September 2011

Books read this month:

  1. Peter Pan. J. M. Barrie.
  2. The Bean Trees. Barbara Kingsolver.
  3. Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life & Times. James Finn Garner.
  4. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Alan Bradley.
  5. Od Magic. Patricia A. McKillip.
  6. Love in the Time of Cholera. Gabriel García Márquez.
  7. Ywain and Gawain. Stephen H. A. Shepherd, ed. *
  8. Lybeaus Desconus. Thomas Chestre; ed. M. Mills. *
  9. The Ear, the Eye and the Arm. Nancy Farmer.
  10. Partonope of Blois. A. Trampe Bodtker, ed. *

Best new read: Od Magic.
Best medieval romance: Partonope of Blois.
Best (only) sci-fi: The Ear, the Eye and the Arm.

Quite a month! I’m not sure where to begin on my commentary for the books I’ve read this month, except to say that I enjoyed 95% of what I read. If you want to know more, leave a comment about which book you want to know about…

* indicates in Middle English.


I woke up at the usual time this morning and the sky was silver tinged with pink as the sun rose over the sea. Summer has truly left us. The leaves are turning, the pumpkins are growing, the air is chill. Term starts this week at the University. Yes, Autumn is here.

My schedule is not quite finalised yet, but I am going to be quite busy this semester. Hopefully it isn’t too much — I don’t think it will be, once I get into a routine. One of the things I’m having to get used to is having Monday be my day off. I work at the museum on weekends, and on Sundays I’m away from home from 9.30A-10.00P what with church, work, and PGCU, so Mondays really do need to be my Sabbath.

I’m also considering leaving Facebook. I’ve been reading up on the new Facebook Timeline that is going to be launched soon, and I’m not all that enthused. I want to maintain control over what is and is not visible on my profile and to my network. Right now, one of the new features is that Friends ‘subscribe’ to various updates from their Friends. I do not like this at all: I would rather have the option of choosing whether the things people can ‘subscribe’ to are visible at all. As it is, I do not have that choice. I have to hope that my ‘Friends’ respect my privacy as I do theirs and ‘unsubscribe’ from things like ‘Comments and likes’. I immediately went through my entire Friends list and unsubscribed from things like that; even so, Facebook still shows them to me, just not as often. But how many people are going to take the time and jump through the hoops necessary to respect their friends’ right to choose what they want to share, not what Facebook wants them to share?

I gave up Facebook for Lent, thus I know I can quite gladly live without it. I do, however, have a few hesitations:

1. Photos, namely, photos of my nieces and nephews. From my blood-relatives to my best friend’s new baby, the only way I currently have of seeing them is via the photos my friend and sister-in-law post on Facebook (which both update more regularly than their blogs).

2. I have recently been made an administrator of my museum’s page.

Right now I think I am going to wait until the change has actually taking place before I decide. Perhaps I will be able to keep my cards close to my chest after all.

British telly

Although our television has been unceremoniously relegated to the spare room, I find myself watching television on my computer via BBC iPlayer. British television runs differently than American television: seasons (or series) run at various points during the year, and most shows don’t have more than six episodes in a season. Especially since I have begun knitting and crocheting again I find myself watching more television. So what British television have I been watching? Here are the shows I’ve watched since moving to the UK:

Doctor Who: Time travel, space travel, bigger on the inside, aliens, robots, quirky, scary, fun, a madman with a box. I started watching Doctor Who with the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith. Bowties are cool. (Summer 2010, 2011)

Downton Abbey: Period drama, early twentieth century, wit, subtext, upstairs and downstairs, Maggie Smith. I’ve spent the last week catching up on the first series because the second series is showing now. (Autumn 2010, 2011)

The Hour: 1950s, BBC, journalism, news, Soviet spies, MI6, Egypt, crossword puzzles, dissent. An example of a one-off show, with a total of six episodes. Good enough that I watched it twice. (Summer 2011)

Merlin: Arthurian legend, magic, fantasy, humour, young Arthur, young Merlin, great costumes, castles. Although this show is not accurate at all regarding traditional Arthurian legend, it’s really fun to watch. (Think Hercules and Xena and Greek myth and you’ll know what I mean.) (Autumn 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011)

Outcasts: Space colonisation, Carpathia, invisible aliens, intrigue, secrets, sympathetic characters. A sci-fi show that had potential but ultimately bit off more than it could chew in its first eight episodes, and sadly will not be coming back for a second series. (Spring 2011)

Rev: Church humour, London, Church of England, a country vicar in London, urban issues, comedy. Another example of a one-off show with six episodes shown (with the slight possibility it might return for a second series), Archbishop Rowan Williams approved of this comedy. (Summer 2010)

Sherlock: London, Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson, mysteries, archnemesis, modern. Three ninety-minute episodes of modern-day Sherlock Holmes, and the world is eagerly awaiting the second series this autumn. (Summer 2010)

Torchwood: Miracle Day: Aliens, saving the planet, CIA, conspiracy theory, plot twists. I was told that if I liked Doctor Who I would also like Torchwood. I was not terribly impressed and only made it to the end of the series because I wanted to know who the bad guys were. Not sure if I will bother with any future instalments. (Summer 2011)

Usually only one show is showing at a time — so far only Doctor Who and Downton Abbey have run concurrently. So don’t think I spend all of my time watching the telly…

The Saint John’s Bible

Coventry Cathedral

It recently came to my attention that the first handwritten Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine Monastery in more than 500 Years was completed: The Saint John’s Bible, named after the abbey that commissioned it. As a medievalist and a Christian, I find this wonderfully exciting. Having had the privilege of working with medieval illuminated manuscripts, I believe that illuminated texts, especially the Bible, are precious works of art.

The Saint John’s Bible is digitized, and you can leaf through its pages online. I love it. I love the modern, abstract illustrations, the artist’s interpretation of marginal glosses, the cover page for each book. The illustrations somewhat remind me of Coventry Cathedral. The medieval cathedral in Coventry was destroyed by an air raid during WWII, and after the war, a new cathedral was rebuilt beside the ruins. The new cathedral keeps the design and structure of a cathedral, but the art is all modern. It certainly takes a visitor by surprise, but by the end of my visit, I came to like it. Together, the old cathedral and new serve as a testimony to the endurance of faith and of the community.

The style of art works even better on the page. In The Saint John’s Bible, we have again a medieval work of art reinterpreted into our (post)modern context. Click on the image of Genesis above and go explore the Bible. Someday I hope to be able to own a reprint of one of the volumes, possibly Psalms.

Our Garden, Part 11


More than one thing wreaked havoc with the garden while I was away. Gales blew over corn stalks and sunflowers, battered the courgette plants. Some sort of disease is attacking the pumpkins and courgettes. My landlord, in his inscrutable wisdom, pruned the apple tree and blackcurrant bush. Why anyone would prune fruit trees or bushes in autumn, when they are covered with ripe or nearly-ripe fruit, is beyond me.

Beyond me.

Left: Before, and Right: After

Our apple tree produces Monarch apples, a type of cooking apple. Ros and I were both looking forward to making lots of appley things: pies, crumbles, bread, butter, sauce. We both love apples. I use a lot of apple sauce in holiday baking, and I am more than upset at this inexplicable loss of a resource. No, the garden isn’t really mine, and no I didn’t plant the apple tree, but I had watched it bloom and grow fruit, and had read up on how to prune it — properly — in winter so that it would produce even more fruit next year.

So now my day off this coming week, weather permitting, will be spent trying to salvage what I can of the garden. And I mourn the devastation of our apple tree.

Books, & more books

I know, I know. I said I wouldn’t buy any more books. But Borders is going out of business, and the more I thought about it (and drove past the local Borders), I just couldn’t let this opportunity to buy new books at discounted prices pass me by. After dropping my nephew off at school this morning, I went to Borders and waited until it opened (only ten minutes–don’t judge, I wasn’t the only one). With only four days left it was largely picked over already, but I did find several books I have been wanting to read for some time now. At 90% off, I indulged myself. I bought eleven (11) books for a final sale price of $23.10, saving a grand total of $115.39. Yes. I know.

  1. Aristophanes. Four Plays by Aristophanes. Greek plays.
  2. Lauren Beukes. Zoo City. South African urban fantasy.
  3. John Burnside. The Glister. A novel by one of the creative writing professors at my university.
  4. Lewis Carroll. The Hunting of the Snark. A nice hardcover, illustrated edition.
  5. Lord Dunsay. The King of Elfland’s Daughter. Classic fantasy/fairy tale.
  6. Nancy Farmer. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm. African sci-fi; set in Zimbabwe, 2194.
  7. N. K. Jemisin. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Fantasy that came highly recommended by Kelly.
  8. David Malouf. Ransom. A novel about Priam of Troy. An Australian writer.
  9. Ekaterina Sedia. The House of Discarded Dreams. Russian-born author, fantasy with African folklore.
  10. Dalia Sofer. The Septembers of Shiraz. A novel about a family in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution.
  11. Connie Willis. Bellwether. It’s Connie Willis.

For those who wonder: no, I will not be taking all of my recently acquired books back with me to Scotland. Not without magical packing skills, or an extra suitcase…

My Library

I have a lot of books.

Not as many as some other people I know, but still a fair few. Out of curiosity I did a quick estimation (counting the number of books on one shelf, multiplying that by how many shelves in that book case, and so on), and came to the conclusion that I have roughly 480 books in my library at my parents’ house. Remembering a similar calculation I made in my own house and in my office in Scotland, I have something like 200 books there. (I moved to Scotland with only 10 books. This tells you something, I think.)

So with around about 700 books to my name, I have a lot of books. The breakdown is as follows: a little less than 1/3 is given to medieval literature and literary criticism, etc; another 1/3 is devoted to science-fiction and fantasy; and the rest is an assortment of mystery and non-genre fiction, language books, history, anthropology, theology, religion, and philosophy, and writing books.

Oh, and I didn’t even bother to count the National Geographics. I think my grandmother subscribed to National Geographic from the first issue and several years ago I ‘rescued’ most of the issues to be incorporated into the relative safety of my library. (I have a vague recollection that I selected all the ones that had to do with space and Antarctica. Don’t ask me why.)

(Not pictured above are two half-size bookcases that are against another wall in the bedroom.)

A case of bibliophilia

It isn’t that there aren’t bookstores in the UK, or even used bookstores, but despite of this fact I find myself buying the most books those few times I visit the U.S. and can go to Half Price Books. Maybe because Half Price Books usually have a lot in stock, or maybe because most of the authors I read are American authors — I just find more that I want to read at Half Price. There’s one in Dallas that is as big as a Barnes & Noble, and the one I usually frequent in San Antonio even has a medieval section.1

All this to say, I have acquired quite a few books this visit to Americaland. Despite returning books I had borrowed from both Sarah and Kelly, I will be coming back with, er, more than I came with. But look at them!2 Aren’t they beautiful?

And it should come as no surprise that I spent the first day at my parents’ house playing with my library.3 Each time I visit I cull the library a bit more… I took around 40 books to sell to Half Price Books today. (To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of selling books to Half Price. I’m still bitter about the one time I took over 40 books and only got $2.00 for them. This time I got $24.25, which is, sadly, more than I was expecting to get.) I browsed the store while I waited for my offer — a dangerous thing to do — but I exercised remarkable restraint: I selected only two more books, and hit the jack-pot for Disney DVDs. I am so excited to have Aladdin, The Black Cauldron, Hercules, Ratatouille, and Robin Hood. Hooray!

There is one book I am especially pleased to have acquired as a gift from Felicity: The 40th anniversary edition of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. But not only that…

…it’s signed! Hooray! I’m going to start needing a special shelf where I can put my signed editions. Thank you, Felicity!

With all these new books, I am now once more applying a book-buying ban on myself. No more buying books until at least Christmas.

1 However, I did have to take the liberty of reshelving The Book of Margery Kempe from where I found her in the anthropology section to where she rightly belonged alongside Chaucer, et. al.
2 Missing from this photo is Love in the time of cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, because I forgot it was in my purse.
3 Someday, all of my books will live in the same place. Someday!

Blessings & joy

Congratulations to Thomas and Felicity Gasbarro!

Today my dear, dear Felicity married her love. She is a true friend, loyal and thoughtful and fun and loving. When I told one of the groom’s friends that I live in Scotland and had come for her wedding, he said, ‘Wow. Felicity sure does have a way with really connecting with people.’ And she does. She is beautiful of heart, of spirit, and today she was a beautiful bride. I am so thankful that I came to her wedding, that I could share with her joy. Even if it did mean I was giving her up for good and there wouldn’t be any chance of her returning to Scotland now. The Town hasn’t been the same for me since she left, and I miss her, oh, so very much. But I am blessed to call her my friend and to see her so full of joy, love, and happiness.

Congratulations Felicity and Thomas. Thank you for letting me share this day with you!