“Clementine Churchill”, by Sonia Purnell

160504_123706_COLLAGE-1For years, I have had a biography of Winston Churchill on my reading list. Odd then, that I should have started reading one about his wife instead. Or perhaps not so odd. I have seen endless numbers of documentaries about the Second World War, and that was, after all, when Churchill the man had his finest hour. His wife is never mentioned in these accounts, so when a friend recommended it to me, I became curious. Continue reading “Clementine Churchill”, by Sonia Purnell

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Dance!

I used to love going dancing (and I´m sure I would again), and here is a delightful series about the history of dance, from a British perspective perhaps, that really brings out the enthusiasm and exuberance of its presenter Lucy Morsley, who teams up with British dance legend Len Goodman. You can find episode 1 and episode 2 on youtube. I really enjoyed this!

“You´re supposed to be an academic!” says Len as she hops about…  😀

“Food in England”, by Dorothy Hartley

I just found this amazing film about a book and a woman I am dying to dive into further – once I got my next exams nailed, that is – and I have to share it with you. The film is presented by Lucy Worsley, is of slightly crappy technical quality, but no matter, I enjoyed it anyway.

The book has, apparently, never been out of print since it came out in 1954, and – to my great joy – it is also on Kindle. You can also find an article by Lucy Worsley on Hartley in the Guardian, and enjoy some of her smashing illustrations with the help of old Google.

I am definitely going to try cooking a whole three-course meal in a pot, as they do on the canalboat. That is just my kind of cooking, it makes me giddy just to think of it. Though I may, like Lucy, pass on the brawn (which is traditional Christmas food in Sweden, but never on my table…).

I hope you come to like Hartley, too. In a way, very English, but also, not far removed from how cooking would have been done all over Europe in the times she researched. The more I go into traditional cooking from the corners of the world where I feel a certain right of domicile, like Slavish cooking, Swedish cooking, German cooking, I see so much connection, also to the English cooking I have come to love.

The Electric Pencil

I have to share this with you – in case you didn´t spot this on facebook, where I found it – and hope you find it as beautiful as I do. It is the most charming art journal, and it has a moving story to go with it.

I am quite taken with it all and thought it would be a good offering for this T Tuesday, which I have failed to turn up for for so long. What can I say? Life is sometimes overwhelming and there are not enough hours in a day for it all.

Hope you all had glorious Easter weekends and that I´ll see you at Bleubeard & Elisabeth´s. I´ll be having a great big mug of organically grown coffee! Happy T-Day! 🙂

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“Hotel du Lac”, by Anita Brookner

20160325_171600I have had this book on my list for some time. I read Brookner´s short novel “At the Hairdressers” last September, and liked her tone. Two weeks ago, she died, and I decided to get her Booker-prize winning novel “Hotel du Lac” from 1984 and have enjoyed it over the last few days. It is truly beautifully written, not tiringly long, and has quite a bit of humour in it, too.

The protagonist of this story, Edith, is being whisked off to the airport by an angry friend, told to keep away for some time, to atone for what I thought for more than half the book was being “the other woman” to a respectably married man. But no, she has actually run away from a wedding to another respectable man, whom she did not love. This seemed like her last chance at marriage, being more than a bit plain (everyone says to Edith she looks like Virginia Woolf, and I never heard Woolf being considered a great beauty) and fast approaching the age of 40.

Also like Woolf, Edith is an author, but of romance literature, and she really believes in true love. As she makes herself at home at the Swiss hotel of her exile, she befriends a group of women there, all representing different ways to relate to men and themselves. The whole novel is a kind of disputation on the matter of true love, and what seems to be Brookner´s conclusion is that only the truly self-absorbed, brutal, and greedy can live out the romantic dream, as exemplified by Mrs Pusey, who performs her life on a self-erected pedistal. Edith is again offered a marriage of convenience, by a man who urges her to become more selfish, because, he argues, only selfishness and a refusal to be touched by anyone can lead to any lasting happiness. Any deep emotion for another can only lead to disappointment and grief, not to mention public shame. So she get´s another chance at marriage to a wealthy and respectable man she does not love, but without the illusion of love being offered.

‘You are a lady, Edith. They are rather out of fashion these days, as you may have noticed. As my wife, you will do very well. Unmarried, I’m afraid you will soon look a bit of a fool.’

Charming proposal, don´t you think? I will not tell you what she does, but I´m not sure I sympathise entirely. Brookner really cuts a two-sided sword through Edith´s dilemma: she can either marry for comfort, respectability, and any selfish happiness she can buy, or she can go on leading a ridiculous life, waiting for her lover to call whenever he pleases.

As someone who has been more or less married (we did it the usual European way: moved in together for the love and married to protect the money when it was clear that it was lasting) for 25 years, I can say that every good and long-lasting, love-based marriage has elements of what Brookner scorns. Sometimes one has to look out for number one, as they say. You don´t want to change someone you love, even if that would make them suit you better, but suffering is not the answer, because who wants to be married to someone who suffers? In Edith´s case, her tragedy is that she can´t stop loving a man who does not love her.

Brookner never married herself, and what I read of her seems to indicate that she lived a lonely life that she wished had been different. Perhaps Edith´s choice is very much her own. It´s an odd world-view, though, for a mature woman to have, a kind of take-it-or-leave-it attitude that I might have sympathised with more as a dramatic teenager, when you think you will neeever love again after every breakup (no, I actually never believed that; I was always level-headed about love). In a way, Edith is a 39-year old teenager, and she paints herself into a corner where she actually does look a fool, as her suitor points out.

This novel has been filmed, and after seeing a few clips on youtube, I have managed to find a copy in Germany. I am really looking forward to this!

The Richard Jury series, by Martha Grimes

I find that I am neglecting the blog. There is simply not enough time anymore. Or perhaps it is a lack of energy, I don´t know. I do sketch, or doodle, but in a private, diary-kind-of-way that I´m not keen to share. Perhaps spring will change all that, or perhaps I´m growing out of the blog and into the very active sketching communities I have found on Facebook, which I recently joined.

20160304_113046I still have a bit of a reflex to blog what I am reading, and over the last weeks I have read myself to sleep with three more in the Richard Jury series: “The Deer Leap”, where mystery writer Polly Pread – a woman much adored by Melrose Plant, but she treats him ill indeed, being infatuated with his friend Jury (and only putting up with poor Plant because of it, I gather) – falls on a corpse and thus starts an adventure that ends miserably; “I am the only running footman” where another old friend, Commander Macalvie in Devon, helps Jury and Plant catch a serial killer with a disturbed mind; and “The Five Bells and Bladebone” (these titles are all names of pubs and the creativity seems endless…) where Jury is faced with a disturbing riddle of mistaken identity that might not be solved, at least not without a DNA-test, something that apparently was unheard of in 1987.

I find the quality of these books varying quite a bit. Sometimes Grimes is really inspired and seems to like the characters a lot, other times the writing is rather dull, and the plot too. Still, I like it. It is funny at times and like before, she has children involved in every plot. A young, childlike woman moves in next door to Jury, he takes a liking to her and supports her in an almost fatherly, or big-brotherly, way. Also, the woman he loves (and politely ignores, as she seems to be perpetually engaged – but never marries – an Italian count) is always there in the background, having glasses of sherry and bickering with Plant at the local pub of Long Piddleton, where the very first murder in the series took place. Jury´s relationship with Plant has evolved into a brotherly affection and they seem to take it for granted that any vacation Jury has should be spent with Plant (who is mostly idle, in a gentlemanly way) at his estate in Northamptonshire.

As always, highly recommended!

“The House Without A Key” by Earl Derr Biggers (1925)

I read about this one in our Swedish newspaper; it is being re-published in Swedish now (“Huset som saknade nyckel“), and the review was so favourable I had to read it at once. Of course, I chose to read it in English. I was not disappointed, this really is a wonderful novel, or at least, a wonderful whodunit. The drama that took place in my mind´s eye was very much like an old Hollywood movie from the 30´s or 40´s, the way they looked, the way they talked.

I kept thinking John Quincy looked and sounded like a young James Stewart.
I kept thinking John Quincy looked and sounded like a young James Stewart.

The main character in this piece is initially stuck-up Boston brahmin John Quincy Winterslip, come to Honolulu to fetch his aunt Minerva, who seems uninclined to return home after what should have been a relatively short visit at his cousins, the “wild and crazy”, western Winterslips whose reputations are not endearing them much to the Boston aristocrats. He is nearly 30 years old, but refered to as “the boy” all through the book, which really focuses as much on John Quincy´s developing character as it does on who killed his cousin, a businessman with secrets to hide. John Quincy has started to thaw already when we meet him in San Francisco, a city he falls in love with as readily as a girl he meets on a ferry there, and who, coincidentally, is a native of Honolulu. Nor is John Quincy a fool (this was a great relief to me), he doesn´t make an ass of himself even in the company of the best detective on the islands: Charlie Chan.

“You know,” remarked John Quincy, “I´d like to work with you on this case, if you´ll let me.” “I have only delight,” Chan answered. “You arrive from Boston, a city most cultivated, where much more English words are put to employment than are accustomed here. I thrill when you speak. Greatest privilege for me, I would say.””

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Warner Oland as Charlie Chan.

Charlie Chan is hardly a household name in Sweden, in spite of him being played some 15 times by Swedish actor Warner Oland. Oland was born in Bjurholm, Ångermanland, as Johan Verner Ölund, and emigrated at 13. It is kind of funny that his greatest role was as a Chinese detective, and if you like to see what that looked and sounded like, you can find several of the films easily enough on youtube. I watched “Charlie Chan in London” and had to smile at the distinct Swedish accent he has at times. The Charlie Chan in the book doesn´t look much like Oland at all, but no matter.

I recommend this whole-heartedly if you want some easy, relaxing reading that isn´t annoyingly dumb. This is charming, full of quick dialogue and energy, and not terribly easy to figure out. Biggers also manage to convey a very vivid impression of Honolulu and Waikiki beach, as I guess it would have been in the 1920´s. There are five more novels about Charlie Chan and I am definitely keeping them in mind for later.

RIP Bodil Malmsten

From an article in Dagens Nyheter on Bodil Malmsten´s latest (last, as it happened) collection of poems (my translation):

“The broken contact. If you have had a running connection with someone, who belonged with you, having lots of mutual references, having impulses to send texts. And suddenly there is no one in the recieving end. No one to send a text back. That is death, that you never answer ever again. Of course, you can sit there on a gravestone and pretend to talk to someone, but that´s not really my cup of tea.

[interviewer:] It´s a sort of amputation of oneself. There are parts of one that only exists in…

… that relationship. Exactly so. If it is a relationship that was very strong, where you have been interlaced with the other, then it is really like that. At the moment you loose them, it´s an amputation.”

“Den avbrutna kontakten. Om man haft en -löpande kontakt med någon, som hört ihop med en själv, en massa gemensamma referenser, impulsen att skicka ett sms. Och plötsligt finns det ingen mottagare. Ingen som skickar tillbaka. Det är det som är döden, att du aldrig svarar igen. Det är klart att man kan sitta där på en gravsten och låtsas prata med någon, men det är inte riktigt min påse.

[intervjuaren:] Det är en sorts amputation av en del av en själv. Man har delar som bara existerar i…

– …i det förhållandet. Exakt, så är det. Om det är en relation som varit väldigt stark, där man tvinnats ihop, då är det verkligen så. I det ögonblick där man förlorar den, är det en amputation.”

At least one of her books has been translated to English, “The price of water in Finistère”. She was also a long-time blogger.

Walk in the sun

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A memorial copse – for all those who had their ashes scattered but no grave.

This week has been a bit bleak weather-wise, but last weekend was smashing, and I took myself out of doors for a longer walk than usual. It was -7 degrees, but my Windsor&Newton marker worked pretty well, and I added some watercolour when I was back in the warmth of home.

We have a very nice forest cemetery not far from our house, Örnäskyrkogården, and it gives very pretty, and not too complicated views to draw. For some reason we rarely go there, and yet I think cemeteries are such nice places to walk in; they inspire kontemplation. Of course, we always come here on All Saint´s Day to light candles for our dear departed.

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The Chapel of Hope; a funeral chapel.
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A streamlet runs through the cemetery.