February 2010

This has been a very sad month for book reading. The book I’m currently reading is taking ages (despite reassurances from friends it will soon pick up — I need to be awake enough to read it!), and not reflected here are the couple hundred or so pages of assorted chapters and articles read for work, so there you go.

  1. Scottish Fairy Belief: A history by Lizanne Henderson and Edward J. Cowan. (for work)
  2. Elves in Anglo-Saxon England by Alaric Hall. (for work)
  3. The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and other stories by Susanna Clarke. (for pleasure)
  4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (for pleasure)

Wild Geese

Sometimes introverts need to have their introversion validated; to be told that it’s okay to wrap themselves up in the soft comfort of solitude, to talk only to the few people they want to and take a break from the rest of the world, to stare out at the long horizon and feel all the things that had been piling up spread out, thinning. Snow covers the hills in the distance and the clouds hang low over them, blurring the boundary between earth and sky.

I don’t like poetry as a rule, but I do like this one. And despite my reputation to the contrary, I do have a certain fondness for geese.

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

It’s Friday

As the wind, rain, snow, sleet howls outside and pounds on the window, I am rationalising that this tiredness is the result of recovering from a week-or-more-long funk, of the weather, of poor sleep, trying not to admit that perhaps, again, I ought to have my sinuses checked, that perhaps all I need is sleep. Yes, sleep: that blissful unconsciousness that doth restoreth mind, body, soul. Thank heaven it is Friday. How boring am I that I look forward to going to bed early on a Friday night, that I may sleep all the longer on Saturday morning?

Two of my favorite lines from The King of Bede come from the same chapter:

‘The sea air put him into unpredictable moods.’


‘A stranger am I, and a wanderer, searching for the edge of the world.’

Sea, mountain, sky

I love the waves as white ribbons rippling across the deep silver blue, the sand that goes on and on into the infinite distance, the blush of peach and pink on the distant snowy mountains, the sky that curves with the colors of a seashell as the sun dips below the edge of the world.


The previous week (or two) in bullet points:

  • Megan paused in her Sojourn from India to the States to visit the Princedom of Fyffe for X days;
  • The aforesaid Sojourner and I did venture to Edinburgh and Inverness, during which my knees began to Protest Loudly, to be alleviated by the Use of a Cane;
  • The Mystery of the Undelivered Parcel becomes a concern to many;
  • I Slept little;
  • I completed the excellent Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and began If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino;
  • I panicked, prepared and persevered through the First Thesis Meeting of This Year;
  • I was reminded that I am Dust and to Dust I Shall Return;
  • I have Shopped, Laundered and Hoovered to bring Order back into Chaos.

*  *  *

I have wanted to write about Never Let Me Go, but the only way to do so without it sounding utterly boring would be to give away the premise. I knew the premise going into the book, but it was something that the book revealed slowly, and I think that I would allow any of my readers and friends the opportunity to discover it for themselves. In short, as much as I disliked Remains of the Day, I enjoyed Never Let Me Go. I was surprised that many of the same techniques Ishiguro used in Remains of the Day were also used in Never Let Me Go, except that in the latter the perspective is first person instead of third, the stream of consciousness is purposeful instead of rambling, and, in my opinion, Never Let Me Go simply had a more compelling story. It is a novel I wish I had written; perhaps someday I may write like it.

I am glad for weekends. They are reset buttons when you just need to start a week afresh. And this weekend has done just that.

In my defense

The other day while talking books with Casey (always an enjoyable past-time), the subject came up regarding how much non-SFF I read, and I couldn’t remember at the time the titles I have read this year. So, in my defense, I have consulted my reading list and six of the fifteen fiction books I have read thus far in 2010 have been neither science-fiction nor fantasy:

– Morality Play by Barry Unsworth.
– The Cellist of Sarajevo
by Steven Galloway.
– P
arnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley.
– Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand
by Ursula K. Le Guin.
– Run
by Ann Patchett.
– The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

And I am currently reading If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino. (The rest of the breakdown? 4 science-fiction, 5 fantasy.)

‘So there’; I do read contemporary/modern/non-genre fiction.

A Tale of Two Kitties

A month or so ago when I was at my parents’ house, our cat was in my room while I was going to sleep. She was trying to get into my closet. ‘Jewely,’ I said, ‘If you are just going to get into mischief, I will throw you out.’ She raised her chin, sniffed, and stalked to the door, where she deftly stuck her paw under the door and opened it. With a flick of her tail, she left.

This morning, Truffles was in a fey mood. I had already thrown her out of the bathroom where she was getting into trouble when she pushed open the door to my room with a glint in her eye. I sat at my desk journaling. ‘You will not make a nuisance of yourself, Truffles,’ said I. She turned around and slithered out the door. I shut it behind her.

I know, I need to catch-up. Accept this tale for now, and I shall finish my SORSAS application, go to Palaeography, go to a thesis meeting…

The Celt and the Red Man

From the introduction to The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, W. Y. Evans Wentz, (1911):

“Many of the most remote parts of these lands were visited; and often there was no other plan to adopt, or any method better, or more natural, than to walk day after day from one straw-thatched cottage to another, living on the simple wholesome food of the peasants. […] I tried to see the world as [the Celt] does; I participated in his innermost thoughts about the great problem of life and death, with which he of all peoples is most deeply concerned; and thus he revealed to me the source of his highest ideals and inspirations. I daily felt the deep and innate seriousness of his ancestral nature; and, living as he lives, I tried in all ways to be like him.


And even where we find materialists of either type dwelling in the country, we generally find them so completely under the hypnotic sway of city influences and mould of thought that in matters of education and culture, and in matters touching religion, that they have lost all sympathetic and responsive contact with nature, because unconsciously they have thus permitted conventionality and unnaturalness to insulate them from it. The Celtic peasant, who may be their tenant or neighbour, is—if still uncorrupted by them—in direct contrast unconventional and natural. He is normally always responsive to psychical influences—as much so as an Australian Arunta or an American Red Man, who also, like him are fortunate to enough to have escaped being corrupted by what we egotistically distinguish ourselves from them, call ‘civilization’.


Are city-dwellers like these, Nature’s unnatural children, who grind out their lives in an unceasing struggle for wealth and power, social position, and even for bread, fit to judge Nature’s natural children who believe in fairies?”

This introduction is perhaps one of the most patronising that I have read. I found myself having to replace indignation with laughter; laughter with recognition of the author’s time and place; and once placing the author in his context, sifting out the facts from his bias. (New historicism, ahoy!) This, my friends, I hope is the mark of a good scholar.

Mixed messages

I eat a couple of Dove dark chocolates after I take one of my injections—equal parts bribe, reward and consolation—and these chocolates are well-known for their ‘inspirational’ messages inside the wrapper. Granted, after an injection I’m in a sour mood (hence the need for one), and so I am decidedly Not Amused.

Tonight’s messages?

‘Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can.’

‘Find little ways to make part of your day like a day off.’

Thanks Dove, for encouraging my guilt/discipline complex.

One week

Market Street on a rainy evening.Has it only been a week? It feels like longer. Next week term starts in full force, and so I am glad to have had this week to put an altered routine into play before throwing choir, Medieval Palaeography, and volunteering in Special Collections into the mix. Reminding myself that it has only been a week also lets me not be so hard on myself about my sleeping schedule: I’m still not falling asleep when I want to, but have still been waking up early to get into work by 9.00 anyway. Now, however, I am tired. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be rain, rain, rain, and so the things I haven’t done today (viz. Latin, editing Bede), can be done tomorrow with a rested mind.

I have been putting a conscious effort into cooking better—or, more creative—meals and I’m pleased to say that I have been successful this week. Upon Sarah’s suggestion I made lasagna, and my first attempt at doing so was not spectacular, but still edible. I altered a soup recipe and it was still tasty; and made pasta sauce from a recipe Casey gave me. Tonight I experimented and I’ll be making the roasted vegetables again for sure. (My ‘experiments’ tend to be rather conservative—I still have to eat with whatever results!) Anyhow, as the beginning of my weeks is going to be rather busy (again! what’s with this Montuesday business?), I at least want to make sure I have the forethought to have leftovers available for when I drag myself home late after choir rehearsal.

Following Kelly’s example, I have decided to do an hour of Latin a day. I am using the book Latin Via Ovid and find it most helpful. Editing of The King of Bede* is now underway, again for an hour each day. It’s heartening to see how much can be done in an hour, when you aren’t distracted by so many other things.

And for those who have had some cause for concern: my arthritis seems to have returned to its normal ever-present yet only-moderately-bothersome state. It appears that I needed only to return to sea level, or at least, the climate to which I have become used.

This has been a more ‘life update’ post than is the usual; I’m tired and mainly wanted an excuse to post the photo I took this evening upon leaving work. It’s blurry, but that adds rather than detracts from the atmosphere, I think.


* Provisional title.