May 2010

Books read in May 2010:

  1. The Nickle Nackle Tree by Lynley Dodd.
  2. All Seated on the Ground by Connie Willis.
  3. Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian.
  4. Hue & Cry by Shirley McKay.
  5. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.
  6. Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle.
  7. Bede: a novel by C. A. Cole and Kelly Ledbetter.
  8. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.
  9. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

This list is ever so slightly deceptive, if only because I still have 10 pages left to read of A Study in Scarlet, but I think I can handle that easily enough in the next half hour.

Today, for my birthday, I got a key, a fudge doughnut, and an adventure. The key was to an office; the fudge doughnut was from my officemates; and the adventure was one undertook by Sarah, David, and I, for we climbed Arthur’s Seat, that extinct volcano that stands so magnificently in Edinburgh.

And now, to bed and to finish A Study in Scarlet, and to see what June brings tomorrow.

Out walking

I began this morning with a leisurely breakfast of blueberry muffins, an omelet made with the last of the wild garlic, apple slices, tea, and Agatha Christie. I have Kelly to thank for both the muffins and the mystery. Though most mornings find me with a book in hand, I wish all mornings could be as peaceful.

I realised today that of the fifteen (15) books I got last year for my birthday (yes, fifteen), I have read all but one of them, and that remaining one is already near the top of my reading list. I am quite proud of myself for this fact.

This afternoon I went for a walk. While I was out, I met these guys:

It’s a good thing neither of them had yellow eyes, or I would have been off running. You have to be careful around black ponies. One of them might be a Pooka. As it was, these were not very photogenic ponies.

The view from the top of the hill back into town. It was relaxing to get out for a bit, to spend a couple of hours wandering through rapeseed fields with the town out of sight, and listening to the larks sing into the wind.

Work, work, play

There’s a line in the Bible about perfect love casting out fear. That I don’t know about, but orneriness will definitely do it every time.

Tamsin, Peter S. Beagle

It took a few months, but I think I’ve finally won my supervisors over to my topic; that I do have a serious, scholarly interest in fairy and don’t just want to dance around at the bottom of the garden. And lest you think the same, dear readers, please know that when I say that I study fairy, I mean that I am studying how fairy was used to explore gender, death, and religion in medieval English and Scottish literature. Maybe Maia was right, I should title my thesis, ‘Fairy: sex, death, and God’.

But I suppose I shouldn’t tell the Supers that I have half a mind to include Peter S. Beagle in my acknowledgments, because if it weren’t for The Last Unicorn, I might not have had an interest in the Middle Ages, and if not for Tamsin, I might not have kept reading about the Pooka. And now I find myself wondering why I haven’t read more of his books…

I also only have, say, 70k left of this thing to write. Hey, I’m a 4-time NaNoWriMo champion. 70k in 2-3 years is totally doable. (I say this as much to myself as to anyone else…)

O sunny day!

The past few days summer has come with a vengeance. It hit an unprecedented 80 F / 26 C today. My washing was dry by lunchtime, so I could take it down without worrying about it while I went into town. I spent the afternoon walking barefoot on the edge of the surf along the length of East Sands and then rewarding myself with two scoops of ice cream bought at the harbour, and climbing up to sit on the edge of St Mary on the Rock to look out over the piers and the sea. I meandered past the castle and looped back to read for a bit in the cathedral. It is still quite warm, being now 9 PM. There is a fabulous rose and gold sunset, but I am much too tired to climb the hill in order to see it in all its glory.

Earlier this week a friend of mine gave me a bunch of wild garlic, or ramsons. Since the acclaimed chef, Lt. David Williams (husband of my dear friend Sarah) also sent me his pizza dough recipe this week, I thought I would experiment with both. Borrowing an idea from Casey, I wilted the wild garlic in olive oil. The result was a pizza topped with wild garlic, olives, mushrooms, and onion. I’m quite pleased at my first attempt at making a pizza from scratch.

I still have wild garlic left, so I will have to find more things to try — and more pizza dough, so I think I’ll be having pizza again next week.

Ah, the beginning of summer: after two days of lots of walking, I am quite tired, and I shall be going to bed before the sun has finished setting.

Declared normal

I like going to doctors.

I realise that this is probably a weird thing to like, but think about it: you go to a doctor when you are unwell, and they help you feel better. I have visited doctors often enough over the course of my life, and have been blessed with friendly ones, that going to see a doctor isn’t an unpleasant experience. I particularly like seeing my rheumatologist, partly because it is the only time I get an accurate measure of my weight, BMI, and blood pressure (ideal in all three, I am pleased to add) and because she has cool machines. I am also one of those weird patients who asks lots of questions.

Anyway, despite the mild flare up in March, I have been given a clean bill of health and have been declared “normal” by a medical professional (though I am sure some would like to contest this claim). I can do anything I want.

It is also incredibly warm—a sultry 19 C / 66 F—and I wish I were wearing short sleeves. As it is, I rolled up my sleeves and found myself wanting to walk on the shady side of the street. Ah, the irony in acclimating.

And now, to work, to work… I doubt my supervisor would be pleased if I claimed that, since I can do anything I want, I chose to sit on the beach all day eating ice cream instead of finishing up my upgrade portfolio.

On independence

As I had promised.

From the OED:

Conservative (adj.)
3. b.  Characterized by caution or moderation.

Liberal (adj.)
4. a. Free from narrow prejudice; open-minded, candid.
…..b. Free from bigotry or unreasonable prejudice in favour of traditional opinions or established institutions; open to the reception of new ideas or proposals of reform.

The recent elections and formation of a new Tory-led coalition government has raised all manner of political discussions, allowing several Americans to talk about their political ideas without having to rely on the polarised dichotomy of Republican and Democrat. These discussions have only reinforced my choice to choose neither party, but register as an Independent.

I am Independent because of how I understand the purpose and role of government. I believe in ‘small government’: government should not interfere with the daily lives of its people, meddling, obliging people to participate in programs they do not wish to or monitoring their daily lives. However, I also believe that the social contract the people have with their government obliges, nay demands, binds, the government to provide basic services to ensure the health, care, and safety of the people. For instance, basic healthcare should be available to the people, yet people should not be penalised for exercising their right of choice to have a private healthcare provider. In the same vein, there must be regulatory action taken on industry and corporation to ensure legality, fairness, and quality of product and thus encourage a healthy economy. Thus, it appears that I also acknowledge the necessary evil of ‘big government’.

I wish that more of my friends have read The Dispossessed by Le Guin. Then they would understand when I say that I wish I had the resolve to be Odonian. But that ambiguous utopia can only exist on Anarres, where life is hard and demands cooperation for survival.

‘On Anarres nothing is beautiful, nothing but the faces. The other faces, the men and women. We have nothing but that, nothing but each other. Here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes. And in the eyes you see the splendor, the splendor of the human spirit because our men and women are free—possessing nothing, they are free.’

And yet while I sometimes wish there were no government, I do not live on Anarres. I live on Earth, where governments are a necessary evil, but can do great good, held in check only by the conscientiousness of their citizens. And that is why I am Independent, because we cannot all be polarised, because some have to be both conservative and liberal, who can stand in the middle, or on the outside, and consider what is best, regardless of party lines.

10-min or less

Back when I lived in Gannochy (oh so very long ago), my default meal was often tortellini with veg: literally a 5-minute meal to boil the tortellini and stir fry the vegetables. Tonight, when I realised with a raging headache that I had forgotten to defrost the meat and didn’t have enough milk for porridge (another default), I thought: ‘I have vegetables, I have pasta, I can still eat.’

And so I did, and realised then what the habit of actually cooking has created: I added seasoning to the veg, I tossed a bouillon cube in with the pasta as an experiment (a hint of flavour, not much—but bland is probably better for me right now). When it was done some 8 minutes later, I put it all in a bowl and topped with some Parmesan cheese I happened to have in the fridge. A simple meal I could make while operating on only half a brain and yet infinitely better than the recourse meals I was eating a year ago at this time.

(I commented to Faith this morning that I don’t often post every day, which is true. I had written another post in my head this morning but I think I’ll sit on it for a while. You’ll just have to wait.)

Master & Comander

On the day that it is due back to the public library, I finally finished Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. It is a long, detailed book. My favourite character, and indeed, the thing that kept me reading through until the end, was Dr. Stephen Maturin, the ship’s surgeon and a naturalist at heart. He fits the type of the poor scholar, has a wry wit and an easy sensibility.

‘You are always in such a hurry,’ said Stephen peevishly, groping among his possessions. A Montpellier snake glided out with a dry rustling sound and traversed the room in a series of extraordinarily elegant curves, its head held up some eighteen inches above the ground.

‘Oh, oh, oh,’ cried Jack, leaping on to a chair. ‘A snake!’

‘Will these do?’ asked Stephen. ‘They have a hole in them.’

‘Is it poisonous?’

‘Extremely so. I dare say it will attack you directly. I have very little doubt of it. Was I to put the silk stockings over my worsted stockings, sure the hole would not show: but then, I should stifle with heat. Do you not find it uncommonly hot?’


‘You are an antinomian,’ said Jack.

‘I am a pragmatist,’ said Stephen. ‘Come, let us drink up our wine.’

The film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World combines the first, second, and tenth books of the series (of which there are 21). The film, it seems, takes bits and pieces from each of these, casts the setting as the south Pacific, and strings them all together into a single narrative. If I read any more of the Aubrey & Maturin series, it will be to see if Maturin does get to go to the Galapagos after all.

Ups & downs

Down. I only saw one duckling with the mama duck yesterday, when on Sunday there were eight. Seagulls are infanticides.

Up. The owner of the local coffee shop brought me a chai latte without even having to order.

Down. The conference in July, the deadline which I thought was in June, closes registration on Friday. I will have to pay a late fee.*

Up. I booked tickets to see Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 at the Globe. Planning to have tea at the Rose beforehand.

Down. Not knowing where the next 3,000 words for this chapter are going to come from.

Up. Having good news about desks in the near future. I’m moving up in the world, or down, as the case may be.

And so on and so forth.


* Up. I love living in a country small enough that first class means next day. But also Down, because I used all of next year’s research allowance on this silly conference.

The observer

From my room I can see out across the town, across the forest, the estuary, to the air force base and the hills and, on a clear day, the mountains. I can spend hours gazing as the clouds blow in or out of the sea, at the changing silhouettes of the hills, at the rain falling in bands of purple and gold, as the sunset lingers for hours. When I should be writing, I watch, trying to see every color, the brilliant white on a seagull’s wing, the flash of windmills turning in the sunlight. I used to watch until I saw the first star of evening, but darkness draws ever later, and now I find that I draw the curtains while it is still light.

As a science-fiction writer I personally prefer to stand still for long periods, like the Quechua, and look at what is, in fact, in front of me: the earth; my fellow beings on it; and the stars.

–Ursula K. Le Guin

I never feel that this watchfulness is wasted, for there is no crime in appreciating beauty or the hand from which beauty cometh; ‘There is no answer to beauty but silence,’ Christopher Morley.