Sunday, 2 July 2017

A few good reads

So many books, so little time.... a phrase often spoken by readers. Of course, it might help if we stopped buying and adding to the 'waiting to be read' pile, but who can resist an interesting cover, a good review, a freinds' recommendation? Not me... unfortunately. And it would also help if I didn't read for the Romantic Novelist of the Year Award, one of the many who get to receive a package of books to be read and reviewed each year. And if I didn't set myself challenges.... June's was to read a book that's older than me, lots of choice there, but have I managed to pick one? No. And July's challenge is to read a book by a foreign author, in English. Haven't even begun to think about that...
but here are a few I have read this last month.

Actually I am still reading 'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine'. Eleanor was hard to warm to, a stick in the mud, old before her time, and someone I thought was in her fifties turns out to be a young woman. But there has been a traumatic event in her past, leaving her with facial scars and a fractured relationship with her mother. So then I began to feel sorry for her, now, as she seems to be blossoming in, loosening up, letting people get close to her, I am intrigued as to where she goes now, so really enjoying this books.

'Heartburn' by Norah Ephron is the story of a marriage. Seven months pregnant and with a young son, Rachel discovers her husband is having an affair. She leaves, but he talks her into coming back, swearing that the affair is over. But it starts up again, and Rachel knows that she deserves better than him, better than this life. And she has a friend, Richard, who knows it too. Norah Ephron is the creator of Sleepless in Seattle, and though I enjoyed this novel, I preferred Sleepless!

Dorothy Koomson's 'When I Was Invisible' is another great story, one which was hard to put down, sadness in there, and a difficult subject really. Two little girls meet when they are eight years old and attending ballet classes. One black, one white. One goes into a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity, but are they each meant to be living the lives they lead?

'Miss Mary's Book of Dreams' by Sophie Nicholls is another for my collection of books, fiction and non-fiction, set in or about, bookshops. Maybe it's because I've always wanted to own a bookshop but never will, that I am fascinated by this type of book. Just love them and haven't had a bad one yet. This is for those who like a bit of magic in their novels. Ella runs Happy Ever After, a bookshop in a cobbled courtyard in York. She's a wife, mother, successful author, but something is missing. Then into the shop one day comes Bryony, and though she doesn't know why, Ella feels a connection with her. Bryony buys the Book of Dreams in the title and that's when the magic really begins.

Sheila O'Flanagans' 'The Missing Wife' is the story of Imogen, who is unhappy, leading a life she no longer wants, and so she has The Plan, which is to get away from her husband, Vince, a controlling man she no longer loves. She moves to a small town in France where she lived as a child, leaving no trail behind for Vince to follow. She gets a job, makes new friends and more importantly meets some old ones, and when Vince manages to unravel the trail and track her down, she finally has the courage to tell him how she feels so that she is free to get on with her new life.

'The Spy' by Paulo Coelho is a novel based on facts about the life of Mata Hari, the supposed femme fatal spy, who arrived penniless in Paris but soon became known as the most elegant woman in the city. She was shot a hundred years ago this October, for spying - based on evidence later describes by one prosecutor as "so poor that it wouldn't have been fit to punish a cat". An interesting and enlightening read.

So, that's it for now. More another time. Happy reading.... tell me what you're reading now (if you're a reader of course).

Saturday, 10 June 2017

A bit like Lazarus!

Well, he was raised after four days - this blog has lain dormant for considerably longer than that, and whilst I may not post regularly, I have decided I missed doing it. And even though I don't have much to say, don't lead an exciting, sociable life, there might be someone out there who would read it I thought. So here goes...

And the subject for today is... best friends.

Last Wednesday was Best Friends Day, no doubt an American import started by Hallmark cards. Like all these 'Days', I don't subscribe to them, being of the opinion that if you need a special day to tell Mum/Dad/Grannie/Grandad/Sister/Brother/pet dog/ Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all, that they mean a lot to you, are special, then it's a pretty rum do. You should tell the people you love that you love them, without a prompt. Being loved is one of THE most special feelings, don't you think? Loving someone is pretty special, even more so if it's returned. But let's not get on to unrequited love, this is, after all, meant to be an uplifting post. Sort of.

So, what constitutes a Best Friend? What sets one friend apart from another? Longevity of friendship? Sharing of deep and darkest secrets? The one 'go to' friend who will never let you down, always has time for you, no matter how busy their own lives? The one you feel most comfortable with, who has seen you at your worst, and your  best, and loves you warts and all? Well, probably all of those.

These days, it is my husband who is my best friend. He knows all there is to know about me, though there are some things I keep to myself. But he is the one I can offload onto,  the one who holds me when I am blue or in need of a hug for no reason other than it would be nice to have one, the one who listens to my ramblings, my moans and whinges, laughs with me at the silliest of things sometimes, the one who looks after me when I am ill (which happens too often for my liking), the one who makes fab pancakes and who is learning to cook so we can have decent meals when I am unable to cook. 

But I have been lucky and had two Best Friends in adult life. H, same age as me, spontaneous, funny, always there if I needed him, generous, discreet, and darned sexy too! We were friends for twenty years, until he got himself a young wife who wanted him to cut all ties, and so they moved abroad, rarely to be heard from again by family, never heard from again by his mates. Then there was Grace, older than me by more than a decade, not a substitute Mum, more your favourite Aunt. We spent time with each other every week, talked on the phone several times a week, gardened, baked, shopped, laughed and cried together. Her death from cancer many years ago now, was one of the hardest things I have had to come to terms with, and I was asked to write the eulogy for her funeral, which was read by her niece who is an actress. 

I still miss her so much, so often things happen or come to mind that I want to share with her, ask her advice on, moan about. We were good at moaning.... putting the world to rights as we thought it should be. This was one of the last photos of her, taken in the pretty garden of her Norfolk cottage.

 So, neither of these are around any more, and although I miss them, I don't really miss the notion of having a best friend who isn't related to me.  I have some really close friends now, wonderful ones who have been with me all my adult life in some cases. Some of them know most of what there is to know about me, some know the superficial stuff, and that's fine, they don't need - or probably want - to know more. They are penfriends, not people I meet up with. I don't have anyone I meet up with, and that too, suits me fine these days.

Does that make me sound like Billy No Mates? Maybe, but that doesn't bother me either! My life is a quiet one from necessity, but more by choice. It is made up of crafts, art journalling, books, our beautiful garden, simple pleasures of watching old black and white movies together, sitting quietly reading together, cooking together, the occasional outing, and for me, meditation as well since I became Buddhist. It's not a life to everyone's taste, but it suits us both. Completely different to twenty years ago, but then, so am I.

I hope you have a Best Friend and that you don't need a special day to tell them how important they are to you.

To my special friends, thank you for being part of my life. And we're not done yet!!!