A Peaceful Afternoon

It is late Tuesday afternoon and pouring down rain outside. I have a fresh cup of tea by my side and a cheesy ham and potato soup in the crockpot. My husband is sitting on the couch reading the news and feeling a little bored which I view as a good sign. Boredom is an indication he is getting better. My daughter is home from school with a cold and she has dragged her brother downstairs to play video games with her. Not all of that sounds good--the cold, my husband's accident-but somehow it is all contributing to a peaceful afternoon. I have to go out again later but for now, I am just going to revel in the peace and quiet.

I am currently reading The G.I.'s: The Americans in Britain, 1942-1945 by Norman Longmate. I have an ongoing interest in life during WWII. Most of the books I have read have been about life on the Home Front in Britain. This is a fascinating account of the arrival of the Americans in Britain and how the two countries reacted to one another. Two million American soldiers were stationed in Britain during the war and the two countries learned a lot from each other. I find the differences in the cultures absolutely fascinating. The book is full of reminiscences and first-hand accounts from the G.I.'s and the  British people who encountered them. I am about halfway through it right now and highly recommend it. I have also read How We Lived Then by Longmate which is just as interesting.

I ordered a couple of books at the beginning of the month, I always do, and I just got a notification that one book is no longer available and my money is being refunded. Obviously, that means I need to buy another book to replace it. At least books are cheaper than the perfect wool dress coat for under $200.00 that I am currently looking for. It can't be black, it needs to be knee length, and it has to look modern and fun while still being classic. I don't ask too much, do I? Maybe I should just go back to buying books.

Isn't the teapot in the photo pretty? A friend showed up with a gift bag full of goodies for me--the teapot and cups, chocolate, cocoa mix, cookies, tea, and an entire flourless chocolate cake. She said she knew my husband was the one who was hurt but she thought I needed some comfort too. It was so sweet of her. I did share the cake with my family but the chocolate bar I hid away and I don't intend to share it though I should probably eat it soon before someone finds my hiding place.

We might get snow on Thursday. Maybe it will be another afternoon of books, tea, chocolate, and soup. I wouldn't mind that at all.

A Poem for a Thursday #5

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Carol Ann Duffy is a Scottish poet and playwright. She was appointed Britain's Poet Laureate in May of 2009. In describing her own writing she says she "likes to use simple words, but in a complicated way."  Here is a poem about Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife, to whom he willed his second best bed.

"Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed...'
(from Shakespeare's will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles,, torchlight, cliff-tops, seas
where he could dive for pearls. My lover's words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights I dreamed he'd written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer's hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love -
I hold him in the casket of my widow's head
as he held me upon that next best bed.

Anne Hathaway
Carol Ann Duffy

In Which I Cope With Life by Buying Books

Some people have practical reactions to stress. They go for a run. They clean their house. They garden. I, however, buy books. Actually, I buy books and eat sweets. My friends and family have been providing a steady stream of sweet treats since my husband was injured. In the last two weeks, we have been given multiple boxes of chocolate, lots of cookies, lemon bars, apple pie, flourless chocolate cake, carrot cake, and chocolate-covered fruit. Maybe I should go for a run instead of sitting on my couch and ordering more books. Maybe tomorrow...

In the meantime, I have been doing an excellent job comforting myself with books as you can see from the photo above. I have a few more ordered that have not shown up yet. I know it isn't particularly easy to see the titles in the photo but the weather is not cooperating for photos and, to be honest, I just gave up. I'll list them for anyone interested.

A Kind of Magic by Edna Ferber. This is the second volume of her autobiography. I read the first volume a month or so ago.

Darkness Falls From the Air by Nigel Balchin. I listened to a Backlisted podcast about this and the enthusiasm was so contagious I immediately bought it. I think the episode was from a while ago but I just got around to listening to it. Books set during WWII are definitely my thing.

A Woman's War by Frances Donaldson. The diaries of a woman during WWII. Of course I bought it.

A Soldier's Letters by Jack Donaldson. This is a very slim volume but it is the letters of Frances Donaldson's husband. It seemed necessary.

Pastoral by Nevil Shute. I read A Town Like Alice earlier this year and loved it. I  have gone on to read a few other books by Shute and this is up next.

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley. I read The Boat by Hartley a while ago and enjoyed it. This is a book that everyone seems to know about but somehow I never heard of it. I am making up for lost time.

What Matters in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan. Because if you are stressed and tired then obviously the only thing to do is read Jane Austen. Which I did. I just finished rereading Northanger Abbey for the five millionth time. When you have done that the next step is to buy a book about Jane Austen. If that doesn't help with stress then I don't know what will.

The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism by Lynne Olson. I read Citizens of London by Olson recently and found it fascinating. I wanted to read more about Edward Murrow and the other journalist who became famous for their coverage of WWII.

An Open Book by Michael Dirda. I have loved everything I have read by Dirda. His bookish enthusiasm is a joy and a pleasure.

That is it. For now. My husband is doing better but his recovery is going to take a while. I see more stress--and more book purchases--in my future.

A Poem for a Thursday #4

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Wislawa Szymborska was a Polish poet and essayist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996 among many other honors. An article in The New York Times described her as living "a life of quiet amazement, reflected in poems that are both plain-spoken and luminous." This poem, a lovely description of the joy of writing, is a wonderful example of the imagination and deft touch evident in  so much of her work.

Why does this written doe bound these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertip.
Silence - this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word 'woods.'

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they'll never let her get away.

Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

They forget that what's here isn't life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof's full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

The Joy of Writing
Wislawa Szymborska