Reading possibilities

Last night I finished The Swiss Summer by Stella Gibbons (author of Cold Comfort Farm). It goes in the category “I read it so you don’t have to.” It’s very, very slow, and none of the characters is admirable, amusing, or interesting. Lots of descriptions of the Swiss countryside and mountains. Written around 1950, when food was still rationed in England, and no one could take more than 50 pounds (money, not weight) out of the country when they traveled. So there are period details that might interest some readers. I kept waiting for something to happen, and very little ever did; that little was predictable.

However, one paragraph, about books found in a Swiss chalet owned by a very old English lady, at least gave me some ideas for future reading: “Anna Lombard, by Victoria Cross, was here, in a shilling edition with a pictorial cover showing Anna, wearing tight corsets under a gown of white satin, swooning in the arms of her lover; here were Elinor Glyn’s Three Weeks, and The Reflections of Ambrosine and The Visits of Elizabeth, where passion and snobbery are locked in embarrassing embrace. From a slightly earlier period there were Grant Allen’s The Woman Who Did, and some half-dozen of the light, bitter novels written by Rhoda Broughton during the last twenty years of her life. There was also a copy of Sarah Grand’s unevenly brilliant story, The Heavenly Twins, in which feminism and romance are married but never fused.”

I’ll let you know if I track down any of these, and if they’re worth reading. Somewhere I have a copy of Elinor Glyn’s granddaughter’s novel, Love and Joy in the Mabillon, about young people at art school in Paris, which I remember as delightful. We’re still hauling boxes back from the storage unit, so maybe it will turn up soon.

Some random bullets

Mostly of Very Local News.

The semester has started. I spent too much time resting up over winter break: that is, too much to prep my spring courses, but about the right amount to feel like I recovered from the fall and could face starting up again.

It’s not too hard adapting my undergrad course to online delivery, since I’ve taught it before and have assignments and notes I can use, and since basically I’m trying to treat it like a regular course (with synchronous meetings), just a little more scripted, with some discussion board work and posted notes for classes.

But the grad class. Yikes. The syllabus is still not complete, though I’ve made a lot of progress on it. That’s a new course, and when it originally landed on my plate, about 14 months ago, I thought I’d prep it in summer 2020. Well, summer 2020 went to moving and getting ready to teach fall courses online. So . . . it’s nice to have a batch of very understanding grads who are cutting me some slack.

Speaking of slack, I need to see if some people who took incompletes in the fall would like to meet with me.

Speaking of moving, the new house’s roof is leaking, of course in my study where the highest concentration of books is; I’ve moved lots of books out to the living room, so now when I reach for something it is not to hand, and I have to get up and go search for it among the disarranged shelves. Grevisse is in with the English history, and (since the living room was supposed to be for fiction) Godefroy’s Dictionnaire de l’ancien français is snuggled up to A Billion for Boris. It took awhile to find my Latin dictionary this morning, because the classics are all over the place. Some books had to be shelved by size; others just would up mixed as Sir John and I carried books in bunches from my shelves to the living room. So far, two roofers have come and told us that we would be better off replacing the roof. One estimate is literally double the other. I think we need a couple more estimates.

Basement Cat seems to be feeling very anti-Reina again. I don’t know what his problem is. Sometimes he can co-exist perfectly happily with her, and then he’ll wake up, walk across the room to where she’s sleeping peacefully, and provoke her to growl at him.

In many ways, I like this strange new life. I can do things on my computer while I’m in a faculty meeting, I don’t have to drive long distances, I don’t have to drive in bad weather, when a night class is over I’m already home and don’t have to drive at night when I’m tired, and I’m a little less keyed-up from teaching because online interaction affects me differently from being in the physical classroom. I miss in-person teaching, but as the introvert’s introvert, this life is not bad, for me. I miss travel, and friends, and . . . that pretty much sums it up. Bookstores.

I wish I had more to blog about. Day to day life is peaceful, which is to say boring. Maybe I should keep in mind that quotation from O. Douglas that I posted in September, and try posting every day, or every other day, and see if there’s more to tell that way.

Before Instagram

there was Laurie Colwin:

“She decanted everything into glass and on her long kitchen shelves were row upon row of jars containing soap, pencils, cookies, salt, tea, paper clips, and dried beans. . . . The shoes in her closet were stuffed with pink tissue paper and her drawers were filled with lavender sachet. In each corner of her closet hung a pomander ball. She liked to have tea on a tray and she was fond of unmatched china. The tray she brought . . . held cups that bore forget-me-nots, a lily-of-the-valley sugar dish, a cream pitcher with red poppies, and a teapot covered with red roses and cornflowers.”

Happy All the Time (Penguin, 1985; orig. 1971), 9-10. Note the Oxford comma separating the paper clips from the dried beans.

We’ve made more trips to the storage unit and I’m starting to unpack my fiction. It’s like browsing in a bookstore specially curated just for me.

Six on Saturday: this is winter

Dear garden-blog-friends in kindly climates, your posts about snowdrops and hellebores sound like fantasy literature to me, not that I’m complaining, as I read a lot of fantasy. Since we just had Christmas, this is surely not Narnia, but it will certainly be at least ten weeks until I see any signs of spring here.

This is the lilac bush and that white stone under it, which is even whiter now:

At the front of the house, the sedums are still with us:

There’s an accent plant which looks rather tropical but is stubbornly remaining green:

It appears in the back corner here:

Round the back, the squirrels are certainly not lying down with heat exhaustion, as last they did last summer:

Gardening activities move indoors for the winter; I re-potted some African violets:

I also spent a lot of time shoveling the driveway today, just in time for more snow tonight.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator!

Hail the new!

My intention for the year: roll with the punches. I’m sure there will be some.

That doesn’t stop me planning. I’ve re-booked a trip I had hoped to take last year, mainly (TBH) because the voucher I was holding was about to expire. The airline wanted me to use it within twelve months of when I first booked the trip. Well, ha very ha, sorry, but that’s not happening. It took quite awhile, but I did manage to get the trip pushed out to May, so we’ll see if that’s time enough to get vaccinated and for the library I want to visit to re-open. Considering that the alternative was just giving up and losing the money entirely, I’m willing to gamble.

Today I did two things I’ve been putting off for months: potted or re-potted some house plants (two African violet plantlets had been rooting in water since August), and hung pictures. The plants took under two hours, including setting up and cleaning up afterwards, and did not spawn any off-shoot projects. I certainly have had spare chunks of two hours in the last four months, but not the bandwidth to deal with getting out the new pots and soil, shutting up Basement Cat, clearing the kitchen table, actually dealing with the plants, putting everything back, and cleaning up. I spent my spare time reading fluff or going for walks, rather than embarking on multi-step projects, although I did at some point buy new pots, also drywall screws for the pictures.

Hanging the pictures took a little longer. There, the steps were find toolbox, get out drill, dig around for drill bits, discover that the little doohickey that tightens down the bit holder is missing, take everything out of the tool box to look for it, find that it is entirely missing, test various Allen wrenches and screwdriver heads to find something that will sorta-kinda replace it (and make note to get a real replacement on a day that is not a national holiday), measure various walls, make holes in walls, screw in the drywall screws, hang pictures, put everything away. I managed to lose the hammer at one point, but found it in the bag with the drill. The hammer was part of an off-shoot project; one picture frame was loose and needed to be tacked down again. Fortunately I recently turned up a little packet of the right sort of tacks.

It’s the propensity for off-shoot projects that keeps me from tackling tasks like this. So often, the steps go Find Object A, Discover that Part B is Missing, Spend C Amount of Time Looking for Part B, Spend D Amount of Time Going to E Stores for Replacement Part B, return home to discover that Cat F has Damaged Object A, Say “oh fuck it” and Pour Wine or Eat Chocolate.

I have also started setting up calendar stuff for January and beyond, which I’ve been putting off for a week, I think in rebellion against the entire idea of calendars and task lists.

Today’s productivity may or may not be a good sign for the rest of the year. Nonetheless, if I do nothing else but worky-work for the rest of the month, at least I’ve done these two things that will Stay Done (for awhile, anyway; eventually the plants will need more attention), so I’m claiming that I have Won January.