I spent a good deal of the day tying things up, until I began to feel rather controlling (and ran out of string). (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)
I passed Winchester’s ancient gate (bit of a lump)
to make significant custard
and play cribbage. Don’t think I’ve seen two players have identical hands in the same round before (though one of these got one-for-his-knob).
These simple pleasures were made possible by the NHS staff, who, with their usual aplomb, briskly excised the very nasty appendix of a nearestanddearest. Bless them. It’s hard to regret The Old Days, knowing that there was no NHS in them.
The day was conducted in several keys. At midday the car wheels decided for themselves and took me off to one of the other beaches, parking neatly by the greasy spoon kiosk. Accepting the admonition, I wandered, eating chips like hot salty treasures from paper, and trying not to drop the beaker of tea.
The tide was well in;
I missed the acres of pale treacherous sand, but the combination of lilac clouds and green sea was a winner.
This beach has many shells, unlike best beach. They are mainly cockles, periwinkles, oysters, wedge shells, and slipper limpets. Slipper limpets are a most ungraceful shell: nothing to be said for them
until you suddenly see one in a new light.
The lilac clouds intensified. Drivers were turning their headlights on at half past three.
Managing the diminishing days requires the exercise of moral courage. Some possible approaches:
1. Tackle the Caesars. I could feel Suetonius chuntering at one shoulder, and Robert Graves smiling ironically at the other. Tom Holland has the same problem as historians writing about mediaeval England: once we have read their stuff, Graves and Shakespeare will always compel our view of Augustus and Richard III (and the rest), whatever the historical evidence. Lots of goodies in the book though, and very good contextual stuff to help one understand the familiar-yet-totally-alien principles of Romans as they negotiated the huge changes of their times.
3. Tackle theology. Sitting in the window ‘like the picture of somebody reading’, I frequently found myself sleeping like a baby. This was due not so much to boredom as to the physical relaxation caused by heavy duty thinking. Must have something to be said for it – the book is now full of pink notes-to-self.
Actually don’t bother with this one. It’s just as bad as I thought, even with lashings of butter and seasoning. Should you have the facilities to do so, just give Fluffers some exercise by throwing breadcrumbs up and down the kitchen floor, and put Bagpuss on the television. The Bony King of Nowhere comes up as fresh as paint.
Then I lay in the recliner by the window, watching the clouds, while sillhouetted birds skidded down the wind. The sky turned leaden, grey, unearthly pale, rich apricot in the squall, pink and gold and blue, lavender and dusty yellow, dim blue, and black.
I think I may have made my perfect ice lolly today. I’ll share the recipe in lieu of the lollies. I’ve written the recipe in international units of measurement, based on a process which involved a lot of spoon licking.
- Very large dollop of crème fraiche
- A number of pieces of stem ginger in syrup, chopped small
- One slurp of the ginger syrup
- Two (or thereabouts) slobbets of honey
- As much milk as makes it reasonably easy to pour
Combine, fill lolly moulds, freeze quickly to keep ginger suspended. I’m trying not to eat them four at a time. Oops – there goes another.
Just harvested the last pick of Douce Provence and the first big pick of Lord Leicester. I am only sorry not to have planted more, but I have a random packet of Kelvedon which claims they can be sown in July for a late crop, so let’s test that proposition …
I’d be a happier pea picker if it wasn’t that the Araneus diadematus are beginning to hang themselves up in the pea plants like evil blackberries. (Before anyone tells me not to be wussy about harmless little invertebrates, these brutes have fangs, and they can and do BITE.) And because gardens always have to rub it in about Eden, there is a distinct smell of fish wafting about, which must mean a corpse concealed in the undergrowth. I am quite keen not to tread in it.
Meantime: I’ve been eating peas nearly every day for a fortnight or three weeks; anyone want to bet I can’t eat these by tomorrow night?
Ordered TWO batches of knitting yarn before breakfast. Extravagance, and it’s once more becoming a challenge to ram home the cupboard doors on the stash.
Found some ground rice with a use by of 2013. Not auditing kitchen stores – another black mark. But as I wanted to cook shortbread, I merely inspected it for crawlers trying to make an exit, then tipped it in.
Dallying with audiobooks has left a few gaps for the written word.
As always, fond of factual books.
The make-do-and-mend and terrifying precariousness of the early SBS exploits is of course gripping stuff, though the later missions are still under security and social wraps to some extent. I’m guessing that the unvarnished details which may emerge in the future might be nearly as remarkable.
Steve Jones’ book carries many fairly gloomy ecological messages, but also a faith in the adaptability of organisms which may be summed up in his own words as ‘grim optimism’. Along the way, he adduces a number of attention-getting statements, of which my favourite is probably that human sperm are attracted to the scent of lily of the valley (p 146). What I want to know is, why did it occur to some bright spark to test this proposition?
Visiting a second-hand bookshop is always risky. I managed to confine my purchases to three:
It was interesting to re-read the title story of Consider her ways with an adult and post-feminist-movement eye, and see the mysogyny which Wyndham would barely have been aware of in himself. Salutary! I enjoyed some of Trader to the stars, especially the conceits of Hiding place, though the admittedly cartoon figure of Nicholas van Rijn presents other gender-related difficulties and is pretty irritating in any case. Pohl’s anthology at least represents women SF writers of the period, and a good variety of classic story types.
And then there is the family saga, which lightened my burdens as an undergraduate and cheers me up still:
… the ludicrously dramatic but true story of the Hauteville clan, petty knights from Normandy who made it from hired mercenaries to royalty in two generations. Robert Guiscard, in particular, is an unforgettable character, an extraordinary combination of guts, cynical realpolitik and joie de vivre. I’ve just re-read the first volume, The Normans in the south, and will save my re-reading of the second part, The kingdom in the sun, for another time.
These are some of Norwich’s earliest books, and have a rollicking zest in the language which makes things and characters memorable: the ‘glutinously emasculate statue of the Archangel’ of Monte Sant’Angelo; the unreliable historian Radulph Glaber with ‘a fair claim to have been expelled from more monasteries than any other littérateur of the eleventh century’; Empedocles’ ‘long and tedious apprenticeship as a shrub’; Sichelgaita, ‘the closest approximation history has ever dared to produce of a Valkyrie’; and Abbot Desiderius, who ‘felt safe from his enemies; but God … refused to protect him from his friends’.
The last few chapters were helped along by some little herby stars, a surprisingly successful experiment except that the lovely big salt crystals tended to fall off between the plate and the mouth.