April 2011

Books read this month:

  1. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison. For my PhD. Following up a lead on race theory, and actually going somewhere with it.
  2. Borderlands / La Frontera by Gloria E. Anzaldúa (50%). Also following up on a race theory lead, but this one led nowhere. I read the first half which was in prose; the second half was poetry.
  3. A Mysterious Affair of Style by Gilbert Adair. Sequel to The Act of Roger Murgatroyd, and unfortunately not as good. I think I’ll stick to Agatha Christie.
  4. Stanzaic Guy of Warwick ed. by Alison Wiggins. Middle English romance about Guy of Warwick. He goes on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and fights giants.
  5. Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer. An exposé on Greg Mortenson and how he’s run the CAI.
  6. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Sequel to The Thief. A war between three countries, meddling from a fourth, and the thief Eugenides must find a way to steal peace. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read this book. It’s my favourite, and I want to pick it up and read it through again.

A somewhat disappointing list, but as Kelly pointed out to me, I’ve been gardening. Also, the last few weeks have been busy with Holy Week and rehearsals. And working on my thesis. I suppose I could include the 12 articles that I read the last week and a half? Note that 3 books on this list were for my PhD, and 3 were nonfiction.

A few notes

Oh look, it’s Thursday. A few notes I’ve been meaning to say something about:

  • I am very disappointed that Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea actually fabricated most of the material in his books, and that the charity he helped found has suffered by its association with him.
  • The Royal Wedding is tomorrow. Practically all of the charity shops in town have dug up wedding gowns to put in their display windows, and the life-size cut-outs of Kate and William in one of the café windows kind of creeps me out.
  • Speaking of creepy: DOCTOR WHO, oh my goodness. Ros, Tristan, and I were cowering by the end of the episode. Those aliens are just scary, and it was a two-parter, erk. Cue shouting at BBC iPlayer.
  • I’m baffled that the ‘birther’ conspiracy still has any momentum. Really, people? And I love how completely bemused British coverage has been about it. I agree with the reporter for The Guardian: as Jonathan Swift said, ‘you can’t reason somebody out of something they were never reasoned into’. Let me just say now that if you buy into the birther conspiracy I will think a little less of you. I seriously doubt that any of this hoopla would have happened if his father had been white South African and/or if he had a more European sounding name. Good grief, people. Get over your xenophobia.
  • Specsavers is totally superior to Boots as opticians go.
  • Slugs and snails are my enemies. They ate two of my sunflowers, and kept swarming over my poor primroses. I finally caved and bought slug killer pellets. It’s been working. Now my housemate is sad because I’m killing snails. Just can’t win, can I?
  • In the process of trying to acquire a PhD thesis for the library I now have an Australian academic pen pal. And she’s read Melusine.

He is risen!

Last night at midnight I stood in a candlelit church for Easter Vigil. In the courtyard we blessed the new fire and the Christ candle for this year, and processed in, each lighting our candles as we entered the church. The only light throughout the service were our candles and the seven lamps and candles in the sanctuary. We read passages highlighting the redemptive narrative of the scriptures and proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ. He is risen, alleluia!

This Easter has been pure joy. Rejoice, ‘he is not here, he has risen’! This morning we went to the sunrise service at St Mary’s on the Rocks, the church ruins on the top of the cliff beside the Cathedral. A hundred or more of us were there from all the churches in town. We sang praises to the accompaniment of waves crashing below us and seagulls above and in the light of the rising sun over the North Sea. I told Ros I wanted a tambourine, so I could lead the throng with singing and dancing. Tristan teased me for wanting to be Miriam, but I didn’t mind. I was happy. And I did skip and dance and sing ‘Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it’.

Ros and I had breakfast with Faith and Isaac, and so I both began and ended Lent with pancakes. Then was the service, and afterward Ros and I walked down the pier where I witnessed the iconic Pier Walk, then along East Sands, and finally home. Polo greeted us at the door and I visited with her for a while outside. Lunch was preceded by Easter baskets, and then we picnicked in our back garden.

Miss Kitty joined us as we spent the afternoon singing hymns, and when she left Polo came back. (This afternoon was spent also negotiating their respective claims to our garden and our attention.)

Both last night during Vigil and this morning during the service, we renewed our baptismal vows. All are worth repeating, especially the Creed, but for brevity’s sake I’ll put just the last three:

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
I will, with God’s help.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will, with God’s help.

And now, off to Evensong, and then to a lovely dinner and evening spent with friends. Happy Easter! He is risen!

Good Friday

Each Holy Week for the past several years has been very different. Last night I went to my church’s Maundy Thursday service. It’s been commented more than once that our church is more Catholic than the Catholic church in town. I had been to Stripping of the Altar services before, but none so striking as last night. While the congregation read Psalm 22, the ministers stripped the altar. Usually so ornate, it was completely stripped — all the hangings on the walls, on the altar, all the cushions where we kneel for communion, even the candles and candlesticks were removed, leaving only bare walls and a plain wooden table. The bells were rung for the last time until Easter, and we left in silence.

Tonight’s service to commemorate the Lord’s Passion was even more solemn. What I noticed immediately upon entering the church was that the one lamp that is normally always kept burning was not lit. All was dark, and became darker as the sun faded outside, leaving the colourful stained glass windows grey and blank. The Light had gone from the world. The cross that had been carried out last night was brought back in with the words, ‘Behold the wood of the Cross, whereon was hung the Saviour of the world’, and we replied, ‘Come, let us worship’. The ministers, choir, and congregation then went forward for the veneration of the cross. I stayed back; for me it felt too much like directing my adoration toward a specific object. I was not the only one to stay seated, and that is one reason why I like my church: we follow traditions, but not so rigidly that everyone must do the same, there is still freedom and diversity. I was content to sit and pray and sing the chant along with the choir.

Pange, lingua, gloriosi
Corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
quem in mundi pretium
fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit Gentium.

We sang in English, but I’ve sung this in Latin, and the Pange lingua chant is simply beautiful.*

And now we mourn.

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On rhubarb

This winter was a hard one, and now I look forward to the bounty of spring, summer, and autumn so I can prepare for next year: gathering berries, growing vegetables, foraging for wild garlic and whatever else I can find. It’s already beginning.

Faced with the most recent financial uncertainty, I turn to canning. (‘How 1930s of you,’ commented Chris, who then said I should refer to my vegetable patch as my ‘victory garden’. I just might.) My first preserving endeavours this year have been to make rhubarb jam and bottled rhubarb. You see, we have a lot of rhubarb.

See? I told you.

The River Cottage, No. 2: Preserves might just be my new favourite book. (Actually, it’s tied with the RHS New Encyclopaedia of Gardening Techniques. I’m borrowing both from Rebecca, and I will be loath to return either of them.) I used the recipes in this book to make both my rhubarb jam and honeyed bottled rhubarb.

Making jam is not without adventure. Having never cooked rhubarb myself before, I didn’t know that one is supposed to ‘peel’ the rhubarb before cooking with it. I interpreted ‘trim’ in the recipes to mean trimming the ends of the stalks! Neglecting to peel the stalks before making the jam did not seem to make any difference however, except to turn the jam red. That’s a much more jammy colour anyway. I ended up with three jars instead of the predicted five — I’m not sure why. It seems like whenever I make jam I end up with one or two jars less than what the recipe says it will yield. I also ended up not having enough rhubarb to completely fill the bottles. (Why couldn’t I have just gone out and cut some more to put in? Because rhubarb is quite tart, and the stalks had soaked overnight in a honey syrup mixture.) As you can see, I took the time to peel the rhubarb before canning it.

So far we have made crumble, muffins, jam, and preserves, and have given at least four full carrier bags away. If Rebecca can be parted with her big steel pot for a little bit longer, I might give jam and bottling another go! Rhubarb cake, bread, and cordial are also in the works…

Sunday afternoon


Palm Sunday always holds a special significance for me, because I was baptised by my grandfather Papa on a Palm Sunday. The service today was lovely, and a beautiful day, too. Now we enter into Holy Week, everyone.

Garden cats

Meet our garden visitors:

The all grey, stalking cat.

Marco (black) and Polo (grey).

Miss Kitty.

The stalking cat hasn’t let me touch it yet, but it no longer runs away as soon as it sees me. Polo and Miss Kitty are my friends and I see them a couple of times a week. Today Miss Kitty walked home with me when I was coming back from the co-op.

We’ll be transplanting our sunflowers outside soon. I like watching them grow!

Wishing on horses

Things I wish I could do:

  • take voice or piano lessons at the Music Centre;
  • take horseback riding lessons;
  • go swimming twice a week at the local leisure centre;
  • take pottery classes;
  • take French or German classes.

But I don’t have a spare £1,550 lying around. Instead, I’ll browse the charity shops for beginner books to relearn the piano on my own, join another choir next term, and rely on my supervisor and friends to tell me if the articles I keep finding in French and German are as relevant as I think they are.


Long weekend. Spend as much time outside as possible. High of 21 C/70 F. In the garden: make new compost heap, weed and turn the soil in the veg patch, only a third left. Washing hanging on the line. Read outside. Tend the primroses. Re-pot the sunflowers, watch them grow. Take naps. Lovely dinners with laughter and white wine. Stay home Monday. Read Guy of Warwick. Investigate the daffodils with Miss Kitty. Roast chicken gluttony. Full belly. Cook soup for the week. Bake more muffins.

Our Garden, Part 3

To reward myself for such a productive week of writing, and to take advantage of what became a beautiful, lovely day, I went home early this afternoon. I changed into my gardening clothes and delved in with both hands and pitchfork. My ongoing task is to deweed the vegetable patch so that it will be ready by mid-May.

My kneeling pad, gloves, pitchfork, claw-thing, and bucket. Kneeling and working in the dirt feels a little bit like prayer.

I can only weed like that for so long though, before I need a break. It was so mild outside that I didn’t want to go back indoors, so I found some other things to do. While I was clearing the dead leaves from a patch of bulbs (I don’t know what they are going to be yet), one of the garden cats came to see what I was doing. Polo kept me company while I finished up what I was doing in the garden and put my tools away, and then I sat down in the sun and we visited for a while. I hope he comes back soon.

And these are our sunflower seedlings! They make me very happy. The ones marked with sticks have compost and coffee grounds as an experiment.

(Two posts in one day, I know. What is getting into me?)