Sunday, May 22, 2011

Garden photos

Above and below - our garden in May, as described in my last posting. Various rhododendrons on the turning circle at the front, and the view of the back with different coloured foliage.

Below: The view over Surrey from the Space Science Laboratory. (Nice view, shame about the lecture - you can tell I'm not a scientist.

And now - Loseley Park

Above: Loseley Park near Guildford - the walled garden

Above: Some photos of Wisley Gardens on a recent visit.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Books, and Blossoms in May

In the lovely sunny days that have passed since my last entry, we have had several days out, not least because of the bank holidays all falling together. Two trips to Wisley – one with the OH, and the other with friends, our first visit to Loseley Park in Guildford – I may find some photos – and a family lunch at Cookham for 16 people, when we celebrated the 93rd birthday of an aunt. I also went with the OH lecture at a science laboratory in Holmbury St Mary. Nice garden and wonderful view. I took some snaps there too. We also went to a friend with a wonderful garden, similarly, on the North Downs, though I forgot my camera on that occasion. We were most impressed with the walled garden at Loseley. It was a windy day, but inside the walled garden, it was sunny and beautifully sheltered; we couldn't believe that roses were flowering there already, so early in May.

On the writing front, I gave a very successful talk at Knaphill Library, to the reading circle there – about a dozen or more people. I had a number of book sales, there, of all three of my books – Tainted Tree, my genealogical novel which tells of American adoptee, Addie Russell's search for her identity; A Bottle of Plonk, a tale of a cheap bottle of wine, and the people whose hands it passes through, and also, The Fruit of the Tree – my autobiographical account of my experience of cot death and miscarriage.

I had a lovely email from the group organiser, who said, 'We really enjoyed your talk, the group were all talking so enthusiastically about you afterwards that I had difficulty persuading them to go home so the cleaners would come in.'

This is all most encouraging, particularly as my American e-publisher, Virtual Tales, has ceased to be, and I'm waiting to see if the American version of Plonk – Have Wine, Will Travel, will be taken up by Untreed Reads. Of course, I now have three short stories on line, two of which have been published by and contracts for several more, so anyone who wants to try out my work with something really short, will find these, both there, and on my Amazon page.

I finished reading If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, but I won't comment on it now. I will let it simmer in my mind, so that I can give fair comment about it.

I thought you might enjoy another virtual tour of the garden, because, of course, everything has changed since the spring photos and description.

Now that the red leaves of the pieris have faded, the back of the garden is muted and full of subtlety. We have many colours of leaf – the pieris themselves are a yellow-green or lime green, now, contrasting with the emerald of the laurel, and the darker shades of the conifers, around and behind them. The even darker cotoneaster is now peppered with tiny white flowers and their marzipan scent attracts numerous bees to visit. They blend in with the grey green of senecio, and this, in turn, highlights the coppery red of the berberis, alongside it. This is the view from my kitchen window and my little study window, where I now sit.

At the front, the garden is, at present, filled with a vulgar display of colour, quite the opposite to the back. We have rhododendrons of pale mauve and pinky mauve – the natural varieties – and also deep purple, pink and scarlet bushes, occupying a centre bed. I love these wonderful colours, just as much as the quiet tones of the other garden. The other front beds are edged with masses of cranesbill, not large showy flowers like the rhododendrons, but in quantity, doing a fine job of bringing colour to the garden at this time of year, and also attracting bees. The beds are also sporting the blue of cornflowers and potentillas of lemon yellow and gold against the backdrop of senecio, pieris and wine coloured berberis. Just in front of the window, there are three roses in bud – survivors of the havoc wrought by numerous deer over time. Two nights ago, I saw a deer in the garden – I shushed it away, and the roses have survived again. Whether they will get a chance to flower remains to be seen. It was cold last night, so I don't discount the possibility of frost. I will wait till next month before putting out bedding plants. We still have winter flowering velvety pansies in yellow and purple, in two tubs and two hanging baskets by the front door.

We have three rainwater butts, and have used them to water wherever it was necessary – not the grass, just plants. The butts were only one-third full, after five or six weeks with no rain, but the rain last weekend refilled them, and we're getting a fourth butt, in case of dry weather, late in the year. Not that I'm complaining. This has been a wonderful spring.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My last book circle read - The Lacuna

I didn’t really enjoy this book, to start with. There was so much concentration on the writing and not enough on the main character. I recognised that this was a literary book, but each time I put it down, I couldn’t remember anything about it. For me people are more important than lyrical writing. I can’t say that I will enjoy something that’s badly written, but I can be tempted in to almost any good story and good characters.

Initially, the hero, Harrison Shepherd, doesn’t seem to have an identity. Each person that he works for seems to give him a different name. I started to get interested about page 70. Whether before or after that, I enjoyed it when Harrison is first employed to make plaster by sculptor, Diego Rivera, and liked the idea of him becoming expert at it because it was like making dough for sweet buns. I liked the beginning of the relationship that had developed, there.

I began to see the humour in the Harrison’s words and descriptions. Gradually the book took off, and I enjoyed all the latter part, as he progressed to manhood (and became an influential writer) and particularly the important relationships in his life – that with Lev Trotsky, with the Mexican artists, Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and most of all, with his secretary and protector – Violet Brown. I was also extremely interested in the period of the ‘Un-American activities’, the witch-hunts, which Harrison falls victim to, and moved by his increasing sense of aloneness and desertion by many. I appreciated and applauded the ending.

I would give the book 3.5 if I could, not, 4, because it took too long to get to the point, but better than 3, because in the end, I enjoyed most of it. Just as I would have chopped a chunk off the end of Poisonwood, so I would contract the beginning, and get to Violet Brown much, much faster, in The Lacuna.