth February was my mum’s birthday. She died in 2009; but if she had lived, she’d have been 85 today.  As tulips are the most common cut flowers to be found in the shops here in February, there was usually a bouquet or two of them for her birthday. Now I bought these for myself to enjoy; but thinking of her (and that vase they’re in was hers).

Linking to FMTSO – Neighbourhood

Friday My Town Shoot Out

PS. It snowed a little again today. Winter is not over yet.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)

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Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton (1874-1936)

is perhaps best known for his detective stories about Father Brown, a Roman-Catholic priest. However, Chesterton was also a poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, lay theologian and Christian apologist; and another one of those authors that influenced and was highly praised by C.S. Lewis.

I have read the Father Brown stories in the past – and last year also watched an enjoyable BBC drama series based on them (set in the 1950s, although the original stories were written 1911-1935).

Now I decided to have a go at a novel from 1908 with the intriguing title

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

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Just like my last read, this book too turned out to be one of those not easy to categorize. I knew very little of it beforehand; and as I think that is really the best way to read it, I in turn don’t want to reveal too much. So rather than give away plot details, I shall try to just share how I felt about it. 

Right from the start it struck me as a rather creepily up-to-date read from the aspect that one of the major themes has to do with anarchism/ terrorism and a bomb threat to a major European city.  It also crossed my mind quite early on (from a certain scene), that this might well be another one of all the books from which J.K. Rowling picked some inspiration for Harry Potter. Anyway, in spite of the serious (and indeed, as the title suggests, nightmarish) background, and some deeply moral and philosophical discussions – this story does not only keep up a high degree of suspense, but it also includes a lot of unexpected twists and turns and a good deal of humour. (Sometimes I even laughed out loud.) I found it very hard to put down – I just wanted to keep on reading to see what happened!

A quote for Teaser Tuesday

“They were a balconyful of gentlemen overlooking a bright and busy square; but he felt no more safe with them than if they had been a boatful of armed pirates overlooking an empty sea.” (p. 66)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book Review: At the Back of the North Wind (1871)

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George MacDonald (1824-1905) was a Scottish author, poet and preacher; a mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll, and some of his works of fantasy have become classics in the genre, and inspired other authors, like C.S. Lewis.

 

At the Back of the North Wind was first serialized in the children's magazine Good Words for the Young in 1868, and published in book form in 1871.

I have a Swedish translation printed in 1990; but realised recently that I hardly remembered the story at all, so decided to reread it in English.

At the centre of the story is a small boy named Diamond, son of a poor coachman – who also has a horse with the same name. The boy Diamond sleeps in the loft over the stable (right over the stall of Diamond the horse); and in the wall by his bed there is a knothole, through which the North Wind blows. In Diamond’s dreams (or is it more than just dreams?), the North Wind takes the shape of a beautiful woman with long hair – sometimes small like a fairy, sometimes huge and awe-inspiring like a mighty storm – sweeping Diamond away on nightly adventures, both in his own town and to a distant land, “at the back of the north wind”.

Diamond is at the same time a mystery and a joy to the people around him. Kind and helpful and trusting, and making friends whereever he goes - but also going his own ways, showing both practical initiative, and surprising people by fanciful ideas, rhymes and dreams.  He’s naive in some ways, and yet also wise and philosphical far beyond his age. Some think he’s not quite right in his head; but he never takes offense.

It is not a book easy to categorize. Take the basic setting (including poor little boy) from a novel by Charles Dickens; put it down a rabbit hole (as in Alice in Wonderland - 1865); add a good portion of classic fairy tale and fable; mix in some serious theodicy questions and answers; and serve with a sprinkle of nursery rhymes on top. It’s very much up to the reader’s taste to decide what to make of it!

I suspect that one reason I did not remember much about it (from 25 years ago) may well be that I found it somewhat “difficult”. The story also makes a lot of deviations along the way (like long nursery rhymes and whole fairy tales told within the story).

This time I also tried listening to some parts as audio, but when I got to the end I found I needed to go back and reread some parts (that I probably missed by drifting off into dreams of my own!). Some of the details deserve more attention than one might think at first. For example, there are plenty of parallells between the ‘reality’ vs. stories and dreams within the book.

It’s not a book I’d recommend as a must-read for everyone, but if (like me) you are interested in classic children’s literature and fantasy, you might find that you recognise themes and ideas also used by other authors within those genres.

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PS. I’ve blogged about MacDonald before, back in 2012 – a post entitled Once Upon A Time.

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Linking to Musing Mondays

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chilly But Heartwarming

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Today, on Valentine’s Day, the town’s Energy Company decided to treat passers-by to a little extra warmth in the form of free hot drinks and vanilla custard hearts.

And yes, I had read about this in the local newspaper beforehand. If I hadn’t, I’m not so sure I’d have found today the most perfect day for a walk along the river…

That concrete bench in the middle picture (and another one nearby) also has built-in heating, though.  So not a bad place to rest your feet for a while - even on an ordinary chilly day, when no coffee is being served.

(This place is along a new riverside walk that was opened in December last year.)

Linking to Weekend Reflections.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love (FMTSO)

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I’m not in habit of putting up any special decorations in my home for Valentine’s Day. I still have the red-and-white curtains up in my kitchen though, with matching table cloth and towels – and the red amaryllis in the window seems to love me still (and I love it back!) 

When I bought it just after Christmas it was showing three buds, which was promising enough – but after those three magnificent sprays of red were past their prime, it surprised me by shooting up a fourth flower stalk – which is now in bloom for the Valentine’s weekend.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Linking to Friday My Town Shoot Out – Love

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Review: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

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Wilkie Collins (English novelist and playwright, 1824 – 1889)

I can’t remember Wilkie Collins ever being mentioned back in my English Literature studies (long time ago); but looking him up now, I learn that he was a contemporary and friend of Charles Dickens; and The Moonstone originally published in Dickens’ magazine All the Year Round.

Collins is also mentioned together with Dickens in Baugh’s A Literary History of England, which sits in my bookcase (a heavy volume of 1800 pages that does not get taken down very often now that it’s so easy to look things up online instead).

It seems they both had some influence on each other:

Dickens’ shift from novels of humous character to novels of sensational intrigue was partly due to Collins’ precepts and example. But there are differences. Whereas Dickens conceived his characters and then invented a plot to set them in motion, Collins invented his plot and then fitted characters into it.

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The Moonstone is an “epistolary” novel, told in basically chronological order, but at the same time narrated through a number of different charcaters, each adding their own perspective and “flavour”. The story also turns out more complex than one might at first be deceived to believe; time and again we are sidetracked and led astray along with the narrators, as each of them can only see the events in his/her own light, and no one (for a long time) understands to interpret all the facts correctly.

The moonstone is a precious jewel originating from India – its background is explained at the very beginning of the novel, but most of the story takes place in Britain (in the late 1840s). The style of Dickens did come to mind for me often during the reading; but the first parts, narrated from the perspective of servants at the big country estate where the events take place, also led my thoughts to the recent (and still to be continued, I think) BBC TV series Downton Abbey.

Actually, one aspect of The Moonstone that strikes me as kind of “ahead of its time” compared to many other novels from the same period, is the fact that the narration does include the perspective of both masters and servants.

Parts of the story tend to get a little long-winded; but at the same time, suspense is kept up. I think one has to consider that it was originally published in episodes not unlike modern TV series (like Downton), with parts of the events getting explained or solved along the way, but other things still remaining a mystery until the very end.

As for the final whodunit revelations, I could say that at some point earlier I did sort of guess at it – I think – but then again, I could probably have said the same whoever turned out guilty, as suspicions did tend to shift quite a few times along the way!

I would recommend this book to those who also enjoy for example Dickens, detective stories like Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes – and upstairs / downstairs series like Downton Abbey!

I can also recommend the Audible companion to the Kindle edition of the book, read by James Langton; a very enjoyable narration. (I read some chapters on Kindle, and listened to others.) The ebook was free and the audio addition cheap ($3.44).

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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A question on the theme of
Love Stories
from DEB at Booking Through Thursday
(February 12, 2015)

“I’m not asking if you like romances … what I want to know is what is it about stories that you love? Is it the stories themselves? The people? The plot twists?”

Timely question for me, as was thinking about that while reading the book reviewed above anyway; and not least when pondering about the quote from A Literary History of England, about the difference between Dickens and Collins – Dickens inventing the characters first, and then the plot; Collins starting with the plot, and then fitting characters into it.

While I do appreciate a clever plot with twists and turns, it is often the characters, and also the “setting” of a novel (if well described) that stay with me in the long run, rather than the details – actually, astonishingly often, even such details as who in the end turned out to be the murderer in a murder story.

I suppose the best books are really those where it all comes together and both characters and some of the basic plot stick in memory, but which are also so well written that you can still enjoy rereading them after a certain time.

With The Moonstone, just having finished it, I feel that some of the characters stand out more than others; and not all quite in relation to their importance to the plot. There are also some plot twists in this book that might well have a potential for being memorable. And I guess the fact that it still seems to be quite widely read after nearly 150 years supports that many find it still standing up rather well to the Test of Time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Teaser Tuesday (Feb 10)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

“I wish to God the Diamond had never found its way into this house!” I broke out.
Sergeant Cuff looked with a rueful face at the three chairs on which he had condemned himself to pass the night.
”So do I,” he said, gravely.

Wilkie Collins – The Moonstone (1868)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Musing Monday

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Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB

“Do you have people in your life (face-to-face) that are readers like you? Or, do you find that you have to reach out to those online in order to find like-minded folk?”

Being in early retirement since a number of years back, I have to confess that these days, I generally talk to more people online than face-to-face, on any subject…

An additional factor with books though, besides not all reading friends preferring the same genres, is that I read a lot in English, which far from all of my Swedish friends do. However, I do sometimes talk about books both with my brother and with my aunt, both of whom do also like to read English books in English.

I did grow up in a reading environment. My mother, in the past, always read a lot; until her last years (when she found it harder to remember what she read).

My brother and I share a liking for certain fantasy books (he introduced me, for example, to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld). I also sometimes talk books with my aunt (my mum’s sister). She prefers more realistic stories (not fantasy) and keeps up better than I do with contemporary Swedish literature. But now and then we do read and like some of the same novels and mysteries.

My current read is an English classic: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868) – according to the Wikipedia article, “generally considered the first detective novel in the English language”. (I think I’ve heard that said about other books as well, though…) I’m about half-way into it just now – partly reading on the Kindle, partly listening to the whispersync Audible version (another good one). I do love it when I’m able to keep on reading with my ears when my eyes get tired! : )

Last week (in case you missed it) I posted a review of Peter May’s recent novel Runaway, which I also read that way (some parts on Kindle, some as audio).

Friday, February 6, 2015

Reflecting (FMTSO)

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Friday My Town Shoot Out, Feb 6: Reflecting
“From literal reflections in your town to your thoughts on events past. What reflections can you share with us?”

Having no recent reflection photos, I flickered back through photos from last year to see if I could find something not already shared… My eyes fell on the communion vessels on the altar in one of our churches. These photos were taken when the church was open for visitors in connection with the harvest festival back in September. There were also a few short organ concerts given – a good opportunity to sit down for a few minutes of private quiet reflection, away from the hustle and bustle going on outside.

“Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:12-13, NIV)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Book Review – Runaway by Peter May

Runaway
*****
by
Peter May (2014)

'… where did they all go, Dave?'
’The years. The dreams.' He turned a pale smile towards the other man. 'I never thought I'd be old, Dave. Never felt old. Not really. Always just a boy in my head. Until now.'

Like the previous books by Peter May that I have read (The Lewis Trilogy and Entry Island), this one too tells a story from the double perspective of the past vs. the present. The main narrator is Jack, born shortly after World War II, and growing up in Glasgow in the fifties and sixties. Back in 1965, he and four friends (like so many teens back then inspired by The Beatles) started a band, and in pursuit of a musical career ended up running away from their homes in Glasgow, to seek their fortune in London. Three of them returned after rather a short time away. (Remember how a few weeks seemed to last so much longer back in one's teens than they do decades later??) Two of them did not.

50 years later, in 2015, memories of their adventures back then catch up with Jack and the two old friends in Glasgow with whom he is still in touch. A piece of news read by one of them (Maurie) in the paper, about a recent murder in London, makes it necessary (Maurie insists) that the three of them retrace their steps and go back there. This time, it's not their parents they have to secretly run away from, but their children… However, to go through with it, they do need a younger chauffeur and assistant; and Jack manages to persuade (or trick) his grandson into accompanying them.

Their present day journey south to London turns out as adventurous as the one back in their youth. It becomes a mix of ”road movie”, nostalgia and insights. Peter May manages to capture the spirit of the times perfectly – both the past and the present. His use of language to paint mental images is just superb. Possibly it helps even further for me, though, that my own teen years weren't that far behind (and the general spirit of the early 70s not so different from the mid 60s) – and I also have my own memories of Britain from around back then; both from travelling with my own family, and one month spent living with an English family in Yorkshire (in 1972).

Besides the Kindle e-book I also bought the Audible version of this book (as I only had to pay a few dollars extra for that). The superb narration by Peter Forbes in Scottish accent added even more to the reading experience. (It was just a little bit annoying to find that the ”whispersync” with this book only worked one way, though. The audio book picked up where I was on the Kindle; but the Kindle did not pick up how far I'd listened to the audio. However, it was not too difficult to sort that out manually.)

All in all, I was ”swept away” by this book and really enjoyed it. The murder mystery in the background serves to keep the story together and link the past to the present; but it is really the characters, and the reflections about the passage of time and the role the memories of our youth still plays in our old age that will stick in my mind from this book, I think.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Teaser Tuesday (Feb 3)

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

“The rails themselves had already been lifted, and were laid along the side of the track awaiting collection. There was a sad sense of abandonment about the place, haunted by the imaginary ghosts of all the passengers who must once have passed this way, the distant echo of forgotten steam trains lost in the mists of railway history.”

Peter May – Runaway

The setting of Peter May’s new novel shifts between 2015 and 1965; the scene above is from 1965.

Hadlow Road Station

This is a postcard I recently received from a friend in England, which  came to mind when I read the quote above – an old station and railway no longer in use…

The novel and the postcard both connect to my own memories from holidays in Britain back in 1969-1974. My dad was a railway and steam trains enthusiasts, and every family holiday, whether in Sweden or Britain, always included various abandoned dilapidated old stations, as well as steam train museums…  Peter May manages to bring those memories (and others) to life without using photos! I’ve not yet finished the book – will probably be back with a review when I have.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Snowy Walk in B&W

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Even though I’m not a huge fan of snow under my feet, I have to admit that visually, it does make winter a lot more “interesting”…

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