Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Reading


When not rushing around taking photos, writing, walking the dog,  gardening in a very confined space and, occasionally, cooking, you will find me with my nose stuck in a book. It was ever thus. I think I like books better than real life...they take most of the really boring bits out except poor Tess laboring in the fields in the opening of Hardy's novel and, of course, the even more wretched Ivan Denisovich...
One reads to explore other worlds, other lives.
However, a super book rather close to home - though written almost a century ago - is


The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher in which a woman is perfectly miserable at home - though a meticulous housekeeper - and manages to make her family perfectly miserable too and then...well...things change.
I hate knowing all about a book's themes before I begin it.  (I'd read the preface afterwards!) This book should have felt a bit schematic and predictable but the author breathes such life into her characters that one really wants good things for them.
I read it in two days.
I also recently loved Margarita Laski's Little Boy Lost - a most moving but brisk and uncloying account of a father's search for his son in post-World War II France. It was originally published in 1949 and captures the gloom and poverty of Europe immediately after the war. 


My third recommendation is not a novel but a family history, A World Elsewhere,  is beautifully written and utterly gripping. In brief, Sigrid's mother a young American abroad in Europe in the twenties of the last century, meets and marries a most charming, handsome, romantic - and impoverished - aristocrat. This all sounds wonderful - but this idyll turns into a nightmare when Germany goes to war.

So, happy reading in these long dark evenings!





Monday, December 15, 2014

Deck the Halls...


Well, actually no holly here though the holly trees round here are full of berries.
At the green market however...


there are wreaths galore


and garlands


and berries


bows offered if needed.


There is a strange pale sort of lavender


and  the hellebores - also called Lenten or Christmas roses...


 and skinny trees  - the kind I like better than fat ones.


Last of all a wreath made entirely of herbs.
So pretty
So practical.




Friday, December 12, 2014

It's Getting to Look a Lot Like...



Mid December and the days are getting shorter
and the dawn coming later...


The birds are enjoying the last red berries on the trees outside our building. (Top right is a blur of one flying away!)


I always like nice skeletal trees.


Bird and building...


Time for shopping - or window shopping anyway. Here is Myers of Keskwick, the English shop on Hudson Street bursting with cool stuff to eat - mostly chocolate!


An angel in the barber shop in London Terrace


and a swanky French shop in the same building.


This is Buster in Crate and Barrel - I like shops that let the dog in...


Anyway, he was very bemused by the faux forest creatures


especially the owl!


Some apples on a very old English plate. Sort of reminds me of home!






Thursday, December 4, 2014

Childhood



This is one of my blog posts to be filed under 'other places'.
I think the place where you spend your first ten years is more firmly etched in your mind than anywhere you may subsequently live. This is certainly true in my case.


I had the good fortune to grow up in a particularly magical place  - Thorndon Park in Essex in England - where we lived in what had once been a gamekeeper's cottage on a grand estate. Our garden opened directly on the huge acreage that had been the deer park and grounds laid out by Capability Brown for Lord Petre in the 18th century.  Back in the 1950's we children were allowed to wander in the woods in search of adventure.


Deep in the woods was the neglected little Roman Catholic chapel where the Lords Petre and their servants were buried. I only ever went inside once with my mother. A woman was scrubbing the black and white flagstone floor and multicolored lights from the stained glass windows speckled her back. An image that has remained with me for ever. I only discovered recently that the Chantry Chapel was designed by a friend of Pugin's (Pugin designed the Houses of Parliament!) 
Anyway, these woods and Thorndon Hall


are the setting for Jane in Winter a children's book I wrote some years ago. Though aimed at readers between the ages of about eight and twelve it's also a memoir of childhood.
For the fantastical parts of the story - the domain of the evil Queen Ida deep under the lake - I used my memories of the splendid Palais Gharnata in  Marrakesh, Morocco -


a most amazingly decorated place.


Jane in Winter is about autumn in England in the 1950's - and family and food and the days leading up to Christmas. I've recently re-edited it to remove errors. It's available both for Kindle (only $2.99) and as a paperback. I think you'll enjoy it!


A view of Thornton Hall - Myrtle Hall in the book - from the Brentwood side.
So if you need a little light nostalgic reading or a present for a young reader...
For my other books go here.
Happy reading!





Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Walking



One of the good things about the city - as against the suburbs - is that in the city one tends to walk more.
Because I have a dog I'm forced to walk somewhere four times a day which is very good for me.


So recent things seen include
 - the very last leaves on a tree on 21st  Street



 berries on 20th Street


last yellows of of  the climbing hydrangea on 20th Street too.


I can walk to Chelsea Market where the bakers at  Sarabeth's were extra busy yesterday,



 and later buy apples and cranberries at Union Square.



8th Avenue in the evening is utterly urban.


This last photo shows something I'm rather thankful for. They seem to have stopped adding stories to the building on the left - so we still get to see the Empire State Building. Now what on earth will happen when/if they they get planning permission to build on poor little one storey Rite Aid....?

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!






Tuesday, November 11, 2014

High Line by Night


Even though I live very near it, you haven't heard much about the High Line from me lately.
That's because in the immortal words of Yogi Berra - "Nobody goes there any more - it's too crowded." It's wildly and amazingly popular with tourists of whom there are alarming numbers - a mixed blessing. Super that New York is such a popular destination - and then the problem of tripping over them.


Anyway, last Thursday it was very mild and wet, so we set out.


I was mesmerized by the wet grass all glistening with damp


 and splendidly under-lit.


Looking down a very wet 25th Street


at our feet fall vegetation.



We tramp on


til everything comes under the sway of all the very tall new buildings that surround the new part of the park up towards 34th Street. So many changes in the past few years!



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nature Study



When I was at primary school in England in the 1950's we had "Nature Study" classes - but in fact we seemed to spend most of our time doing 'nature study' on our own in the woods and streams and fields nearby. Even the back yard is replete with possibilities. Worms!


Definitely worth hunting for.


And other weird stuff under stones... (photo taken in October on a mild day!)


Even in November there are nasturtiums and roses, snapdragons and parsley. Soon the frost will come and all this will be  memory.


Underfoot, leaves gleam, and in the market fruit abounds.


Apples


Rosehips.


Edible calendula... who knew - though we always ate nasturtiums.


Little bits of flowers from the roof garden.


And pears


and Winesap apples - the very best for eating and cooking and looking at.
Nature study indeed.