Anyway. The title of this post is not quite correct. I have been reading - just not
at my normal speed. We're close to the end of yet another month and I have two books to show for it. I'd like to say it bothers me but actually it doesn't. Partly, the month has been a busy one - family staying at Easter, which somehow it seemed to take me longer to return to normal from than would usually be the case. Then we set about decorating one of the bedrooms and that's still ongoing, a long job because we're replacing the wallpaper and my husband is the sort that likes to do a thorough job with the painting etc. So, less time to read, and in the evening I haven't always felt that I wanted to pick up a book. Sometimes you just want to crash out in front of the TV - which can be a bit difficult at this time of year as the TV schedules are not what you might call 'wonderful'.
So, spurred on by our enjoyment of the Victorian paintings at Cardiff museum, I bought some dvds from 2009:
The Victorians - Their story in pictures, presented by Jeremy Paxman. For people outside the UK, Jeremy Paxman is most well known here as rather an abrasive TV journalist and interviewer, who never lets politicians off the hook. Oddly, his documentary style is rather different. Paxo (as he's commonly referred to in this country... it's a brand of stuffing used for stuffing poultry... LOL) is clearly smitten with his subject in this series. The use of paintings to illustrate Victorian life was totally inspired and Paxman's direct and humorous delivery of facts and opinions, not sparing any blushes when it came to embarrassing or difficult subjects, was just perfect. Everything was covered, from the Industrial Revolution, to home-life, sexual mores, the Victorian obsession with death, the after-life, fairies and so on, to Queen Victoria herself and touching on The Empire. I thought the whole series was stunning, the best £6.50 I've ever spent, and was incredibly sorry when we'd watched the last one, last night. It felt a bit odd because we'd also just finished watching Paxo's new 'Empire' series for the BBC, on the TV. The two series tie in so nicely together, they can be watched back to back... which what we did. I can only hope he has something new on the go and that we won't have too long to wait. For this do I happily pay my TV license.
So that's what I've been watching. Now books. Well, I've just finished this:
A Crown of Lights by Phil Rickamn. Which tied in very nicely with the
book I'm reading slowly with Susan from You Can never have too Many Books which is The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift:
You wouldn't think there was much of a similarity but there you would be wrong. Both books take place in the border areas between England and Wales. In the first it's the counties of Herefordshire, where the Rev. Merrily Watkins is the diocesan deliverance consultant, and Radnorshire in Wales. In the second it's the county of Shropshire, to the north of Herefordshire, where Katherine Swift was transforming the garden of Morville House in a secluded valley. I'm guessing there might be all of twenty miles between where one book is set and the other was actually happening. Both authors have the timeless, mysterious atmosphere of that entire region spot on.
Merrily has to deal with a charismatic vicar in a small secluded valley in
A Crown of Lights. Two satanists buy an old farmhouse with a
decommissioned church on the land, and plan to return the site to its pagan
roots. The local vicar is a man who believes in hardcore Christianity, a man
who exorcises demons from the local people in some indescribable ways... The
scene is set for a clash in an area where all kinds of worship go back
thousands of years. And it is this which also preoccupies Katherine Swift in
The Morville. Her valley is likewise timeless, a place where things
have been the same for countless years and probably will never change.
I came to Morville and found a home. I'm digging in. I travel in time now
rather than space, my expeditions only as far as the end of the garden.
Distance has nothing to do with remoteness. I am obsessed by roads, but
never go anywhere. I pour over maps but am rooted to the spot. I dream of
distant lands, but found one here, bounded by my own garden wall.
Connecting the two books is a very real sense of the supernatural, enhanced
and firmly rooted in the past. Again from The Morville Hours:
In winter, on the inside of one of the panes - always the same one - the
mist of condensation clears and then mists over again, every few seconds,
over and over - always in the same place, slightly below the middle, a
little towards the bottom - at about head-height: a regular pulse, starting
from the centre and spreading outwards, as if an exhalation of breath had
momentarily warmed the cold pane - as if someone were standing at the
window, as if all that remained of them were that warm breath and that
lingering gaze, looking out into the garden.
Stunning. I've never come across writing like it to be honest. And Merrily
Watkins continues to enthrall. My daughter told me that the books get better
and better and she was so right.
So, what to read next. Weirdly, I've a mind to read something completely different. I came across a review for a Katie Fforde book on The Book Jotter - Living Dangerously. I can't explain it but sometimes you read about a book and know that you have to read it *now*. So I nabbed it for my Kindle and that will probably be my next read... along with The Morville Hours of course.
Happy reading, whether you're whizzing through books, or like me, not getting through very many at all but loving what you are reading regardless.