You are the only one I can tell about this. You see, I’ve done something very silly, and I don’t know what to do.
When I took the washing out of the machine this morning, a soggy wad of paper plopped on to the kitchen floor. Filled with an all too explicable mixture of curiosity and apprehension, I picked it up and peered at it, quite forgetting the basketful of tangled clothes which glowered at me, impatient to be hung out on the line. The sodden mass of paper appeared to consist of more than one sheet, folded over and packed tightly so that the whole structure resembled a miniature Swiss roll. However, this wasn’t what you might be thinking (a roll of banknotes). Oh, no. Indeed not. This was something far worse. This was an exam revision paper. And not just any revision paper. This was Physics! My son’s most difficult school subject, and the exams coming up in a few days. Calamity!
I had to act quickly, Diary. I remembered what the main character had done in a book I read recently. Sian, working on an archaeological dig in the atmospheric town of Whitby, with its brooding, haunted abbey and its hundred and ninety-nine steps. You see, she was given some terribly creepy papers in a glass bottle and had to unroll them with infinite care to reveal a (possibly) terribly creepy secret which had been locked in the bottle for ages. It helped that she was a qualified conservator of old papers and parchment and knew exactly what she was doing. Whereas I only had my panic-driven instincts.
Diary, I used something I can most accurately describe as intuitive autopilot. Gently, I peeled and separated the delicate layers: damp, dulled, greyish. Soon enough, I found myself able to make a judgement about the size and age of the paper. A4, folded into an A5 booklet. Photocopied approximately two weeks ago. Tiny black letters and numbers plotted together into questions and equations. Dotted lines for answers, like tiny black beads of Whitby jet. Which is where Sian was working on her papers. (You know, Diary, the terribly creepy ones.) Spooky. And … no! A tear, a hole, a gap, as the stubborn pages stuck damply together, and I unwisely tried to pull them harder. But it was too late to stop, Diary. And so the sorry process continued, until I was holding two rectangular doilies up to the light, hoping the Physics in them hadn’t slipped through the holes like potato water through a colander. Would my son notice? Would he still be able to do his revision? Should I own up?
I’m not ready to share the secret of what I did next, so no one will ever know. Not even you, Diary. Though the truth will out, they say.
But you can find out what happened to Sian by reading ‘The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps’ by Michael Faber.
I don’t like cars. Driving them, I’m a menace; discussing them leaves me cold. And as for how their engines, or how they work? Incomprehensible – and about as interesting as a party political broadcast (sorry Dave, Ed and Nick*). But this post is set to be a rule breaker. It concerns A Book About Cars.
The first surprise about this work is its size: a veritable wallpaper sample book! Next, the cover (it probably lost its dust jacket years ago); it has broad Oxford-blue and off-white deckchair stripes – bold and confident. This book knows who it is and what it wants to deliver! Then there’s the gold lettering and the somewhat whimsical drawings of vintage vehicles. The ‘motor-cars’ of the title evoke visions of a lost world, the kind of motoring enjoyed by Toad of Toad Hall (well, possibly not).
So far, so fifties. OK, so this copy’s cover is not the cleanest and the spine has split. But somebody has clearly loved this book: read it and re-read it. Inside, it’s obvious why. The illustrations. Not photographs of vintage cars – we’ve all seen those before. (Apologies here to photographers and car enthusiasts). Elegant illustrations: subtle and oddly flat. Large enough to frame and hang on your wall, and I suspect that many of this book’s siblings have met that curious fate. These are cars without the noise, the fumes or the bone-shaking. Pressed like rare flowers between the oversized pages. I love them. I might even read the text to find out more about them, given time. And that’s saying something!
‘Early Motor-Cars’, by George A. Oliver
* Other political parties are available.
I finished reading ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel in time for the final episode of the wonderful BBC adaptation. I’ll miss them. There are images in my mind now (from both books and television) that will take a long time to fade. As always, I’m glad I read the books first. I felt so involved in the world they created, but that takes nothing away from the excellence of the BBC version.
The third book is desperately needed!
I bought some old gardening books recently; this one in particular caught my eye because it combines two of my interests: plants and language.
It contains some fascinating information about the origin and meaning of plant names.
I know all this can probably be found easily on the internet, but it’s much more exciting somehow to read it in a book from 1923.
This is what it’s like here: cold, dark days. Those quiet, still days between Christmas and New Year when I can finally get round to doing some of those things that work has pushed into the background.
I’ve just finished reading ‘Black Chalk’ by Christopher J Yates. Difficult to stop reading at times, though my concentration wavered somewhat towards the end.
It’s always difficult to decide what to read next, but I think I’m still in the mood for crime and thrillers. Still trying to get ‘The String Diaries’ and ‘Written in the Blood’ out of my system. (I’ve even started trying to learn some Hungarian vocabulary!)
I think I’m going to try ‘The Coffin Trail’ by Martin Edwards next, as I’ve just been looking at some old photos of the Lake District and wish I could be there right now … sitting by a crackling log fire of course!
Walking in the country yesterday; the sun came out suddenly and lit up the landscape. Amazing colours! This photograph doesn’t really do it justice but it’s the best of the bunch in terms of the colour.
There are still some flowers in the garden at home … just hanging on in the last of the warm weather, I suppose.
Oh, and reading Written in the Blood by Stephen Lloyd Jones, after really enjoying The String Diaries.
Awake at around 6.30 and reading in the dark on my phone: The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones. The atmosphere in Chapter 16, set in an isolated house in Snowdonia, was so tense that I had to stop reading and wait till it was light! The last time anything like this happened was when I read Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. Both definitely recommended reads. Perhaps not in the dark though …