A Serendipitous Find

Book--Merry Hall

My local library has a small shelf of free books in the lobby. Usually, this shelf is full of Harlequin romances and out-dated children's nonfiction books. However, since I live in a constant state of hope, I always check the shelf. Yesterday, my optimism paid off. There was a lovely hardback copy of Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols. In my pre-blogging days, this would have meant absolutely nothing to me. I had never heard of Beverley Nichols. However, several bloggers I follow are very fond of Nichols' books and I have been wanting to try one. He was best known for his gardening books which, apparently, are charming and gently humorous. Merry Hall is the first in a trilogy about his renovating of a Georgian manor house. I was very pleased to stumble across it and it brightened a rainy day. Look at the lovely endpapers. Don't you want to dive right in and live there? Though the more I look at it the more unsure I am about the faces on the vase. They are a bit disturbing, aren't they?

Merry Hall--endpapers

There was also a copy of Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford on the shelf. I already own that so I left it for someone else. It was hard though. What if it languishes there while all the Harlequin romances are chosen? That would be so sad. If it is still there the next time I visit the library you know I am going to have to bring it home. Some people feel impelled to provide a good home to all the stray animals they encounter. I house all the stray books.

Have you read anything by Beverley Nichols?

Life Currently

Currently, I am sitting in bed in a mediocre motel room. I am over-tired, slightly stressed, and determined to stop Googling all my ridiculous worries that rise to the surface when life gets to be a bit too much. Really, life was more peaceful when I didn't have the answer to things right at my fingertips. Does anyone else occasionally feel nostalgic for the days when you had to go to the library to look something up? By the time you got there you frequently forgot what you were worried about and ended up researching some random bit of fascination like the weather in the Himalayas or the possibilities of a cross-Europe train journey. Now we have answers so quickly we don't have time to stop being worried, we just cascade into the next worry. And no, I have nothing really to worry about. But try telling that to my over-tired brain.

Currently, I am reading The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. I can tell already that I am going to have a lot of thoughts about this book. I actually set it aside for tonight because I want to really concentrate on it and did I mention the over-tired thing I have going on? So for the rest of this evening, I am reading 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. I haven't read it in ages and there are few things as soothing as reading about someone who loves books. I bought this copy online and I am a little annoyed that someone wrote their name right across the top and that the seller stuck a sticker right on top of the author's name but for the price I paid I guess I can't complain too much.

Currently, (well, not right this moment. I am in a motel but you know what I mean.) I am eating endless slices of toast and countless biscuits. I can't eat American wheat without getting migraines and digestive issues but I can eat wheat in the UK. I have no idea why. So the obvious thing to do was find a way to have UK wheat products delivered to me. Through the wonders of the internet, I now have five loaves of bread, sixteen packages of biscuits, more scones than any sane person needs, and bag after bag of flour. Not to mention the tea, chocolate, and Elderflower cordial I added to the order just because I could. You should have seen me when my very large parcel arrived. Now I just have to decide what to bake when I get back home. Victoria Sponge Cake maybe? It seems only appropriate to bake a quintessentially British cake with my British flour.

Currently, I am very happy to have a new phone. My old one was getting a bit glitchy. I was content to put up with it until last week when the camera stopped working. That I am not willing to put up with. While I have a very nice fancy camera, I depend quite a bit on my phone for quick snaps while I am out and about. It was messing with my world not to have a camera on my phone. The kind man at the store took my old phone in trade, and I was able to get a new phone for me and a phone for my daughter without having to sell either of my children. Plus, I am now my daughter's favorite parent since she was convinced she was the only almost-twelve-year-old on earth who still didn't have a phone.

Currently, I am feeling grateful that almost-twelve-year-olds seem to be basically indestructible. Celia was at a friend's house and didn't know that the bike she was using had faulty brakes. She lost control going down a hill, crossed a road, and went over the handlebars face first into a tree. She is banged up a bit and looks like she has been in a fight but is otherwise fine. It could have been much worse. The hysterical phone call I received, however, probably aged me ten years.

Currently, I am wondering why everyone who walks through the corridor of this motel has to speak at the top of their voice. Didn't their mothers ever teach them about indoor voices?

Currently, I am thinking I might be slightly grumpy and that it is time to read 84, Charing Cross Road and dream of having my own Marks & Co. to fulfill all my bookish desires.

So what is currently happening in your life?

Wildflowers and Walks

Right now it is pouring down with rain. There are flash flood warnings and it is steamy and sticky outside. It is the kind of weather where all you want to do is to stay inside with the air conditioning blasting away and a good book on your lap. Of course, I think that is a good way to spend most of the summer. However, over the weekend we had gorgeous weather and we went for a walk down by the river. The wildflowers are out in force and look absolutely beautiful.

I wish my flower beds looked half so bright and colorful. Maybe I should just fill them with weeds and call it a day? So many weeds really are beautiful if you look at them closely.

The trees are filling out nicely for the second time this year.  We had an absolutely awful infestation of gypsy moth caterpillars in our section of the country. They ate every leaf on many of the trees. They seem to particularly like oaks. The one in our front yard didn't have a leaf left on it. It looked like winter. The front of our house was black with caterpillars and the grass was literally moving with them.  It was disgusting. But you can see in the next few photos that the trees are making a comeback.

We meandered on home with our daughter riding her bike in circles around us. It was a peaceful and relaxing way to end the day. If the rain lets up we will have to do it all over again. In the meantime, the air conditioning and my book are calling to me.

In Which I Profess My Love For British Library Crime Classics

I never cared about what my books looked like. As long as they held together so I could read them I was happy. Of course, there were some covers that irritated me. My childhood copy of Anne of Green Gables has the most abysmal picture of Anne on the front. It is so bad that I am convinced that whoever picked it never read the book since it bears absolutely no resemblance to the Anne in my head. But the thing is, I never bothered to replace it even though I didn't like it. It was a serviceable copy so, why bother? There were prettier copies out there but I had the story I loved and that was what mattered.

Then I entered the world of blogging and Bookstagram and I encountered a world where your book had to look good as well as be a good story. I had very mixed feelings about that. So many of my beloved books just are not pretty. They are secondhand copies I have picked up over the years. I didn't want to replace them for shiny, new editions with beautiful covers because it felt a bit like discarding old friends. So I didn't. A lot of my books are not particularly photogenic but they are well loved. (I feel like there is a lesson in there somewhere.)  However, that does not prevent me from noticing all the beautiful editions I see on various blogs I read. And yes, sometimes I get sucked into buying them.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that I love the covers of the British Library Crime Classics.

Aren't they gorgeous? Now, I have to say, I really enjoy the stories too. I love books from the golden age of crime writing and so many of these are books that would just be impossible to find otherwise. But, for just about the first time in my life, I find myself wanting to buy all the books because they are so pretty. I would happily decorate my house in posters made from these prints. Or amass a collection of tote bags with these prints decorating them. Or maybe mugs....

Because I do enjoy the stories as well as the covers I have been thrilled to be able to read a few of the British Library Crime Classics through NetGalley. Now, I am not as thrilled as I would be to read them in physical form instead of on my Kindle but I will take what I can get.

 I recently read The Cheltenham Square Murder* by John Bude. The peace and tranquility of the square are disturbed when one of the residents is murdered with an arrow. There are plenty of suspects, plenty of motives, and even plenty of archers. Thank goodness, there is also Superintendent Meredith to work his way through all the extraneous clues and arrive at the proper solution. I enjoyed this. The characters were quirky and interesting, there was a bit of humor woven in, and I learned a bit about archery. Did you know that arrows were measured in shillings?

Bryan laughed:  "Here! We're talking at cross purposes.  Four and ninepence is the weight of the arrow.You see, they're weighed up against shillings. An ordinary shilling being the unit of measurement. Some people prefer a lighter arrow--say a four-shilling. This fellow, on the other hand, seems to have used the same weight arrow as I do myself. If you want to make sure about that point, I suggest you borrow a balance and weight the arrow against four shillings and ninepence. In silver, of course!

Isn't that a fascinating fact to have come across? It is one reason I so enjoy these old mysteries. You never know what you will learn. Not that I ever expect to be able to make use of these facts--unless, of course, someone conveniently gets murdered with an arrow in my neighborhood.

I also read Death of a Busybody* by George Bellairs. Miss Tither is very unpopular in her village because of her propensity for discovering everyone's secret sins, confronting them with the error of their ways, and exhorting them to repent. Obviously, she is going to end up dead. She meets her end in the Vicar's cesspool. It is up to Inspector Littlejohn to track down her murderer. This was a predictable but enjoyable book. I knew who did it from pretty much the moment the character was introduced but that did not detract from my enjoyment of the rest of the book. Bellairs also had some very nice descriptions of the British countryside.

I enjoyed both these books but I wish they were on my bookshelves instead of on my Kindle. I can't quite justify buying them for the covers since I already have read them but I am sure I will buy many others of the British Library Crime Classics. This will be partly for the beautiful covers and partly for the enjoyable stories they contain.

*I received this book through NetGalley but my opinions of covers and stories are all my own.