Saturday, March 29, 2008

Iraq...and many..many books

Well, it has been close to a month since I last posted here. Wow, time really flies. Life has been going on pretty much as usual. My husband has received his deployment order for Iraq and will leave here on May 6th. Consequently, I may not be around too much in the coming weeks, as I will be spending time with him! It looks like it will be a 6 month deployment. I shall miss him a lot, but I guess it will leave more time for reading!

I have leisurely perused a significant pile of books off my TBR shelf in recent weeks. We took an extended long weekend for Easter and didn't do much so I had plenty of time to read. Also, we have had train chaos on my commute this past week with trips taking an extra half hour - again, not half so bad if you have a good book with you - or as I always do...two.

So, what have I read.....

Quite a few mysteries...grouping loosely.....
  • Devil's Food by Kerry Greenwood
  • Heavenly Pleasures by Kerry Greenwood
  • Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton
  • The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn
  • Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
  • Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

I particularly enjoyed the two books by Carola Dunn. They are about the Hon. Daisy Dalrymple, a writer, and set in the 1920s. The standard plot seems to involve her going to a country house to write about its history and architecture and there being a murder which she then solves. I guess in truth they are just fluff, but fun fluff!

I read Doctor at Sea by Richard Gordon. I hadn't heard of him before but judging by the circulation claims on the back of my 1954 edition he was very popular! In this episode he escapes an undesirable engagement by going to sea as the doctor on a Merchant Navy ship. Of course, he has lots of unexpected adventures as the ship makes its way from Britain to South America, and back. Most enjoyable.

My Mum left me Further Tales from a Country Practice by Arthur Jackson last time she was over this side of the country. I was a little dubious to begin with, but this is a lovely book and I shall be keeping my eye out for other books Jackson has written. It is a semi-autobiographical story of a country doctor in the 1950s. As a young (ish) doctor, Jackson was married with four children when he bought a dilapidated manor house he couldn't afford. Not one to shirk from a challenge he later decided to buy the fruit farm next door - again, which he couldn't really afford. This purchase and his service as the country doctor give him the material for this book. It reminded me somewhat of the BBC program Born and Bred, which I loved. I highly recommend it.

I anyone still hanging around... this is a long post!

I also read The Bridges of Madison Country by Robert James Waller, recommended to me by my best friend. We have been good friends since we were 13 and usually our tastes in books are pretty well aligned. However, in this case while I would class this as readable, it was not that special. Has anyone seen the movie?

I love Margery Sharp's writing. I picked up a copy of Britannia Mews last year on a discard shelf at a second hand bookshelf, sadly a shelf located in the sun meaning my copy is quite damaged. Nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed this, it reminds me somewhat of Monica Dicken's The Angel in the Corner - as in a young girl from well-to-do family makes unsuitable marriage, but (dare I say it) I thought this was better. From the cover.....

Britannia Mews describes quietly and competently the evolution of character and customs in England from Victoria to World War II. Its effect is comparable to the depth of a full orchestra contrasted to jive on the piano, and makes on think, wistfully and in turning-the-clock-back moode perhaps, thank heaven for the Victorians, for the George Eliots, the Austens and the Brontes, who had the leisure and the wit to write a fully rounded tales. And one more all its pages there is not a single dull or turgid moment.....Its them is a study of the victory of an individual, and the triumph of personality over curcumstance....It is written by an artist who knows the use of incident, of fine, flowing narrative and delightful exposition.... Miss Sharp had made all her gallery of character almost distrubingly alive.

High praise indeed.

Finally, and I'll need a tea break after this effort.... I read Following the Drum: The Lives of Army Wives and Daughters Past and Present by Annabel Venning. I think anyone who read the opening paragraph of this blog would know why this book jumped off the shelf at me. This is Venning's first book and it is excellent. I read it in 2 days over the Easter weekend. Quite an achievement for me as I am a slow reader of non-fiction and it speaks volumes of how well this is written (or perhaps my strong personal interest in its subject matter).

Basically, Venning follows the lives of British military wives from the 17th century to the present (2004). Originally, very few soldiers and officers were allowed to marry. My husband still wouldn't be only 23 and an officer we would have had to wait another 7 years from now, as 30 was the decreed marrying age for officers.

Another interesting fact was that until the Crimean War women and, sometimes children, would go to war with their husband - termed being "on the strength". Women received half rations, and their children quarter rations. It was the cost of supporting these additional bodies when food resources were scarce that led to the Army setting limits on how many of its men could marry and bring their wives along. Ballots were held as the ship sailed to select which women could accompany their husbands. Those that were not selected would be supported by the parish - essentially sent to the workhouse. And, they often wouldn't hear from the husband's again until they got back to England...up to 7 years later.

Wow, it makes me grateful, despite the army's many foibles, to be a military wife in the 21st century and not the 19th!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

Did anyone else watch Hamish Macbeth in the old days of the late 1990s? If you did, you may or may not know that the author of the books that series was based on is M.C. Beaton (I wonder what those initials stand for?) Anyway, I have just discovered a series of books she has written - 18 in total according to the inside of my book cover - about a public relations star, Agatha Raisin, who has taken early retirement and moved into a picture -perfect Cotswold village.

To improve her standing with the locals (who don't like newcomers) she decides to enter a local quiche baking competition. Only thing is, she doesn't know how to bake and so purchases her quiche at her favourite London deli. When she doesn't win, being a mite competitive our Agatha, she goes off in a strop leaving her quiche behind. That evening one of the competition's judges dies after eating her leftover quiche - it is revealed as a poisoning. Agatha becomes a murder suspect and must confess the quiche's source to the village. Then, to clear her name she sets out to find the real murderer, becoming a much improved individual along the way.

Bits and Bobs

I don't have much to post about tonight.....I spent the day at work where nothing much exciting happened.

We had an interesting sermon last night at church. It was given by a young man who is leaving our church to attend one in the city with his wife. He has been at our church all his life and so it was very emotional for everyone. He has a real gift for speaking and is considering entering the ministry or going on mission.

He spoke on psalm 23 - The Lord is my shepherd. He told a couple of stories which really touched me. One was about a French chaplain during the war who would preach to his soldiers before they went out to battle. He told to count out the first five words of psalm 23 on their fingers, Shepherd landed on their thumb. The Chaplain told the soldiers to hang onto their thumb when they were in difficulties and it would remind them that the Lord was looking after them. At the end of a battle they went out to collect the dead and wounded, and they found a dead man with his gun by his side holding on to his thumb.

What a moving story.

I also thought I would have a go at Lauren's meme. Be sure to visit her over on
Adventures of a Southern Newlywed

What accessories do you wear everyday? I wear my engagement ring and wedding band, a ring my parents gave me for my 21st and another heart ring they gave me for my 10th birthday. I also wear a cross (it was my Aunt's when she was young and I got it when I was baptised). I usually have gold sleepers in my ear, and a black leather watch on my wrist.

What is your beauty routine? In the morning I shower, wash my hair, do the Clinique 3 step process, and put on my makeup. Then I breakfast before going back to do my hair and clean my teeth. In the evening, I take off my makeup and clean my teeth again.

What was the last item of clothing you bought? Does a wetsuit count? Actually, I think it was a rose coloured top, but I haven't bought anything this year.

Do you use a dresser, closet, or both? We have a built in and I top it up with the drawers in my dressing table (which I love).

What type of earrings are in your ears right now? Gold sleepers.

What type of figure do you have? Average I guess, 5'6" (and I weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces when I was born which I think is kind of ironic).

Do you wear glasses? Yes.

What type of handbag do you carry? A black zip up one - I think its italian.

What is your ideal style? I like women who dress with femininity (I can't spell). I guess the classic looks of the 1940s and 1950s are very appealing.

What jewelry are you wearing right now? See question 1.

Do you wear knee-hi stockings? No!

Do you wear makeup? I wear it inconsistently. It really depends how late I am running in the morning. I am beginning to think I should just carry it with me to work and put it on there since I am usually the first in. [As a side note - sob story: I dropped and smashed my blush this morning because I was rushing!]

Do you wear nightgowns? Actually I love nightgowns particularly lovely feminine cotton ones in summer - so cool. In winter I am all for the flannel PJs.

What outerwear do you put on when going out on a typical winter's day? Usually a camel coat and matching beret. I change the colour of my scarf day to day. I catch a train early in the morning and it is usually chilly.

What is your favorite perfume? Miss Dior Cherie (or is it the other way around - I can't be bothered going to check in the bedroom).

Is your motto "quality over quantity"? Yes, I would rather invest in something I love to wear regularly.

Do you wear rain boots? We call them gumboots here in Australia. And, I do have pair of jade coloured ones for taking the dogs to the park when it is raining.

Do you wear socks or slippers when your feet get cold? I have slippers (several pairs in fact) - but in all honesty I wear socks.

Do you have a set of travel luggage? No.

What is your daily uniform? At work I usually wear a skirt or trousers, a blouse and a knit jumper (add tights in winter). I usually have a cardigan over the top of the jumper (what you guys call a sweater) because I am always cold in the airconditioning.

If you are married, did you wear a veil with your wedding dress? Yes it was a half length veil, it had some beading on it that matched the bottom of my wedding dress.

Do you wear a watch? Yes, gold with a black leather band.

What item of clothing always makes you feel extremely beautiful? I like wearing a summer dress or skirt and blouse.

What is your favorite type of yarn? Going to go with cashmere here, or lambswool. I will not buy cotton.

Do you prefer zippers or buttons? On cardigans buttons.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What Ya Readin': Sunday Saying

I keep a commonplace book where I write quotes and excerpts from books that appeal to me.

This year we were given the gift of one extra day in February because it is a leap year.

Walter De La Mare celebrates this:

Sweet February Twenty-Nine!-

This is our grace-year, as I live

Quick, now! this foolish heart of mine;

Sieze thy perogative!

From Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance. Picture from