Monday 30 June 2008
Saturday 28 June 2008
It's Buy a Friend a Book week and I've bought a wonderful book - one of my favourite bookish novels of all time - but I simply can't decide which friend to give it to.
So I'm putting it up for grabs in a free prize draw!
It's published by Quince Tree Press in a very attractive edition, with a nice stiff red cover and illustrations by the author.
I can't really overstate how much I love Harpole & Foxberrow. It is the ultimate book-lover's novel, in my view. It's quite quirky in style and structure, so I suppose, in theory, it would be possible to hate it, but I can practically guarantee that, if you are reading this blog, then (a) you will love it and (b) you will probably never have read anything quite like it before.
Anyway, for your chance to find out whether I'm right, just leave a comment on this post and I will draw the lucky winner out of a hat next weekend.
Friday 27 June 2008
For example, I've mentioned before that, had I not been familiar with the name of Alexander McCall Smith through my work on successive editions of the textbook on Medical Ethics which he co-authored, I might not so quickly have happened upon his No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books before they became big news in the UK. (And now he's one of the few writers for whose latest novel I will willingly queue at the bookshop door and gladly part with my hard-earned £££ for one of the first hardbacks off the press!.)
And then there was The Equal Opportunities Handbook, through which I encountered Martin Edwards, whose Harry Devlin and Lake District novels, short stories and erudite reviews have subsequently deepened my appreciation of crime fiction no end.
Thursday 26 June 2008
New members get a free book while stocks last!
See here for full details.
A welcome retrospective of Quentin Blake's 'other' covers - ie not the children's books for which he is most famous - on the excellent Caustic Cover Critic (which is nothing like as angry-sounding as its name suggests!)
I've been following with interest the debate about female protagonists written by male authors on Petrona. The post and its fascinating comments relate mainly to crime fiction, but this is a terrific subject for wider discussion, I think. Are women better at writing convincing male characters than men are at creating female protagonists? If we cast the net wider and go back to Dickens, the Brontes, George Eliot, Hardy . . . what then? Is Tess of the d'Urbervilles a less convincing woman than Jane Eyre? Does it matter? Do we care?
I confess I've often considered that many contemporary women writers do get under the skin of their male characters in a way that most male writers don't quite manage with their 'leading ladies' (and I use that expression deliberately). But I'm aware that this view may be skewed by my own reading habits, gender-political leanings, academic studies . . . all kind of things, and not just by gut feeling. And of course there are some notable exceptions, some of whom are mentioned in the comments following Maxine's 'challenge'. I guess only a 'blind tasting' would really do the trick. An interesting excercise for a book group, perhaps.
Wish I had more time to think about this properly, but unfortunately my time is wholly consumed right now by a densely written typescript on the subject of the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. Oh joy.
I can't sign off, however, without mentioning that I received a delightful email from a hitherto 'silent reader' of Musings - all the way from Prague, attaching a jpeg of a beautiful little watercolour of some sea glass. You can see some of Debara's paintings of sea glass and other 'finds' on her new blog here .
Wednesday 25 June 2008
The photo gallery editor, Ian, sent me this link, which explains how this phenomenon occurs (equinox -tick; midday - tick; cirrus clouds - tick).
Just the thing while you're enjoying a long cup of coffee, or lunch, or just an idle ten minutes - click here and start the slideshow. There are shots of clouds (and a few rainbows) from all over the world - from the everyday clouds we all too often fail to marvel at, to the breathtakingly beautiful and the wildly freakish.
Also on the Cloud Appreciation Society site I found a link to these amazing photographs of clouds from above - taken from the Space Shuttle.
SD#1 appeared early on in the proceedings in a small ensemble, performing a gloomy and angst-ridden piece entitled 'Happily Ever After', which she and five friends had written as a team effort. It was disappointing that the amp on her bass guitar didn't seem to be turned up loudly enough. In fact, it didn't seem to be turned on at all. She seemed to be playing along but either my hearing had taken a turn for the worse or something was decidedly wrong. Oh well, it was fine otherwise, and everyone clapped wildly when the piece ended and they trundled off the stage to make way for the next group.
In the interval, SD#1 came to find us: 'My guitar's, like, totally broken?', she wailed. 'I was, like, miming all the way through?'
I haven't assessed the damage yet, but it seems that someone had knocked the bass over and, when it crashed to the floor a couple of the pegs had bent or twisted to such an extent that it couldn't be tuned, or wouldn't hold its pitch, or something. I will pack an arm and a leg in a large-ish bag and take them with the guitar to the menders later in the week. I don't suppose it's going to be cheap!
Mercifully, her clarinet seemed to be intact and in fine fettle for the grand finale by the First Orchestra, which rounded off the evening - a long and challenging medley from Phantom of the Opera. More tingle moments.
Tuesday 24 June 2008
Romance is going down a storm in Gould's native Canada. You can follow the progress of the author's launch tour on her new blog.
I thought Katie Hafner's book was terrific and it seems I'm not alone - see these reviews: Newsweek; The New York Observer; Ottawa Citizen; Corduroy Books and Blog Critic Magazine.
For a brief glimpse inside the book and to read the first chapter, click on the widget below:
Monday 23 June 2008
Wow and gosh and I feel I should be wearing my best frock and shoes (though funnily enough I'm not) in order to accept the award most graciously and gratefully.
It come from Michele of Hedgelands Glass & Gems - who has helped take my idle interest in sea glass up a few notches to something approaching an obsession, and who has transformed some of my favourite pieces of Mersea sea glass into some lovely pieces of jewellery.
So now it's my turn to nominate five bloggers who have brought Beauty [and/or], Love [and/or] Joy into my dull and muddy little life, by the sheer power of their blogging. And you will notice that I have put aside my oft-rehearsed, antisocial, sourpuss-won't-play 'no tags' rule for once - because I think this is something rather different and I do sincerely welcome the opportunity to highlight five of my favourite blogs and bloggers. I've mentioned and linked to them all before but here, all in one post (and in strictly alphabetical order) are my nominees:
May December Home Accessories - I can't remember when or how I first landed upon Barb McMahon's May December blog, but I've been a regular visitor ever since. Barb has an amazing gift for spotting the interior design potential of all kinds of unlikely objects. She's a champion recycler, a generous advocate of the work of other designers and craftspeople, a great writer and all round lovely person. She runs three other excellent blogs: Pannifers Food and Such, Basically Unemployable and Stratford Daily Photo as well as being a guest contributor on several others, including Vintage Indie.
60goingon16 Warm, wise and wonderful, Diane's blog is just like Diane - unfailingly surprising, intelligent and thoughtful. Her posts have had me by turns falling off my chair laughing, signing up to campaigns and petitions, moved to tears, filling up my BookRabbit shopping trolley and downloading tracks from iTunes. I landed on 60goingon16 almost as soon as I started blogging (or maybe Diane landed on Musings first - I can't remember), and for me at least it was one of those 'ping!' moments when one simply knows one is going to like this person a lot. And nearly a year on, every time I visit 60goingon16, I still hear that 'ping!'
The View from the Last House in America - Kim and I 'met' through our mutual interest in the 1920s illustrator Gladys Peto (see Kim's blog here and my blog here). But her blog covers more than her love of art and illustrated books - there's family life on a farm which straddles the US/Canadian border, tours of local places of interest, and the latest addition to the family - the adorable puppy Maisy. And it was Kim who started the whole tea cup thing - so she's got a lot to answer for!
Uphilldowndale - home life, country life and the most wonderful photographs of 'watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in a rural area of northern England'. UHDD's pics are consistently wonderful - from spectacular sweeping landscapes to the most telling details from nature and local buildings. She has a keen eye for the quirky, the poignant and sometimes the unintentionally hilarious. In addition to the ones on the blog, there's a good collection of her photos on Flickr (check out in particular 'Square Circle', 'Tulip and egg' and some characteristically oblique shots from the Bakewell Show).
So these are my Famous Five - I raise my glass of supermarket Merlot you all!
'. . . it is caused by light passing through wispy, high-altitude cirrus clouds. The sight occurs only when the sun is very high in the sky (more than 58° above the horizon). What's more, the hexagonal ice crystals that make up cirrus clouds must be shaped like thick plates with their faces parallel to the ground. When light enters through a vertical side face of such an ice crystal and leaves from the bottom face, it refracts, or bends, in the same way that light passes through a prism. If a cirrus's crystals are aligned just right, the whole cloud lights up in a spectrum of colors.'
The conditions here were absolutely right - the sun was at its zenith and this was a high-altitude cirrus cloud. I wish my photo had done it more justice - the full range of the spectrum doesn't show very well, but the yellows, greens and blue were definitely there.
If anyone knows any more about such phenomena, please do get in touch. Maybe it's quite common and I'm just very unobservant but I don't remember having seen a cloud like this before.
Sunday 22 June 2008
Here's one of the island's WWII pillboxes - still remarkably intact.
Saturday 21 June 2008
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems . . .
Friday 20 June 2008
Like this pretty lavender-coloured glass ampersand from SpareRoomStudio on Etsy.
This Ampersand t-shirt seems to be in men's sizes only, unfortunately, or I'd wearing one right now!
Here's a gorgeous ampersand from the Zapfino typeface .