All posts tagged: reading

all the books | edge of evening

All the books

Ten years ago this September, we went on holiday to the south of France. We were staying in a remote barn about an hour from Carcassonne. We got lost on the way, famously going the ‘wrong’ way — or at least the long way — round a mountain, on a road so narrow we couldn’t turn back. When we finally reached the road the property was closest to, we bumped up a steep and twisting 2km unpaved track in our rental car. Parked outside the stone barn there was an ancient yellow Citroën 2CV which looked like it might never make it back down the track. The barn was owned by an actor who lived in Barcelona & she’d furnished its open-plan room simply but perfectly: a low double bed, two desks each beneath its own window, a small sofa and armchair in the middle of the room, & a kitchen in one corner. There was a woodburner in the centre of the room & the September evenings in the mountains were cool enough for us to use …

Anna Karenina | edge of evening

Anna Karenina

Though it was a chore to look after all the children and stop their pranks, thought it was hard to remember and not mix up all those stockings, drawers, shoes from different feet, and to untie, unbutton and retie so many tapes and buttons, Darya Alexandrovna, who had always loved bathing herself, and considered it good for the children, enjoyed nothing so much as this bathing with them all. To touch all those plump little legs, pulling stockings on them, to take in her arms and dip those naked little bodies and hear joyful or frightened shrieks; to see the breathless faces of those splashing little cherubs, with their wide, frightened and merry eyes, was a great pleasure. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky And it’s proving a great pleasure, too, to read Anna Karenina. I hadn’t tried it for years and years, but this time something has stuck, and after never making it past the first book before, I’m now over halfway and hoping that it never ends. It’s not Anna …

Nourishment

It was mid-October and her breasts were leaking and they were hard as rocks and her nipples hurt; one of them was cracked and bleeding…Helen unbuttoned her blouse and Gabrielle latched on fast and her other nipple squirted fine threads of milk all over the kitchen table…Gabrielle snuffled in and sucked hard and the other breast was dripping fast and there was a drop of blood, bright red, on her other nipple and it slipped down her breast. from February by Lisa Moore Milk seeped into Kate’s clothes and sweetened and soured her chest and the cleft between her breasts every time she heard her baby cry, as soon as he cried. Milk wet her shirt when she sat own alone near her bedroom window and saw the exposed brown grass in the yard, rents in the snow, when she read some item in the newspaper about a child falling out a window, or saw a commercial for long-distance dialing on television…Her breasts let down and her uterus cramped sharply, turning like a small animal …

The Examined Life

Today the wind is banging the sash windows against their frames. The rain is fast and steady. It’s that time of year when I compulsively buy bunches of daffodils at the supermarket checkout. Fat buds within dry, papery spathes. And then – miraculously – overnight they split open, and at breakfast we’re greeted by a vase of glorious sunshine-yellow coronas. On the drive to pre-school we pass banks of snowdrops. Sheep nibbling the sodden grass at the edge of temporary lakes in the flooded fields. A village where blue pipes drain water away from the houses, out onto the road. ‘It’s a river now,’ observes the Moose cheerily. My thoughts linger with the owner’s of these – and so many other – flooded homes. It’s a week for catching up. I’m trying to get back on track with Dovegreyreader’s A Suitable Boy read. I’m somewhere back in part 6, and this month is, I think, parts 9 and 10. I stopped somewhere before Christmas, but it’s proved incredibly easy to slip back in. I love …

The stack

A lovely weekend. B’s birthday & we milk it for all it’s worth: dinner out on Friday; the first picnic of the year (yes, really! see the blue sky & sun in the photos!) at an Iron Age hill fort on Saturday; and a trip to a hands-on science centre on Sunday (The Biscuit: “This is the best day of my life. Ever.”). Still with the something small, every day. But the small is starting to get to me. That thread of writing weaving through the days makes me aware of how little I’m doing. What can come of it?, I start to wonder. I know that this is the practice, to feel that and just sit with it. To remember that it may be small, but it is at least something. That one day there will be time for more. Continuing the frustration, I seem to be reading about five books at once and I haven’t finished one yet this year. Meanwhile, both the literal piles of books around the house and the list …

All I want for Christmas

is my own book blog. Six years & thirteen posts doesn’t seem like the best of track records. But, in a spirit of early self-gifting, here we go again. Is there anyone else out there who’s waiting for an invitation in the post to join this most democratic of publishing mediums? I just need to remember that if you’re bored, you’ll go away. I’m not forcing anyone to read, let alone share, my opinion. Also, you’re not even there. Simple.

Miffy

The biscuity one sat on my lap for her first bedtime story on Sunday evening. We made it into the National Gallery shop the other week and I couldn’t resist buying a copy of Miffy. Reading to her for the first time was such a lovely feeling, but I’m not sure that this is the right message about motherhood to give to my tiny baby daughter If we could have a baby now, how lovely it would be, said Mrs Bunny, I could shop and cook and sew for three! On the other hand, I’m with Mrs Bunny when she tells the chicks that they can’t play with Miffy yet I’m sorry, Chicks, you’ll have to wait, kind Mrs Bunny said Miffy’s too young to play with you babies must stay in bed! and at least now I know how she fits all of that cooking & sewing in. —– Happy 3 month birthday biscuity xx

Reading aloud

When the biscuity one was very small, during the long evenings in which sleep (hers/ours) seemed an impossibly elusive state, we rediscovered the pleasures of reading aloud. One of us would joggle, baby on shoulder; one of us would read, eyes straining against the gathering darkness. B finished his epic reading of Nicobobinus (started last year, but hampered by my habit of falling asleep mid-chapter). I read the The Means of Escape, drawing us into the strange yet complete worlds of Penelope Fitzgerald’s short stories. Both suitably surreal for the endless hours that had once separated night from day. But there was one book so painful and so funny, so connected to us that it appeared to have been transferred directly from life to the page by a process of black magic. I first read Rachel Cusk’s searing account of motherhood in 2002, at a time when, though I knew that I wanted a child above all else, it was still a comfortably distant prospect. I can remember compulsively gulping whole chapters even then, peering …