Autumn in New England

The roadside stands were piled with golden pumpkins and russet squashes and baskets of red apples so crisp and sweet that they seemed to explode with juice when I bit into them.  I bought apples and a gallon jug of fresh-pressed cider.... The villages are the prettiest, I guess, in the whole nation, neat -and white-painted, and-not counting the motels and tourist courts-unchanged for a hundred years except for traffic and paved streets.  The climate changed quickly to cold and the trees burst into color, the reds and yellows you can't believe. It isn't only color but a glowing, as though the leaves gobbled the light of the autumn sun and then released it slowly.  There's a quality of fire in these colors.

I have been reading Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck and I came across this quote.  It so perfectly encapsulates autumn in New England.

 My daughter had a half day of school and we went for a walk through some woods and down by a stream.  It was a new walk for us but one we will probably do again.  It isn't very long but it provides boundless opportunities for clambering down inclines, investigating waterfalls, sitting on boulders, and scuffing through leaves.  In other words, all the perfect autumn woodland activities.

We spent quite a while collecting brightly colored leaves and deciding which ones look best together.  Does anyone else remember ironing leaves between sheets of waxed paper when you were a child?  The paper would stick together with your leaves positioned inside.  You could make all kinds of scenes and color combinations.

I love the sound of running water.  There is something so soothing and peaceful about sitting on a giant boulder and listening to the water cascading over the tiny waterfall just around the bend.  I think my dream house would have a river or a stream nearby.

It is nice give one of my children a bit of undivided attention.  My daughter had a fun afternoon and so did I .  She also insisted that I include a few photos of her in this post and she is demanding the right to proofread it before I post it.  So here is my daughter.  Her enthusiasm can brighten any day.

Have you ever been to New England?

Book Mail

books stack

I haven't bought very many books lately.  I just looked back and I haven't done one of these posts in two months and today I only have six books to show you.  Six books in two months is a pathetic showing for someone who claims to love books as much as I do.  I really need to up my book buying game for the sake of my blog.

The problem is that my kids keep outgrowing their clothes so all my possible spare cash goes on replacing the barely worn clothes they can no longer fit into.  Please tell me that a 6'1" sixteen-year-old with size thirteen feet will eventually stop growing.  Please.  And my 11-year-old just passed a practically unworn pair of Converse down to me.  To me.  Think about that.  I just got hand-me-down shoes from my own daughter.

I bought a few books anyway.  Just think, I saved myself money because my daughter gave me her outgrown Converse.  Don't examine the logic of that statement too closely just nod approvingly and move on.

First of all, I bought Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers.  I have read it five million times but for some reason I don't own it which is a crime because Pete Wimsey and Harriet Vane make me happy.  It showed up in the mail last week.  I promptly read it and am now in the process of binge reading all the books that involve both of them.  At one point Harriet tells Peter that "If anyone ever marries you, it will be for the pleasure of hearing you talk piffle."  I do enjoy listening to him talk piffle as well.

I bought a Persephone book, used I must admit, and the sight of its pretty grey cover makes me happy.  I bought Bricks and Mortar by Helen Ashton.  I recently read The Half-Crown House by the same author and thoroughly enjoyed it so when I saw this on Abebooks for next to nothing I snapped it up.

The View From the Corner Shop by Kathleen Hey is the diary of a Yorkshire shop assistant during WWII.  My love of wartime diaries is well documented on this blog and when I read a review of this on From My Mental Library I knew I had to buy it.  My shelves are groaning under the weight of books about life in Britain during the war but I just keep buying more.  I am not sure why I find it so fascinating but I do.  I also have a sneaking wish that I could dress like it was the 1940s.

The next book I also purchased because of a review I read on a blog.  Blog reading has a lot to answer for in my book buying addiction.  Lyn at I Prefer Reading reviewed The Past is Myself by Christabel Bielenberg.  This is also about WWII but it is a totally different perspective.  Christabel Bielenberg married a German lawyer and lived through the war in Germany.  It sounds fascinating and I thought I probably needed a more well-rounded picture of the war.

The last two books are both by A. N. Wilson.  I read and reviewed Victoria:  A Life by the same author and was very interested in woman and a time period I had never read that much about previously.  I ended up wanting to know more about what life was like during that time so I bought The Victorians and After the Victorians.  I have a real interest in the minutiae of life during different times.  I am hoping these books will provide that kind of detail.

As a side note, if anyone can tell me how to get those stickers off that Thriftbooks puts on their books I will be eternally grateful.  They either leave a sticky residue behind of they won't come off at all.  It is very annoying.

Have you bought any books recently?

Book Review--My Dear Bessie- A Love Story in Letters

I bought my copy of My Dear Bessie at Daunt Books when I was in London.  Isn't it the prettiest bookshop?  I wish I could go back right now and spend the day browsing and buying too many books.  Then I would go find a cafe and sit drinking tea, eating cake, and dipping in and out of all my new books.  Doesn't that sound like the most perfect day?

My Dear Bessie--A Love Story in Letters is a compilation of the letters Chris Barker and Bessie Moore wrote to each other during World War II.  It is edited by Simon Garfield.  I originally heard about it because excerpts were read from it during Letters Live with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Chris Barker and Louise Brealey playing Bessie Moore.  I am sure you can still find the clips on Youtube.  They are no longer available to play on the BBC.

Reading letters and diaries always feels a bit voyeuristic.  You are reading something that was not originally meant for your eyes.  However, Chris and Bessie's children donated their letters to the Mass Observation Organization so I gave in to my inner nosiness and enjoyed seeing their relationship and personalities develop.

Chris and Bessie were acquainted before he went overseas during the war but they were not involved in a relationship.  He was filling his days by writing letters and one day he wrote to Bessie.  That was the beginning of a love affair that progressed rapidly.  The book is mainly composed of letters from Chris. Many of Bessie's letters got destroyed since Chris had only limited amounts of baggage space.  Several times he expressed the sorrow he felt at having to destroy some of her letters.

I was amazed at just how prolific their letter writing was.  Of course, they did not have the means of communication we do but still they must have devoted huge amounts of their spare time to letter writing.  The book comprises only a small selection of the letters that survive.  On the 18th of July 1945 Chris mentions just how many letters he has written recently.

I have written 298 letters in all since April 10th; 98 to you, 59 to Mum, 141 to others.  98, the number of this, was the last you got from me last year, I believe.  So we are well up on the numbers this year, though the sooner we can talk to each other rather than write, the better for us both.  Oh, my darling Bessie.

Chris and Bessie's relationship progressed very quickly.  They went from being simply friends to discussing marriage within a few months.  It was enthralling and touching to see how much they came to care about each other with only the letters to tie them together.  When Chris finally got leave they were able to spend some time together.  They found it awkward and a bit difficult but it just brought them closer.

The letters frequently made me chuckle.  Chris could quickly go from talking to Bessie about how much he desired her to how he felt about the socks she was knitting him.  The letters are very much a conversation between two people with all the fits and starts and digressions an actual verbal conversation would have.  Both of them had a way with words and their emotions and personalities come through loud and clear.

If I say or write a thousand times before we meet again,  'I love you,' I want it always to come to you as a fresh, vigorous affirmation of faith, of deep feeling of my need of you, my desire for you.  We are so much strengthened now by our meeting:  I have seen you, your eyes when you looked at me-and I hope you've seen, and will remember, my eyes.  I think I shall have to write to you rather differently from my 1944 items.  I am now too much aware of you, too moved within me by the knowledge of you and the fact that now we are one.  We now do know what we mean to each other.  I think correspondence is going to be more difficult in the light of this and I know (it is wonderful to be so sure) you will forgive me for my faults where they occur. 

 Letter writing is a bit of a lost art these days and I think the world has lost something as a result.  We are all about quick communication and short messages.  These definitely are convenient and do remove some of the stresses of everyday life; Bessie would no longer have to worry for days and weeks at a time about the safety of Chris during war. However, I am a bit enthralled with the thought and care that went into the letters.  The idea of sitting down, putting pen to paper, and really communicating is enticing.  The idea of a love affair that grew from friendship solely by the means of letters is charming.

The book finishes with afterwards by the Barker's son and granddaughter. The letters end when Chris returns home but we want to know more. Were they happy?  What happened next?  The afterwards round out the story and leave the reader with a sense of a satisfying conclusion.

Read My Dear Bessie.  It is a love story in letters and I defy you to read it without falling a bit in love with the writers and a bit in love with the art of letter writing.

Golden Moments


Life just stinks sometimes, doesn't it?  It is full of stress and illness and a bit of exhaustion.  We complain of bad bosses, mounds of laundry, and kids that never pick up their shoes.  We focus on the things we haven't gotten done and the things done too quickly.

We need to focus a bit more on the golden moments.

I sound like a motivational poster, don't I?

Oh well, I stand by it.  As corny as it sounds we need to look for the good to outweigh the bad.  Because the bad just intrudes and takes over sometimes.  So here is my list of golden moments from the last few days starting with the one from last night that made me think of writing this post.  Because everything is fodder for a blog post.  You have been warned.

When you wake up before your alarm and lie there dreading the sound of it going off and then you roll over and realize it is  only one in the morning and you still have 5 hours of sleep in front of you.  Is there anything more wonderful in that moment?  I don't think so.

That first sip of a perfectly made cup of tea, ideally taken just after your kids walk out the door for the bus when you know you will have a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The hug you get from your teenage son when he forgets he is too old for such things.

Book mail. Self-explanatory, really.  Coming home to new books will brighten any day.  I ordered some books.  They haven't come yet but anticipating book mail is almost as good as receiving it.

Sunsets.  Autumn sunsets are gorgeous.  My daughter and I get very excited about them.

Phone calls from friends you haven't heard from in a while.

Chinese food eaten in a park in the midst of running errands.  Shrimp and chicken with vegetables.  Delicious.

Watching my husband and son watch baseball together.  I don't know why but it melts my heart every time.

Cocoa almonds.  Not quite as good as a chocolate bar but much healthier.

Switching out my summer clothes for my winter ones and finding a shirt I forgot I bought at the end of last season.  Never worn, still with tags on.  New clothes without spending any money recently. That is a happy moment right there.

Getting out my huge afghan that I use all winter. It is kind of ugly but so comfy and cosy.  Now if I can just keep the kids and the cat away from it.  They steal it when I am not looking.

Honestly, I thought the last week was pretty miserable but when I started listing things there were quite a few golden moments.  I am sure there is a life lesson in there if you care to pursue it.

What golden moments have you had lately?