Book and Beer


Having a stab at doing something a bit different on the much ignored Instagram account, and thought I would put this mildly interesting effort on here, also. There are other things I could be doing but this seems like the most important when the day tops 21 degrees.

Having had a walk around the neighbourhood, and avoiding the main roads, it’s been lovely just appreciating the bright blue skies against the surprisingly many cherry blossom trees. Waving at dogs and horses and walking up steep pot-holed streets has also been a pleasure today.

A tasty beer and a great book in this glorious weather is the other perfect pastime. Washing down Irène Némirovsky’s words with a grapefruit infused IPA helps this reader appreciate the peace of the day, contrasting perfectly with those days in France as World War Two started to take its toll as superbly depicted by one of my favourite authors.

Both book and beer are highly recommended in any weather. Plant sold seperately. As per usual for a bank holiday weekend, the weather is expected to turn miserable so shall enjoy all this whilst it lasts.

Prehistoric Times and the Men of the Channel Islands – Joseph Sinel

On a whim I decided that this would be a good book to read, purely for the joys of random knowledge,  and the title told me exactly what I would be learning about.

Just from the cover alone I was already conjuring up vast tracts of time, movements of people and water, as well as all the associated bits of bone, tools and burn marks on rocks.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The reader is treated to a short preface where Sinel   romantises over epochs and the long journey taken by both humans and landscape.  He does this in a pleasingly poetic fashion by tracing the history of a  humble tree.

Being written in the early part of the 20th century a few terms are explained for the lay person, these terms I believe will be generally understood, or at least familiar to the modern reader.  Clarifications are all well and good if the rest of the text is up to it, and Sinel’s writing is clear and always interesting, he is both knowledgeable and enthuisastic about his subjects and it makes the book a joy to read.

Our journey goes all the way back to the land bridge,  the subsequent flooding and retreating of waters, a look at the wildlife and plants over time, a breakdown of classifications of different eras and sub eras of ages, and the occupations of the islands. Continue reading “Prehistoric Times and the Men of the Channel Islands – Joseph Sinel”

Channel Islands Water-Colours – Henry B. Wimbush

Recently I decided that I needed to know more about the Channel Islands, why?  Why not, is my default answer and there are probably few better reasons than that.  Having since hunted down a couple of books – as well as finding some obscure titles about other subjects in the process, more of which in the future – this is the first of two books I have to share with you.

Rather than concentrating on the stories and histories thereof first, this offering is a simply a series of watercolour scenes from the islands.  These are mainly from Jersey and Guernsey, as well as a token one each from both Alderney and Sark.

Strangely the cover doesn’t really give the inquisitive viewer any clue to the quality or style of the work, so throwing myself into the subjective world of art, I couldn’t help but be taken by this collection. Not only does it inspire travel with its attention to nature, but it also adds in a touch of the human encroachment and how this can be pleasant but also less palatable.

There is much to appreciate with these watercolours, whether it be a ferocious sea, a peaceful scene of boats around a harbour, or the impressive towering cliffs that adorn a few of the pieces.  The sea features in all of the photos, which makes sense for the subject of islands but the scope for the interiors now interests me and leaves me seeking art that is more inward looking. Continue reading “Channel Islands Water-Colours – Henry B. Wimbush”

East of Eden – John Steinbeck

California’s fertile Salinas Valley is home to two families whose destinies are fruitfully, and fatally, intertwined. Over the generations, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of the First World War, the Trasks and the Hamiltons will helplessly replay the fall of Adam and Eve and the murderous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

Like Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, there are certain books that you just know will become treasured reads even before the first page has been fully read. These special books also keep me awake at night, itching to write a review as soon as is decent and the coffee is brewed.

East of Eden is a sprawling masterpiece of a story, giving the reader far more to get their teeth into than the blurb could possibly convey, even if it were aiming to do so. Over generations the story tackles themes of revenge, love, good and evil, and a whole plethora of facets in the human condition.

Firstly, the reader is drawn in by the perfectly described landscape, and then once lovingly established, the believable and flawed set of characters is introduced.  I found myself interested in all their stories, from the side characters who rarely featured but whose fates were revealed, to the main protagonists who grew throughout the pages.  Continue reading “East of Eden – John Steinbeck”

Get Yourself A Free Book

Everyone loves free stuff, and what can be better than a good book bargain to take your mind off whatever is on currently on it?

I have been informed by my good friend Estelle – who runs a blog for the books of Indrajit Garai – that The Bridge of Little Jeremy, is currently on a free giveway on Amazon, which you can find at the link here.

I have also read and reviewed Indrajit’s two short story volumes, The Sacrifice,  and The Eye Opener, which I enjoyed immensely. Both of which I can happily recommend to you.

Here’s the blurb for The Bridge of Little Jeremy, check it out and indulge yourself in a story about family, the changing face of Paris, and the meaning of beauty, for absolutely no pennies.

Jeremy’s mother is about to go to prison for their debt to the State. He is trying everything within his means to save her, but his options are running out fast.

Then Jeremy discovers a treasure under Paris.

This discovery may save his mother, but it doesn’t come for free. And he has to ride over several obstacles for his plan to work.

Meanwhile, something else is limiting his time…

In Which Gods, Hairy Feet, Mortality, The Art of Queueing, and Vampires Are Alluded

We love mountains and hiking in our house,   and in the days when we can’t do much more than potter around the local field, we miss those adventures the most. It was this yearning which drove us to discover new perspectives and stunning scenery via YouTube.

Whilst searching YT, I began reminiscing about the wonderful book, Mountains of the Mind, which dealt with so many facets of mountains from art, geology, and exploration. I also remembered the mountain scenes from books such as, The Hobbit, Dracula, and James Hilton’s Lost Horizon.

Somewhat disconcertingly Crissy was telling me how she would love to end her days on Everest, which given the queues for the top in recent years is a distinct possibility. Slightly more worryingly was her insistence that I join her in this endeavour of finality were her dream of going there ever to become a reality.

This short documentary that we found, shared below, is beautifully filmed, perfectly capturing the epic panoramas, whilst delving onto the lives of the Sherpas, porters, and their families, those so often forgotten but who are the real climbers, teachers and pack carriers.

The harshness of their way of life, and that of their families left at home makes for powerful viewing, the appalling risk of the work done through necessity –  and the whims of foreign climbers – as well as their need to survive and make a better life for their children, is extremely impactful.

The mountains of the Himalayas may overshadow its inhabitants, but it is important to be reminded how much is given by those whose relationship with the mountain is more akin to that of deity and worshipper, than the I’ll climb it ‘because its there’ attitude of so many abroad. This is well worth its fifteen minute runtime.

The Past, Present, & Future: A Book of Poetry – Cody McCullough

Cody McCullough’s debut collection of poetry, THE PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE, delves into the fleeting nature of life viewed through the prism of time. Separated into three main collections, the work touches on topics ranging from the essence of life, to family relationships, to the natural world. Featuring poems such as THE TALL FIRS ARE DANCING TODAY and THE COOL MORNING AIR, the entire collection includes a total of 73 poems written in free verse. Through his unique style, McCullough takes the reader on a journey from the beginning of existence, to the end of time, and everywhere in between.

It’s a great pleasure today to introduce, remind, or reacquaint, the reader with Cody McCullough’s blog, and new book of poetry.  I’ve been a fan of Cody’s writings for a while now, and always enjoy my visits over at his site.  This collection written in free verse is his usual intriguing work.

As with the title, it seems only fitting to break down each part in turn, beginning, adventurously, with the Past:

Here, we have a considered look at childhood memories, of a fleeting time which the author does well to encapsulate the feeling of time passing.  This section is an exploration of the learning experience of the formative years, and of the memories that we hold all our lives.  There is something melancholy and a feeling of the lost, or perhaps lostness.

These poems – as with the other two parts – are mixed with writings of history, of past generations and a thoughtful look at a perspective of a universal past as well as the personal. The passing of time into history, the temporary, and how that, as well as the personal, is recalled, and remembered differently. Continue reading “The Past, Present, & Future: A Book of Poetry – Cody McCullough”

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”

Precipitate Companionship

As it has been raining a lot here recently, it brings to mind one of those thoughts that is made for just such days.  The creative flows when the rainwater does…

Precipitate Companionship

The ‘pock’ sounds on the fabric of the umbrella,
jarringly unlike the gentle susurrus of those
which thud on the ground.
Surroundings tingle all the senses,
the rising scents
the tangy taste on the air
the cleansed colours.

The walk is a glorious thing
especially shared with the closeness of a companion,
shoulders sometimes touching,
Perhaps an entwining
of hands on handle
A sense of total togetherness, intimate,
through delicate and momentary caresses.

The way that makes one feel
in no particular rush to be anywhere
time slackened
just existing
under the brolly,
a closed world,
Shared solely between two.

 

 

*Picture found for free at wallpaperbetter.com

Natural Literature

Norwegian poetry is not something I’ve come across much before, but through my reading of Northern Light: Norway Past and Present, A Critical Analysis, I’ve been widening my poetical horizons.  Olaf Bull’s Metope is my pick today as I really like the poem, and the author had associations with James Joyce and his writing of Finnegans Wake and Shakespeare and Company (the original one), to keep the literary theme going.

METOPE

You I would in rhythms fondly rivet tight!
You I would hold deep and lasting in the eternal
young alabaster of the poem’s flight!
You day-dreamer, moved by the sun! With your gaze
chastely turned toward evening’s pale gold, meekly
you turn a heaven towards another, as bathed
in light and tenderness and secrecy!
I would gladly forfeit verse’s every trope
were one thing in my power: to hew firm-lined
in memory’s stubborn stone a smooth metope
that could depict your shy, frail-contoured mind!

We stroll through moist and yielding ebb-tide sand! Your ear
takes in the plashing waves of the summer sea!
Devoutly we feel that the evening stillness here
ever outward shifts its sounding boundary!
A string of fading chimes that’s slowly shrinking
behind blushing groves and gold church spires again –
and softly gleaming air-waves that are sinking
like streams of sun from mountains – which remain!

The ridges all turn blue. The stars fill in the skies!
The last clouds hasten home at end of day!
The meadow is at prayer – from air’s ebb tide will rise
mighty Arcturus! Behind grey stone walls sighs
a slight breeze through rye’s fur of silver grey!
And through your gaze a warm, deep animation –
in a dark blur of blue the eye can find
a drifting droplet, honey moistly gleaming,
and quietly I ask you: ‘Friend – what’s on your mind?’ Continue reading “Natural Literature”