Or if I have misunderstood the rules:
The Lullaby’s Not For Who You Think
When I was little and had bad dreams Mum would stroke my forehead and sing. Not children’s songs but songs we sang at the meetings we went to, songs about the things we believed in.
When my babies have cried and I am too tired in my body, brain and heart to feel, I want to run into the kitchen and force food into my mouth, cramming in everything there is, as if it would stop my ears too. But when I sing to them about God, love, patience and hope, even if they don’t calm down, I do.
When I got to the end of “Still Life” I went straight from page 377 to page 1 and began again. I wanted to see the people move around knowing who they really were.
I love detective novels. I want complicated and mysterious plots. I don’t want tales of people kidnapped and kept in cages for weeks on diets of rat droppings, for the purpose of organ transplant without the benefit of anaesthesia. Many modern novels have too high a level of vicarious sadism for me.
Louise Penny‘s work is perfect. She creates an appetite with curious actions and half revealed conversations, but never sacrifices realism. This realism is most evident in the characters. Gamache himself is a rock and reminds me of Maigret. Compassionate, patient, intelligent, authoritative, content and contentedly married (only Maigret drinks more and is more flirty) As in life, rude, selfish people are still loved and some good people are mistrusted. Scared, obnoxious people sometimes remain unsoftened by repeated kindnesses. The book ends but the puzzles are the only things tied up. The reader has been privy to the inner worlds of all, but between the characters important things are left unshared and misunderstandings remain.
From the acknowledgements, as originally and beautifully written as the novel, we can glean how natural it was for Louise to write this particular story. She loves her husband and he loves her. She treasures her friends. I find her appreciative, modest and generous with praise. A central part of the story are the paintings of a murdered woman. The descriptions of her art are detailed, inspiring, glorious. They made me long to paint like that. Louise gives credit and thanks to her friend Liz Davidson.
“Clara found it easy to forgive most things in most people. Too easy, her husband Peter often warned. But Clara had her own little secret. She didn’t really let go of everything. Most things, yes. But some she secretly held and hugged and would visit in moments when she needed to be comforted by the unkindness of others.”
This is so simple and cheap, each year I make three batches and pop it into up to eighteen plus, previously drained (gulp, gulp, gulp) clean (I use sterilising tablets on them because it’s so easy) wine bottles. Store it upright, to prevent pressurised leaking, and feel free to start glugging it back chilled, anytime after six weeks. It’s delicious. Thanks to Angela and Sandra for passing it on.
1. Put one and a half pounds of sugar in a big bowl and drench with two pints of boiling water. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then add six pints of cold water.
2. Add the rind and juice of two large lemons. Don’t worry if the pips fall in, you’ll be straining it later. (Yes, that is a potato peeler)
3. Add two tablespoons on white wine vinegar (I’ve used cider and even malt at a push)
4. Add four large flower heads or six small (after slicing off the chunkier bits of stem) I can never resist chucking in a couple more. See those thunder flies? Technically, this wine is not vegetarian.
5. Stir well and leave covered for 48 hours stirring occasionally.
6. Strain (I use an old muslin resting in a plastic sieve) and pour into bottles leaving an inch gap at the top. Screw down well. Leave in a cool place. You’re done. Well done.
Just watched “The Kings Speech” (label me “early adopter“) Marvelled that the climax of the film, the bit that has your white knuckled hands sweatily gripping the arms of your club chair, is a man in a darkened room speaking into a microphone for nine minutes.
Much mainstream storytelling has situations dramatic but remote, causing us to identify with the characters in the bluntest way possible. It’s a natural disaster and the peril taps our adrenaline. Someone is being stalked and we feel a creeping horror. But by focusing not on King George VI and the constitutional crisis but on Bertie and his fiercely guarded anxieties, we relate in a richer way, we empathise. We see frustration, anger, helplessness and need, everyday emotions it takes no effort to call to heart. It’s the Lords prayer on a grain of rice when normally we get spray painted letters on a railway siding. There are only so many ways you can portray the end of the world without boring your audience but focusing on these discrete, internal worlds offers up limitless, enduring, relatable yarns.
Judah: Will the baby come out through Mummy’s testicles?
Well, she’s arrived. Verity Edith debuted on June 5th, 11pm. Sweet and lovely, but then I would say that.
Unlike my last three labours, the midwives had opportunity to arrive in good time. We sat about with Tracy and Mandy chatting and laughing between my contractions, Tracy flicking through a scuba diving magazine. If ten or so minutes passed without a spasm I would feel I, as the main event, was letting my audience down. Perhaps I should fake one. “Ooh! Ooh!”(nervous glance at helpers) “This is a tough one!”. Puff, puff.
Patience came and sat with Garry for the last hour. Like Garry she is unfazed by bodily fluids and functions. She joined Mandy examining the placenta, checking fingers and toes, weighing and measuring. She was given the little paper tape as a keepsake. Then Mandy showed her how to dress her new little sister.
Mya (age 7): Why have they named their baby “Ferrety”?
My due date is two weeks away and although my previous four were all complication free home births, nothing is guaranteed. So I will reminisce before anything has time to go pear shaped. Apart from me. I’ve gone pear shaped.
Expecting Connie I was frightened of pain and embarrassment, now I know it’s the psychological battle which is toughest. Labouring lying down I feel assaulted, hopeless, a desperate victim of endless blows. Standing up I feel better, in control and on top. Even then, near the end, the contractions are a vice not just on my stomach but my mind. It cranks up anxiety and if I don’t take time to soothe myself the fear builds towards panic. Thankfully Garry is very good at counting down the time “Your nearly done, just 20 seconds to go “. But in the end it’s battle no one can fight for you. You have to keep telling yourself that you’re doing great, you’re getting through it, it will soon be over, you will soon meet your baby.
The benefits of learning to read early are effortlessly apparent. It’s a powerful thing to be able to edify and entertain yourself. The merits of late learning are less obvious, perhaps invisible if you are in a literacy heavy school system.
Patience is eight, she has a good grasp of how reading works but she is far from fluent. To compensate she has developed heightened focus and discernment. Sometimes she sits still with her gaze fixed on the speaker, sometimes her eyes are down as her hands fiddle in her lap. A question is asked and she springs up with a pertinent phrase plucked from the reading or a reflection on how she sees the subject in her own life. The ideas are complex, her comments mature.
I asked her how she does it. She says as she listens she picks out words she thinks there might be questions on and she tries to remember them.
By comparison my brain seems sluggish, slumped on the print, never having to stand on it’s own.