Category Archives: Books

One step forward, one step back

It’s   ‘best foot forward’ and  one step closer to  the special occasion mentioned in my previous blog post , but before  we get there,

One step closer, best foot forward

I want to take one step (plus several hundred more) back to a  dear character who entered my life in 2012.  If you are a long time follower of my blog you will have met her before but I am sure you will agree that renewing acquaintances is often as much fun as making new ones.

So, let me introduce you to ~~~~~~~~

Mrs Cockalarum

who arrived  on  Christmas Day , complete with name.  She is, in her regular domestic life, a decorative paper weight, only, most of the time, she decorates a chest of drawers and no paper comes near her. A dull life

She has a few animals to keep her company, including some of her own kind. However, every now and again, even a paperweight can do with a change of scenery and a new point of view, so I decided to take Mrs Cockalarum on an autumnal excursion.

Starting indoors, we tried out the floor,How's it down there?

then a higher  peachy perch, At the High Table

but her view was obscured so we went outside, where she dusted her feathers with the light scent of alyssum andSweet Alyssum

pecked at the sweetest red berries. Berry Good

After which she looked at the world from a seat made of corn and silken tasselsA sweet corn spot

and took a swing in a hanging basket.Swinging along

Today, the world was full of surprises for me and Mrs Cockalarum, not the least of which was finding this in the tree outside my house!How surprising!

Footnote: The berries are called New Zealand cranberries. They are delicious but are not much like any  cranberries that  I have ever tasted. Their real name is Chilean Guava ( Ugni molinae (Mrytus ugni)). Apparently the berries were a favourite with Queen Victoria. Mrs Cockalarum and I have given our unroyal seal of approval, too.Chilean Guavas

© silkannthreades

Another footnote:  Are you wondering about the word, Cockalarum, like I was?  I am not sure I would like Mr Cockalarum (wherever he is), yet Google tells me that cockalarum heroes were popular in their day. I have seen  Seba Smith’s Major Jack Downing  referred to as a cockalarum hero. Whether or not that is true, he is certainly an interesting character, a  “beloved American hero, whose name was synonymous with Yankee Doodle…”.

 

Return of the prodigal blogger

Yes! the prodigal blogger has returned. Did you notice that I  had been away, flirting with Instagram and loafing about on tropical beaches? Probably not. In any case, no need to rush to greet me with the fatted calf et al.   What I would appreciate, dear readers, if you are willing to indulge me, is some ‘sartorial’  advice, on the ring and  robe side of things. Good Lord, how I need it.

Fashion Failure or Fashion Follower?  Foto failure for sure.

Though, lest I judge my fashion sense too harshly, in some elevated circles  my attire, in this pose, would easily qualify me as a  dedicated follower of fashion.

Yes, well, moving on from odd assortments and mix and unmatch couture….

Very soon, I  will be meeting a little someone’s new friend. It will be a special occasion and I would like to honour it by wearing some purple accessories. ( Purple is such a perfect colour for important occasions. 🙂 ) Please give me your opinions on  which jewellery I should wear for our meeting.

 

As a thank you for your indulgence today, and  your patience with my absence,  I  give you the first, small posy of  spring flowers from my garden.

The first floral offering from my spring garden 2019

If you are curious  to know who the little someone and her new friend are, stay tuned to my blog. In the meantime, here is a  BIG hint.

Meeting Myrtle 2017

 

TTFN.  Hopefully,  I will have a few holiday shots to show you soon, too.

Celebrating Courage, Creativity and Grit.

One of the most satisfying aspects of blogging is accompanying (and hopefully supporting) fellow bloggers as they discover, pursue, and, eventually, achieve their dreams.

As writer, architect, traveller, and dreamer, Virginia Duran, explains in this video clip,  achieving dreams requires  persistence, strength, skill, creativity, and a great team of supporters. To her list I would add courage.

Virginia has courage as well as  all it takes to be an achiever of dreams.   I was thrilled to see her latest post announcing the publication of  her London  Architectour Guide , which has been  described as an “exquisite travel book for anyone passionate about architecture”.

Other blogging friends with oodles of courage and talent, namely Cynthia Reyes and Marisa Alvarsson, have delighted me and many others recently with their latest achievements.

Much admired and loved blogger, Cynthia, and her  lovely daughter, Lauren Reyes-Grange, have just  written and published the second book in the Myrtle the Purple Turtle series. As Cynthia recalls in this guest post  bringing Myrtle’s Game to us, the readers, was no easy task,  and getting it off the harvest table into our hands became a full-on family affair.  They had to adopt Myrtle-like persistence and determination to achieve their dreams. In ‘Myrtle’s Game’, ” Myrtle and her friends are turned away when they try to join in a game with others. The friends walk away, feeling hurt, but that’s just the start of the story.” With persistence, patience, and practice, Myrtle and her friends prove that even a  slow turtle can play the game as well as anyone else. And, more than that, Myrtle  shows us that the best team is the one which is inclusive and allows you to believe in yourself.  

Marisa, who has been a dear blogging friend almost from the beginning of my blogging days in 2012, began her social media life unwilling, like so many of us, to even mention her real name.  We knew her only  as Miss Marzipan, mother to a toddler, and confined to bed rest with a difficult pregnancy.   Today, thanks to Marisa’s creativity and courage, and  the support of her loving family, she has given herself permission to  embrace the dream of being the author of a fabulous cook book ‘Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats“. She is also a wonderful, kind (almost magical 🙂 ) presence on Instagram, with 146K followers.

Another achiever and  blogger, whom I have come to know in recent months is A Voice from Iran, Laleh Chini.  Like Cynthia she lives in Canada, and, like Cynthia, Laleh and  her daughter  Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi worked together as co-authors to produce ‘ Climbing over Grit’. “The story follows the journey of Najma as she is forced into a marriage at the age of eleven and faces the challenges of motherhood with an abusive husband, all while the eight-year war with Iraq is taking place.”  The story  is a tribute to Laleh’s mother.  And a tribute to Laleh’s determination to write stories important to her and her family, and which, she believes,  are important for the rest of the world to know.

Now, if, like me, you have places to go and things to do, and if, unlike me, you have your own dreams to pursue, you may not have time to buy or read the books I mention here, but I would urge you to take a closer look at, at least, one of these strong, creative women and their achievements.

I celebrate them all.  And I thank them  for letting me  be a small part  of their dream journeys.

Special note: the photos in this post are not mine. They belong to the authors and illustrators of the books featured.

ps  I may not be on WordPress very much for a few months, but I will do my best to check your posts whenever I can.

 

“Fancy all that fuss for a toy!”

For a long time Honey Bun lived in dark space in the attic, and no one, least of all Honey Bun’s owner, thought very much about him, for all that she had supposedly loved Honey Bun for 59 years.

One evening, when the Woman was going to bed, her head full of  worrisome questions about wills and property ( her father’s and her own),  and what to do next,  she suddenly had a dreadful thought which made her sit bolt upright and demand of herself, ” What will happen to Honey Bun when I am gone?” This was followed by an even more dreadful thought, “But where is Honey Bun? Where have I kept my sweet  little rabbit?  ”

The next morning, a foray into the deepest recesses of the attic, revealed Honey Bun  tucked away safely in a box with other family toys. The  Woman sighed with relief and clutched Honey Bun tightly to her heart.  “Honey Bun, how I have missed you,” she whispered into his long, soft ears.  Honey Bun, with eyes as brown and kind as ever, looked at the Woman and said not a word. There was no need.

The Woman took Honey Bun downstairs to her bedroom, determined to devise a succession plan for her dear rabbit, now slightly shabby, with tail becoming unsewn, but still with the sweetest, pink-embroidered  nose, and still with arms outstretched,  as if forever poised for a hug.

Whilst the Woman paced the room and wondered  to whom she could entrust her special friend, Honey Bun stared at her, fixedly and gently, and remembered how the Woman was when they had first met, all honey-coloured curls, blue eyes, and soft pink skin. The Woman was older now, shabbier and flabbier, wrinkle-skinned, and grey haired but, in the silence of the attic, Honey Bun had recognized instantly the Woman’s footfall and her whispers. Her essence was as integral to Honey Bun’s being as his own stuffing. Then, as Honey Bun continued to stare,  the Woman suddenly stopped pacing. She turned and returned his stare. A small, rueful smile played upon the corners of her mouth, and inside herself she said,” Fancy all this fuss and worry over a toy.”  No sooner had the words  crossed her mind, than she sensed a  shimmer of gentle reproach alighting on her soul. Though feather-light at first, the reproach grew heavier as each hour passed.

By evening the Woman was weary and no closer to finding a new home for Honey Bun than she had been earlier in the day.  Weighted down by feelings of unease she went to her bed, where Honey Bun lay patiently  waiting the outcome of the Woman’s wonderings.  In steadfast faithfulness, Honey Bun had remained exactly where the Woman had left him.  He had not moved an inch, just as he had not moved an inch all those years of waiting in the attic.

The Woman smiled at the sight of her long-loved bunny and placed her head next to Honey Bun’s on the pillow. She gazed into Honey Bun’s large, shiny eyes and saw her reflection gazing back at her with intense devotion. Her uneasiness lifted. What had she been thinking? Honey Bun was no toy.  Honey Bun was a presence as real as all her years.  There was no need to part, to find him a new home.  Not yet. They had years ahead of them to share . The Woman carefully tucked Honey Bun under her chin and drifted softly into sleep. Honey Bun was almost too happy to sleep, and so much love stirred in his little, soft  heart that it almost burst. But, eventually, Honey Bun, too, fell asleep,  pink nose twitching, almost imperceptibly, in the sweetness of his dreams.

Sharing the love: Honey Bun (59yrs) and Stella the Schnauzer ( ‘hardly me’)

“It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

 

With sincere apologies to The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams! (Can you recognize any words I have transposed from The Velveteen Rabbit?) This post was inspired  by The Velveteen Rabbit and by my mother’s love for a newly acquired teddy bear.

Beloved Betty

The teddy bear is about the size of a new-born baby. The teddy bear is named Betty and  has a name tag to prove it.  Betty wears a dress.  But my mother habitually refers to Betty as ‘he’ and occasionally will look at Betty and remark, with surprise,”Oh, he’s wearing a dress.”   Which makes me think that when it comes to love and soft toys, its love, not gender, which prevails.  Although I have referred to Honey Bun as a male, in order to be avoid being  annoying (linguistically) , Honey Bun has never been exclusively male.

Take a look, it’s in a book……somewhere

This is a self-indulgent post in which  I record my reading list ( read, reading, and to be read);  consider how far I have travelled without leaving home; and  note very briefly what knowledge, useful or otherwise,   I have learned on my literary tour.

It is a post which is the equivalent of an entry I would have made in my version of a commonplace book, more than a decade ago, before the computer stole my soul.

READ (Where I have been; quite far it seems)

What I’ve learned:

Danger Music by Eddie Ayres

Music will out even in the most dreadful of circumstances, hence the establishment of the amazing Afghanistan National Institute of Music

 

 

The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam

There is a rich tradition of poetry in Ethiopia, which is not well-known outside of Ethiopia. One particular  type of scholarly poetry is called q’ene and plays with the double meanings of words. It often introduces words from Ge’ez, the ancient Semitic language from which Amharic derives, now only used in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. So a q’ene will have a surface (wax) interpretation but also a deeper and richer (gold) meaning, giving it the title semenna worq (wax and gold).

 

Classical Music by Joy Cowley

Some books choose you. After all what are the chances of reading your life, as it is unfolding,  in the first sentence of the first chapter of a book which you selected randomly from a pile of donated books ~”My father is dead and it is raining.” Thus it was on both counts.

The Thunderbolt Pony by Stacy Gregg

Reading about recent earthquakes on my home turf still makes my heart race.

The Kettle on the Fuchsia by Barbara Harper

I am a  wimp. I would have been a useless pioneer. And it was interesting to realise that a  lack of aeroplanes and fossil fuels was  never a barrier to travel.

Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal Spitz

This book is available to us thanks to translation by Jean Anderson, founder of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation.  To understand each other we need to read each other.

A Notable Woman edited by Simon Garfield

Data collection is nothing new. We have just changed the way we collect it. Before Google and Facebook,  there was the Mass Observation project.  Mass Observation was founded 75 years ago in 1937 by the South African poet, communist and journalist Charles Madge and two English eccentrics: the filmmaker and polymath Humphrey Jennings and the anthropologist and self-publicist Tom Harrisson. Formed in the aftermath of the  abdication crisis, Mass Observation sought to bridge the gap between how the media represented public opinion and what ordinary people actually felt and thought. The Mass Observation Archives are at the University of Sussex.

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

Cows love to live in family groups and have a rich emotional life, not unlike humans.

Advice for Future Corpses by Sallie Tisdale

Was this the wisest choice of reading material for a Trans-Tasman flight? The book begins “Chapter 1 Dangerous Situation.  Right now: imagine dying.”   Turns out I can do that in mid-air though it did feel slightly uncomfortable.

Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller

I may never understand how  different people/groups/races  in a country can love their country more deeply and fiercely than they do their fellow man.  It’s a strange love that tears a country apart. And Scribbling the Cat is not a good thing to do.

READING (Where I am; in China and New Zealand)

Rewi Alley An Autobiography

Rewi Alley’s interest in China was piqued by his encounters with the Chinese Labour Corps  who worked tirelessly for the Allies during World War One.

To Read Maybe, One Day, Sometime…….. (Where I may go; New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the library)

Changing Lives  by Janice Marriott and Virginia Pawsey

The Curious Curiosity by Glenda Barnett who lives in North Devon and is better known to me as blogger Celia Ladygarden

Granite and Rainbow: Essays by Virginia Woolf

Wherein  I hope to read more excellent essays like ‘ Hours in a Library’  which is the source of this lovely quote about reading lists and notebooks.

 If we wish to refresh our memories, let us take down one of those old notebooks which we have all, at one time or another, had a passion for beginning. Most of the pages are blank, it is true; but at the beginning we shall find a certain number very beautifully covered with a strikingly legible handwriting. Here we have written down the names of great writers in their order of merit; here we have copied out fine passages from the classics; here are lists of books to be read; and here, most interesting of all, lists of books that have actually been read, as the reader testifies with some youthful vanity by a dash of red ink. We will quote a list of the books that someone read in a past January at the age of twenty, most of them probably for the first time. 

In conclusion: I want to  thank my sister-in-law and her sister who keep my bookshelves stocked with a wonderful, eclectic collection of excellent reading material. Without them I wouldn’t have read or travelled very far this year.

From my desks ~getting to know you (and me )

It’s a very modern saying
But a true and honest thought
That if you become a blogger
By your readers you’ll be taught

Jack and his peer group keep me company next to my blogging station..

As a blogger I’ve been learning
You’ll forgive me if I boast
And I’ve now become an expert
On the subject I like most

Getting to know you   ( from my every day work-horse desk)

Jack’s bestie, Diesil, staying close to my work-horse desk

Getting to know you
Getting to know all about you
Getting to like you
Getting to hope you like me  ( when I sit at my best desk )

My best desk, a gift from my parents

Getting to know you
Putting it my way (at my quiet space desk)

My quiet space desk

But nicely
You are precisely
My cup of tea

My tea cup of plums, my books to read, my chocolate, and Jack’s schnauzer toy, Stella.

 

Singing and Signing off from my desk,

 

Signing off from  my desk

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein and The King and I

 

 

Book List

The Thunderbolt Pony by Stacy Gregg

Classical Music by Joy Cowley

The Kettle on the Fuchsia by Barbara Harper

Touching Snow A Taranaki Memoir by Juliet Batten

The Faber Book of Christmas ed Simon Rae

 

© silkannthreades

From my desk ~ Chelonian Tales with a Difference

This is a post about two chelonians ~ Torty and Myrtle.

Torty is brown; Myrtle is purple.

Torty is a real chelonian.  Myrtle is an imaginary one.

Though time and reality and colour separate Torty and Myrtle, both are bound by the restorative  powers of compassion, kindness, and caring friendship.

Torty is New Zealand’s oldest survivor of World War One.  The story goes that, in March 1916, she was wandering near a bombed hospital in Salonika, Greece, when she was run over by a French gun wagon. A young New Zealand soldier, a medic on the hospital ship Marama, saw the accident and dug out the tiny tortoise from the wheel ruts. Torty’s shell had been gouged by the iron wheels of the wagon, and she had lost some toes. Her rescuer, Stewart Little, took her back to the Marama,  dressed her wounds, and cared for her. When the hospital ship left Salonika for New Zealand, Torty went to.  She became a favourite with the wounded, bedridden soldiers. On arrival in New Zealand, Stewart Little smuggled her ashore and cared for her for the next 60 years, until his death. Torty eventually found herself living in a retirement home with Stewart’s daughter-n-law, Elspeth, where she brought joy to residents and visitors alike.  When Elspeth died in 2015, Torty was given a new home with Stewart’s grandsons.

The story of Torty is told in Jennifer Beck’s  engaging  “Torty and the Soldier”,

Torty and the Soldier by Jennifer Beck

the last part of which reads:

“Stewart Little’s military service did not distinguish him from thousands of other Kiwi soldiers who served in WW1 in different ways. However, his simple act of kindness in a foreign land has provided the last living link with those who lost their lives in that war a hundred years ago.”

Our other little chelonian,  Myrtle, is an unusual hue for a turtle. As I said at the beginning, she’s purple; a rich, deep, decidedly purple, purple.

She is a fictional character, first created by author, Cynthia Reyes, 27 years ago,  to help her little daughter manage bullying at school,  and her ‘burden’ of  difference. Thanks to encouragement from Cynthia’s family, Myrtle has come out from her private shell and into the public sphere. She’s now the  star of  her own book.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes

In “Myrtle the Purple Turtle”, we meet a joyful, happy young turtle who loves her ‘turtley’ life until one day she bumps into a rude, bully of a turtle, who questions her authenticity ~ She’s purple! Turtles aren’t  purple! How could Myrtle be a turtle? Upset, bewildered, and hurting, Myrtle tries to un -purple herself, by rubbing her shell in the green grass. In the process  of trying to change her true self, her world is literally turned upside down. Lying on her back, stranded, Myrtle is finally rescued by  her three friends, Hurtle, Snapper and Gertie. They stand beside her, turn her over, and gently restore Myrtle to her feet. And, with kind words and compassion, the three friends help Myrtle understand that  we are not all the same, and therein  lies the wonder of each of us.  “We are all different from each other!” (declares) Myrtle, happy once again.

“We are all  different from each other!” #loveyourshell ( Can you spot all the chelonians? )

In  turtle terms, Myrtle’s life is only just beginning. I hope her longevity will rival that of a real-life turtle. I hope, like Torty, she will bring pleasure and comfort to generations. Torty’s legacy is one of loving kindness, reaching above and beyond the horror of war. May Myrtle’s legacy be a firm, friendly, loving stand against the ugliness of bullying, as well as against the demeaning of difference.

Both Torty and Myrtle are beautifully illustrated: ” Torty and the Soldier” by Fifi Colston; “Myrtle the Purple Turtle” by Jo Robinson .

And just because I can: –

As a tail-piece to these Chelonian Tales, let me remind you of the original, purple Myrtle. She was not a turtle. In the 19th century she became so popular (supposedly) that many people gave her name to their daughters. She’s a true beauty and she was the very first  purple Myrtle I  ever met.

Here  is her portrait by Robert O’Brien http://www.treeguides.com/ who is the excellent illustrator of the Texas A & M Forest Service’s   Trees of Texas resource/identification guide http://texastreeid.tamu.edu/content/TreeDetails/?id=55  ( Bob O’ Brien kindly gave me permission to use his illustration for this blog post. ) Myrtle’s  full name is Crape Myrtle, or Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica. She’s hardy and resilient and, although she is a native of China ( and Korea ), she is the Official State Shrub of Texas.

Crepe Myrtle by Robert O’Brien (with permission)http://texastreeid.tamu.edu/content/TreeDetails/?id=55

 

One last note: if you ever see the stories of Torty and Myrtle side by side, look at the colour schemes in each book and consider what they might mean, and how they make you feel about each story. Colour matters. In its difference, and its harmonies, it adds beauty and meaning to our world.

 

© silkannthreades