Sunday, October 14, 2018

Review of Wild Swans, Three daughters of China, Jung Chang

How I did I miss reading this book before now ... maybe because I thought it was a novel, and remembered my past struggles to read long family sagas when the geography, names and political culture need to be assimilated along with the narrative. A few pages of Wild Swans and I found that nothing like this applies to Chang’s flowing prose exploring life for her family in China from about 1900 onwards.

This book tells an extraordinary and heartbreakingly true story, it is deeply honest and has a reach that opened my eyes to a way of life of my fellow human beings that I had no idea about. As other reviewers have said, this is an important book and written, as it is,  in plain language, it is a wonderful way to learn history and hopefully, to learn from that history, even when all happened is far, far from a personal experience. It combines, with great skill, a post mortem on a political ideology and a forensic view of family love, loyalty and longevity. 

There are 700 pages, so it will take your time but it’s easy to pick up and start again. I had a 2 week break from it while I read a book group book. I restarted yesterday evening and was quickly engrossed again. Wild Swans is non fiction at its very best. 

As you can see from the photo here I read an old copy of Wld Swans. There was something magic about knowing that many other hands had held this book, had read its words. Had those readers, like me, been amazed, horrified and saddened by what they had read? I'll never know but that doesn't matter. We have all read it. Now it is your turn.  I can't send you the copy with its coffee stains and creased spine but ask around, someone you know might have a copy and there's always the library. 

Finally, on this wet Sunday a photo of my first homemade sourdough using Maud, who is, for the uninitiated, my sourdough starter from Hobbs House Bakery. 

As it says Maud is refreshed and resting. Well. most of her is, let's not think about what will soon happen to the portion i used for this loaf. 

I am waiting for the slow rise of this loaf in my not very warm kitchen. It will happen I need to be patient ... perhaps its time to start a new book or to find my much neglected knitting. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Sourdough and social media ...

I should have added the common cold to this blog title because that is also occupying (!) me this morning. But nasty bugs are not nice, certainly not nice enough to earn a place in a title. Only when it allows me a good nights sleep and to resume going out will this bug be rewarded with anything!!!

 In contrast, my attempts to learn how best to post a Story on Instagram and how to increase traffic to whatever I do post anywhere are getting there.

I started with an Instagram story on the theme of Black and White ... the photos here speak for themselves  ... helped by the advice from Rochelle at

When I am with Rochelle she usually focuses on my need to work harder on the exercise bike or adds more weights to the triceps pull she has got me doing.

Yesterday I picked her considerable brain for hints about Instagram stories  ... you can follow her @ptcentre.  Look out for her videos on well being.


What about the sourdough? Well, my sourdough starter arrived 30 minutes ago via courier from Hobbs House Bakery,, and @HobbsHouseabout.  So exiting. It is a very old starter and I feel part of its family now.

It needs looking after properly and has had a long journey. So now it is settling down in the fridge waiting for me to check out the information on the Hobbs House website about what to do next.

Meanwhile I need to give it a name -that is part of the instructions. I am not joking.

I need your help. Please votes for one of these three:

1. Leaf - because it came into my hands in the autumn.

2. Maud - because I don't much like the name and would like to learn to like by giving it to something lovely.

3. Samson - no reason, except I am gong to see the Opera, Samson and Delilah, in a couple of weeks.

Please leave your vote in a comment. Meanwhile, I am off to do as the label on the carton says ...


or maybe before that I should take my cold and its associated aches back to bed.  Like the sourdough I work better well rested.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy -my review

We are discussing this novel this evening at my Reading Group meeting. It is chez moi so I've just put the white wine in the fridge and found a bottle of red.

Regular readers here will know that I post reviews and mostly those are regular as well. I have kept log of what books I read for many years now so this is just an extension of that. In fact it is that, copied and pasted from my new e reading notebook, which is part of my effort to travel between homes with less stuff. Now instead of several notebooks including the reading log, I have e-notebooks on my iPad.

That's enough of that, here is my review of Hot Milk -a book I gained a lot from and enjoyed more than the last Levy book I read.

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, Reading Group book, October 2018, 4*

This book is unforgiving in its examination of the mother daughter relationship and the role of the mind in physical illness.Sophia and her Mother, Rose are seeking a cure for Rose’s inability to walk and obsession with pharmaceutical and surgical ways to solve her problems. This is the backdrop to a post-mortem on how family changes cast an indelible mark on individual lives. Levy slowly reveals how Sophia falls apart and her attempts to put herself together whilst all the time thinking others, particularly her Mother, are the problem.

The timeframe and geography (Spain, the beach, the arid countryside) are tight and this gives an air of everything happening in a capsule that might burst at any time. We, as readers, are observers of control lost and gained -the prose reflects this - with incremental shifts of power creating tension and uncertainty. A book lacking in romance, that keeps its attention on the grim realities of how people relate to each other.

Levy offers readers the challenge of first person narration -we only see others via Sophia, and by their actions and speech. She is not exactly unreliable but she is broken so, like her computer screen that she drops in the opening passge, and her, our view has cracks and distortions. Also metaphor use is of note .. the howling dog and the chickens that Sophia rescues which led me to thinking how much this book is about seeking rescue; from ourselves and from the chains we see between us and other people when, as Sophia eventually learns, only we can effect the change we need.  

Its not a long book, it has sections that are uncomfortable to read but it drew me in and i wanted to keep following Sophia's life as it fell like sand though her fingers. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Walking is one foot in front of the other, isn’t it?

And it’s easy, isn’t it.

 Well, yesterday walking section 4 of the London Loop was easy, more than that it was a pleasure. Under blue sky, through deciduous woods, along leafy and green paths with lots to look up at, each step came naturally.

But, it’s not always easy as I found on Monday during my first game of walking netball, see

Am I running? Can I walk backwards any faster than this? Can I walk over that line when I’m in this position?

The coach and experienced members of the team were very understanding about my need to learn the rules, the opposition were a tad competitive (ouch) and thank goodness, my one chance to get the ball in the net was successful. Not so my passing of the ball which led me to questions like can I walk fast and keep an eye on where my teammates are walking to, on where someone is about to throw the ball from, on someone who is asking for the ball?  More next week ... it could, might, who knows, become a habit!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Writing and Stitching in the digital era ...

Good morning

Days, hours, where do they fly to? So, a small taste below of happenings in yet another blog gap.

In my stitching life I'm beginning to see the shape of my project about walking the London Loop with a group of friends. I created a separate notebook using the Paper App on my iPad to mirror possible pages in a fabric book about the walk. I'm adding photos taken on the walk with those of the work in progress (there is a lot of that) that the photos have inspired. My first Paper app notebook on this project has lots more detail about the  methods ... memory joggers really ... and  I needed a second notebook with a shape that might be that of the finished piece.

The app is very useful, and its easy to use -   do have a look at it, more details here

the beginning of a railway arch ... 
In my writing life I've been editing my novel after a chat, and with the so very useful notes of, wonderful Jane - the first of my beta readers. To give me hints and encouragement in while I'm doing this I joined an short online course about the writing life. It has audio snippets that are good for just before sleep and when I wake up listening and thoughtful questions at the end of each brief 'lesson' .

It was a good decision and here's the website of the writer who put the short course together and has lots more to support fledgling writers

I feel I'm close to sending my first book out into the big wide world so have been researching how to do this via an agent and the possibility of self publishing.  This Saturday I managed to listen on-line to some of the presentations at a Self Publishing Advice Conference. More details at There's lots of good stuff on their website if you're thinking of self publishing.

And so good to  rejoin my Saturday morning yoga class at Yoki Studio
...    and to get out in the garden where this small creature had found its winter home

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton - my review

This book almost belies it’s subtitle ... ‘Japanese wisdom for a perfectly imperfect life’ ... because it is a perfect book. It looks very good, the cover and pages feel wonderful and when you get inside it’s cleverly set out, well written and full of beauty. The sort of beauty that guides, explains and bestows wise words on the reader. 

I met Beth on an Arvon writing retreat and heard a few early paragraphs of her book. Her research, personal experience and knowledge shine through her excellent prose. It has been a pleasure to read Beth’s treatise on and the applications of Wabi Sabi to ordinary lives. 

This is a book I will turn to when I need reminding about the important things in my life, about how to love, how to think more wisely and how this all might feel. And, importantly, to read when I need helpful and confident messages about the perfect nature of imperfection. Beth - thank you so much. Everyone else - do read this book. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A gift .. wonderful English autumn sunshine

 ... warm and sunny is just how we like it for our London Loop walks and the weather delivered yesterday as six of us completed the Chingford

to Chigwell section.  Milage was up as we had to negotiate more of the London Underground than planned and diverted to Buckhurst Hill for lunch at the very lovely Green Owl.

 There are some amazing green and watery spaces in the City's suburbia and we enjoyed this one in the late afternoon sun.

And below, a first, a plaque to tell us about our next walk which we plan to do in two weeks time.
 Our minds are already on where to walk when we finish the Loop. Only 7 sections to do now.

In other news, I'm catching up with all my wonderful local friends after the summer break, resuming the gym (ouch) and thinking about joining a walking netball team.

And, I'm writing. My short break last week to do more in the Enmatte garden was fruitful. There is nothing like cutting back a wilderness for thinking abut things in different ways.
I've signed up for an Indie Authors online conference next week and I'm looking at alternatives to the usual route to publication. Anyone with any experience of this please let me know what questions I should be asking about this way of producing and marketing your own book.  Thanks.

Back soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Around and about chez moi in early September ....

Title says it all really. Enjoy the photos.

New rusting tool glows in the evening sun 

The slow and careful burn of all those dreaded seed heads 

 This stone wall has not seen the light of day for a long while ... hence the need for the bonfire!!!!

Extra large, large and very small tomatoes are all available  ... and are all very delicious.

Thanks for being here.

NB Its still hot. 30C as I write ... what a wonderful summer we've had.

The Beautiful Cure, Harnessing Your Body’s Natural Defences by Daniel M. Davis - a review

This is a book that shows how the story of a complex and vital-to-health scientific paradigm and the pursuit of uncovering knowledge can be as exciting as any manufactured story. In this book it is our immune system under scrutiny, the ups and downs of how its elemental cells were discovered and the development by myriad international scientists of what is now known of the ways those cells cooperate for our good health. 

Davis writes well, reminds the reader when necessary and not too often of the basics. We learn lots about how science is done, how scientists do and don’t work together and the influence of grants and the value of discoveries to both people and pharmaceutical commerce. 

I was pleased to be slightly familiar with many of the terms and some of the basics about our immune system. That made the book an enjoyable and exciting read with valuable insights that increased my already huge fascination and admiration of the way our bodies are built and the way they work or sadly, sometimes don’t work at all well. 

Really pleased to have read this book. Highly recommended.