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  1. Today
  2. I'm a tour guide (not that there's going to be much of that this year!) mainly for one of the big river boat companies though I'm strictly very part time, usually with one or two shifts a week during the summer. When I take tours round the local town we finish with a visit to one of the Sauternes chateaux and a tasting. Our house was a winemaker's house at one time and still has the old winery, minus tanks etc, at the back. It's no mansion though, basically a cottage, its vineyard which has long since been sold was ony ever just a few acres.
  3. Do you work in a winery Viccie? It’s good that you have an exclusive wood next door, so handy to escape into an area where you can enjoy the forest without it being busy with others. Sounds as though the district is well organized where you have to have your particulars noted on paper. Hope all goes well where you are and that we can all at some point defeat this horrible virus.
  4. Blood and Beauty - Sarah Dunant
  5. I'm very lucky in that I live in the middle of the vines in rural France so there's plenty of scope for going out though we are supposed to only leave the premises for exercise for one hour a day and not more than 1 km from home and carry a signed piece of paper with our names and address, darte and time on it. Fortunately there is a wood next door where no one ever goes so I can nip in there for an extra walk if I'm restless! Behaviour in the supermarkets here is pretty impeccable but that could be because we're out of town. I belong to several expat groups on Facebook and all I can say about quite a large proportion of some of the partiicpants is that it's time Facebook added a "sanctimonious" emojo to Like, Live, Wow etc.
  6. Yesterday
  7. It's a weakness, it really is : The Crow Trap, Telling Tales, Hidden Depths, Silent Voices, The Glass Room, Harbour Street, The Moth Catcher, The Seagull, (all Vera Stanhope) by Ann Cleeves And The Rules of Thinking: A personal code to think yourself smarter, wiser and happier by Richard Templar
  8. Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre by Walter Kaufmann and because I have the time, The Rules of Thinking, Richard Templar.
  9. Glad to hear that Meg and Luna are both managing to weather the virus storm, you both sound that you are coping and I certainly understand your problems with your father Luna. I get to the backdoor to let the dog out or a trip to the driveway with recycling or garbage chores but haven’t done any walking outside for a while. It has been a bit chilly but today the weatherman is predicting 19 C so a bit of warmer weather. I do chair exercises trying to get my knees feeling a bit less painful, they aren’t too bad just a bit achy at times. Thank goodness for books and Facebook. Dave goes to the store on his motorized scooter, the controls are on the handlebars and he has room for a box on the front. We have our big grocery shopping delivered. It’s a depressing time and hopefully we’ll all get through it safely. Wishing all BGO’ers all the best, stay safe.😊
  10. Apple is still in retail but only on contract work - i.e. no overtime - and the latest is that if she gets verbal abuse from a customer she is allowed to talk back and it's the customer who gets thrown out. My father insists on his daily constitutional and I accompany him, despite the cold. As you say something is better than nothing. He says that he also does some exercise in his chair, fortunately upstairs. It hasn't improved his mood, he's a grumpy old man. He has, however, accepted that me and my brother go out to do the grocery shopping - my brother insists on getting to the supermarket before 7am and there is no way my father can get up and out at that time. My father gets a dvd in the afternoon (I'm the one working the dvd player) and a possible one in the evening depending on my brother's activity. My brother is working from home and is still stationary biking every second night. I have plenty to read, plenty to crochet, plenty to watch on TV and weathering my father's petulant behaviour - he wants the police to try and force him to stay in the house *sigh*. I'm also avoiding the BBC's rather hysterical, imho, reporting of the current situation.
  11. Yes it's got much colder, and we just had a bit of sleet as well, although it's sunny again now, so much for the start of BST!
  12. Thinking about Apple whenever I go shopping. I remember her past posts about the way some customers treat supermarket staff, and hearing various reports of abuse that many of them are getting in the current situation. I wonder if she is still working in retail, and on the receiving end of such behaviour? Other than that, I'm not doing anything very much at the moment. I was taking a daily walk, and was getting a bit done in the garden, but the cold blast of the last two days has put a stop to both of those. It's difficult to summon up enough enthusiasm for doing exercise indoors, or at least to do it with sufficient enthusiasm and energy to do any good. Still, I suppose even that small amount of movement is better than sitting in a chair all day.
  13. Last week
  14. The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  15. I have previously (twice - about a month ago) written a thought-through review for My Dark Vanessa, only for it to evaporate into the ether. This one, then, will be shorter. This is an intelligent novel exploring the concept of a student-teacher relationship. It would be easy, as many novels have done, to create a lily-white young victim and a monstrous predator. And to an extent, that is what Vanessa and Mr Strane are, even though neither sees the relationship quite that way. There are multiple time lines, one with Vanessa at school as her relationship with Mr Strane takes off. Then she is at college, and now, several years later, she approaches middle age as some of Mr Starne's former students feel he deserves to be exposed. The thing here is that Vanessa was certainly a consenting partner - and there are suggestions she might even have initiated the relationship. And it seems that Vanessa was starting a pattern, having a relationship with another tutor who, ironically, seems to be a friend of Mr Strane. Vanessa does not see herself as a victim and is appalled at the idea of joining some kind of class action against her former (and perhaps continuing) lover. Strane, on the other hand, is a very disturbing creation. He plays power games. He asks Vanessa to role play a father-daughter scenario. He is always Mr Strane; there is never even the slightest hint of equality. And he maintains contact, and maintains this domineering contact even as Vanessa is an adult. As the journalists circle, looking for blood, Vanessa and Mr Strane send each other text messages. My Dark Vanessa is a creepy and unsettling read that makes one question some aspects of the Me Too movement and, most of all, question how we should respond to a victim who refuses to see herself as such. ****0
  16. Blue Ticket is a dystopian story, probably set in a near future, where women's fertility is controlled by the state. Young women are subjected to a lottery where the majority are allocated a blue ticket - they will not have children and will wear a mirena IUD to make them infertile. A few receive a white ticket and a life of motherhood awaits. The blue ticket girls are told they are the lucky ones, free to have fun, free from responsibilities, free to pursue a career. Calla receives a blue ticket and keeps it in a locket around her neck - as the law requires. But after a few years of freedom, she starts to yearn for a child. On the one level, this is a story of a young woman who tries to escape over the border to a land of choice. It's a game of cat and mouse as the authorities try to close in on her. She meets others along the way who also fail to fit neatly in their pre-ordained roles. She makes friendships and encounters betrayals. It's a British Handmaid's Tale. On a deeper level, it makes us feel the injustice of this forced choice when so many women in our own society face a choice between a career or motherhood - and some have that choice forced upon them through biology to bad luck. We see that people's attitudes changeover time; what may seem like the right choice at one point of life may no longer look like the right choice at another. And then there is the nature of choice - having one thing and losing another. For some people, there is no right choice - they want both mutually exclusive options. There are some plot imponderables. Why would the state choose to control fertility in this way? Why would the state stop women emigrating? How does the population remain stable when most women are allowed blue tickets? Then there's the question of men. How can all the men seem to have access to relationships with white ticket women when there are so few to go around? But I guess these are relatively unimportant practicalities when the primary purpose is surely to make the reader dwell on matters of choice and destiny. Blue Ticket does handle that well. Moreover, there is enough character development for the reader t0 care about Calla and her fate. Blue Ticket is a short novel, not perfect and not as unique as I suspect it tries to be. But it is a worthwhile and enjoyable addition to the feminist canon. ****0
  17. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
  18. And I couldn’t escape the waking dream of infected fleas in the warp and weft of soggy cloth by the tailor’s hearth in ye olde Eyam. Then couldn’t un-see the Boundary Stone, that cock-eyed dice with its six dark holes, thimbles brimming with vinegar wine purging the plagued coins. Which brought to mind the sorry story of Emmott Syddall and Rowland Torre, star-crossed lovers on either side of the quarantine line whose wordless courtship spanned the river till she came no longer. But slept again, and dreamt this time of the exiled yaksha sending word to his lost wife on a passing cloud, a cloud that followed an earthly map of camel trails and cattle tracks, streams like necklaces, fan-tailed peacocks, painted elephants, embroidered bedspreads of meadows and hedges, bamboo forests and snow-hatted peaks, waterfalls, creeks, the hieroglyphs of wide-winged cranes and the glistening lotus flower after rain, the air hypnotically see-through, rare, the journey a ponderous one at times, long and slow but necessarily so. Simon Armitage - 'Lockdown' There is an explanation of this poem on the Guardian website. Eyam is probounced 'Eem'.
  19. I'm trying to expand my reading beyond the European tradition and started with this. It's short and sweet and covers the period of a character's life (which feels extremely autobiographical) that would generally be described as bildungsroman (early years to adulthood). The main character is a gay man coming to terms with his homosexuality and obsession with death just prior to the war. He's in love with another boy called Omi (though sometimes it's seems more like admiration than attraction) and in his late teens he develops a relationship with a woman called Sonoko which might lead to marriage. Eventually, he calls it off knowing he can never love her and despite her later marrying someone else, the two of them begin to meet again on a regular basis but in a purely platonic way. The book ends with them at a dance where he gazes lovingly at a half naked man knowing that he can never truly be happy. This is pretty groundbreaking stuff for 1949. I'm frankly amazed he was willing to publish given that the character in the book is so clearly the author. I like the style of writing though it's always hard to judge such things when it's a translation. I was impressed enough to look into reading more of Mishima.
  20. I found this useful : How to read more when you're social distancing. I found the paragraph on distraction particularly interesting
  21. And a big hand for Royal Mail too, who must have lots of extra work and are still delivering.
  22. Now that we are confined to quarters I am glad that I have a large amount of books to read. I am also glad that Amazon are still delivering. Good health to everybody
  23. Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this, The intelligence that moves, devotion is, And as the other Spheares, by being growne Subject to forraigne motion, lose their owne, And being by others hurried every day, Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey: Pleasure or businesse, so, our Soules admit For their first mover, and are whirld by it. Hence is’t, that I am carryed towards the West This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East. There I should see a Sunne, by rising set, And by that setting endlesse day beget; But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall, Sinne had eternally benighted all. Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see That spectacle of too much weight for mee. Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye; What a death were it then to see God dye? It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke, It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke. Could I behold those hands which span the Poles, And tune all spheares at once peirc’d with those holes? Could I behold that endlesse height which is Zenith to us, and our Antipodes, Humbled below us? or that blood which is The seat of all our Soules, if not of his, Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne By God, for his apparell, rag’d, and torne? If on these things I durst not looke, durst I Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye, Who was Gods partner here, and furnish’d thus Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom’d us? Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye, They’are present yet unto my memory, For that looks towards them; and thou look’st towards mee, O Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree; I turne my backe to thee, but to receive Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave. O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee, Burne off my rusts, and my deformity, Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace, That thou may’st know mee, and I’ll turne my face. Good Friday 1613. Riding Westward, John Donne
  24. All of a winter's Night - Phil Rickman
  25. Oh good! I didn't know there's a new one in the pipeline.
  26. Tender is the Night - F Scott Fitzgerald
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