Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

A Different Point of View

Forgive me if I start this post with reading. Forgive me and, if you please bear with me; I hope all will become clear. You have to understand that I love reading: Marvel* comics, gardening manuals, Sherlock Holmes, biographies, fiction, non-fiction, new books, classics and poetry. And, having read most of the books that immediately appeal to me in our local branch library I decided to try a “travelogue-stylee” effort  titled Walking Away from poet Simon Armitage. It’s not poetry, but a commentary on a walk he made, interspersed,, I seems, with readings en route at various – and varied – venues. And it contains this passage, which chimes so readily with an experience I detailed in Ravens?

“Montbretia has colonised some of the streams. Natural England don’t approve because it’s non-native, but Sir Hugh doesn’t mind it and neither do I. One species that he does object to, however, is ravens. They were here earlier in the summer and made such a din it could be heard from the Abbey, he says. It seems like an unreasonable prejudice, and also an unlikely story, but I keep nodding in agreement as he explains how his workmen have installed a height restriction at the top of the track to keep them out, like heavy duty goalposts and a crossbar, and only when he mentions that it took days to clear up the cans, bottles, needles and condoms do I realise that ravens aren’t the source of his irritation, but ravers.”

Then, back to our own back garden where we sat on a ten years old and more, repaired, repainted and patched wooden bench listening to a pair of tawny owls calling back and forth, somewhere in the dark, friendly warm and darkening distance. Weather has been delightfully warm, this is the third night we’ve been able to sit out, fire pit roaring. Stars are clear in the high skies by the time we creep back into the house which is, somehow colder than the great outdoors. The owls have been hooting for about a week now, new visitors to the area, and welcome.

We bought a new bench, self- assembly job, back in autumn in a sale, using a harvest of garden centre vouchers collecting from various birthdays, Christmases and grateful colleagues. The original plan (“it is better to have a plan than to have faith; you can more easily change a plan”) was to take this faithful, slightly rickety old friend up to the allotment. To sit on and view work completed, work in progress, to sit and think. Or, more likely, on some days, to simply sit and drink tea.

And, today, after a fine day spent up at the plot, putting up runner bean canes, weeding and sowing salad crop lettuce, we decide to put the new, all-white bench together. It is apparently a “New England” bench, the five pieces tied together in the cardboard packing with soft twine and a pack of eight Allen and four shorter self-tapping screws. Not forgetting the Allen key itself. This is Ultra-IKEA meets Lego. The only tool I have to supply is a screwdriver. The instructions are simple, straightforward and we get it set up in record time, with – surprisingly for me, no bruised fingers and no pieces left over. As idiot-proof as is possible then.

It’s simple white appearance is such a contrast to the warm wooden tones of the one it is replacing and those of the wood on which it  stands, obviously not only new, but newly born. But once it is settled in place on the freshly swept  “decking” (made from cargo pallets) above what we, laughingly, refer to as the “beach” it looks great. And it is comfortable – and, er, it actually fits (my measuring has never been reliable).

Sitting on it, with the ubiquitous cuppa, we are able to look across our back lawns and gardens, various sculptures and souvenirs on show after coming out of cold-weather storage, sit n sunshine, see sunrises, watch stars and moon; in short: watch another year unfold. No doubt in the process spotting the jobs that need doing and planning holidays, adventures and planting.

But, now we have a quandary. The three old high backed plastic beach chairs we have been using down in dell for fire-pit watching have been degraded by sunlight and have become unsafe and dangerously cracked and broken. The one I was perched on, unwisely leaning back on two legs, yesterday evening, broke in another important place and remaining on it introduced what must surely be a new yoga position to the world. That displaced  wooden bench is the perfect answer and means I don’t have to feel quite so guilty about replacing it with its brash new sibling.

So we lug it, feeling very heavy after the lightweight new one, into its new position. I promise myself that I will set to with wood glue to bind those loose joints at some –for now satisfyingly unspecified  – time  in the future.


 I have to log out some of the timber down there to make space, but it is good exercise and my mother is a grateful recipient of the ash, damson and willow logs.


*Other publishers are available and just as good.


Nathaniel’s Nutmeg

Our daughter and her partner came to visit last Friday. Always great to see them … but, knowing my love of reading there was an unexpected bonus. Books are the default Christmas gift where I am concerned, both in giving (for me something special about choosing a book for someone – and passing it over: especially if they have the same taste as me, because then it’ll usually boomerang its way back for me to read at a later date).

And she had been given a book, started reading it, but with little or no time to carry on, thought:

“ … bet dad’d enjoy this one.”

Well, suffice it to say I’m on page 53 already and it is extremely fascinating.

Written by Giles Milton it is the background to and story behind the Spice Race: European voyages of discovery to find the source of spices and overthrow the Venetian monopoly in nutmeg, sago and mace back in the pre-Spanish Armada days when the naval powers were Spain and Portugal. It is called Nathaniel’s Nutmeg.

Image result for spanish armada

It is necessarily global in nature, but speaks of politics, commerce, invention, discovery, human nature, the stubborn bravery of some of our ancestors and the rank stupidity of others.

Image result for nathaniel's nutmeg

The eponymous Nathan has yet to feature; there is background to be consumed about earlier explorers, the Fabled “North East passage” to reach the Indian Ocean via the north of present day Russia. A voyage not actually undertaken until nuclear submarines were venturing below polar ice.

But it is partly about food … food fashion; methods of keeping food preserved.

Oh and quackery: the medicinal claims being made for the spices. Medieval snake oil salesmen.

But it is extremely well written: descriptive, well researched, full of interesting anecdotes and description and I am, indeed, fascinated.

I have fond memories of my grandmother’s tasty sago puddings which, though delicious and hearty always reminded me of frogspawn, and the way she sprinkled grated nutmeg on her cooked-in-the-range rice puddings; adding a definite special taste.

Image result for sago pudding

Like bananas in my recent post ( ) I have no inclination to grow these spices, but finding out about their history during the cannot-get-to-he-plot weeks is filling the time.

Out and about I notice snowdrops, early daffodils, windflowers, and crocus blooms: some hedges are dusted with white blossom (my guess is cherry, but it might be blackthorn) and the hawthorn buds are beginning to break open.

We had tremendously heavy rain and fierce winds yesterday but it must not have been a storm because it did not have a name: I find this current alphabetical naming of storms to be irritating and, frankly, worthless as an exercise.

The Countryfile week-ahead forecast told me, twenty minutes ago that we will meet Storm Imogen during the night.

Meanwhile I will tuck myself up, with a lager and set about Nathaniel’s Nutmeg. Doubtless my daughter will have finished her other books-on-the-go and chores … and be looking to get it back soon.

Politics ?

“…quite possible these days for a small farmer on the hypothetical outskirts of all that could be called Ankh-Morpork to lean over his own hedge and chat with a Quirmian farmer who was most definitely in Quirm at the time, without in any way considering that this was a political matter. the conversation would generally be about the weather, the abundance or otherwise of water and the uselessness of the government, never mind which kind, and then, happily they would shake hands, or give a little nod and one would go home to drink a pint of home-made beer after such a busy day, while the other would do likewise with a decent home-made wine.

Occasionally, the son of one farmer would go to the hedge and see the daughter of the other one, and vice versa and, that was why, in a few – but very interesting – places along the boundary, there were people who spoke in both tongues. This sort of thing is something that governments really hate, which is a very good thing.”

Something rather cheeky inside me (can you imagine that ?) had me share this short quote from a book I had for Christmas. Written in characteristic style by Terry Pratchett*, Raising Steam is both humorous and serious – at the same damned time. It is possible to recognise trends, people, even countries and current issues which engage us  all throughout the book. Or to treat it as a story set on a separate world, far, far away. Hence it appears in the “Borrowed section of the blog. It is possible to enjoy the quote above and stop reading now, because what follows, for the first time (!) is a little bit of context.

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