Oxfordshire in the Blood

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The Hubby and I just finished watching the old Inspector Morse series (all 33 episodes) which we first watched on Masterpiece Mystery many years ago. The books were written by Colin Dexter; the setting was Oxford, England; and the main characters were the brilliant Chief Inspector Morse and his hardworking colleague, Detective Sergeant Lewis. I’ve never read any of Colin Dexter’s books, although I always thought I would like to because we enjoyed the TV version of Morse so much. On my TBR list! The TV series was intelligent and well-written, very good mysteries, and enjoyable to watch again this many years later.

Thomas Gomm

My great, great, great grandfather, Thomas Gomm.

Another reason we returned to the series was because I have been reading some family history. My paternal great, great, great grandparents all came from Oxfordshire. When I remembered that the Inspector Morse series was filmed in Oxford, I thought it would be fun to see the area and watch a good mystery program at the same time. I was not disappointed. The mysteries were great and the filming of that area was wonderful. Many beautiful shots of the city and outlying areas.

Of course, the more I learn of my family history, the more I would love to travel to Oxfordshire and visit the locations where those distant grandparents lived. But that probably won’t be happening very soon, so my reading and TV viewing will have to do for now. Just for fun, I spent some time online and compiled a reading list of books set in Oxfordshire. There are probably many others I missed, but it turned out to be a fun list that would provide me with many hours of reading pleasure. Here’s some of the list I’ve compiled:

  • Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy
  • A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
  • His Dark Materials (trilogy) and Lyra’s Oxford, by Philip Pullman
  • Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
  • Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers
  • Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse), by Colin Dexter
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears
  • Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
  • Some Tame Gazelle, by Barbara Pym
  • Tom Brown’s Schooldays, by Thomas Hughes
  • Oxford Blood, by Antonia Fraser
  • The Oxford Murders, by Guillermo Martinez
  • Byron’s Child, Carola Dunn
G.G.G.Grandparents

Side-by-side photos of my great, great, great grandparents in Oxfordshire…

Mishmash

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Mishmash! Sounds like a casserole or something…but actually it just describes my reading since the first of the year. It’s been all over the place, not following any plan, just going where whim takes me. My reading has often been project-driven over the years, so letting go of plans and just wandering through my bookshelves is very relaxing and enjoyable! Here’s a thumbnail collage of my mishmash of reading since January 1st. Oh, and the photo above is of my vegetarian Paella.

 

It’s a Wonderful [Reading] Life

Young Woman Reading a Book, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875.

Young Woman Reading a Book, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875.

2014 has been a wonderful reading year for me. It was a year of re-reading old favorites, finding new authors to love, and just enjoying the book journey. The year began and is ending with two beloved books: The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, and The Collected Stories of Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne, both audiobook versions of childhood favorites. What pleasure to listen to both those books again! What warm memories of hearing them read over and over by my Dad, gone now 20 years. That’s the magic of books — book memories are timeless, and the pleasure never gets old. As we welcome in the New Year, this is my wish for you, dear book friends: May you have a wonderful reading year that adds many warm and timeless memories to your reading life!  Happy New Year everyone!me cg presenter.indd

Reading Nevil Shute

A portrait of Nevil Shute Norway from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation website...

A portrait of Nevil Shute Norway from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation website. Click on the portrait to visit that website.

Some authors, over time, weave themselves into your reading life! When I was in high school, I read a book by Nevil Shute called On the Beach, a story about nuclear war. I remember only a few details of the story after so many years, but I vividly remember the powerful emotional impact it had on me. Then, years later, when my children were young, the Hubby and I enjoyed watching a series on Masterpiece Theatre called A Town Like Alice, based on a book by Nevil Shute. Again, it had a powerful emotional impact on me and I still consider it one of my favorites from many years of stories we’ve watched on Masterpiece Theatre.

Last month, I discovered the audiobook of A Town Like Alice was available through Audible. I downloaded it and enjoyed listening to it while knitting, and was delighted to discover how much I enjoy Nevil Shute’s writing and storytelling. This was an amazing story of love, survival, resilience, and hope during and after World War II. When I finished it, I didn’t want to leave his storytelling presence, so I downloaded another of his books. Pied Piper, the story of a 70-year-old Englishman who was able to lead 7 young children to safety during World War II, also captured my heart and I had a hard time taking off the earphones, listening to it in record time!

So over my lifetime of reading, Nevil Shute has “visited” me numerous times. Each time, I have appreciated that he tells his stories with honesty and emotional integrity; that his characters are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times and who meet those challenges with courage and kindness. He reminds me that one person can make a difference.

I look forward to reading my next book by Nevil Shute, and welcome his stories of good and caring people into the fabric of my reading life.

Neville_Shute_1949

 

I’m Dancing!

Us

Things change. That’s for sure. The husband and I are are coming up soon on the one-year anniversary of our retirement, and retirement is the biggest change we’ve made in many a year, with plenty of adjustments to make and challenges to face, but it has been very positive for us, I’m happy to say.

If I admit to being retirement age, then I must admit, also, to some of the changes that are inevitable as I move into that age/stage. In my case, it’s hearing loss and getting hearing aids. As any teacher knows, and any hearing specialist will confirm, spending 27 years in a classroom can be hard on the ears. My classroom for most of those 27 years was particularly bad because it had metal walls. So lots of voices, and ventilation systems noise, and bells ringing loudly, have finally taken their toll. (I should probably add into the mix those very loud concerts I used to enjoy — including Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin!) The sum total is that I now need hearing aids.

But I’m really jazzed about them because all of a sudden I can hear nuances again! I can hear my daughter’s quiet voice without having her repeat everything she says to me! My husband no longer mumbles. And, I decided that since I need hearing aids, I deserve some special stuff to go along with them. So along with the hearing aids, I ordered a bluetooth “streamer” so that I can listen to audiobooks (or music) through my hearing aids. Sweet! I’m going to enjoy many, many audiobooks with such a nice system!

So, yes, big changes in my life, but that’s okay. I’ll be enjoying my audiobooks more than ever, and I will keep foremost in my mind something very wise that Alan Watts said about change:

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Distractions and May Reading

nasturtium

Nasturtium in the morning light…

My blog has certainly been quiet for a month, mostly because I’m spending more time in the garden and doing outdoor things, and not spending as much time on my computer. That sounds downright healthy! When I do get on my computer, I’m spending more time on my other, more personal, blogs — Reader in the Grove and my new gardening online journal, Garden in the Grove. I’d love to have you visit me there, if you’re curious.

But just so you know that despite the lovely distractions I AM still reading…here are my May reads so far:


And I’m finishing up a few others, hopefully before the end of the month:

A Seven-Year-Old

celebrations

Yes, my Grandboy turned seven at the end of December, but he’s not the seven-year-old I’m talking about. No, I’m talking about this blog which is Seven years old today!

January 27th, 2007… I was on a medical leave from my teaching position, with time on my hands to enjoy my new Grandboy, read lots of books, (and talk about those books with my Mom over the phone) and also explore the new-to-me world of book blogging…

I am a very shy and private person, but I was intrigued by the book community discussions and the creativity of those blogs. So, as another way of sharing books with my Mom, this very shy person started a book blog and began to write about what I read and how my reading impacts my life.

I immediately discovered that the very best thing about the book blogging world is the people!  Blogging friends and authors are cherished people in my life now, even though most of us have not met each other in person yet, although I have been very fortunate to be able to actually meet a few of them. [Kristen, it was so fun to meet with that group of Seattle-area bloggers way back when. I love being able to picture Z when you write about him, although my mental picture of him is of a little boy and he has grown so much since then!] This blogging world has also inspired and expanded my reading, encouraging me to read beyond my usual patterns and explore other books worlds. It has all enriched my life tremendously.

The book blogging world has changed a lot in seven years. I remember when Twitter arrived, and I was intimidated by the very personal contact the bloggers were beginning to have with each other. My shyness factor kept me away from that world for a long time. Now, I enjoy those more personal and informal communications about books and life. But I still love sitting down and writing a blog post and exploring how a book intertwines with my life.

I am also “older and wiser” than I was seven years ago. A few years ago, after a series of sad family happenings, I stopped blogging for 15 months. Part of that silence was about grieving, but the other part of the silence had to do with privacy and trust. Unfortunately, I had learned first-hand that the internet can be used for malicious purposes or to present a completely fabricated view of a person’s life. It was a traumatic experience, and it took me a long time to come to terms with the vulnerability I felt for myself and my family by being online.

But I really missed blogging and the interactions with my blogging friends. I finally decided that the best thing I could do for myself was to return to my blog and continue to write about my life — with honesty and emotional integrity. That’s what really matters afterall.

So my blogging journey continues and I celebrate seven years of sharing my book life with you. Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by my blog occasionally to read my thoughts. And a special thank you to those of you who didn’t give up on me during my silence and warmly welcomed me back. You all mean the world to me!

Thank-you-post-it

A Reading Year

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2013 has been a “return to reading” year for me. Sometimes life hits you with multiple punches at the same time…the “old one-two,” as my Dad used to say. And three years ago, my family was hit by a combination punch that left me emotionally unable to focus well enough to read [or blog] for well over a year. But when 2013 began, I was delighted to realize that my reading focus had returned. It’s been a wonderful, enjoyable year of books for me, and it’s interesting to step aside for a moment and look back on my year’s reading journey.

Some Quick Stats:

  • 90 books read this year (hoping to finish up a couple of ‘currently reading’ books before ringing in the New Year
  • 21 audiobooks (listening-while-knitting also made for quite a few FOs). And for comparison, last year, I only listened to 3 audiobooks in the entire year!
  • 27 Kindle books (I unashamedly love reading on my Kindle because I can enlarge the type, read in the dark, and download thousands of books from the library!)
  • 16 classics. I’ve always loved reading the classics, and reading those 16 books filled me with a wonderful feeling of “returning to myself.”

Favorite Series:  I am loving reading Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. And I also loved reading Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwick series!

Favorite Non-Fiction: The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown.

Favorite Classic: Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury.

Favorite Book of the Year: The Morville Year, by Katharine Swift. This was the first book I read in 2013. As I read this book, I created a “visual book review” on Pinterest, with photos of all the plants, people, places mentioned in this wonderful story of an English garden. For me, it was a lovely project that combined my love of reading, gardening, and learning!

2013 also brought more major life changes for us, but this time they were the most positive of changes. My husband and I retired this year, and thus, there is more time for joyfully reading on my front porch as I take breaks from the garden. We’ll see where my reading journey takes me in 2014!

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