Wednesday, 29 December 2010

my year in reading - 2010

Forget the 100 books that the BBC thinks most of us won't have read. These are the books that I actually did read this year. As ever, it's not a particularly edifying list - a mixture of old and new; "literary" and trash; mostly fiction; a light dusting of "improving" books. For me, reading is less about learning and improvement and almost entirely about immersing myself in story - being the people, living the lives, exploring the places that one life on this earth (and my cautious nature) will not afford me. As I did last year, I have highlighted the books I particularly enjoyed.
There are a couple here that I thought were particularly terrible, but I'm not going to single them out!
Val McDermid, The Wire in the Blood
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Meera Syal, Anita and Me
E Annie Proulx, The Shipping News
Muriel Spark, The Girls of Slender Means
Penelope Wilcock, The Wounds of God
Jennifer Johnston, The Captains and the Kings
Paul Auster, Travels in the Scriptorium
Wm Paul Young, The Shack
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
John Bell, 10 Things they never told me about Jesus
Mary Lawson, The Other Side of the Bridge
Alexander McCall Smith, The Comfort of Saturdays
Barack Obama, Dreams from my Father
David Lodge, Deaf Sentence
Peter Owen Jones, Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim
Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
Maeve Binchy, The Copper Beech
Elizabeth Knox, The Vintner's Luck
Elinor Lipman, The Pursuit of Alice Thrift
Jane Brocket, The Gentle Art of Quilt Making
Adrian Plass and Jeff Lucas, Seriously Funny
Arthur Japin, The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi
Ian McEwan, Amsterdam
Rose Lynas (ed), Votewise Now
Patricia Cornwell, The Scarpetta Factor
Elizabeth Noble, The Reading Group
Deboragh Moggagh, Smile
Mary Ann Schaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Iris Murdoch, The Unicorn
Nicola Upson, An Expert in Murder
C P Snow, The Affair
Ian Adams, Cave Refectory Road
Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology
Mitch Albarn, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Alexander McCall Smith, The Lost Art of Gratitude
A S Byatt, The Children's Book
Richard Holloway, Looking in the Distance
Kate Atkinson, When Will There Be Good News?
Agatha Christie, Postern of Fate
Agatha Christie, The Clocks
Chris Stewart, Driving Over Lemons
Julian Barnes, Cross Channel
Madeleine Wickham, The Gatecrasher
Joanna Trollope, The Girl from the South
George Eliot, Silas Marner
Roddy Doyle, Paula Spencer
Anita Shreve, Testimony
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

scarf weather

It's scarf weather and I've finally been able to wear my woodland scarf. It's been on the needles (interspersed with other things) since April last year.

I'm pleased with the result, though it's definitely a scarf whereas the pattern implied a shawl. I will probably get more wear from a scarf and it's lovely and long.

1 skein fyberspates scrumptious lace 2ply, which is a merino/silk blend
3.25mm needles
pattern: Woodland Shawl by Nikol Lohr

Friday, 18 June 2010

reality and unanswerable questions

As she was drawing the other day, Iris idly asked me “why are we real?” It seemed unfair to ask a three-and-a-half year old to define reality, but I did ascertain that she meant “real” as opposed to dolls and toys. I suppose I could have explained that dolls and toys are real – real plastic and wood and so on, but the difference is that we are living sentient beings. However I didn’t think of it at the time because I accepted that her question was really the more philosophical question – why am I me? It took me straight back to my own childhood wonder at the fact that I was me rather than someone else and to my later questioning of the fact that I had been fortunate to be born in the relatively well off UK as opposed to, say, a poverty-stricken warzone. These are the questions that lead to “who made God?” or “what came before the Big Bang?” I’m afraid I ducked the discussion that we could have had by saying that I didn’t think that any of us really know the answer. Thinking about it since I think my answer was true, if maybe a little unhelpful to a child trying to make sense of her world. Indeed I’m just embarking on a book by Richard Holloway (formerly Bishop of Edinburgh – now largely faithless) Looking in the Distance which explores these very questions. Maybe I’ll be better equipped for the discussion next time!
the photo is one I took on my recent retreat in Devon

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Not long after we moved to Bristol an American friend arrived to visit us and memorably (if rather exaggeratedly) enthused "wow, I'm thinking - San Francisco!" I think she must have been treated to a switchback ride on the Bristol hills with their fleeting glimpses up the Avon Gorge to the suspension bridge. There are parts of the riverside in central Bristol which show a distinct homage to Venice. The Granary on Welshback, for example - one of my favourite buildings. (photo copyright Linda Bailey licensed under this Creative Commons License)

I was sitting with a cup of coffee on the harbourside this morning, looking across the water towards the Hotwells and Clifton slopes. I thought that the backs of the houses clinging to the side of the hill behind the new apartments reminded me (a little) of an Italian hill town.
And then I thought - why this constant need for comparison? It's Bristol - and it's great. I love it.

Friday, 11 June 2010

catch up

A bit of a catch up of finished objects, completed during the past few months.

This is a travelling sketch book set made for Ruth's birthday in March.

And this is Elijah, made for Rosa:

It was his delicious feet that made me fall for the pattern.
And his wise eyes.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


That's "finally" as in "finally I'm back", but also "finally" as in "finally I've finished my Cortona quilt. It is so called because the design is inspired by some tiles I admired in the church of Santa Margareta in Cortona when we were there on holiday five years ago. The little squares echo a rounded notch in the tiles which makes them look a little like jigsaw pieces. I drew the line at trying to cut and stitch curves! I bought the fabrics and got to work pretty soon after we came back, but putting it together was a pretty fiddly and repetititve business that I could only face in small doses. And to be fair to myself I have completed a lot of other things in the meantime. The photographs don't really do the colour justice - it's a pale sage-y green. The quilt is now in its planned home - on the bed in our spare bedroom where it looks cool and peaceful.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Service will be resumed

Very conscious of not posting anything for a very long time. (Not that I imagine anyone's waiting with bated breath!). It's actually not for want of things to blog about - there are a number of Finished Objects that have been photographed and I have had a big and special birthday. The fact is I haven't really been able to concentrate. I am retiring at the end of the month and, although I don't work full-time, most of my random access memory has been consumed by thoughts of handing over the job in a healthy state to my successor, pensions and planning for post-retirement life.

The other barrier to posting is that this computer, which belongs to the office, is fairly new and needs to be passed on to my successor. I have been asked not to get it all clogged up with too much personal stuff, so I'm not uploading photos.

After Easter I'm going on a post-retirement retreat and hope to come back ready for anything!

Sunday, 7 February 2010


I love breakfast. I wake hungry and could never skip breakfast. I really like the fact that these days people go out for breakfast, meet for breakfast, linger over breakfast. Personally I'm not a fan of the Full English which leaves me feeling stodgy and bloated all morning. Most mornings I make myself a modest bowl of porridge with raisins and a banana, or a couple of weetabix with skimmed milk and a banana (heated in the microwave until the milk is hot and the banana takes on a squidgy sweetness). Today I decided to give my breakfast a little more attention. I had been talking with a friend about mindfulness, so today I made and ate my breakfast mindfully. I had a small bowl of lightly spiced apricots with vanilla yogurt and two slices of wholemeal toast with apricot conserve. To draw it all together and make it a minor feast for the senses and the mind I made myself a pot of spicy chai - fragrant with the scents of cinnamon and cardomom. I enjoyed the gentle pace and the flavours and the aroma and the fact that the spices in the tea echoed the spices in the apricots and yogurt and the apricots were repeated in the conserve. A little piece of culinary poetry to start the day!

Friday, 1 January 2010

26 postcards

I'm not a great one for New Year Resolutions - they've always seemed a bit fakey and artificial to me, expecting life to change as a result of a particular day in the year.

This year, however, I have got one. I want to keep in touch more with my distant friends. There really are no excuses for not sending the occasional "how are you" email and Facebook makes that kind of casual contact very easy. Not everyone uses Facebook, however, and this Christmas has brought news of really big things in people's lives (the death of a spouse, major surgery for a daughter) that I knew nothing about. In the days when I lived in the same town as these people there was no need of special keeping in touch - we saw each other at the shops, we visited each other's houses, we knew what was going on. Now that we live in different places it has proved harder to keep that awareness of other people's lives.

So this year I will be sending emails to old friends. Some of them will no doubt wonder what has come over me - why do I think they need news of me? In actual fact I will be sending some of my news in the hope that they will reciprocate with some of theirs.

As an additional impetus to my good resolution I have bought myself a diary which includes 26 detachable postcards inserted between the weeks of the year. My plan is to wing off a postcard to someone in my address book every fortnight during the year.