Tag Archives: reading

Well Read on Wednesday

New Orleans was on my Must Visit list from the time I started making such a list, way back when I was a teenager.  I got to check this off in 1990 when my DYS (Dashing Young Scotsman) and I took an extended trip to the southern states of the US.  I was not disappointed.  I/we loved everything about it.  We loved the Hotel St Marie in the Old French Quarter  just a short walk from Bourbon Street; we loved the food, the beignets at the Cafe Du Monde, the music, the atmosphere and most of all we loved the friendly people we met.

Do not disturb

Some may say that I wasted Wednesday afternoon but I disagree;  I spent it reading.  What was I reading all afternoon and well past dinner time?  The latest in the Charlie Fox thrillers – Die Easy, set in New Orleans.  Double pleasure.

If you were reading my blog posts in the middle of last year, you would know that I am a fan of Zoe Sharp and her feisty, female protagonist Charlie Fox.   I read the first book in the series after reading somewhere that Lee Childs thought Zoe Sharp one of the best thriller writers to emerge in recent times.  And I have followed/stalked Zoe and Charlie ever since.

I have awaited with impatience the publication of each book, and have read devoured each of them with undisguised pleasure, always in one sitting.  This tenth book in the series has not disappointed me and has kept me reading all afternoon.

Die Easy

This time we find Charlie and her partner/lover in New Orleans to act as body guards to a wealthy investor from Florida.   Many people feel that New Orleans the city and the people, have been ignored for too long and a celebrity  fund raiser is planned.  This is the reason Blake Dyer, the client, is going to be in New Orleans at this time.

As may be expected, this job does not go smoothly and is complicated by the fact that Sean Meyer, Charlie’s partner, has not totally recovered from the devastating accident that put him into a coma for several months.  He has woken from the coma  apparently recovered physically but there are large parts of his past that he doesn’t remember, including Charlie.

Even some of the skills at which Sean excelled before the accident seem to have deserted him/been forgotten and Charlie is not completely happy to rely on somebody who is not really at the top of his game to be part of her team.  However, she has no choice but to obey her boss when he says Sean is to be part of the close protection team.

Without giving too much away, Charlie has to face an opponent from her past, deal with a threat not only to herself but also to Sean and more importantly the client while all the time not being sure whether she can rely on Sean to watch her back.  A robbery turned hostage situation develops around the fund raiser and while there are many close protection operatives on board the boat, Charlie is thrust into the lead role as the one to ameliorate the situation and get the passengers off the boat unharmed.  As usual Charlie shows herself both physically and mentally able to cope with all that is put in her path, but with some disastrous consequences.

So I urge you to  get your hands on a copy of this book by fair means or foul – buy, borrow but perhaps I shouldn’t encourage you to steal – and set  aside a Wednesday (or any other) afternoon to read this book.

Once again I commend Zoe Sharp on writing this book, her imagination and her characters.  I like to think of her as a friend.

And I think this quote is particularly appropriate for this book.

A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end.  You live several lives while reading it. “~William Styron,  American novelist and essayist
1925 – 2006

Related posts

Five Facts on Frivolous Friday

I love Fridays – the end of the week and the weekend ahead – who wouldn’t like Fridays?

Indian vegan food

  • We discovered a new vegan restaurant today.  The owners are Indian and the food was scrumptious.  I don’t know the names of the dishes, but I ate a 7 vegetable dish, rice, soup, salad, hot carrot pickle, poppadums etc.  I left feeling pleasantly full.
    letter
  • I received a handwritten letter – yes not typed and not an email – from a friend today, whom I had not heard from for ages.  That was a real pick-me-up.
  • Lotte and I met new people and their dogs at the dog park today.  I love making new friends.

    Pile of books

    Just waiting to be read

  • I found a new author at the library today – well new to me.  This is a Swedish writer and though I have often seen his Detective Kurt Wallander in the series on television I haven’t read any of his books.  So I am looking forward to reading The White Lioness.
    Friday the cat
  • I have a friend with a large tom cat called Friday.  He is larger than Lotte and leaves her in no doubt who is in charge when we visit.  But Lotte just goes along with the flow and they seem to have come to some sort of understanding.

And so another less than memorable Friday hits the dust.  But the sun has been shining today even though it is still fairly cool.  Lotte has been exercising her lungs, barking at any and everything that moves in the street.

No sign of Andy yet.    I just know we are going to be great friends but I wonder where he is lurking.  Getting anxious about the little fellow.

 


Armadillos make affectionate pets, if you need affection that much.
William Jacob “Will” Cuppy (August 23, 1884 – September 19, 1949) was an American humorist and literary critic

My Lot is Cast

Those of you have read some of my earlier blogs will know that I have two very dear sisters.  One lives in London, UK and one in Los Angeles, California.  We keep in touch by phone and of course, emails.  Emails are always addressed to both sisters on the other side of the world.

Phone calls are rather more rare but it is great to hear their voices.  Recently after several many futile phone attempts I connected with my American sister.

We of course, discussed many things but we always without fail, discuss books we have read and those we hope to read.  Because at that time, I had just finished reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 I was full of this book.  Others have written great reviews of it so I wont do so here.  Maybe an idea for another blog?

My sister is a prolific reader and she shared several of her favourite authors and  books she had read with me.

She is apparently very fond of Nicola Upson’s series about detective Jacqueline Tey.  She quoted one of her favourite poem’s which came from the book “To Love and Be Wise.

“My lot is cast in inland places,
Far from sounding beach
and crying gull,
And I
who knew the sea’s voice from my babyhood
Must listen to a river purling
Through green fields
And small birds gossiping
Among the leaves”.

I don’t live in inland places – the ocean is about 10 minutes drive away, but I miss the sights and sounds of the ocean that I used to see from all the windows of my home.  It seemed that we were surrounded by the sea and it’s activities. For 15 years we lived in that house.  The children spent their teenage years there and we became almost immune to the fantastic views from most windows.  We could see not only the ocean with all its comings and goings (cruise ships, ferries, barges and tugs for the port)  but the planes landing at the airport, and the trains bringing people and goods into our capital city. So maybe this post should be headed “Trains and Boats and Planes”.

And as in this poem, now I don’t hear the crying gull when I awaken in the morning but I do hear the small birds gossiping among the leaves.  I love the thought of the birds gossiping.

I hear the sounds of busy families getting ready for their day – households waking up, newspapers being brought in, children going to school and parents to work.  The road outside my house is alive with activity for a short time each morning and then, as if a switch has been pulled, the peace descends and only those of us who are no longer living the busy years are left behind.

We have time for another leisurely cup of coffee; time to exchange pleasantries with our neighbours as we retrieve the newspaper from the drive; time to read the newspaper, complete the crossword and as I am getting older, I peruse the death notices just in case there is somebody I know mentioned there.

And so -

My lot is cast
In different places
Not beside the river or the ocean
But in the city with its life and vitality.
Not in the distant years of my youth
Nor the busy years of family life
But the peaceful years of time for me
To enjoy friends and family.
Time to investigate new things
New activities and new friends
Time to be me.

,old lady smoking cigar

Home again!

Having returned from a short, 5-day vacation I arrived home this morning and switched on the computer.  Oh my.  I was confronted by 720 unread emails, of which some 700 were from my prolific blogging buddies.  It is now 3pm and apart from a 15 minute sandwich break, I have been sitting here since 11.30am reading your many and varied posts.  Thank you all for sharing your thoughts, and if I don’t post a comment it isn’t because I haven’t read your post it is because there are just too many to comment upon.

So, that said, please accept my apologies.  By this time tomorrow, I shall be caught up again (fingers crossed).

In my last post I left you with some kangaroo words and for those of you who played my game here are the answers.

  1. rapscallion – rascal
  2. prattle – prate
  3. perambulate – ramble
  4. pinioned – pinned
  5. regulates – rules
  6. splotches -spots
  7. slithered – slid
  8. perimeter – rim
  9. curtail – cut
    respite – restClapping handsDid you get them all?  We played the game with our hosts a few days ago.  Much laughter and hilarity ensued but not everybody got the words right.
    So now, back to reading more blogs.

Madman, Murderer and Words.

By now you will have recognised realised that I am besotted by words in the English language.  I like the way they look, the way they sound and their meanings.  I can spend whole days following the etymology of words.

Imagine my delight then some years ago to be presented with a copy of “The Professor and the Madman” the story of the compiling of the Oxford English Dictionary and the two men who were so intimately involved in it.

Book cover - Professor and madman

The Professor and the Madman masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the “Oxford English Dictionary”–and literary history.” From the book description on Amazon.

Have you discovered this book yet?  It was written and researched by Simon Winchester and  published in 1999.

We are told that compiling the OED  was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken.   As definitions and quotations were collected, Professor James Murray leading the overseeing committee discovered that Dr W C Minor had submitted more than 10,000 words and their quotations.  The committee insisted honoring him at which time the truth came to light.

That truth – Dr Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was  an inmate at Broadmoor, an asylum for the criminally insane.

Dr Minor had served in the Union army as an  assistant surgeon and held the rank of lieutenant. He spent about six months attending to civil war casualties at hospitals in New England before being sent to the front line in May 1864. It appears that following time in the battlefield his mental illness resurfaced.  Because of this he had to leave the army and was sent by his family to convalesce in London.  He settled in a particularly poor part of London (Lambeth) where he supported himself by painting watercolours and playing the flute.  But his mental illness was never under control and while living there he shot and killed a brewery worker who was on his way to work, thinking that the worker was out to seek revenge for an earlier incident while Minor was in the US Army.

Minor gave himself up to the police and was sentenced to be confined in the newly opened Broadmoor Asylum ‘Until Her Majesty’s Pleasure Be Known’

While detained in Broadmoor where he had two cells, a manservant, a large collection of books, and, incredibly, regular visits from Eliza Merrett, the widow of the man he had murdered, Minor heard of the   ‘Appeal for volunteer readers’ sent out by James Murray, in which Murray asked interested members of the reading public to scour published literature for quotations to illustrate the use of English words. Minor, described by the Broadmoor administrators as particularly learned set to work assembling lists of quotations and by the mid-1880s was sending hundreds, and later thousands, of quotations on slips of paper  to Murray and his team at the “famous scriptorium at 79 Banbury Road, Oxford.”

The letters were  signed ‘W. C. Minor, Crowthorne, Berkshire’, and until he called upon Minor,  Murray had no idea that his most assiduous correspondent was an American murderer and an inmate at one of Britain’s most secure and infamous lunatic asylums.

The two men became firm friends united by the complexity of the English language.  Despite this friendship and the benefits of his involvement in the dictionary Minor’s illness became more acute and in 1902, he amputated his own penis in the belief it might curb his troublesome sexual appetite. Following this and prompted by Murray, the  Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, allowed Minor’s release and deportation in 1910.

Minor was farewelled by Murray and his wife and sailed back to New York where on arrival there, he was immediately committed to  St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC. He deteriorated steadily, was moved to the Retreat for the Elderly Insane in Hartford, Connecticut and in 1920 died of a respiratory infection

We know very little of his life after returning to the United States but his legacy as a volunteer reader can be found among the pages of the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary. Professor James Murray said of him at the time that “so enormous have been Dr. Minor’s contributions … that we could easily illustrate the last four centuries from his quotations alone” (The Professor and the madman p160).

Associated posts

Random thoughts

“There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”  Dalai Lama, Buddhist leader of Tibet

Today I have been catching up on blogs to which I subscribe and also following some of them to other places.  Random thoughts are rushing around my head and just so that you don’t miss out (ha ha) I thought I would share inflict some of them with on you.

  • I simply toss out the used coffee grounds after enjoying the taste and aroma of the hot coffee.  But did you know there are some people who use these grounds for all sorts of things.  For example have you considered making your own face mask? or use the grounds as an exfoliator or as a cleaning agent.  I found this blog - I don’t know how I got there – and as it says in the title it lists 6 surprising ways to re-use coffee grounds.  Um…
  • Christmas giving and celebrating.  I recently read a post where the mother had decided that Santa wouldn’t come to their house to leave gifts.  The boys were told that instead Santa would go to more needy houses.  That’s a great idea.  I wish I could direct you to the blog – it’s well worth reading – but unfortunately I deleted it and cannot remember who wrote it.  If you are reading this and it was you, please let me know.
  • Lunch at Mary Potter today.  Some new faces; a few missing having gone home and one leaving for long term care in a another center.  Changes each week; some good others not so good.
  • I heard Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable” on the radio this morning.  This song was played at my Father’s funeral and will always be associated with that very special man as far as I am concerned.
  • I thought about different words we use for the same items – purse, handbag and pocketbook.  Which do you use?  Hood and bonnet of the car, and trunk and boot; cookie and biscuit; jam and jelly; movie and film and on and on.  The same language, English, but two quite separate and different versions.  I wonder how anybody learns English as a second language.
  • Dinner tonight at a favourite restaurant, Chow on Tory,  where the food is described as ‘fresh Asian’.  My very favourite is Peking duck, served in lettuce cups and a new delight Castro’s blue cheese and peanut wontons with berry coulis, all accompanied by Jasmine rice.  Yummy.
  • Today Elizabeth at EOF737 asked Do you feel connected to your body?  Thinking about this made me say yes, most of the time.  I am of course, aware as the years pass that my body may have changed in shape and perhaps size, but it is still the body I was given and is still me.  And after all this time I still like my body.  Does that make me different from the norm?
  • I read another post recently that attracted 434 likes and 302 comments – how would I find time to respond to all of them?
  • I recently went to the local observatory and spent a couple of hours being educated and entertained about the night sky.  More on this in a separate post.

So you see this brain of mine has been running around in ever decreasing circles today.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.  And if tomorrow never comes?

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe; stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.
But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you”.  Winnie the Pooh to Christopher Robin

Winnie the Pooh

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

“She told me the best time to plant
a tree was 40 years ago.

The second best time is today.
Don’t waste even one minute of your day”
Robin Sharma from
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.

You may know that I have been reading books and acquiring knowledge on Personal Development for many years (since I was a young wife and mother with time on my hands).  I run courses on the subject and I have a library of books from many of the greats in the field including Zig Ziglar, Wayne Dyer, Jack Canfield, Louise Hay, Debbie Ford, Bob Procter and Deepak Chopra.  Amongst the books I have read time and again, is this one by Robin Sharma.  

Book

The book tells the story of a lawyer, Julian Mantle, who is forced to confront his life choices after an almost fatal heart attack while appearing at a trial.  His physical collapse makes him look closely at his life and how out of balance it is.  He has been busy collecting the trappings of life without considering the consequences of his lifestyle to both his health and his spirit.

He decides to look for happiness and fulfillment and determines that this will/can be found in India.  The book follows his ‘odyssey’ as Mantle describes it to a younger lawyer.

While it is told as a fable about a spiritual journey it’s based on Sharma’s own search for “life’s true purpose”.  We are shown how  encouraged to stop acquiring things and instead, to embrace destiny, live life to the full and discover joy.  On his journey Mantle meets with a group of Himalayan gurus and through them and his sojourn with them, discovers a powerful system to release the potential in him – mind, body and soul.  He learns to live with greater purpose, passion and peace.

In the book Julian Mantle learns to:

  • Develop joyful thoughts
  • Cultivate self-discipline
  • Value time
  • Nourish relationships

In turn, he learns to live fully one day at a time.  These things are what he wants to share with us, or at least those who will listen.

This may be a fable but it is worth reading because of the insights it gives as to what is wrong with consumerism and the relentless search for things.

If you have the chance, pick up a copy at your local library.

“The Constitution only guarantees the
American people the right
to pursue happiness.
You have to catch it yourself. “
Author unknown, often attributed to
Benjamin Franklin

Happiness is…

” …he was discovering happiness in the present.
When he sat reading in the library or playing Mozart in the music-room, he often felt the invasion of a deep spiritual emotion, as if Shangri-La were indeed a living essence, distilled from the magic of the ages and miraculously preserved against time…”
From “Lost Horizon” by James Hilton,
English Novelist 1900-1954

Book cover

Dust Jacket from the first edition. Via Wikipedia

Have you read this classic? It was a must when I was growing up.  The Second World War was just over and we wanted to believe there was a Shangri-La aka Utopia.  Perhaps we thought one would even be the outcome of the peace between the nations.

The book tells the story of a disenchanted member of the British diplomatic service stationed in Afghanistan.  To escape a revolution the white residents of Baskul are being evacuated to Peshawar, Pakistan but the plane is hijacked and Conway, the diplomat and his 3 companions disappear.  The plane crash lands, the pilot is killed and the four passengers seek shelter at a monastery named Shangri-La high up in the mountains of Tibet.

The book was published in 1933 so some of the prose is archaic outdated but it is well worth reading.  It caught the imagination of the populace and in fact, Camp David, the presidential hideaway, was originally called Shangri-La by US President Franklin D Roosevelt.

So what does Shangri-La mean to you?

  • Do you seek a peaceful and unhurried place to live out your life?
  • Do you want a serene environment with a place for everything and everything in it’s place?
  • Do you want to be surrounded by good friends who support you and who you can support in turn?
  • Do you want a world without war and aggression?

Some of these things are within our ability to achieve, if not 100% then pretty close to it.  Remember Lord Marks of Marks and Spencer fame said “The cost of perfection is too great.  Close enough is good enough.”  Imagine how you would feel if you could invent your own Shangri-La even if it was only 90/95% perfect.

  • We can slow down the pace of our lives.  We can determine how much we want to do (notwithstanding the fact that most of us have to work to live).  Do we have to be so involved in the myriad of things we have chosen.  Remember to slow down and smell the roses!
  • We can achieve a serene environment by de-cluttering (is there such a word) our home and office and getting rid of all the extraneous baggage that we have accumulated over the years.  If you haven’t used it or worn it in the past six months, chances are you never will.
  • We can reach out to friends offering our support and accepting their support in return.  If we surround ourselves with like minded people there is no room for the toxic folk who try to invade our lives and minds.
  • A world without war and aggression is not so easy to accomplish but let’s start in a small way.  Let’s try really hard not to react aggressively when confronted with something or somebody we don’t like.

I would love to hear your take on Lost Horizon and of course your thoughts on Shangri-La and how to achieve your own Utopia.

PS – I once stayed at a hotel called  Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort in Penang, Malaysia.  And it lived up to it’s name in all respects.

Sunday …

It’s 11.15pm on Sunday night and I haven’t written today’s blog.  It has been a busy day but that’s usual so why isn’t the blog written?

I had a lazy start to the day.  The sun was shining brightly and I had been to the library yesterday so had a new clutch of books.  I decided that it would be good to sit in the sun for a short time and read The Sinner by Terri Geritsen.  This is a writer new to me and I found her book absorbing.  So much so that it was suddenly 10.30 am and I wasn’t dressed and had to be in town to help at an Open Home at 11.45am.  So rush rush.

It was such a lovely early summer day – the temperature at one stage reached 21*F such a difference from the past few grey days that I felt like singing.  Luckily common sense prevailed because I think I would have scared anybody within hearing distance.  I do like to sing but only if I am alone with only my small dog to hear me.

We had a short walk and then it was home to make dinner for friends who were prepared to chance my cooking.  Have I told you that I am no cook and in fact had to learn all over again once my husband died?

Well dinner was a success – or at least everybody was polite about it.  Stir fried chicken, mushrooms and vegetables on rice with asparagus and a side salad.  I really couldn’t go wrong.

But then, after they had gone and the kitchen was restored to order I was sitting enjoying a last cup of coffee with the one remaining friend when I remembered my blog.

So just to keep faith with myself and my commitment, this is a very short blog today.  I shall do better tomorrow when I shall tell you about the last movie I saw at the Italian Film Festival.

A man is generally better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table than when his wife talks Greek.
Samuel Johnson, English author, poet and essayist.
1709- 1784.

Another Favorite

Her life was so sad that it was almost too beautiful to be true” Sacha Guitry (Alexandre-Pierre Georges (Sacha) Guitry)   French stage actor, film actor, director, screenwriter, and playwright.  1885 –  1957

Edith Piaf is my favorite singer of all time.  I don’t remember how or when I heard her first but for as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with her and her life.

She had this amazing voice that spoke to directly to you even if you didn’t know enough French to understand what she was singing about.  Of course, we all know “Non, je ne regrette rien”   and many of us have seen the film made of her life “La Vie En Rose”

Piaf movie poster

Image via Wikipedia

I have several books written about her life.  One I particularly like is by her half-sister Simone Berteaut.*  In it she tells of their meeting when Edith was fifteen and she was a couple of years younger.  It was at Alverne’s an acrobat friend of their father’s.  Simone describes the meeting:

“I was pleased to be going to Alverne’s.  His apartment was scruffy but we ate well there.  That was all I cared about, I didn’t think about meeting Edith.

“It was a poorly furnished, filthy little room.  There were some rings hanging in an empty door-frame.  A shapeless creature in a boy’s shirt was suspended from them.  It would never have occurred to me that this was my sister had I not seen two little white hands poking through the shirt sleeves.

“Are you Edith?” “Yes.” “Well, you’re my sister then”.

Edith invited Simone to join her in her life singing in the streets and that’s what they did.  As Simone says in the book “I put my hand in hers and we went off to sing in the streets”.  It is amazing to us that these two young girls were on their own and nobody cared what happened to them.  Remember Simone was not even 13 years old.  So they sang on the streets, mostly Edith sang and Simone collected the money and they hustled what they could.

The life they lived was not healthy or even sane but they survived.  And they continued to live this life until Edith  was “discovered”  by  Louis Leplé and started to sing in his nightclub and it was he who gave her the nickname ‘Little Sparrow’.  The fame and notoriety came as did the money, the booze, drugs, the men but through it all they appeared to have fun.

Two serious car accidents in 1951 led to a morphine and alcohol addiction that left her whole life running out of control.

Piaf claimed that she couldn’t live without a man in her life and she was rarely without one.  She married twice.  First in 1952 to Jacques Pils, a French singer and actor.  But despite it seeming to be a happy marriage it ended in divorce in 1956.

She later married  Theo Sarapo, twenty years younger, a handsome Greek.  This relationship ’caused more gossip than any of her other men.” But one year later , in 1963 Piaf was dead.

Her last appearance was at the Paris Olympia, racked and hunched over with pain and barely able to stand. Her last recorded song was “L’homme de Berlin” in 1963, the year of her death. She died in poverty and under Gallic law her husband inherited her “forty-five million francs worth of debts.”

Piaf’s funeral was massive yet, because of her lifestyle, she was forbidden a Mass but  Parisian traffic was completely stopped on the day because  the funeral.

*Note – In the almost 30 years since I first bought and read this book much has been written and said about Berteaut and her relationship with Piaf.  It has been claimed that they were not sisters and that Berteaut simply latched onto Piaf as a kind of parasite.  Whatever the true relationship was I still love the book.

“No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets
No! I will have no regrets
For the grief doesn’t last
It is gone
I’ve forgotten the past”