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Blogging update

In recent months my book review posts have filled every weekly slot on this blog. My tagline: “Tasty writing surprises (non-fattening!)” is hardly accurate. My valued readers must feel they know what to expect. So here is an attempt to provide something a little less predictable.

My 7th blogging anniversary is approaching. Sue’s considered trifles was my first blog. WordPress will surely remind me on 23rd July that I have been blogging for 7 years. Anniversaries are good times to take stock of what has gone before and to plan for the future.

While I have been reviewing books, I have not been doing much creative writing. However I have a number of poems (or verse if you prefer) which I have written sporadically over the years. One of those has recently appeared on the blog of another member of the Association of Christian Writers. Trevor Thorn, writing for the More than Writers blog, invited others to contribute their poems about climate threats. As I had written a few rhymes, which met his criteria, I sent them to him. One has already appeared on his blog, The Cross and the Cosmos in a post about light pollution.

Perhaps I should write some more poems about the natural world and faith. Christians believe that God was the originator of everything that has being. That simple statement gives rise to all sorts of debate. However one thing which is certain is that Christians have a responsibility to look after the natural world and to encourage others to do likewise.

Much of my blogging recently has been in the form of microblogs on Twitter. The Sunday evening #wildflowerhour has been keeping me busy. With others from all over Britain I post photos of wildflowers I have seen during the preceding week. When I began taking part in this Twitter chat, I was aware of the names of various wildflowers. I had no idea how many different species of flowers there are in the various families. When I was younger I used to answer hubby’s questions about many flowers I couldn’t name, saying: Some sort of vetch, I suppose. That has become one of our jokes. Now I am able to name a few vetches – correctly, I hope. I am beginning to learn the names of other flowers too. The first thistle I have learned is the spear thistle. I have had to relearn the names of the plants in the Willowherb family. Rosebay Willowherb, I have known from childhood. I thought the only others were greater and lesser, but it turns out that there is Great Willowherb and a whole bunch of others named after the shape of various parts of the plant or its usual habitat. It would appear that the saying attributed to Albert Einstein, “The more I learn the less I know,” is true in this instance. It can feel overwhelming to realize how many different species of flowering plants there are.

It would be easy to become defeatist, thinking: I’ll never learn all of the names, so why bother?

On the other hand walking in the fresh air and noticing one’s surroundings is good for mental and physical health. There is enjoyment in looking at photos other people have taken of plants, which perhaps do not grow in the part of the country where I live, also in seeing the same plants are in flower elsewhere. Experts (and those with more limited specific knowledge) are happy to help with plant identification.

I have begun to use a notebook to catalogue my wildflower photos, but I am taking photos faster than I can update my list. Again it is no good giving it up as too demanding a job. Using a few minutes here and there might result in a useful list even if it has to wait until the dark winter evenings.

Helping to record the wild plants in various areas can go a little way towards looking after the natural world. Through the efforts of activists on Twitter a local council recently protected some rare wild plants from being mown down too soon.

While I am writing about difficulties, I now have a dilemma about a poem I wrote, when my ignorance (about the extent of the willowherb family) was bliss. Thinking incorrectly that greater and lesser were proper flower names, in November 2015 I wrote:

To a wayside plant

Unwelcomed by gardeners,
you establish yourself in swathes
along routes familiar and strange,
spotted from motors and trains
by observant travellers.
In summer your purplish spikes
provide nectar and bright colour –
a change from late-spring white
of meadowsweet and thorn.
Your staggered coloured flowers
at last give way to curled wisps
of white like thistledown,
while your leaves turn red,
or yellow and brown.
Your greater and lesser cousins
are not as well known:
you are the most successful willow herb by far!

Perhaps it only needs a minor edit such as “taller and smaller” to make it accurate.

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What I read in June 2019 (Part 4)

Four recommended reads this time.

The Ladybird Book of British Wildflowers

As a child I collected most of the series of Ladybird books about nature. I used to reread them on Saturday mornings in summer, when I was awake before the rest of the household. In an idle moment I read through the wildflower book again. It was interesting to see what was included. There are plants (including a few rare ones) which flower in different seasons and various habitats. The illustrations are lovely paintings. As I didn’t take it out into the countryside, I’m not sure I learned a lot from it as a child, although I did understand the use of a key to the pictures. Each painting is accompanied by text and a line drawing with numbers indicating which plant is which. My interest in reading it again was due to #wildflowerhour.

The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow by Jackie Morris

I was delighted to receive this beautiful book as a present. I was unaware of Jackie Morris’ books apart from The Lost Words, which I have written about previously. The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow developed from a series of Christmas cards, which the artist/author had designed for a charity – Help Musicians UK. I looked through it and read the whole text in an hour or two. It was so beautiful it made me cry.

The text is a series of stories with a fairy-tale feel about them. It is a picture book for adults. Many details in the pictures make it a book, which can be enjoyed over and over again.

Live, Lose, Learn: A Poetry Collection by Mari Howard

This beautifully presented book from Hodge Publishing was on sale at a writers’ weekend I attended recently. I read all the poems in a single sitting, but will return to this slim volume later to read them more slowly. There are four sections in the book and some illustrations. Unfortunately there is no contents list.

The Dangers of Family Secrets by Debby Holt

As I am currently reading two nonfiction books, which I hope to have finished and be ready to review soon, I popped into the library to find some light reading. The book I chose was on the Quick Choice display. The title caught my eye and the blurb made the book sound interesting. I began reading it the same day and spent a lazy Saturday afternoon reading to the end. There are a lot of strands to the story, which are satisfactorily woven together by the end. As an added bonus some of the characters have literary or artistic interests. Coincidentally Tom’s Midnight Garden is  mentioned in this book. I actually laughed out loud at one point, when a build-up of tension in the story was replaced by relief.

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What I read in June 2019 (Part 3) Bookworm

Not long after reading The Librarian, which awoke memories of my childhood reading, I discovered another library book – Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan.

The author claims to have been a bookworm to the exclusion of many other activities.

She certainly read some books at a younger age than I did. I thought I had been young to read The Lord of the Rings aged thirteen, long before the films were envisaged. I lapped it up. Lucy Mangan was younger and didn’t like it. I had already read (and reread) the Roger Lancelyn Green books of Greek myths, The Tale of Troy and Arthurian legends, which she encountered later.

Her book is well-written and intersperses childhood memories with information about books.

The section about teenage or young adult books mostly included books which I have not read as they were written fairly recently. Although I have heard of some of the authors, their books did not feature in my reading or in my children’s reading matter, which I often borrowed. It was interesting to learn of trends I had been unaware of.

At the back of the book there is a list of books for each chapter.

One thing I dscovered from this book was that I have been spelling a favourite author’s name incorrectly; Noel Streatfeild has two vowels in a different order from usual. My favourite of her books is The Painted Garden, which is about some children going to Hollywood and acting in a film. I still remember a description of how sunset in California differed from sunset in England. Perhaps Lucy Mangan had not read this book as she only mentioned White Boots and Ballet Shoes.

I have already returned the book to the library and am unable to check my facts, but I recall that Tom’s Midnight Garden was also a book she read and enjoyed.

Bookworm is an unusual way of writing about children’s books. The mixture of information about books and personal memories made an interesting read. The author grew up in the suburbs of London, as I did, but did not gain experience of the countryside until a later age than I did.

This book should be essential reading for anyone considering writing for children. Parents and teachers may also find it invaluable as an overview of children’s literature.