Monday, 18 July 2011

'Great' novelists whom I just don't 'get'.

For over 40 years I've been something of a bookworm, avidly reading both 'classic' literature and contemporary authors. (Some months ago I passed the milestone of having read 1,500 different books.)
But, though everybody's tastes shift this way and that over a lifetime, there has been a handful of renowned writers, generally considered in the pantheon of the 'great', which I've never been able to 'tune in' to, though, as in a piece of music I can't understand, I feel the loss is mine, and am really envious of those who are able get onto their particular wavelength. 


So here are three authors off the top of my head which I've tussled with all my life, having read several books of each, but every time feel my mind wandering - reading the words but the meaning isn't penetrating. I always get to the end off their books but, immediately on being finished, I'd be hard pressed to describe what I've just read:-

Joseph Conrad
Rudyard Kipling
P.G.Wodehouse

There would be more, but these stand out as writers, reading whose books I feel is like water being poured into a sieve - the sieve, being my mind. Nothing, or very little, is retained.

I say that tastes change, and that certainly has been the case with me. I never really saw the light with Dickens, Jane Austen and Henry James until into my forties - and Iris Murdoch has been one of my more recent 'epiphanies', this latter only occurring about 10 years ago. Now all four of these would be included in my Top 20 writers of all time without a doubt. (Strange that I've never had a problem with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, generally regarded as being among the 'heavyweights', liking both of them a great deal since my first encounter with them before I was even 20.)

I'd be interested to hear of anyone else's 'blind spots' in authors. If one can't appreciate them I don't think it's anyone's 'fault' in reality, and certainly not the writer him/herself. It all depends on one's own pysche on whether there's a connection or not. I'm not sure that liking an author can be actually 'taught', though having said that I'm very aware that in my school-days it was a particular priest-teacher who revealed to my class the awe-inducing wonder of Shakespeare, when up to then I'd thought him dry as dust. That young priest is whom I am indebted to more than any other in my entire life for helping me discover an appreciation of, not just literature, but culture generally. But that's all veering off the subject. Maybe another time.

As I finish this blog I'm thinking of yet more writers whose works are somehow closed off to my mind, but the list would just go on and on. Anyway, it makes a change from listing one's favourites!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

More pics from my "It was NOT a holiday!" last week.

Near coast of north-east England. In distance is small town of New Marske (pop c. 10.000) where I lived for a few years (having lived before that in the former steel town of Middlesbrough) before coming south and embarking on sequence of moves - Oxford, Germany (Cologne), London, Brighton, and now Worthing, from whence I can't wait to escape.





My sister, Leone (my elder by 9 years) and her hubby, Ted. I stay at their house on my visits to the area and use it as base for my visits elsewhere.






You-know-who and Ted, who's falling asleep after all his booze!









My brother Carl (older than me by 7 years) and his wifey, Sylvia, who clearly wasn't ready. I should have re-taken the shot.







Looks like my bro is having a visit from Santa!








My former school-friend, Paul, whom I've known for over 50 years. He's actually Canadian (from Simcoe) and has retained his accent all these years. He's also the cleverest person I've ever known personally - his specialties being philosophy, mathematics and cosmology, and in his youth was a remarkable athlete. We both share an unparalleled appreciation and worship of the musical accomplishments of the mighty J.S.Bach.





Paul and I spent several hours together chatting and supping wine in a bistro. Pity the photos of the two of us taken there didn't have any visual context.









                                          So that's it, folks, probably for another full year. My blogs back to the mundane now.

Monday, 11 July 2011

'BORIS and the SEAGULL'

Actually there's no connection between the two. The opportunity to use a cracking good title was just too irresistible!

First, BORIS. Isn't he a beauty? 'Enthrallingly magnificent' is maybe nearer the mark. (Photos taken last week during my NON-holiday trip away.)                                          

                                        He's owned by one of my nephews who bought him for £800 (about $1,300 American) a few years ago. Totally hairless (and whisker-less) this sphinx cat is a real sweetie. Very affectionate, it's such a shame that he's left by himself in a large house for the greater part of every day, as his owner, who lives alone, is out at work. And even when my nephew's not working he's out gallivanting around the world several times a year. He's been to Las Vegas half-a-dozen times already and is returning there in November. Can't begin to think of why that place has such an attraction for him! ;-)
    Anyway, when he is away, my own elder brother (my nephew's father) and his wife have to make a 10 mile round trip every day to the house in order to feed him. He won't settle in another place and is not allowed outside as those other cats who are not terrified of him and scamper away, square up for a fight. (The same old story, which is equally true for humans as well as for animals -  If anybody is 'different' then s/he is perceived as a threat.)
                                                                                                      

Boris loves being stroked, starting to purr immediately. But his skin actually feels very like rubber - and you can easily feel the bumps along his spine. My sister, who is also a cat-lover (though not as avid as I am) cannot bear to even think of touching him. But I just love the feel of him. On my visit he couldn't stop sniffing the lower end of my jeans. I suppose he can only have been picking up the scents of my own two pussies when they rub against me in anticipation of getting their food. It was a shame to leave him sitting on the window-ledge watching my departure. My brief visit was surely a rare moment of excitement for him.


Then the seagull:-
I wrote in a recent blog of how, back in my own flat, a gull has been getting through the window by the same route that the cats come and go - eating the cat food and then, finding it can't get out again, flapping around in the kitchen, flying against the window and pooping all over in its panic. Well, for a full week before I went away I thought the problem had been solved. It couldn't traverse the obstacles I put in the window gap which the cats could (just) squeeze through - at least until the day before I left when it got in yet again.
   Now that I'm back I'm keeping the window closed all the time, watching for when the cats want to go out and come in - and when I'm out myself at the cinema or wherever, I have to lock the cats outside until I return.
    So that's the present temporary situation. What I might do is to buy a cat-flap to fix in its frame against one side of the window opening and block the rest of the gap with cardboard or a piece of wood. Only problem is that it's got to be easily removable so I can take it away when the window needs to be closed. I'm only hoping that if I do this the pesky gull doesn't learn how to use the flap, but I don't really think it will.

  Well, that's how things stand as at now.  Some more pics of my non-holiday to follow in my next blog.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sorry, folks - it's yet another pussy-blog.

The carry-cages are open and ready. I'm off for my annual away-trip tomorrow, to visit my sister (and family), brother (and family) and one or two others. Although back on Friday, this business of putting the cats into a cattery even for that short duration, causes me untold anguish which I always have for more than a week prior to the event, while the cats themselves remain in blissful ignorance. I do so dislike having to shut them inside the flat for 3 or 4 hours before putting their struggling furry selves in the cages just before the ordered taxi arrives. Noodles will be crying pitifully continuously and biting hard at the metal bars on the door, probably not sure what's happening even though it'll be his 3rd time. Blackso is a bit more resigned to it, this being his 5th or 6th time. Oh well, it's got to be done!
If I was going to be away a really long time my concern would be unimaginable. As it is, all the time I'm away, my heart will be heavy with the thought of them in the cattery. It's just impossible to put them out of mind.
Incidentally, because of lack of financial means it's now over 20 years since my last true holiday. All the times I've been away from where I resided have been to visit my mother while she lived, and since 2005, to visit my sister. (Well, all times apart from half-a-dozen compulsory week-long residential intensive courses for the languages I was studying for. They hardly count as a holiday!)

I should mention that the gull intruder business mentioned in my last blog is still not resolved. Having rigged up a bar to put across the gap of the open window I have now succeeded in preventing it getting in for over a week now - though it does still come several times a day to the window sill, perkily looking in and eyeing the cat food on the floor. Only trouble is that the cats themselves really have to squeeze uncomfortably tight to get in and out - and it's also deterring my other four pussy guests. Not a happy situation at all. Hoping that when I get back the gull will have given up trying. But that would really be a minor miracle. I think 'giving up' isn't in this bird's vocabulary.


P.S. Will be so pleased when Wills & Kate have finished their North American touring spree. Our news is just so full of it, I have to keep switching channels. And they've still to go to California yet. Oh, saints preserve us!


Friday, 24 June 2011

My 'PUSSY GALORE' Drop-In Centre is being gatecrashed!

No, not by Tortie here, but by a totally different being (see below).
Tortie is just one of a quartet of well-established guest visitors who take full advantage of my open-door policy (actually, open-window), coming in for the food on offer; as though I don't have enough to do caring for my own 'resident' Dynamic Duo (more pics at bottom of blog). Tortie even occasionally comes in for a nap, freely using any of my rooms, much to the unexpressed but clear displeasure of my real 'children', Blackso and Noodles.

But as well as all these whiskery ones, I'm now also being visited by, of all things - a SEAGULL! - it may actually be more than one of them. I can't tell them all apart easily. This bird, assuming it is just the one, is actually bigger than my own two cats and when, some weeks ago I found it sitting on the window sill, I reduced the window gap just in case it was tempted to make an entry. The window is left open day and night so the pussies can come and go as and when they wish.
Then some days ago there was the sound of some sort of skirmish in the kitchen. The bird had come right inside and was trying to get out again by flying up and charging against the window. Managed to let the panicky thing out, while dodging its large (relatively) wing-span. I then reduced the opening still further. But then just a couple of days later, it was in again. Let it out once more and attempted to reduce the gap even more by blocking part of it with a couple of large dry cat-food cartons. The cats have to really squeeze to get through now. Yet now only this morning I heard a persistent 'tuk-tuk' sound, with my own Noodles looking wide-eyed down the hall in the direction of the kitchen. Went to investigate and - would you credit it? - the pesky thing was in yet again, helping itself to the left-out cat food. Before I could open the window wide to coax or force it out once more, it actually pulled its body into a smaller size, squeezed out of the little gap itself and flew off. What a nerve!
    I already spend more on cat food for my own two, plus the four approved 'guests', than I spend on food for myself. If I'm to add to my visitors a non-feline and unwelcome intruder that would be just the limit! No, I'll just have to put my foot down. But how on earth to keep the cheeky feathered thing out while giving the true pussies free rein to come and go as they please? In a fight between the gull and one of 'my' cats I don't think I'd bet on the cat coming out the better one. What happens if it gets in while I'm out? Oh dear.  Problems, problems!



Tuesday, 21 June 2011

June 21st - Poignant double-anniversary day

Today is six years since my mother's funeral - she had died 10 days prior, aged 89.
It's also exactly 32 years since the day my father died, at 69 years.

I loved them both dearly, but must confess that it was only in their respective latter years that I really appreciated them. Although it's natural to have some regrets about things unsaid or undone I'm grateful that in my case there aren't any really major regrets in that respect. Also grateful that there were no great hostilities between them and other members of my large-ish family, which is indeed something to be thankful for, especially when I read the family circumstances of some other bloggers.

Always loving you, Mum & Dad.