Book review – Claudia Gold – “King of the North Wind” @ShinyNewBooks #amreading

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When I took up this book to start reading about the life of Henry II – and it’s a lovely object in itself: just look at that cover – I have to admit to being slightly discombobulated by the sheer number of Mathildas and volume of family trees and maps with arrows. It didn’t help that Certain People appeared to give the same name to their illegitimate and legitimate sons! But Gold’s careful hold on her material and confident narration meant that it wasn’t as challenging to pick through this now little-known reign as I feared.

Structuring the book into five “acts” (The Bargain, Triumph, Pariah, Rebellion, Nemesis) means that Gold takes us on a vaguely chronological journey, but because of the complexities of lands held, battles fought, marriages forged and families created, she does have to skip back and forth a bit, referring to the Great Revolt of 1173-74 before she describes it fully. In addition, there’s such a wealth of detailed information to share that she sometimes has to divert into a long discussion of the Jews in England, the creation of a more modern legal system, the relationship between the Saxon and Norman kings and their archbishops, etc. … it’s to her credit that these are well-signposted, headed and created and not confusing.

Read the rest of my review on the Shiny New Books website here.

I read this one last month, so it’s nice to see it up there now.

In other booky news, I’ve finished the rather odd “Peking Picnic” by Ann Bridge and hope to review it tomorrow, and I’ve started Diana Tutton’s rather marvellous “Guard Your Daughters”. I might get 20BooksOfSummer done after all.

Book review – Iris Murdoch – “The Time of the Angels” #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch

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Well I can cheerfully admit that this book scared me silly when I first read it – aged about 15, I’d imagine. What DID I make of it then? The death of God and the rise of the avenging angels, all that quivering violence, all those secrets, all that fog pressing around the house … It’s still an unnerving experience, but I’ve read it at least three times before this time, and could remember most of the story and – more importantly – the atmosphere. I don’t think I changed my opinion on any of the characters for this one, though. Maybe they’re set out to be more black and white (literally, I suppose) with less room for ambivalence.

Iris Murdoch – “The Time of the Angels”

(27 February 2018)

It’s a short book but it’s festooned with post-it tags, so I hope I’m able to get my thoughts into some sort of order.

First of all, I’m disappointed to say that I don’t THINK we have any women in white dresses running off into the night, do we, although Muriel flees at one point but is not pursued. That’s the first time for a long time and I hope that theme comes back, because I have been enjoying spotting it.

The book is full of horrible foreshadowings which you will probably only notice on a re-reading: most notably on p.2 where Marcus brushes against Pattie, touching her neck and sweeping her with his cassock. The fog has a good go at being its own character, and there’s quite a lot of what I remember as being the Pathetic Fallacy (OK, I’ll admit it, I had to look that up, but I remembered there was such a thing, at least), where the weather reflects the happenings and emotions in the book. It also gives us some sublimely beautiful scenes, most notably when Eugene takes Pattie to the river in the snow.

The massive theme of this book is of course the loss of religion in society and the vacuum into which nothing has actually come rushing in. Norah talks about this and the “modern young” where “it’s as if her sheer energy has taken her straight over the edge of morality” (p. 13) and Muriel and Leo talk about going beyond morality; this then gives weight to Carel’s ravings about the death of God and the time of the angels: are they really ravings if everyone’s talking about this in their own way? Poor old Norah is rather satirised, her “brisk sensibleness of an old Fabian radical” (p. 14).

So many echoes in this one. In my head, I’d built up the bits of The Book to come all the way through it, but actually we only have one chunk of Marcus’ writing and one of Carel’s. Of course someone writing a book is a constant theme that we’ve had in many of the novels. But going back to echoes, I was interested to see Norah and Anthea as almost the same character, doubled (in fact, I have a feeling I thought they WERE the same person in my memory of this book), both trying to do good. Both of them are remarkably unchanged and cheerful by the end, which might be saying something against Marcus and Carel’s hatred of do-gooders. Pattie has lost a younger brother, like Carel and Marcus have, and Eugene his sister. Marcus falls through two doors holding chrysanthemums.

As well as the doublings and echoes, we have the usual hair – Elizabeth’s flat metallic strands, Muriel’s boyish crop and Leo’s animal fur. Leo has some Japanese prints but I don’t think they imply that he’s a saint or an enchanter or have any significance. Maybe the fact that they’re only stuck onto the wall takes their power away. He associates looking at girls through screens with Japan, so maybe using the country for nefarious reasons takes that away, too.

Who is the enchanter in the book? Fairly obviously Carel, with Leo trying to do a mini-enchanter act but actually just being one of those annoying prancing boys who are another stock character. Elizabeth is a “magical child” who certainly engenders obsession in her father and her uncle, but is too passive to be an enchanter, and is more enchanted. We see him in relation to Pattie: “Carel was her whole destiny” (p. 152) and in fact we see both enchanter and saint defined by poor Pattie. They are “the white figure against the dark one” (p. 177).

Who’s the saint? I’m saying Eugene. Although Pattie is passive, she’s in thrall to Carel and doesn’t really do any good for anyone, actively or passively. She lies “inert like a chrysalis” (p. 28) but can’t find a “normal” way out of her situation, only fleeing violently for another continent when her hand is forced. And she WANTS to be a saint, which surely must be the way not to go about being one. Eugene is a classic saint, isn’t he?

Eugene did not suffer much from anxiety. He had spent too long sitting at the bottom of the world and hoping for nothing to suffer from any precarious play of tempting aspirations and glimpses. No object lay just beyond his grasp since he had long ago ceased grasping. (p. 42)

and when Pattie thinks of him “Some plainness about him, some absolute simplicity attracted her” (p. 96) and later, “He was a man without shadows … and offered her a life of innocence” (p. 152).

Talking of this simplicity, Carel does define goodness in the book, stating that it’s impossible and unimaginable. But Norah and Marcus don’t think it is, and elsewhere Murdoch shows us goodness, I think, here and elsewhere. Carel’s imagining that it can’t exist is perhaps his downfall. As Norah says, “Ordinary morality goes on and always will go on whatever the philosophers and theologians have to say” (p. 193). In fact, the Afterword by Richard Holloway sort of echoes this:

We have to remember that it was written by a philosopher and philosophers tend to think too much – it’s what they are paid for, after all. Most people negotiate the intricacies of conduct without too much agonizing about how to treat their neighbours, even if they think God is dead.” (p. 242)

There’s not much humour in this one, I have to say, although Marcus’ and Norah’s tea parties manage to get in some satire of the bishop and comments about the price of jam vs chutney. There’s a lot of perceptive stuff about women’s characters, whether that’s Pattie lacking someone to lick her into shape or Norah needing somewhere to direct her energy: although they’re not hugely positive characters, they are rounded. Marcus’ pomposity about his book is nicely pricked: “Let his critics assign him to a tradition and a school. He would speak simply, with the sole authority of his own voice” (p. 67) (I’m uncomfortably reminded of my own adherence to Reception Theory here!). There’s also a moment of farce for Marcus, too, when he falls in the coal hole, although the scene is quickly jerked into almost horror.

In echoes of other books, I was curiously reminded when Muriel is regarding the last moments of Carel of the scene in The Philosopher’s Pupil where Rozanov lies dead/not dead in the thermal baths. Eugene with his rusty moustaches reminds me a bit of Finn in “Under the Net” and also prefigures Fivey in “The Nice and the Good” perhaps (and Carel’s comment about life being some dusty feathers in a cupboard reminds me of a scene in that novel, too). Elizabeth and her court are reminiscent of the willing captive in “The Unicorn” – who is keeping whom in the house? Norah’s lost Fabian ideals remind us of “The Book and the Brotherhood” characters trying to find their old ways in a new world. Pattie’s childhood might remind us of Hilary’s abandoned life in “A Word Child”. Our Russian emigres remind us of those in “The Italian Girl”, even with their lies about their origin story. Marcus’ thought about Carel being mad comes at him “obscure and disturbing as a large unpleasant looking object rising through deep water” (p. 87) – did that remind anyone else of the monster in “The Sea, The Sea”? Marcus seems to have a weakness for boys, although not so explicit, like Michael in “The Bell” – has Leo actually got some scandal over him or does he just exploit his emotions? Marcus has a cold at one point, and annoys Norah by sneezing – shades of Palmer in “A Severed Head”, or have I gone too far? Another too-far one is probably Eugene’s handcart taking his precious pot plant to their next home: was IM thinking of that when she gave Tallis his handcart in “A Fairly Honourable Defeat”?

So, a complex book and a lot of intertextuality with IM’s other novels, perhaps. I agree with Richard Holloway’s practical assessment at the end of his Afterword:

Carel Fisher might have reached less dramatic conclusions about life if he hadn’t lived mainly inside his own head. He should have got out more. But then, if he had, we wouldn’t have had this strange novel to trouble our sleep. (p. 242)

and I hope I’ve done this book justice, even though I never found a good order in which to put my thoughts on it.


Please either place your review in the comments, discuss mine or others’, or post a link to your review if you’ve posted it on your own blog, Goodreads, etc. I’d love to know how you’ve got on with this book and if you read it having read others of Murdoch’s novels or this was a reread, I’d love to hear your specific thoughts on those aspects, as well as if it’s your first one!

If you’re catching up or looking at the project as a whole, do take a look at the project page, where I list all the blog posts so far.

Sedate lady running 06-12 August 2018 including Canal Canter race report #amrunning #running

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This week was mainly about the 18-mile Canal Canter race I signed up to back in March when I wasn’t able to do the Manchester marathon. I downsized to the 18-miler from the marathon when I went to do an easy 10-miler the appropriate amount of time before and found it not easy enough. My training runs in the week then the report below.

Tuesday – The One With the Wrong Rucksack. I thought I’d better test out my running rucksack so got it out of the cupboard and put it on to run to running club, round the club route and home. But no, I picked up my normal (actually a cycling so extra long) rucksack and was surprised it was all wrong, rubbed my neck etc Mary Ellen and Ursula did sterling work trying to sort it out, but. I was very whiny then got home, at which point my husband helpfully pointed out that the running rucksack has pockets on the waist straps and is smaller. Oh. So a good run in the (hot) circs.

5.5 mi 12:20 mm

Thursday – I panicked over rucksackgate and somehow bought myself a whole new one – the Geila Hydration Backpack by Aonjie, a mere £24. I had to wait for it to arrive so then went out for a quick run around the block with the ever-long-suffering Mary Ellen and Caroline. It was great and solid so all good for Saturday.

2.5 mi 12:15 mm

No yoga this week, I was really sore of hand and elbow from bites on Wednesday and didn’t want DOMS from Friday. Should have stretched and rolled more. And slept more. Oh well.

Long Distance Walking Association Canal Canter 18-mile edition

Preparation

I’d done a 16-mile run last week and gone over the beginning of the route: very important and useful. Thank you, Claire! I had my usual mixed mild chili beans and other veg with brown pasta and a tea cake for dinner and tried to get an early night.

The day

Bernice came over at 8.15 and after saying hello to the cat and Matthew, took us round to the rugby club. It’s not far away but of course I didn’t know the way to drive there … Bernice is a lovely Sedate Lady who I’ve been running with for a few years and through four marathon campaigns (three of mine and one – London! – of hers) and it was lovely to be running together again after she moved away from the area.

We got to the rugby club and met a load of our running clubmates. It was a mixed walking and running event with 18 and 26.2 mile options: all of the runners and the 18 mile walkers were setting off together. We had some club pictures, comparison of kit and “pee group pressure” visits to the loo (I need a wee – now I do!):

Sole sister running chums!

Who could resist taking a picture with these weird headless rugby players? Bernice, Afshin, me, Dave, Paul, Thomas, Suki (Kevin not pictured)

Stretches and poses before the start. “Rugby poles” we would be desperate to see at the finish.

We had been issued with instructions which were unlike anything I’d dealt with before. Bernice had had them at another race by the same people in the Malverns and was a complete star reading them out – combined with my knowledge of the route we did OK. We had this green card to get stamped at the checkpoints.

Instructions (Bernice = a star) and the card we had to get validated at each checkpoint.

We set off down a grassy slope – I am very much a ROAD RUNNER and this was outside my comfort zone already! We were careful and stayed at our pace even though we were quickly at the back of the runners. We did run with a bloke for a while. We came to a split in the path and felt left was correct but found an arrow on a tree that pointed right … up a big hill on a cat-littery sort of surface and … oh, a lot of other runners and walkers and a canal where it shouldn’t have been (I think this was actually on our way back). So we turned round, found the right way and on we went.

A lovely surprise: we ran into our club’s 9 mile half-marathon training, led by the lovely Grace, Sara took this pic of us as there were her, Sonya and Caroline from our Sedate Ladies group among them.

Taken by Sara when we ran into the club’s half-marathon training. Just before another section of green pathway next to the river.

On along the River Cole valley and across the horrible green webbing stuff that I fell over (not in this location) the other month. I was SO GLAD I’d run this part with Claire already. We gathered up Imogen, who was running on her own, and took her the rest of the way with us. Yay, new running friend! And we got to the first checkpoint at the Ackers (remember that weird ski slope from my 16-mile run). We had a loo break and could have had a cuppa and toast, I topped up my lucozade sport bottle with cold water. A bit complicated going in and out of the place but I knew about the hill up by the ski slope.

First checkpoint reached! Tea and toast!

A few people thought we’d gone wrong but thank you again, Claire (I shouted Thank you, Claire!) and I knew what to do. Finally we’re on the canal. And very pretty it was, too. It was quite sunny but not as hot as it could be. I look a bit desperate in all these photos, not sure why!

With our new friend Imogen on a picturesque canal bridge

There was a really challenging bit now. I’ll share the route at this point:

Route and profile

Highlighted is mile 10 which had 72 ft of climb. There had been some canal bridges and tunnels that were a bit rough under foot or steep and challenging, and we walked up these, but this section was brick underfoot, with slopes next to locks where we had raised bricks for grip / tripping over or flat bricks. My right glute and ham started to protest and my calves, and I got a bit nervy and upset (no actual tears). It was fascinating to go under Digbeth and Aston and see it all from this angle, but also stressful.

We made it to the most complicated part around Brindleyplace where the canal divides and braids and goes around itself, past the Barclaycard Arena where we attended the National Indoors a bit ago. We were walking through the crowds here – not having a race number meant we just looked like runners and it was a bit hard to get through.

Imogen and Liz going through Brindleyplace. Rucksacks looking good – and we matched!

We got a bit worried coming under Broad Street and along, esp as Brindleyplace was the second place where the marathon runners/walkers left us and did an extra loop. But we were right! And then we were out and “Where’s Five Ways station?” “There’s Five Ways station” phew, and we reached the second checkpoint at the Vale, the University of Birmingham’s main residential area. More great volunteers and a cake stall!

At checkpoint 2 – the Vale

 

Cakes!

I didn’t partake of cakes but I filled up my bottle with orange squash.

I was getting very fatigued and a bit upset, with aching legs. We’d agreed on a 9 min run / 1 min walk strategy from Checkpoint 2 but I was flagging, and upset about that. Then we got to my favourite bit on this canal – the aqueduct over the Selly Oak bypass and I cheered up and steamed over it, with Bernice grabbing an iconic shot.

Liz is cheered by the aqueduct

I am running, honest. And that’s a drop to the road on the right – so cool!

Through Selly Oak, Dave and Thomas overtook us, doing the marathon, as did a few other marathon runners, cheering us on very matily. Then a cheer and it was our clubmate Helen, running home from work! She caught this classic urban canal shot for us then said hello and ran with us for a while. What a lift for us!

Typical Selly Oak canal view – an urban canal. By Helen.

She managed to get a shot of us from the front, too – so lovely! She said goodbye and we pressed on.

Strong ladies / struggling ladies. By Helen.

After Bournville Station we were on the club’s Thursday evening canal route which meant a bit less stressing about getting lost. We had a sit down on the bridge by the lock keeper’s cottage at one turn then Checkpoint 3 with its savoury snacks was there. “Are those pecans?” “Um, no, pork scratchings”. I had some crisps, glad of the salt, and a squash and water top-up. This is by a guillotine lock which is pretty cool.

Checkpoint 3: The guillotine lock. Savouries available and taken advantage of. Yes, it says “fool” on the bridge.

We knew we’d be over 18 miles because of the error at the start but we kept pressing along the canal, up and over the road where we normally come off for the club run and round behind the leisure centre. We met two ladies who had done extra mileage in error and more marathon runners. [edited to add: a bloke shouted out of a canal boat when we were doing a walk break, “Oy, you’re supposed to be running”. I might have shouted back, “Jeff Galloway method, mate!”] Where was the bridge to turn off? More forest and cat littery path and I had a brief resurgence of energy at about mile 18. But when would the foresty bit end?

Then, oh cruelty, we came out at the bottom of the grassy slope we’d run down at the start. I helpfully pointed out that no one could see us until we crested the brow of the hill, so, with Imogen going ahead, Bernice and I marched up the hill then started running. Up the hill, among the tussocks, along the car park bit, squeeze round a low fence, up the road, where’s the finish? Don’t know. Round the back of the commentator’s booths and there were our husbands and Bernice’s mum-in-law and small son with a bubble making wand, very much making up for the lack of a balloon arch.

Coming through the finish! By Matthew. Bubbles supplied by Bernice’s mum in law and son.

Apparently I was smiling just before Matthew captured this truer representation of the morning.

It was great, honest!

And here we are at the end. All photos by Bernice except those mentioned as being taken by others. I’d consumed about 1 litre of drink, a banana and four gels (2 gu, 2 torq).

Three relieved ladies. By me.

There was food but I didn’t really want any as I never do after a long run – I had my banana milk Matthew had brought and we got our certificates (we hadn’t realised the time on those was the time we went into the club house to request them so isn’t quite the same as our watch times). Said hello to everyone who had finished and was around (Kevin had done 14 by midday and gone home as planned; Suki was still out on the course) and Matthew and I walked home.

Afterwards

The inside string behind my left knee was hurting on the way home and I was a bit worried. A big bowl of Shreddies and a shower, a lie-down, some bread and cheese, fishfingers, chips and mushy peas, and an early night. Sunday morning I was tired and a bit achy but that has subsided through the day.

I was feeling a bit ambivalent about this and nearly didn’t blog about it. It was hard and although I’d practised on different surfaces and on the canal, and in the heat, but I hadn’t reckoned with the brick-based slope bit in town, which did me in. I felt I should have felt stronger for the second half than I did, but I just hadn’t practised for that – stairmaster at the gym would have helped.

Moving foward, I don’t love racing and don’t need to do it to run (I know that’s quite unusual and I’m lucky). I am going to ask our club coaches for some gym sessions to build strength, as well as going to more of their sessions. I think I’m going to attempt the 26.2 mile no 11 bus route in October but with plenty of rest breaks and sit-downs.

You should be able to see the relive of this run here.

19.23 mi 14:05 mm (I forgot to pause my watch loads, though), 4:30:52 “moving” time (Bernice made this 4:18); 4:49:29 elapsed time

Miles this week: 27.2

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year: 639 miles (on track)

Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here.

Book review – Angela Thirkell – “Summer Half” #20BooksOfSummer #Amreading

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Book 13 read (a while ago, I’ve got a bit behind) and I feel like I might be keeping up now, although I’m currently reading a non-20Books book. My lovely friend Verity sent me a parcel of books in December that I opened on Christmas Day and it was full of lovely Viragoes and Vintages, what a treat!

Angela Thirkell – “Summer Half”

(25 December 2017 – from Verity)

Another great fun read – AT is always good for a laugh and I tend to ignore the snobbier bits (though I was glad those weird Eastern European projects didn’t come up in this one). Colin Keith decides to be “useful” and become a schoolteacher, then instantly regrets it. His family is phlegmatic and believe it will all sort out in the end (once they’ve actually listened to him and realised his plans). At Southbridge School, he encounters various odd masters and pupils, including the recurring character, Tony Morland (who some love to hate but I’ve always been quite fond of), who is now 16 (I know I’ve missed some out but will collect to fill in the gaps then go through them all again) plus Hacker and his chameleon. There are all the tropes of school-set books, of course, including midnight roamings and a sports day.

There’s fun sorting out romantic pairings and Colin’s galumphing little sister, Lydia, is a treat (a sort of female Tony Morland: I want them to end up together!) It’s also perceptive and a little bittersweet at times. I loved this pinning down of Colin early on, talking of his

belief in ideals and unconsidered action which it would take him several years to bring into any kind of relation with life. (p.5)

and I was also pleased to find Tony’s love of trains still going strong. The subtlety of Kate and Noel’s courtship (or is it?) and the careful settling of couples into those that suit was nicely done too, so it wasn’t all silly even though I was reduced to hooting and reading bits aloud. Yes, Mr Birkett does talk about his awful daughter needing a good beating, but took that as metaphorical (and, that awful thing, “of its time”) and no one was actually beaten.

Great fun!

This was Book 13 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.


I’m currently reading Iris Murdoch’s “The Time of the Angels” which is thankfully not as terrifying as the first time I read it. Should get that finished tomorrow then on to “Peking Picnic”. I did accidentally start a Stella Gibbons in Vintage after this one but rewound hastily when I realised my error!

Book review – Ellen Glasgow – “Barren Ground” and some book confessions #20BooksOfSummer @ViragoBooks

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I approached my first Virago of this summer with a little trepidation, given that it was a bit of a hefty tome and by an author whose last book I had a bit of a problem with (read the review of “Virginia” here) but actually it was really readable and I steamed through it with relative ease, enjoying both the what-happened-next aspect and the detail and descriptions. Phew.

I also accidentally fell into The Works as I was leaving next door’s Holland & Barratt (vitamin pills and running recovery bars) and came out with three paperback novels for a fiver. My Cornish friends will know why I couldn’t turn at least one of them down …

But first to my first All Virago / All August read.

Ellen Glasgow – “Barren Ground”

(25 December 2017 – Not So Secret Santa from my Virago Group santa, Lisa)

As mentioned above, while more books by this author had been firmly on my wishlist, I was a bit intimidated by it, esp as I’ve sort of Fallen Behind a bit with 20 Books of Summer. No need to worry, though, as I plunged into the world of the strong Dorinda Oakley, seduced and abandoned, who re-forms herself in New York then returns to take over the family farm in Virginia. What a story, and I loved how it was written by Glasgow in her early 50s, the age Dorinda has reached by the end of the book.

It’s very powerful on how people get trapped by the land and their circumstances, needing a big injection of innovation and cash if they want to haul themselves out of the desperate struggle to keep going. Hard work isn’t enough, as Dorinda’s parents find: some luck and open-mindedness, plus cash, are needed, and hardly anyone gets this. It’s a small community where Dorinda and Jason’s names will be linked forever: will she be able to perform a final act of charity? A few pretty dresses have to come at the expense of a new cow, everyone knows everyone’s business and the broomsedge, pine and life-everlasting will take over lost fields, one by one.

The innovative and compassionate are praised but don’t always do well; and a bad character doesn’t condemn you as much as weakness and fear (Jason’s problem is that he’s neither good nor bad enough). Dorinda is ripe to fall in love with the first man who comes along, and her love is described in aching detail – but so is her rebuttal of love and reliance on land and hard work that comes afterwards. The scenes in New York are a bit reminiscent of “Pilgrimage”‘s dentistry sections, but the whole book, with its strong sense of predestination, its chorus of rural dialect and brooding landscapes reminded me of Hardy – and I was happy to be vindicated on this when Paul Binding pointed out in the introduction that Glasgow met Hardy and was very influenced by him. There’s a good level of detail on exactly how Dorinda improves the farm, which will always attract me to a book.

As to the problem I had with “Virginia”, well, the black characters are a little infantilised and you have to read with gritted teeth, reminding yourself this was people’s attitude in the 1920s. However, it’s not nearly as bad, and we have characters such as Fluvanna who is pretty well Dorinda’s equal in the running of the house – really, her wife, and definitely most constant companion.

These two quotations sum the book up for me:

She could never be broken while the vein of iron held in her soul. (p. 141)

and

At twenty, seeking happiness, she had been more unhappy … than other women; but at fifty, she knew that she was far happier. The difference was that at twenty her happiness had depended upon love, and at fifty it depended on nothing but herself and the land. (p. 365)

An enthralling book with a heroine the equal of a Bathsheba Everdene and more highly recommended than you would think at first glance.

This was Book 1 in All Virago / All August

This was Book 12 in #20BooksOfSummer


I’m currently reading Angela Thirkell’s “Summer Half” which is a delightful school-set romp I’m highly enjoying. Reading that, I’m not sure why I thought I needed some light relief, as what is more fluffy than an Thirkell, but I picked these up anyway …

Tracey Corbett’s “The Summer Theatre by the Sea” is set in Cornwall and features a picture of the famous Minack Theatre on the front cover. My friend Pam works there, so how exciting! Laura Kemp’s “The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness” is about a Welsh village that gets rejuvenated by a mystery benefactor, and Clara Christensen’s “Hygge and Kisses” is about finding happiness in Denmark. All very much part of trends that are going on at the moment but I’m sure I’ll have a tired and delicate moment these will fill nicely.

What are you reading? Have you bought any new books yet this month?

Sedate lady running 30 July – 05 August 2018 #amrunning #running

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Well, I’ve had a very odd running week this week, including the facts that I did my long run on Monday, did longer than I thought because I just CAN’T ADD UP on Saturday and didn’t do what I thought I was going to do on Sunday! But I ran over 20 miles and did 2 hours of yoga, plus two lots of giving back, so that’s got to be good, right?

Monday – as I’m doing this 18 mile Canal Canter on 11 August it was time to fit in one more long run before then. Because I’d done a half-marathon training run with the club on Saturday, I knew I didn’t want to do this on the Sunday, so moved it forward a day, having booked the time off in the morning. Fortunately, this meant I could run with the lovely Claire (and I didn’t fall over this time!)

Liz and Claire at mile 10 (and a bit for me – how does that happen?)

Claire did the race last year so she took me along a chunk of the route for our first 10 miles, we made it to the canal and along the canal, stopping under a bridge where I had topped up my lucozade sport with water but forgot to pause my watch.  And just before the canal was this:

What?? Yes, a ski slope, mere miles from my house

It turns out everyone who grew up in Birmingham or kids knows The Ackers but I was amazed! Did I mention there was a hill LIKE THAT next to it we had to run up?

We then ran back to my house where Claire left me (she lives a few doors down on a road that’s pretty full of runners!) and then I did the last 6 on my own (the wiggly bits on the map to the left. I basically went to the park and along to where running club starts in the winter, then kind of spiralled around, taking out-and-backs down some roads to add miles.

I won’t lie, it was a push, but I will have Bernice with me the whole way round and there are tea and cake stations on the run.

I was quite pleased to get a 12:22 split for my last mile, and my total was made slower by those two miles, in the middle of which I forgot to pause my watch. Gah! Speed isn’t important to me as such but I do like to check that I’m, for example, maintaining a regular pace and not dropping consistency as I tire.

I WAS tired after that and didn’t get much work  done in the afternoon. Temperatures were a LOT cooler which massively helped: I don’t think I’d have been able to do that in the hot stun.

16 miles 13:13 mm

Wednesday – Did Dave’s yoga class and it was a really good one – I’d stretched a lot after the long run and also on Tuesday and that really helped me: usually after an unaccustomed long run it really shows up in my yoga.

Thursday – A coffee with a friend and lots of work filled up a day which it was actually useful to have as a rest day, I think.

Friday – Did Claire’s yoga class which was HARD on the arms and shoulders but good fun. I did request an easier class going into the race next weekend, although of course it’s my choice how hard I push it.

Saturday – I was down to lead the running club’s beginners’ session and thought I was running 8 miles on Sunday so was going to keep it to that. Then plans changed a bit. So I first of all ran down to the Post Office Parcel Depot and ran back clutching an Iris Murdoch hardback novel (in a box in a bag) in one hand.

0.7 mi 11:32 mm

Then I ran to the park for beginners

0.6 mi 10:40 mm

Then I did 4 min run / 1 min walk round loops of the park with four lovely beginners/returners who all did really well, were eager to learn and were ready for more by the end (that’s how I like to leave them, not worn out).

2.07 mi 13:58 mm

Then I did a wild miscalculation, wanting to get to over 4 miles because Sunday’s plans had changed. I also pushed myself a bit as this was my last effort run before the race – achieving a 10:30 mile for the last full mile, remembering arms and flicking my toes down to push the road away (I can only do this for a bit!).

2.2 mi 11:17 mm

So a total of 5.6 miles, making up my total for the week. Oh well, maths was never my forte!

Sunday – Remember how much I enjoyed watching the work of the officials at the British Championships a few weeks ago? And how I thought I might like to do that? Well, I’m hopefully going to be doing the course to start qualifying next month, but on Saturday I responded to a call for officials to help with the Transplant Games and, after explaining that I wasn’t qualified yet, was welcomed there as an official in training.

One of the long jump pits I worked on; discus cage to the right. It wasn’t deserted, I just chose a good moment!

My apprehensiveness was not warranted – I was warmly welcomed, supported and challenged to try out lots of different things in the field, and yes, the field is where I want to specialise. I was involved with supporting the long jump (9-11 year old and 59-69 year old), discus, shot putt and javelin (twice). It was great fun, tiring, but an honour to support the efforts of these excellent athletes. I’ll be completing my first batch of training as soon as I can!

In the week coming up I’ll probably just do club run gently on Tuesday, then it’s the Canal Canter on Saturday – probably my only official race of the year. Wish us luck!

Miles this week: 21.6

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year: 611 miles (on track)

Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here

Book review – Becky Wade – “Run the World” #20BooksOfSummer #Amreading @RunBookshelfFB

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Well I’m getting through my #20BooksOfSummer with another running book and another smasher. I know Cari has read and reviewed this one and thought similarly to me: anyone else read it? This was Book 11 and I’m galloping through Book 12, so who knows, I might still do it …

Becky Wade – “Run the World”

(26 October 2017)

A delightful book following Becky around the world as she experiences different running cultures. She’s a lovely companion on the journey, and what I really liked about the book were her open-mindedness, especially as a college athlete who’s always been under the strict aegis of a coach and team, and the way she looks not just at how the elites run in each place, as other travel-running writers do, but at the club and recreational running cultures (if they exist), too. So she compares the British and Irish independent athletics club culture with the college-centred running culture in the US (I’m assuming this is just as far as youth running is concerned and that adult runners have their own club structure?) and investigates multisports in New Zealand and orienteering in Finland, for example.

She finds lots of differences, surprised at how independently lots of people have to run and train, while holding down jobs and other roles, and is very open to different experiences in both running and nutrition. Some things are strange to her but familiar to me – like when she discovers parkrun, rather amusingly by innocently going for a run in Bushey Park (home of parkrun) and getting the feeling of someone coming up behind one … British cross-country is also a revelation to her, used to the pristine golf courses of PB-chasing America (I giggled at this, having spent my very first cross-country experience as an adult having to jump in a huge ditch … twice!

I loved how honest she is when she has to face challenges, like not getting lost in Ethiopia (she’s endearingly famous for getting lost) or befriending a shy host in Switzerland. She even opens the book struggling in the footsteps of two women in Ethiopia (she seems to love the people there best and it’s heart-breaking when she describes how she won’t be able to keep in touch with them unless they coincide at a race).

I also really liked the similarities she finds in running cultures all around the world: the long run is generally on a Sunday, there is an emphasis on mile or kilometre repeats as a standard of speed training, and, most importantly, recovery revolves around tea! Although I had read about some of these cultures before, especially about Japan, there was lots to learn here and I really enjoyed finding out about how New Zealand started the jogging revolution and other snippets. What’s lovely is the kindness that she experiences throughout her journey, from her distant cousin Padraig to jolly Finns in a summer cottage. She’s right when she describes the running community as a whole as

the kindest and most inclusive community in the world. (p. 263)

and it’s lovely to see that evidenced – in her own kindness and thoughtfulness as well.

The epilogue takes us through Becky’s first marathon, where the descriptions of each mile are interspersed with memories and learning experiences from her travels. She genuinely seems to have adopted quite a few of these, from warm-ups to recipes (there’s a recipe for each country, too, which is a cute touch) and I hope Becky both achieves running success and writes again some time.

A great read.

This was Book 11 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.


I’m currently reading “Barren Ground” by Ellen Glasgow which is a bit like Hardy set in Virginia, with a strong woman with a thread of iron in her soul refusing to be beaten by the land and a man who deceives her. A substantial Virago book but a good one!

Oh, and in confessions, I’ve completed my collection of Iris Murdoch first editions. I haven’t got super-rare first edition first printings of everything and I’ve only managed it because her reputation has dipped and they have come down a lot in price, but the value to me is inexpressible.

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