Saturday, January 30, 2010

Morning Sunshine Throught Ceonothus and Rose Leaves, 30.01.10

Looks like spring could be on its way ^^

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Long Time No See!

Well, this weekend I have finally found some time to catch up on the blog! I've missed it a lot but things have been extremely busy, and now that I'm at college I'm afraid homework and coursework have to come first! I haven't had much time to do much gardening etc. and the bees are all in bed for the winter...just as well, as we have had a really cold snap and almost a month of snow! Our village was on the news with some of the heaviest snowfall in the south, and oddly enough my Mum visited Toronto recently and for once we had more snow than they did! It has been absolute chaos, roads blocked, lorries jack-knifing...we've had nearly a foot of snow and everything has come to a standstill. Schools have been closed, and even when they're open some entrances have to be blocked off because of huge, dangerous does have some benefits though: everywhere looks so beautiful in the snow, and when you can't get your car out of the drive it means you have to walk everywhere...good for our health (provided you don't slip and break something, of course) and the environment. Although I have to say I'm slightly relieved now it's thawed! We spent 8 1/2 hours in a traffic jam when we went to get our Christmas tree, and although there was a great spirit of comradeship among all the stranded travelers, I'd rather not repeat the experience. And there's even a luscious hint of spring in the air today.

^ The village early one morning, in the snow

^ Our Christmas this year. Peeling sprouts, our tree, and chocolate pudding and syllabub with Christmas dinner!

^ Up until last February when we had snow, I had never seen icicles. The past few weeks they've been everywhere!

Anyway, as I have mentioned, things are rather quiet here in terms of gardening at the moment, although recently Dad and I did harvest and blanche our celery crop, by washing it, plunging into boiling water, cooling in ice cold water, and then freezing. I grew enough celery to last us 6 months this year (21 plants) so I'm looking forawrd to using it all in soups, chilli, stews...all the warming food you need when it's cold outside.

The animals are all doing really well. The ducks and chickens had been moulting in the autumn, which made them look rather scrawny, but they're now resplendant in their plumage. None of them have really enjoyed the wather recently, although the ducks are enjoying the mud now that it's thawing. Willow however loved the snow and took a lot of persuading to get back in the hutch every evening. And we now have a cat called Lucas, a stray that sheltered in the greenhouse at work after the storm and who has become part of the family. He'll probably go back and live in the greenhouse but we have been taking care of him at home recently. I'm not really a cat person at all - there are way too many of them in the UK, they kill the wildlife and think of all the energy that goes into producing cat food, not to mention the fact that what goes in and out of them absolutely honks - but I have to admit that it's great fun having a cuddly, fluffy animal running around the house. We keep him well away from the other animals however.... Alfie the tortoise is still hibernating in the fridge but we will wake him up sometime in the coming fortnight.

Anyway, something that I have been doing lots of at the moment is reading. It's one of the most enjoyable things you can do on a cold winter night, I find, and it's definitely useful for my Literature AS level too. A new string to the blog that I am adding for winter is a reading list - books I have read, am reading or want to read. Sorry to keep adding more and more things! But I need something to do apart from building new frames when the bees are in bed (and my English teachers are shouting at me).
Anyway, the subject of my course is First World War literature, and I am getting more and more interested in history, so this year so far I have read:
  • The Accrington Pals - a play by Peter Whelan.
  • Birdsong - a novel by Sebastian Faulks.
  • Up The Line To Death - selected war poetry
  • The Runes - non-fiction by Horil Svensson. I got a set of runestones for Christmas. I'm not sure if I believe in all the "mumbo jumbo" around things like this but the history of it all is so interesting and the runes provide a different viewpoint on life, so I am finding out more.
  • All Quiet On The Western Front - a novel by Erich Maria Remarque.

My favourite of these have to be All Quiet On The Western Front and Up The Line To Death. Up The Line was written during WW1, by people who could actually hear shell fire etc. while they were scribbling down the poems. The anthology features work by the greats such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and my personal favourite Isaac Rosenberg. It's so interesting because it takes you from the beginning of the war, when the poets all believed the jingoistic propaganda going around and that they'd all be home by Christmas, through to the work that describes horrific individual episodes in unflinching detail. I love Sassoon's work becuase it just drips sarcasm, but Isaac Rosenberg is my favourite. I love his poetry but even more I just can't believe how unfair it was that a talented, pacifist but poor, wheezy and short lad from the East End had his life cut short on April Fool's Day 1918. And he wasn't tall enough to be a medic, only for cannon fodder. Poor bloke.

All Quiet is fantastic because it was written in the 20's by someone on the other side - a German veteran. It's an amazing book about the power of the human spirit, and reminds me that there was suffering on both sides - when you study the English literature, that is always going on about the Hun and the Bosch, it's easy to forget that the opposing troops didn't have it any better. I also love it because it was banned and burned by the Nazi's in the 30's - a sure sign of a good philosophy. It's written from the first person too so you really feel like you're there, and the detail...the reported stories of men continuing to attack when both their feet had been blown off, or crawling back to safety holding their intestines in with one hand, and the inimitable's a really short book, it only took me a day to read, but it's one of the best books I've ever read.

Birdsong is one of my set texts, and I didn't enjoy it quite as much for several reasons, but it's still an amazing book that I would really recommend.

At the moment I'm reading:

  • A Small Sound of the Trumpet - non-fiction by Margaret Wade Labarge - all about women's roles in the middle ages. Really interesting and shows that there were powerful and influential women even in a society dominated by men and religion. And my village's castle is mentioned twice - I had never realised that the old pile of flint down the road was so important!
  • The Rune Primer - non-fiction by Sweyn Plowright
  • Mslexia issue 44 - women's writing magazine, absolutely inspirational. I have already had work rejected by them, which made me feel like a proper writer, haha! Poetry, short stories, flash fiction, articles...if you love literature, you'll love this, no matter what your gender or background.

And I'm planning to read (for the time being. The list gets longer every day):

  • Goodbye to All That - memoir by Robert Graves
  • Regeneration - novel by Pat Barker
  • Life Class - novel by Pat Barker
  • The Middle Parts of Fortune - novel by Frederic Manning
  • Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man - memoir by Siegfried Sassoon
Nice to be back blogging and hopefully the next post will be along much quicker!