In praise of lazy mornings

In praise of lazy mornings

Something magical about moments of morning idleness in idyllic spots.  Surely they allow some quiet clean up of over-burdened minds, or just some simple reprieve from restless strivings?  But still, leisure has its rewards here as well: idle mornings of meditation in...
Eyes to the light

Eyes to the light

A servant is taken advantage of once too often and swears never again to lower herself, literally or figuratively.  Note the task demanded was ‘on her afternoon off’.  Joyce’s stint as a general maid in a grocer’s household was cut short only...
Leonine concentration

Leonine concentration

As I get older, I have a stronger sense of needing this kind of concentration.  So many dreams and projects to realise, filling more space than the (likely) time available to complete them.  This has made me less tolerant of things which seem inessential and jejune,...
Otter aquatics

Otter aquatics

Otters are playful and their element is water.  Here Gavin Maxwell’s companion Mij, having figured out where the bathroom is, slips between his human handler’s legs and makes a dash for the source of water. By the time I had caught up with him he was up on...
A safer daylight

A safer daylight

A deeply reassuring place this, with sunlit air and safety.  .. a different air blew there, and as if there was a brighter sun and a safer daylight.  Wishing you a safer daylight wherever you are.   Source: Mary Webb, Precious Bane (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p....
First taste of freedom

First taste of freedom

Freed from labour camp in September 1953, following the demise of Stalin, the few survivors still standing left the camp and headed for the nearby village, where they were given a simple, spontaneous and sensitive welcome.As I was thinking this a girl between eight...
Finding peace

Finding peace

An interesting piece of aunt-like advice from Martha Gellhorn to Leonard Bernstein.   She emphasises the importance of not only finding a nugget of peace within yourself, and the conditions to nurture it, but the fact that maintaining it is a constant endeavour, if...
They were not sad people

They were not sad people

It’s a few years since I read Steinbeck’s account of his visit to the Soviet Union with the photographer Robert Capa.  A wonderful book full of humour and empathy.  Among the many quotations I jotted down was this one, concerning the time they spent in...
Merry in the greenwood

Merry in the greenwood

Something blithe and enchanting about this description of the man she loves, before she realises that he loves her.  He is resilient, upstanding, independent, kind, and merry.  She loves him from the get-go, as he does her, though her belief in that takes some...
Freedom from alarms

Freedom from alarms

One of the joys of leaving a job is the growing awareness that waking becomes a natural process, rather than an aural shock.  This doesn’t necessarily mean waking late, just naturally, and I still get up as early as I ever did, about six in the winter and five...
Of life and lilac

Of life and lilac

This man is one who returns from the dead, from decades in a gulag in Siberia, released during one or another political thaw.  He returns to ‘normal’ life, and it is interesting to see the signs of it which make him realise it had continued even as he was...
Unsullied attitude

Unsullied attitude

Shirley is among the less known works of Charlotte Bronte.  At a time when women had considerably fewer options in deploying their energies and talents, Shirley is a strong character with attitude and resources.   I loved the ‘Pah to all that’ feeling in...
Intoxicating Ithaca

Intoxicating Ithaca

Golding took several decades to realize his dream of visiting Ithaca, and a few months to make his own odyssean journey there by way of Troy.  Many of his descriptions of this and other Greek islands are intoxicating in their brightness and warmth, particularly as one...
The most radiant conditions

The most radiant conditions

This lovely phrase, in a collection of essays by the poet Seamus Heaney, struck me as being in large part what the world is aiming for when it talks about sustainability, sustainable development goals and related rather dry terms. It is combined with an interesting...
The purpose of a house

The purpose of a house

To provide shelter?  A roof over your head? Security at night from wolves and thieves? A place to stash your stuff?  Yes, maybe, all those things and more. But also this: a place to dream in peace. I talked to her about Gaston Bachelard and his idea that the purpose...
In praise of the scruffy and marginal

In praise of the scruffy and marginal

I love hedgehogs and see them as an ambling, loveable, flea-scratching symbol of hope and freedom, as well as the rights of the scruffy and marginal to be scruffy and marginal.  If they can survive in your garden, your garden is healthy. If the species survives our...
Cheer up, you have escaped

Cheer up, you have escaped

Here Durrell describes the woman who became his second wife, who joined him in Rhodes after the war.  I was struck by the comment that a ‘sad childhood is poor preparation for unexpected happiness’, particularly as there were large parts of my childhood...

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