What I read in November 2018 (Part 1)

The Art of Coorie How to Live Happy the Scottish Way by Gabriella Bennett

This book was promoted by its publisher, Black and White Publishing, on #TheTalkoftheTown in September. The Talk of the Town is a biweekly link-up for book bloggers. I have been linking posts there for several months. The bloggers co-hosting the link-up are Lindsay (Bookboodle) and Shaz from Jera’s Jamboree. Each month there is a giveaway. I was surprised to learn that I had won this book.

Gabriella Bennett is a journalist and the book has a similarity to glossy magazines, although the pages are matt. It is a very handsome hardback volume. The theme of the book is living cosily in spite of the Scottish climate and the midges!

I am not Scottish, but after England, where I live some fifty miles from the border with Scotland, I have spent more time in Scotland than in any other country. I also have some lovely Scottish friends.

I read the book from cover to cover and found much of interest. It is well-organised, well-designed and quirky, perhaps aimed at younger people. Once the idea of having a custom play list while entertaining friends had been mentioned, the book itself had a “Now playing” accompaniment. I found all the tracks on YouTube later. Some of them were more to my taste than others.

The linguistic style uses Scottish dialect words, as might be expected from the title. A glossary is included part way through. I found it much easier to follow the text than to follow the speech of some Glaswegians, whose company I have had on intercity trains. (They tend to speak rather quickly. One of the joys of reading is that the reader sets the pace and can reread anything, which needs extra thought.)

There are many aspects of The Art of Coorie, which match my own interests – walking, textiles, language, tradition, countryside, and beautiful photographs. It is a gentle book with ideas for places to eat, buy books and go camping (not my idea of fun!). There are even recipes for food and drink.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Scotland. There is sure to be something to catch the imagination, even if some sections are skipped. It would look well on any coffee table.


What I read in October 2018 (Part 2)

Both the books reviewed here were from the local library. The first was on a display ahead of National Poetry Day.

The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy

This is a beautifully produced hardback book with a ribbon bookmark. It is the both first of the poet laureate’s books, and the first, which I have read. Many of the poems include references to bees. I should like to read this with a group and discuss the poems. My own reading of it was rather superficial. It is a book to dip into rather than to read for hours on end. I read the poems in the order they were printed, apart from looking ahead to one of local interest to me. I enjoyed this book.

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin

I began reading this book before the two works of fiction reviewed in the previous post. It is narrative nonfiction and takes a great deal of concentration. I was tempted to give up, but then I found some really interesting parts and resolved to finish reading it. I had to renew it twice, although I might have finished it within six weeks, had I not had a week away. I finished reading it at the beginning of November.

I have already read and reviewed Waterlogged, Roger Deakin’s earlier book. I learned about him through reading books by Robert Macfarlane, his literary executor. After I finished reading Wildwood I looked at the copyright page and discovered that this book was published posthumously. I wonder whether a more readable version might have resulted had there been an opportunity for correspondence between the author and an editor. The book is divided into sections, but it is relatively unstructured and seemed to end abruptly. At one point it takes seven pages to reveal the name of the person making the change from first person singular to first person plural necessary.

I love trees and find wooden objects attractive. I have enjoyed walks in forests in England, Scotland, Wales and Oregon. Wildwood broadened my horizons even more than my own travel! There is a great deal of fascinating information about trees, forests and people who live and work in woodlands in many parts of the world. When he was overseas, Roger Deakin compared the landscape with familiar places in Britain. (I had been more surprised by the similarities between species in Oregon, than differences. I had expected it to be more foreign. This seems to be a human tendency – to relate the new to the known. It works well in Deakin’s descriptions of foreign places.)

Walnuts, apples, ash trees, eucalyptus, farmers, craftsmen, folk traditions, and almost anything imaginable connected with wood are included. As it is a travel book as well as a nature book, photographs would have been an interesting addition. However there are illustrations at the start of each chapter. There is a lot of description, setting scenes and describing tools, gadgets and more in detail. A glossary of technical and foreign terms might also have helped readers.

Although I have made some critical comments about this book, I am glad I persevered with it. There is a lot of good writing and interesting information in it.

I don’t usually read reviews by other bloggers before posting my own, but as I had some strong views about this book, I searched for other reviews. The first one I found agreed with me that an index would be useful in the paperback edition.


What do you want to be when you grow up?

This prompt from Post-40 Bloggers appealed to me, perhaps because as a child I was always nonplussed by the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? As an adult, I don’t think it is a particularly helpful question. Some questions, which might be more helpful in leading a young person to choose a suitable career include:-

What are your favourite subjects and your hobbies?

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

My own experience of being asked the question in the title resulted in some memorable exchanges. The first was when someone asked me shortly after a family outing to Bertram Mills’ Circus at Olympia. I replied, “A trapeze artiste”. The horrified expression on my mother’s face said it all! I think she had something to say about it as well.

Later on my ambition was to be a writer. This did not go down well with my family either. A relative, who had been an English teacher, produced her copy of ‘The Young Visiters’ by Daisy Ashford aged nine. Her implied message was: if you can write like this, then perhaps! I was twelve. Other reasons not to pursue a career in writing were that self-employed writing didn’t pay enough to live on and I hadn’t a tough enough skin to be a journalist. It would have been considered impudent of me to voice my opinion that someone, who had a degree in English and was not working outside the home, ought to be writing for fun if for no other reason.

The fact that I had produced a ‘school magazine’ with a friend, including pictures from magazines alongside writing and puzzles we devised ourselves, when we were both ten years old, seemed to have been overlooked.

I was more fortunate than many young people in the careers advice, which was available in the area where I grew up. At the state girls’ school I attended from the age of eleven, there were regular visits from people, who told us about the kinds of things we should take into consideration, when choosing a job or a career. Did we want to work indoors or outside in all weathers? With animals or children? I remember a talk about the General Post Office (GPO) as it was then and the range of employment that the Post Office and telephone service provided and another about the Civil Service. I also received some one-to-one advice.

Unlike someone I met later, who told me she had become a teacher, because the only professional people she had met were teachers, I had also met at least one accountant, architect, civil servant, engineer, probation officer, stock-broker and a few clergy. I was happy to be able to eliminate Vicar from my list of possible careers as at that time women were not allowed to be fully-fledged clergy. (I didn’t consider being a deaconess or a nun.)

I spent many a free lunchtime in the tiny careers room browsing the lists of courses offered by universities all over England. The A-levels required for each were set out. The range of choice was bewildering.

After making various decisions and gaining some qualifications, I ended up with a challenging job, where some writing was required. I had made most of my decisions before someone made me aware that God is able to guide us to make good decisions if we ask. (Sometimes we can be guided without being aware of it.)

It is only since I left paid employment that I have been free to pursue my own interests in writing. The lack of encouragement from my family and the fact that I did not gain as good grades at O-level in English as in most other subjects has not helped my confidence in writing-related matters. My next step ought to be to move on from being a blogger to being an author. Then I might consider myself properly grown-up!

Looking back over my experience, I would advise any young person to consider the interests they had by the age of ten, twelve or (at the latest) before they have to choose between subjects for examinations. Which careers are related to those interests? Enjoyable paid work is surely best for the individual and society.