Year: 2015

Snowflake | edge of evening

Between

Just a quick hello from these days in between. I love them, stripped of expectation & obligation as they are. We’ve been embracing muddy walks, long hours in the kitchen and playing new games (Rat-a-Tat Cat has won all our hearts). Then there comes a point in the afternoon — around 3 — when it’s already starting to grow darker & we close the blinds and put on a movie. We watched Short Circuit the other day & I realised that it was probably twenty-five years since I last saw it. The boys giggled like crazy & the Pip-Pop keeps asking to watch the robot film again. Today it’s The Minions & I can hear the laughter from below. I want to watch, but I want to read more. So usually I sneak upstairs & settle down with a book. And here I am: the sound of wind & rain against the windows, my coffee already growing cold & Anna Karenina waiting for me on the bed. I hope that your between-days are just as cosy.

A Christmas Card by Paul Theroux | edge of evening

We love: A Christmas Card

Whenever I see light feathers of snow moving slowly down a window to make a white pillow on the sill, and hear the thin moan of wind through casement cracks in a room where a fireplace is singing with flames, I remember the Christmas when I was nine, and our house at Indian Willows.  The Christmas Card by Paul Theroux We’re all home — from work & school — and it feels so good to be free of any obligations other than those we choose. No swimming, no ballet, no football, no rushing; just coffees with new neighbours & with old friends, cooking all of the delicious things that have become part of our family Christmas, and generally being in. Though the weather’s still mild, it’s turned wet & windy, and the winter solstice seems like the perfect time to stay close to home and close to one another. And, at long last, I bring you a Christmassy read. I saw A Christmas Card in the Oxfam bookshop last week and picked it up, inspired by Kerry’s reading …

Delve truthfully into the darkest depth

The point is what we tell ourselves about motherhood and child-rearing. If we keep talking about it in an idyllic way, like in many handbooks on motherhood, we will continue to feel alone and guilty when we brush up against the frustrating aspects of being a mother. The task of a woman writer today is not to stop at the pleasures of the pregnant body, of birth, of bringing up children, but to delve truthfully into the darkest depth.Elena Ferrante interviewed in the Financial Times, 11 December 2015 I read the new interview with Elena Ferrante the day after I finished her first novel, Troubling Love. And within it I found the answer to something that had puzzled me about her Neapolitan tetralogy, namely, how I can love her writing so passionately at the level of feeling and yet find little to admire at the sentence-level. This, I think, is the answer, A page is well written when the labour and pleasure of truthful narration supplant any other concern, including a concern with formal elegance. I belong to …

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers | edge of evening

The Yellow Birds

The war tried to kill us in the spring. As grass greened the plains of Nineveh and the weather warmed, we patrolled the low-slung hills beyond the cities and towns. We moved over them and through the tall grass on faith, kneading paths into the windswept growth like pioneers. While we slept, the war rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer. When we pressed onward through exhaustion, its eyes were white and open in the dark. While we ate, the war fasted, fed by its own deprivation. It made love and gave birth and spread through fire. Then, in summer, the war tried to kill us as the heat blanched all color from the plains. The sun pressed into our skin, and the war sent its citizens rustling into the shade of white buildings. It cast a white shade on everything, like a veil over our eyes. It tried to kill us every day, but it had not succeeded. Not that our safety was preordained. We were not destined to survive. The fact …

Mog's Christmas Calamity by Judith Kerr | edge of evening

We love: Christmas 2015

It’s that time of the year when life starts clipping along at an alarming rate. We enjoyed the Pip-Pop’s ‘big 3’ weekend & have now reached a hitherto unknown shore in our parenting lives: for the first time, our three-year-old is also our youngest. We’re beyond nappies and now, after the grand dismantling that took place on Sunday, beyond cots too. So, birthday over, it’s now all about Christmas. And I mean all about Christmas. The school Christmas Fair (the one I once took a two-day-old baby to!) is tomorrow. One child is singing at the Christmas market by the Cathedral this lunchtime. Another is practising his songs at pre-school for a slot at a nearby village church’s Christmas Fair next week. The school Christmas plays are next week. An innkeeper’s costume has been sourced from the lovely lady at the charity shop who spends all year turning old curtains into bespoke nativity costumes. The child who auditioned for a ‘big’ part and came home in tears because she’s Donkey number 3 has been consoled and is ready to make donkey ears over …

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham | edge of evening

Etc.

It’s getting to that point of the year when it feels like time to start looking back. Naturally, I record everything I read. I have for as long as I can remember, so when I see eight-year-old T dutifully carrying her evening’s reading down to the table each morning and listing it in her school book-record, toast cooling beside her, it seems completely normal. She adds the books to the teetering stacks on the piano stool behind her & I periodically take them back upstairs or back to the library and change them for something else I think she might enjoy. My own book record is a hardback notebook which starts in 2002. Before that, I would write the list in the back of each year’s diary. But for the last two years, I’ve simply listed the books I’ve read here and here. I keep meaning to copy them into my notebook too, but it’s a habit that I’ve fallen out of. But when I looked back over the list, I had a nagging suspicion that I was forgetting something. Then I …

The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud | edge of evening

Rereading: The Sentimentalists

When I was younger, and we had come to Henry’s house alone in those solitary summers of my father’s disappearance, I had imagined that the past really existed, semi-submerged, in Henry’s backyard. Wouldn’t that be enough for anyone? I’d thought. To explain that certain sadness, which I identified sometimes in him. A sadness that would make you, when you saw it, want to pull the edges of your own life up around you, and stay there, carefully, inside.  Now, though, I find it difficult to believe that anything is ever buried in the way that I had once supposed. I believe instead that everything remains. At the very limit; the exact surface of things. So that in the end it is not so much what has been subtracted form a life that really matters, but the distances, instead, between the things that remain.The Sentimentalists, Johanna Skibsrud I have a bookcase, the bookcase B bought me for my 30th birthday, in which I keep only the books that have struck me in some special world-changing way. Many of them …

Postcard from now

Last weekend we celebrated Bonfire Night with friends. Six children sat around our table eating pizza, while at the other end of the room a group of adults tried to chat over the laughter and fun. I moved between groups, happy as I always am when the children are mainly looking after themselves: all carefully counting the sausages to make sure that no-one took too many, helping Pops when someone took his glow stick, amusing themselves by trying to learn from the oldest among them how to make rabbit ears from their napkins. When we went out to the fireworks on the fields beside our house it was so mild that the children were taking their coats off. Two of them were even in shorts. It’s colder today, the sky blue between showers. I had a conversation earlier in the week with someone who felt just as I do. How, he asked, can it be nearly the end of the year? The last thing I remember it was just coming up to the summer holidays. I thought that …

Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker | edge of evening

Cassandra at the Wedding

I told them I could be free by the twenty-first, and that I’d come home the twenty-second. (June.) […] It’s only a five-hour drive from the University to the ranch, if you move along — if you don’t stop for orange juice every fifty miles the way we used to, Judith and I, our first two years in college, or at bars, the way we did later, after we’d studied how to pass for over twenty-one at under twenty. As I say, if you move, if you push a little, you can get from Berkeley to our ranch in five hours, and the reason why we never cared to in the old days was that we had to work up to home life by degrees, steel ourselves somewhat for the three-part welcome we were in for from our grandmother and our mother and our father, who loved us fiercely in three different ways. We loved them too, six different ways, but we mostly took our time about getting home.Opening of ‘Cassandra at the Wedding’ by Dorothy Baker It …

Cosmos & conkers | edge of evening

Harvest

Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible that all of the weeks have the same number of days. Last week for example had five, but one was for Harvest Festival and one was for teacher training & so tacked itself onto next week’s half term holiday. Another was for being lost in a maze with a two-year-old & someone else’s three-year-old. Or at least that’s how it started before the three-year-old ran away from me. Then I was lost in a maze following elusive glimpses of a small child who, it seemed, was going to take me round in the same crazy-inducing circle, time after time. I offer it as a metaphor for parenthood for someone to use in a short story. I’ve been reading lots of short stories recently. I’m loosely following along with the Iowa How Writers Write Fiction MOOC again. Loosely meaning I’m a week behind; meaning I’m listening but not actively participating. Anyway, I’m enjoying it for the reading recommendations alone. Last night I reread ZZ Packer’s ‘Drinking Coffee Elsewhere’ from her collection of …