What I read in August 2020 (Part 5)

The last two books I read in August were on Borrowbox.

I was looking for some light reading, so I searched for Phaedra Patrick and found a book which had WWishes under the Willow Tree coverishes under the Willow Tree: A season of second chances on the cover, but the title of Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone. I enjoyed reading it, although I couldn’t work out how the main character was managing to keep paying with cash, while he had few customers in his jewellery shop! The chapter headings are semiprecious stones with their attributes. One of the questions for readers groups is about belief in the attributes of stones to affect people’s lives. I do not believe this, but it made a good story. The characters are well-drawn and there are unexpected events and plenty of suspense to keep the pages turning. I read it in a day.

The book has different titles in the UK and the US: Wishes under the Willow Tree in the UK and Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone in the US.

I looked for The Handmaid’s Tale, but it was out on loan. However, my search term of Atwood also brought up Atwater. Mr Popper’s Penguins, which I thoroughly enjoyed as a stage play with puppets last year, was originally a children’s book written by an American couple, Richard and Florence Atwater. I borrowed it and read it in an afternoon. It was very interesting to notice how the book had been adapted for the stage. The book was illustrated by Robert Lawson and the e-book published by Open Road Media. There were a few chapters in the book, which were impossible to transfer to a stage production with a tiny cast. However, the play was true to the book with minor adaptations. Mr Popper was absent-minded in the book. In the play this appeared as clumsiness, which worked well. Either way his mind was not on his work! There are several American words, which British children might find difficult, but it is a very funny book. The biographical details of the authors were interesting. They were born in the 19th century. Florence, who edited the book into a form accepted for publication in 1938, lived until 1979.

1

Perceptions

View from the tram stop

When you are out and about among strangers, do you ever wonder who they are, what they do and how they see their surroundings?

On a journey this week I was amazed by the friendliness and helpfulness of people, who were perhaps on their way to work. I caught a tram, having been helped by another passenger, when the ticket machine suddenly decided to display the menu in Spanish. As I boarded I asked someone whether all the trams went to Manchester Piccadilly. I thought he said, “This one does.” However the doors were closing noisily and he probably said, “This one doesn’t.”

I recognised most of the stops on the route from a train journey a couple of days before. Places I had known decades before had really changed. When I used to take a train it entered a tunnel at the station. Now the Metro goes above street level in many places. I felt like a time-traveller!

Suddenly a young lady came to me and said, “If you’re going to Manchester Piccadilly, you need to change here.” I thanked her and stood up. Two other people made sure I caught the correct tram, one of them sitting with me on it and chatting. He was a young man, who asked if it was my first visit to Manchester. I told him I had known the city a long time ago, before there were trams.

His reply surprised me, “I thought there had always been trams!”

That brings me to perceptions. Do you see below the surface? Would it surprise you to know that the beautiful stone or brick of many of the older buildings in Manchester used to be blackened with soot from factory chimneys? I can recall seeing the cleaning work in progress using dilute acid (as far as I remember) to remove the soot and grime, exposing light coloured stone.

You may not know Manchester (UK), but what about the places you do know? Have they changed much? Can you trace how they have developed from the changes in architectural style of the buildings?

And what about the people? How many of them have always lived there as Mr Popper had in Stillwater in the excellent production of Mr Popper’s Penguins, which I saw in the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale? (It is on until 31 December 2019 and is great fun.) The young man I was speaking to had only been in Manchester a few weeks. I was just passing through the city centre on a beautiful, sunny morning. Being too lazy to walk to the other side of a post supporting the overhead wires in the hope of better photo, I snapped the Central Library from the tram stop. The tram arrived in less than 5 minutes. I was almost sorry not to be spending more time in the city.