Monday, 4 January 2010

Christmas Reading

Have to admit I've spent quite a lot of time reading these Christmas holidays. That's the result of too little on the telly that I fancied watching. Once I'd seen the two new episodes of Cranford, The final Doctor Who episodes and the last Gavin and Stacey, I was looking for other forms of entertainment.

I had stocked up on books from the library before Christmas as I knew there wasn't exactly a blisteringly good TV schedule ahead. I managed to get about six Anne Perry books from the William Monk series about crime in Victorian England. I read a couple of them, then realised I had one missing so had to order it before I read the rest. I hate reading books out of chronological order. So while I was waiting for the next book to arrive I branched out into some other authors who had written books about Christmas.

Skipping Christmas - John Grisham

I feel a bit of a cheat writing about this book. Up front I’ll admit, I didn't get right to the end of it. I was interested in this story about a couple who try to skip the commercialism of Christmas and go on a cruise. However it wasn’t because of any sense of sadness that the true spirit of Christmas has been lost. No! It was mainly because of the cost and the fact that their daughter is away from home for the first time in Peru!

The book cover described it as hilarious. Well it certainly isn't what I'd call hilarious. I’m not sure whether it shows the difference between the American and British sense of humour or the fact that it's just inaccurate hype.

I managed to get through the first part of the book and words I hadn't a clue about like:

- layaway
- crunchy
- satellite lot
- fire lane
- sackers

I eventually got about three-quarters of the way through and was beginning to admire the tenacity of the Kranks, in not giving in to neighbours, friends and colleagues who were critical of them giving up a so called traditional Christmas. (Have to say I'd emigrate if my Christmas was remotely like theirs!) However once their daughter rang on Christmas Eve saying she was coming home for Christmas and they abandoned their cruise and started to rush about like raving lunatics, I just gave up. It was ridiculous. Anyone with a single brain cell in their head would have already told their daughter they were going away on a cruise and if they hadn’t, then they certainly would have told her there and then. Once I start to read something, I usually see it through. Not this time! It was just too stupid to waste my time reading it any longer.

I found it difficult to believe that this was written by the same person who wrote The Pelican Brief!

My other Christmas book was:

This Year it Will be Different - Maeve Binchy

Now I do like a bit of Maeve Binchy. I’ve read a few of her novels, generally on holiday and they’ve been light with interesting and likeable characters.

What I hadn’t realised was that this was a collection of short stories, so I was a little disappointed when I discovered that there were twenty two stories in this book. However it was a blessing today as I was looking after my granddaughter who doesn’t start school until tomorrow. So once I started to read it was quite useful to only have to concentrate for short periods at a time. Anyone who looks after a five year old girl will understand. You have to break off anything that you’re doing every ten minutes or so to help with spelling, singing, drawing, dancing, making drinks, straightening the tights after toilet visits, answering a million questions such as “Why haven’t you taken down your tree and Christmas lights?” and so forth!

I loved Maeve Binchy's assortment of stories, some humorous, other heartrending, but all interesting and thought provoking. Her myriad characters were interesting, not always likeable but many were delightful and I found I was disappointed that some of the stories were so short.. I wanted more! Always the sign of a good storyteller.

Post 140

Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Gate of the Year

We’re at the end of not just a year, but the first decade of the century, ready to move into a new year and a new decade.

The last year or so has been a difficult one for lots of people, not just because of economic problems but there is the sadness due to loss of lives of troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was reminded of the dark period at the end of 1939 when the Second World War had started in Europe. However dark things seem to get these days, I can’t begin to imagine what people felt like in that terrible time.

Seventy years ago, King George V1 made his Christmas broadcast as usual and at the end he used the first part of this inspirational poem, commonly known as At the Gate of the Year. However it’s correct title is God Knows:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'

So I went forth and finding the Hand of God,
Trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone East.

The second, lesser known and not quite so inspirational part of the poem continues with:

So heart be still:
What need our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth his intention.

God knows, His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim,
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature: In Him
All time hath full provision.

Then rest; until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our minds shall fill.

The poem was written by Minnie Louise Haskins who is often thought to be American. However she was English, a grocer's daughter, brought up at Warmley, Bristol. She studied at London School of Economics and eventually taught in the social science department there until 1944.

The poem had been drawn to the King's attention by Queen Elizabeth, the present Queen's mother, and the lines were to be recited 63 years later at her own funeral.

Now there are two lessons I take from this:

1. I don't believe everything I read on the Internet. I like to check the source out.

2. No matter how bad things seem, who knows what the breaking of the day will bring. Tomorrow is another day, fresh, clean and untouched. It's down to me to help shape it.

Whatever the year ahead holds for us all, I hope it is a healthy and a happy one for you and your family. As my Dad used to say at New Year, "Here's wishing you everything you'd wish yourself!" Have a wonderful year in 2010.

Happy New Year Pictures, Images and Photos

Post 139

My Singer 338!

Well here it is my very first sewing machine, the one I got for my 21st birthday in 1966! I know it cost my Mam  a lot to buy it for me...