In Praise of Libraries.

When I was a child, we often went to the library twice a week. I have always loved reading and I’d choose four books on a Saturday, have them read by Sunday evening, and then return to a chess club to choose four more on Monday. I still remember my heart leaping when the final two books in the Drina series appeared on the shelf after a family holiday.

My library use dwindled after college, and was non existent before we moved to our new home almost two years ago. Happily, we can now walk to one of the libraries I remember going to as a child. The shelves and the smell are the same. It seems to have shrunk – I remember towers of books above my head – but the tiles are the same ones I walked on three decades ago. There’s a self-service machine to return and borrow books, but there’s also still enthusiastic librarians who’ll find a book with the skimpiest of details.

I went yesterday, and borrowed three books, two of which I had on my to-buy list and one of which has proved to be a mistake. No matter, it hasn’t cost me anything to give it a try. One of my smaller resolutions is to make the most of my library this year, as I did when I was a small child and I wished and hoped that a favourite book would be returned or a new book would appear on the shelf.

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In Praise of Libraries.

Sweet Caroline

The very first book I read in the Little House On The Prairie series was Little Town On The Prairie. I had seen the 1970s TV series but knew nothing about Laura Ingalls Wilder or her family. I remember the feeling when I realised the girl who was the main character in the book actually wrote the book. Groundbreaking for nine year old me!

It is probably safe to say that Laura doesn’t always make the best choices and is an impulsive teenager, as portrayed in the book anyway, like so many of us were. She does and says and thinks things she regrets. No surprises there for a 14 year old. It is supposed to be a time of life for making some mistakes and tripping up and hopefully learning from the big and small facepalm moments.

In an attempt to impart some wisdom into her hot headed daughter, her mother Caroline wrote a verse in her autograph album, and it is some advice many of us could do with, even if we’re not a rebellious 14 year old schoolgirl. I could certainly heed it more regularly, as could many working in a Government far, far away.

If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek, five things observe with care,

To whom you speak,

Of whom you speak,

And how, and when, and where.

I’ve been thinking about these wise words in recent days. I and many others should probably heed them, whether we’re living in 1881 or 2018.

Sweet Caroline

Holidays on Ice.

I read about Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris some years ago, and two Christmases ago I got hold of a secondhand copy (frugal and less wasteful!). It’s not exactly going to put you in the festive mood, but it is a great read. Santaland Diaries makes me laugh out loud. I haven’t been a Christmas elf, but I spent many, many festive seasons working in large department stores and I have seen and heard a lot.

If you’re looking for a darker, not always funny but eminently readable Christmas book I can recommend it. There’s not a lot merry and bright about the book, but it does make me think about Christmas and how 99.99% of the time the “Christmases” which are marketed to us are designed to make us feel bad. This book is an excellent antidote to that.

Holidays on Ice.

Ivy from Ivy, Made by Jill.

When growing up in the 1980s, our next door neighbour was called Ivy. I don’t know what age she was, but she was already a granny before I was born and my mother and her seemed to get along well. Every Christmas she’d drop in something for us, and usually nice books would form part of the surprise. I’ve only kept one of the books, a hardback copy (with dustwrapper! I was a careful child) of The Secret Staircase by Jill Barclem. I love Christmas and I was a voracious reader so this book was very precious, but I can’t remember why I held onto it for so long.

I heard that the author died on 15 November last. I hadn’t thought about the book in years and today was a day for settling on the couch with a coffee and thinking over Christmases past. The cover is heavy on the ivy, and I remembered Ivy when I read the book for the first time in what must be over 20 years. It’s just as magical as I remember and it brought me right back to my childhood Christmases. I read about Jill Barclem too, because I knew so little about her despite having held onto this Brambly Hedge book for so long.

It is an amazing thing to have created something so lasting and well loved, and to have given a little girl something she’s held onto for years. Jill Barclem gave the world the book, and Ivy gave it to me, and it’s made me think a lot about memories and the process of creating something which will last.

Ivy from Ivy, Made by Jill.

Let The Hurricane Roar

I’ve just finished rereading Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder. I adored the ‘Little House’ books from a young age, and borrowed them from the library again and again-I only read the whole series as an adult when I bought them for myself. As a child I didn’t put too much thought into how the books came into being and assumed they were as true to life as they appeared on reading them for the first time.

Her daughter, Rose, had a lot to do with the books, in terms of style, editing, story and writing. That’s not to detract from the books in any way, or to diminish them in my eyes or anyone else’s-they are classic historical fiction and my father enjoyed the farming descriptions as much I enjoyed reading about the daily lives of girls my age who lived so long ago.

Rose, one could surmise, repackaged many of her mother’s memories into her own prairie based novel, Let The Hurricane Roar, also called Young Pioneers. I read it once as a child but hadn’t thought about it for many years, until we had our own hurricane today. We got off lightly and managed to get many small jobs done as we headed the warnings to make only essential journeys and stayed inside once we’d secured anything that might blow away.

We have had running water all day, there hasn’t been a power cut (yet-I’ve jinxed that now) and we aren’t living miles from anyone who might be able to help in an emergency. I’m not feeling even slightly in the same category as the fictional couple in Rose’s book or the Ingalls family weathering months of blizzards in a wooden house more than a century ago.

Ophelia has left its mark here. I’m very glad we’re lucky enough to live in a place where hurricanes are such a rarity that it was back in 1961 where we had a day like this.

Let The Hurricane Roar

Tiny Sparks of Joy

An easy week in work and a not so onerous one next week.

Getting to the gym every time I wanted to.

More new to me Chalet books on the way to complete my collection.

A reorganised bookshelf and finding a book I was afraid I’d decluttered in my zest for organisation.

Nowhere to be this weekend. Last weekend was busy, it’s nice to have absolutely no plans for a change.

Tiny Sparks of Joy