Last year, I was introduced to the most amazing British mystery writer, Ariana Franklin. Her first novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death series was called, not surprisingly, 'Mistress of the Art of Death'. These books are historical detective stories, much in the way of the wonderful Murdoch Mysteries by Maureen Jennings. The writing is flawless, the historical research impeccable and the plots skilfully woven. The author's speculation about what might have been possible in the way of forensics, gives a very satisfying dimension to the works.
Sadly, Ariana Franklin died last year, so this addiction needed to be replaced.
My next find - quite by chance, in the book shop at Heathrow, was another Brit, Scottish crime writer Denise Mina. I read 'The End of the Wasp Season'. Mina's detective novels are set in Glasgow and are as gritty as you would expect. But her characters are nonetheless sympathetic. Her detective, Alex Morrow has baggage, is flawed, but she is good at her job, dogged, determined. And all of this makes for compelling reading.
My most recent addiction is Canadian Author Louise Penny. And good gracious am I addicted. I was strangely drawn to the first of her Three Pines series 'Still Life', whilst standing at the checkout in Save-on Foods supermarket. I didn't read it straight away, but when I did, I was almost instantly drawn in. Her characters and imaginary village are so well portrayed that I felt as though I'd been there and knew the people. Her plots are also page-turningly intricate, like a carefully stitched appliqué.
In many ways, Louise Penny has replaced two well-loved authors for me. Her work also has the 'snuggle under the duvet with a bar of chocolate and a damned good read' factor that Maeve Binchy's writing had for me. Sadly, Maeve died in the past few days.
Three books that I have read and loved this year all
have a backdrop of extremes of temperature.
‘Eight Months on Gazzah Street’ is based on the author’s own experience of
living in Saudi Arabia. As the situation and the institutionalised misogyny
entrap her more deeply, the feeling of powerlessness is heightened by the
constant and inescapable heat, until like her, we are not sure what is real and
what is imagined and we welcome the news that she and her husband have
permission to return to England.
Heat and powerlessness haunt the women in
Dipiki Rai’s ‘Someone Else’s Garden’.
Probably one of the most beautiful books I’ve read, it takes us on a journey
from the most abject poverty of the Indian countryside and a community where inhumanity towards women is just accepted, to a different impoverishment
as one of the protagonists reaches the sprawling city. Yet here she finds a
freedom and personal growth she’d never experienced. Throughout the book, she
is supported by her spirituality, which gives the book a feeling of intimacy.
By contrast, in ‘The
Seige’, by Helen Dunmore, it is the cold that creeps up on us and stalks us.
I found Dunmore’s writing compelling. Life in Leningrad in the summer of 1941
seems harsh by modern standards, yet far worse than we can possibly imagine is
to come. Somehow Dunmore gives us a taste of the harshness of it. She makes us
glimpse shadows out of the corner of our eye, yet still it seems sudden when
war is upon us. And the siege isn’t just the army of one formidable nation
besieging the people of another, it is also the winter which pushes them to the
limits of their endurance. They never lose their belief that the Red Army will
break through, that the siege will end, and that the soul of their nation is
shared in its greatest writing.
My schedule changed in July - I've been working Monday to Friday as I will throughout August, and my day starts and ends earlier.
Tonight, in Superstore, I used my bolshie Brit powers for the greater good. At least it turned out that way.
I came up to the queue at the self service checkout and a woman was
arguing with three members of staff and an Asian man was just
standing quietly by one of the checkouts.
'Oho,' thought I,
'entertainment!' but then I quickly realised it was annoying because
they were blocking the checkout and it wasn't being used. So I
struck up some comradely small talk with the two people in front of
me. 'What's occurring?' I asked.
'Woman, grumble grumble, argument, grumble, grumble,' they vaguely
said. So I went up to the member of staff nearest to us and said,
'Can these people use this checkout?'
'There's an argument.' she said,
'Yes, but the checkout's not being used, can these people use it?'
'The man is there,'
'But he's not using it.' So she shuffled around a bit and I went
over to the man who was at the checkout but not using it.
'Scan your stuff,' I said. He just looked at me. 'Start scanning,' I
said, 'scan your shopping,' so he did and the arguing woman moved
away and the staff dispersed. I went back to the queue and the woman
in front of me said,
'Good job, why didn't we do that?'
'Because you're not as bossy and unpleasant as me,'
'But you did it so nicely!' she said, with no detectable sarcasm,
'Really?' said I, 'I thought I was quite rude.'
Oh dear. The Olympics approach. And just as we were without snow when we had ours, Britain seems to be about to float away. What fun.
Here in Canada, things seem to be too hot, particularly on the east coast, and causing people to do atrocious things. There have been two shootings in Ontario recently, and yesterday on the news we witnessed the raw sorrow of the parents whose son was murdered on videocam, which was then broadcast on YouTube, and then chopped up and his bits and pieces sent across the country. The accused had pleaded not guilty, natch. Nauseating.
At the Schloss, all is not well. We have discovered mould growing in Laurence's flat, due to piss poor installation of the shower by previous owners. At present, walls, floor and shower have been ripped down, up and out. Decontamination continues and it's fortunate indeed that even on the west coast, we are currently suffering under the unrelenting sun.
We have two tomatoes on our plants. Not much I agree. Looks as though we might get some spuds this year. And nasturtiums.
Mid-July. July seems to be going so quickly. My schedule has changed for the summer and I'm working Monday to Friday instead of Tuesday to Saturday, and I'm starting earlier in the day. The days are hot now, after a June of rain, heat and sunshine, and trouble sleeping because of it.
Funny that we have these long evenings and no TV - but it makes it feel as though you can get something done after work, instead of just vegging.
Kevin has done a lot of work at the Static. He has made new steps to replace the old, rotten ones. We've reclaimed some space in the garden and Kevin has built a fence to define it. He's built a bedframe to replace the old-fashioned and much too high, divan set, made new bedside tables and he has laid new flooring.
Now, we discover new challenges in the house. The basement has problems and we are looking at how to approach it.
How time flies. I've just had a three-day weekend, after which I felt quite rested, whereas now, after one overly warm night and little sleep, I feel entirely bleugh. Tant pis.
I feel as though I'm running just to stand still. I'm not complaining, this time last year I had no job, and was getting precisely nowhere finding one.
Nil desperandum, new series of True Blood. That'll get us through the summer.
Alex has gone back. I'm missing her, but it's good to know that she's helping out with Austen and Sue's kids and in September she'll start teacher training.
And the rain is back, very up and down at the moment -which should be great for the tomatoes, and yet isn't so much, they seem to be huddling. Spuds, on t'other hand, are looking lusty.
It's hot, well, at least, it has been sunny for about ten days now, two weekends, and the temperature is rising, has risen and is now holding steady. Ish.
Last weekend we took the kayaks out and I also went swimming - the outdoor pools were all open at the Static's park, which was a delight. Lovely. When the sun is out, the weekends seem more relaxing, we can sit in the patch of garden and drink Margaritas. We can eat outside. And we can eat just salads and be happy about it.
And TV is coming to an end for the summer. Yes, that time yet again, just like the days getting shorter or longer, it happens (here) every year and yet I never see it coming. Thank goodness for Scandinavia is all I can say, they seem to be producing some good police drama.
This coming weekend will be a long weekend for us, I'm looking forward to having an extra day off. But it's also going to mark a year since my friend Anne died. I still can't believe she's not coming back.