Bookaholic and proud of it.

Today Saturday, September 12th 2020 I stepped foot inside of my local Library in Mansfield Woodhouse Nottinghamshire. It is no exaggeration to say that for me it was like going home.

Lockdown and COVID -19 have reinforced my love for this great institution. The familiar smell of books and the beautifully arranged shelves. I was like a child in a sweetshop. I kid you not, the first bookshelf I went to I picked up the first three books that took my eye, and such was my excitement.

 

 

Did you know that the first library to operate a free lending library without subscription was in Campfield Manchester in 1852 and the first purpose-built public library opened in 1857?

Today we take the library for granted but just imagine how amazing it must have felt in the late nineteenth century to be able to borrow books freely.

Recently I read a delightful book written by Salley Vickers, titled ‘The Librarian.’ Set in 1958 in post-war Britain this is a story about a young devoted Librarian Sylvia Blackwell. She tries desperately hard to fire the enthusiasm of the local children, but as in all good stories, there are other things at play. It is a story that reinforces the power of books as a tool of inspiration and how reading can change and inspire anyone.

 

 

 

Love and Respect.

Remember that love and respect for others will provide strength and understanding.

Around the world, relationships blossom while civil unrest and senseless wars rage on. Climate change resulting in fires, floods and extinction affect the everyday lives of populations. We read of the tragic effects of these events and now as the pandemic of corona-virus sweeps the world, it is important to remember that love can provide courage and strength to face these catastrophic events.

This month I take you to such places, where amidst the turmoil love not only survives but thrives. Through the stories of great authors, readers can learn how the path of love and friendship sometimes has many twists and turns.

The stationary shop of Tehran.

Author Marjan Kamali in her novel ‘The Stationery Shop of Tehran ‘explores themes of love and loss amidst the turmoil of Iran in the year 1953.

Known as the Iranian Coup d etat, when the United States of America and the United Kingdom sought to overthrow a foreign government during peacetime, this beautiful, well-written novel describes the shocking violence that changed Iran forever.

In a small Tehran stationery shop, a young couple meets for the first time. Roya loves everything about the shop. The translated books from around the world, pens and inks. Most of all, she loves Bahman who enters the shop one day with his energy and burning passion for justice.

Through the action of family and friends, their lives together as man and wife are not to be. Despite moving to Canada and married to a wonderful, kind man, Roya never stops loving Bahman and he her.  The ending of this tragic novel is bittersweet, to say the least.

The Kite runner.

In the Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini, the love is of a different kind.

Set in Afghanistan this book is filled with many personal tragedies involving the destruction of a nation brought about by war. The author skillfully takes the reader through death, rape war, torture, fascism and destruction. Two young friends, Amir and Hassan are the main characters in this heartfelt story. When they are twelve years old their worlds change. Written in the first-person narrative, Amir takes the reader through his kite-flying years in Afghanistan, through to his period of exile in the United States with his father, who successfully provides a satisfactory standard of living.

After the death of his father, Amir discovers a very painful truth about his father and friend Amir, making for an incredible storyline.

Although unable to help Hassan in the past, Amir against all odds and at great risk to his own life finds a way to help his friend and to redeem himself in the process; making for a very satisfying and emotional ending to this exceptionally well-written b

The little coffee shop of Kabul

Remaining in Afghanistan, I wish to draw your attention to author Deborah Rodriuez who has written a novel set in Kabul against the backdrop of political power and unrest at the hands of the Taliban. The little coffee shop of Kabul is owned by Sunny an American citizen who arrived in Kabul to follow his  love. The little shop is the backdrop to several characters within this setting which provides a different perspective from the media-driven images of Afghanistan. Skilfully, Deborah Rodriuez spins a human touch to a war zone filled with fear and bloodshed.

This story contains multiple protagonists, however, two of the Afghan women who feature in this book Halajan and Yasmina are absolute powerhouses with their unexpected spirit and emotional strength.

The book contains several twists and turns as a reader would expect from a novel within this setting. To summarise, I would say that this is a story about true companionship and acceptance of life’s challenges.

 

 

 

 

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Afternoon tea anyone?

A warm welcome back to my followers and a huge hello and welcome if you are new to this blog. We have certainly been experiencing a very different way of life since Covid-19 became a familiar word to most of us. Even my three-year-old granddaughter has begun to draw pictures of the virus with its space-like features. Her favourite question of late is, ‘Nana when the world is not sick, can we go swimming?’

For those of you who read my February Blog post, you will be aware of our rapid escape from China when the outbreak began, bringing our daughter and family with us. Fortunately for me, they have been living with us throughout lockdown, making for a very lively household.

I have taught them baking, sewing, knitting gardening and the art of tidying their own space, while their parents have worked from home and provided home-schooling.

Afternoon tea anyone?

 

 

However, I have managed to squeeze in a little creative time for myself, linked to my favourite pass time of reading and writing.

So today I share with you a picture of my DIY project. A bookcase of course and a small children’s chair. Both previously pine and now chalk paint white.

I must admit to feeling proud and even more so when the first books I put on the shelf were my own published works. When I first purchased the bookcase thirty-five years ago, it was but a dream that one day I would have a book published and now I have three with another on the way.

Happiness

Recently as a result of the lockdown, I returned to my collection of DVD S enjoying many hours watching films that I had long forgotten. Amongst these was ‘The Pursuit of Happyness, yes it is spelt wrong, which is a point of view in the film.

Will Smith starred in this moving tale inspired by a true story of Chris Gardner, a San Francisco salesman who was struggling to make ends meet. When his girlfriend leaves him to raise their five-year-old son on his own he is determined to pay off his debts. Sadly they are evicted from their apartment and forced to sleep on the streets. With determination to pursue the happiness he so longs for, Chris takes a huge gamble and applies for an internship in a brutally competitive stockbroker- training programme. His grit and determination pay off as he rises above his many obstacles and becomes a successful Wall Street legend.

I love the positivity in this film and the way it portrays the human spirit, which for me was reassuring. Having recently read a book titled Freud The Key Ideas I had become somewhat perplexed about the human mind.

 

According to Freud, ‘Artists and writers have great insight into the workings of the unconscious. But he saw them as escapists from reality and claimed they avoid the real world by living out their fantasies through their work. Mm interesting concept except that Freud’s work on dreams and the unconscious has greatly influenced writers and artists in the twentieth and now the twenty-first century. As a writer myself perhaps I should take offence at this suggestion. Writing however can be therapeutic and therefore unconscious thoughts that may be damaging can be transferred into the life of another character or object.

 

Having read many of Freud’s hypotheses and ideas, which by the way he frequently reviewed and changed his mind about. There is one of his statements that I agree with and most definitely resonates with the outstanding film aforementioned.

He saw the purpose of human life as being the pursuit of happiness with I not Y. This he declares is driven by the pleasure principle.

He had a point when one thinks about it. Happiness and pleasure I will take one or both any day and leave the negative emotions in the deleted bin of my writer’s brain.

VE Day

Like many people in the UK, the residents of our little cul-de-sac consisting of two houses and four bungalows have bonded over these past few weeks since lockdown began. Without doubt, each week our camaraderie goes from strength to strength.

 

The VE celebrations on Friday, May 8th once again brought us out into the street to celebrate. We have been out clapping and cheering the NHS and all support workers every Thursday at 8 pm since this brilliant idea was put forward. I believe that this was the seed that began bringing people together. From this grew our Sunday afternoon quiz on the street, with my husband taking on the role of quiz master.

 

On VE day the quiz was bought forward to Friday which once again was a glorious British day with the sun shining and the sky azure blue. We dressed in our forties clothes, played 78-speed records on our record player outside and enjoyed afternoon tea. One of the residents provided us with Prosecco in memory of her father who died in the war. We toasted our oldest resident who turned eighty the previous day and to the health of the world.

 

These are difficult times we are living through and people should be kept safe and healthy so although we celebrated at distance with a whole road between us, we were not deterred from celebrating this day which marks the day towards the end of World War Two when fighting against Nazi Germany came to an end in Europe.

 

 

Apocalypse now.

When fleeing from China at the end of January 2020, these were my observations. Since then, the Covid – 19 virus has followed us and the rest of the world.

Putting into words my feelings helps to make sence of the world.

The world will fight back.

 

 

Apocalypse now.

Anguished eyes snake-like peer above the charcoal and fibre

Wild adrenaline races the roads of blood

Alerting every sense in her tense body.

Hot breath above the mask, droplets of liquid from over expanded lungs

Rise towards the optical glass.

 

Clenching two small hands she races to the gate.

Fear, jaws clenched beneath their pseudo party mask.

Two tiny hearts beat wildly, they see the flying bird.

Escape in reach, twelve hours away, brings sorrow and pain.

 

Friends and colleagues left behind to watch and wait

Microscopic organisms infiltrate and spread.

Shedding, spreading virus unpredictable wild and free.

Surreal, cinematic apocalypse now.

Nature will respond, the world will fight back

Somehow!

Our planet is sick.

 

 

Our planet is sick and the mighty force of nature is fighting back. This has become painfully apparent in recent months. However, we were warned by eminent experts that Climate change will bring about extreme weather events. Unfortunately, this is happening sooner than anticipated.

The problems the world is facing as a result of the climate crisis is escalating, resulting in the chronic disease of our planet. Pollution, wildlife extinction and global warming are but the tip of the iceberg that is melting.

Symptoms of this global disease are clear to see. The European heatwave that swept Europe in 2019, droughts and floods in Tasmania. Arctic wildfires and cyclones in Mozambique.

In 2019 wildfires burned 2.5 million acres of Alaska. In some places like Australia and California wildfires is a year-round risk.

On the opposite spectrum is flooding. Close to home here in the UK, we have experienced severe flooding causing untold loss and damage to property.

All of these environmental issues need urgent attention and the coming together of nations to prevent the continuing destruction of our world.

The sickness of our planet does not affect environmental health alone. Now we are faced with a huge Public Health issue. Coronavirus also known as COVID-19 is now an imminent threat to our civilisation. At the beginning of the outbreak when I was in China very little was known about the virus and despite the death rate increasing daily, it appears that very little progress has been made.

 

Apocalypse now.

Anguished eyes snake-like peer above the charcoal and fibre

Wild adrenaline races the roads of blood

Alerting every sense in her tense body.

Hot breath above the mask, droplets of liquid from over expanded lungs

Rise towards the optical glass.

 

Clenching two small hands she races to the gate.

Fear, jaws clenched beneath their pseudo party mask.

Two tiny hearts beat wildly, they see the flying bird.

Escape in reach, twelve hours away, brings sorrow and pain.

 

Friends and colleagues left behind to watch and wait

Microscopic organisms infiltrate and spread.

Shedding, spreading virus unpredictable wild and free.

Surreal, cinematic apocalypse now.

Nature will respond, the world will fight back

Somehow!

 

 

 

Shanghai Adventure

      Shanghai Adventure

No sooner were our Christmas decorations away, when my husband and I began packing for our Chinese adventure. Three days in Shanghai city and 2 full weeks with my daughter and family who live 2 hours’ drive away close to the city of Ningbo.

We took the opportunity in Shanghai to visit the famous Nanjing Road, where to my delight I came across a huge bookshop which stocked a variety of books, including many English titles.

Unable to resist, I entered the shop and introduced myself to the manager, leaving my business card in the process. Fingers crossed. Maybe one day my books may be on the shelves of this much-esteemed shop.

We enjoyed the amazing sights, visited lots of famous landmarks, including the Oriental Pearl Tower and the magnificent Shanghai tower.  Our hotel on the Bund riverside area overlooked the Huangpu River. At night this was lit up to display its true splendour.

Sadly our adventure was cut short due to the rising number of cases of corona-virus. No sooner had we arrived at my daughter’s apartment when a lockdown procedure was put in place. Wearing a mask, my daughter, met us at the taxi, gave us a mask each and whisked us off to be isolated in her apartment, until she had arranged return flights for us all the following day.

Thank goodness we pre-empted the drastically changing situation. There was talk of the roads to the airport being closed and flights cancelled. Flying out to Heathrow from Pudong airport we continued to wear our masks for a further twelve hours. Not an easy task for adults never mind a three-year-old and seven-year-old.

At the time of writing this article, we are in self-imposed quarantine for fourteen days. Today is our sixth day. Thankfully we are all well and looking forward to day fourteen when we can emerge from our confinement.

ELIZABETH IS MISSING

Elizabeth is missing.

After watching the TV Drama adapted by Andrea Gibb, I was compelled to read the book. Usually, for me, it is the opposite way around. Having watched the drama twice, one would think that I had no need to read this fantastic novel written so touchingly by Emma Healy. It is hard to believe this was her debut novel. I am in awe of her skills.
I felt that she truly got into the characters of both Maud the protagonist and her daughter Helen. In some ways, this novel covers a social problem, much like the ones I have written but in addition, the writer has cleverly created a suspense thriller as well.

When Maud’s best friend Elizabeth appears to be missing, it has a severe psychological effect on Maud, who is suffering from dementia. Her muddled memory overlaps the present supposed disappearance of her friend Elizabeth with the disappearance of her much-loved sister Sukey who vanished under mysterious circumstances shortly after world war two. Written in the first-person narrative the reader gets into the muddled mind of Maud and me for one, felt her frustration.

 

The TV drama was equally as brilliant, hence me watching it twice. Directed by Aisling Walsh and adapted by Andrea Gibb this TV production was a real eye opener.

Glenda Jackson was magnificent in the role of the protagonist Maud portraying the effects of worsening dementia with great skill.

The story of Elizabeth is missing will remain with me for a long time.