The ugly colour war can turn a man’s soul


Some novels from the first word seem to fit a groove that satisfies on a deep level. The groove small children find when a story takes them out of themselves with an expectant sigh. It does not have to be a favourite story, it can be new and strange about something they know nothing of. All they know is this is worth their complete attention and wait for the magic to work.

Irene Nemirovsky: even the cadence of the name conjures such expectation. An iconic kiss for the front cover, a period of history so much written of and lamented, a masterful and confident voice and translation; Fires of Autumn has it all in spades.

The novel explores French life in the great sweep of the 20 th century. Published posthumously and written in the last two years of her life, after she fled from Paris in 1940 and before her arrest and eventual death in a Nazi concentration camp. It is a prequel of the Suite Francaise masterpiece.

It is a coruscating, tragic evocation of the reality of war and its dirty aftermath and the ugly colour it can turn a man’s soul.

We do well to remember when banalities are bandied by Cameron and his ilk, as they square up and posture for unleashing the horror of war.

Not a blog post to speak of

As a list of chores I have done cleaning, cooking, gardening, and tending the Boxer.
An impressive list.
In reality, only the cleaning was impressive. All the rest was a swift and timed half hour or so of wilful neglect.
The cooking merely reheating, the gardening an intense leaf sweep and dig of roots from a very overgrown patch. The sum of the short bursts of digging will I hope add up to a cleared patch large enough to do something with.
As for tending to the Boxer, after a brief sit in our garden in her wheelchair having been lured with the offer of sunshine and our Sunday paper, when in fact the sun had already gone from the front – lately her only access to the garden unless we have it paved all round – to be abandoned while I did the cooking, gardening ( I had already done the cleaning)

Returned to her own snug little home just in time for her carer to actually do the tending….so I could escape home and do the only thing I wanted to do, but had put off all day.
That is to click my fingers over the key board.
Not a blog post to speak of.

Did I ever tell you I met Colm Toibin?


This isn’t one of those articles that goes on to publicise a new biography and isn’t even a claim to fame. It is just a coincidence, or if you were to believe such things, serendipitous.

We had wandered to the central library in New York to admire the lofty ceiling of the foyer and found a small crowd standing listening to none other than CT.

His books were new to me, and Brooklyn, the first but magnificent introduction.
I was given Brooklyn by a very erudite nun, Elizabeth Strub. A wise woman who spoke to us in honeyed American tones. I know I was impressed at the time, but now of course would have to look again what her topics was. To do with love, for sure and a person’s duty viz a viz their fellows to do everything in their power to mitigate injustice, hunger, cruelty. Fired by her at the time but slithered back to old ways now, with other people and their problems a mere worrying crease in the brow.
I will be forever grateful for having my eyes opened to CT’s luminous, delicate prose.

CT spoke of the Testament of Mary with a rather angry contingent. His stage adaptation of the novella was being performed in N Y. And a woman took great exception to the imagery. He answered with such grace till eventually rescued by his interviewer and the talk moved on.

If we do one good thing


Simplistic I know in light of recent events in Paris to think that the world could be saved by kindness, but doing something bad daily is certainly a downward spiral.

Random acts  satisfy fleetingly. Perhaps a concerted effort, an orchestrated effort, is more the thing.

How effective the effort in Paris! Sad the force of evil has the upper hand.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy


I resisted reading The Road for quite some time, thinking it would be too bleak, too depressing. Now it seems I will be on The Road for ever, reading and re reading. It is impossible to put down. A work of beauty, a seminal work that should be required reading for those who make decisions for us.

A man and his young son have taken to the road, post apocalypse, heading south for the warmth and, one suspects, in hope of better things.

Hungry, freezing and sick by turns, beset by dangers and marauders, they walk, keeping their spirits and their humanity as best they can in the terrifying aftermath.

The world of the book, full of pathos for what is lost, near total annihilation, grey with billowing ash, burned or rendered bodies on many pages, is presumably the result of some terrible man-made or nuclear disaster that is never specified.

It is worrying prescient. Daily news has that impending doom to it as dull untrustworthy governments dice with our wellbeing at the risk of all.


The bird in the house


‘There was a bird flying round the house,’ the Boxer told me.  She had no answer for what happened to it?or, how did it get in and out.

‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘but it looked quite startled.’

‘i expect you were startled too.’

‘I expect I was,’ she said vaguely, ‘but it was early.’

These days I suspect a slight detachment from reality. Lost in her thoughts she will not answer plain questions deflecting them with vague answers like, I can’t think right now, or I don’t know, you decide. Till I’m unsure whether this is simply because of the effort needed to answer or decide, or whether she actually doesn’t know anymore.
Things have slipped that once were sacrosanct. Take reading the newspaper cover to cover and marking up television programmes not to be missed.
Now, not only are the TV choices not made, but the ability to swap channels seems to defeat her too.
To be expected at 94 and a half, I guess.

A thick layer of black soot all over the fireplace and once pale carpet in the living room corroborated the bird story. Something came down the chimney bringing all the soot. The mystery of what happened to it remains but the window and sill in the back bedroom have black feathery imprints in the shape of a large bird..
Neither of us mention the myth that birds in the house presage death. Perhaps when the boxer closed her eyes in the sunshine after her ice cream she was thinking of that. More likely she was ruing the choice of flavours. The parlour is closing for the winter so there was very limited choice instead of the usual combo of mochaccino and raspberry ripple, it was monster’s blood complete with wriggly worms (I ate the worms) and white chocolate.

Still a rhapsody


The visitor plant is still a rhapsody and still jewel blue, just not aubrietia.  (I have seen it spelt three ways aubrieta, aubretia and aubrietia- take your pick.)

Lobelia, I believe.

There will be no carpeting and perhaps no return or survival after the winter unless the days continue sublime and mild.  It will be mourned when it goes with perhaps a plaque: in loving memory of my lobelia.