Tuesday Tidbits

It being vacation time, yesterday I was asked to do something that’s usually done by a colleague who’s on holiday. It wasn’t a big deal, I just had to start a background job in our main content management system and this morning I had to finish up with some manual adaptions. I tried doing these settings but when I was done, the system didn’t let me save them. It kept giving me an error message with an object ID that I couldn’t find when I searched for it. Being an optimist (or an idiot) I tried a few times but the behaviour never changed. I tried some other fixes which didn’t work either. Then I called the only other colleague not on vacation and we looked at it together and couldn’t find anything wrong. Then I chatted with a support colleague who told me that it was a bug that only a support super user could solve. They fixed it for me, but I had wasted a couple of hours. A very annoying start to the day.

NextDoor

Yesterday I received the book for my book club in the post, just in time for me to read it. A thriller, which I feared would be a terrible but quick read. Sadly, I was right about it being awful: The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena. I spent a good deal of last night reading it and finished it off on my lunch break. The plot was convoluted and unlikely, the characters were flat and horrible people. There were convenient revelations and the ending was an  unnecessary dramatic gore-fest. The writing was plain and simple, mostly in present tense and with short sentences, probably to create a sense of urgency (which it succeeded in doing). The novel consists of dialogue and the characters’ thoughts and we jump from one point-of-view to the other. Nobody trusts anyone else and they all have things to hide. There weren’t any descriptions or background explanations. The narrative was like a shallow but fast rushing river. It’s probably not easy to write that way and to keep track of the plot twists, but I just didn’t like it. The paperback’s headed for the recycling bin as soon as my book club meeting is done.

Spoilers ahead – don’t continue reading if you want to read the thriller. It begins with Marco and Anna, having dinner with Cynthia and Graham, their neighbours in the terraced house next door. Marco and Anna’s baby girl, Cora, six-month-old, is sleeping at home. Marco and Anna have brought a baby phone with them and check on her every thirty minutes. When they return home at 12:30 p.m. the baby is gone. They call the police, who suspect Marco and Anna of having killed the baby. We learn that Anna has postpartum depression and has had violent episodes in her past. We learn that Marco has money worries and that he hates his father-in-law. Eventually, when the reader is just starting to believe that Marco and Anna are probably innocent after all, Marco, out of the blue, reveals (just to the reader) that he’s the one who arranged for the kidnapping of his daughter. His accomplice was supposed to share the ransom with him (and, of course, keep Cora safe), but he ends up dead and Cora disappears. In the meantime, Anna convinces herself that she had a mental breakdown during which she killed Cora and Marco is just covering for her. By and by, it turns out the father-in-law, Richard, manipulated (how is that even possible?) Marco into coming up with the kidnapping plan via his accomplice, who’s a crony of Richard’s. Richard uses the kidnapping to steal the ransom money from his rich wife, whom he is planning to leave. She owns all their money and he wouldn’t get any in case of a divorce because of their prenuptial contract. He wants to leave her because he’s having an affair with Anna’s and Marco’s nasty neighbour Cynthia. Cynthia, by the way, has filmed Marco kidnapping the baby and tries to blackmail him. We find out that Richard set Marco up to take the blame for the kidnapping, but Marco saves himself by giving evidence against Richard, who not only instigated the kidnapping but also killed his crony. He does return Cora to Anna, so we almost get a happy end, except that Anna unnecessarily confronts Cynthia and it gets gory on the last few pages.

The plot is based on the characters being stupid and/or terrible people:

  • Marco: using his own child to extort money from his in-laws and handing her over to some guy he hardly knows.
  • Annie: keeping secret her weird blackouts and slapping her baby instead of asking for help. Totally unnecessarily confronting her nasty neighbour at the end.
  • Cynthia: a creep and Graham: a pervert.
  • Richard: a sociopathic money-grabbing control freak, thinks he’s clever.
  • Alice (Richard’s wife, Annie’s mother): keeping Annie’s mental health issues secret and putting up with Richard all those years – she could have divorced him ages ago.
  • Failure to communicate: the whole thing would have been unnecessary if Marco had told Annie about his cash-flow problem. If Annie had asked for help, her mother would have supported them.

Is it possible to avoid being prosecuted for kidnapping your own daughter just because you give evidence against the person who apparently manipulated you into the plan? Seems unlikely. Also, how can you be manipulated into such an unethical deed? Ugh!

At least it was a quick read. In general, I prefer crime novels with less thrill and more likeable characters (with at least some character development and less stupidity and/or nastiness), a more believable plot and less choppy writing. Previously in the book club we’ve read Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins and The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware, both of which I also hated (especially Cabin 10 – that woman was so stupid…). Luckily, some of my fellow book-clubbers also didn’t like them and we had fun complaining about the idiocy and hatefulness of the characters… the club meetings are always amusing, even when the book selections are suboptimal. I’m looking forward to the meeting, we’ll have fun slagging the characters.

Still, it’s about time we read a good book for once (like Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer).

Keep safe, world.

Daily Rituals

On a mission to read all the books that I bought this year and haven’t read yet, I started with Daily Rituals: Women at Work by Mason Curry. It’s about the working habits of 143 painters, authors, actors, designers, composers and other artists. I got it back in March and I think it was probably suggested to me by Amazon’s algorithm. As I’m interested in how creative people (or anyone really) organize their work and their lives I thought I might as well read it. It was cheap, and it started off with Octavia Butler, one of my favourite authors. So I bought it and then never got round to reading it.

DailyRituals

Well, when I initially started reading, I was irritated, because the profiles of each artist are very short and at first sight appear superficial. But then I got into it and found it interesting and congenial. Naturally, a book about 143 artists can’t go into depth (what was I thinking?), but it does what it set out to do: it gives the reader an insight into the working habits of these women. I read about a lot of creative women I’d never heard of and found their different work habits kind of inspiring for my own life. Some of these habits wouldn’t suit me at all and I’m not half as intense and driven as most of these women, but I can relate. The reports got me thinking about my own talents and how I want to continue to develop them.

What is my greatest talent? I’d say reading. It’s the one thing that I’ve been passionate about all my life. Is reading even a talent? It’s definitively a skill and one can get better at it through practice and challenging oneself. I like reading for pleasure and for a very long time during my working life that’s all I did. This side of my reading doesn’t need improvement (what would that even mean?). I certainly won’t stop reading books for pleasure but I also like reading to learn things and to participate in world culture – in my case with a focus on the humanities, on literature and history, biography and memoir and whatever else strikes my fancy. Sometimes I also read about scientific topics, rather seldom though. I’d like to not only read but get better at thinking critically about the things I read and retaining them. I started the blog to keep a record of the books I read and it also evolved into a kind of journal. The blog is a creative outlet and I’d like to improve my writing skills, too. I’m happy that I’ve managed to keep this blog going for almost two years and I hope to continue with it for a long time. This means, of course, making time for both reading and writing.

Making time for reading doesn’t seem to be terribly difficult for me, but there are some pitfalls. I read at least every morning and each evening in bed, before getting up or going to sleep. But reading at night in bed isn’t great for complicated topics, I’m too tired to concentrate. After work I usually do my blogging (although I usually start during my lunch break) and then from around 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 I hang out with Partner, which I don’t want to change that – my relationship with Partner is important. Also, Curious Dog needs to be walked and played with (also not negotiable). So most of my serious reading time is on the weekend and I’m not particularly well organized. Luckily, I have long weekends, because I don’t work on Fridays. But I still have to do everyday life stuff like cleaning the house, gardening, washing clothes, cooking… whatever. Also, I like just hanging around in a leisurely way on weekends, so I certainly don’t want to organize my weekends to the last minute or hour (sounds gruesome) – I am definitively not as passionate as some of those artists in Daily Rituals. Some of them wouldn’t bat an eye about sacrificing their weekends to their calling. Others got a lot done during short amounts of time.

Making time for writing, well, that could definitively be improved. Somehow, I only seem to manage it on workdays. On weekends and on vacation, other things seem to gobble up all my time. I’ll have to see if I can get myself to do at least some writing during my leisure time.

As you see, I found the book very thought-provoking. It also introduced me to many creative women I hadn’t heard off and reminded me about others. When I’m looking for a new biography or memoir to read, this book will be useful guide to find people with interesting lives.

Some quotes that I liked:

“It’s really all about establishing a flexible routine,” Zittel said in 2017. “Having a pattern helps ensure that you fit everything into a limited amount of time, but too much of a pattern and you get stuck.”

Andrea Zittel (an American artist) in Mason Curry, Daily Rituals: Women at Work, 2019, p. 121.

“I enjoy people best if I can be alone much of the time,” Butler said in 1998. “I used to worry about it because my family worried about it. And I finally realized: This is the way I am. That’s that. We all have some weirdness, and this is mine.”

Octavia Butler (sci-fi author), in Mason Curry, Daily Rituals: Women at Work, 2019, p. 4.

“The only thing that I do every day is I read something,” Giovanni said. “Even if it’s just the comics pages, I read something. And I say that to my students: I think it’s way more important to read something than it is to write.”

Nikki Giovanni (a poet), Mason Curry, Daily Rituals: Women at Work, 2019, p. 180.

I also found Jean Rhys, author of Wide Sargasso Sea (which I haven’t read yet) intriguing. She had a difficult life and a difficult time writing, as I gather from her profile. Near the end of her life she wrote: “Isn’t the sadness of being alone much stressed and the compensations left out?” (Daily Rituals: Women at Work, p. 323).

Curry has written another Daily Rituals book focused on famous men with a smattering of women. I guess it would also be interesting, maybe I’ll check it out sometime.

Keep safe, world.

The Memory Police

I read this novel by Yoko Ogawa in June for my book club. It was published in Japan in 1994 but was translated into English only in 2019. It was a very good read, one of the best novels I’ve read this year, but it was very strange.

The novel is set on an island (presumably a Japanese one, but we are not told). It has only a handful of protagonists, a woman novelist, her editor (referred to as “R.”), and old man who lived on a boat and later moved in with the novelist. Near the end of the novel, the novelist also adopts a dog.

The novel has a strangely calm atmosphere, with life going on mundanely despite all the strange things that are going on. Every now and then (and it accelerates towards the end of the novel), things disappear. People wake up in the morning with a strange feeling and suddenly they know that something has disappeared. But there are still relics of these things, which they then gather up and destroy. Most people then immediately forget that these disappeared things ever existed and go on with their lives as though nothing has happened.

But our memories were diminishing day by day, for when something disappeared from the island, all memory of it vanished, too.

Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police, 2019 (1994) p.18.

However, some people are immune. They remember the disappeared things, even keep some of them, and talk about them – all of which is forbidden. These people are persecuted by the Memory Police, who round them up and “disappear” them. Anyone who ends up in the clutches of the Memory Police is never heard from again.

The main protagonist, the novelist, finds out that her editor “R.” is also one of the immune people, and, because she is in love with him (despite his being married and his wife expecting a baby), she offers to hide him in a secret compartment in her house, which she built with the help of the old man. So, life goes on with R. hidden in the novelist’s house. More and more things disappear, including books, so that the novelist is no longer able to write novels, but instead turns into a typist. She’s still trying to write her novel, but it’s difficult, as lots of words have disappeared and the whole concept of a novel is gone. Her novel also strangely mirrors her life, being about a typist who’s locked up and loses her voice and her ability to communicate.

In the later part of the novel, people’s body parts also start disappearing – they don’t really disappear, but they disappear from one’s perception, so that you can’t really use them. This also affects animals. The first thing to disappear was left legs. People and animals can’t perceive their left legs anymore or feel them. They still exists, but can’t be used anymore (luckily, they didn’t try to destroy their legs, that would have been macabre).

Gradually we came accustomed to living without our legs. Needless to say, things did not go back to the way they had been before, not exactly, but our bodies acquired a new sense of balance, and a new kind of daily rhythm took hold.
[…]
No matter how much time went by, there was no sign that our left legs were going to rot and drop off. They remained firmly in place, fixed to our hips. But no one seemed to care.

Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police, 2019 (1994) p.251.

MemoryPolice

We are never told why things disappear, why people can’t remember disappeared things, why some people are immune and why they are hunted by the Memory Police. We also don’t know who the Memory Police are working for (are they part of a totalitarian regime?). We don’t know if the disappearances affect only the island or if this is happening throughout the world. This openness made for a lively discussion in my book club. One or two of the book club members really hated the novel and thought it was idiotic, some quite liked it and others liked it very much indeed. I was one of the latter.

The writing is lovely, and a lot of things happen in the novel (it’s not a novel without a plot). It’s just that absurd things happen without explanation and the ending is totally open. Maybe one can call it Kafkaesque although I personally never liked what I read of Kafka (too depressing) and I did like this novel (somehow not depressing). I found it fascinating and thought-provoking and would recommend it for readers that don’t mind that questions aren’t answered, and the ending remains open.

Some of the book club members found that the novel spoke to their experiences during Corona, where things also kind of disappeared in so far as they couldn’t be done anymore and one had to adjust to doing without – no longer going to the office, no concerts or sport events… Though these things are luckily not lost forever.

A remark about yesterday’s post: I wanted to try the hypnosis app recommended by Huberman, but it wouldn’t start on my smartphone. So, I deinstalled it again. I’ll have a look at his other video on the topic to find out the details, and if I’m still intrigued, I’ll look for other instructions for self-hypnosis. As it is, I did some meditation instead after lunch today. I’ve done that sometimes before I ever heard of Huberman and it’s quite a good way to recharge (certainly better than surfing the internet during one’s lunch break). I’ve also put blocks in my work Outlook calendar to remind me of the best productive times in the mornings and afternoon for working on difficult topics. The other times are left for things like email and mindless quality checks and other busy work. I was quite energized at work today, but I usually am when I try out new things (or resurrect old ones). Usually, after some time I revert to my old habits of doing the easy daily stuff in the morning and then being somewhat exhausted in the afternoon. I always get everything done, but I should stick with the ways that make getting things done more efficient and enjoyable.

This morning, as I was in a meeting, I happened to look out of the window and saw a deer with two fawns jumping through a field of grain in the valley. The deer would run and jump a few paces, with the fawn following, then stop and look around, the fawns also stopping, and then start again. After a few minutes they disappeared into a corn field. They were almost the exact shade of brownish yellow as the grain and very hard to see (and too far away to take a photo). I just saw them because I chanced to see their movement. Very sweet.

Yesterday it rained from early afternoon until late afternoon. And today it was overcast and will probably rain again tonight, but we also had few instances when sunlight burst through the clouds. It’s very cool for the middle of summer, only 20°C (or even less). On our morning walk, Curious Dog and I met a woman with a child and a young female German shepherd, a very cute and friendly dog. Both dogs refused to walk on; we had to let them play a bit. CD and I then had a lovely walk through the soggy woods. I like rain in summer (although we do need a few hot days soon, so that the grain in the fields can dry out in time for harvesting).

Keep safe, world.

Optimizing Health and Productivity

Have I mentioned that I’m a health freak and that I like optimizing my workday to get things done as efficiently as possible to avoid overwork and anxiety about work? I recently found a YouTube channel that talks about these types of topics. I’ve only watched one video (episode 28), a kind of summary of the videos shown since the channel started earlier this year. Having watched it, I believe I will follow up with the other episodes, to get a more in-depth view of the main ideas. The channel belongs to Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University: Huberman Lab.

Huberman has what he calls protocols to incorporate scientific insights into daily life, 17 of which he mentions in the contest of a day (because the circadian rhythm is crucial for a healthy and productive life). I’m going to list the gist of them and how I may or may not be able to integrate them into my life (some of them I’m doing already anyway and others would have to be tweaked – Huberman encourages personal tweaking). But the full video / podcast is very interesting, and I encourage you to watch it (it’s quite long but well worth your time).

1) Record your daily wake-up time to determine your temperature minimum.

What’s the temperature minimum? It’s the time in each 24 hours that the body temperature is lowest and typically occurs 2 hours before your wake-up time. The temperature itself is not important in this context.

This sounds interesting and I will do it (it’s also easy to do). I usually wake up between 5 and 6 a.m. but I’ve never taken note of it. This info will be needed for at least one of the later protocols.

2021_07_13

2) After waking up, take a walk.

When you walk (or move forward on a bike, for instance) you get something called optic flow. You see your surroundings moving past and you get lateral eye movements. The optic flow has a calming effect on your nervous system (specifically the amygdala).

I don’t walk straight after getting up, but I do walk with Curious Dog straight after breakfast. Huberman says 10 to 15 minutes is enough, but CD likes a longer walks so it’s usually around 45 minutes for me.

3) Get morning sunlight (basically, you already get if you follow protocol 2).

This is good for your circadian rhythm and specially needed to trigger a small but important rise in cortisol. It makes you alert.

Don’t use blue light filters in the morning, as blue light serves to wake you up if you can’t get sunlight (although sunlight is better).

4) Hydrate properly.

Huberman drinks 0.5 to 0.9 litres of water with a little salt straight off after returning from his morning walk. It’s supposed to improve cognitive performance.

Well, because I know that one gets dehydrated during the night, I drink a cup of herbal tea or water before I get up, but that’s only about 250 ml. I can try to up this and see how it works out, but I think I’ll stay with 0.5 litres.

5) Delay tea or coffee until 90 to 120 minutes after getting up.

This is to avoid a caffeine crash in the early afternoon that you may get if you drink black tea or coffee early in the day.

I usually have my first cup of black tea at breakfast. I guess I could try postponing it and see if it has any effect. I don’t usually have a pronounced afternoon slump.

6) Fast until noon.

This is supposed to make you alert, calm and focused, with a better learning experience. Huberman drinks Yerba Mate and Guayusa tea (whatever that is) and some kind of smoothie that I didn’t quite catch.

Definitively not going there. I have porridge with fruits and nuts for breakfast and would probably drop dead on the morning walk with Curious Dog if I didn’t eat anything beforehand. And I usually need a snack midmorning (I could try going without).

7) Facilitate “deep work” – a kind of flow state.

You should do 90-minute bouts of work because the brain goes through 90-minute so-called ultradian cycles. 90 minutes is about the normal length of time you can work in a focused way, although there are ups and downs in that time. It’s useful to set a timer and keep distractions to a minimum. Maybe use low-level white noise to get into the flow state. And here’s also where your temperature minimum comes in: Your best 90 minutes will come 4 to 6 hours after your temperature minimum.

Some of Huberman’s tips: looking up makes you more alert therefore you should place your monitor (if you are an office worker) so that you look up at it or at least straight at it, not down. I’ve gone and sat my monitor on a few large books to elevate it. Looking down all day is supposed to make you sleepy and the same goes for reclining: sit up instead.

In the afternoon you will be most alert during the time of steepest temperature rise (although I can’t remember if Huberman said how to find out when that is. I’m guessing it’s after lunch).

Huberman believes that we can only do two 90-minute cycles of real deep work each day. The rest of the workday can be spent on less taxing jobs (replying to emails, meetings, and such). I tend to agree with him from my work experience. The trick is to make sure that those 90-minute slots aren’t filled with busy work or annoying meetings (sometimes hard to do at work – people aren’t going to cater to my predilections). I’m going to try if I can do this at least some of the time (well, I kind of try it already, but sometimes lose sight of it). I’ve heard this theory about the 90-minute slots before.

8) Get optimal exercise.

This is apparently a ratio of 3:2 strength training to endurance training for 12 weeks and then the other way round for the next 12 weeks. You should exercise for about an hour every day for at least 5 days a week. Huberman talked a lot about the ins and outs of this protocol, but I’m not doing it.

Walking with Curious Dog twice a day is enough exercise for me. It’s more than an hour and I haven’t got time for more – and if I did try to do something else, I’d do yoga.

9) Have your first meal around noon.

And then don’t eat too much, especially not starchy carbohydrates, as that will make you sleepy in the early afternoon.

Lunch is my second meal of the day and it’s usually fairly light, because we cook dinner at night. As I mentioned above, I’m not dropping breakfast. Huberman mentions that a short walk after lunch is good for one’s metabolism. I used to do this when I still went to the office, but now that I walk with Curious Dog twice a day, I’ve dropped the after-lunch walk. I don’t think I’ll start it again.

10) Make sure your testosterone and estrogen are in balance.

I’ve no idea about the status of my hormones and am just going to assume that everything is fine (this was too complicated for me).

11) 10 minutes of non-sleep deep rest after lunch (good for everything).

With this Huberman means meditation, yoga nidra, or hypnosis. Apparently, hypnosis allows you to steer your brain towards specific outcomes, like gaining a greater ability to more focus. He mentioned a free-of charge app that you can use to do hypnosis. I’m into meditation already (and will not stop it) and I do think I may try out the hypnosis app (you can find details about it under his YouTube video linked above).

Update, July 14, 2021: The app didn’t work on my Android smartphone. Maybe my phone is too old…

12) Hydrate properly.

See protocol 4. I can’t remember how much one is supposed to drink after lunch, but just do as seems best.

13) View late afternoon and evening light to support sleep.

This help to balance your melatonin and serves as a buffer to mitigate bright light at night (which you should avoid according to Huberman).

I do this anyway on my afternoon walk with Curious Dog.

14) Eat a dinner that promotes calm sleep.

This means eating starchy carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.) with veggies and protein. The carbohydrates promote the creation of serotonin, which calms you right down.

We do that already. As we are vegan, we eat a lot of carbs. And we have dinner in the evening, so that works out.

15) Optimize falling and staying asleep.

A warm bath or shower (or sauna) helps you to fall asleep faster, as the body then works harder to cool down. Cooling down is a prerequisite for sleep. You should also keep you room dark and cool.

I don’t usually shower at night, but I may try it. My bedroom is dark, but pretty warm in summer (nothing I can do about that). Huberman also mentions a few supplements that one could take to facilitate sleep, but I’ve not noted them down. I don’t need them.

16) Prevent middle of the night waking.

I wake up once or twice each night, but usually don’t have a problem going back to sleep. I don’t think I can change this, so I didn’t take notes about this bit of advice.

17) Use your weekend correctly.

Here he says that you can use the weekend to catch up on rest and relaxation, but you should ideally wake up and go to sleep at the same time as during the week, so as not to disrupt your schedule too much.

I know about this, but I still tend to sleep longer during the weekend. By the end of it, I have trouble falling asleep at the usual time because I’m not at all tired. But I don’t feel that it’s particularly bad so therefore won’t change my behavior.

I’ve really shortened these points. If you are interested in detailed scientific explanations, you should look up Huberman’s channel. He’s got extra videos on each of the topics (or almost all of them, I didn’t check) as well as his summary video.

On another note, it’s been raining all afternoon and I’ve just had a pleasant late afternoon walk with Curious Dog (that’s no. 13 nailed for today). 🙂

Keep safe, world

Monday Miscellanea

Last Friday I drove to our place in Bavaria with Mum and Curious Dog while it was pouring with rain. The rain started just after a few kilometres on our way and ended just before we arrived which was useful as I didn’t have to load and unload our luggage in the rain. On the way we passed some small hamlets (on one of the diversions roads) which were surrounded by flooded meadows. In places it seemed that the water was almost ready to flood the road. On the afternoon of our arrival, our neighbours told us that it had rained every day since the last time we were here (but I’m not sure if this wasn’t slightly exaggerated).

The garden has certainly kind of exploded, green everywhere. Our old red currant bush gave us about slightly more than a kilogram of berries – a lot, for that old bush. All the other plants are doing great (the sweet potatoes, the juneberry bush, the small apple tree…). Our small half-dried up Korean fir tree has perceptively grown and is now a lot greener. It’s now a mix of dead dry fir needles and new green ones. The grass (and dandelion greens and other stuff that make up our lawn – it’s a mess) has grown a lot again, too, but I ruthlessly mowed it all down on Saturday. Some bits will need to be done by hand again, probably this evening, as today is supposed to be the last dry day until maybe Saturday. Normally at this time of year the lawn is dry and brown, it’s nice that it’s so green.

The downside of the green explosion is that some of the rain was accompanied by thunderstorms and some of our rosebushes are very much blown about and need to be pruned (or tied up, or both). Unfortunately, we can’t get rid of our gardening rubbish as the municipal collection point has been shut down because some idiot concealed electronic scrap in their garden waste. You can deposit all sorts of scrap and rubbish at the collection point, you just have to separate it properly. Also, someone else (or maybe the same person) dumped a canister of old oil in the waste metal container which then leaked and contaminated the soil. So now the entire collection point is shut for decontamination and we have to keep our garden rubbish until it opens again. Who knows when that will happen? What a pain. Why are people so stupid and inconsiderate? The people who work at the collection point are all volunteers and are always very helpful. It’s not showing a lot of appreciation for their work to dump illegal waste in with the legal stuff. Also, bad for the environment and probably bad for future prices – I bet the council will start charging more to regain the costs of the decontamination. Very annoying all around.

2021_07_12

I had some lovely walks in the woods and fields with Curious Dog while it was either foggy or mildly raining. The woods are quite wet, it’s like walking on a sponge. I hope that this weather does a lot to fill up the ground water stores that were depleted during the last two dry summers. I guess we’ll have some more wet walks during the next few days, as the weather forecast indicate that it will rain a lot until the weekend.

An old friend from Australia phoned my Mum on Sunday. It was lovely to hear from them and lucky that we were here and not at my place. We will ring them back one of these days now that we have the telephone number. They are the same age as Mum and are doing well. Unfortunately, our landline phone died after a while during the call because it needed new reloadable batteries. Not a very useful time to die on us.

Apart from gossiping with the neighbours, mowing the lawn, grocery shopping and walking with Curious Dog, I did a lot of reading on the weekend. I finished Jane Austen’s Persuasion already last week and continued with Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James and with an Austen fanfiction. So, I’ve managed to read about half of my Jane Austen July TBR. Then I read two more Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, The Language of Bees and The God of the Hive. The latter was one I hadn’t read yet. I’ve got another unread one at home, but I still have to acquire the rest of the series. I did some research on Amazon and have ordered those that are in stock. One or two I’ll get when I return to my place in Baden-Württemberg, as they will take longer to arrive. It’s a pity I didn’t keep up with the series when it was published, especially as I really like it now that I’ve started up again. It would have been cheaper to get them on Kindle, but as I’ve got the other ones as paper books, I don’t want to switch to e-books. As usual, I’ll review the books I read in a later post.

My work problems from last week have luckily been solved. I was quite embarrassed to learn that our documents disappeared from the database because of something that I myself did. It was very strange, because I’ve done exactly the same thing in the past (and also with other documents) and never had these problems (other colleagues have done it too). I will of course not do this thing again…but it was odd. I’ve also reverted to my old notebook (which I luckily brought along with me to Bavaria) because my new one isn’t compatible with my external monitor (well, it needs a different connecting cable and I’ve managed to order the wrong one…). I can’t work with just the small notebook screen, it’s too hard to compare things in different apps and views. The new cable will arrive on Wednesday, I hope. Next week I will have to return the old notebook, but I’m glad I brought it along, as otherwise I’d have been sunk.

Keep safe, world.

The Beet Queen (and Stuff)

This novel is the second in Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine series. There are eight novels in the series and one of my reading goals for 2021 is to read all of them. It’s already June and I’ve only read two – I’d better get a move on. I enjoyed this novel as much as I did the first one, Love Medicine.

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The Beet Queen is set in the same universe, with at least two characters who also appear in the first novel (Eli Kashpaw, a minor character in this novel, and Dot Adare). The novel tells the stories of the major characters from the 1930s until the early 1970s. You could say that there’s a trio of women at the heart of the novel, Mary Adare, Sita Kozka, and Celestine James. Mary and Sita are cousins, Celestine is their friend. The reader sees them from their own and other’s perspectives (this is also the case for other characters – the cast is again quite large, involving at least three families).

The novel starts out with the death of “Mr. Ober” with whom Adelaide Adare lives as his mistress. They have three children, Karl, Mary and Jude (who is born after Mr. Ober’s death). When Mr. Ober dies in a freak accident, Adelaide and her children lose their home and their provider. They try to keep their heads above water by selling their valuables, but that doesn’t work for long. Adelaide is unable to cope and weirdly leaves her children at a fairground. She flies off with a pilot, Omar, who’s giving rides in his small aeroplane. The baby is kidnapped by a young man who wants him for his wife, as they recently lost their baby. Mary and Karl are left behind and decide to find their aunt Fritzie, Adelaide’s sister. They ride on a freight train as hitchhikers to the town where Fritzie lives, but before they get to her house, Karl and Mary are separated.

Karl returns to the train and lives with various people for a time until he finally ends up in a Catholic school for orphans. Later he turns into an itinerant salesman. He has affairs with lots of people, both women and men.
Mary is taken in by her aunt and uncle who own a butcher’s shop. She makes herself indispensable and eventually takes over the shop. Her cousin Sita is jealous of Mary (although she is not interested in the shop). She introduces Mary to Celestine James, her best friend, and is then jealous again, when the two also become friends.

The novel is episodic, jumping in chronological order from one character’s story to the next. Their lives are sometimes mundane, sometimes comic, sometimes tragic. Later in the novel, Celestine has a short affair and marriage with Karl (who, however, soon departs again) and has a daughter, Wallacette “Dot” Adare. Wallacette is named after Wallace Pfef, who saved Celestine’s life and helped with the birth during a snowstorm. Wallace also had an affair with Karl. Soon Mary’s and Celestine’s as well as Wallace’s lives revolve around Dot, whom they spoil rotten (at least, from their perspective). We only get one chapter, the last one, from Dot’s point-of-view, which, however, gives us a much more sympathetic view of her character.

The novel again creates a web of people and circumstances. I think it’s funnier than I remember Love Medicine being. Especially the last section that deals with the Sugar Beet Festival organized by Wallace Pfef, who manipulates the votes for the Sugar Beet Queen so that Dot, who otherwise wouldn’t stand a chance, is selected. He thinks this will build her self-confidence (talk about good intentions…). It turns into a terribly embarrassing (though quite funny) failure and Dot’s chapter explains all the horrific and funny circumstances from her point-of-view, which is quite different from the other characters’ view of her. All the main characters come together for the festival; one of them doesn’t survive – darkly funny.

As I said, I really enjoyed the novel, on the same level as Love Medicine, they are both very good.

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I wrote this post yesterday and finished the Word version (I always write my post ins Word first), but then never got around to posting. Work is currently totally stressful because everything is in panic mode as all sorts of things aren’t working. I spend half my days coming up with workarounds and analyzing issues with my colleagues and am then totally exhausted for the rest of my work hours (not to mention all the meetings the situation triggers).

My Partner is still at his place, trying to find out what to do about the optic fibre cable that his house is supposed to be hooked up to for improved internet access. The builders either turn up when he’s not home or say they will come around on a certain day and then never show up, and now apparently a new company is responsible, for which Partner hasn’t got any contact info (yet, hopefully). Now he’s trying to find someone responsible for the planning with local administration – good luck with that. He’s not here and I miss him. It also means that I have to do the cooking, grocery shopping and dog walks by myself in addition to work. Partner usually cooks on workdays and having to do it myself is a pain (though Mum helps). And yesterday I also had to clean up the basement room where the oil tank and furnace lives, as I got this year’s oil delivery today. I didn’t want the poor delivery guy to have to battle his way through lots of spider webs around the one window which is the entry point for the oil hose. I was finished with all that stuff by 9:00 p.m. yesterday but then couldn’t face any more time at my desk to post.

We’ve been having rather violent thunderstorms at night for the last couple of day. Mum and I left Bavaria for my place on Sunday morning, and luckily only had a bit of rain on the way. The storms and the rain have ended the heat wave and we are now back to a pleasant 20°C to 26°C for the next few days (as predicted, hope the prediction comes true). Much more to my taste, and better for Curious Dog too. Last week we went for our afternoon walk in the early evening when the sun had disappeared behind the hills on the horizon. It was much too hot earlier. I hope our place in Bavaria wasn’t too badly hit by the storms, but I guess if the roof had been blown off (or something else awful had happened) our neighbours would have called. It’s quite nerve-wracking watching the storm fronts on my weather app and wondering what’s happening in reality.

Keep safe, world.

Gardening Joys and Work Woes

Last week we didn’t make it to Bavaria on Thursday afternoon. I’d planned to take the afternoon off, but some last-minute urgent work stuff came up and I couldn’t leave. So, we drove here last Friday morning instead and had a nice trip using a different route than usual, to avoid all the road construction and diversions on the normal route. In addition to my normal non-work Friday, I took Monday and Tuesday off, too. Mainly to get some gardening done. Our front yard looked like a meadow instead of a lawn, because of all the lovely rain we had this year.

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It was a great long weekend followed by two brutal workdays, where everything went wrong…

Friday afternoon, after the drive, I did nothing except read, and walk with Curious Dog. Saturday, I went grocery shopping. Sunday was lazing around and reading, on Monday Mum had a doctor’s appointment at the county town (everything is fine) and I went grocery shopping. Tuesday, more lazing and reading. In between hanging around enjoying life, I did an hour’s gardening in the morning and at night (once, in a fit of insanity, during the noon hours, when it was much too hot). It’s amazing how much you can get done in an hour when you keep at it. It was mostly cutting the long grass around our lawn, around the flowerbeds and bushes and in the middle. It was just too long to use the lawn mower. Now everything is looking nice and half-way civilized. I’ve got a lot of gardening refuse to drive to the municipal collection point on Friday (it’s only open for two hours on Fridays and Saturdays).

The plants are doing well. The two sweet potatoes we planted in May survived and seem to be thriving. Our dry-looking small Korean fir has grown a lot of lovely new green shoots; the Juneberry hasn’t bloomed, but I guess it’s too young – it is, however nicely green. The dwarf apple tree is currently carrying 5 tiny apples (not sure if they will survive to be harvested in Autumn, but it’s encouraging). The roses are starting to flower (everything is a bit later here than at my place in Baden-Württemberg). The peonies were still in flower, beautiful. I found that I quite enjoy gardening when it’s just an hour or two a day.

The weather is hot, up to and above 30°C. The first heat wave this year, I think. That makes it a good year in my book – I hate it when the heat starts in May. And next week it looks like it will be cooler again, dropping below 30°C with some rain. It’s hotter at my place than it is here in Bavaria, and I’m worried about the survival of our plants in the small raised beds on my patio. We did water them very well before we left and I constructed a makeshift sunshade (made of an old bedsheet) for them, but I’m not sure that will be enough. Still, it’s a north-west exposure and the sun only shines directly onto the patio from about 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. so maybe it will be fine. We can but hope. I don’t know my neighbours well enough to ask them to water my plants (especially since we’re gone so often).

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I did a lot of reading during my days off. More reading than gardening, which is kind of funny. I read three Nancy Mitford novels, The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate and The Blessing. I can’t remember why I suddenly decided to dive into Mitford, but I don’t regret it. They are nostalgic, sometimes funny or tragic novels about upper class or aristocratic life in the first half of the twentieth century. I also read The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa – really good and really weird. I read it in one day for my book club which is meeting this week (via Zoom). A good selection (as opposed to the sometimes less than stellar book club choices). And I’m now up to the half-way mark with The Iliad in the Caroline Alexander translation which I’m still loving. As usual, I plan to write a more detailed review for these books (but I’ve now got quite a backlog on book reviews).

Of course, I meant to write blog posts during my long weekend, but somehow I couldn’t motivate myself to turn on the computer and start writing. It’s weird that I have less motivation when I have more time. I need to work on this…

Tomorrow I’m voluntarily working in the morning (but I will be taking half a day of in recompense soon or at the latest the next time we drive to Bavaria). One of my regular work tasks usually falls on Friday mornings, and I don’t want to dump it on my colleagues. It’s a stupid task which doesn’t need much effort, so it isn’t a big deal. But it does have to be done. It’s nice to have an undemanding task after the stress of last Thursday (when I couldn’t take my half-day off) and the two days I worked this week. Last Thursday, I had to work on something with a colleague – basically prod the colleague to do a task which they had kept insisting was easy but nevertheless wanted to dump on me. Well, I resisted and made them do it and found out that they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. No wonder they wanted to get someone else to take over. I had to point out some stuff to them which I had noticed by chance just before our meeting. I didn’t have a clue either, but it wasn’t my responsibility. Since it was an important task which other colleagues depended on and I had been reminding the colleague to do it all along as well as asking for status updates for two weeks beforehand in our team meetings, I was super stressed and quite pissed off. And then I heard that in Monday’s team meeting (when I was on vacation), the colleague again said how easy the task was (before going off on vacation and dropping the rest of the task on another poor colleague). This was just the pits, so I complained to my manager. I don’t usually do this and don’t usually need to because my colleagues are generally professional. But this particular colleague likes showing off and turning their co-workers into their personal assistants (works best with new colleagues, who are too inexperienced to protest). It’s just not usually a problem for me, because I try to avoid working with them – note to self: keep it that way. My manager had already noticed that this current thing had been rather a shambles, which was good, but past experience has shown that they aren’t great at getting the colleague to change their behaviour. The colleague gets away with all sorts of things that other colleagues would get called out on. I used to think it was because they were extremely competent at what they do, but last Thursday has rather called that into doubt.

Keep safe world.

Memoirs and Poems

Owing to the public holiday we had on Monday, this working week has been a short one, only three days for me, as I don’t work on Fridays. Next week will also be only three days, as there is another public holiday on Thursday (Corpus Christi), but that’ll be it for public holidays until November, I believe (since October 3, the Day of Unification in Germany falls on a Sunday this year). Since quite a few colleagues have taken one or both of these weeks off, and there were no particularly onerous deadlines, work has been somewhat relaxed. A relief after the ridiculous business of the previous weeks. No doubt it will pick up again, but I’m enjoying the lull while I can.

Iris

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, last weekend I read John Bayley’s memoir of his marriage with Iris Murdoch, Elegy for Iris. I picked this book up earlier this year because I read a review or watched a BookTube recommendation (can’t remember which) and thought it sounded interesting. And it was. It’s Bayley looking back at how he first met Iris Murdoch, remembering their early marriage and some of the highlights in their lives. It’s about how they led a somewhat unconventional marriage, about their work and friends and about how Bayley coped as Murdoch sadly sank into Alzheimer’s. It’s very moving.

One little detail that filled me with glee was Bayley’s account of how their homes always got covered in dust and their gardens went wild because they never had time or much inclination for cleaning or gardening. I have much sympathy for that, as I struggle with these annoying chores myself and frequently both my home and my garden look rather bedraggled.

I found that Bayley has written two more memoirs, one called Iris and the Friends about Murdoch’s last year of life and how Bayley dealt with that and the third part Widower’s House about Bayley’s life after Murdoch’s death. I haven’t read the other two memoirs, but they are on my TBR list.

I read the first memoir Elegy for Iris, because I like memoirs in general (as well as autobiographies and biographies) and ones about writers in particular, and in addition have a special interest in how people manage in old age. We all grow older and might as well get some pointers on how to lead a good life in old age. Of course, I hope I’m not going to get dementia… but I still like reading about how people cope with the negative stuff as well as the positive.

Weirdly, I haven’t yet read anything by Murdoch although she is a well-known author, both of works of fiction and works of philosophy. Since I found her life so interesting, I’m hoping to read some of her work sometime (not sure when, as usual… there are so many books to read).

I’ve finished reading the poetry anthology Poetry of the First World War, edited by Tim Kendall (Oxford World’s Classics). It’s very good. Very powerful about the horrors of WWI, about the unexpected and fleeting pleasures, about the daily dreadfulness of the trenches, about courage, fear, gallows humour, love and death. I found it a well-made anthology, with short biographical details about the poets (so many of them tragically killed in the war) and useful explanatory notes.

Since somewhere in that anthology I read someone’s opinion that Germans didn’t have great poetry (a statement inspired by the enmity naturally felt by the English and their allies during the war), I decided that I didn’t know enough of German poetry. I haven’t read German poetry since high school as I’m always very focused on English language literature. Thus I did some research and bought myself a two-volume collection of German poetry Reclams Buch der deutschen Gedichte (Reclam’s Book of German Poetry, Reclam being a respected publisher of German literature). It’s organized chronologically and I’m currently reading poetry from the Middle Ages in Middle High German. Actually, I read them, kind of guess at the meaning because Middle High German is quite different from modern German, and then read the modern German translation which is fortunately provided below the poem as a kind of footnote. It would have been easier to read if the original poem had been on the right page and the translation on the left, but I guess that’s a minor quibble.

Here’s a cute little poem in Middle High German by an unknown author that I remember from my high school days (it’s really well known and probably in every anthology of German poetry that covers the Middle Ages):

Dû bist mîn, ich bin dîn
des solt dû gewis sîn.
dû bist beslossen in mînem herzen.
verlorn ist das slusselîn,
dû muost och immer dar inne sîn.

My unpoetic attempt at a translation:

You are mine, I am thine,
Of this you should be sure.
You are locked in my heart,
The little key is lost,
So now you have to stay forever.

I’m quite enjoying my foray into German poetry. It will probably occupy me for a couple of months at least, as I usually only read a few poems each morning before getting up.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

May is already one third gone and I’ve only managed one post so far. Work is still very stressful and chaotic. New tasks keep popping up, there’s millions of synch meetings, and preparations for meetings, and rollouts and whatnot. All on top of the usual stuff that has been accelerated so that my team and I have to do one third more of it than last year. This tires me out on weekdays, so that I don’t have enough energy to write a blog post. At the beginning of the weekend (and my weekends are long ones, as I don’t work on Fridays) I always plan to do a post per day and what happens? I do the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking, the doing things with my partner, the dog walking, a lot of reading, but I can’t bring myself to turn on my notebook. At the end of the weekend, I regret not having written a thing. So, today I’ve decided that come what may, I’m writing a post. I’m worried that if I don’t get back into a groove of regular writing, I’ll stop writing entirely which I really don’t want to happen, because I do enjoy it and I like the idea of having a record of my doings and readings. And maybe some readers will get some enjoyment, too.

What have I been doing? Only the usual. We returned from Bavaria on April 25 and this Thursday, which is a public holiday in Germany (Christ’s Ascension), we will be driving back again. April and May have been mostly still quite cold and wet. I’m still wearing a woolen hat on my morning walks with Curious Dog, even today, although we had 26°C yesterday afternoon (and it felt warmer). I’m quite enjoying the cool spring, but maybe it was sometimes too cold for the birds with their newborn chicks. It looks like the next week is going to have temperatures somewhere between 15 and 20° in the afternoons and between 7 and 9°C in the nights. At last, no more frost.

In Bavaria, last time we were there, it turned out that our next-door neighbours had caught Corona, just a few days before their vaccination appointment. They are in their 60s and I fervently hope they will have come though it without any complications. We will find out on Thursday. We also learnt that another neighbour, an older lady originally from Portugal, with whom we used to share our local newspaper, had passed away in Portugal. Not, I believe, from Corona. But it was shocking news and Mum and I were sad to hear it. Though marked by bad news, our last stay in Bavaria was in other respects quite as usual. We had some good weather; Curious Dog and I had a lot of pleasant walks in the woods and he picked up a few ticks. They don’t seem to mind the inclement conditions – it was in the second half of April, and we still had frost.

Zami

In the first week back from Bavaria, I had a spontaneous day off work and used it to set up a bookshelf that had been stored in pieces behind my wardrobe since my move (almost three years ago) because I didn’t have anywhere to put it. Because I was missing this entire bookshelf, some of my books were stacked against the short attic wall of my bedroom (as my bedroom is basically a large attic room with the sloping roof all along one side). I had originally wanted to get rid of those books, and I did get rid of some, but couldn’t bring myself to do it for all of them. Also, a lot of the new books I got last year were stacked on the floor around my meditation mat (not sure why I didn’t put them somewhere out of the way). Anyway, I came up with the idea to set up my old bookshelf with the short side screwed to the wall next to the door of my room and the long side (85 cm) jutting out into the room. This is quite useful, because it means that I can stack my books on two sides of the shelf (it is just wooden shelves with endpieces, no back). I put all my crime books on one side (with space left over) and all my old sci-fi paperbacks that I had stacked against the wall on the other side. And then I had an empty shelf where the crime novels used to be. So, on the following weekend, I removed all my books from my largest set of shelves, dusted them off, and rearranged them. It was fun. I’ve now got my poetry collection all on one shelf (it’s a small collection) and the books I’m currently reading and planning to read on other shelves, and even some empty shelves which I’m going to use to store my office supplies, which are currently thrown haphazardly into a cardboard box that lives in the corner next to my desk. Amazingly, I only took about three hours to dust and rearrange my bookshelves. I felt very accomplished afterwards (those shelves really needed dusting – I hadn’t noticed quite how dusty they’d gotten).

After all this work, I’ve now got a nice reading nook between the newly put-up shelf and the other ones. The only drawback is that I can’t have Curious Dog up here in my bedroom, because the wall-to-wall carpet would get dirty and he’s scared of the stairs. So, I do most of my reading in the living room, where Curious Dog likes to interrupt (when he’s not sleeping at my feet). But occasionally I do lounge in my reading corner on the bean bag in the attic bedroom. And it’s nice to look at while I’m sitting at my desk all day on workdays.

I still have some other “clean-up and organize” projects to get started on. One of them concerns a couple of moving boxes with odds and ends that I’ve stacked in a corner and hidden underneath a colourful quilt. They need to get unpacked. I think one of them is from my next-to-last move which was 13 year ago. It contains a lot of old hand-knitted socks that my grandma used to make for me. I don’t wear them anymore, but I can’t get rid of them. But this weekend, I lazed around reading and didn’t do anything except for the most necessary housework. I read some of The Tale of Genji and ought to be almost caught up with my reading buddy. I also read the next Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes novel and Zami: A New Spelling of My Name: A Biomythography by Audre Lorde (very good, needs its own post). Also started a new poetry collection of WWI poetry (prompted by the Russell & Holmes books, because they (at least the early ones) mention WWI a lot. I also got ahead with the Arabian Nights’. A very productive reading weekend. The coming weekend will be a long one, since Thursday is a public holiday. We’ll be driving to Bavaria, but once we have arrived, I’ll probably have lots of time for reading. Looking forward to that!

I’m still not vaccinated, but hope Partner and I will get there in June.

Keep safe, world!

Tuesday Tidbits

Mum and I are once again at our place in Bavaria. We drove here last Thursday afternoon, again amid flurries of snow on the way. Real April weather. It’s quite cool and not really pleasant to work in the garden, which is a pity, because we’ve got lots of dead stuff from last year to tidy up. Our large rosemary bush hasn’t survived the harsh winter, which is a pity. The small apple tree and the Juneberry bush we planted have survived and are starting to grow new leaves. The three tiny hedge bushes I planted had a mixed result. One is looking healthy, one is middling and one seems to be ailing. We’ve also got tons of daisies and even more dandelions in our lawn. The peonies are coming up nicely and the lilacs are also growing new leaves. At my place in Baden-Württemberg, where it is warmer, the lilacs are already showing emerging buds.

Curious Dog is back to his usual state. The last couple of weeks he’d been very much driven by hormones. Some bitches around my place must have been in heat, or something, because CD spent all his time on our walks sniffing everywhere like a crazy dog and pulling worse than ever on the leash. He also whined and even howled a few times in the house, which he otherwise only does when he hears emergency sirens. It was quite strange. He’s never been so lovesick before. He’s also losing his winter fur and spreading it evenly around the house. He always sheds a bit, but currently it’s shedding season. I wanted to go to dog school with him, but it is closed again due to Corona lockdown. We haven’t been since sometime last fall. We don’t really need it, but it’s fun and sometimes we do learn something new.

Work is insane. I have my usual tasks, which have multiplied, because tasks we used to do every 6 or 7 weeks we are now doing once a month. There’s also the special project that I’m coordinating, which I can’t wait to be over, but it’ll run for some months yet. Then I have to do a presentation and demonstration of something next week, which is driving me crazy. I hate presentations. At least I hope things will be more manageable once the presentation is done. I spoke with my manager about that other task I complained about in my last life update post, and he couldn’t answer my questions. Turned out, he hadn’t thought the thing through very well. He’s now gone off to think about it a bit and in the meantime, I’m not doing anything about it. Haven’t got time anyway.

I spent some time on the weekend reading The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni. It’s told in the first person by Sam, who has a rare condition called ocular albinism which means that he has red eyes (that is, the colour of his eyes is red). He is born into a Catholic family and is sent to Catholic schools where the students tease and bully him for being “the devil child”, but his parents are very supportive. He tells the story of his life as a grown-up looking back and comments on it. He makes friends with a couple of other misfits, has a run-in with a terrible bully who also turns up to harass him when he’s grown up. He makes it through challenges and tragedies and grows rich, gets the girl, has a son… It’s like a modern fairy tale in which the hero forges alliances, struggles through adversity, grows wiser, gets the treasure, marries the princess and is set up for living “happily ever after”. It was not bad but not exactly memorable. Angle of Repose, about which I posted a review yesterday, was memorable, this novel wasn’t. Everything was explained and tied up neatly, no ambiguity, no open ends, hardly anything to mull over and ponder.

It didn’t do much for me and I wouldn’t have read it except that it’s the book that my book club is currently reading. The book club selections are always very hit and miss, but at least it wasn’t as bad some of the others I’ve had to read. Although I admit that the book club members quite often don’t like the books I suggest – sometimes even I don’t like the book I proposed. The person whose turn it is to select the book is supposed to choose one they haven’t read yet, so you never know what you will get. Our reading tastes are also quite different. Sometime there’s a real gem, but mostly it’s so-so or even quite terrible. But we do enjoy discussing the books and gossiping about life in general. We usually end up gossiping more than we discuss the book. We’ve been doing Zoom calls during Corona which isn’t as much fun as meeting in person, but better than nothing. We are meeting this week, I’m looking forward to it. Also anticipating the next book – it could be a hit.

Keep safe, world.