Get Well Message for an Old Friend

 TentCaravan  With Lyn and Peter on a ride

Des. Peter, Lyn

In caravan

Once upon a time there were two young couples who among other things used to go camping together.Now time has passed and one of the older ladies wanted to write to one of the older men to send him a few visual memories, to wish him well with his visit to hospital and hopefully put a smile on his face.  This is what she wrote.

Dear Friend,

! was sorry to hear that you are having a spell in hospital and hope that you make rapid progress and get home soon.

I was wondering if you remember anything about Set Theory, in particular the Intersection of Sets.

A ∩ B = ( x :  x Є A  ʌ  x Є B )

So if we say that

A represents the list of possible ailments for a man, and

B represents the list of possible ailments for a woman

Then

1.  I am quite happy to empathize with you if your present trouble lies in the Intersection Set Aas it  would be quite possible for me to have the same  problem as you

2.  I reserve the right to smirk whenever your ailment is such that A ∩ B = ф , i.e. your ailment doesn’t fall in the intersection set and there is no way in the world that I could possibly get that problem.

3. But I give you permission to smirk, gloat, snigger, grin, jeer, leer  and generally poke fun at my distress in the nicest possible way if any ailment that I should suffer from  also doesn’t lie in the intersection set and that there is no way that you could acquire that problem.

So….. whether your ailments lie in A ∩ B  or if A ∩ B = ф

                         GET WELL SOON.

 

The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin

Blackwater

I was listening to a respected program on the radio and one of the women was praising the work of Colm Toibin and looking forward to reading his latest work, The Testament of Mary.  The subject matter of this book didn’t appeal to me so I looked for one of his earlier books and found The Blackwater Lightship, published in 1999.

It tells a story of three generations of women in a fractured family in Ireland who have had little contact with one another in recent years but are brought together by the  life-threatening illness of a grandson-son-brother.

It was easy to read  and to watch the interactions of the three women and later their defences against both friends of the family and the town gossips, but as the book moved on there was a detailed description of the evolvement of a homosexual affair and lengthy descriptions of the effect of AIDS on the body.

Authors are told to write about things that they know.  I have no objection to being introduced to a wide range of topics belonging to many different eras.  Usually the  new information is in small doses and merely contributes to the story line without dominating it as in this book.  Was I reading a book about the relations between women in a family or a book about AIDS ? As a woman I think I would have found it more interesting if the patient at the heart of the story were  a young person suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy in a last ditch effort to control breast cancer or ovarian cancer or any of the other cancers that strike young women. But that would have to be written by a different author.

Looking back now at the selfishness shown by the three women and the grudges they held , even though on the surface it seemed as they would be able to co-exist in the future at a certain level, I didn’t find any deep resolution of their problems, which is possibly how it would happen in real life.

The author writes in an interesting and flowing style so if you are interested in the subject matter of his stories no doubt  you will enjoy his books.

Julian Barnes (and Van Loon)

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

My father owned a book called Van Loon’s Lives originally published in 1942 and it was one of my early reading experiences.  In  it the author invites pairs of famous people for dinner.  It didn’t matter if the guests lived in different centuries, this was a beautiful fantasy where a conversation could be constructed between very different people. Think of Sir Thomas More with Erasmus, Beethoven with Napoleon,  Mozart with Hans Andersen , Plato and Confucius, Chopin with Emily Dickinson.  I don’t know how the book would fare these days but for me it was a wonderful potted introduction to famous people in history. It’s back on my reading list after all these years.

I was reading a 1954 reprint of the book.   The endpapers show the supposed setting for the dinners.

Van loons lives

It was brought back to my mind when I started reading Julian Barnes’ “Levels of Life”.  As he started telling me about the early experiments with ballooning I found myself thinking I like this bloke.  I’d like to be at a dinner party where he is a guest. And hence Van Loon’s Lives !

I picked this book to read as I had so enjoyed his “Sense of an Ending”.  I get such a feeling of calm from his writings.

Levels of Life

But it’s an unusual book. Of just 118 pages I could call it a pot-pourri.  It starts off with stories of the early experiments with ballooning, the early adventurers escaping from the pull of the earth and an 1858 attempt at aerial photography.  We also learn a lot about the actress Sarah Bernhardt which you possibly hadn’t heard before, and then it moves on to his grief at the death of his beloved wife, Pat Kavanagh. For someone who normally lives a very private life, he is very revealing about his loss and its effect on his life.

At one stage his attitude to Death is “ It’s just the Universe doing its stuff.”  I like that.  It stacks up well against the usual condolences which are proffered. .  The Universe doing its stuff.  When we disintegrate do we break down into atoms or something smaller like an electron or a proton ?  I can visualize all my little bits and pieces floating around the Universe and hopefully one day in the distant future one of them will be re-cycled and become a part of a brilliant scientist or artist, writer or singer, pianist or doctor, someone who contributes strongly to their community.  Note that I didn’t include a Member of Parliament!

He appears to have no dependants, no going out each day to a regular job- is he alone too much with his grief ?  Would he have coped differently with  a fixed income and three children at school  That word LOVE needs a lot of consideration.  I felt there was so much dependency there,  Where is the borderline between Love and Dependency ?

Make sure you know the dictionary definition of uxurious before you start the book – excessively fond of your wife. .  He has a thing about people who don’t use the same meaning as he does, but then again he was a lexicographer for a while.

The copy of the book which I have read was published by Jonathan Cape.  I found it strange that it didn’t contain a list of the author’s previous publications.  When I enjoy a book one of the first things I do is go to the front of the book to find out what else he/she has published.

Since finishing the book a week or so ago I am still picking it up and opening it at random to read a paragraph or too.  I need to re-read the whole book. In the meantime, look what I found in Van Loon’s Lives – a lovely old bookmark.   British Commonwealth Day began in 1958, replacing Empire Day.

Commonwealth Day Bookmark

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson – A Few Thoughts

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Have you ever said to yourself “There but for the Grace of God go I” . Time and again you read or hear of incidents in which you could possibly have been involved had you passed through some point five minutes earlier, or five minutes later.  This idea crops up time and again in Kate Atkinson’s book “Life After Life”

The blurb on the back of the book says “What if you had the chance to live your life again and again until you finally got it right ?”

That’s not quite  how I saw the book.  For one thing I don’t think there is any “right” life   Life is just what happens depending on the choices you make, whether they are conscious choices or just plain chance. The blurb is saying that the “right” life is living as long as possible, bypassing all the side branches which end in death.

The birth of the main character Ursula has some variations interspersed through the book, but the story doesn’t go right back to the time of birth in 1910  for each life but merely backtracks to where the side track branched off .  It then continues until a new ending-in-death side track appears. But there is plenty of overlap at each re-start so that you know exactly where you are in the “right  life”.  I thoroughly enjoyed this form of tale telling.  There are plenty of other better written blogs than mine which will practically tell you the whole story from go to whoa but I prefer not to know too much detail before I start a book.

I thoroughly enjoyed Life After Life though at times it made me terribly depressed and I began to dread yet  another death.   So much death in a book reminded me of “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak,  a book where Death is a main character, yet I am only left with fond memories of that book.

The only part of the book where I did get bored was the European section !

With this book I’ve added a new word to my vocabulary – palimpsest – washing the manuscript page clean so that it can be used again.  And that makes me think of a writing slate I had as a child – so easy to wipe it clean to write on it again.

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Does your reading style change as you progress through a book ? Mine usually does. To begin with a few pages are read to dip the toes in the water, then a more regular group of pages are read in each reading.  As time goes on and the characters and the storyline are more familiar – they’ve  become old friends –  more pages are read at a faster speed in each sitting until you are practically gulping down the book

Dictionaries, and The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

Who would have thought that delving into the history of the Oxford English Dictionary would produce such a riveting tale of murder and madness, brilliant minds and dogged determination.

It was on Eliis Nelson’s blog that I first heard of The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester. And what a great read it turned out to be. Over the years there had been other attempts to make collections of words but the Oxford English Dictionary  was the first great attempt to set out the history and meaning of every word in the English language.  Supervised by Dr James Murray, hordes of volunteers collected words.  One contributor showed himself to be highly intelligent and absolutely the right kind of researcher for this task.

That researcher was Dr W.C  Minor.  He had been a surgeon during the American Civil War but signs of mental illness caused him to give up medicine.  While travelling overseas he suffered from delusions and in that state committed murder in London and was placed in Broadmoor  Asylum. The book is largely about his life story and his connection with the O.E.D.

Words are our means of communication.  I can only hope that the words that I have used so far in this post mean exactly the same to you as they did to me when I wrote them.  In my adult life have relied on three books to help me with the meaning of words  – Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, Fowler’s Modern English Usage and Roget’s Thesaurus.  I wonder how many school  leavers will actually add a physical, hold-in-your-hand dictionary as a must-have possession or whether they will just rely on online resources.

The changes that take place in meanings over the years can be a problem.  Some  words have changed so dramatically that I can no longer use them in their earlier meaning.   Recently I was feeling gay, using  it  with its old meaning.  But if I didn’t explain my meaning , you would just take the word gay at its present face value.  I didn’t want to say I was happy – that word to me  is too serene, too calm, very pleased with life.  But gay still means I am pleased with life at the moment but it has a bounciness, I want to give a little skip as I come down the hall, a feeling of sheer delight.   The meaning of happy and gay that you have built up in your mind dictionary might be slightly different to mine but there would be sufficient meaning in common for us to communicate, as long as you are old enough to know the previous meaning of gay.   So…. Yesterday I was happy.  Today I am gay,

Another word which is changing its meaning is marriage.  I’d be quite happy  to see that word honourably retired and have the lexicographers devise a new umbrella word to cover all forms of vowed intimacy, allowing for the fact that some time in the future someone will probably start agitating to include threesomes and foursomes !

These are all thoughts arising from my reading of the book.  But I was saddened by the amount of personal information the author gives us about Dr. Minor’s  illness.  I have done quite a bit of family history research and it’s always exciting when you find a new snippet of information apart from the official births, deaths and marriages – an old photo, a newspaper reference,  an old letter,  So it was enough to know from the newspapers the details of Minor’s conviction. It would have been enough to tell us how he went about contributing to the dictionary.  But Winchester had to  make a juicy story by invading the very privacy of Minor’s mind by using  the Broadmoor records.  Even though Dr Minor is dead I believe he is still entitled to his mind’s privacy.  The privacy of our mind is the only thing we really have.

On a personal note though my great grandfather used to buy the Birmingham paper once a week and reading it lasted him all week.  No doubt he read about the Minor trial in 1872 at the time when his first child, my grandfather was just a few weeks old. And another trivial note to tell you that a little black ant has just wandered across my laptop screen !  Now, where did he come from ?

If you are still with me then thank you for reading.  Isn’t it amazing what one book can bring out in you !

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Trusty friends

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

A few weeks ago I read   David  Mitchell’s Black Swan Green  where the story is told as seen through the eyes of a thirteen year old boy. Paired with this I have now  read  The Sweetness at the Bottom of The Pie by Alan Bradley, this time narrated  by an eleven year old girl.sweetnessatthe bottomofthe pie

We’re taken back to 1950 where eleven year old Flavia de Luce lives in a grand old house in the English countryside

I don’t remember the book mentioning where Flavia was receiving her education but she had this wonderful, ancient, private laboratory at the top of the house, complete with bunsen burners,  test tubes, beakers, flasks and   glass retorts,  as well as the contents of a vast array of  stoppered bottles and a library of old-fashioned chemistry books. It had been set up by an earlier member of the family, and, left so much to her own devices Flavia became an intelligent self-taught chemist.

When a body is found in the cucumber patch Flavia’s analytical mind springs into action and  she is off on the chase to try and find out what has really happened.  How Did He Die and Who Did It ‘

So where did the author get his detailed knowledge of chemistry.  One has to assume that everything he has written is accurate if he wanted to maintain his credibility. And thankfully it is given to us in small doses so that it doesn’t distract from the story line. Chasing the author on Google shows him to have a quiet but  interesting background.

Flavia scampers all over the place on her bike Gladys. It made me realize I miss  seeing that in my town.  Most of the few children I see on bikes are of primary school age.   These days I rarely see a schoolgirl on a bike and I no longer  see groups of boys on the corner of the streets, ogling the girls as they go by ! Bike culture has changed.  At weekends you will see family groups of Mum, Dad and the littlies going for a sedate ride wearing the required helmets. Then there are the serious lycra-clad exercisers, heads down bottoms up eating up the roads.  Bikes are now an extra to a life, not an essential part.

From the Family Album – Young Ladies and their Bikes 1950

Bendigo Teachers College Residence 1950

While growing up I used to ride everywhere even out into the country side .One favourite destination was a fire-watching tower in a pine plantation. These towers were manned by people in the summer so that any column of smoke showing a potential bushfire could have its bearing taken to be triangulated with sightings from other fire towers.  Many of them are still in use.

Within town boundaries there was the swimming dam, sometimes used in preference to the small concrete town pool.  The dam was great, both socially and for the lovely dirty brown water. Well worth the ride to the outskirts of town. But no matter where you went there was that final steep hill to  home which defeated me every time.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the wanderings it induced in my own mind.

Mainly Me, Me, Me and Liebster

Such a surprise to hear from CricketMuse that she had nominated me for a Liebster Award. How very kind of her. Thank you Cricketmuse

My nominator had asked me the following questions –

1. It’s 2pm on a sunny Saturday–where are you and what are you doing?

Heading for a coffee shop with a book under my arm., somewhere with big windows and a pleasant view.

Looking out through the glass

2. Given the choice of reading a classic novel or the latest bestseller which do you prefer?

The bestseller – so much to read and so little time to read it.

3. Could you work in a job without a window?

Only if I had no alternative.

4. How do you celebrate the first day of vacation?

Doing as little as possible.

5. Who is your favorite poet?

Shakespeare – his Sonnets

6. Do you think technology is affecting they way we converse with one another?

Yes – I enjoy the messaging but I do miss the verbal contacts.

7. Here’s the magic wand–what’s your wish?

To disable the vocal cords of a certain politician for a few days ! But that’s a rather negative answer when I should be saying feeding the starving in all countries or giving other countries a  health systen based on the one in Australia where you are given the best of medical care even when you’re poor.

8. What country would you visit if you won the sweepstakes?

Britain

9. Which pet do you prefer–traditional (dog) or exotic (hedgehog)?

traditional – cat

10. How many blogs do you read during the week?

About a dozen.. Read too many and you don’t do them justice. I like to have time to think about the contents.

11. What do you think of blog awards?

It’s a bit like a chain letter, but in a nice way.. But it makes you a link in the chain. Hello fellow Liebsters.

And she asked for 11 Random Facts about myself.

My first cat was called Henry after Henry V.

I have blue eyes.

I love carbohydrates unfortunately

I usually prefer the winter – it energises me.

A regret -I never learnt to ice-skate

A guilty pleasure would be to learn how to be a hacker, in a nice sort of way, just so I could have a little peek !

Favourite musical – Les Miserables – on stage of course, not on film.

I think that’s enough. You know what they say about giving away too much about yourself on the internet and I think I have already said far too much. !

And now I have to devise 11 questions which hopefully will be answered by those I nominate for A Liebster Award but which can be ignored if they are too personal.

1 Favorite book ?

2. Favorite Movie ?

3. Favorite TV Show ?

4. Do you go to concerts, either classical or other ?

5. What things get under your skin and stir you up ?

6. What time do you go to bed / get out of bed ?

9. Do you watch TV in bed ?

10. Do you like wearing hats – what sort

11.When you sing in the shower, what song do you sing ?

Now I can really see you, wearing your favorite hat, with a book and a DVD under your arm and some theatre tickets sticking out of your pocket. and on your way to your favorite protest rally ! Looks like you’re having fun.

Trumpet Roll – here is my list of nominees for a Liebster Award , in no particular order –

1. Serendipities of Life

2. Booker Talk

3.The Matilda Project

4.Cookies and Crafts

5. A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

7.Like the World

8. anspired

.9. EllisNelson

I don’t know about other people but I keep my reading list fairly short – a few regulars then a little time left to dabble with a random reading.f If someone has taken the time to write a blog entry then I need time to read and think about the entry, not just skim and discard.

The rules of the Liebster Award are as follows :

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (No tag backs)

4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog