WiP Still?

Apologies for my absence of late, especially after the cliffhanger announcement of being bitten by a horse.  To wrap that up succinctly, at the Changing of the guard, we had a photo with a horse that bit my left arm but luckily I was fully layered up and survived with the ability to still not be able to juggle in tact.

In other news, after nearly ten years of this blog, I am having a bit of a wobble, and not certain if I wish to carry on or not.  It does, on one hand, give me the odd opportunity, a chance to chat with wonderful people like yourselves, and is also something I am quite proud of.  Yet with the time it takes to write posts, the diminishing returns of late, and the loss of friends who just stopping blogging, it seems like a bit of a luxury.

Stopping seems like a waste but I am wondering what my aim is now.  I started the blog to chat with people about books, I wanted it to be a platform to get me further into the world of books, but aside from a few false starts that hasn’t really happened.  Any advise would be most welcome.

Changing Places

On Sunday, we took the last-minute decision to put off our imminent return to the Philippines. The news from South East Asia was all about the Corona virus being rife nearby, and a baby with little immune system made it easy to delay until the beginning of April.

A death in the Philippines coupled with a government that had, until then, refused to shut the border to mainland China, Macau, and Hong Kong, due to ‘diplomacy’ issues was also deeply concerning.  Since we changed the tickets this has thankfully been rectified but it remains a worrying time for all over there.

We still took our planned trip to London to do a bit of exploring.  It was good to visit a new place, although London doesn’t interest me particularly, it is Instagram heaven for Filipinos.  It was enjoyable seeing new scenery and and eye opening to compare Londoners to dwellers from other cities. Continue reading “Changing Places”

Baum’s Books

Sorting through the boxes from last year’s house move, I came across all the books that had been sent to me over the past years (more than I care to remember – the years not the books).  All had of course been caring and lovingly stored and finding them has brought back some great memories.

With a misty-eyed gaze into the past I recalled many memories associated with long ago blog posts, bloggers, and life events.  Of all those books, the ones my eyes looked for straight away were those of Mr Stephen Baum, AKA Bumba, who is still blogging today, and one of the few original readers of this blog, left after the almost ten years of my writing.

Bumba was the first author who ever approached me with the offer of a free book (Up in the Bronx) in exchange for an honest review.  Having skim read my original review – not wanting to read deeply in case I cringed so hard I couldn’t type this – I will leave it up to any interested reader to pass verdict on its vintage, or lack thereof.  All three reviews can be found in the relevant author page. Continue reading “Baum’s Books”

Gloaming Thoughts

The family snooze away in bed, and I write late into the night.  A beer on the go, and a nocturnal cool settles subtly on my bare arms.

Books are, of course, my chosen subject to write about, a topic that has so many facets, often hidden in plain sight, and so much scope.

Yet as I catch up with the notes on my recent reads, the memories of books long given away take over.

In this late and gently expiring hour, the recollections come thick and fast.  The night always makes one introspective, especially for the past.

On this particular night my eye – and hand – run down the imaginary bookshelf of recall, mixed with different eras of my collecting, the covers vivid and smooth.

An old Famous Five cover from a nearly complete set purchased years ago, the variously tactile cover of the hardback edition of Endymion Spring…

An exploration of architecture in Egyptian temples, and the stark bleakness of outer space, adventuring astronauts lost to everything but themselves.

It’s these times I value.  The unique wanderings in a labyrinthine world of words, reminding me of literary corridors I will, perhaps, walk down again…

Whether in contemplation or purposely.

Reminders of books moved on, in necessity or wrongly thought of as outgrown, treasures lost to me in haste.

Always these ghosts come at night, I like it that way, I am forever grounded in their literary shadow.  Elusive yet bound to my heart.

 

*Image found at Pixabay

High Windows – Philip Larkin

When Philip Larkin’s High Windows first appeared, Kingsley Amis spoke for a large and loyal readership when he wrote: ‘Larkin’s admirers need only be told that he is as good as ever here, if not slightly better’.

Like Betjeman and Hardy, Larkin is a poet who can move a large audience – to laughter and tears – without betraying the highest artistic standards.

When reading Philip Larkin’s poems during my A-levels I never properly appreciated his poems, which is perhaps to be expected at such an age.   Now approaching his work with more life – and reading – experience there is something about his writing that makes it both highly pleasurable and challenging to read.

High Windows deals in some strong stuff; death, failure, and aging are constant (and looming) motifs threaded throughout the book.  It’s a sobering composition but utterly compelling which drove me on to read and reread each poem multiple times.

There is a lot of pleasant imagery also, to contrast with the uncomfortable themes which at the same time amplifies them. A real feeling of nostalgia bursts forth, the heart-warming and traditional (villages, seaside memories etc.), this is shot through with jarring images of decay and threats of hell. Larkin does enough to keep the reader off balance whilst examining the reality of life. Continue reading “High Windows – Philip Larkin”

Taal Volcano

With yesterday’s eruption, now seems as good a time as any to dust off the volcanic ash on the Taal volcano draft and finish writing it.

Located in Tagaytay, and in view of many fine eating establishments, this is usually a go to area for us, both for the beautiful view and the constant need to feed, inherent in all Filipinos.

With the Filipino branch of my family situated about 18 miles from the volcano its been a worrying time, what with power and water outages, as well as the ash cloud which has reached as far north as Baguio which is 145 miles away.  On top of all this, one of our dogs recently gave birth to seven puppies so we are excited to see them when we return, although worried for their little lungs in the meantime.

Taal is the second most active volcano in the Philippines and the world’s smallest active volcano, the photo I took, below, is from  a typical day, a view from, unsurprisingly, a restaurant in calmer times. Continue reading “Taal Volcano”

Renaissance Books

Wandering around the websites of various publishers, I was delighted and a little surprised to find one of my reviews was featured on the website of Renaissance Books, hereRenaissance Books are academic publishers offering a new, robust and independent platform for peer-reviewed scholarship on Asia Pacific, in particular East Asian Studies – principally in the Humanities and Social Sciences

From the website:

Renaissance Books was established in 1996 to promote gifted, aspiring authors and books of general interest. Later, its focus moved to East-West themes relating to people, culture and way of life.

In 2015, the imprint was re-launched in order to concentrate on scholarly reference in the Humanities and Social Sciences, publishing especially in the field of East Asian Studies, notably Japan and Korea, as well as Central Asian Studies. To this end, we have launched a new peer-reviewed Renaissance Books Asia Pacific Series drawing on recognized authorities from within the region and beyond, offering a platform for comparative and interdisciplinary works on historical and cultural themes as well as those relating to contemporary issues, especially in Politics & Economics, Conflict Resolution, Globalization, NGOs, Security, Human Rights and Media Studies.

As someone interested in learning, especially in light of the proximity to the subject area in my adopted home of the Philippines (where I look forward to being later in the year again), it is a publisher that deserves a lot more attention for the body of work that they are putting out.