“Fifty shades of brown” … (from a walk last week)
The time stamp on this photo says 11:16 a.m. The sun is like me; struggling to get out of bed in the morning this time of year…
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon was first published in 1983, but I never read it before. Now I listened to it as audio book, excellently narrated by Davina Porter. Even though it’s a very long book – lasting nearly 51 hours – I was kept under a spell all the way.
The novel has been called a feminist take on the Arthurian legend; telling the events predominantly from the point of view of Morgaine, Arthur’s half-sister, who is more often (in other versions of the legend) portrayed as an evil sorceress (Morgan le Fay). We also get the perspectives of other female characters, like Morgaine’s mother and aunts, and Arthur’s wife Gwenhwyfar; while all the men sort of remain in the background for a change.
However, the book is not only about the male vs female lookout on life; but also a great deal about the clashes between the old religion (represented by Avalon) and the new (Christianity).
The ruler of the mystic realm of Avalon, also known as the Lady of the Lake, is the High Priestess of the old (Brittonic) religion. For the major part of the story, this position is held by Morgaine’s aunt Viviane – while Igraine, Morgaine’s mother, spends her last years in a Christian convent. Morgaine herself continues to cling to her bond with Avalon; even though with time, that ancient island seems to be drifting further and further into the mists (and getting harder and harder to find one’s way to, even for believers).
King Arthur’s wife Gwenhwyfar on the other hand is a firm believer in the new religion (Christianity); while certain other characters, including Arthur himself and (the) Merlin*, act as sort of go-betweens, looking for compromises. (For better or for worse will be up to each reader to decide for him/herself, I think!)
*Merlin in this book is not a personal name but rather the Merlin; indicating an ancient druid title in Avalon.
All in all I found the novel giving “food for thought” for our own turbulent times as well.
Oh-oh. I find myself in trouble with this week’s theme(s) (museum/university/library), as I haven’t got my postcards sorted like that…
The only card that popped immediately to mind was one that I received rather early on in postcrossing. And as I haven’t received all that many from Australia, I also knew where to find it.
Mitchell Library – The State Library of New South Wales in Sydney. It is the oldest library in Australia. (Link to Wikipedia.)
It has become a tradition in my town to have a little pre-advent ceremony when we officially turn on the Christmas lights, on the weekend before the 1st Advent weekend.
I wasn’t feeling “100%” yesterday so wasn’t sure I’d be going… But the rain stopped and it cleared up a bit in the afternoon, and it wasn’t too cold, and I was feeling better - so I decided to go out for a little walk anyway, and then let my feet decide… And my feet decided to take me into town after all.
“Before and after”
Going into town, passing Bodhi in the river
Illuminated street art under a bridge.
I’m rarely out walking in town late at night,
so I’m not sure I’ve seen the art “in this light” before.
This time of year it gets dark early – the ceremony was at 4 pm.
People gathering on a bridge in the Park,
waiting for the Home Guard Music Corps.
Tadaa! Drum roll, and the lights are on.
Marching on towards the Main Square…
… and another “aaaw” as the Christmas Tree lights up.
(And no – the tree is not really leaning all that much…
That’s just my camera trying to get it all into the picture.)
Going back home.
Passing by Bodhi again.
Not sure these lights in some trees
in the middle of a roundabout
are supposed to “be” anything at all;
but to me, from a certain angle,
they looked like two deer (or reindeer?)
GB-824766 (from Northern Ireland, October 2016)
I love books, and book covers, and illustrations…
I also have a quite few Penguin Classics in my bookcase.
This one, A Book of Toys by Gwen White, I had never heard of before, so had to google to learn more. I find that it was published in 1946 and belongs in a series of hardback ‘King’ Penguins books, published between 1939 and 1959. It is about the history of toys, with colour illustrations of toys found in British museums. You can see some examples from it here (a blog post by another blogger, from some years ago).
AU-482921 (from Australia, April 2016)
When I look up Ladybird Books, I find that those too belong to the Penguin group. I haven’t found any specifics about this little book except that it was published in 1961 and seems to belong in a series of what to look for in each of the four seasons.
From John in England (May 2016)
…who also knows me under my Blogger alias DawnTreader,
which was of course borrowed from this book. (See the top of my sidebar!)
I also own the book with this cover art, along with the other six, in The Complete Chronicles of Narnia box set. (Just a different colour on the strip at the bottom.) And yes, of course Puffin is part of the Penguin publishing house as well…
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) was the third published of the seven Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. In editions sequenced according to Narnian history, it is the fifth.
In general, I would say I’m not a huge fan of authors picking up and continuing and/or changing the works and characters created by others. On second thought, though, I realize that this has of course been going on ever since mankind first began telling stories…
One fictional character that even survived his original creator’s attempt to kill him off to get rid of him, is the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. The author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, got tired of him and sent him to his death in one story… But got such massive protests from his readers that he had to resurrect him again! Since then Sherlock has lived on and survived not only his creator, but also the copy-rights.
One of several modern writers who have tried adding their own twist to the characters and setting of the Holmes stories is Martin Davies. I’m not sure I would have felt tempted to pick up this series if not for the fact that I had already read four other books by this author – all different from each other, and I liked them all. (The Conjuror’s Bird, The Unicorn Road, The Year After and Havana Sleeping.) So I decided to give his take on Sherlock Holmes a go as well – and don’t regret it!
I read The Spirits’ Curse back in February this year; The Malabar Rose in June; and just finished The Lazarus Testament.
In the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Mrs Hudson is the landlady from whom Holmes and Dr Watson rent their rooms. In Davies’ version, Holmes and Watson buy or rent the house, and then employ Mrs Hudson as housekeeper. She also takes in an orphaned kitchen maid to help her around the house. Not knowing her own origin, the maid goes by the name of Flotsam (as in ‘flotsam and jetsam’), or Flottie.
Mrs Hudson’s past remains a bit of a mystery as well, but having served as housekeeper in several wealthy households, she turns out to be nearly as well-connected with all kinds of people as her new employer, the famous detective – and also just as sharp-witted, in her own more down-to-earth way. And Flottie soon finds herself serving not only as kitchen-maid, but also as the downstairs counterpart of Dr Watson. As Conan Doyle told the Sherlock Holmes stories through Dr Watson, Martin Davies tells his stories through Flottie (supposed to be looking back on events from some time in the fictional future). So what we get in these books is a kind of “Downton Abbey” or upstairs/downstairs view of the famous 221b Baker Street. Important clients still come to seek the help of the famous detective; but we also get the kitchen perspective of events, and Mrs Hudson’s keen eye and her many contacts play a huge role in the background.
Very conveniently, there is a little storage room across the hall from the sitting room where Holmes and Watson usually receive their guests – and doors are often left ajar… So Mrs Hudson and Flottie overhear a lot while polishing silver and folding linen and setting tables and whatnot. And when home alone, Holmes and Watson sometimes also pop into the kitchen and end up having a cup or glass of something in front of the cosy fire there, discussing things with Mrs H – and even with Flottie.
On the whole, I think Davies has managed to nail the classic characteristics of Holmes and Watson quite well – just from a somewhat different perspective. The novels are well-written, the mysteries intricate and very much in the Sherlock Holmes-style, and the general atmosphere seems authentic for the time period.
What perhaps appears a little less believable to me is the friendship formed between Flottie and two young upper class cousins of around her own age. Mrs H arranges for Flottie to be tutored by the young man who knows a lot about science; and she also becomes friends with his female cousin residing in the same house, and gets treated by them like their equal. But it serves the story, as it allows Flottie to move more and more easily between different roles and classes of society. (The two cousins reappear in the following books as well, and get involved in those stories too. They also serve a kind of comic relief purpose, which makes it easy to overlook the credibility issue.)
In Mrs Hudson and the Spirits’ Curse, Holmes gets a visit from a traveler recently returned from the Far East, who fears he's under a curse that will end his life.
In Mrs Hudson and the Malabar Rose, a world famous magician is about to perform in London, and Sherlock Holmes is asked to guard a priceless ruby.
In Mrs Hudson and the Lazarus Testament, an ancient religious artefact has gone missing - and so has the viscount who holds the only clue as to its whereabouts. The trail leads Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, as well as their female servants, to the lonely Cumbrian moors, and a country house in need of a housekeeper.
DE-3072459 (from Germany, 2014)
“Abwarten… und Tee trinken!”
“Wait and see, and have some tea” (German proverb)
NL-2278981 (from the Netherlands, 2014)
BY-1573561 (from Belarus, 2015)
“Where there’s TEA there’s HOPE”
BY-1719913 (from Belarus, 2015)
Tea is my favourite drink (I never drink coffee, always tea), and tea-related things is also on my wish-list at Postcrossing. So my difficulty today was not in finding something to fit this week’s theme (coffee/tea/pastries), but rather the opposite (i.e. choosing how many and which of them all to post!)
The Christmas tree in the main square was put in place already a week ago; which many people thought was too early… But with the snow and ice that followed just a couple of days later, it was probably just as well that they did get it up in good time.
(… says she who also chose to get her own little tree up on the balcony before the snow fell – and is glad that she did!)
A bit chilly for a barbeque
Compared to the rest of Sweden, here in the south-west we haven’t really had all that much snow yet. More problems with icy streets, so far! In Stockholm, though, they got about 50 cm of the white stuff yesterday (breaking records going back more than 100 years for early November). And further up north in Sweden, they have had even more – 1 meter or so in some places.
So, all kinds of chaos competing in the news this week… On the whole, though, I’d say that the focus in the Swedish media this week has been on watching and discussing events taking place much further away from home… (The US election.)
Pigeons on the roof – watching and waiting…
Sometimes one just does not want to look!
Sooooo cold today!!! Bitter cold winds, icy and slippery streets...
My thermometer showed minus 2.6 degrees Celsius (27.3°F), but my weather app on the phone really was much closer to the truth, warning me that it would feel like -12°C (-10.4°F). It’s like we suddenly jumped straight ahead to mid January or so…
A short walk to the nearest mailbox today felt like going out for a polar expedition. Besides winter coat and boots, I also needed the extra spiky thingies for the boots and my Nordic walking sticks (with the bouncy “summer” rubber ends removed). And I was still afraid of slipping! (But I didn’t.)
(The photo at the top is my own, taken with the phone.
The other images I
stole borrowed from the internet.)
We only have a thin layer of snow around here yet, though. I just watched the evening news, and up in the north in some places they’ve had 1 meter of snow in the last three days. And I understand they’ve had quite a lot in the south-east, too. Around here, not as much snow, but very icy roads; and many people haven’t had time to change to winter tires on their cars yet. So lots of road accidents.
Tomorrow I’ll be staying in , I think... (No need to go anywhere!)
It’s That Time of Year again. On Thursday we had the first frost (and sunshine), on Friday the first snow...
Frosty wooden deck down by the river (Friday)
Intricate “broken mirror” ice patterns on the shallow pond nearby.
Hastening to cover my clematis plant on the balcony, I accidentally ended up covering myself as well… Booh!!!
(Have you ever tried to fold a huge sheet of thin fibre cloth back into its original neat flat package after cutting off the piece you needed?)
Today, all the snow is gone, and we’re back to rain.
But warnings have been issued for more snow tonight and tomorrow.
Friday My Town (snow is just frozen rain, right?)
JP-776113 (from Japan, February 2016)
Japanese illustration by Yoko Kitami,
of the Hansel and Gretel folk tale (from Germany)
TW-2007088 (from Taiwan, July 2016)
Soy Green Tea Latte (a Starbucks card)
I drink a lot of tea, both black and green. I also use soy milk (because I’m lactose intolerant) – but not in my tea. (I don’t take milk either.)
I also have a cutting board very much like that one!