Paint chip sestina

This week the Paint Chip poetry challenge from Linda Kruschke is to write a sestina. Do visit her blog for more information, her poem and links to the other participants’ poems.

The paint chip words and phrases you have to work with, in the order in which I pulled them randomly from the deck, are antique lace, sawdust, field of poppies, gold medal, safety orange, pinot noir, and the blues. Some of these might actually work well as end-words for your sestina. I managed to use one as such.

Linda Kruschke

Remembrance and memories

I sometimes wonder about family values.
My mother’s claim to fame as a student nurse
Was winning (in her final exams) a gold medal.
Dad fought in World War Two. No field of poppies
For him. Instead capture and farming to feed
The foe, while waiting for release and victory.

For me, not to lose my temper was a victory.
School rules instilled in pupils worthwhile values.
At home we grew vegetables and fruit to feed
Ourselves. If we became ill, Mum could nurse
Us back to health, without recourse to drugs from poppies.
Her devotion and self-sacrifice deserved a medal.

Through service Dad gained more than one wartime medal.
He had been repatriated after the allies’ victory.
Anemones were his gift to Mum rather than poppies.
Availability affected prices and hence flowers’ values.
It was after the war that Mum trained to nurse,
Learning the best ways invalids to feed.

In Trafalgar Square we bought some bird feed.
Soldiers in uniform wore many a medal.
They may have owed their health to a nurse,
And their liberty and freedom of speech to victory.
How have we lost our forefathers’ values?
They have faded and died like winter poppies.

But spring heralds new life; sprouting seeds of poppies
Lead to pepper-pots in autumn to feed
The birds, which live by different-from-human values.
Now Olympic sports competitors gain a medal
As a reward for record-breaking victory.
Never a grudge should the losers nurse.

In illness my children needed me to nurse
Them back to health. Painting tulips and poppies
Led to daughter’s art exam success – a victory.
Beauty does not fill a stomach, but can feed
The mind and spirit. A flower show medal
Is something its recipient values.

Mothers nurse, while babies feed.
Red poppies recall a dead soldier’s medal,
But Christ’s victory far exceeds earth’s values.

2 books I read in October 2020

Both the books reviewed in this post were BorrowBox books, which I read on my phone.

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Book coverI chose this book because I also have experience of working in a bookshop. During the timespan covered in the diary, every day The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland was open the author recorded the online orders and whether they were fulfilled, the till takings and a report of customers, staff and their idiosyncracies. His dry sense of humour and discussion of the state of the second-hand book trade in the twenty-teens make this an informative and entertaining book. His fishing trips and preparations for the Wigtown Book Festival as well as visits to people’s houses to buy books, add variety. I enjoyed it.


Book coverThe Muse by Jessie Burton is a bestseller. The first part was so authentic that I wondered whether it was memoir rather than fiction. One disadvantage of reading on BorrowBox is that I have not found a way of flipping to the end to check the author’s notes and other appendices. This is a historical novel set in the 1960s and 1930s. Some of the scenes described are disturbing. The whole novel is well-researched, extremely well-written and absorbing. There are hints about the provenance of one of the characters, which I was pleased to have noticed and guessed correctly. Works of art (and one in particular) form a thread linking the two historical periods. I shall be looking out for Jessie Burton’s earlier novel, The Miniaturist.

What I read in July 2020 (Part 2)

I have only read one more book this month. While browsing the available ebooks from BorrowBox I found The Anna Karenina Fix by Viv Groskop. The bright cover and endorsements on it enticed me to borrow it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only other book I have read which intersperses the author’s life experiences with information about books is Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm: a memoir of childhood reading.

Viv Groskop’s memories start at the time she decided to study Russian. She is trying to solve a personal mystery, which she weaves into the discussion of books. Her book is written for a general readership, but those with additional knowledge of Russian language and/or literature may enjoy it more. I studied Russian to O-level and years ago I read (in translation) at least two of the books she featured. The author finds parallels in her own life with the content of each book she mentions. Although I dislike reading ebooks, I found this fascinating, entertaining and informative. It has inspired me to borrow another ebook, this time one of the books she wrote about. (I have to wait another 2 weeks for library to reopen!)