Thursday, 30 August 2018

Mrs Mac suggests - What to read in SEPTEMBER 18

Hello, hello!  That heatwave is well and truly over then!  And here in the UK it was followed by rain, wind, rain, rain, and then grey skies.  However, the sun peeps through every day at some time, even if only for an hour.  And things are happening in the garden again.  Lots of roses are suddenly budding up, hardy geraniums who went to sleep in the heat are suddenly coming alive again.   The mystery of growing things!

What to read in September, then?    I have a whole pile to read .... but what to suggest.  How about

A book written by a celebrity?

Yes!  that's it!  and who shall we choose?  Well, dear readers, you may choose who you like, but I have one on the table that was given to me by a friend, and for me it's a murder mystery written by a chat show host:

Holding - Graham Norton

Enjoy September, and remember, for three weeks of it, it's still Summer!    

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Bettyville - George Hodgman

 The author is a magazine and book editor. So having spent a lot of time putting an article or a book in order, he has acquired a lovely style all of his own, and it was a pleasure to read this.  
It is the story of two things. His mother's descent, at around 90, into dementia and his care for her; and his offloading to you, the reader, of a life kept secret from his parents. Like a lot of gay men he knew he was different, and so he escaped from a small town environment to the big city. He seemed to have a crazy, fun but empty time because he could not let himself get close to people. You will see, as you read, how similar in character he was to both parents, but we don't want to admit that, do we, when we are young - it took George Hodgman until he was in his fifties.
 Drugs played a large part in his life in the city, and a part too in grieving the loss of friends (the early 1980s AIDS epidemic was hugely felt in and outside gay communities around the world). Eventually he kicked the drugs; but from time to time still craves the lift they gave him.  
When George goes home to visit his elderly mother, he finds that he needs to stay. I loved Betty, and the fight she put up not to "loose it" entirely.  I loved George, a man with a bigger heart than he thinks he has.   I don't have parents now. I am not gay. I don't live in small town America. But I do recommend this book as an eye opener, a source of joy; a book to tell you much about the care and respect of the elderly;  and also as a short history of the death of small town America, and a book I think a lot of people would pass over as "not interested" but shouldn't! 

Friday, 10 August 2018

The Darling Buds of May - H E Bates

Perfect for an afternoon in the garden, or by the riverside, on the beach.  But for me this was a "perfick" summer read, and at only 137 pages was not a struggle to finish. I think it may have been back in the 1980s that this was made into a TV series - where Catherine Zeta Jones first makes an early appearance;  as the flawless Marriette - eldest daughter of Pop and Ma Larkin.

Pop Larkin leads a life of pure delight (or as he would say, perfick) with Ma Larkin and quite a lot of children.  The time?  middle 1950s.  The place?  the South of England.  Pop is a junk dealer (scrap metal, second hand vehicles, things other people want to discard) and has made a healthy living out of it.  Well, you have to, don't you, with this many mouths to feed - and don't they all eat?!!  Ma is a great cook, and she cooks huge amounts of food for family meals including the daily full English breakfasts.  After all, if it's Sunday lunch and you are going to kill a goose for a roast, why not two?  You may be lucky and have a little bit of leftovers for tomorrow - that is if someone doesn't raid the larder for supper.  And drink?!  Pop must have a cast iron liver, that's all I'm saying.

When Cedric Charlton arrives one afternoon to talk about Pop's tax return, it seems that Pop doesn't do tax returns, he never earns enough to pay tax (why, all those kids with a healthy appetite, animals to feed, the truck to put petrol in;  why, some weeks he has nothing in his pocket at all!).  So how can he be persuaded to fill in his tax  return?  With a great deal of difficulty.

Here is a description of a life that no longer exists, and probably we are all the poorer for that.  It's a bit non-PC in places too, but remember that this was first published in 1958.  This is the first of five books Bates wrote about the Larkin family - all short, but all charming; the tale of a near-illiterate man and his family.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Holly Blue in my Dorset garden - August 2018

Well, look what we found today in the garden!  This is a male open and closed.  The top picture shows you that the underside is white with little black dots.... so small, too, just over one inch across when open.  I only record butterflies I have never seen before, and since I have now found out that these breed on holly in the spring and ivy in the summer, I should have seen them before because we have both in the garden; but never did.  Such a dainty sight and we were so pleased to find him.                                                                                       The pics came from the UK Butterflies website, which I always refer to first when I see a new one, before contacting my friend Sarah whose hubs is an expert "flittery" person.  That way I can get it right when I tell you about it!

Saturday, 4 August 2018

The Ballroom - Anna Hope


The Ballroom is a deeply moving tale of life in an asylum  around 1911, told in short chapters, each headed with a character's name.  Each chapter reveals a little bit of history, or current life of the character whose name appears at the start.   Many people were incarcerated in asylums in those early days that were not mentally ill in the then accepted sense of the word; perhaps severely depressed because of a trauma, or perhaps like the character of Ella, because she had broken a window at the factory just to see the sky.... can you imagine that?  Or like John, because he had ended up in the poorhouse, and was not well enough to work.   Ella and John are inmates and will meet, one Friday in the ballroom of the title;  and Charles is a staff member;  a young medical man from a wealthy family on the staff who has a secret of his own..

 The power that staff had over the inmates as described here was truly awful, particularly if they were employed only because of their strength (to hold a patient down whilst they fought to be free), a case of brawn not brains.   Some more senior staff held views which would simply not be acceptable today.  I found this a particularly well written book, with a lot of good research by the author including facts about her great great grandfather, transferred to an asylum from the poorhouse, dying there 9 long years later.  Do read the author's note at the back - for those unfamiliar with asylums as a way of housing the mentally ill this will be an eye-opener.  So will Churchill's early views on Eugenics.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Mrs Mac Suggests - What to read in AUGUST

Phew!  that was a hot one, wasn't it?!  Lots of sun, but a little too much heat was how I would describe July, but after  24 hours of rain last weekend we are now sitting more comfortably!!

So it's time to select a read for the month.  I hadn't given it much thought until this morning, but I think sometimes it's a good idea to try something new, yes?  And for August something new is:

Read a book by an author you have never tried before!

So the author I picked for myself is someone who has written loads of different stuff.  He created Foyle's War for TV, he has written a James Bond novel, he has written a series for children  which has sold more than nineteen million copies round the world.  So from my  shelves I have pulled out

Magpie Murders - Anthony Horowitz.

Enjoy August, everyone.  

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...