Monthly Archives: January 2013

Radical Gardening by George McKay,the Book Club choice for this month.

As I have been “flat bound” for the past week due to the heavy fall of snow and the consequent icing of the pavements, I have had plenty of time to read the book of choice for this month, Radical Gardening by George McKay. This book is about the Politics,Idealism and Rebellion in the Garden.

I am not going to give my opinion about this book until after the meeting but I am going to thank the member who gave us this book to read because I would never have read it otherwise.  This is one of the very good things about a book group you have to read everyone’s choice, I would not have given this book a second look.

I have had so much time at home that I have now caught up with finishing “Days of Absence” by Alun Richards, the book group read part of this book in his collection of short stories, that book,  “Dai Country”had only included the part of his autobiography that covered his childhood in Pontypridd.  At the time, at the end of November, I was completely captivated by this and gave it a very high score. This made me determined to read the whole of his autobiography “Days of Absence”,  I have now finished it and though I enjoyed it I did not like it nearly as much as his childhood recollections. This was probably because it gave a graphic description of his “days of absence”, a long term stay in an isolation hospital being treated for tuberculosis.  Thank goodness for the discovery of streptomycin which cured so many including Alun Richards.

I  had three books from my family as Christmas presents,”My Family and other Animals” by Clare Balding. I am a great fan of horse-racing and can remember her trainer father, Ian Balding, in his hey day, training the famous “Mill Reef” who won the Derby and the Arc de Triumphe and then broke his leg in training.  The horses’ leg was repaired so that he went on to sire two Derby winners. I thoroughly enjoyed Clare’s book  with her description of her very unusual upbringing which made her the personality that she is today. The other two books were cookery books,Fresh Fast and Easy Food by Lorraine Pascale and Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo, as I have followed their programmes on T.V. I can now try out their recipes.  My favourite cookery books of all time are Good Housekeeping circa 1970, and Delia Smith’s Complete cookery course copies of which went with my children to university, however they still rang me to ask  how to make gravy?  At the moment I am favouring Simon Hopkinson’s “The Good Cook”.

Now that the rain has cleared all the snow away, I am looking forward to going back to work on Tuesday and seeing all my friends.

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Imaginative, beautiful, recycling by Ffrilli Jilli.

As a  family we are all very ” in” to recycling, doing our bit for the environment, we do all the usual recommended things, separating the household rubbish into the black bags, green bags and the food waste caddies. which works very well.

My daughter is usually  given a new dress by her husband at Christmas, he knows exactly what suits her and has wonderful taste, I am always amazed at how he gets it right every time However this Christmas it all took a different and imaginative turn.  My daughter had several well loved dresses that were passed their best but she was loath to part with them, dresses that reminded her of all the enjoyable times when she had worn them, so she handed them over to her husband and seven year old son and  told them to get them recycled..

The two men, one very young ,the other in his prime (I must say that) settled down to design the new dress, both contributing good ideas,the seven year old has very definite views of fashion and what suits his Mum.  Having decided on the design, off they went to “Ffrilli Jilli”with three favourite old frocks, there they had some expert advice on how to turn their design into reality. When they all agreed on the final design,”Ffrilli Jilli” made the new dress.

I am amazed at the result, the dress is lovely, the material from the old dresses beautifully and imaginatively combined in a fashionable way that suits my daughter’s individual style.  Great job boys, well done “Ffrilli Jilli” what a wonderful idea!!!!!

The dreaded Norovirus

Oh yes, I have joined the statistics as one of the many hundreds of thousands of people who have been affected by this horrible virus, I don’t know if I have even spelt it correctly!!

I was looking forward to going to work on Tuesday and  getting back to normal after my long enjoyable Christmas break. I got on the bus, it was actually on time for once and thank goodness practically empty.  My very elderly friend was not traveling that morning so I sat on my own.  I started to feel  hot and when I got off the bus and walked to work I felt even hotter.  Thank goodness the first two appointments were cancelled so I did not see any elderly  clients before I realised that I was not well and asked to be taken home, leaving instructions that my desk should be disinfected and also every thing else that I might have touched.  As I travelled the 20 minutes home I felt hotter and hotter.I have to unlock three doors to get into my flat, I just managed it and got to the bathroom in time to be extremely sick. unfortunately I continued to be sick every half an hour between 10.o.clock and 5.o.clock when it all suddenly stopped.  I telephoned my daughter to let her know what was happening but would not let her come over as I was very infectious and would be for the next 48 hours;

I did not feel ill, just weak after all the vomiting, I started to  recover by drinking a lot of boiled water to which I added a salts replacement, I just had a piece of toast to eat in the next 24 hours.  Now 48 hours later, I am back to normal, very glad that I will not have to face that again for some time.   It was extremely unpleasant but not unbearable, perhaps I was lucky,I have written this  to show that maybe it is not so frightening as it sounds., but not the ideal way to lose the weight I put on over Christmas!!!!

The Book Group discuss “Train Dreams” by Dennis Johnson

On Saturday evening the Book Group met to discuss “Train Dreams” by Dennis Johnson, unfortunately only five members could attend, even so, we had a very good discussion.  “Train Dreams” is a beautifully crafted novella of 116 pages which had been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in a year when it had not been awarded because the judges could not agree.

This is the story  of Robert Grainger,  an itinerant construction worker, who felled the  trees on which the railroad was built into the inland northwest of Idaho and Washington State in the 1920s, a time of great change. Robert is haunted by the guilt of being involved in trying to kill a thieving Chinaman who actually escaped but he felt that he had put a curse on him.  Robert got on with his life and through hard work and the willingness to work away from home for long periods he managed to buy land , build a shack, get married and have a daughter.  Unfortunately all this came to a very bad end when returning from a period  away, with money in his pocket, he returned to his valley to find that the whole place had been completely destroyed  by a huge forest fire. Everything was gone, no survivors, just ash.

Robert grieved for his family while trying to rebuild his life and his home  He did not move away because he could not accept that his daughter Kate had died in the fire.  The nightly  howling of the wolves and Robert trying to echo them is the background music to this story.

We had a very good discussion.about the book, a few thought that it was all fantasy, I completely accepted it  as related, but now have second  thoughts.  Having been brought up to believe in the story of Romulus and Remus I quite accepted that Kate could have been cared for by the wolves, the others disagreed, they thought that Robert was hearing and seeing  things in his head.  We all agreed that it was beautifully written and very evocative of that period of pioneering America.

When we voted, the scores were quite high, our Host who chose the book, gave it a score of 9.5, I gave 8.5.

After this we got down to the serious business of eating cake. Our Host’s wife had made “A Twelfth Night Cake”, a sweet/savoury tart which was delicious,  coffee meringues with cream and blackcurrant sauce,(all calorie free of course).

Our next book to read is “Radical Gardening” by George McKay.  We have been offered a “Dip” in the host’s  Hot Tub before the discussion, I think that I will give that a miss, funny thing, I have forgotten where I have put my bathing costume!!!!

Looking back at Christmas 2012 and forward to the first Book Group 2013

Having said in previous messages that I have many doubts about the commercial aspects of Christmas, this year I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole holiday.  I got into the swing of it early by making the cakes and pudding that were to be given as gifts, then I started the marathon task of making hundreds of mince pies as gifts for friends and all the people who help me and make my life comfortable throughout the year.  One morning when I was up to my elbows in flour the door bell rang, it was the postman wanting a signature for a parcel, I duly signed, he sniffed the air and said”Something smells nice” I said that I was making mince pies “They are my favourite ” he said, so I dashed into the kitchen and filled a take away box with nice hot ones, he was delighted, I wondered if he got some at every house. I am joking!!!!!

The family came for Christmas lunch, the Super Duper cooker excelled itself producing an excellent meal of roast turkey, pigs in blankets,roast potatoes,mashed potatoes and swedes ,sprouts, peas,roasted mixed vegetables (parsnips,carrots, onions,  turnips, peppers), yorkshire puddings and a very tasty gravy, cranberry and bread sauce.  I made the mistake of putting a bit too much thyme in the turkey stuffing but the sausage meat stuffing was particularly delicious. There was a tasty nut roast (I hope it was tasty) for the vegetarians.  We had all eaten far too much to have the dessert after the main meal so we had flaming Christmas pudding (the very one that we had all  stirred and wished over) and trifle at teatime. We had a lovely day  playing games and enjoying each others company until the children got tired  and  got taken home at 10. o. clock.

During the next few days  my other children  visited so we all met up over the holiday. Now I am looking forward to the next Book Group.  We are reading “Train Dreams” a novella by Dennis Johnson.  This is set when the inland  states  of  the northwest of the U.S.A.,  Idaho and Eastern Washington State were opened up by the railroad.   It tells us  about the rough tough life of those  men who lived  there and  how they worked hard to accomplish it.  I think that it will provoke a very interesting discussion even from those who don’t usually finish the books, no excuse this time as there are only 116 pages to read.

I wish you all a very happy ,healthy and contented  New Year,